From forest to farm and straight to your fork, Hannah Harradine and Joel Gray want to showcase the best of what Grey Bruce Simcoe has to offer.
The Kimberly-based couple founded Sumac + Salt – a hyper-local culinary experience that features local, seasonal and foraged ingredients through multi-course, tasting-style menus.
The duo work with farmers and producers across Grey, Bruce and Simcoe to not only source the best quality ingredients, but share their stories through dining experiences.
“We just really want to create an experience for folks that they are not expecting,” said Harradine. “We try to make the food approachable, beautiful, and just delicious — that’s number one.”
Harradine and Gray met while working at a restaurant in Collingwood several years prior. Both have extensive experience in the hospitality industry, with Gray working in kitchens for almost his entire adult life and Harradine on the beverage side of things, having studied at the Niagara Institute of Oenology and Viticulture. They paired up and started dreaming of ways to further showcase their love of locally-sourced ingredients.
“I always had an interest in food but never had the right avenue,” said Harradine. “And Joel found he wasn’t cooking the food he wanted out of a conventional restaurant.”
They partnered with Mitchell Good from Good Family Farms and hosted two catered dinners in July of 2019, and it took off. A month later, they quit their jobs and have been running Sumac + Salt full-time ever since.
Harradine manages the social media and decor — designing tablescapes for each experience — and calls herself the “sous chef” to Gray, who is actively developing recipes, sourcing ingredients and building relationships with local farmers.
“It really is a true partnership… We do everything together, which is really fun,” said Harradine. “I think we really balance each other out. Any of my weaknesses, he has strengths in and vice versa.”
Last summer and into the fall, Sumac + Salt ran pop-up dinners at Good Family Farms three times a week (Thursday-Saturday). When the weather allows, they hold dinners outside featuring flowers, leaves and colour schemes that represent the local landscape at the time. They also have a certified kitchen at their home in Kimberly and offer catering services and collaborate with other local businesses, holding various pop-ups all year long.
“We are very open to being mobile — we will come to you,” said Harradine. “Our business is made for that.”
Like all businesses — especially those in the hospitality industry — this past year has been difficult to navigate. Prior to Covid-19, they used to welcome their guests to share one long harvest table, with the goal of bringing people together through food. Instead, they have opted to space out several small tables in order to continue hosting people safely, when restrictions allow.
During the lockdown this past winter, Sumac + Salt partnered with Gibson & Company to offer a “Supper Club,” a five-course tasting-style menu that could be enjoyed at home.
Now that the weather has started to warm, they are offering “Forager’s Feasts,” which include four take-out dishes that showcase sustainable, foraged ingredients. Trout lilies, fiddleheads, leeks and mushrooms are some of Harradine and Gray’s favourite foraged finds in the springtime, and they are constantly wandering the woods and researching new edibles.
The meals are packaged cold and come with simple cooking and plating instructions. Forager’s Feasts are currently available every Friday and Saturday for pick-up and delivery.
“People have a really fun time with it because it’s quite social, you can plate your dish at home and see how it turns out,” smiled Harradine.
However, the dynamic duo is looking forward to hosting people in person again soon.
“We like the idea of creating a full experience for people that brings them out of their element. We really want to create a sense of community around food and tell the story of food and where it comes from,” said Harradine.
While future plans are still up in the air, expansion is in the works, including ideas of an Ontario-based beverage program to complement Sumac + Salt’s culinary experiences.
In the meantime, you can be sure to find the pair popping up all over Grey, Bruce, and Simcoe in the coming months, as restrictions ease in Ontario.
“We really have been able to create an expression of us that… We didn’t know if it would necessarily work, but people seem to like and leave feeling inspired,” Harradine. “That’s all we could ask for.”