There are exciting things afoot in Stratford, Ontario, a town mainly known for its annual Shakespeare festival – North America’s largest classical repertory theatre, presenting the works of William Shakespeare and other great writers.
It is rapidly becoming a foodie town and was recently named “Canada’s hottest food destination” by AOL.ca. With a farmers’ market dating back to 1855 and home to the Stratford Chefs School, this town is making a name for itself as more than just the hometown of Justin Bieber (yes, it’s true and if you are a real fan, you can tour Stratford using the “Bieberiffic map” to help you find the schools he went to; the ice cream parlor he went to after soccer games and the skate park where he learned his moves for his videos).
On Saturday, May 29th, I was a guest of Savour Stratford and the Stratford Tourism Alliance on a culinary tour designed to introduce us to the flavours of Stratford and the faces behind the food. Today’s post will take you through the day briefly and later next week, I will write up some of the visits in more depth.
Our group was fortunate enough to be able to tour the new dairy (so new that they are still madly working on it for the grand opening hopefully this coming Tuesday!). The milk will be arriving soon and Ruth and the Monforte team will be making all the old Monforte favourites, as well as new cheese from cows and buffalo milk this spring. The dairy will be open for tours, tastings and cheese making workshops on weekends until October.
Next we headed over to Soiled Reputation.
Soiled Reputation has been supplying many of the best restaurants in Ontario for 15 years. It is a certified organic produce farm, growing custom salad mixes, seedlings, and leafy greens year round. Seasonally they grow 50 different gourmet and heirloom vegetables. The farm is run by Antony John hosted the Food Network Canada TV show, ‘The Manic Organic’. Soiled Reputation practices ecologically sound, certified organic growing techniques that enrich, rather than deplete the soil. Biodiversity is maximized wherever possible, and an ecosystem approach to growing is demonstrated.
We foraged for some ingredients that would appear later on our lunch plates!
We moved on to feed the the wild boar and Tamworth pigs at Perth Pork Products with farmer, Fred de Martines.
Perth Pork Products Ltd. has been selling pork products since 1992 directly to the public on the farm and to local restaurants and stores. Chefs are loyal customers of the farm due to the exceptional quality of their products. All of the pigs are heritage breeds (ie. Tamworth, Berkshire and Wild Boar). The heritage animals are raised humanely in and out doors with the heritage breeds raised as they were historically on pastures and in the bush-lot. The farm offers the tourist a chance to view traditional pig farming with a viewing room into the barn, next to the pastures with the heritage breeds.
After that, we headed back to Soiled Reputation for a Barn Lunch from Chef Neil Baxter of Rundles Restaurant.
One of Stratford’s most celebrated chefs, Neil and his team worked with Antony to prepare a three course Perth County barn lunch. VQA wine from Niagara and Stratford Brewing Company’s pilsner accompanied lunch.
After lunch, we took part in a tea workshop with tea sommelier Karen Hartwick, of Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar. Karen is a certified tea sommelier, accredited by the Specialty Tea Institute in New York. More than a tea expert, this is a rigorous designation comparable to that of a wine sommelier. And much more rare! Karen lead a tea tasting workshop and instructed us in the art of blending her local Ontario organic herbal tea.
From there, we headed to a candy making workshop with Derek Barr at Chocolate Barr’s Candies who let us in on the secret recipe for Nutty Pop – an “educated form of caramel corn with pecans and almonds.” We took part in making a huge vat of this:
On our way back to Toronto, we stopped in at Shakespeare’s Pies and The Best Little Pork Shoppe for a few more sweet treats and for stocking up on bacon and sausages!
Many thanks to the Perth County Visitors Association, Savour Stratford and Suresh at Spotlight Toronto for a wonderful day – and be sure to check back later this week for some more in-depth posts on some of these amazing foodie destinations.