Just as I promised myself last year, this year I was not going to miss the 2nd annual Toronto Garlic Festival. September rolled in and I was in a lookout for the announcement. Imagine my happiness when I found out that this year was not a conflict with my Algonquin trek. In fact, it was weeks apart! Yay! Just like last year, farmers and food vendors alike converged at the Evergreen Brickworks to celebrate garlic. For two straight days, the festival peaked the interest with a line-up of farmer hawker booths with a vast variety of garlic, key-note speakers, cooking demos (I enjoyed immensely the one I got to watch, spelt pasta with garlic, chilies and olive oil by Top Chef runner-up and Bestellen’s Rob Rossi!), garlic breath contests and of course, the food booths! This festival was one that fitted me like a glove with what my long love affair with garlic. As this was a weekend to celebrate this flavorful bulb, all vendors went on garlicky overdrive.
Accompanied by EyeCandyTO’s Abraham Wornovitzky, we went and did our rounds of the food booths. First stop was of course at my friend’s Diona Joyce’s Kanto booth. I know, I know, I have confessed time and time again of my addiction. After that quick stop, I was preoccupied watching a whole pig being roasted a few booths down. I have grown up witnessing this during town fiestas. The chef attending to it told me that he added garlic paste to every nook and cranny that he could squeeze garlic into. It was quite interesting to take note. Back home, the pig was roasted only with stuffed herbs on its belly. Jumping to the adjacent booth, This Little Pig, I saw that they offer a Baconwich that was smothered with roasted garlic mayo. How can I walk away from that? Bacon with roasted garlic mayo? Like seriously. That sandwich has my name written all over it.
Not being able to share my bacon sandwich, Abe left me behind and moved on to Cheesewerks. I have seen fellow food bloggers write all about them and I can feel my tummy churn for a grilled cheese. At the rate I was going, I was anticipating I wouldn’t be needing dinner. We met owner Kevin Durkee and he obligingly loaned me his cooler as a stand so I can take a photo of his garlicky creations at higher angle my height could not afford (thanks so much Kevin!). Love it when things work out so well. I get giddy with things like that. One up to Cheesewerks garlic grilled cheese bread as it was a pleasure to play with the its stringy cheese. Life’s little pleasures sure do know how to perk me up.
We then stopped for the Ontario Science Centre’s booth for a little bit of chemistry education. It’s quite funny how I am still pretty much a lab geek even if I am away for almost two years now from the lab. I could not resist checking out their portable gas chromatograph. Pretty awesome equipment, measuring garlicky breath of willing participants battling for a cash prize. We moved to the end of the hall and found ourselves in front of Mad Mexican and Chocosol booth. Selling Mexican inspired products, it was a given that Abe hanged around longer. I did get a taste of their dark chocolate. Nice reward for patiently waiting for Abe as he made a swift stint back to memory lane.
Moving towards the center of the hall once again, I pulled Abe to try Gushi’s Karaage. Just like the first time I have tasted it, I still think of it the same way. It was so easy to get addicted to this moist, garlicky, with chicharon-like crispy skin kaarage. Abe agreed with me quite easily as he finished off the last of the chicken on the skewer we shared. Feeling a little bit guilty about the rich food that we have sampled, I thought I could exorcise my guilt with something vegetarian. We moved on to Incredible Spice booth. They have miniature roti-looking samples on their booth and one of their crew was trying to entice me to try the soup. Another thing caught my eye though. My interest was on their saffron rice and lentil. I ate my share with gusto and it of course, melted all my guilt away.
Next one that caught my eye was a booth with luscious chunks of fresh fish from Sang Kim. Being much a fan of sashimi, I have to stop. To decide whether to go for tuna or salmon took me a while. It was quite smart to present it on plastic spoons as it held the soy sauce underneath the fish. I went with tuna and was quite happy with my choice. Other notable finds of the afternoon was Micha and Jackson Kennedy’s Frites. Just like the first time I have seen Micha from a TUM event months ago, I was again entertained as he tossed the fries up in the air. With the just right amount of thyme and salt, paired with their aioli, their fresh fries was one that a potato-lover like me would not pass up.
For a while, I sat at a bench in front of Kanto’s booth, full and quite contented. That content was short-lived as a patron passed me by with an ice cream cone. I have forgotten to try the Chocolate garlic ice cream! I sought it out and got myself one to share with Abe and Diona. It was interesting that the garlic did not really take over the chocolate ice cream. It was mellow enough to just be on the background.
After that ice cream, I think it was safe to say that I have made amends from my shortcomings a year ago. From this point on, this festival for my beloved garlic would surely be one of my traditions. :)