Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Slice Short of a Pie at the McCully's 'In Your Face Pie Festival'

On Sunday, I was entered into my first (and trust me, not my last) pie eating contest.

Thursday, I got the call from the paparazzi. The reporter thought I might be naive enough to spill my pie eating plan of attack. When the Toronto Star article came out, all it leaked about my strategy for the McCully's Hill Farm 'In Your Face Pie Festival' pie eating thow-down was that I was coming hungry (which was more or less irrelevant because I'm always hungry). My real strategy was to taunt my opponents online: I dished out some trash talk on Twitter and bigged my pie-eating-self up on a couple of my recent blog posts.

But I don't think Stratford Beacon Herald reporter Mike Beitz follows my blog, or my Tweets, because he kicked some serious pie-eating-blogger butt on Sunday. If you're wondering what the flavour of "humble pie" is for me this week... it's delicious, in-season, perfectly-baked blueberry. Unfortunately, as much as I loved it, Mike Beitz loved it more, and I hereby doff my purple-stained cap to him for his well-earned victory. Check out his humorous write up in Monday's Stratford Beacon Herald.
The 2nd annual McCully's Hill Farm 'In Your Face Pie Festival' was [otherwise] a great success all around. Lots of folks and families came out to enjoy horse drawn wagon rides, a petting barn, a BBQ serving McCully's unbelievably good maple syrup sausage-on-a-bun, kids playdough pie making,  tonnes of pie of course, and knee slappin' barnyard music courtesy of Bob Burchill and  friend.

The pie eating contest began at 2pm. I was flanked by the soon-to-be-champion Mike Beitz on my right, and the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner, on my left. The other contestants were Eugene Zakreski, Director of the of the Stratford Tourism Alliance; photographer and 2009 reigning champion Lori-Ann Franklin; and locally renowned musician Mark Fletcher. Our task: to eat one whole pie faster than all the other contestants.

We don't need video replay to call this one, but let's watch it anyway:

Everyone deserves congratulations for being a good sport (OMG I sound like such a loser).

But genuine special thanks definitely goes out to the Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner (pictured above with me) for coming all the way out to Stratford just for the contest. Although the follow-up Toronto Star article suggested that he didn't get messy at all eating the blueberry pies, this is clearly some vampirish evidence to the contrary.

After the pie eating contest, it was on to the slightly more dignified pie making contest. Celebrity judges (pictured left to right) included Ruth Klahsen, Stratford's celebrated artisan cheesemaker who runs the Monforte Dairy at its new location on Griffith Rd.; food writer par extraordinaire Marion Kane; Stratford Culinary Tourism leader and co-founder of Slow Food Perth County Danielle Broadhagen; and Andrew Coppolino, food writer and host of the Food Show on Radio 570. They had the not-so-tough job of tasting fifteen of Perth County's finest and most original pie creations, and scoring them for qualities such as taste, texture, and originality.

The winner of the Best Pie went to Soiled Reputation's Tina Vanheuvel for her exquisite peach pie! Runner-up was a chocolate-goat's-cheese-cake pie entered by Bradshaw's Carrie Wreford. The Most Creative Pie award went to my sister-in-food Yva Santini for her ooey-gooey Smores Pie.

What a day! Thanks to Sara Bradford, manager of McCully's, for making this fun community event happen. And count me in for next year's pie eating contest: I'm going to review the tape and restrategize!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stratford Summer Music & The County Food Co. Picnic: A Kiss in a Bucket!

My wife and I are the proud owners of two boys, aged 2.5 (Fisher) and 0.6 (Sonny) years apiece. Let's just say, at this point it's hard for our family to go to restaurants with a couple of feisty, full-tilt critters like our two rugrats. So I've been anticipating this week for a while: I got to bring my whole crew to the downtown waterfront park to see the midday Stratford Summer Music Festival kick-off of the outdoor Barge Music program while enjoying a family picnic.
I've also been looking forward to this post because it lets me finally report on the one Stratford business I think might best live-up to the potential Perth County represents in terms of feeding our residents and visitors amazing food sourced from our immediate vicinity. To owner/chef Janet Ashworth (pictured above with her street-ad bike), who's been running The County Food Co. in its current location on Erie Street for three seasons now, 'going local' is just plain common sense, "It's something I've always done. The shorter the string between us and the ingredients we use means we can serve great food and cut costs." Patrons are informed of the local producers that supply the County Food Co. by a chalkboard listing a veritable who's-who of Perth County farmers, artisans and growers.
Janet and her head cook Sue don't overdo it technically with the Perth County product they use, "All we do is kiss it." Chef Ashworth,who honed her craft at the Culinary Institute of America and came to Stratford after working in some of Toronto's best kitchens, was "floored and appalled" by the inauthenticity of the standard Ontario fast food/take-out joint/diner fare. She responded by creating a "from-the-hip", super-casual dining experience that sees genuinely talented people cooking and serving genuinely fresh local food to genuinely appreciative customers with no fuss.
Three words: Count. us. in.
The County Food Co. 'Picnic in a Pail' and the Stratford Summer Music Festival's Barge series were made for each other (as you'll see, the musicians are staged on a barge that's parked on the south bank of Lake Victoria, which is only about a block away). If you're not from Stratford, don't worry about it!: every picnic pail includes a homemade map that you can use to find the perfect waterside spot to lay your blanket.
The picnic pail is a great deal: for $25 you get two sandwiches of your choice (we got an egg salad  on sourdough and a veggie and goat's cheese wrap), three salads (we chose the crunchy-fresh chickpea salad, creamy potato salad, and their chunky, zingy Greek salad with feta), and a couple of drinks. And you get to keep the galvanized steel bucket!
It was off to the park for me and the gang, where we joined what I heard was the biggest crowd EVER for a Barge Music event to see the unique Langeley Ukulele Ensemble do their four-stringed thing.
The ukes were on fire as these mini-guitar virtuosos sang and strummed in harmony, kicking-out Hawaiian style versions of classics by Sinatra, the Beatles, and... Skynyrd?!? This was one crazy family picnic! Here is the ensemble's soloist busting a high-octave version of "Fly Me To The Moon":

If you're going to catch any of the Barge Music series (which includes Caledonian Fiddle Orchestra July 29, Reload August 6, Rhythm Plus August 8, Swamperella August 13, The Tivoli Boys Guard Band August 21, and The Stratford Police Pipes and Drums to close the series off on August 22) I highly recommend bringing the family along for a County Food Co. local food 'Picnic in a Pail'. And remember, the secret ingredient is just a kiss!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Choc-in' Up Brownie Points on the Stratford Chocolate Trail

FRED: You can't eat before a performance. It gives you indigestion. 
LILI: It's my stomach, thank you. Bring it in, Suzanne.
FRED: You'll not burp during my love scenes. Take it away! 
LILI: Suzanne, don't you dare.
(Cole Porter, Kiss Me, Kate)

Over the years, I've come to learn that one of the best ways to get to my wife Lisa's heart is through her sweet tooth.

How perfect for me, then, when two fateful happenings simultaneously occurred this week: the launching of the brand-new Stratford Chocolate Trail, and our scoring two tickets to the Stratford Festival's Thursday night production of Cole Porter's raucous musical comedy Kiss Me, Kate

Lisa thought I was off to gorge on sweets all day, as I visited 8 of the 16 possible stops along this Chocolate Scavenger Hunt... She didn't know I was saving them all for her!
Well, almost all. At the first place I visited, Trattoria Fabrizio, owner/chef Teresa offered me a house-made chocolate gelato, then topped if off special for me with a white chocolate, pistachio and cranberry biscotti (photo above. Sorry Lisa, but this one would've melted before it got home...). From the dessert alone I can tell why this authentic family-run Italian bistro has been in business in Stratford for over 20 years - I can't wait to come back for a pasta dinner!
Next, it was around the corner to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where chocolatier Tom presented me with a whole display case of fudge to pick from: Creamsicle, Grand Marnier, Oreo Cookie, Tiramisu, Maple Walnut... the choices were endless. I opted for the Creme de Menthe fudge, and my "box of chocolates" for the ultimate date was underway.
The Kitchen Connaisseur is one of the best places in town to go for sauces (their curry cream sauce is the best) and condiments. Everyone who visits them on the Chocolate Trail will receive a jar of their gorgeous Chocolate Mocha sauce (which you can taste from their expansive sampling table along with all their other delicious products).  
P'lovers is Stratford's "Environmental Store". Those who stop here on the Chocolate Trail will receive eco-conscious-yet-oh-so-indulgent chocolate bath salts!
Next it was over to MacLeod's Scottish Shop. Having lived for a year in the country that brought the world the Deep Fried Mars Bar, I am well aware of the Scots' particular penchant for chocolate sweeties. I was given a stick of real Edinburgh rock candy and a genuine British Flaky bar (you mix the batter & I'll fire up the deep fryer Lisa!).
Visiting Chocolate Barr's Candies for the first time was a revelation. I'm not sure that "chocolatier" is necessarily the right title for Derek Barr. With his inspired flavour combinations and precise geometric presentations, I think of him more as a chef who prefers to work with confection as his medium. It was hard to choose two truffles from the case, as they were all works of art! I was tempted to try Milk Chocolate Sea Salt or Lavender, but ended up going with a creative savoury Balsamic truffle and a hot-and-sweet chili pepper truffle. But before I left, Derek hooked me up with a sample of one of his unique Habanero  dark chocolate ice wine jellies (so good, I'm thinking a box of assorted ice wine dark chocolate jellies is just the thing for  next Valentine's Day).
Treasures is a great little gift shop, where alongside local artisans' creations one can also find the cheeky, only-in-Stratford t-shirt: "To Beiber, or not to Beiber?" I was awarded a generous bag of Chocolate Covered Almond Brittle made especially for the store by the local Jenny's Peanut Brittle, which I added to my ever-growing stash.
No one embarking on the Chocolate Trail should neglect visiting my final stop on the tour, the granddaddy of Stratford's chocolate making industry, Rheo Thompson Candies. This is Lisa's favourite place of all time for chocolates (it's not Christmas if our house doesn't have a box of mint smoothies!), so I knew that the selection of beautiful filled chocolates they're offering the Trailblazers was sure to please. 

So, what was Lisa's reaction when I presented her with my selection of the best chocolate Stratford has to offer before our big date to see Kiss Me, Kate?
PETRUCHIO: And lovely Lisa, where are you, Lisa? You gave a new meaning to the leaning tow'r of Pisa.
(Cole Porter, Kiss Me, Kate)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slow Food is for Sharing at the Potluck Picnic in the Park

Slow Food is an international organization that is composed of various local chapters, each known as a Convivium (plural: Convivia). The root word "convivial" means to be fond of feasting and good company... so by my count Slow Food is only truly Slow Food when it's being shared by others! The Slow Food Perth County Convivium reveled in the full sense of the term this past weekend, as we all got together to celebrate the peak of the summer local food season with a Potluck Picnic in the Park (the park being Lower Queen's Park, nestled between the majestic Festival Theatre and the glistening swan-filled waters of Lake Victoria).
Everyone in our community on Sunday - Slow Food members and non-members alike - were encouraged to come down to the park and share creations made using local, seasonal produce. The Slow Food values of good, clean and fair food were in full force on our communal table, which turned into a veritable showcase of the Perth County Bounty, Summer 2010.
You might have already noticed that the pictures on this particular blog post are above-and-beyond anything I could ever hope to snap myself. One of Slow Food Perth County's most avid members happens to be Irene Miller, Stratford's most prolific  and talented photographers. We take pictures, Irene makes art... and I am honoured to have been offered  these amazing images of this festive celebration for my humble blog. As Irene mentioned to me, "Everyone had a great time and it showed in the photos."
I was stoked to finally make some food for other people to enjoy  (that's me on the right assembling my dish alongside fellow Slow Foodies Brendon Lyoness [aka Caveman of 'Caveman Crops'] and Tania Milojevic). I've been spoiled rotten by the local food community since I started this blog, and on Sunday it was time to give back! 
Fortuitously, the picnic corresponded with the first weekend of the Perth County sweet corn season, so I grabbed a duz' from the Thames River Melons stand at the Saturday Farmer's Market (they're also responsible for that beautiful golden watermelon from two pics back!). I made a chilled sweet corn risotto finished with C'est Bon goat's cheese (produced locally near St. Marys), cradling generous scoopfuls within the folds of bib lettuce fresh-picked from my Community Garden plot. See pic above (did I do that? Thanks for making me look good Irene!).

For a change, I think I'll just sit back and let the photos speak for themselves...
Caveman Crops Potato Salad - Strictly home-grown!

Farmers Feed Cuties!

Mmmm. Pie.
That last picture reminds me - next Sunday (July 25) I'll be scarfing tonnes of McCully's Hill pies, extreme-eating style, at the McCully's Hill Farm In Your Face Pie Festival pie-eating contest. Luckily for everyone I didn't practice my speed-pie-eating technique on Sunday... or did I and it was so fast no one noticed? If you have a perfect pie recipe and you think that it has what it takes to win the title of Best Pie next week, please bring it on and let the celebrity judges taste your wares. Slow Food members: this is your next challenge if you choose to accept it!

Thanks to everyone who brought along a dish for this great community event, and thanks again to Irene Miller for her artful photography! Go to her website's Contact Page to sign-up for her stunning and inspiring "Photo of the Week with Poetry" e mails.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Most Delicious Meeting I've Ever Attended

As an active member of the thriving Stratford culinary community (you might call me a 'keener'), I go to a lot of meetings. Most are held in conference rooms. Occasionally they might be somewhere fun like McCully's Hill Farm, or (even better), a local watering hole like the Boar's Head or Fosters Inn (which by the way is particularly good for an alcohol-enriched mid-morning meeting). I'm a little jealous of the folks planning the upcoming Stratford Pride Weekend, because I hear their meetings quickly turn into parties and regularly last until 4 or 5 am.

Every meeting I go to is devoted to food, whether it's for the community garden I helped start at McCully's this year, or for Slow Food Perth County Convivium (I'm the Education Exec!), or for the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival (where I am honoured to sit on both the Education and Communications Committees). 

So meetings every week about food. But, irony of ironies: No food!

That all changed last weekend, when I went to what was possibly the best meeting ever (it was definitely the best meeting I've ever attended!). 
All members of the various Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival committees were invited to come together for a social at the picturesque Lassdale Farms (situated in the countryside just outside of Shakespeare). Every committee shared their respective plans for what certainly promises to be  one of the premier food events in Ontario this fall.

All of our collective plans for the SSPCC Festival (which takes place on September 25-26 but punctuates a whole week of programming beginning with the Stratford Garlic Festival on Sept. 18-19) are extremely exciting. The Entertainment Committee have booked a stellar line-up for the opening ceremonies and the musical talent continues unabated for two days straight. The Education Committee have confirmed a reading and book-signing by Sarah Elton, author of the book Locavore, as well as a  talk by Lorraine Johnson, author of City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing (which will be integrated with a container-planting demonstration by the folks at Stratford's gardening mecca Anything Grows!) The Events Committee have recruited the best of Perth County's food producers and matched each of them with our area's  best chefs for Sunday's Tasting Tent. I'm working on growing a "Living Salad Bar" in the Kid's Tent on Saturday! The innovating, informative, and  scrumptious programming goes on and on... 
But hold on a second - let's get back to the food at this meeting! The committee presentations were paused for a while so all of us could create-n-bake a pizza in farmer Mark Lass & family's new, home-made outdoor pizza oven!
Once the presentations were finished, we got down to business with some Berkshire ribs from Perth Pork Products cooked over the open, wood-fired grill built right into the pizza oven. 
Everyone brought along a potluck side: let me tell you, when you're holding an event for volunteers at a culinary festival, you want to ask them to bring along some food of their own.

Actually, there's more good news on the above-and-beyond potluck front this coming weekend: Slow Food Perth County is holding the annual Slow Food Potluck Picnic in the Park lunch in Victoria Park this Sunday, July 18th, beginning at 1 pm! Absolutely everyone is welcome, but don't forget to bring a plate and cutlery and some local, seasonal food to share!

If you wish you could have enjoyed the pizza oven and outdoor cooking festivities at Lassdale Farms yourself, don't worry: the Slow Food Perth County Convivium is having a Pork Party at Punkeydoodles (aka a pig roast) at the same location on August 15th!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention two other great upcoming food events this summer: On July 25, McCully's Hill Farms is hosting its annual In Your Face Pie Fest, where I will be battling-it-out in the celebrity pie-eating contest against an as-yet-unnamed-but-totally-going-down opponent. If you think you have a pie recipe with the right stuff, get it into the pie-making contest! On August 29, McCully's will be having its annual SPLAT (Savouring Perth Local Annual Tomatoes) Festival, where a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes will be showcased alongside more outdoor pizzas and wine pairings courtesy of Pazzo's Pizzeria & Ristorante.

Lots of meetings = lots of events! I can't wait to see everyone out at all the fun and flavourful happenings going on in the Stratford area this summer and fall! But watch out: you might get blogged by the Local-Come-Lately!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Stratford Guerrilla Gardeners Strike Again!

A little over a week ago, the newspapers of Stratford reported on an unusual phenomenon taking place after dark on our very streets. 

The July 1 edition of The Stratford Gazette reported:
"They operate under a cloak of darkness, sneaking into public spaces to do their work by moonlight."

According to the June 19 edition of The Beacon Herald these folks mean business
"A vegetable garden beside the Erie Street parking lot is the first project by a secretive group called Stratford Guerrilla Gardeners. The garden of tomatoes, brussel sprouts, yellow beans, leeks and potatoes went in under cover of darkness one night last week."
Just yesterday, Tamara Harbar, in her spot-on Gazette column called "Going Green" in the paper's Earth Now section, celebrated Stratford's Guerrilla Gardeners as modern-day Johnny Appleseeds who are demonstrating opportunities for our city to maximize it's local food producing potential and reduce our collective global footprints:
"It’s hard for us to see the ecological damage cities cause. But maybe Stratford’s guerrilla gardeners will make it easier to see the good cities can do."

Today, I got an anonymous scoop on the sequel to the original "Master Plot" planted by Stratford's Guerrilla Gardeners beside the Erie Street parking lot. A spokesperson for the organization, who only wanted to be identified as "Mr. Potato Head", tipped me off on the group's latest installment just west of the corner of Huron and Mornington Streets. The once glorious site of the 7/11 has fallen into disrepair; to bring some life to what they deem a "brown space", the Guerrilla Gardeners of Stratford have planted a "Calabrese Salad" garden - consisting of tomatoes and basil - alongside the sidewalk. You saw it here first folks:
The mysterious Mr. Potato Head insisted he remain unidentified - he doesn't want to discourage any new members based on fears of their being outed in the media. But he did provide some informative insights into his subversive group, which consists of "four members and counting", and their urban veggie-growing mandate (others who seek to join are encouraged to e-mail
Artist's Rendition of Mr. Potato Head: Have you seen this man?

When asked what spawned the idea to plant vegetables on the Stratford urban landscape, Mr. PH relates the story of how one day the four members of the Guerrilla Gardening posse were marveling at all the landscaping that was performed all around Stratford. One member prompted a thought experiment, "What would it be like if every flower the city planted was a vegetable plant?". The rest, as they say, is history. 

The Guerrilla Gardening movement is by no means restricted to Stratford. In fact, there is a global website linking Guerrilla Gardeners from places as diverse as Copenhagen, Berlin, Salt Lake City, and Montreal. In May, 6,000 guerrilla sunflower seeds were planted in urban landscapes all around the world!

Mr. Potato Head emphasizes the public ownership over the Guerrilla Gardens, "They belong to everyone!" He says that when the produce is ripe for the picking, people should just help themselves, "But do us a favour and wash everything well!" If there is any surplus produce, the Guerrilla Gardening crew is committed to distributing it to food banks or other sites that promote our city's food security.

As an avid gardener (stay tuned for updates on the McCully's  Hill Farm Community Garden Co-op and the Stratford School Gardens project), I was particularly interested in finding out where the Guerrilla Gardeners got their starter plants and gardening gear. Mr. PH enthusiastically recommend Cozyn's Garden Gallery where they are currently selling starter veggies and herb plants at half price. He also mentioned that Anything Grows is a great place to get nifty growing paraphernalia. 

Planting food in city spaces that were otherwise full of weeds? All I have to say is, this Mr. Potato Head and his Guerrilla Gardening crew are my kind of crazies!

Tempest n' a Teapot

Ariel: I drink the air before me...
(William Shakespeare, The Tempest)

When I was a kid my big sister (who always seemed to pull rank on the family Betamax) made me watch The Sound of Music about two thousand times. So to me, Christopher Plummer is more than just one of Canada's most accomplished film and theatre actors. He's family.
I wish I could have brought my sister along with me the other night: I was afforded a special opportunity to be an audience-member while Plummer and the cast of The Tempest were filmed performing their spectacular Stratford production of this dazzling play. The production is so good it's being turned into a movie: people all around the world will soon be able to enjoy Plummer's superlative Stratford performance in the role of Prospero, the exiled wizard who uses magic to conjure-up supernatural scenarios. 
Earlier in the day, I had another very special opportunity to participate in a cupping session with Karen Hartwick, Stratford's one and only tea sommelier, at her Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar. She showed me that brewing tea is a form of magical alchemy that's definitely something to get excited about!
In the spirit of The Tempest, Shakespeare's most sorcerous play, I asked Karen if she would take-on the role of Prospero and select what she thought was the most magical among her 150 types of tea. She proclaimed, "They're all magical to me!" But then, inspired, she took me on an adventure that involved our partaking in the tastes, smells and stories of several types of Oolong, a category of tea grown exclusively on enchanted tropical islands of the East. Jade Oolong, I learned, is particularly charmed as it can be infused seven full times, "It's a patient tea that's different every time". The ceremony and ritual associated with tea in many cultures is evident in Karen's cupping session, which involves a special Chinese tea tray and small cups designed to enhance the smell and taste of these meticulous potions. Karen encouraged me to be mindful of everything I was sensing and experiencing as I sipped the Phoenix Mountain Oolong, and when I closed my eyes I was transported to the misty green hills of Taiwan where this tea was cultivated.
Karen is a born teacher. There is so much to know about tea beyond the glimpse most of us get of various types of tea bags. Karen is  exceptional at explaining the qualities associated with the staggering array of teas that are produced throughout the world. She loves to share her knowledge of all-things-tea to those who attend her tastings, or to make recommendations to those who come to her shop looking for a truly special cuppa brew.

I was particularly interested in also finding out about the Ontario teas that she herself blends. Karen invited me to smell the refreshing fruitiness of her Local Organic Herbal, made with red raspberry leaves and spearmint. Her Savoury Green blend was on par with any great chef's creation as it balanced lemon verbena and lemon balm with rosemary and sage. Many of her blends are featured on some of the best menus in Stratford, inlcluding The Old Prune and Bijou, and Karen has also engineered custom teas for local food producers, such as the Earl of Monforte that's currently available at the Monforte Dairy.

It was incredible to see Christopher Plummer working with Tempest director Des McAnuff  to create theatrical and cinematic magic before our very eyes. Karen Hartwick has created her own brand of magic at the Tea Leaves Tasting Bar. Call her to schedule a tasting, drop-in from Wednesday to Sunday to peruse her store, or, if you're  coming to see The Tempest and are looking for a place to stay that has a whole lot of really, really good tea, book a room at her Rosewood Manor Bed and Breakfast. And for opportunities like the one I got to watch the filming of The Tempest for free, follow Stratfest on Twitter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Stratford Canada Day Poutine Pageant (With Special Guest Star Steven Page!)

Some of my loyal readers may have noticed a slight trend in my postings towards... poutine. It has been described as Canada's national dish, and I have done my share to support that distinction since I picked-up the habit in Quebec many years ago. In April, my wife and I delighted in the Monforte Dairy cheddar and porcini jus poutine at Down the Street. In May, I predicted poutine to be Justin Bieber's go-to order at Madelyn's Diner, which according to the Bieber-iffic map of Stratford is his family's favourite restaurant. Now, alas, the month of June has passed with no poutine to speak of... But no worries! Canada Day is here, so I went to check-out the action at the Stratford City Centre's 10th Annual Canada Day Celebration this afternoon, and treated myself to the best poutine in town!
Downtown Stratford was a sea of red and white today, as festive citizens congregated to enjoy some face-painting, music... and food! As a rare treat, the Stratford Farmers Market returned to its historic site at Market Square, and market volunteers continued to serve back bacon on a bun throughout the day. The Rotarians had a popular barbeque, where partygoers loaded up on burgers and dogs in true holiday style.
 Other Canadian party staples included authentic Kettle Corn...
...and Peanut Brittle!
The folks from Simple Dreams were selling ice cream to raise funds for their "To Russia With Love" project, which sees these impressive Canadians traveling to Russia to provide Christmas dinners for impoverished children.

The highlight of the day, however, was admittedly not the food but rather the performance by Steven Page. This founding member of the Barenaked Ladies took to the stage with an acoustic guitar accompanied by a cellist. His set was awesome, and included a little rap about the new 'Bard' of Stratford, Ontario:

To commemorate Canada Day in my own special way, I decided to head over to Stratford's Poutine Palace, otherwise known as Boomers Gourmet Fries (located on Erie Street just off Ontario). 
Boomers is the spot where you can choose from a whole menu dedicated to creative interpretions of Canada's national dish, whether it's the Hickory Stick Poutine with smoked gouda, or the Italian Poutine with marinara sauce.
As any poutine afficionado will tell you though, the authentic deal should have hand-cut fries and thin but flavourful gravy, but most of all needs to have actual cheese curds. Boomers' Original Poutine has all of the above, so I ordered one to keep it real. Then I ordered a goat cheese poutine just to be fancy. The pesto and creamy melted goat cheese was astonishingly rich and truly worthy of Canada's birthday celebration. But nothing compares to biting in to the squeaky curds of a real poutine, which was what I was looking for today!
My Canada = Boomers' Poutine + Steven Page + Stratford City Centre + July 1!