Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Slow Food Sunday Market: The People's Choice

You might not expect the dead of Ontario winter to be a boon season for Slow Food Perth County, but this past weekend we were all over the place connecting our community with 'Good, Clean and Fair' food! In the process, we were spreading the word that the winter edition of the Slow Food Sunday Market was moving from its cozy home in the historic cellar at Anything Grows to a new venue - the soon-to-be-site of the Stratford Brewing Company!

To kick things off on Friday night the Slow Food Sunday Market sponsored the culinary showpiece at the high-profile Mayor's Gala - an oyster bar featuring  sustainable seafood from one of our most treasured market vendors, Shawn Hartwell of Simple Fish Company (above, thanks to Stratford photographer Irene Miller for the great photo from the event).  As many of you know from reading Shawn's recent heartfelt blog post, Simple's restaurant/fish market has had to close its doors due to [can I just say tragic] business woes. But you can't keep a good man down, and Shawn will continue to provide our community with Oceanwise approved fish and seafood this winter via his iconic stand at the Slow Food Sunday Market. 

Saturday saw Shawn and others from the Slow Food family (that's Mark Lass on right) serving up a truly gorgeous 'Cream of OMG Mushroom Soup' at the legendary tradition known as Soup's On. This fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Society is one of my all-time favourite annual events on the Stratford culinary calendar. Immediately, the Slow Food Market station was swarmed by a soup-loving mob, who unbelievably plowed through 35 litres of soup in less than an hour! 

As the saying goes... this wasn't my first rodeo, folks. I strategically brought along a muffin tin that could accommodate twelve of the most delicious and creative soups on offer at this massive food event! Honestly, is there anything better than attending a soup-making contest in the middle of winter?

Yes -  WINNING a soup contest in the middle of winter! That's right, even though we were out of soup for two thirds of the event, Shawn's incredibly decadent creation (featuring locally-grown Shiitake 'shrooms from Weth Mushroom farm in Goderich) took home the coveted "People's Choice" award!

After a bit of a [linguistically apt but spiritually painful] "slow" indoor start following our triumphant outdoor  season in downtown's Market Square, the Slow Food Market Committee made it our mission to get the word out about the winter market, especially its new 2012 location. We spent Friday and Saturday telling everyone within earshot at the Mayor's Gala and Soup's On about our move to the former home of Kalbfleish Motors at the corner of Erie & St. Patrick. But we also employed some mass media tactics, including a radio spot for CJCS/107.7 FM recorded by yours truly! [Is it just me or is the used-car-ad-esque background music kinda perfect for a market being held at a former Chrysler lot?] 


When Sunday finally arrived the glass showroom provided a spectacularly bright and highly visible venue for the market.

All our hard work ultimately paid off in the best way possible, with a steady stream of traffic consisting of our faithful market patrons alongside many who were attending the winter market for the very first time. The vibe was ecstatic as folks shopped for beautiful food, chatted over coffee, and enjoyed some music courtesy of our market's resident crooner Antony aka "The Singing Farmer" aka "The Manic Organic" John. 

Want to be involved in Slow Food Perth County? Start by coming out to our market and experiencing the "Good, Clean and Fair" vibe for yourself. If you want to get even more involved, please attend our Annual General Meeting at the Screaming Avocado Cafe (the alternative cafeteria located around back of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School on Forman Avenue) at 6 pm on Sunday, January 29. It's open to everyone - members and non-members alike - but make sure you bring along a dish for the potluck... and get your ingredients from the market!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You Gotta Eat... At Boomers!

My longstanding lust for poutine (originating from my university years in Quebec) is no secret...

From the marvelous duck poutine I enjoyed last summer, to the accolades I showered upon Chef Chuck Hughes for his Iron Chef-winning lobster poutine at Savour Stratford, the poutine references have been a regular staple here at The Local-Come-Lately. The Canada Day Poutine Pageant (one of my early posts) showcased Stratford's true national pride with a downtown performance by Steven Page and a pair of poutines from nearby Boomers Gourmet Fries.

Well, Stratford's mecca for Canada's signature gnosh is getting nationwide attention this week, as it's featured on the very first episode of Food Network Canada's brand new show You Gotta Eat Here!

The premiere airs this Friday (January 6th, 2012) at 9 pm. Hosted by John Catucci, I reckon this new show will be Canada's version of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (which is great because that's one of my longtime Food Network favourites!).

Boomers Gourmet Fries owner Sue Pasquale (above) couldn't be more stoked about being Canada's poutine poster child! I've been working virtually next door to Boomers for a while and so in honour of her impending slingshot to fries-curd-and-gravy superstardom I grabbed dinner there tonight. When I showed up Sue was rocking out to Hello by Dragonette and sharing stories of the shoot last summer and folks coming in to get autographed menus this past week!

The reason You Gotta Eat... at Boomers! is because of its famous gourmet poutine menu, that includes creative interpretations like Goat's Cheese Poutine, Cosmopolitan Poutine, and Hickory Sticks Poutine. I told Sue I wanted to try whatever John Catucci liked, so first she hooked me up with a Poutini (hand-cut fries, curd and gravy topped with onion rings and a three-olive garnish, above). Perfect for celebrating the New Year!

Sue is a fellow Italian, and I have the feeling John Catucci is too, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Boomers Meatball Poutine (above) will be featured in Friday's episode. In fact, the site for You Gotta Eat Here includes recipes from all of the establishments that are visited, and the recipe for Boomers is for Sue's Meatball Poutine (it takes 2 hours to make those tasty meatballs in marinara sauce, so I think I'll just swing over to Boomers whenever I get the hankerin' but don't have time to DIY). 

Sue is planning for a fun evening on Friday... one of her friends has invited all of the customers who were interviewed for the show to come watch it with her! I'll be watching along with the rest of the country as You Gotta Eat Here celebrates Stratford's poutine treasure!