Friday, March 4, 2016

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Sips and Bites – In like a lion edition

Sips and Bites – In like a lion edition 

March certainly came in like a lion, so perhaps our early Easter will be full of crocuses, daffs and baa lambs. One can hope. In this edition of Food for Thought, a quick look back at the Living Rock Soupfest, and some May dates for your calendars at the RBG.

The real winners at the Rock’s Soupfest are of course the youth-at-risk supported to the tune of well over $50K raised by the generous sponsors and almost 5,000 attendees. Truth be told, while the chefs and restaurants contribute hugely to this too because they want to support a worthy initiative, at heart they are competitive as heck and vie hard to win bragging rights by scooping the top awards.

I was honoured to be a judge last year (see a report on that here) and once again late in February. My fellow judges were again blogger Chanry Thatch and Amanda Kinnaird, now a communications advisor to Mayor Fred who participated in the as a celebrity soup server. We were joined this year by the lovely and knowledgeable Jane Allison, Manager of Community Partnerships at the Spec.

We blind-tasted 21 soups in all, and whereas last year the judges settled on the simplest of mushroom soups as the “foodies choice” winner, this year we were unanimous in our choice of a soup that was complex beyond belief. Soup specialists, Burnt Tongue won for their Cheeseburger and Fries soup that we described as “a spot on recreation of a cheeseburger in soup form. It was a creative, risky and complex dish.”

Our first runner up was the hearty white bean and sausage ribollita, by perennial winner/finalist Chef Nina Ruelens of the 4th Course Bistro at Copetown Woods. Chef Matt Kershaw, heading up the Except for Kenneth team was 2nd runner up for a balanced potato pecorino truffle soup. We gave a technical mention for a coconut dessert soup by the My Thai folks too. Each soup was a standout in its own way.

The full list of winners can be found here, including the People’s Choice, by Fishers Pier Eatery for a very good Jalapeno Popper soup. See the photos section to get an idea of the scope of the event and view some of the colourful soups we tasted.

Judging is inevitably subjective, and our scoring grid was complex. What is always surprising to me is how easily the judges are able to identify the top contenders. Frankly all the top contestants are worth a visit, and I’d encourage folk to support them. Go for the soup and stay for lunch or dinner. And tell them that you came BECAUSE they supported Soupfest. I’m already looking forward to taking up the invite to serve as a judge again next year…

I wrote in a previous column about upcoming re-launch events proposed for the Royal Botanical Gardens. I’ve just heard from the organizer that the dates of the two flagship foodie events have been set. Darlene Bennet-Howes notes she has met their “new Executive Chef Kim Sutherland, to discuss our short list of Burlington/Hamilton Chefs and get the chef invites out there.”

So mark your calendars for the “Land of Luna” Grand Opening Celebration Family Event May 14th, from 6-10 pm. They promise “wizards, magicians, fairies, jesters, fire jugglers, and more (will) celebrate Spring’s return to the new David Braley & Nancy Gordon

Rock Garden.” If you want to celebrate in more adult fashion, the Thursday May 19th event is for you. Tickets for both events will be on sale April 1st via www.rbg.ca.

And who knows, by then, perhaps some of those spring lambs might be on the menu with a side of foraged ramps!

For more pictures click here

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives
Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

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