Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Garden of Homemade Delights at the Brew Garden Café

My new friend Nathan McKay - he's the organizer of the recent Blues & Ribs Fest and the person in charge of putting together the impressive musical line-up for the upcoming Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival - called me out of the blue this week with a hot blogger tip.
Nathan had recently enjoyed an incredible lunch at the Brew Garden Café in the nearby hamlet of Shakespeare, and was now on a mission to share his delicious discovery with the world! He started by arranging for a talented Stratford photographer named David Charlesworth to come and take some pictures of the Brew Garden's gorgeously-presented food and bevvies. As they were mid-photo-shoot, Nathan hunted me down and asked if I'd like to help them eat the beautiful, homemade creations they were photographing.

Fifteen minutes later, I was there!

The dish that had started it all for Nathan was the Bananas Fosters French Toast, served with maple rum syrup and the Brew Garden's signature salad featuring local organic greens and seasonal fruit (photo above, and all of the incredible photos included on this blog post, courtesy of David Charlesworth). I immediately appreciated Nathan's excitement: the cool bananas, crunchy walnuts and sweet, sweet sauce over savoury homemade bread rendered this lunch entrée into a dessert that eats like a meal!
The Brew Garden, as its name suggests, offers an alfresco experience similar to those found on outdoor patios throughout Europe. Three summers ago, Colleen and Charles Furbacher transformed their garden into a spacious, bright-yet-shaded venue where visitors to Shakespeare could relax outside and enjoy a revitalizing beverage, a light luncheon, or indulge in some tea-time treats. We tried a few of their cool specialty bevvies (above)... I particularly enjoyed the Strawberry Gardenade (right), but the Iced Coffee Smoothie (centre) put any coffee chain's iced-capp to shame, and the Green Tea & Kiwi Smoothie (left) tasted as refreshing as it looks. 
Colleen informed me that the large selection of teas that they serve in the Brew Garden - which can be enjoyed either hot or cold - are supplied by none other than Canada's Tea Sommelier herself, Karen Hartwick of Stratford Tea Leaves. Like she has done for so many other Stratford area restaurants, Karen has developed a tea just for them, known as the Brew Garden Breakfast Blend. 
What impressed me most when talking to Colleen and Charles was their 'start from scratch' approach to absolutely everything they serve. From the house-baked cinnamon buns (above), to the sandwiches made with homemade bread, to the warm and luscious bread pudding (created using a recipe originally created by Colleen's 'Great-Great-Great-Great Grandmother'), and all the way to the soups, quiches and lasagne served at lunch, everything - and I mean everything - at the Brew Garden was made in their kitchen. 
I took note of several more admirable qualities of the Brew Garden as I enjoyed an astonishingly lovely Brownie Sunday with Raspberry Fruit Ice (above). The menu is entirely vegetarian, and Colleen is committed to changing people's attitudes about meat-free dining, "We want to show people that vegetarian food can be really good and not bland at all!" The owners of the Brew Garden are also committed to minimizing their carbon footprint, providing compostable take-out containers and utensils. All of their suppliers are sustainability-approved, from their fair trade coffees to their organic produce. 

When an establishment is as committed to quality and culinary excellence as the folks at the Brew Garden Café are, the word gets out. You can visit their garden, located on highway 7/8 right in Shakespeare, from 11am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday, and 11am to 5pm Thursday to Sunday (and on Holiday Mondays). 
A big thanks goes out to Nathan McKay for sharing this foodie find with me... and for connecting me with David Charlesworth, whose food photos are downright mouth-watering (don't look at them too long or you might get drool on your computer!). If you want to check out David's stunning work as a photographer of the local farming and agricultural community, check out his Agri-Moments site. David also features his marvellous wedding photography on his professional site, and keeps up a blog of his own featuring even more of his diverse photo creations.

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