What does a food blogger do with a week to go before he is married? He jumps at the opportunity to lend a hand to Mike Mckenzie of Seed to Sausage. You see, not only can you find Mckenzie’s hand made meat products at many a local retailer, from Westboro’s The Piggy Market to the Glebe’s McKeen’s Metro, but his team participates in community events like the National Capital Craft Beer Week’s (NCCBW) festival.
While the mayorally-proclaimed NCCBW ran August 10th to 18th, on the Friday and Saturday, a large number of breweries assembled on the front lawn of Ottawa’s City Hall, called Marion Dewar Plaza, for a festival. They included Quebec’s Brasserie McAuslan (known for its St-Ambroise beers) and Ontario’s Beau’s (Jordan Bamforth on hand), Kichesippi (Paul Meek and Chris Sheppard on hand), Hogsback, The Flying Monkeys, and Big Rig (Lon Ladell on hand). The festival marked the end of a week of events at beer-serving establishments, including tastings and beer-paired dinners.
What is beer without some decent food to accompany? While there were other concessions like Arrow and Loon (99 Fifth Avenue) and Spuds Poutinerie at the festival, there is no better beer food than freshly-made sausage and spit roasted local pork.
[Well, pizza from Brett Arden’s mobile wood-fired oven at Strata Pizza comes a close third…]
Mckenzie and his team, Ken (Mike’s Dad), Kalin (Chef), and Frank Jr. (seasoned cook), put out quite the spread: two types of sausages in buns with a myriad of toppings (ketchup, relish, Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustards, krout, fried onions, crushed potato chips, pickled banana peppers, and pickled jalapenos) and plates of succulent roast pork with slaw and buttery corn on the cob.
Here’s what I learned from working with these boys:
- Food entrepreneurs have to be nimble. Pre-printed signs can be painted over to double as chalk boards for new menus. Dishes can be changed to answer the value proposition at a given event. New dishes are conceived on-the-fly and served.
The menu on the Saturday was changed to add chopped whole roast pork on a bun (pork drizzled with barbecue sauce and dressed in slaw), whole hog plate (dinner plate from the evening before), and “big nasty on a bun” (bun layered with sliced pickled jalepeno and cheese curd sausage; chopped roast pork; barbecue sauce; slaw; and corn salsa).
- The cooks and chefs on the line at an outdoor event don’t have time to eat. Staff meals are picked at during brief pauses between prepping, plating, and serving people.
- There is no stand-still when serving hundred of people. Everything is optimized on-the-fly. If it takes time to sleeve a bun to serve a freshly grilled sausage, batches of buns are pre-sleeved en-masse to ensure people are served quickly. If you’re standing still and not looking for ways to help out, you’re doin’ it wrong!
- Most hogs roasted whole are under 100 lbs. If you roast pigs, weighing around 170 lbs, you’re going to break your spit half way through cooking and reach for your spares. Mckenzie’s roasters were custom made to accommodate almost any size of hog. Spit kits were another story.
- When you roast a whole pig, to avoid the pig “flopping around” (ie. not rotisserie-ing), you have to fasten its spine to the spit. This can be done with wire or stainless steel bolts and fasteners. Bolts and fasteners work better.
- Nothing on a pig is wasted. People will ask for cuts beyond loin and belly. Someone asked for pig cheek. Another, a trotter to gnaw on. Crackling is more precious than gold!
- Even on a sunny Friday afternoon, it is difficult to attract people to a beer festival during work hours. If the event is not particularly well advertised, the lunch crowd will be small.
- No matter how educated or interesting speakers may be on the subjects of beer and brewing, not everyone will appreciate listening to their presentations. Live music, like the stylings of Beau’s co-owner Steve Beauchesne and his band, is more universally appealing to the beer-going crowd.
- At a beer festival, water is something everyone will eventually look for.
- When Seed to Sausage partners with a brew pub for an event, expect said pub’s beer to be in everything! There was a Big Rig beer bratwurst. The pigs were brined in Big Rig beer. The whole roast pork was served with Big Rig beer barbecue sauce. Even the coleslaw was dressed in Big Rig beer dressing.
To Mike and his team, please accept my humble thank-you for putting up with me. I enjoyed every second, working with you all.
Seed to Sausage easily served the best food at the festival.
Never have I been so proud to show off the stamp I received at a food and drink event.
If you missed the festival, consider the three-day beer-extravaganza that is Beau’s Oktoberfest. As last year, they will have talks, which will be sequestered away in a speaking venue onsite. There will be live entertainment throughout. There will be beer. But, most important, there will be dozens more food venders like Seed to Sausage on hand.
Click here to see glimpses of last year’s celebration.
Click here to see glimpses from the year’s before that.
Buy your tickets soon, especially for Saturday! As Beau’s Bamforth pointed out to me, while I rinsed hotel pans at the rinsing station, it only took a weekend for the pre-release tickets to sell out. Regular tickets are shifting fast!
Tags: Artisan Food Festival, featured, National Capital Craft Beer Week, Seed to Sausage, summer festival