Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bloggin' With the Best!

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of accompanying fifteen members of the Toronto Food-Bloggerati on an unforgettable Stratford/Perth County culinary adventure. Over the last few days, the Toronto bloggers have published some great posts communicating their indelible impressions of this delectable day. They've expressed their perspectives in words, video and photos... I'm going to cite/link their blogs to reflect the snout-to-tail success of this progressive media event!  

Suresh Doss from Spotlight Toronto immediately gets full props for organizing the Toronto bloggers to make this unprecedented trip together to Stratford... and for putting together a brilliant video collage of our day. If there's one person who knows how to work Twitter and social media to mobilize food folk, it's Suresh (follow his prolific, mouth-watering Tweets @spotlightcity). What a turnout!
I began the day with my new Toronto taste-buds at the new Stratford site of the community-supported Monforte Dairy. Although cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen herself was at-market, we all somehow felt her presence watching over our artisan-cheese-loving group (see pic above) as we enjoyed an informative and affirmative tour led by Ruth's right-hand-woman Maureen Argon. After browsing the new facility, which we learned should be up-and-running this week, we were presented with a dairy-based morning snack that struck blogger My Daily Bread as a well-balanced  Perth County breakfast offering: 
...together the subtle tang and almost sinfully rich creaminess of the 4% MF yoghurt lifted the roasted flavour of the nuts in the granola and balanced out the sweetness of the dried cranberries.
Next, we all set off to Soiled Reputation organic vegetable farm in nearby Sebringville for a little rap session with famed farmer Antony John (pictured above). He schooled us on the region's soil, which naturally provides the perfect growing medium for his unsurpassed greens and produce.  As the Toronto Tasting Notes blogger's post observed, Farmer John:
...spoke passionately about the continuity of life and land, from fungi in the soil to bird life, crops, "weeds", pets, farm animals and human staff. "If this was a wine region, this would be Bordeaux," he said proudly. 
Just a stone's throw away from Soiled Reputation is the deMartines  pig farm (aka Perth Pork Products). Farmer Fred deMartines generously guided us all through his sustainable heritage breed pork operation, which includes resident populations of Tamworth, Berkshire, and Wild Boar. Fred answered our questions while flinging out shovelfuls of black walnuts for the boars to crunch on - it's not everyday you get to talk to the farmer responsible for some of the finest porcine product around! The Eat. Live. Travel. Write. blogger expressed admiration towards the hospitable lifestyle afforded to the residents of the deMartines operation in her post:
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. 
Then it was time to eat!
I think we might have enjoyed the perfect springtime starter on Saturday. The atmosphere was a laid-back barn feast accentuated by the lilt of a singer/guitarist-in-residence. Rundles chef Neil Baxter presented us with a Perth County Asparagus salad over Soiled Reputations arugula and some Monforte Toscano shavings. Atop all this was perched a poached Soiled Reputation egg that had been breaded and lightly deep fried. As the yolk broke all over the salad and I tasted the crispy coating, I spied one of the farms' chickens through a nearby window... and thanked her. Smoky spit-roasted boar from Fred's farm followed, served over a pea shoot spatzle and drizzled with a jus of mustard seeds that were downright caviar-esque as they burst in my mouth. Dessert was a tart seasonal rhubarb martini with a dollop of rhubarb sorbet. Soiled Reputation produce and Perth Pork Products à la Neil Baxter in a barn full of witty food lovers... just when I thought lunch couldn't get any better, Antony himself got up and belted-out a few soulful tunes! Check out all the photos posted on Flickr by blogger Bon Eats and you'll get the picture.
After lunch, the uniquely-Stratford culinary barn experience continued as we were treated with a cupping session led by the acclaimed Canadian tea sommelier Karen Hartwick, proprietor of Tea Leaves Tasting Bar and Shop in town. This was a real hit with the Toronto foodies and their razor-sharp palates - if Karen ever wants to pass her vast knowledge of all-things-tea along to an apprentice I think we all know who she should connect with (check out the twitpic posted by potential tea-tender prodigy  @popNina)!

I unfortunately had to bail before the tour's confectionery culmination at Chocolate Barr's Candies, where the bloggers got to make their own caramel corn. I checked out some of the pictures posted by Laurendoesthis, a blogger from blogTO, and it certainly looks like they all had a sweet conclusion to the day's adventure!

As I've reviewed all of the blogs, tweets, video and images that have been posted over the last few days by the most-appreciative denizens of Toronto's online food beat, I again feel the urge to pinch myself. Am I just dreaming, or is this place food-blogger-heaven?!?


  1. It is most definitely foodie and food blogger heaven in Stratford! Great roundup Steve - and it was a pleasure to meet to meet you! Hopefully I will be back in Stratford sooner rather than later!

  2. Thank you for the extremely kind words. Really, you made my day.
    I'm back in Stratford real soon, so lets meet up!