Looking for a fun, family-friendly weekend to help ease your way out of summer’s lazy, hazy days and back into the brisk business of fall? Look no further than Stirling’s annual Water Buffalo Food Festival, held the third Saturday of every September.
Why water buffalo? Stirling Lions’ Club Secretary Deb Brown points to Martin Littkemann’s and Lori Smith’s unique farm just outside of town, listed as TripAdvisor’s number two Stirling attraction, right after Farmtown park.
“It started out over ten years ago as a festival that highlights the water buffalo farm,” declares Brown, noting local stores and businesses also see a rise in customers during the celebration. “It’s one of the two largest buffalo farms in Ontario.” The festival is sponsored jointly by the local Lions’ and Rotary Clubs.
With a little something to please everyone, this country village shindig always brings out the crowds. Once the kids have made friends with Yvette, the resident water buffalo, as well as a couple of calves, they might want to jump off some energy in the bouncy castle, dabble in a little face painting, browse the candy selections at the Stirling Mercantile booth or ask Christopher the Twistopher to design their favourite balloon creation in the Kidz Zone.
Feeling peckish? Let your nose be your guide as you stroll around Stirling’s business section and compile an entire water buffalo-themed meal. Whether you fancy Ribcage’s smoked atomic buffalo turds, Firehaul Pizza’s wood fired concoctions made with buffalo sausage and/or buffalo mozzarella, or buffalo tacos from Len the Master of Taco Zen, your biggest challenge will be figuring out just what taste bud-pleasing dish suits you best. Got a sweet-tooth? Finish off with butter tarts made with buffalo butter from Paradise Tarts or artisanal chocolates with buffalo bacon prepped by Queen of the Kitchen.
“You can go to the Lion’s Club Sultan of Sausage and then go across the street to the booth run by the Rotary Club and see the Queen of Poutine,” chuckles Brown, noting both sausages and curds for the poutine naturally come your way courtesy of the water buffalo. “The Queen will be there wearing her tiara.”
“We always have lots of vendors,” says Brown, ticking off Rawdon Creek Soaps, Goldie’s olive oils and balsamic vinegars, Fifthtown Cheese, and, of course, Ontario Water Buffalo Co., to name just a few. “And you can even get on a water buffalo and get your picture taken.”
Honorary Lion Dave Bush coordinates the music program and always brings in a handful of local talent guaranteed to get your toes tapping. Settle back and enjoy some live entertainment provided by the Stirling J Birds, River Valley Riders and Lotus Wright. Or if dancing’s more your style, swing your partner.
ANGUS OR BUFFALO POT-ROASTED BRISKET IN BEER WITH PARSNIPS & MUSHROOMS
1-1.25 Kg/2.25-2.73 lb boned and rolled brisket
5 tbsp vegetable oil
Large knob of butter
2 large onions, halved and sliced
2-3 celery sticks, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
200-250 g/8-9 oz large flat mushrooms, stalks chopped and heads thinly sliced
500-550 ml bottle brown ale or stout
A few fresh thyme springs
2 bay leaves
1-2 tsp light muscovado sugar
500 g parsnips, cut into wedges
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Wash and dry brisket and season. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep casserole and brown meat all over. Remove from pan. Turn down heat, add butter and fry the onions, celery, carrots and mushroom stalks for 6-8 minutes. Return meat to pan and add beer, thyme, bay leaves and sugar. Add water if necessary so the liquid comes about two-thirds up the meat. Season, bring to a simmer, cover tightly, and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 160°C and cook for 2 hours, turning twice, until tender.