There are few things I love more than eating and festivals. So when I first stepped through the gate at the Perth Garlic Festival a couple of Augusts ago, with my two passions mingling before my very eyes, I knew immediately that I was in trouble, and it wasn’t because I forgot the breath mints.
It was because, if there is one thing I love more than eating and festivals, it’s garlic. You see, I come from a household that literally should have a Garlic Room. My husband and I are a rare breed of human who believe that cloves go with just about everything – or nothing at all! We eat garlic in our potatoes, on sandwiches, in sauces, or just like an apple, and my husband – who’s been known to shred it into our daughter’s baby bottle at the first sign of a cold (she loves it too) – has a signature garlic bread appetizer that everyone knows him for. So an entire festival devoted to garlic, and to top it off, one that’s been rated as one of the top 10 in the world, could only mean one thing: we were both coming home with that “I’m never eating again” full feeling.
We spent the day in garlic heaven, hopping from tent to tent and sampling the unique colours, flavours and varieties of local garlic, including bulbs that revealed black insides with a sweet molasses-like undertone and our favourite, a purple clove that had just the right amount of kick (we stockpiled it into the car like Y2K was coming back).
We listened to live music. We tried garlic beer from Perth Brewery. We watched as a spirited vendor demonstrated tricks for mincing garlic cloves without making a huge mess (guilty!). We stared in awe at the garlands of garlic that hung all around us (should we consider this for the holidays?). We chatted with others, learning about local garlic production and the health benefits of our favourite onion cousin. We found out from a man eating a curly fried potato on a stick that people like us are called “garlic heads” – I guess we could be called worse.
We returned home, indeed, feeling stuffed and delighted, with a trunk full of garlic butter and a year’s worth of purple cloves. And we made a pact to try and take in other food festivals in the region – getting to know each community in Ontario’s Highlands by engaging our sense of taste, and all others – starting, naturally, with the Haliburton Garlic Festival. Hosted by the Haliburton County Garlic Growers’ Association in Carnarvon, this festival promises garlic lovers the ability to “sample” and purchase a wide variety of local garlic and preserves, as well as jams, honeys, and other baked goods. All of that sounds great, but really, they just had me at “garlic”.
Inspired by my experience in Perth, here are three additional culinary-inspired summer festivals I can’t wait to check out:
This festival, taking place in Stirling, provides a unique opportunity to taste fresh buffalo mozzarella and ricotta cheese products made from local water buffalo milk. The festival brings together many vendors and chefs, so you can eat your little heart out and enjoy the local fare. Visitors can also pet or ride a live water buffalo and get a photo taken with a cute baby buffalo calf – which I’m sure my 18 month old will love!
Honey. Apples. Pies. Jellies. Do I really need to go on? You can find it all at this festival that lets the whole family roam and explore. There are plenty of wholesome local foods to sample and buy, including organic and natural produce, meats, and baking mixes. Enjoy a snack of ready-to-eat baked treats and coffee. This is a great opportunity to sample and purchase all sorts of foods produced locally in the Ottawa Valley, along with many different types of arts and crafts.
This is one that my husband will love. Bringing together the best blues artists and ‘ribbers’ from across Canada and the US, it’s a weekend-long celebration of fantastic music and fantastic meats, not to mention the sauces, the beer garden, the kids’ zone and the camping! Life can get hectic during the week, so I look forward to sitting mountainside and letting the lazy days of summer take over. As a bonus, five teams will be competing for the title of “Best” ribs, so as I place my vote, I’ll get a sneak peek of what it must feel like to live out my dream of being a judge on MasterChef Canada.
Storyteller: Kasia Wind Hometown: Petawawa, ON
Kasia is a serenity seeker, wannabe foodie and clumsy nature lover whose weaknesses include lattes, lakes and llamas. She loves stumbling upon the odd and quirky, like a funny road sign or an entire street of Elvis impersonators who unexpectedly pop out of nowhere (true story). When planning for a trip, she notoriously overpacks, but is the one person you’d want with you should you ever be in emergency need of chapstick, a highlighter or a plastic fork (she takes one everywhere she goes).