Heather Heagney brings a 'Taste of Spring' to Hintonburg

 File photo of Heather Heagney by Kristy Strauss
File photo of Heather Heagney by Kristy Strauss

Q: We profiled you and your blog, After the Harvest, back in June 2013 after you launched your book. What have you been up to since then?

It was so great to feel the community support for the launch of my coffee table book. It is still for sale through Blurb.ca and I have links on my blog as well for anyone who would like to pick up a copy. The book has been a great way for me to meet more people who are also passionate about food and drink, and it inspired me to start other new projects stemming from my blog. I launched the After the Harvest Podcast in March of this year, and now I’m excited to be hosting this event with the West End Well.

Q: Tell us about the event and how it came about?

The event is called “A Taste of Spring” and it will be taking place on May 30. It features a vegetarian, tapas-style menu paired with five Ontario wines. It will be a casual evening where people can gather at the West End Well to enjoy, and learn about food and wine pairings through the matches we’ve made. The delicious food will be prepared by Chefs Sam and Doug and their team in the kitchen, and will highlight the seasonal bounty provided by local farmers. The five wines we will taste are all on offer at the West End Well’s bar, and a few are available at the LCBO, so people can continue to enjoy them even after the event.

I’ve wanted to branch out and host more events for a while now – I used to work full time as an event coordinator in the hospitality industry prior to moving to Ottawa, and I miss being involved in that world. I have developed a good amount of wine knowledge and I thought it might be fun to share some of that knowledge in an approachable way with other food and wine lovers. I don’t profess to be an expert yet, I still plan to take more sommelier courses, however, I am a wine enthusiast, and one of my strengths is pairing food and wine, so I thought others might want to learn about that and just enjoy a fun, casual evening at the West End Well.

Q: It’s taking place at the West End Well. Did you choose this venue or did it choose you?

I chose it! I am a proud member of the West End Well. For those who don’t know about it, it is a local food co-op, cafe, grocery, and meeting space in Hintonburg where Wellington becomes Somerset. The food philosophy at the West End Well is very much in line with my own, in that it supports local, seasonal, sustainable food sourced from local farmers and producers. I also just love the warm, casual vibe at the West End Well. The people there are so open, friendly, and eager to collaborate with their community members. I have been a part of the SLOWest community since I moved to Ottawa, so partnering with the West End Well just seemed natural, and a safe, welcoming space in which to host my first event here.

Q: Can you tell us more about the menu? Why vegetarian? And how are you going to convince carnivores to attend?

The menu for this event will be tapas-style, meaning that guests will enjoy small plate dishes that have been developed collaboratively by the chefs at the West End Well and myself. I can’t take credit for the food, as Chefs Sam and Doug and their team are the true culinary talents, but I provided ideas about what I’d like to pair each wine with, and shared my ideas about flavour combinations and seasonal ingredients I wanted to use.

The menu is vegetarian simply because I am mostly vegetarian. I also eat sustainable fish, some dairy and organic eggs, but most of my diet is plant-based. When I was tasting the wines and deciding what to pair with them, I wanted to be able to eat the food myself so that I could enjoy it, and so I could ensure harmonious pairings for the event. The West End Well also supports plant-based eating, although they do serve meat and animal products as well. They were very open to doing a completely vegetarian menu.

I simply want people to enjoy the delicious vegetables and fruits that our local area produces. Also, when researching food and wine pairings, I have found that often the vegetarian pairings are few – I wanted to introduce some vegetarian pairings for those who don’t eat meat. I don’t plan to convince meat eaters to go veg, but if they add more vegetables to their diet there is nothing wrong with that! My reasons for eating mostly plant-based foods are more environmental than anything, but this event is definitely not meant to discuss food choices or convert anyone, it is simply meant for people to enjoy delicious, local, seasonal food with our world-class Ontario wines!

Q: What’s next for you Heather?

I have more podcast episodes that will be published soon, and even more that I will be recording and sharing in the future. So, if you’re looking for me, I’m probably going to be in front of my computer doing a good amount of audio editing! My podcast is called The After the Harvest Podcast and it can be found on iTunes and Soundcloud.

I also hope to host more events in the future, and I’m looking to collaborate with other chefs, wineries, breweries, and other creative members of this amazing community. My goal is to create experiences where people can eat, drink, and connect, in fun, creative, positive, and environmentally-friendly ways.

If you’d like to purchase a ticket for Taste of Spring, go to westendwell.ca/events/taste-spring-wine-tasting.

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