This past weekend, I attended Savour Stratford Culinary Festival as a guest of Stratford Tourism Alliance. I contacted the event’s PR people and they gladly presented me with information about the 9-day festival, along with an all-access pass to the culinary events that occurred during the mouthwatering weekend of September 25 and 26.
I published an overview with some photos of this grassroots festival here. On this post, however, I am presenting the festival’s centrepiece event, the Savour Stratford Tasting, which featured over 30 delicacies crafted by over 30 of the city’s highly-acclaimed chefs and their farm partners. I really loved the chef-farmer pairing, as it brings attention to all the right things, specifically the food. These are some highlights of the culinary partnerships forged for the occasion.
Brian Holden of Humble Roots Bakery and Sheldon Berries Farm presented Gamebird Marinated in Blueberry Tea, Slow Roasted with a Blueberry Maple Glaze and Fresh Rasberry Salsa on a Gluten Free Cornbread Crouton. I enjoyed this appetizer very much, although I really didn’t taste the blueberry glaze on the meat. Also, I wouldn’t know that the cornbread crouton was gluten free, as it tasted simply delicious.
Shawn Hartwell of Simple Fish ‘n Chips and Purdy’s Fish Market presented Hickory-Smoked Lake Huron Whitefish and Pickerel on a Mini Pita Slider with Wasabi Mayo. I found the mini pitas to be a bit dry fir my taste, but the fragrant fish and piquant wasabi mayo more than made up for the said deficiency.
Neil Baxter of Rundles and Hewitt’s Dairy presented Rundles Bread and Home-Churned Butter. Perhaps, one of my favourite tables even though they were simply serving bread and butter. I loved the texture of Neil Baxter’s bread – a combination of crunchy, chewy, and soft – which was a great platform for the creamy, full-bodied butter from Hewitt’s Dairy.
Jeff Freeland of The Sun Room with Shallot Hill Farms presented Phyllo Triangles with Shallot Hill Farms Roasted Squash, Golden Beets, Blue Potatoes and Carrots served with a Tomato Basil Sauce. One of my favourite delicacies of the event, these phyllo triangle bundles were bursting with autumn’s robust flavours.
Ian MacArthur of Food At Your Fingertips with Weth Mushroom Farm presented Duo of Huron Cultivated Mushrooms. Not quite as exciting as the other canapés, but the mushrooms were meaty and delicious nonetheless.
Kathy Hundt of Pass da Pasta with Montforte Dairy presented Ravioli Filled with Montforte Dairy Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Cheese, Zucchini, and Mint Drizzled with Don Hundt Honey. Initially, I thought this was an odd dish. I don’t like my sweet and savoury together this way, but I would give this one an A- for a valiant effort and a bold move like this.
Stratford Chefs School with Stratford Central Secondary School Garden presented Polenta Croutons with a Roasted Tomato Salsa and Eggplant Chimichurri. These are perfect little amuse bouches that pack a good-sized zing!
Lee Avigdor of Down the Street Bar and Restaurant with Soiled Reputation presented Organic Potato Poori (Indian bread) with Heirloom Tomato-Ginger Chutney with Soiled Reputation Roasted Vegetables. If only the pooris were served warm, it would have been a nice contrast to the sweet chutney. But hey, I understand the limitations of a makeshift kitchen!
Bryan Steele of The Old Prune with Church Hill Farm presented Grilled Lamb Sausage on Middle Eastern Flatbread served with Yoghurt Raita. The fellows at The Old Prune could hardly keep up with the demand for Church Hill’s delicious lamb sausages. And with good reason.
Aaron Linley of Bijou Restaurant with August’s Harvest presented Roasted Tomato and Chili Salsa with Garlic Confit and Montforte Sheep’s Cheese. Loved, loved, loved this appetizer. It’s elegant, surprisingly delicate, and singularly exquisite!
Paul Finkelstein of The Screaming Avocado Cafe with Neubrand Country Produce presented Home-Grown Corn and Red Fife Blini with Neubrand Country Preserves. I could have this for breakfast everyday. I’ve never had anything that’s made with red fife, but I believe I am now a fan.
Alexandra Santos of Alexa’s Cafe and De Wetering Hill Farms presented Herb-Roasted Porco Asado with C’est Bon Goat Cheese on a Tortilla Curl. I adored the fancy presentation here, but I thought the preparation didn’t do anything to highlight the porco asado, which was left a bit dry.
Max Holbrook of The Parlour with Caveman Chops and Perth Pork Products presented Manchu BBQ Perth Country Pork Belly in a Steamed Bun with Vegetable Kimchi. Yum. The before shot…I think these guys can give David Chang of Momofuku a run for his steamed bun money.
The after shot…
Nick Benninger of Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 with Everspring Farms presented Duck Fantastico – Duck Confit and Greens with Duck Cracklings. I was left wondering where the duck cracklings were, but in the end, this was one of the more memorable hors d’oeuvres.
Jamie Craig of Wildstone Bar and Grill with Erbcroft Farms presented Confit of Duck on Goat Cheese Crostini Topped with Sweet Onion Relish. It just kind of sucked that Wildstone’s table was beside Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 because they both featured duck confit. This was quite pleasant, but perhaps not as polished as their neighbour’s.
Chocolate Gooseberries and Paw-Paw Fruit Ice Wine Truffles by Chocolate Barr’s. Yum.
Chef Sam Santandrea, Stratford Chefs School Alumni with C’est Bon Cheese presented Chocolate Dipped Chevre Semi Freddo. This dessert is worth saving some room for – rich, smooth, and decadent.
Dave Hassell of The Church Restaurant and Koert Organics presented a Sorrel Ice Cream Fudge Sandwich. This one is a winner! Imaginative and innovative use of an herb that resulted in a divine ice cream sandwiched between two fudgey chocolate biscuits.
Ontario wineries and microbreweries were also at hand with libations for all.
Billed Canada’s premier arts town, Stratford is a city of 32,000 with a distinguished theatre scene and a burgeoning culinary landscape. Aside from its venerable Shakespeare Festival, Stratford is also home to, ahem, teeny bopper Justin Bieber. Not surprisingly, the city has a decidedly English flavour, as alluded in the many bookstores, antique dealers, pubs, and tea shoppes in the area. Also, a river called Avon? A neighbouring town called Shakespeare…Hello?! However, Stratford and the surrounding region is largely agricultural, boasting some of the richest growing soils in Canada. As a result, produce and livestock from here are first-rate – the best of Ontario terroir.
The Savour Stratford Festival is now on its third run and growing exponentially each year. Overall, it was a very successful event for Perth Country, as it put Stratford on the culinary map. No longer are they cooking under the radar!
*Disclosure: I attended this event as a media guest of Stratford Tourism Alliance.