Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Savour Stratford Gets 86'd!

Last week I returned to my old stomping grounds along Queen St. W. in Toronto to attend a fun premier of the 2011 Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival (it's coming up on September 24th and 25th!) at The Drake Hotel

Every Monday night Toronto food writer Ivy "Don't-Call-Me-Blogger" Knight hosts a hip event at The Drake known as 86'd Mondays where food lovers and industry folks are invited to enjoy her flavour-of-the-week, often while drinking profusely. [Did you know... to be "86'd" means to be involuntarily thrown-out and banned from a bar?]
Back in the day, Lisa and I used to live right across the street from The Drake. Circa 2000 it definitely wasn't a place where you could get killer sushi on a Monday night while hobnobbing with Toronto food insiders. Before it was completely renovated The Drake's street level bar used to be called "The Stardust Lounge". There was a 250 pound bench-press bar near the back with a sign over it that read "If you can bench this weight you get a free beer". There were also some pretty wild freak-out karaoke nights (I dug up a few Polaroids from Lisa's birthday in 2001 [above] - don't worry that's not our real hair).

The Drake's come a LONG way since back then [who hasn't?]. I was stoked to return to this old haunt to celebrate Ontario's primo food festival!
Shawn Hartwell of Simple Fish and Chips has been one of Stratford's 2011 summertime food heroes (above, he's also been killing it regularly in Toronto with his all-sustainable fish and seafood creations at events like the Food Truck Eats at the Distillery District and the Conscious Food Festival at Old Fort York). Shawn brought along his own serving bar and set up shop at The Drake's front window looking out over Queen W.

He served up a series of mouthwatering morsels: oysters poached in a Perth-County-pork-broth served on the half-shell; braised duck over a nest of phyllo pastry (above); and zucchini rolls with goat's cheese (also above, a la Prince Albert with the tip-ring of beet-pickled turnip).

Ivy introduced Savour Stratford's founder and champion Danielle Brodhaden, who told the crowd about what they could expect at this year's Festival. Then they got a taste of things to come, accompanied by beer from Stratford Brewing Company (served by 86'd's favourite farmer, our very own Mark Lass) and wine from Chateau des Charmes.

There is loads to look forward to at this year's Savour Stratford Festival. I'm going to be where I like to be - right in the thick of it all! I'm co-hosting the kick-off Pass It On style open-air cooking class with Paul Finkelstein on the morning of Saturday, September 24. Then we're both immediately high-tailing it over to the downtown Market Square's outdoor Culinary Theatre where we'll be co-hosting the first ever Chef Challenge Smackdown, which will be judged by Chuck Hughes of Food Network Canada's Chuck's Day Off along with the editor of Best Health Magazine. I've been growing beautiful greens for the Return of the Living Salad Bar, which will be available for public grazing throughout the festival at the Monforte Dairy Kids Tent.

The legend is true: I made the decision to move to Stratford after I heard how amazing Savour Stratford was in 2009. 2010 did not disappoint - but 2011 promises to be the best yet! Some of the ticketed events I plan to hit will be selling out soon, so visit the all-new website to book your spot, especially for "Chuck's Night Out" at the Stonemaiden Inn on Friday September 23rd and Breakfast with Connie on Sunday morning at the Stratford Country Club (that's Connie de Sousa of Charcut in Calgary, finalist from Top Chef Canada).

When I asked Ivy Knight if she was coming to this year's Savour Stratford festival, she assured me: 

"I'm going to tear Stratford a new one."

That's the spirit.


  1. Sorry folks I found out tonight Chuck's Night Out is officially sold out. Don't miss other great ticketed events (especially the Tasting Tent or Breakfast with Connie!)!