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Barrie woman wins top spot at Butter Tart Festival 0

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Orillia Packet & Times

MIDLAND - A Barrie woman makes the best butter tarts in Ontario after taking top spot in the inaugural Butter Tart Festival in Midland on the weekend.

Tart after butter tart was put in front of the aproned judges Saturday at the Midland Cultural Centre (MCC) to determine the maker of best butter tart in the province.

There were 80 entries and 12 judges, who each tasted 32 tarts, and made detailed notes and scores, based on criteria set up by MCC executive chef Ivars Rasa.

“Everyone is a little bit different than the last,” Rasa said during judging, while the carts of butter tarts had to be pushed through the persistent crowds. Nobody would leave until the winner was declared at about 3 p.m.

The title of the best butter tart maker in the Ontario went to Nancy Dillen of Barrie.

Midland's Elaine Martin, co-owner of the Ladybug Cafe came in second. Laurie Gaudet of Orillia came in third.

Runners-up were former mayor Jim Downey of SerendipiTea of Midland and Kathy McHugh of Kathy's Bakery of Orillia.

Charles Pachter a guest judge, butter tart expert, painter and author, said butter tarts are an important part of Canadian identity.

“It's about us,” he said.

Judge and Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop said he thought the first one he tasted was the winner (belonging to Dillen).

“It was very, very good, kind of runny with pecans on top and a strong taste of brown sugar.”

Judge Penny Sutherland, past teacher of culinary arts at St. Theresa's and a nutritionist, said pastry is her passion.

“For me it's very much about the crust.

“It has to explode as you bite into it and the texture should have a little bit of runniness to it and should have some of the iconic raisins. The tarts have to be made out of a high quality fat, such as butter. As you bite into it, the crust should be able to support the filling.”

Meanwhile, on the street for the first annual Butter Tart Festival, there wasn't a butter tart to be found. At the Artisan Market and Bake Sale bakers such as Shane Keith of Ma's Bakery arrived on scene in the morning with 22 dozen butter tarts.

“We were sold out by 9:30 a.m.,” he said.

His wife and mother and law went back into the kitchen and cooked up another six dozen.

“They were sold as soon as we put them out on the table. Then I took orders for eight dozen more,” said Keith, while his wife and mother-in-law went back home to fill the orders.

One store owner said the strategists came early and some bought up to four dozen tarts.

One lady in a wheelchair on King Street had part of a wheel break off her chair and her friend said, “Give me the butter tarts so they don't get squished.”

People everywhere were scrambling to get their hands on butter tarts, eyeing up those who had a coveted box tied with string. Those with tarts sped up, not making eye contact.

“I've never seen you move so fast,” one woman said to another who had tarts.

“It's totally nuts,” said Willemien Brummelhuis, co-owner with her husband Edwin of Georgian Bakery on King Street in Midland.

Her husband starting baking at 1 a.m. At 2:30 p.m. he was still baking.

“We started with 200 tarts and by now he's made another 300 to 400,” she said, passing out tarts before they had cooled. But she was smiling.

“It's very good for business. It's good for the whole downtown,” she said.

Dunlop agreed saying, “It's an innovative way to do things.”

The idea for the festival was the brain child of Barbara Rowlandson, owner of Homecoming at 298 King St., which sells homemade butter tarts.

“I've had this idea bouncing around in my head for years.”

Rowlandson said she hoped for between 12 and 24 entries. She had to close the competition at 80 with more and more people knocking on her door, begging to be entered.

The winner received a prize of $500 and a KitchenAid appliance, sponsored by Midland's Canadian Tire. Second prize was $250 sponsored by Midland Tourism and third prize was $100 sponsored by Remax.

The Midland Business Improvement Area hosted the contest.

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