Stratford Garlic Festival

by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Suzi Moore

Ail, Knoblauch, Czosnek, aglio, bawang ….. No matter how you say it, September 7th and 8th in Stratford Ontario was all about one thing: GARLIC!  This year the 7th annual Stratford Garlic Festival took over the old fairgrounds for the two-day event to benefit the Kiwanis club of Stratford.

The festival’s vendors ranged from garlic themed-preserves and garlic sausages to sweeter treats like garlic ice cream (yes, really!) to garlic themed cookbooks. Not to mention the varieties of garlic for sale. Hot garlic, sweet garlic, black garlic, garlic for planting, garlic for eating, garlic for roasting – the possibilities were endless.  And as if that wasn’t enough, you could also buy your very own garlic bulb hat!  On the non-garlic side of things visitors indulged in delicious treats like samosas, different cured meats, and Kimchi by West of Seoul.

It was truly a culinary paradise for foodies as each day of the festival featured culinary presenters (including chefs, culinary experts and cookbook authors), garlic gurus, as well as cooking demonstrations and competitions. Sunday’s “Celebrity Black Box Competition” saw Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson and local Co-operators Insurance Agent Peter Maranger face off in a culinary duel, each with the assistance of a Stratford Chef School Culinary student. Later in the day the reigning “Garlic Chef” champion Chef Yva Santini faced challenger Chef Robert Rose in Stratford’s version of “Kitchen Stadium”.

The day wasn’t just one big cooking show as visitors were invited to participate too. I was one of the select few that took advantage of the festival’s “Glorious Garlic Experience”: Bryan Mailey’s hour-long “Garlic Braiding Workshop”. Bryan is a long-time garlic grower, braider and lover. He guided participants through the details of growing and processing hard-neck garlic in preparation for braiding. The workshop taught students to incorporate 13 garlic bulbs into one braid, quite a bit trickier than it sounds!

I am already looking forward to next year’s Garlic festival, but if you’re self-conscious don’t forget your mints because as they say in Stratford ‘there’s no such thing as too much garlic’.