Day One of the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival was going to be a hard day to beat. But Sunday I was helping-out with a sprouting workshop at the Kids Tent, helping-out at the Three Sisters Soup school nutrition charity BBQ fundraiser, then helping-myself to a whole tent full of incredible culinary creations by over thirty of the best chefs in the Stratford area!
Like me, Don Wyness is a newcomer to Stratford. Another thing we share is an appreciation for growing food, and a desire to spread that appreciation among the younger generations. Kids just seem to love healthy food when they cultivate it themselves! Don's 'Happy Sprouting' workshop at the Monforte Dairy Kids Tent showed kids, parents - and anyone else who was interested - how to make healthy and delicious sprouts in their own home all year 'round!
All of the kids went home with the knowledge and equipment they needed to start growing their own sprouts. Don's enthusiasm for sprouts is infectious... soon we all appreciated his motto: "It's not the food in your life, it's the life in your food!"
After tending the Three Sisters Soup fundraising station for a couple of hours, I was finally ready to enjoy what can only be described as Stratford Food Blogger Nirvana: The Savour Stratford York Street Sunday Tasting Tent. Over 30 chefs paired with one of over 30 local food producers or artisans, and all sorts of VQA wine and Ontario craft brewed beers. I got one of those awesome plates that lets you dangle your wineglass from it while you pile it up with goodies, and I unleashed myself upon the feast!
Chef Shawn Hartwell from Simple Fish and Chips paired up with Purdy's Fish Market on nearby Lake Huron to create a hickory smoked whitefish pita with wasabi mayo. It tasted as good as their presentation looked!
Speaking of smoked fish, Dave Koert (above, on the right) gave what I heard was a fantastic lesson on how to smoke fish, meat and veggies in the Stratford Chefs School Learning Centre earlier that day. Dave is also the hardworking talent behind Koert Organics vegetable farm, and was paired with The Church Restaurant, who used his product to create the delectably fresh and fun Sorrel Ice Cream Sandwiches he's holding.
It being my first ever Savour Stratford tasting, there were some surprises for me. I did not expect Chef Neil Baxter of Rundles - one of the best chefs in town - to come to the tasting offering nothing more than bread and butter. Then I tried the chef's bread and house-churned butter... so simple, but absolutely through the stratosphere in flavour and execution. People were eating the butter like cheese.
I also liked Brian Holden of Humble Roots Bakery's pheasant atop (gluten free) cornbread croutons with Sheldon Berries raspberry salsa. Really creative, it tasted as great as it looked.
Farmer and personal brother-in-food Mark Lass of Lassdale Farms was paired with the chef from Foster's Inn to create the mini pork burgers with smoked local cheese he was serving. Yum.
Blanbrook Bison Farmer and Chef Patrick Morden of Molly Bloom's Irish Pub collaborated on a stellar stout-braised Bison that was incredibly moist and one of the tasting stand-outs for me.
Another stand-out for me was the dish prepared by Alexandra Santos of Alexa's Cafe in Sebringville (did I discover her a few weeks back?!?). Alexa demonstrated some above-and-beyond knife skills with her DeWetering Hill Farms pork done in Portuguese Porco Assado style with C'est Bon Goats Cheese rolled-up on top of a clever tortilla curl. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Alexa - you're a fine addition to the Perth County culinary community!
My vote for dessert of the day definitely went to Keystone Alley's Chef Sheldon Russell's Maple Gateau made with Hoover's Maple Syrup. Nice touch with the syrup-writing too!
I would be remiss if I didn't also include a shot of the Rheo Thompson Candies orange-haired ladies, who were serving up incredible pumpkin fudge (and having a lot of fun while they were at it).
The tasting was definitely a highlight of my career as a knife and fork artist. A veritable Foodapalooza. Burning Man for Ontario foodies (maybe Medium-Rare Man?). Well-Done to everyone involved - I've never seen anything quite like it, and it couldn't have happened without a lot of hard work, community spirit, and volunteering.
To thank everyone who contributed to making the 2010 Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival such as massive success, a volunteer appreciation afterparty was held at Molly Bloom's. We were all happy to decompress after our amazing weekend, and later in the night things got nicely wild with the Tiger Lily Cabaret, which was appropriately food-themed to punctuate this incredible weekend celebrating Stratford and Perth County's unparalleled culinary bounty.