Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

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!


  1. Great post Steve. Was just at County Food for lunch and saw about 3 picnic pails walk out during that short time. Very popular!

  2. We've enjoyed County Fair twice in the last week. The ginger salmon with sesame seeds was delish!

    My fav is the Moroccan veggie stew though. So, so yummy!

  3. If you don't mind I would like to use one of your photos above for a blog post about picnics in Stratford.