For fans of locally-produced food and drink, there's no better time of year on the Island than the fall. The harvest season produces a vast cornucopia of delicious treats, from fresh produce, to free-range poultry, to some of the best wines in the province, if not the country (no bias here, we swear).
There's no shortage of places to enjoy those treats either. Autumn is prime food festival time, and the 14th annual FarmFolkCityFolk Feast of Fields is no exception.
“I call it a four-hour gourmet wandering harvest festival,” says organizer Melanie Banas. “People arrive at the farm — and it’s a different farm every year — they line up and there’s musicians serenading them in. They get their wine glass and their napkin and then they stroll around the farm for the next four hours.”
This year’s setting is Marley Farm in Saanichton. Banas says part of what sets Feast of Fields apart from other culinary festivals is the opportunity for people to see for themselves some of the places where their food is produced.
“It’s so important for people to look that farmer or that chef or that beekeeper in the eye and see that they're really important, and should be revered in our society because they're producing healthy food to eat,” says Banas. “Really, what's more important than that?”
Over 60 food and beverage makers are on the docket for this year's event. Among them are a number of first-time participants, including Fruition Paletas and Fernwood’s Kulu restaurant. Kulu co-owner Weihan (Hank) Kao sees the festival as a prime opportunity to open the public's eyes to the many ways of using local ingredients.
“We want to change the image of Asian food to one that uses local products, not just imported products,” Kao says.
Each booth will offer one or two bite-sized samples of their best offerings (Kulu is planning an Asian pizza using local pork, chicken and vegetables). And there will be plenty of options with which to wash them down, provided by participants like Muse Winery, Moon Under Water Brewery and Silk Road Tea.
“It’s becoming a big thing now to eat locally,” says Banas. “When we started this event it was somewhat challenging to find a restaurant that was already using local food. This year I don't think I had to tell one person that their menu wasn’t on the right track.”
Feast of Fields happens Sun., Sept. 18, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Marley Farm (1831 Mount Newton X Road). Tickets cost $85 for adults, $15 for kids ages seven to 12, and children under six are free. The event is nearly sold out. Tickets are available at feastoffields.com. M