We rose, slower than usual, from our slumber Sunday morning, sipped our coffees as we rubbed our eyes, and had a small breakfast. We knew saving space in our tummies would pay off as we were in for a treat later in the afternoon.
As we pulled into the parking lot of Brewer Park, the current home of the Ottawa Farmers Market, it was apparent that this was no regular day at the market. The parking lot swelled with cars and chipper market-goers toting bags spilling over with vibrant locally grown produce and fares. We parked, far quicker than we imagined, and set our sites on the white tent that stood taller and more elegantly than all the other vendor booths. This was where we would soon share a meal with locals food-lovers, farmers and chefs alike. This was Ottawa’s 2nd annual Harvest Table.
Harvest Table is a much-anticipated yearly event, organized by Savour Ottawa, that offers patrons an opportunity to celebrate Ottawa’s ample harvest and culinary artistry by enjoying a meal with the hard working folks who both grow and prepared it. It brought some of the cities finest chefs, hardest working farmers and food-loving residents together under one charmingly decorated roof… err.. tent.
As we wandered the market waiting for lunch to start, we happened upon the C’est Bon Cooking tour, offered with Cream of the Crop tickets ($75 as opposed to $60 for the lunch alone) and we listened in as Paola St George, tour guide extraordinaire, expertly navigated the market followed closely by a crowd of wide-eyed, eager guests hungry for every bit of information she had to offer… or maybe it was the tantalizing samples they were hungry for. Either way, people were happy. So happy. And it was lovely to see everyone so anxiously gobbling up the full market experience. We listened in for a few minutes as Andy Terauds, owner of Acorn Creek Gardens and vice-president of the market itself, spoke about his farm but trailed off when we spotted Somerford & Halls booth. [Side note: if you’ve not been to check out C’est Bon Cooking, I urge you to click through to the link above. Team building, cooking classes, Byward Market food tours, and so much more!]
As we made our way to our table, Impromptu Strings setting the mood with their artfully performed classics, we took our seats, scanned the airy, outdoor space and breathed in the whole atmosphere. The tables were charming and simple, centerpieces made up of richly hued flowers and greens mixed with small tomatoes vines and kale, truly making use of every bit of summer’s harvest. Already present at the table was a platter of antipasti ripe with elk sausage, wild vegetables, edible flowers, soft cheeses and a deep purple blueberry ketchup. We passed it around the table as we acquainted ourselves with other diners over Kichessippi Beer’s Natural Blonde & a choice of either Chardonnay or Cab Franc from Casa-Dea Estates Winery. The Cab Franc was lovely; great acidity and a smooth plummy flavour.
The antipasti platter disappeared as quickly as it came, and we were served course after course of exquisitely executed dishes; Chilled Strawberry Melon Soup with Goat Cheese, Grainy Potato Salad with generous hunks of egg, Harvest Table Farm Salad filled with local veg, Fresh Basil Ravioli with Tomato Sauce (easily my favourite - the ravioli were pan-fried similar to gnocchi and exploded with a warm, delicate basil filling), Roast Beef with Summer BBQ Sauce, Heritage Breed Pork Duo (pulled shoulder and belly), a vibrant Tomato & Zucchini Millefeuille with Goat Feta, Swiss Chard with Heirloom Carrots and Cinnamon Honey, New Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeno & Onion Confit, and finally, a variety of tantalizing summer pies bubbling over with fresh fruit filling.
I’m not sure how we managed to avoid slipping into a food-induced slumber right there at the table while we digested our pie and applauded the work of restaurants, chefs, farmers & food producers, volunteers, organizers and sponsors for their magnanimous efforts in putting this event together. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. The honour of dining in the presence of those who have toiled endlessly (particularly after a hard, drought-filled summer) to grow and produce our food, and the chefs who work long, often-thankless hours to prepare dinner so we can sit back, relax and enjoy left me feeling an overwhelming amount of gratitude. When the option to attend rolls around next year, I hope you’ll join Savour Ottawa in celebrating our great city’s harvest, farmers and chefs - there are so few events that bring all of these together to truly tell a story of Ottawa’s food and people.
After such a fantastic meal, I was inspired to create something with the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we grabbed on our way out. This tart is simple to make and so pretty to look at. I almost felt guilty cutting into it… but once I did, my guilt quickly faded away into the buttery layers of crunchy dough and sweet, warm tomatoes.
Heirloom Tomato Tart with Lemon Ricotta & Cornmeal-Thyme Crust
makes 1 10” pie
Cornmeal-Thyme Pate Brisee
adapted from Martha Stewart
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (stems removed)
1 cup unsalted butter, frozen cut into small pieces
1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and thyme. Pulse the processor until butter pieces are about the size of a pea. Add water in 1 tbsp at a time until the dough starts to hold itself together. It should stick easily when pinched together. Dump the dough out and press together in a loosen ball. Divide in half and place each portion onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each in the plastic and press into a flattened disc. Refrigerate for 1 hour (Make ahead: can be made 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge).
Remove 1 round of dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 1/4” thick. Press your dough into a 10 x 1 1/2” pie plate. Trim the excess dough off the edges and crimp the edges if you’re into that sort of thing (I totally am, but as you can see, I’m not the best at it as a result of my big clobber mitts - you can just leave the crust as it is…we’ll call it rustic. Shhh!). Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to start prepping the filling.
1lb Heriloom Tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup high quality ricotta
1 tbsp lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove the tart shell from the fridge. Prick all over with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
While the shell bakes, toss the sliced tomatoes and salt together in a colander. Let it sit in the sink or over a bowl, tossing gently every few minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, lemon zest and salt. Stir well to combine.
Once pie is removed from the oven, turn heat up to 375. Spread the ricotta on the pre-baked pie shell. Arrange tomatoes around the pie plate in two layers. Give a few generous grinds of pepper and place in the oven until tomatoes are soft and reduced in size, about 40 minutes. If you notice the crust cooking too quickly, just lightly cover the pie with tin foil.