By Chad Feehan
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
October 13, 2023 Edition
The Manuels River trail was ablaze with more than the colours of fall foliage last Saturday: there was also the aroma of fine food, the blare of energetic music, and a bevy of craft beer selections for the crowd of visitors who ponied up $140 each to partake in the delights of the annual Chefs for Trails fundraiser.
Now in its fifth year, Chefs for Trails invites local chefs to prepare delicious small plates using seasonal, local ingredients served along the trail in stations beside the iconic river.
Participants are free to wander the trails at their leisure, sampling fare from as many of the stations as their gullets and palates allow.
Prior to the walk, they were invited to sip brews from Ninepenny Brewing and Landwash Brewery. The instrumental sounds of Brad Jefford set the tone for the afternoon, before Rick Lambe, Tomorrow’s Hangover, and Darrin Martin kicked it up a notch.
Manuels River executive director Janet Rumsey said the event was inspired by festivals like Roots, Rants and Roars, a similar fete held in Elliston, Trinity Bay.
The Manuels River organizers wanted to achieve a similar open air culinary experience, but on a smaller scale that would work within what the association’s trails have to offer.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to get people out and give them the opportunity to experience local chefs as they prepare mouthwatering small plates,” Rumsey said. “It’s very picturesque.”
This year’s event featured 11 stations – more than any other year. Most were gluten-free, which opens up an entire demographic of people for participation.
The menagerie of stations included Tony Butt from The Reluctant Chef, Prem and Sangetta Nijhawan from Taste of India, and Marliese Janes from Manuels River’s Nans Kitchen Takeover series, among other restaurants.
Participants could be heard oohing and aahing as they smacked their lips on the tasty morsels on offer.
Leah Stultz from Bistro Five15 helmed the first station on the culinary journey. She served a roasted carrot with whipped feta, pumpkin seeds, and gremolata made with parsley and river mint sourced from Manuels River itself.
“I sampled one last night while I was prepping and it was really nice, so I hope everybody enjoys it,” Stultz said.
The river backdrop provided a different dining room from the one Bistro Five15 usually occupies in the Capital Hyundai car dealership where Stultz serves soups, sandwiches, and pastries among other dishes.
A little ways down the trail, Tony Mackenzie served a Korean barbecue beef cheek taco on behalf of Newlander Meats in C.B.S. Beef cheek is a lesser known cut of meat which made it an easy choice to serve beside the river.
“It’s something different, it’s a bit of an off-cut,” said Mackenzie. “It’s not your usual steak and potatoes kind of meat but it’s still just as good as any other meat.”
The dish consisted of slow-braised beef cheek, and an Asian inspired slaw with cabbage, red onion, apples, fresh ginger, soy sauce, and dressing.
Mackenzie lives in the area and is on the trail “pretty much every day,” but this year marked his first foray as a chef at the fundraiser.
“It’s really unique. It’s a great thing for Manuels, for CBS,” he said. “It’s going to a good cause. It’s cool to be a part of it.”
Newlander Meats is located across the street from St. George’s Elementary in Long Pond. Rumsey, meanwhile, is looking forward to next year, when the event won’t coincide with Thanksgiving weekend, which likely pilfered some attendees this past weekend.
“It’s a great fundraiser, we really appreciate people coming out,” Rumsey said. “It’s a fun day.”