Taking the road less travelled is always a bit of a risk, although it can be deeply rewarding. There’s also an Irish blessing that starts: May the road rise up to meet you...
It’s a way of wishing you ease on that journey — a lovely sentiment to share on St. Patrick’s Day.
When it comes to blessing and celebrating with the feast we put on our tables though, it would be ideal if we chose from the food less travelled, something that comes from home.
Close-to-home food is the inspiration behind the fourth annual Love Local MB, a celebration of wine, beer and food produced by local artisans on Saturday at Canad Inns Polo Park, from 5 p.m to 9 p.m.
"This is an awesome opportunity to support local companies by purchasing their wares," says Peter Fehr of Gourmet Inspirations, who co-founded the event with Bessie Hatzitrifanos in 2014.
"There is a free glass of wine with your ticket, lots of bite-sized sampling, live music and a fun time."
Sherry Sobey, who runs Generation Green at The Forks, has come on board as a presenting sponsor. She was the first person to retail Gourmet Inspirations, Fehr’s line of sauces.
"We’re encouraging people to think of it like a girls’ night out, or a staycation, something really special," says Sobey.
As guests tour the hall and taste the goodies, they can purchase anything being sold by the 50 juried vendors to take home, including wine and beer.
"When you arrive, you get a bag, a tasting passport, a pen and access to a free bag concierge, so if you fill your bag and you need another you can check the first one and you don’t have to carry it around," says Sobey.
"As you go from table to table you can write notes on the passport pages and there is a People’s Choice Award that you can pull out of the back of the book to vote for your favourite vendor," says Fehr.
Text-in-to-win door prizes will be given away every half-hour and there will be live music with Anne-Marie Williot on accordion and Ivanka Lubomyra Watkin on violin to keep things hopping.
The event has grown steadily each year to meet the interests of both food and beverage artisans and their customers.
"When I was test-marketing my own products at a farmers’ market, I was talking to a neighbour vendor and brainstorming about how to bring more exposure to these local companies," says Fehr.
"I had hosted some other events in the past and I wanted to have an event with the companies we were networking with at the farmers’ market."
The event provides a place for vendors to get to know each other, he says.
"There’s really a culture of collaboration that we’ve created with the event as a platform of support among the vendors, and they get a spike in sales with some vendors doing a lot of sales on the night of the event, as well as post-event," he says.
"One of the things I find, from a retail perspective, is that when you’re starting a food product you have to start building up a following, a brand awareness, and doing events like this really does work because this is your audience right here, and they’re going to come looking for you afterwards," says Sobey.
"I’ve been supporting the local food developers and other local makers — which is our primary focus at Generation Green — and getting to know them and their stories and how passionate they are is just so inspiring because you become a cheerleader for them and want to see them succeed because of that personal connection."
Love Local MB will also share the bounty with 1JustCity, a charitable outreach that provides to people they describe as "Winnipeg’s underloved" with everything from something as simple as a hug or as crucial as food or a warm bed.
1JustCity partners with local grocers to reduce food waste and serves more than 300 meals daily. Programs such as Nutrition Bingo, emergency food packages, single men’s cook nights, summer barbecues and warm winter meals help bring the community together. The service also supports people to meet other need, such as a place to take a shower before a job interview, or advocacy for those whose rights might be violated.
Some of the proceeds from Love Local MB will be going to help "the road rise to meet" the people 1JustCity serves. You can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by donating directly at their website. Visit 1justcity.ca for more information.
For a full list of Love Local MB vendors, and to purchase tickets ($15 in advance, $20 at the door), visit www.LoveLocalMB.com.
To help you recognize St. Patrick’s Day at home with the "eat local" theme, here are two recipes with a Manitoba twist. Dublin Coddle, which can be made as a soup or stew, is a traditional Irish dish made as a thrifty way of using up leftovers. Instead of regular bacon, I’ve used cubed Canadian back bacon and good old Manitoba root vegetables. Instead of serving this soup with Irish soda bread, I’m suggesting that most Manitoban of breads, traditional Metìs bannock. Sláinte (good health) and enjoy!
You can substitute or add to any of the ingredients. Any of these would be good: parsnip, turnip, sweet potato and/or a spoonful of sauerkraut. You could also substitute ham for the bacon and can thicken it with a little locally grown barley. The broth is simple but delicious.
Back bacon cubed and sausage cut up to make about 500 ml (2 cups)
1 small onion peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic peeled, whole
1 large potato peeled and thickly sliced
1 carrot peeled and thickly sliced
1 large bay leaf
1 chicken bouillon cube
250 ml (1 cup) apple juice
250-325 ml (1-1½ cups) water — enough to just cover the ingredients in the pot
Generous grind of black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).
Gently brown the bacon and sausage in a frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Keeping most or all of the fat, place meat and onions in casserole or small roasting pan with lid.
Place the carrot and potato slices over the top. Add the bouillon cube, garlic and bay leaf. Pour the apple juice over and cover with water. Put the lid on and place in the oven for about 45 minutes, then remove and gently stir broth. Return to oven for 30 to 45 minutes until the potatoes are soft and flavours have blended. Remove garlic and bay leaf and add a bit of chopped parsley and ground pepper. Serve with warm, buttered bannock and pair with apple cider. Serves 4.
If I have some leftover cooked oatmeal or Red River Cereal I will mix it with the water and incorporate it into the dough to add fibre and then add a little extra flour when kneading if it seems too wet. You may have to bake it longer with added cereal.
750 ml (3 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
30 ml (2 tbsp) baking powder, sifted to remove lumps
50 ml (1/4 cup) bacon drippings or butter, melted
375 ml (1½ cups) water
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Thoroughly grease or line a No. 8 (10-inch) cast iron skillet with parchment paper up the sides or grease a baking sheet.
Measure flour, salt and baking powder into large bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
Pour melted bacon drippings and water over flour mixture. Stir with fork and make into a ball. Knead gently on a working surface a few times until all the flour is incorporated.
Press evenly into the skillet or place on baking sheet and pat in to a circle about 1-inch thick. Place in 180 C (350 F) oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. When finished, insert a toothpick or wooden skewer — it should be dry when removed. Cut into wedges and serve warm with butter.