Roots, Rants & Roars: Take a Food Hike!

This is a special guest post from Elisabeth Luther. Elisabeth is a food photographer and author of the popular food blog Homemade Hearts. She moved to Newfoundland 7 years ago and loves great food, outdoor adventures on the coast and great company. You can see her photography portfolio on her website and find all of her many delicous recipes on her blog:

Can you imagine a whole weekend dedicated to celebrating the amazing food, culture, land and sea of Newfoundland? This is happened last weekend along the rugged coast line of the Bonavista Peninsula, where hundreds of root cellars that have survived many storms and many years are scattered throughout the landscape, adding an incredible charm to the region. The Roots, Rants and Roars Food Festival in Elliston was doing just that. During the weekend, Elliston was filled with passionate people and chefs from all around the country to celebrate the flavours of the land and sea, while local music was filling the air.


Elliston is the root cellar capital of the world and there is truly no better location to hold this unique celebration. My friend Sarah from Food Security Network NL and I decided to hit the road early Saturday morning to participate in one of the weekend festivities: the food hike. The day was perfect for a stroll along the ocean and delicious food on the trail - very sunny and of course, very windy (I have started to really love that wind after a few years in Newfoundland, it has just become part of my day - a day without wind is like a day without food!). When we got to the site, there were lots of cute local craft vendors - I got a gorgeous quilted blanket, knitted items, painted wood and handmade soap. There was so much variety!


During the hike, we met five of the top chefs in Canada and tasted their food. Below are a few pictures of what we experienced. It was amazing to see each chef use local ingredients and incorporate their personality in each of the dishes served.

The first chef we encountered was Dale Mckay from Saskatoon. Dale is the owner of Ayden Kitchen & Bar and winner of Top Chef Canada 2011. Dale served some fresh and flaky cod over a bed of creamy corn, kale, lime and mascarpone succotash, topped with crispy bacon and savoury lobster sauce. We enjoyed this dish while looking at the waves crashing on one of the rare sandy beaches found here in Newfoundland.


We walked on a grassy path, along the rocky coastline to get to the second station where Matty Matteson had a feast prepared for us. Matty Matteson is the chef for the restaurant Parts & Labour in Toronto. The lineup for his station wrapped all around a root cellar, but it was definitely worth the wait. We tasted some rich and flavourful pork and beans. Roasted pork belly was served over beans that were cooked with lots of more pork. A generous chunk of soft molasses bread topped with whipped butter was the perfect vessel to get every last bit of sauce on the plate.


We were already getting full by then, but a brisk walk to the next station made us hungry again. Chef Anthony Walsh, Executive Chef at Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants in Toronto, served a generous plate of sweet cornbread topped with local lamb, spicy rutabaga and pickled cactus. This dish was delicious and spicy!


On our way to the fourth station, we came across an amazing refreshment station where we tasted the sweet rhubarb lemonade prepared by Bonavista Social Club. I had tasted and fell in love with their rhubarb lemonade on my last visit to the restaurant in June, and it was such a delight to encounter this refreshing beverage on the hike!

Jessica Pelland, winner of Chopped Canada and executive chef at Char Bar Restaurant & Rooftop Grill in Calgary was preparing food at the next station. She handed out a turkey kabob with cucumber raita and zesty pickled slaw on a small wrap. This dish was truly refreshing and tasty; each bite was such a delight.


Finally, we arrived at the end of town and encountered Chef Marc Lepine at the last food station of the hike (before dessert!). Marc served a rare and tender grilled beef rib eye with barley, corn, turnip, carrot and pickled chanterelles in a miso broth. The delicate flavours of this dish were such a great way to end the "meal" and find the energy to hike back to the Elliston Municipal Park to find lots of sweet baked goods.


The hike back was great because it gave us just enough time to make a bit of room to squeeze in some of the delicious cakes baked by some amazing local women. They had baked up such a variety of desserts: carrot cakes with cream cheese icing, spice cakes, lemon meringue pies, raisin cake with rum sauce, chocolate bundt cake with a sweet coating, partridgeberry cake with a sweet rum sauce, chocolate mud pies, and lots of other types of cakes. We tasted quite a few and they were all so delicious. Coffee Matters generously served coffee while we were all laying in the sun, tired after a long afternoon of eating and walking!


The food hike at the Roots, Rants and Roars Festival was amazing - the organizers pulled an incredible job to get everything set up and make sure there was enough food and drinks for everyone. Next year, I will definitely have to go spend the entire weekend in the Bonavista Peninsula to partake in all of the weekend food festivities! I can't wait!

Here are a few more pictures from this magical day.