Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Friday, May 13, 2011

Delicious Debut Stroll: The Food Community Supporting Community Food

On Sunday, May 1, 2011, I was a guide for a very special culinary tour. The Delicious Stratford Debut Stroll is an annual event (check out my post from last year) that kicks-off the restaurant season in Stratford while also raising funds for a great cause: the Community Hot Meal program provided every other Monday evening throughout the school year at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School's Screaming Avocado Cafe. Lucky participants got to preview the special prix fixe Delicious Stratford menus that will be on offer at many of our city's best restaurants all spring (3 course set menus start at $25 for lunch and $30 for dinner - what a deal!) while sampling some local beverages. I was honoured to be chosen as one of the "Culinary Connoisseurs" to guide a group of food lovers on this adventure, and I was particularly grateful for the opportunity to participate since the proceeds were going to the community meal where I happen to volunteer every other Monday!

The thing I like best about going on these tours is connecting with new people and watching as new friendships are made. My group (above) consisted of some Stratford locals, a few out-of-towners, and three babies (they brought their moms too)! 

We started our tour at Foster's Inn, where we were all offered a melt-in-your-mouth Pulled Pork on a Crostini accompanied by a half-pint of delicious Mill Street Stout (above). Folks on the tour could even take a look at the Inn's rooms upstairs while they enjoyed their snack and beer. As their all-knowing guide, I recommended Foster's as the place in Stratford to enjoy a good steak, and told them about the wildly successful Dinner Concert series that's winding-up next week with a show by local Dayna Manning and Emm Gryner on May 19th. 

Next we were off to The Sun Room, where we were all treated to a unique dish called Saltimbocca alongside a glass of the beautiful VQA wine this restaurant is known for serving (above). My group all tucked into their pork roulades (stuffed with a lovely savoury filling and simmered in chicken stock) while I rambled on about the great party we'd thrown at the Sun Room a few weeks previous for my wife Lisa's birthday!

We set off to our next stop right across the street at The Parlour where we were all treated to their signature Pavlova accompanied by a uniquely sweet "First Frost" wine from Huff Estates in Prince Edward County - not quite an "ice wine" but definitely great with dessert!

Then we traveled up Wellington Street to my favourite restaurant in Stratford: Bijou. We sipped on a Cave Springs Reisling from Niagara while eating a spectacular spring trio of Cauliflower and Butter Chicken Soup, Scallion Wrapped in Crispy Prosciutto, and Jicama Cured Rainbow Trout (above). The folks on the tour marveled at the delicacy of the presentation and the gorgeous infusion of flavours while I told them all about Chef Aaron Linley's triumphant victory I'd witnessed the week before at the Iron Chef night at Nick and Nat's Uptown 21!

We all cut back across town to try the incredible Citrus Cured Salmon Rolls that have become quite a trademark for Simple. Fish and Chips since their sustainable seafood dinner series last month. Then we were all finally wowed by a really tasty Puff Pastry With Wild Mushrooms and Melted Brie at Rene's Bistro.

The restaurants of Stratford really rallied in support of the Community Hot Meal initiative that day. Stratford has become known as a community that comes together around the cause of fighting hunger, whether that be through people's generous donations to food drives for our food banks, their volunteering at the many community meals offered throughout the winter, or when they participate in these kinds of great fundraising events...

I think it is because of our city's willingness to challenge food insecurity together that we were selected by The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto to be one of the first pilot sites for a project that will eventually see Community Food Centres set up all across Ontario and Canada. The Stop has partnered with The United Way of Perth-Huron to create a place in Stratford where community gardens will be situated alongside a community kitchen for teaching cooking skills and serving drop-in meals. A Food Distribution Centre is also planned for the project, which will take-in large donations of food and redistribute the product to local food banks, community meals, and school nutrition programs. 

The Local Community Food Centre is scheduled to open its doors in January, 2012, as "A Place For Food" in Stratford, where folks will be invited to access, grow, prepare, share and advocate for good food together. I could not be happier about this exciting new initiative, particularly since I've been hired recently as the Project Coordinator! 

The Delicious Stratford Stroll confirmed what I already knew: Stratford is a place where good food is recognized as a right everyone shares. I look forward to working with the culinary community and the rest of our citizens to defend that right as The Local Community Food Centre comes to life. To stay updated, give @TheLocalCFC a follow on Twitter!

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