Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Travelling at the Speed of Dinner

I was thrilled when I was asked last week to lead a group of award-winning Canadian food and travel writers through a "Travelling Dinner" - a moveable feast with delicious and diverse stops at four of our city's best dining establishments. My fellow travellers had taken-in some fantastic culinary experiences over the past couple of days on their media tour - including what was by all accounts a remarkable barn lunch at Soiled Reputation farm prepared by Chef Bryan Steele from the Old Prune Restaurant. I was asked to talk to these journalists over dinner about the fun food stuff I've been involved in since I moved to this inspiring town, like the Slow Food Sunday Market, the McCully's Community Garden [reminder: SPLAT Festival this Sunday!]; the school garden projects; and of course my little ol' Blog! I was a-drool in anticipation of the food we were going to be enjoying together, and I was really excited over the opportunity to share my Stratford stories, but most of all I was eager to see these successful food and culture writers in action and pick-up some tips from the best!
I was delighted to learn that the first leg of our restaurant relay was to be at my favourite place in town for sustainable fish and seafood, Simple Fish & Chips.
Chef Shawn Hartwell did Stratford proud, serving-up some beautiful local pickerel in both battered and grilled form alongside Soiled Reputation greens (above)... 
 ...and then treating us all to a gorgeous sample of his unique Green Curry pickerel (above). 

With this group of writers, for once I didn't have to worry about whether it was inappropriate to pull-out the pen, pad and camera in the middle of a meal - it's a reflex they all shared. A diner at another table observed our collective reporting and exclaimed, "You're all food critics? Are you serious?!?" One member of our group clarified, "We're food writers, not critics". I found insight in that statement: These folks loved the food, but just as important as the quality of the dish was the Stratford story that surrounded it - they were impressed by owners Shawn and Candace's Ocean Wise policy and commitment to using only Canadian-caught, sustainable fish and seafood product, and the soaring popularity they've enjoyed over their first year in this appreciative town.
Our travels next took us all the way across the road to Pan Tapas & Grill. I had to admit to the group, this was actually also my first time eating at Pan, although I had heard nothing but good things about their new, local-infused menu all summer.
Again, the chef and staff did Stratford proud, as we all enjoyed sharing some grilled summer vegetables,  gorgeous haloomi cheese, and a charcuterie tapas plate (photo above) that was so local everything - including the board the flavourful selection of meats and beets were served upon - came from nearby.

As we shared some sangria and stories, one of the writers expressed a personal approval of the move away from high-priced, stuffy, infinite-course chef tasting menus that were the benchmark for culinary quality in years past. She appreciated the freshness and quality of the dishes we'd been served so far that evening, as well as the honest simplicity of letting the fresh local product speak for itself.
We needed only travel next door for our third stop, which was at Foster's Inn for an after-dinner cocktail. Owner Craig Foster himself (above) mixed us each a wickedly delicious chocolate martini (featured on Stratford's new Chocolate Trail) and shared with the writers his experience as the proprietor of what has become one of the city's landmarks for food, drink and accommodation. 

Finally, it was over to Pazzo's upstairs fine dining room for dessert. It was one of the last nights of the Jazz Legends series that has been taking place at Pazzo's as part of the Stratford Summer Music Festival over the last month, and we were entertained by the brilliant bassist Dave Young accompanied by the talented Robi Botos on piano. As we listened to the duo jamming on some standards and original compositions, we enjoyed some beautiful desserts, which included a lemon tarte with blueberries that was to die for, and  still-warm donuts with honey and cream that were, in the words of one eloquent media personality, "Orgasmic".

Which prompted another writer to hilariously declare: "Someone get this woman a cigarette!"

What a great evening I had with these insightful, witty, and personable lovers of food and culture. Stratford definitely shined in the eyes of these appreciative journalists, and I look forward to reading all of their reflections on the time they spent checking-out our diverse and exciting culinary scene.

No comments:

Post a Comment