Originally appeared in The Grapevine: August 7th – 21st, 2014
You know how modern teams like to give all the kids ribbons just for playing? Well, if only we could have done that at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market in the Tastes of the Valley competition. Sadly, we could not, and on this one special day I was actually encouraged to be judgemental. Speaking of which, I’m not sure I’ve ever caused so much jealousy in so many people as when I went around telling (okay: bragging) people that I’d been asked to be a Tastes Judge. I was practically jealous of myself.
Picture this: first you get up in the morning and run 16k. Then you show up, starving and ready to be pampered, and someone brings you taste after taste of deliciousness upon deliciousness and asks you to eat at least some of each. Heaven, I’m telling you, it was heaven.
We did crown two winners – 1 “Savoury” and 1 “Sweet”. Savoury was one of those times when simple wins by its absolute perfection. Haddock Stew, seemingly lowly fare, was lovingly prepared by the good people of Frais Catering. Sometimes winners win because they have been so inventive and creatively complex. In my opinion, it is far more difficult to impress with something of which you, the consumer, might think “I could make that.” No, you could not. Unless you are Frais Catering. My notes say: “beautiful, rich but thin broth, delicate fish, amazing new potatoes.” It was gloriously buttery and just gorgeous. Note: the only photos I have of the first place savoury winner are blurry beyond recognition. Sorry! I do have a photo of the 1st place sweet winner that is slightly less terrible:
Honourable mentions should have been given to the Blomidon Pot Maple Smoked Salmon prepared by Blomidon Inn. This arrived near the end of my tasting duties but it still stood out. It was smoky and a little bit sweet, clearly concocted to delight. Saraj Bakery and Café made the most amazing Caprese Antipasto – it was almost too gorgeous to eat but really it was a beautiful blend of bursting fresh veggies and amazing flavours including fresh mozza from Fox Hill Cheese House.
Our “Sweet” winner was constructed by Gourmandises Avenue. It was called Religieuse of the Valley because apparently “Religieuse” in the pastry world means decorated cream puff. And decorated, it was indeed! Not only was it fantastic looking, it was fantastic tasting. It was creamy and crunchy and sweet and tart and light. It was a constellation of desserty-joy.
Honourable mentions could have been given to the Chipotle Strawberry Beet Turnover by Between the Bushes. It was delightfully flakey and just complex enough that it was surprising and just traditional enough that it was scrumptious. Slow Dough Artisanal Bakery made an ice-cream sandwich named Ginger Creams. Imagine a thin but fluffy gingerbread cookie, a lovely layer of smooth vanilla ice-cream, and another thin but fluffy cookie on the other side. Heidi of Heidi’s Beads, Buns ‘n’ Fruit fame made the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted – it was rich but not overwhelming and sweet but not cloying. And maybe it doesn’t seem fair to you, dear reader, but I’m going to bring Frais Catering up again because their Strawberry & Olive Oil Curd Tart was absolutely divine.
I feel sorry for you if you missed this year’s Tastes of the Valley. I really do. But there is always next year, and in the meantime, congratulate yourself for being able to access the fruits of these good peoples’ labours each and every week at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market (or nearby, since not all of the above-noted participants are at the WFM every week).