Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monforte Hootenanny: 'The people spoke...'

A little while back, Ruth Klahsen - Stratford's treasured artisan cheesemaker renowned throughout the province for her talent in turning sheep's milk into divine dairy products at her Monforte Dairy -  decided she needed a little help. To fulfill the high demand for her unrivalled cheeses she needed to expand her operation. But to get the funds to achieve this dream she didn't go to the bank - she called upon her loyal customers! 

Thus the Monforte Dairy CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program was created by this innovative entrepreneur. Fans of her cheese have been invited to sign-up for any of three subscription plans: the Wheel O' Cheese membership costs $1000 and gets the patron $1500 worth of cheese vouchers; the Brick O' Cheese membership is for $500, for which the subscriber receives $750 worth of coupons; and the Wedge O' Cheese membership costs only $200, providing the subscriber with $250 in vouchers. Everybody wins!

Sunday, Ruth and the folks at Monforte celebrated the success of this program by thanking the loyal community members who pledged their money to their cheese-craving mouths to the tune of nearly $400,000 (at last count). The Monforte Hootenanny was Ruth's way of thanking those who subscribed, whose funds successfully supported the creation of her new dairy right here in Stratford. After touring the dairy earlier in the day, over 800 food lovers congregated at the Festival Theatre to enjoy an afternoon of great music, pig roasting, excellent Ontario wine, and of course: CHEESE!!!
I grabbed a glass of subtle red from Chateau de Charmes winery and jumped in line to try the unique cheeses on offer. I was presented with a piece of Tome [above] and instructed to eat it rind and all - the garnet casing was infused with balsamic vinegar, which commingled with the hard sheep's milk cheese to produce a flavour that was at once sharp and aromatic. 
I followed this with a little slice of cheese heaven in the form of Ruth's trademark Toscano [above], aged for 8 months! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I was offered the mouth-watering 14 month version.
Things got really interesting, though, when I indulged in a cup of Buff-a-lato: rich, creamy ice cream created using waterbuffalo milk, topped with a local plum preserve. Um.... yum.

Ruth truly spoiled us yesterday. When I spoke to her about the event, she was clearly a little overwhelmed by all of the support she has received. I congratulated her on the recent news that the Ontario government would be contributing a 6 figure grant in support of her local food efforts. 
Ruth explained Monforte's success in three simple words:  "The people spoke."

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