A Full-bodied Festival
The Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (RANL) put on their 8th annual Savour Food and Wine fest this past Thursday. Though it was traditional booth-style convention fare, the balance of wine and liquor alongside the food make this more full bodied than the various wine, beer, and whiskey events sprinkled throughout the year. The ballroom was full but not sardine packed, with only small line-ups that waxed and waned rapidly enough to eat and drink continuously if you were flexible and kept moving.
A Wide Ranging Pastiche
The range of restaurants that participated gave what is essentially a zillion-course tapas meal some serious texture: from Ches’ black and white pudding and toutons along with their staple fish and chips to The Reluctant Chef’s highbrow appetizers. An extra cheers to The Reluctant Chef for setting up their own wine pairing. This event would benefit if more of the restaurants took advantage of the opportunity to pair their drinks, or at least to more systematically recommend which other booth/drink would compliment.
With the general absence of advised pairings or any clear cooperation between the various booths, the event felt disjointed and somewhat frenetic. Like a group show at a gallery that has no curator; or a walk through Costco just before a long weekend when you have inadvisably skipped lunch and so move from sample table to sample table trying things that should never be eaten one after the other.
The toppings and side sauces provided the most memorable moments with the Jewish Deli’s peach habanero salsa and Grates Cove Studios’ lemon candied scrunchions (served over lobster maki) being the two that I will actively seek out again. Exile (of JAG hotel) carried the desserts with a solid Mexican wedding cookie topped with a spicy and sweet molé mousse.
But if a food show is the promise of tastes we cannot get on a normal night out, then Manna European Bakery and Deli was one of the few to fill that niche. In addition to piles of sandwiches which showcased their regular menu, they had a massive bowl of beautiful bright orange Physalis (aka “ground cherry” aka “cape gooseberry” aka “I had never heard of them and am now in love”) with light green papery husks that you could enjoy fresh or dipped in a sweet white sauce.
Chinched and their tacos, Five Brothers Cheese’ poutine and India Gate’s mini-buffet were all deservedly popular, as they are outside of show night. The Spa at The Monastery broke the “booth” mould by luring show-goers with a simple strawberry dipped in chocolate into a pop-up beauty spa replete with free chair massages and make-overs.
A short run of “cross-over” type booths which had information alongside food began with Breakwater Books who had copies of Rock Recipes, and the author, Barry Parsons, there ready to sign and to chat along with one of his signature cakes as an accompanying sample. Next to the Breakwater booth, the town of Bay Roberts was handing out information on their own food festival (Songs, Stages & Seafood) coming up in June. And finally, nearest the entrance/exit was the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association table with plenty of information alongside various pots of mussels (I died for the thai chile variety). Did you know that Newfoundland’s Blue Mussels were the first to get organic certification in North America? I did not but I’m glad I found out.