The Brick Works Picnic offers a sample of the Southern Ontario harvest
This weekend 1000+ local food lovers gathered in the newly revamped Evergreen Brick Works in the heart of the Don Valley to celebrate the harvest and raise funds to support the development of children's food gardens and workshops at the new facilities.
Guests enjoyed a sampling of what our region has to offer, as this year's picnic was literally a tour of southern Ontario and its products, from produce to meats and artisanal cheeses, with Ontario vintners and brewers supplying the beverages. Prominent local food-supporting restaurants and chefs were paired with a specific farm or food producer, showcasing an ingredient from their partner in the dishes they offered to the event's attendees. With over sixty food stations filling the venue, there was more than enough fantastic food to go around.
The venue, transformed from once-abandoned factory buildings, is a soaring, sheltered outdoor space complete with small gardens featuring native plants. This newly adapted space is actually the old kiln building, and visitors can wander through the corridors where kilns once produced the bricks found in many of Toronto's historical structures. Wood burning in small barrels provided heat and filled the space with the smell of campfire, a live band played amongst the food stations, and guests swarmed the tables to sample the wide variety of inventive snacks.
Many delicious dishes were on offer, and I'm sure to have missed a few though I tried to make my rounds as thorough as possible. Some standouts included crunchy twice baked potatoes stuffed with caramelized onion and sweet potato from Marben restaurant (paired with The New Farm), and Parts & Labour's rich braised lamb with bacon mayo (Thorpe's Organic). Caplansky's smoked meat drew line-ups and Reds Bistro with Milford Bay Trout presented trout and beet salads just as beautiful to look at as to eat. The Cheese Boutique & The Stop Community Food Centre, with the help from Not Far From the Tree, offered lovely crackers topped with Ontario stilton and ten year aged cheddar with apple compote, a perfect snack to pair with a wine from one of the many Ontario wineries present at the event. For those in the mood for breakfast, Goed Eten prepared bites of berry-topped Belgian waffle and Mildred's Temple Kitchen shared tiny bowls of spelt granola with goat yogurt and Bizjak Farm peaches. And that's just a few.
The only unfortunate aspect of the event was some serious over-crowding, making it difficult to move around, and in certain areas almost impossible to sample, and take pictures, of some of the more crowded tables. Apparently space constraints will be improved by next year's event once more construction is complete. This however, was a small price to pay for a chance to sample some truly impressive food and chat with people who are very passionate about their work. I was even lucky enough to have Fred De Martines, owner of Perth Pork Farm, regale me with stories of Lynn Crawford's visit to his farm for an episode of Pitchin' In, and the perils of wrestling an escaped wild boar.
The Picnic at the Brick Works was not only a great way to celebrate locally grown, sustainable food and learn more about our province's foodshed, it also successfully drew attention to the transformation taking place at the Brick Works. Evergreen's plan for this site as an educational space with many new facilities and a variety of activities and events is a very exciting prospect for the city. The lively atmosphere and a remarkably creative variety of dishes from some of the best local food producers and chefs certainly made for a successful event.
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