Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm game for grillin'!

Finally, it looks like summer barbeque season has arrived!

Last Saturday I really got into the grillin' spirit when I attended a cooking demonstration at Turnbull & Stewart (Erie Street's kitchen equipment oasis). Here in Perth County we are blessed with a diverse selection of local proteins, including pasture raised heritage pork, beef and lamb, as well as more exotic meats like elk, wild boar, waterbuffalo, pheasant and duck. I've found that as a rule the more unique a product is the more challenging it is to cook properly, so I was glad to receive a delicious crash course in cooking high quality meat on the BBQ from a chef who really knows his way around a grill!

Ian McArthur is chef/owner of Food At Your Fingertips here in Stratford. He is an experienced caterer who also sells a really great line of his own creative soups at the Stratford Farmers Market every Saturday. He's also a huge fan of Perth County producers, "I think most people don't know how lucky we are here. We're just a stone's throw away from all these great products." As he seasoned and seared off some of the cuts he was about to grill for us, he explained his preference for wild and heritage breeds:

Ian shared with us some of the tricks pros use when cooking with these precious products. Carry-over cooking is when you take what you're cooking off two donenesses lower than what you're after, and then take it off the heat and let it rest while it continues to cook and absorb all of its juices. He also showed us all a great method for cooking a leg of lamb on a cedar plank.

I have to say I've never seen anyone more enthusiastic about local lamb than Ian. He told us all about how he was matched up with Erbcroft Farm to create a lamb dish for a recent fundraising event, and he found the meat to be so sweet it was a revelation: "It changed my life. It was by far the best lamb I've ever dealt with." I have to say I'm a big fan of folks like Chef Ian, who view sublime food experiences as ecstatic, life changing epiphanies.
After we all enjoyed some of the sweet/smoky cedar-planked lamb with a glass of Ontario red wine from Pelee Island Winery, Ian moved on to serve us a grilled tenderloin of heritage Tamworth pork from Perth Pork Products that was incredibly moist - a firsthand demonstration of the value of resting meat.

As a condiment for the pork was a Bobotie chutney Ian made, which was through-the-roof tasty. Based on the national dish of South Africa, it had all sorts of fruit like raisins and apricots and a really complex-yet-harmonious mix of East Asian/Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spices and flavours. Erbcroft lamb changed Chef Ian's life... well I think my first taste of Bobotie changed my life. I made sure to sign up for the follow up Turnbull & Stewart newsletter where we'll get all of the recipes for the food we'd tried that day.

The final dish was a particular favourite of mine (I'm a fan of game meat). The duck breasts Ian sourced for the workshop were phenomenal (they had to be about three inches thick!), and he cooked them to perfection. 

One of the best elements of the dish was the "Honey Hot" barbeque sauce produced by another Stratford BBQ legend, Victor of Vittorio's Sauce.  This sauce was developed specifically for poultry, and has a Chinese Barbeque recipe that is just the right amount of both heat and sweet. I am really looking forward to the Stratford Blues and Rib Fest taking place on June 24-26, which multi-BBQ-award-winning Victor is helping to organize. In Stratford you can of course find Vittorio's Sauces at... Turnbull & Stewart!

I came away from the informative and flavour-filled afternoon with a better idea of how to bring the best out of the amazing local farm meat products here in Perth County. I know Chef Ian knows where to find Erbcroft Farm lamb and Perth Pork Products every Sunday - we've seen him at the Slow Food Sunday Market all winter at Anything  Grows. I'm sure we'll see him this Sunday, when the market moves outside to Market Square behind City Hall for the very first time! 

Just in time for BBQ season!


  1. Steve, I read your blog at 8 a.m. and it made me want to turn my bbq on and have a steak. Thanks for that!

    Great post, as usual...I'm curious: have you tried the water buffalo? I wanna get me some of that!

  2. Well the weekend is here now Twyla, so fire up the hibachi! I did try waterbuffalo on a previous blog adventure and it was lighter in flavour and texture than I thought it would be. I'm definitely going to visit the farm on a future blog mission!