Savour Stratford!

ss3The 6th annual Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival is the largest culinary festival in Canada. It attracts the biggest names in food and wine; doubles the population, and excites our appetites. It is, as the manic organic himself, Anthony John, of Soiled Reputation, tells me, “the springboard for growers and chefs to practice their artistry and craftsmanship. And it has become an event whereby the media allows what we’ve been doing here for 150 years to shine through.”

Stratford Farmer’s markets, artisan’s markets and concerts reflected this year’s theme, “Globally inspired, locally grown”. A global array of cooking demonstrations tantalized us throughout the weekend: Peruvian, Thai, Mexican, Brazilian, Trinidadian, Indian and Burmese. Chefs like Francisco Alejandri of Mexico; Mara Salles of Brazil; TV chef and recording artist, Roger Mooking; and the renowned author and chef, Vikram Vij of Vij’s Restaurant in Vancouver (pictured here), all gravitated to Stratford to showcase their indigenous recipes and techniques using local Stratford ingredients.

ss3 Preparing his family chicken curry, Vij asked us, “Can you handle the heat?” As he mixed humour and spice and shared with us that Indian food is so much more than just tikka and butter chicken. Naomi Duguid shared recipes and anecdotes from her explorations through Burma. And in what was probably the most fortuitous aspect of the festival: following each cooking demonstration, I could purchase a signed copy of the chef’s book (I am loving Naomi Duguid’s Burma ‘Rivers of Flavour’), and then, armed with my new compendium of recipes, walk through the farmer’s market and pick up all the fresh local ingredients that were just used in the demo—and from the same farmer’s who supplied each chef.

SS2 In addition to the cooking demos, pizza making classes, beer tastings, and milking demos, the pièce de résistance of the weekend was the Tasting Tent where wineries, breweries, and distilleries from across Ontario poured to our content, while chefs partnered with farmers to present authentic Ontario cuisine. The following awards were presented as culinary enthusiasts cheered them on: Best meat dish: Awarded to Stratford’s Mercer Hall chefs, Tim Larsen and Sean Collins paired with Fred and Ingrid de Martines of ss7 Perth Pork Products to create A Taste of Wild Boar. These boar feed on black walnuts for a unique nuttier flavour (click here to listen to them enjoying the walnuts). Best vegetarian dish: Awarded to Canadian Grub to Go where chef Robert Rose paired with Oak Grove Cheese created Ontario grains arancini. Best dessert: Awarded to Your Local Market Co-op chefs Tyson Everitt and Katelyn Vere paired with local dairy products presented a Harvest moon cookie, a fall twist on the Bengali dessert rasgulla. Most creative dish: Awarded to Aboriginal Culinary Concepts chef, Richard Francis paired with Sheldon Berries presented a Blueberry-cured salmon with pickled blueberries on bannock toast. Best alcohol beverage: Awarded to Revel Caffè, where Anne Campion paired with coffee ss22 roasters, Las Chicas Del Café to create Café con piquete. Best beverage: Tea Leaves Tea Bar, where tea sommelier Karen Hartwick paired with local forager Peter Blush of Puck’s Plenty to brew a Digestive fire tonic. GE Café People’s Choice: Awarded to Molly Blooms Irish Pub chef, Chris Huggins paired with Brendon Lyoness of Caveman Crops to create a fresh peach salsa with roasted jalapeno chevre.

Home to the Ontario Pork Congress, Perth County is also one of the most diverse ss4farm counties in Ontario. Oh ya…the largest theatre festival in North America still flourishes here, but now Stratford is known primarily as a culinary mecca—the culinary capital—of Ontario.  Ask me where you can find a dynamic arts scene and a multicultural culinary scene on the level of a great cosmopolitan city, in a safe, quiet, community-oriented town, and I’ll tell you: “Stratford, Ontario”. There really is no better place to experience the sophistication of Ontario’s culinary evolution.

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