There are a lot of great Bed and Breakfasts in Stratford (in fact, the website for the Stratford & Area Bed and Breakfast Association lists no less than 72 B&Bs in our community!). But this weekend I discovered the bed and breakfast for food lovers staying in Stratford.
The first time I visited The Stone Maiden Inn was for the Savour Stratford festival's celebrity chef kick-off: Chuck's Night Out with Chuck Hughes! I was totally impressed by the food that night, as Stone Maiden Inn's own Chef Mark Brown led a kitchen full of Stratford Chefs School students and high school culinary arts students to create a series of unforgettable canapes: I vividly recall the vanilla poached lobster and the elk carpaccio.
I've always given loads of credit to the Stratford Chefs School for attracting and training some of our city's brightest culinary lights, and Chef Brown is a great example of the kind of outstanding talent that the Chef school cultivates. Besides being the star of the show at the only Bed and Breakfast in town with a true chef in the kitchen (at least as far as I know) Mark is also an instructor at the Stratford Chefs School.
Kim, the owner of The Stone Maiden Inn, is probably Chef Brown's biggest fan. In just two seasons since she took ownership she has seen her B&B skyrocket up the Stratford Bed and Breakfast rankings on Trip Advisor to a permanent spot in the top 12!
On Saturday Chef Mark turned the gorgeously warm and welcoming kitchen at the Stone Maiden Inn (I'm a sucker for a raised fireplace) into a cooking classroom, teaching two sessions for home cooks like me to learn how to make true winter comfort food!
The first "Winter Warm Up" dish he taught us to make was a creamy golden Butternut Squash Soup with apples and candied ginger. Mark is a Chef who really recognizes the value in using local food - as we began our class a farmer showed up at the kitchen door with some organic squash and maple syrup for our dishes! The bright yellow butternut squash reminded me of the Savour Stratford award Chef Brown received when he paired with grower Dave Koert for the festival's "Most Creative" dish: Butternut Squash Ice Cream on a Shortbread!
Chef Brown mentored me through the creation of a winter stew with beef tenderloin, shrimp, and dumplings in a spectacular sauce made with lobster broth and veal stock: if that won't warm someone up on a winter day I don't know what will!
And for dessert, what else? Homemade hot chocolate warmed our bodies and souls along with a couple of chewy snickerdoodle cookies with Chinese 5 Spice!
The best part was, when the cooking classes were done Kim invited Lisa and me to spend the night at the Inn! We spent a cozy winter evening in the comfort of one of Stone Maiden's authentic Victorian rooms.
We actually stayed in the Princess Diana room, which was humorously fitting since Lisa and her good friend Matty used to pretend to be Charles & Di for their own little Royal Wedding when they were 5 years old! [I guess that makes me Dodi?!?]
We woke to the smell of wonderful breakfast wafting from the Stone Maiden Kitchen. When we sat down in the beautiful bright dining room we were presented with two of Chef Mark's splendid fruit peel scones with a spoonful of house-made apple butter.
I think we might have actually had the best breakfast in Stratford that morning. Chef Brown spoiled us rotten with an Eggs Benedict featuring local smoked ham. I would have expected nothing less from Stratford's top B&B for food!