Savour The Chill weathers the storm

It was hot and hearty soup with a side of heavy rain for the Savour The Chill and Stay Awhile event in the city’s downtown core on Saturday.

The annual soup walk — turned into a full-scale event due to joint efforts between the Belleville Downtown Improvement Area (BDIA) and the chamber of commerce along with the Empire Theatre and Belleville Shrine Club — had all the earmarkings of a signature event.

A pancake breakfast, horse-drawn trolley rides, ice carving, kids’ crafts, live music, free movies as well as the soup walk provided by downtown restaurants itself were all ready to go Saturday morning.

Then the rains came.

Sheets of the wet stuff drenched the downtown core keeping many would-be visitors at home while those who did brave the streets did so armed with raincoats and umbrellas.

Despite that, organizers were resolute the show would go on.

“It’s not freezing rain, it’s not sleet, it’s not a blinding snow storm,” said Susan Walsh, special events co-ordinator for the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, shortly after 10 a.m. “It’s unfortunate but we’re doing the best we can and everything is running as it should.

“All our arts and crafts are here, under tents, ready to go, we’re just waiting for the kids.

“We just hope everybody will put those little rain slicks on, bring an umbrella and come on down to have some fun.”

The morning’s pancake breakfast was put on by the Belleville Shrine Club.

“For the weather the turnout’s been great,” said Ambassador Leonard Bedford.

“I don’t know anybody who would come out in weather like this but there’s been quite a few.”

It’s not the first time Mother Nature has tried to wash out a Shriner event.

“Last year we had our beerfest in October and it rained then too, but we persevere.”

Plans for a live show by local musician Andy Forgie were scrubbed due to the weather but Forgie, like all the others involved in the event, wasn’t going to let that stop him.

The well-known entertainer stopped for an impromptu acoustic rendition of Singing In The Rain at a downtown street corner before moving his show indoors at one of the warming/drying stations.

By noon many residents took advantage of the flagging rains to get out and try some soup.

“So far so good, it’s my first stop,” said Greg Heffren as he gave a thumbs up to the mac and ham soup provided by the Belleville Freedom Support Centre. “Luckily there’s a break in the rain.”

Heffren moved to the Friendly City last year from Moose Jaw, Sask. Just in time for last year’s Savour The Chill.

“It was a good introduction to downtown. I’m glad to see it up again.”

For Abraham Ramos, co-owner of Chilangos Mexican restaurant, the day marked the one-year anniversary of their first day in business.

Even with the inclement weather Ramos said they were still plenty busy.

“Even before noon we had people start showing up.”

Nice Ice Baby — who put out a roasted red pepper and tomato soup with nut-free pesto and mini-grilled cheese sandwiches — took home both the judge’s and people’s choice awards in this year’s contest.


Downtown’s taste will help bring in the new year

BELLEVILLE – A group of local restaurants wants to rekindle an appetite in visiting downtown.

The inaugural Taste of Downtown event hopes to replace the bad taste left in many residents’ mouths after many months of construction in the city’s core with much tastier fare.

Close to a half dozen restaurants will be providing a sample of what they have to offer during intermission of the New Year’s Eve show at The Empire Theatre. “We thought rather than just us try to put on some food, why not get the downtown folks out to participate,” said Mark Rashotte, the theatre’s owner.

With more than 500 people expected to attend the New Year’s Eve performance by All You Need Is Love, Rashotte said it’s a perfect showcase for the close to half-dozen participating restaurants. “All you Need is Love is going to be partying like it’s 1969,” said Rashotte, who also performs in the band. “We’ll be doing lots of rock n’ roll from what we say is the best year ever in rock n’ roll with…,” he said, listing off iconic bands The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Neil Young. “I mean, it’s some really just great songs that came out of that year and a few surprises that people have never heard before because we’ve gone through the list of what all the big songs were. “We’ve had a lot of fun putting that together.”

Between the two sets show goers will be given the opportunity to sample light fare from downtown restaurants like Café E, Nice Ice Baby, Chilangos Mexican Restaurant, Jim’s Pizzeria, Gourmet Diem and Mr. Zed’s Subs and Burgers.

“There’s a lot of people who haven’t been downtown for years,” said Tim Hennig, owner of  Nice Ice Baby and Urban Herb Cartering. “With the construction going on a lot of people kind of got scared to come down. They didn’t know what streets would be closed.  “Now the streets are open and they look beautiful… they’re clean and inviting and we’re hoping other shops open up as well downtown to invite people down.”

Nice Ice Baby will be providing various ice creams and sorbets for the evening. “We want to see more and more of these events happen throughout the year so we can promote ourselves and others, and get people walking downtown because it’s a beautiful space.”

“It’s going to be so good,” said Tina Cormier of Jim’s Pizzeria, adding their restaurant will be providing slices of pizza.
“There’s so much going on down here. Downtown is really expanding, there’s new shops. There’s lots of flavours to taste downtown, there’s Mexican, there’s Italian, there’s Greek, there’s Canadian. There’s so much food here and it’s so good.”

Abraham Ramos, one of the owners of Chilangos — who will be providing nachos and salsa as well as Mexican desserts — said the event was an “excellent” idea. “This is an excellent opportunity for us to be well-known around the Quinte area.”

“We’re going to make home-cut fries for 300 people, I guess,” laughed George Zamanis, the owner of Mr Zed’s. “It’s a lot of potatoes.”

The event is the brainchild of Café E’s Bren Foran, who will be providing mini sandwiches for the evening.
“After having a year of construction it’s kind of nice to be able to spread the wealth around and include everyone,” she said. “Instead of leaving it all to one place to try to cater, let’s get everybody involved. “A lot of the fine dining will be incredibly busy because everybody will be going to dinner there first and then coming here. So we’re taking the hor d’oeuvres part of the New Years party. “I think it’s great that they’re all on board and highlighting what they do.”


Savour the Summer teases taste buds downtown, despite construction

Belleville – Construction? Con-smucktion.

Dozens of people who cared not that Downtown Belleville is in the midst of a massive tear up ventured to Front Street on Saturday, June 18 for the BDIA’s Savour the Summer festival.

The event, previously known as Summerlicious, is similar to the wintertime Savour the Chill event.

Downtown restaurants participate by selling visitors small $2 food samples that are fitting for the season.

Customers are encouraged to cruise through the whole downtown village to try the food samples and vote on their favourite.

Savour the Chill is counted on to bring hundreds of people downtown for one day each February to try chilli samples.

But would people come downtown on a stifling hot Saturday when construction was making the middle section of Front unaccessible by vehicle and pedestrians would have to walk on narrow sidewalks flanked by blue, metal fences?

The answer was yes.

“We would say it’s successful,” said Andrea McKibbon, a BDIA special events co-ordinator. “We’re happy people are our sampling the delicious food.”

There were clusters of people at several locations by mid-afternoon, including new Mexican restaurant Chilangos, the DBIA office and Earl & Angelo’s, a place that was getting rave reviews from many customers for its burgers.

Although Front Street is closed to vehicle traffic from Bridge Street to Victoria Avenue, as the city moves forward with the City Centre Revitalization Project, the DBIA is doing what it always does – holding events to encourage people to shop downtown.

McKibbon acknowledged that many downtown business owners were nervous when construction started in May. But they are now starting to realize there are many loyal Belleville citizens who make a conscious choice to support downtown businesses.

Those people seem to be making an even stronger effort this year, given the construction situation.

Construction is expected to be over by mid-September and when it’s done, the area will have new sidewalks and lighting, as well as new underground infrastructure, just like the top part of Front Street which endured Phase 1 construction last summer.

“I think there’s a sense of calm and people are seeing the finish line ahead,” McKibbon said. “Everyone’s excited to see the finished product.”

She said more events are planned for later in the summer, including the return of Movies in the Square, which is set to return on Thursday, June 30. Also every Thursday this summer, a representative from a downtown fitness business is expected to hold a free fclass at Market Square at 5:30 p.m.

A few people who spoke to the Belleville News said they weren’t going to let construction stop them from enjoying the festival.

The Stevens family, featuring Natalie and Jay and their sons Liam and Adrian, were among those in a cluster of people at Chilangos, where some excellent quesadillas were being served.

“Every time they do this we’re here,” said Jay. “To be honest, it gets people downtown.”

He said his family was at the last of several stops and they enjoyed samples at Chilangos and Earl & Angelo’s in particular.

Steve Payne also came downtown, with his six-year-old daughter Brooklyn. As Brooklyn checked out a clarinet by Jessica Yarrow, a performer who was playing outside the BDIA office, he said the construction wasn’t inconvenient at all.

If anything, it was allowing her daughter to see a pivotal time in the history of the downtown.

“For kids, it’s neat,” he said, standing a stone’s throw away from heavy machinery and a metres-deep hole in the ground. “They can see what’s going on.”