It started with a cornbread that a friend brought over to Shiela Alexandrovich’s house one evening for a potluck at her Wheaton River Valley home. The savoury bread was adorned with sage leaves and she remembers commenting, “This is so beautiful, it belongs in an exhibit.”
While that cornbread didn’t end up in a gallery, it did inspire did inspire the food oriented event called The Ingestible Festival, a gallery exhibit and celebration of local food at the Lorne Mountain Community Association.
This year marks the fourth year of the annual fine foods fest, which will take place on Sunday, August 27th at the Lorne Mountain Community Centre (LMCA).
“We were looking for an event at the LMCA and we thought this was the perfect way to celebrate the goal of getting people to eat and grow local,” Alexandrovich says. She is the organizer of the annual feast, as well as a mixed media fibre artist and longtime Lorne Mountain resident.
“I’m involved in the arts world and we celebrate visual art,” she says. “Food deserves the same as a creative medium.”
That’s why the delicious array of fine local foods prepared for the festival are presented like a gallery art exhibit – complete with appealing aesthetic layout and studio lighting. Tables are arranged in a large circle so attendees can rotate around the outside to taste the northern delicacies – from beautiful breads made with different herbs, sages and sourdoughs, to rosehip ketchups, to a cheese garden, to kombuchas, sherries and herbed ales.
“I hear so many oohs and ahhs before people even get into the food,” laughs Alexandrovich.
The biggest event to date was last year with 150 people in attendance and seven tables worth of appetizing eats. The festival is all about community and tasting, but Alexandrovich explains that the main event is not a potluck.
“We use small plates and small glasses,” she says. “The idea is to pay attention to the food.”
There is also a concession available with more foods to purchase, including options from local meat producers. “The goal is to present food in a creative venue and set up as an exhibit, to highlight local production of food and how people do it creatively,” says Alexandrovich.
While not everyone who attends prepares a dish, every festival attendee eats the exhibits. In this way, everyone acts as a judge.
As Alexandrovich explains, if you come to the door with a food entry, there is no cost, and if you arrive empty handed, the event costs $10 for a plate and a glass (and yes, you get to taste everything)!
Ingredients are listed for each entry and stars are awarded for taste, locality of ingredients and presentation for each food category: breads, ferments (including beverages), cheeses, wild crafted (anything wild goes) and flights of fancy (an open category for the most creative dish). Overall best prizes are also awarded for presentation, taste and locality.
The top three entries for each category take home prizes, and of course, bragging rights.
In past years, prizes have varied from fancy cookbooks, to local artwork, to kitchenware tailored to each category, to speciality equipment like bread paddles and cheese molds. The total value for prizes this year equals approximately $600.
There is also an educational component to the Ingestible Festival, with this year’s discussions focused on cheeses and fermenting.
“Most people have something they are really good at making and we encourage you to bring it and put out there,” says Alexandrovich, who explains there is no hierarchy in the judging, and ultimately, it’s about about food, fun, and learning about food. Contestants range from children to home cooks to restauranteers and chefs.
“It’s an invitation for people who like to cook to prepare the best that they have,” says Alexandrovich, “Everything is welcome!”
Alexandrovich herself plans to enter a selection of cheeses she has been preparing since March and wines made last fall.
This year’s Ingestible Festival takes place at the Mount Lorne Community Centre, which is located at kilometre one down the Annie Lake Road.
Applicants are encouraged to register in advance online, but individuals can also register at the door. The event starts at 3:30 p.m., but applicants are asked to arrive at 2:30 p.m. in order to register and write ingredients.
For more information or to help out, call Shiela Alexandrovich at 668-5964 or Agnes Seitz at 667-7083.
Tasting tickets are $10.00 at the door and entry forms are available at the Fireweed Community Market on Thursdays or at email@example.com or www.MountLorne.yk.net.
“Let’s do it! Let’s talk about food from here,” Alexandrovich encourages. “We will all benefit by eating and growing locally. It’s a celebration of food from the Yukon that will keep moving people in that direction.”