Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Report from: Taste! The County – October 6, 2007

On a rainy, muggy Saturday afternoon 47 different vendors, restaurants, wineries, breweries, et al got together for Taste! in Picton. Billed as “a celebration of regional cuisine” Taste! has come a long way from a 6 winery / 6 restaurant show. Now the wineries (9 were in attendance) are far outnumbered by the restaurants, chocolatiers, mustard and dip makers and a variety of other vendors selling and showcasing their wares. This is the show where the whole of Prince Edward County gets to shine. You can sample foods like ravioli, pulled pork, apple fritters, Italian fish and chips, County-style fish and chips, mini-burgers, cheeses and countless other delicacies all made fresh on the spot, or within the County, and focusing on local: local produce and local products. It’s at this event that the wine has really taken a backseat to all the other draws of the County: although they still have throwback awards for the best wine and food pairings.

The event is held on the grounds of, and inside, Picton’s Crystal Palace, which is a beautiful venue, but on this rainy afternoon the venue, as it is set up now, showed its limitations. People were packed in like sardines and there was little room to move inside; as the mugginess outside increased the Palace became like a steam bath and with all the hussle-and-bussle from the food preparation I’m surprised that some of the folks inside didn’t pass-out. Also with such a throng of people I know I didn’t get to see all the vendors and booths I wanted to. As the rain cleared out so did the building, as people ventured outside, but with the threat of more rain looming people stayed close to shelter, instead of spreading out around the grounds.

While last year’s event was drenched in sunshine, this year’s event got drenched with rain, but this year was a celebration of how far The County has come in such a short period of time. This year’s event was bigger (more vendors/booths) and was much better attended, but The Crystal Palace, although beautiful, could not accommodate the crowds once the rain hit. The booths seemed squashed so close together, they had the look of being right on top of one another; some got missed entirely.

My opinions are varied about the venue … the event is always a treat and worth the drive; but I think it should be spread out over a couple of days and more tented areas should be placed around the grounds – giving vendors more space to operate and giving people more access to them and more walking room to enjoy their sample. That said Prince Edward County is a place truly to be experienced and one only touches the tip of the iceberg at Taste! … there is so much more to discover and experience throughout the region and one day just doesn’t do it justice. With The County scene expanding by leaps and bounds so too should their venue for this event. Get people to make a weekend of it, so that they can experience more.

Honourable Food Mentions …

With so much to see and do, and such a crush of people, it became difficult to experience things with any kind of real pleasure without someone pushing through, bumping you or just genuinely ruining your Zen moment. But sometimes something came along that broke through the barrier and even within a crowd it allowed you to be in your own little world, if just for a few moments, be it food, wine or whatever that moment allowed … these two places cut through the throng:

The Funky Carp II – waterfront restaurant and patio in Picton (35 Bridge Street) – something so simple yet so delicious: Italian Fish and Chips. Basically, in layman’s terms, it boiled down to this: a potato chip topped with cream cheese and breaded perch – they of course gave each piece a different name (i.e.: potato chip became potato crisp) but the taste combination was amazing.

Milford Bistro in Milford (3048 County Road 10) – Chocoholics like myself would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven when they tasted Milford’s Double Chocolate Fudge … so exquisite it’s hard to put it into words, but let’s just say all who tried it had to lick the paper it was presented on, and their fingers, clean. Chocolate Nirvana would have been a more appropriate name for this little piece of heaven.

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