Event Name: Webster Garlic Festival
Purpose: Webster Miracle Field: an adaptive field for athletes with developmental and physical challenges. Rochester Beep Baseball.
Hosts: Webster Kiwanas, Webster Lyons, Webster Rotary
Location: Webster Parks and Recreation 1350 Chiyoda Dr, Webster, NY
When: September 10 and 11, 2016 (Sat: 10am-6pm, Sun: 10am-5pm)
Cost: Adults: $5, Children under 16 free
This second annual, two-day event celebrates everything garlic, with over 80 indoor and outdoor booths featuring garlic vendors, arts and craft vendors, and garlic-infused food products, as well as food and beverage vendors, musical entertainment and cooking demonstrations. If it’s related to garlic, you’ll find it here. This is a fun community event which not only celebrates all things garlic, but also supports the community through donations to initiatives such as Miracle Field, an adaptive sports filed for athletes with developmental and physical challenges.
Moved from its inaugural location, this year’s event took place at the Webster Recreation Center in Webster, NY. The recreation center was a great venue for this event, as it allowed for both indoor and outdoor vendors, as well as an indoor space for cooking demonstrations. With the majority of vendors inside, they were well positioned in case of a washed out weekend.
Parking was plentiful, in a large lot across the street from the venue. Organizers provided a school bus to transport attendees from the parking area to the front door of the recreation center, and back again. Although it wasn’t that far of a walk, that was a nice convenience.
All About Garlic
There was no shortage of garlic here. Over 15 farmers and growers displayed their bounty in booths both indoors and outdoors. I was surprised that there was such a plethora of garlic growers in our area in Western New York State. There was bulk garlic and bags of garlic, baskets of garlic and bushels of garlic. At one vendor booth (photo below), half-pound bags of garlic sold for $7.50 each.
As we wandered through the booths, both indoors and outdoors, I noticed that there were so many different types of garlic. This was news to me, as I had only every heard of a few varieties. I did some research (www.rodalesorganiclife.com) and learned that there are two main types of garlic – hardneck and softneck.
Hardneck Garlic: This type of garlic requires a little more finesse and attention than the softneck variety. However, it is colorful, offers a variety of flavors, and produces a flower stalk or scape, which is great for cooking. Hardneck garlic also has a hard, woody central stalk and 4-12 cloves in each bulb. This is the type of garlic most often found in grocery stores. It is most popular in the Northeast and Midwest areas of the USA and in Canada. Purple Stripe, Porcelain, and Rocambole are all types of hardneck garlic.
Softneck Garlic: This type of garlic does well in a range of climates, keeps longer in storage, matures faster, and is more productive than the hardneck variety. Also, its cloves are easier to peel, and its stems are easier to braid. This type of garlic is most often found on the West Coast and Southern areas of the USA. Artichoke and Silverskin are types are softneck garlic.
The festival brochure included the following information about garlic, which I found interesting and wanted to share with you:
“Garlic is a flowering herb commonly grown for its edible bulb, which is divided into smaller sections called cloves. Garlic cloves can be consumed or used as seed to propagate more garlic. It must be planted during the fall, as the cloves must be chilled for several weeks before they will germinate and grow in the spring. Garlic requires little care to grow, and will produce large, flavorful bulbs the summer following planting.”
Garlic Cooking Demonstrations
In addition to looking at garlic and smelling garlic, we also had the opportunity to taste cooked garlic. This festival featured cooking demonstration and tastings hourly, throughout the day. My friend and I attended two of them; one for Bruschetta Garlic Bread with Mozzarella and the other for Garlic Scape Pasta.
The Bruschetta Garlic Bread with Mozzarella recipe demonstration was simple, but the taste was complex. Chef Austin from Wegmans Food Markets demonstrated this recipe.
He first combined fresh garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper, to make a paste and then he spread in on toasted garlic bread. He then topped that with thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, with arugula on top. Finally, he drizzled balsamic vinegar over the top. It was delicious and so easy!
Another cooking demonstration featured Garlic Scape Pasta, which uses the scapes (green stalk growing from the garlic above ground) as a featured part of the dish. Karen Collins of Webster, NY demonstrated this recipe. She combined cooked pasta with a mixture of sautéed garlic scapes sautéed in oil, with wine and tomatoes. It was a hearty dish and quite tasty. However, I most likely would skip the tomatoes and serve this dish with olive oil and maybe white beans.
Although I didn’t attend the third demonstration, Karen Collins also demonstrated a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto. The recipe called for combining the following in a food processor and processing until smooth: 1 cup garlic scapes (cut into 1/4″ pieces), 1/3 cup walnuts, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt and a pinch of black pepper. This pesto would be great on sliced baguette bread or over cooked pasta or roasted vegetables.
Vendors: Food, Beverages, Arts, Crafts and Specialty Items
With more than 40 vendors offering arts, crafts and specialty items, there was a lot to see. Specialty food vendors included those selling oils, vinegars, snacks, mustards, honey and maple products. Specialty craft vendors (not garlic-themed) included those selling candles, soaps, baskets, jewelry, greeting cards and pottery. There were also a few home-party vendors such as Tastefully Simple and Pampered Chef.
Over ten food and beverage vendors, offered an adequate variety of lunch options, including grilled foods, sweets, kettle corn, custard and more. I opted for an old favorite – a hamburger. It was fine, but admittedly, my friend ordered a cheeseburger from a competitor food truck and hers looked better than mine. I was surprised, though, that there weren’t more garlic-themed foods to buy for lunch.
I saw in the festival brochure that there were also a few Garlic Garden Presentations, but I didn’t see when or where they were being offered. However, my friend and I chatted briefly with a seasoned farmer about growing garlic indoors. I want to try growing it in a pot inside my home. Although there was a bit of a language barrier, I learned that I should plant one garlic clove per small hole and keep it moist throughout the winter. I can plant them relatively close together (within a few inches) and don’t have to keep the pot covered. If I decide to try this, I’ll keep you informed of my progress.
If purchasing garlic, watching garlic cooking demonstrations and perusing craft vendors isn’t your thing, how about some entertainment? At the Webster Garlic Festival, attendees were treated to several bands playing in a tented area, amid picnic tables. Bands included Vintage, Doghouse and Industrial Blues Band. In addition, hourly prize drawings and a human mascot in a furry costume might also have kept you amused.
One of the highlights was meeting “Packie” the Alpaca from Lazy Acre Farms. Packie didn’t have much to say, but he sure was cute, and a hit with the kids. Located in a penned-in area at the end of the vendor rows outdoors, Packie enjoyed the sunshine and casts of shade on his/her (?) face.
I enjoyed my first trip to the Webster Garlic Festival. I liked that it was small enough to see everything in a few hours (or less), yet large enough to have something for everyone. Also, I liked visiting booths both inside and outside; even with the very warm weather, we enjoyed a strong breeze off the lake. The venue was large enough to handle parking needs, and the availability of a free shuttle was a nice touch. For those who don’t love garlic, there were other craft vendors as well.
While the variety of garlic vendors was impressive (bulk garlic an pre-made condiments, etc.), I was disappointed that there weren’t many cooked garlic foods for sale from the food trucks. I also would like to see more cooking demonstrations next year – that was the best part for me!
As this festival grows (this is only the second year), I imagine that they will continue to expand their offerings, and continue to help local charities in the process.