Okay, it’s sort of the same thing every year – but there’s something about the Royal Winter Fair that just makes us so excited. Sure, there are parts we don’t get, like why many of the food competition winners are hidden away in the Upper Annex where most people never see them, and how McDonald’s has weaseled their way into the Journey to Your Good Heath section (sure, they pay lots of money to be there, probably, but come on!).
On the other hand, for ten days every November, the Royal is where city and country come together in a celebration of Ontario’s harvest – from giant pumpkins to many varieties of apples to jams, corn, produce and some of the most beautiful animals you’ve ever seen. Those cows bathed and fluffed up like giant teddy bears will one day be someone’s dinner, but not before they’re bedecked with ribbons to show just what good quality beef they really are.
Every year we go to the Royal Winter Fair on the first day, and every year we go home disappointed. Not because the Royal isn’t awesome, it is! But because we always forget that the poultry competitions don’t take place until mid-week. This year, we held off and attended the fair on Wednesday, specifically to check out the hundred of truly gorgeous birds.
I should have been taking notes because I have only a vague recollection of the names of the breeds for most of these, but these were definitely the best of the best. Slightly disappointed to see so few really rare breeds – a few silkies and a frizzle, but not a crested Poland in sight. Still, these birds are all really beautiful, and it’s really interesting to see how much they vary in size and colouration.
The observant will note the absence of any male turkeys -despite my best efforts the buggers would all turn and shake their tail feather at me, every single time I tried to take a shot.
Thirty or so photos to follow, probably not of much interest unless you’re a bird lover, but they are pretty darn cool.
Once again, it’s time for the country to come to the city. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is in town until November 16th. Now in its 86th year, the Royal is the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world, and sees over 300,000 people come through its doors each November.
And since the majority of agriculture is food-related, the fair is a great place for foodies to check out new local products, admire prize-winning produce, and see up close the chickens, pigs, cows and sheep that will eventually end up on their dinner tables.
Here are some not-to-miss high-lights: Continue reading “The Incredible Edible Royal Winter Fair”
One of the biggest complaints about local food is that it’s hard to find. Sure, farmer’s markets are popping up in many neighbourhoods, but the issues involved in getting local food to local tables, particularly restaurant tables, are many and diverse.
As part of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, a panel discussion and networking event that connected farmers and chefs took place on Monday, November 5th. Panel members included moderator Lori Stahlbrand from Local Food Plus; Tobey Nemeth, Chef de Cuisine at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar; Elizabeth Harris, organizer of the Brickworks Farmers Market; Mark Trealout of Kawartha Ecological Growers; Dan Taylor, Economic Development Officer of Prince Edward County; Paul Finklestein from the Screaming Avocado and Food Network Canada Show, Fink; Barry Monaghan from Fresh Start; and Sasha Chapman of the Globe and Mail.
Each participant took a few moments to discuss the question, “What is the most important thing farmers can do to address local food opportunities?”
It probably makes me a bad Torontonian, but after living here for 2 decades, this is the first year I’ve been to the Royal Winter Fair. I’m not sure why I’ve never bothered before, other than as a young adult it just didn’t have enough punk cachet, and as a vegetarian, it made me sad. But this year I had an excuse, so off we went on Saturday evening to check it out.
In many ways, it was not what I expected.