Celebrated Toronto chef, Jamie Kennedy (right) hands David Farnell, founder of Real Food for Real Kids, the tortiere strudel he prepared for the Brewer's Plate last Wednesday.

The scene at the Brewer’s Plate was a locavore foodie’s dream. The
Wynchwood Barns was busy with some of Toronto’s most talented chefs
preparing their delectable dishes alongside brewers offering tastes of
Canada’s favourite beverage: beer.  

After receiving a beer glass on the way in and a silk serviette,
hundreds of local food lovers and beer enthusiasts tried to work their
way around the room in pursuit of a mouthgasm in the marriage of food
and drink.

The plethora of beer on tap, from the bottle or in a can made
easy work of drinking for a living for the night. One of the first in
sight was a wheat beer. Weissbier by Denison’s Brewing Company left a
subtle fruity aftertaste and was the best wheat beer on offer.
Surprisingly, what makes all wheat beer so tasty has nothing to do with
the wheat. “The wheat itself does not lend a lot of character to the
flavour. Tt’s the yeast you use which gives a banana or bubblegum
flavour, and sometimes a bit of clove flavour,” explains Michael
Hancock, the founding brewer and owner of Denison’s Brewing Company.
Hancock’s Weissbier certainly delivered on both the banana and
bubblegum flavours.

Some of the flavourful food fare included a succulent beef
skewer with roasted potatoes made by chef Marc Breton from The
Gladstone Hotel, which was the perfect appetizer in a many course meal.
Michael Steh of Red’s Bistro prepared an easily devoured cheese and
broccoli soup that was hearty without being heavy.

Going around the room of flavours was like going around the
world as the food at The Brewer’s Plate was a reflection of Toronto’s
multicultural makeup. From the braised pork belly by Lora Kirk, to chef
Tawfik Shehata’s fish tacos with homemade tortillas and smoked tomato
salsa, to a crumble and cupcakes prepared by LPK’s Culinary Groove with
all organic and fair-trade ingredients,  to chocolate with chili by
Chocosol, eating at the Brewer’s Plate was like being a culinary

In fine Canadian form, the dessert prepared by Brook Kavanagh
from La Pallette included maple mascarpone cheesecake, poached pear,
walnut shortbread, cinnamon Chantilly and was served with Wellington’s
beer. Wellington’s Russian Imperial Stout – a specific brew for the
winter months – was just what the chef ordered as a compliment to the
tasty treat.

If there was one dish that stood out as a truly Canadian piece
of culinary cultural tradition, it was Jamie Kennedy’s tortiere strudel
with winter salad and a mustard pickle. The ingredients were sourced
from the Kawarthas, Perth and Cookstown, and the idea for the dish was
French-Canadian. The savoury strudel was paired with Waupoos Premium
Cider, which has the particular distinction of not only being a subtle
cider without a harsh after bite, but also certified local sustainable
by Local Food Plus, carbon neutral and gluten-free.

From his explanation of the importance of events like the
Brewer’s Plate, it’s obvious why Kennedy was the inaugural recipient of
the Governor General’s Award in celebration of the Nation’s Table last

“It’s celebrating local bounty as a way not only for all
of the economical benefits of supporting local economies and reducing
carbon footprints and all of the environmental things, but all these
things converge which is very nice,” says Kennedy.

David Farnell, founder of Real Food for Real Kids, an
organization that prepares all-natural, organic meals and caters to
childcare centres, elementary schools and camps, sees the local issue
as one that combats larger companies that don’t consider the
externalities like how far the food is shipped and the size of the
footprint as a result.

“As soon as you taste it you see that
there’s a huge benefit to this. Then when you realize the money stays
in the local economy, it becomes a local living economy and that’s the
full cycle.”

And all the money spent for tickets to the event were held in
the local economy: the proceeds went to Not far from the Tree, a local
organization that harvests your fruit tree and splits the bounty
between the volunteers and the rest is delivered to food banks,
shelters and community kitchens.

As Canada’s personal champion of all things, local, sustainable
and organic for your table, Kennedy believes cooking is “a wonderful
way to create a culture of a place” because people travel to find just
that a different culture or terroire.

The night did involve some travel for your taste buds. Pairing
single-serving mouth-watering items with locally brewed beer could
bring even the most ravenous appetite to the brink of food coma. The
only thing to carry you through was the thought of the tastes on offer
at the next station.

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