Savour Stratford 2010: the main event!

Stratford, Ontario: You may know it as home to the annual theatre festival, but did you know that last year, it was named “Canada’s hottest food destination” by AOL.ca?   Yes, indeed, with a farmers market dating back to 1855, and home to the Stratford Chefs School, the pretty city is now making a name for itself as more than Justin Bieber’s hometown (yes, it’s true and if you’re a fan, you can tour Stratford using the “Bieberiffic map”).

Last week, Stratford hosted the third annual Perth County Culinary Week. Starting on September 18th with the Stratford Garlic Festival, a week of tastings, workshops and special dinners, culminated in the Savour Stratford Culinary Festival on September 25th and 26th.  The “main event” was the Savour Stratford Tasting on Sunday, showcasing over 30 of the city’s restaurant chefs and produce from local farmers.  Over 30 VQA wines and craft breweries were featured to pair with your food samples.  I may have let the side down a little, was battling a fierce cold all weekend so did not eat or drink as much as I normally might have but I persisted valiantly and here are some of the highlights.

Keeping it simple with bread and butter were Neil Baxter from Rundles and Hewitt’s Dairy, who presented Rundles bread and home-churned butter.

One of my favourite bites had to be the grilled lamb sausage served rolled in Middle Eastern flatbread with assorted condiments by Bryan Steele of The Old Prune and Church Hill Farm.

I could have seriously eaten the whole sausage!  It’s also the only stand I broke my “photograph all food first, eat later” rule 😉

Another favourite was Max Holbrook of The Parlour who paired with Caveman Crops and Perth Pork Products to offer Perth County BBQ pork belly in a steamed flatbread bun with butternut squash kimchi. Unique and seasonal flavours and gorgeous to boot!

A smaller, but just as satisfying bite came from Alexandra Santos (Alexa’s Cafe) and De Wetering Hill Farms who were serving herb-roasted porco asado with C’est Bon goat cheese on a tortilla curl.

For me, this was the perfect finger food.  Lots of flavour encased in one small (and manageable) bite!  The tortilla curl was the right balance of crispy without being greasy. Really enjoyed this and gorgeous presentation as well!

Lee Avigdor of Down the Street Bar and Restaurant teamed up with Antony John from Soiled Reputation to create organic potato poori (a type of Indian bread) with heirloom tomato-ginger chutney and Soiled Reputation roasted vegetables.

Mouthwatering.

Paul Finkelstein of The Screaming Avocado Cafe and Neubrand Country Produce presented home-grown corn and red fife blini with Neubrand Country Preserves.

Elegant and simple, this was one of my favourites.

I surprised myself by trying Nick Benninger (Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21) and Everspring Farms‘  Duck Fantastico a duck confit with greens and duck cracklings.  Am not normally a duck fan but this was a perfect amount of meat and, paired with the greens, it was not overpowering as I find duck sometimes can be.

It was a bit of a duck fest in this corner of the tasting tent because right next door, Jamie Craig from Wildstone Bar and Grill paired up with Erbcroft Farms to offer another confit of duck on goat cheese crostini topped with sweet onion relish.

Whilst I liked both, I think I preferred this one – I liked the sharpness of the goat cheese paired with the sweetness of the onion relish.

Stratford Chefs School partnered with Stratford Central Secondary School (who have an amazing learning garden) and to make polenta croutons with roasted tomato salsa or aubergine chimichurri. Tasty little bites these were too!

Ian MacArthur of Food At Your Fingertips worked with Weth Mushroom Farm to create a duo of Huron-cultivated mushrooms on a crispy cracker.

I loved the flavours of these meaty mushrooms, especially the maitake 🙂

Kathy Hundt of Pass da Pasta worked with Montforte Dairy to serve ravioli filled with Montforte Dairy sheep’s milk ricotta, zucchini, and mint, drizzled with Don Hundt Honey. This was a tasty sweet-savoury combination, with beautiful presentation and colours –  unfortunately it was cold 🙁 (Edited to add: I have since found out this is meant to be served at room temperature, however on that day, the “tent temperature” was pretty cold.  I would love to have another taste of this in a warmer room!)

Simple Fish ‘n Chips and Purdy’s Fish Market had a hickory-smoked Lake Huron whitefish and pickerel on a mini slider bun with wasabi mayonnaise.  I didn’t taste this one but my trusy tasting partner suggested the bun was a bit too too dry and it was cold. Maybe would have been better toasted?

Another case of too much bread was Kevin Hallman (The Stratford Country Club) and The Best Little Pork Shoppe’s garlic pork sausage burger with a maple sweet corn relish.  Nice sausage, shame about the overload of bread.

Patrick Morden from Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub paired with Blanbrook Bison Farm to offer a taste of slow cooker pulled bison…

Aaron Linley from Bijou Restaurant partnered with August’s Harvest to offer roasted a tomato and chili salsa with garlic confit and Montforte sheep’s cheese. A little spoonful of heaven.

The garlic confit was absolutely stupendous.

Jeff Freeland of The Sun Room worked with Shallot Hill Farms and offered phyllo triangles with Shallot Hill Farms roasted squash, golden beets, blue potatoes and carrots served with a tomato basil sauce.  Beautiful autumn flavours and colours.

Pickles Eh! were there showcasing their chutneys and relishes.

Scott Wilby of The Annex Room paired with Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast presenting  pulled pork with spiced peach chutney. Another winning combination of sweet and savoury

Moving onto the sweeter portion of the day, Rene Delafranier (Rene’s Bistro) and Arva Flour Mills presented an exquisitely perfect profiterole…

Chocolate Barr’s presented chocolate gooseberries, paw-paw fruit ice wine truffles, goat cheese truffles and pumpkin, prune and brandy truffles…

Chef Sam Santandrea from the Stratford Chefs School Alumni worked with C’est Bon Cheese to present a chocolate chèvre cheesecake, served on a vanilla wafer with candied orange peel.

Sheldon Russell of Keystone Alley Cafe teamed with Hoover’s Maple Syrup to present a maple gâteau layered with maple buttercream and topped with Italian maple meringue and a maple spiced pecan:

Rheo Thompson Candies were well represented with chocolates and nougat:

And finally, Dave Hassell of The Church Restaurant and Koert Organics presented a sorrel ice cream sandwich, between fudgey layers of brownie.  It was pretty but I found the sorrel extremely overpowering and the cake dry. But points for trying!

The Tasting event was a fine opportunity to sample the fine dining and organic produce available locally and showcased the best of what Stratford has to offer.  Even if you didn’t make the Festival, you should really put Stratford on your list of foodie destinations – there is so much to do, year-round.  From educational getaway packages, to an epicurean trail to simply visiting some of the region’s unique culinary attractions, Stratford really does have something for the foodie in everyone.  For more information, check out the Visit Stratford website.

Disclaimer: Neil and I attended the Tasting event as guests of Stratford Tourism Alliance.

Only a food blogging star would attend a food festival when they should be home resting in bed, right? Well if you think I have what it takes to be The Next Food Blog Star, check out my latest entry on Project Food Blog and vote me through the the next round. You have to be a Foodbuzz member but all it takes is a couple of clicks. Once you’re done, you can click on the red heart at the top of the post to vote for me.  I have an awesome Dinner Party planned for the next round which you definitely want to see…

42 thoughts on “Savour Stratford 2010: the main event!”

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  2. I ahve to say, whilst Mrdi did the photos I was just dutifully sampling away. There’s actually a couple here she lists I didn’t have – not sure how that happened – but there was more besides. Difficult to pick “winners”, as there were not really any losers. (Bread proportions and cold items that should have been warm the only misses – and the odd sorel ice cream with dry sandwich.)

    The peach chutney, however, resonated strongly. As did the lamb (but I’m a sucker for lamb and mint – hard to go wrong), pork belly, duck confit, fish cake and tomato chili salsa. Whilst I think most proper meals need some flesh ( 😉 ), there was a great selection of savoury vegetarian items as well.

    There was a varied selection of Ontario wines as well. I stuck with the Pinot Noir, with intriguing results across the board.

    Thanks for letting me be the tasting companion!

    Reply
  3. Oh my heavens! I can’t believe the loads of amazing food your surrounded yourself with! Absolutely decadent! How did you not end up just rolling yourself right out of the tasting!

    Reply
  4. My goodness,I’m certainly out of my food rut now! There’s no chance I’ll be visiting that event any time soon- I live overseas in Japan, but I LOVE to get inspiration for new things I can try to prepare at home!

    Wow, where do I start? Those maple merengue cakes or the sausage roll?

    btw, I really liked your bio. I had major meltdowns writing my thesis, so I understand your need for escape. Looking forward to reading more!

    Reply
  5. gourmet gourmet gourmet. that’s all i could think of saying BUT now i reckon i’m going to dream a waterfall of these stratford culinary delights. seriously some great ideas in there. cheers kari

    Reply
  6. Hi Mardi,
    I can’t believe we didn’t even bump into each other at the festival. Anyway, it was hard for me to really look around and socialize because I had my 2 kids with me. It wasn’t the ideal situation to be ‘working’ and watching after kids at the same time 🙁 . Anyway, I agree about some of the food about having too much buns. Many times, I found myself looking for a ‘green bin’ to toss ’em out. It was a really wonderful festival, though. We all enjoyed it!!!

    Reply
  7. A couple of notes. Ravioli is often served as a salad and an appetizer, cold and room temp. The room temp in the tent happened to be cold.
    BTW-It is Caveman Crops not Chops.
    Very nice that you could attend as a guest of STA. Nice pics.

    Reply
  8. Hehe, I was looking at the sausage in the flatbread, thinking how great it looked and how I’d be very happy to eat it, and then was horribly disappointed when the next photo showed it chopped up into teeny tiny pieces. Definitely time to get out the Groucho Marx glasses and go back in disguise for more.

    Reply
  9. Gosh, I am envious and drooling at all these yummy food at the same time! This seems like a great event and I am glad you went and took pictures! Picture of food is simply delicious and now you made me hungry 🙂

    Reply
  10. Hello.
    Just bought lamb sausages with mint, feta and basil and googled recipes for ideas. The lamb sausage you tasted last year, can you remember what the relishes were?
    Trying to impress my guests who are wonderful cooks themselves so I feel somewhat apprehensive to go out of my comfort zone which is Italian but these sausages look great…Thanks.

    Reply

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