Brewer's Plate Savours Ontario
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Brewer’s Plate Savours Ontario

The annual culinary event served up local, seasonal food, and gave the proceeds to Not Far From the Tree.

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For the sixth year in a row, gourmands and food activists banded together for the Brewer’s Plate, a fundraiser to promote local, seasonal, and sustainable foods. Twenty-three craft brewers and 29 local chefs flanked the Barbara Frum Atrium at the CBC building, offering unlimited platings and tastings to attendees who’d paid $125 each for admission. The proceeds went to Not Far From The Tree, an organization that harvests fruit from urban trees and distributes it to shelters and restaurants.

Early spring is often considered an unappetizing time of year for local produce. Many people have the misconception that not much is growing in Ontario. Chris Lowry founded Brewer’s Plate in part to challenge that notion, and also to celebrate local craft beer and encourage chefs to show off the bounty of Ontario’s edible gems.

According to Not Far From The Tree’s founder and director, Laura Reinsborough, there’s a disconnect between Torontonians and the environment. “So many people drive to the store to buy an apple from New Zealand and pass their neighbours’ edible trees along the way,” she said. Not Far From The Tree, founded in 2008, has grown from a small group of fruit pickers into a role model for urban harvesters in North America. Last year they gleaned over 12,000 pounds of fruit from Toronto trees and have even cooked up some interesting recipes, like sumac beer and black walnut ink.

With the money from Brewer’s Plate, Reinsborough said the organization plans on investing in cargo bikes, equipment, and staff. She also mentioned a possible partnership with Bellwoods Brewery, which is interested in using local fruit for a cherry beer this summer.

Not Far From The Tree and the Brewer’s Plate have a lot of friends around Ontario who support their work. Jamie Kennedy wasn’t on the bill this year, but was spotted walking around. Lynn Crawford of Ruby Watchco had a table in the front with her “breakfast of champions” (click the photo at the top of this post for all the details), and chef and activist Joshna Maharaj used some of NFFTT’s arsenal of preserves for her platings.

Chefs and brewers were paired together, which made for some beautiful culinary duets. A particularly potent duo were Black Oak’s Nut Ale and Chocosol’s Mexican drinking chocolate, served as a beer float. Frida’s bunuelos, a Mexican dessert from Oaxaca covered in guava marmalade and a dash of cinnamon, met Spearhead’s Moroccan Brown Ale, a dark and sweet beer that sings of figs, dates, and cinnamon.

The dishes were as diverse as the chefs, but the plates that captured that wintry taste of a Canadian April harvest stood out, especially Grapevine Catering’s creamy butternut squash risotto with roasted Brussels sprouts and goat cheese. Also notable was Chef Anne Sorrenti’s ciabatta crostini with Ontario onion and garlic confit and Monforte’s lemon sheep’s milk cheese.

Ninutik’s Richard Brault coupled sharp Ontario cheeses with maple syrup from Lanark County. He ladled the syrup onto snow and rolled the cheese in the resulting sweet, frozen streak to induce the most scrumptious one-bite bliss. The servings were unlimited, but even that couldn’t quell the desire to eat an infinite amount of maple-covered cheese.

As the saying goes, savour Ontario.

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