Kitchener-Waterloo

Thanksgiving, harvest time and Oktoberfest blend cultural food cuisines

Harvest celebrations intersect this weekend as the Thanksgiving holiday begins and K-W Oktoberfest kicks off. For both, food is a central focus, writes food columnist Andrew Coppolino.
Pumpkin pie is a love-it-or-hate-it traditional dessert for Thanksgiving. (Courtesy of Milk & Honey Pie Co., photo by Christine Lim)

Harvest celebrations intersect this weekend as the Thanksgiving holiday begins and K-W Oktoberfest kicks off. For both, food is a central focus.

The German clubs in Waterloo Region certainly have more than enough schnitzel and sauerkraut for the throngs of revellers at festhallen (and I will point out that you can check with the individual clubs about vegetarian and vegan options).

There are other ways to enjoy special seasonal dishes, however. Here are just a few:

Festive meals at area restaurants

Blackshop and Sole, in Cambridge and Waterloo respectively, have their annual "Oktoberlicious" feature until October 19. There are six German dishes to chose from a la carte or three courses at a fixed price. (There's quite a bit of German language on the menu to test yourself with too.)

Across the several restaurants in the Charcoal Group in Kitchener, Waterloo and Brantford is a wide range of Oktoberlicious dishes that suit both celebrations: from roasted turkey to schnitzel, sauerkraut and freshly churned apple butter.

Imperial Market & Eatery in New Hamburg will serve both Thanksgiving brunch and dinner on Sunday, Oct. 13.

Since it opened for business a few years ago, Kitchener's Fork and Cork Grill has had a popular and plentiful brunch (including a Thanksgiving brunch on Oct.13), but you will also find Oktoberfest favourites such as sausage, sauerkraut and goulash.

Pork schnitzel, popular in Oktoberfest sandwiches. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

A few blocks down the street from Fork and Cork, The Bent Elbow, a veritable haven for beer lovers, has an inventive kitchen that prepares virtually all of its own food. For the season, they have created a mountainous burger that includes a bratwurst patty, beerwurst sausage and wiener schnitzel on a pretzel bun. 

Even smaller venues like Sauceboss on King Street East in Preston will revamp their menus to include Oktoberfest sausages with sauerkraut and joppiesaus, a curried mayonnaise that is a popular condiment for fries in Holland. Sauceboss will also have pulled turkey and stuffing poutines and turkey wraps with cranberry sauce.

Golden Hearth bakery in Kitchener reprises its popular pumpkin "cruffin" – a sort of croissant-muffin pastry hybrid.

Turf Boodle (Nora Romero)

'Boodle fight!'

Two local Filipino restaurants are offering what is called a "boodle fight," a sumptuous spread of foods on a communal table for which no utensils are used, during the Oktoberfest and Thanksgiving.

Nuestro 88 will have a boodle fight, also known as "kamayan," on Oct. 19. According to chef Paul Masbad, on the menu will be Filipino variations on North American foods: roasted turkey with achiote-citrus butter and a poblano pepper and roasted corn stuffing with a cranberry-mango sauce. Dessert is coconut-chestnut pumpkin pie.

On Thanksgiving Monday, October 14, Rosel's Flavours for Life in Kitchener puts away the utensils for a boodle fight feast that is served on traditional banana leaves.

"It's a big party with a long table with meat, vegetables, seafood, pineapple and mango," says Rosel De Guzman.

"You don't use a fork and knife," she says. "Just your hands."

At home

If you want to hunker down and enjoy the season's food at home, most venues offer some sort of delivery service.

Among others, Savoy Culinary in Fergus and Dinner by Derek in Waterloo have turkey dinners for pick-up. Sauceboss also has a full-on turkey dinner to take-away. At this date, though, check in with them about ordering deadlines.

Don't let juices from raw meat come in contact with any other foods. And use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of a stuffed turkey reaches 82C (180F) to kill harmful bacteria, say food safety experts. (iStock )

Pro tips for turkey 

Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner may involve a bit of a scramble and likely some stress in getting everything ready in time — not to mention ensuring the bird is cooked safely. That's why Butterball has a "Turkey Talk Line." 

Getting side dishes prepared ahead of time is key, so you can focus on the turkey — and have space in the oven for it. After cooking, while the bird is resting, you can reheat the pre-made side dishes.

Philippe Saraiva, the Culinary instructor at Conestoga College, suggests giving your turkey a roll to help it cook quickly and easily.

"Cooking for Thanksgiving is a lot work and a lot of people. Instead of roasting the whole turkey, ask your butcher to de-bone the turkey, or do it yourself. Season it, put the stuffing inside and roll it like a big cigar. That cuts down on the cooking time and makes it easier to carve. It also makes it easier to deal with the leftovers," Saraiva said.

Indigenous agriculture

Harvest festivals and a recognition of the land and agriculture are universal. Later in the month, for instance, First Nations people in the region will celebrate with an autumn ceremony that dedicates the land for growing.

The celebration and feast will take place on Oct. 26 at the Indigenous foods garden located at Rare Charitable Research Reserve, according to Dr. Andrew Judge, coordinator of Indigenous Studies at Conestoga College.

The event is designed to restore a native-plant habitat based on traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge and land-based sustainability practices.

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