Roots Rants and Roars 2018
Imagine a food festival where you meander along the coastline sampling dishes from famous chefs and drinking wine. Musicians play music while you lingered by the ocean with a full belly and happy heart and you finish your afternoon with desserts in a playground. Well, dreams really do come true, and it happens every year in Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador. Welcome to Roots, Rants and Roars! This festival, which honours the culinary culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, last two days and has been on my bucket list since it started in 2009.
The small town of Elliston is taken over by Roots, Rants and Roars for the duration of the weekend. Even the welcome sign to the root cellar capital of the world is covered over with Roots, Rants and Roars paraphernalia. There are three core events during the festival: Cod Wars, which takes place on Friday night, The Hike on Saturday afternoon and The Feast wrap, which things up on Saturday night. We weren’t able to make it out to Elliston in time to enjoy Cod Wars in which chefs battle for the title of King/Queen of Cod. Saying “we just did the hike and the feast” would be like saying “we just ate one piece of bread and a slice of cheese” — it was an eating marathon that lasted the whole day and I’ll never forget it. At least I got to walk off the first five dishes during The Hike.
Hikers congregated at Elliston Municipal Park on Saturday, tummies grumbling. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect with lovely September sun shining on the artisan market people shopped at while waiting for the hike to start. We skipped the first station as it was really busy and hiked onto the second. Let me first say, “hike” may be a strong word. You wander along the coastline to the different stations in Elliston but you can walk along the road so there’s no major hiking gear required at Roots, Rants and Roars. The second station was manned by the shirtless gentlemen of the Food Network Chef Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes and Geoff Manthorne from Ace of Cakes. They served up a wickedly good clam chowder made with bacon and NL razor clams on top of charred buttermilk biscuits. A great start to the hike.
Next came Todd Perrin from Mallard Cottage with NL Streetcorn with savoury crema, NL guacamole and dried bluefin tuna flakes. Chef Todd was literally cooking up a feed inside a root cellar! Near the root cellar, a section of a traditional vegetable garden was cordoned off, transforming into a beer garden where Quidi Vidi Brewing Co. was serving up their new brews, including Day Boil a session IPA that couldn’t have been more perfect for such a large day by the ocean.
Chef JP Pedhirney from Bridgette Bar in Calgary cooked up ice shrimp, herbed dumpling with oyster crema and crunchy dill underneath the shadow of an old fishing stage where local musician Dave Whitty was belting out tunes. It couldn’t get more Newfoundland than that.
Marc Lepine from Atelier in Ottawa made one of the most interesting dishes of the day by breaking down the traditional flavours found in a root cellar. Barbecued turkey breast floated in a root vegetable broth with celeriac puree, red onion and brussels sprouts and topped with a crunchy camo rice paper that added texture to Newfoundland in a bowl.
Our last stop was my favourite. Chef Steve Wall from Supply and Demand in Ottawa made giant potato gnocchi stuffed with salt beef and topped with mustard pickles. It was basically the high-end version of Jiggs Dinner and I could have eaten three portions no problem.
Dessert was waiting at the end of the hike served in the Gary Baker Memorial Park. Butter Bakery, The Old Dublin Bakery and the local ladies of Nanny’s Root Cellar Kitchen brought their a-game to say the least.
As if spending the day grazing along the ocean wasn’t filling enough, Roots, Rants and Roars has The Feast too! Strings of lights guide feasters from the entrance of the municipal grounds to the dining area. Rows of picnic tables are connected by pretty burlap tablecloths while Chandeliers hang from the rafters of the big white tents. Tables are set for six people and guests are encouraged to mingle with new people as each dish is brought out family style. This year, there were seven courses of bounty from an arsenal of talented chefs from across the island.
During Roots, Rants and Roars we were hosted by the Artisan Inn in Trinity. I included this spot in my Where to Stay in Newfoundland post earlier this summer because they have a great variety of bed and breakfast rooms to book, but also some great historic vacation homes to rent like the Admiral’s Lookout I stayed this past June. Owner Marieke gave us the Cove Cottage to use over the weekend and we fell in love with the place instantly. Perched over the calm cove in Trinity, the bright blue house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms with a breathtaking views of the ocean from the master bed.
Disclosure: Thank you so much to Legendary Coasts, Artisan Inn and the Roots, Rants and Roars festival for hosting Adam and I during the festival. As always the opinions about all the things I eat are my own. Cheers to next year!