Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, March 25, 2012

From the tree to the table: Maple Syrup season at McCully's Hill Farm

This month we seemed to jump right from winter into summer, but one sure sign of spring is the arrival of the maple syrup season. Although the sap ran for a shorter time than usual this year, the fam and I experienced an authentic sugar bush adventure last weekend at McCully's Hill Farm near St. Marys. I got loads of great pics so for this post I'm going to tell the story as a photo blog. 

Sonny (foreground), Lisa (in yellow) and Fisher (green checkers) in front of McCully's Farm Market

The Lads decided to go on the tour first and have brunch after...
The McCully's Hill Farm Sugar Shack - at full steam!

FYI: 40 buckets of sap for one bucket of syrup!

Head syrup maker Dwight explains the evaporator
A team of massive horses arrive to tour us through the sugar bush
Clipping along beside the sap collectors
Traditional sap collection - taps dripping into buckets
The hollowed out log was the First Nations' method for evaporating sap into syrup
End of the bush tour - time to see the animals in the barn!
Fisher makes friends fast
Our adventure finished off with a beauty pancake brunch in the greenhouse with sausages, baked beans and of course lots of maple syrup!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Stratfordlicious St. Paddy's Day at The Parlour

Ah, St. Paddy's Day: that magical holiday when we all raise a glass to Ireland's verdant patron Saint. And then raise another. And another... 

This year, we heard about the Stratfordlicious restaurant series that was happening at establishments all over town, so we decided to kick off our night of green-tinged festivities at Stratford's own gastropub The Parlour, where they're offering a choice of three great courses for $39 throughout the month of March!  

There are loads of spots that have put together special menus for Stratfordlicious, but hands-down The Parlour offered best patio in town for dinner and drinks on a warm St. Paddy's Day evening. Lisa started off with mussels and garlic aioli and a classic Caesar (The Parlour has a whole menu dedicated to Canada's signature tomato-clam-voddy cocktail). 

Maybe it's the Slow Foodie in me, but I loves my snails. I got the escargot, and on the encouragement of the server ordered them smothered in cheese (good call!). 

The chef was definitely in the St. Paddy's spirit with Lisa's creative green-themed main: grilled salmon with jalapeno salsa over a leek-potato mash and Swiss chard.  

Spuds are a must on St. Paddy's, so I got a perfectly rare steak served on a pile of frites (that's French for French Fries).

There is one thing that a person can't not order at The Parlour, which is their famous (and multi-stories-high) pavlova for dessert. Lisa (now adorned with a shamrock sticker) offered to share with me...

 ... because I switched out the dessert for an Irish Coffee (Irish whiskey and coffee with whipped cream). I knew it was going to be a long night (we ended up stopping in at Molly Bloom's, The Pour House, Down the Street, and Backstage [not necessarily in that order]) so I figured I'd get some caffeine in me to keep me going. That along with a great meal was the perfect start to an evening of true Irish-style pubcrawling!

Stratfordlicious - which has been organized and promoted by local radio stations CJCS 1240/FM107.7 -  runs all month at no less than nineteen local restaurants! Make sure you fill out a ballot for the grand prize of a Stratford Overnight Escape Package that includes tickets to the Stratford Festival, dinner for two at a great local resto, and accommodation along with Chocolate Trail tickets and a $50 City Centre gift certificate.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raising Hope For Hampstead

On February 6, 2012, 10 migrant farm workers from Peru died when the packed van that was taking them from their recent shift at a local chicken farm crashed into a flatbed truck on a rural side road 23 kilometers outside of Stratford (near the community of Hampstead). The driver of the flatbed also died. One three-decade veteran of the OPP described it as the worst crash he had ever seen.

Regretfully, migrant farm workers in Canada do not enjoy the same benefits as many other workers, nor do they receive salaries that would allow them to save money for their families in case of tragic emergencies.     

In response to this horrific accident and the terrible situation facing the families of the migrant workers who died, Susan Dunfield of Down the Street Bar & Restaurant organized a fundraiser. Last Saturday night she gave our community the opportunity to show the families of these people that Stratford cares about what happened, and to help them out financially in the wake of their tragic loss.  

To help her organize the entertainment for this fundraiser, Susan partnered with Stewart Reynolds, talented producer and frontman of Brittlestar (above). They were able to put together a stellar line-up of talent, who performed to a packed house at the Masonic Lodge (which is a great venue for live music, it was actually my first time there). Along with Stewart's solo act, local star-in-the-making Emm Gryner performed, as well as rock trio Plum Loco and blues act Whoa Miss Mojo and DJ Myagi and DJ Wigs along with lots of others.

Members of the local farming community also pitched in to help raise funds. Chris and Mark Lass of Lassdale Farm donated some of their grass-fed beef for the BBQ Beef Sandwiches that were available (that's Mark above double-fisting a couple). 

Fred and Ingrid de Martines of Perth Pork Products donated their pasture raised heritage breed pork for Pulled Pork Sandwiches (above, that's DJ Wigs digging in to one before his set). In addition to great food, beer and wine there were all sorts of great items donated to raise funds via the live auction, which included a dinner for two at the Stratford Chefs School next season!

Appropriately, Perth County's favourite singing farmer Antony "The Manic Organic" John of Soiled Reputation Farm also contributed to the musical entertainment, and was a huge hit (that's him crooning above, he was officially the first act to get the crowd on their feet and dancing!). 

I say "appropriately" because I know Antony well as a friend of the blog and a vendor at the Slow Food Sunday Market. Antony and his wife Tina take a great deal of care to ensure fairness for their farm workers, both in terms of the conditions under which they labour and the pay they receive for their hard work. I have heard Antony mention that rather than investing in steel and machinery, they invest in people, and I can think of literally dozens of community members who have spent their summers working at Soiled Reputation. I hope that this tragedy serves to bring attention to the employment arrangements migrant workers like the ten Peruvian men who died are often subjected to, so others like them might enjoy the same kind of fairness and safety as the workers on Antony and Tina's farm.