Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Savour Stratford: The Pool Party!

Mid-summer last year, I blogged about the most delicious meeting I had ever been to, which was the 2010 Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival all-committees get-together at the farm of Mark Lass, located in the countryside outside of Stratford at Punkeydoodles Corners (although the pin-point location of that meeting might not be totally relevant I always get a kick out that crazy place-name: "Punkeydoodles Corners").

The 2011 Savour Stratford Festival (check out the hip new website!) is only a month and a half away - this year it is taking place on Saturday September 24 and Sunday September 25. Last year, the SSPC Culinary Festival won the Ontario Culinary Tourism Association award for 2009 Culinary Experience of the year. This year, the best food festival in Ontario just gets better, with all sorts of new features, venues, programs, and celebrity chefs. And to keep everyone up-to-date on all the plans, Savour Stratford now has it's own blog (three guesses who's on the Communications Committee).

Last year's meeting was the best there ever was. This year's all-committees meeting was just as good as last year's food-wise - and there was a swimming pool!

Brendon Lyoness (aka the grower behind Caveman Crops) brought along a salad featuring his homegrown beets, lettuce and basil along with some local goat's cheese from C'est Bon. Brendon heads up the Farmers Market committee - over the entire two days of the Savour Stratford Festival a vibrant market takes place featuring the local harvest produced by the area's best farmers and artisans. This year for the first time the exemplary vendors from the Slow Food Sunday Market (including Caveman himself) will have their own space at the festival at Erie and York Streets!

The SSPC Culinary Festival's Assistant Director Amanda Cortes was at the party with her dad Rich, who brought along a chorizo and bean bake that was spicy in flavour, smooth in texture, and topped with some cool fresh cheese. 

Latin flavours with local ingredients was definitely the theme of the pool party, and also included the salsa fresca from Your Local Market Co-op. Tasting Tent organizer Drea Kerr told me the market-fresh salsa will be part of the dish YLMC will be serving at the pinnacle event of the Festival, the Sunday Tasting Tent, where they have been appropriately paired with the Stratford Urban Farming Experiment (along with Drea, another one the folks who started the YLMC is Heather Walker, founder/coordinator of the Stratford Urban Farming Experiment). 

You might recognize the Entertainment Committee's Nathan McKay from Justin Bieber's movie Never Say Never, where he was interviewed about the early musical career of his one-time neighbour (looks like he met a new corn-eating prodigy in young Henry, above). Nathan heads up the Entertainment Committee and has booked a stellar musical line up this year, including Emm Gryner, Dayna Manning, and Stratford Star's Jake Stern.

The entree for the evening was an incredible Beef Tongue Taco prepared by Savour Stratford founder/director Danielle Brodhagen's talented partner, actor Paul Amos. I've had this dish a couple of times and I absolutely love the kick of the Mexican spicing and the toothsome texture of the chewilicious beef tongue (mmmm, tongue - the taste that tastes you back!). Paul will once again be one of the volunteers cooking and serving at the Edible Embers Charity BBQ (he raises money for the Actors Fund), where for the first time students from the Stratford Chefs School have been loaned as consultants on each charity's menu. 

Danielle proclaimed that the entire party had been fed by an offal cut of beef that cost them all of $2.50 from the aforementioned Lassdale farm. It's fitting that one of the presenters at the Stratford Chefs School Learning Centre is renowned cookbook author Jennifer McLagan (of Fat and Bones fame), whose new book Odd Bits - How to Cook the Rest of the Animal focuses on cooking with parts (I'm sure there are some more creative ideas for cooking with tongue in there!).

I visited Ruth Klahsen from Monforte Dairy earlier that afternoon and picked up some ice cream that was made with the same sheep's milk she makes her cheese with. Ruth will be teaching kids how to make their own ice cream every hour on the hour throughout the festival at the Monforte Dairy Kids Tent. I've started growing all sorts of crazy greens for this year's Return of the Living Salad Bar for the Kids Tent - it's going to be twice as big for 2011 and will also run throughout the whole two days (or as long as there are still greens for kids to pick and eat)!

Captain Caaaaave-maaaaan!
That's really just the beginning of the amazing programming that's going to be on the table at this year's festival. Celebrity chefs Connie DeSousa (Top Chef Canada finalist) and Chuck Hughes (of the Food Network Canada's Chuck's Day Off) will both be at the event (tickets for Chuck's Friday Night Pre-Party are going fast) and there will be a Best Chef challenge in the all new Culinary Theatre in the brand new Market Square downtown festival venue. 

For more of a preview of this year's version of the best food festival in Ontario come to City Hall this Monday August 15 at 4 pm where the funky new poster designed by accomplished Stratford illustrator Jack Dylan will be unveiled.


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