Grown and made in Hastings County: good food, fine art

This was the dinner that Raymond and I were lucky enough to get tickets to this past weekend, a celebration of locally grown and raised foods. (Photo from Harvest Hastings,

This past Sunday was a day of meeting people who are doing good things for the Hastings County way of life.

The pond and footbridge in front of photographer Pauline Weber’s home. No wonder she gets inspired by the local landscape!

In the late morning we visited one of the stops on the Tweed and Area Studio Tour, the lovely home/studio (right on the Black River, not far from Queensborough) of photographer Pauline Weber of Black River Photography. It was Pauline who had, thanks to a comment she posted on this blog, tipped me off to the studio tour, and I had promised that if we were in the area at the time we would drop by. We were so glad we did! It was great to meet Pauline and see her beautiful photographs of Hastings County; we came away with two larger pieces (the Black River below the dam in Queensborough, and a cornfield at harvest time at the expansive Donnandale Farms near Stirling) and several of her greeting cards featuring smaller photos. Not to mention some pretty earrings made by Jilleen Jones of Marmora, who was also showing her work at Pauline’s home.

And on Sunday evening (well, actually it started in the late afternoon; people often have dinner early in those parts, as I’ve noted before) we were lucky enough to be able to attend a very special dinner at the historic Tweed Dance Pavilion on Stoco Lake, one of the last remaining examples of the dance halls that were so much a part of social life back in the earlier years of the 20th century. (You can read an excellent article about the dance halls of Hastings County in Country Roads magazine; go here and click on the Spring 2011 issue.)

Gathered at the table at the Tweed Dance Pavilion to celebrate the harvest with local foods.

Stew with beef from the Enright Cattle Company and local carrots, potatoes, beans, onions and garlic; homemade bread made from Red Fife wheat grown and ground at CIPM Farm; Stirling Creamery butter; and Maple Dale cheese.

It was a gathering organized by Harvest Hastings, an organization committed to “celebrating the wonderful area we live in and the tremendous diversity and richness in the agricultural sector of Hastings County.” We had found out about it through Louise Livingstone, Harvest Hastings’s co-ordinator, who’d posted a mention of it here and was also kind enough to rustle us up tickets when the event was essentially sold out. Everything served at the dinner, from soup through salad, the main course and dessert, not to mention the bread, butter, cheese and beverages, came from Hastings County farmers and producers. The chef who did the honours of putting it all together was Matt Riga of the Port Bistro in Trenton, and judging by the meal Matt produced and the bistro’s menu that we nabbed a copy of (and that features a lot of local foods), I would highly recommend a stop there if you’re down Trenton way.

Cutest dessert ever, and absolutely delicious: homemade (and very creamy) pumpkin spice ice cream, served in tiny hollowed-out pumpkins.

The dinner began with butternut-squash soup, moved on to a salad of mixed greens, beets, feta and apples, then an astoundingly good beef stew with carrots, beans, onions and garlic, and one of the cutest desserts you ever saw: homemade spiced pumpkin ice cream, each serving in a hollowed-out tiny pumpkin. We ate extraordinarily well, met some really nice people (some of them farmers, some of them like us just there to enjoy the farmers’ bounty), and picked up some good intelligence on where to buy local products fresh from the farm. And we got to see the Tweed Dance Pavilion which, despite my long history with the area, I had never visited before.

All in all, a delightful day. It is tremendous to see all the creativity in Hastings County. And also, on a cool and rainy fall evening (okay, late afternoon), to enjoy a hearty meal of foods raised lovingly, sustainably – and locally.

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