When you plan your first ever Mustard Fest in a town you haven't been to in 7 years, there's a lot of room for things to go wrong. Thanks to Sue Palethorpe from the Southampton Meat Market, Justin Niklaus of The OffShore Bakery and David Small of Rm797 Restaurant it was just about the perfect way to launch our new mustards.
However, it didn't start all that well but that was no one's fault but my own. Early-ish Thursday morning, Willa and I left Elora, Ontario where we had spent the night at a really cute Air BnB flat following our Mustard Dinner/Web Launch in Waterloo. I dropped Willa at the airport for her noon flight then I headed to Mustard HQ.
Thrilling to see the orders coming in! Shopify has a little cash register sound everytime someone orders. Its amazing. Actually, Willa downloaded the Shopify POS app during the Mustard Dinner in Waterloo so we could actually process sales at the event. She's a bit of a showboat, that one. Ha!
Anyway, I finally hit the road around 7pm. I simply put "Southampton" into my Waze and figured I'd find dinner and a place to stay along the road. Dinner was easy and actually really good too but the place to stay proved somewhat more challenging.
I pulled into the Skyview Motel around 9pm. "The room is just two doors over," the receptionist said. "That's important because there's no number on that door." That's weird. "You'd think in a motel type situation," I said "that numbers on doors would be high on the 'mission critical' list of stuff to do". Whatever, right?
So I walked two doors over and tried my key in the lock. The lock turned over and over but wouldn't catch. The door wouldn't open. Then I heard voices from the room a few doors away. Loud arguing voices. Then a BANG! Loud enough to give me a bit of a fright. Now I'm walking back to the office but the office is now dark. Try both door chimes and lots of banging but nothing happens.
I decided to walk away from the $90 I'd paid and just get back in my car and flee. Yup. Not staying here under any circumstances seemed like the right call. As I started into the car a voice behind me asked if I needed help. It was the receptionist. "The key wouldn't work," I said. "Oh yeah, it's tricky." they answered.
Back to that "Things That Need to Work In a Motel List", you'll find serviceable door locks right up there with door numbers. Then we both heard the Bickersons going at it again. "That's not cool," I said. "Yeah, I know, it's pretty bad but they live here, so there's nothing I can do" the reception person said.
That my friends, as they say in baseball, was strike three.
"You know," I said dragging out the w sound a little longer than needed to, "I'm thinking I may just keep driving." Receptionist nods. "You didn't even step foot in the room so I'll just refund your money," and I was gone, baby gone.
Maybe half an hour later I pull over in Markdale, Ontario. I ask the Google where to stay nearby and find a nice looking spot not too far away. I book it and start driving towards the gps bearings. Everything is dark. The road is gravel. I'm still a little spooked by the Bates Motel incident down the road when my phone rings. It's the Inn Keeper of the place I just booked.
David tells me the road is washed out but that he'll talk me through the directions on how to get there. Spoiler alert: I didn't die. Quite the contrary.
I finally make it to my destination but since it's dark I really have no idea where I am. But what is visible is amazing. First I meet David and his Irish Deerhound named Harry. Both of these fellas are characters. David is a writer. He had a 15 year career with the Toronto Star as a Fashion writer but won awards for articles he's written on more weighty subjects like LGBT issues in Middle Eastern countries and stuff like that.
Recently, he told me he'd done a piece on accused serial murderer Bruce McArthur that pushed him to his limits. "I find writing too stressful," he said. "But if you show up in the middle of the night," he said, "I get to ask some questions." Gulp. Not really. Questions are no big deal.
We had a nice chat and then I went to bed. David's design of this place is next level beautiful/comfortable. I kept saying how Willa would have loved everything about this place.
The inside of the house is stunning. It feels like a period farmhouse but David says he built it less than 10 years ago. Quilts are everywhere. Wonderful artwork both old and mordern. Two fireplaces, a piano, a long dining table and full modern kitchen all well worth exploring. David has stories for everything but it's not easy to talk to him. He has a shyness about him. Or maybe he's just ill at ease. I sort of imagine that this is what it might have felt like to talk to Andy Warhol.
In the morning David provided an over-the-top breakfast. He kept apologising that if he'd had more notice he could have done better but it was a magnificent spread nonetheless.I should have told him I'm not into carbs but he handled the whole thing well. And in the light of day I finally saw where I was. Fall leaves turning colour. Fallow fields nearby that speak of death and regeneration. A beautiful spot.
As we chatted David explained that he bought the land his house was on after taking a walk down to the river that runs past his property. "I guess that means I should go see it," I said. After getting my hiking shoes on I had a bit of a play with Harry in the back. I've never seen a dog like Harry. He has an almost regal bearing. If he was a member of the royal Family maybe he'd be a distant cousin to the King who drinks too much and likes to have a really good time.
After I headed down the hill towards the river, apparently David let Harry loose. It didn't take him long to catch up with me. Harry runs like a small horse. His form of play is to charge at you and just miss you at the last moment. It's actually really fun. Anyway, we wandered along the river to the next property and then came back through the woods. Everything was damp and green. Full of life as well as decay. The sound of the rushing river always present.
When we got back David said he was worried. He thought I was just going to go to the river and back and I guess I thought the same thing but that's not how it worked out. "I just imagined you with a broken ankle," he said. "I still have your number in my phone," I said "I could have called." David's a total character in his own right.
I packed up and left. On the way to Southampton I called Willa. "Say, can you check the poster and let me know when I'm supposed to be in Southampton" I asked. She told me I was to be there at noon. "Uh oh," I said "Waze is telling me my eta is 12.42pm".
You may not know this about me but I'm neurotic about being on time. Crazy, insane neurotic. I'm serious. I can get quite upset if I'm late because of my own actions and watch out if another person causes me to be late. I'm working on this side of myself and seized on the current moment as an opportunity to practice my recent attempts at in Mindfulness.
First, I decided not to react to the anxiety and feelings of shame. I am the sky, not the clouds, Willa reminds me when I start freaking out. These thoughts and feelings are clouds. Skies like me don't give a hoot about clouds. Those things come and go all the time.
Instead, I decided to focus on my host and my mustard. Sue Palethorpe owns and operated the Southampton Meat Market. She's been at this for over 20 years. Sue is a character but not a caricature. Originally we'd talked about me setting up a booth outside to do the tasting but there was a chill in the air and a chance of rain. The shop isn't huge but Sue found a comfortable alcove to set me up. Better, she grilled up some of her delish breakfast sausages for people to sample my 4 mustards with.
Once set up, I was about an hour later than the posters (below) indicated and to her credit, Sue didn't dwell on my lateness. Of course, I stayed at least an hour longer too to make up for it. Her shop is wonderful. I loved watching Sue julm on the bandsaw to custom cut steaks and chops for her customers. She sources local Bruce County Beef, chicken and pork and has a select number of local products on her shelves.
I was honoured when Sue gave me a prime, eye-level spot directly across from the cash area. It's always a special moment when I put my jars on the shelf but in this case it was even more so because I was in fact putting my jars BACK on her shelf. You see, Sue Palethorpe was Retailer #1. Back in 2013 when I launched my mustards, Sue was the first person in the whole wide world to call our distributor to order our mustards.
After her, we got listed by Whole Foods, Longo's, Pusateri's, Farm Boy and many other great outlets. But you never forget your first.
I took a lot of care to tell her customers about my journey and the role she played by being such a wonderful early supporter. It means so much when you just get going to have people get behind you and help push. Funny enough, until this day I'd never even met Sue. Can you imagine?
What happened was that my friend Justin Niklaus who owns the legendary Offshore Bakery in Southampton was on Facebook that I was selling mustard and went down to ask Sue to carry it. I'd met Justin the year previous when he baked special Swiss style rye bread for my food truck service at nearby Port Elgin's Pumpkinfest. Again, Justin's the kind of person who'll just jump in and push for a friend. Plus he loves great food (try his flax bread and get to one of his pizza pop-ups if you can). Lots of pics of him on my Insta @caplansky.
And to close the loop, I met Justin through David Small, owner of Room 797 Restaurant which is physically half way between Sue's Meat Market and Justin's bakery. Small has been a friend for many years. David loves to joke around but don't be fooled: he can cook. I'd eaten his stuff at Andre's back in the day. What he's doing now is his own even if his Berner Platter was an homage to this now gone spot as well as a great showcase for my mustards.
Unlike Friday, the weather on Saturday was glorious. I set up my Caplansky's booth beside the bakery and Justin supplied fresh-baked pretzels for me to sample my mustards. That's right: fresh, hot pretzels. Three ways. Free. You don't even have to like mustards. But they did like my mustards. Sue got rocked by people coming down to purchase them. She had to refill her shelves three times before dinner.
Dinner was even beyond my expectations. My only regret was not encouraging people to wear mustardy colours for Mustard Fest. Regardless, it a fully sold-out dining room with the most gorgeous mustard-spiked roast sweet potato soup, thick cut slabs of bacon and Berner Platters flying out of the kitchen like you've never seen. Again, check out my Instagram photos.
In the morning we woke up late and breakfasted at The New Lighthouse in town [aside: canned olives are an insult to humanity. Otherwise, I love everything about this spot. Try the Abner Skillet.]
Four mustard events in 5 days and loving almost every moment.
Six years later after first launching my mustards and with all the stuff I've been through, I really wanted to come back here to say "Thanks!" to David, Justin and Sue for their support. And thanks to all the Southamptons for the warm welcome back.
Better late than never, right? That was kind of the theme of the day. Thank you Southampton! You really know how to make a guy feel loved.
See you next year.
A trio terrific events!
Friday Oct. 4, 12 - 2pm
Mustard Sampling at Southhampton Meat Market
Saturday Oct. 5, 9am - 12pm
Pretzels n' Mustard at Offshore Bakery
Saturday Oct. 5, 5 - 9pm
Swiss Berner Platter at rm797