Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Friday, October 5, 2012

Savour Stratford Festival 2012: A Return to Our Roots

The Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival turned five this year... it was my third year participating in the festivities and it just keeps getting better and better. The can't-miss food weekend in Ontario continues to evolve and progress, but this year the theme did not celebrate our community's seemingly boundless future: rather, it was focused on the past upon which our incredible culinary scene was built. 

I was really busy at the festival this year, but not because of my usual goal of blogging about every single thing that happens. Me and the team from The Local Community Food Centre were working hard to make a real splash at our first SSPC festival... I'll link to the blog we're putting together to chronicle our festival adventures when we post it on our site next week.

But no matter how busy I was, of course The Local-Come-Lately found some time to enjoy the festival programs and eat some amazing food. I went straight for the good stuff... 

First thing Saturday morning I made sure to go see the Bacon and Eggs tasting demonstration. While these two ingredients might be historically significant as the foundation for any good Canadian breakfast, Chef Mike from Rundles was able to turn some local bacon and farm fresh eggs raised by co-presenter Janet Cox into a dish I'll bet nobody's ever seen before in Perth County: Japanese-inspired egg sushi with tempura bacon!

Saturday evening I was fortunate to attend a new event that was truly extraordinary: a cocktail gala hosted by none other than local food fans Cynthia Dale and Peter Mansbridge! In keeping with the festival theme, the event was an opportunity to "Celebrate of our Culinary Roots" by showcasing the talent of some of our longest-serving chefs, including The Prune's Chef Bryan Steele who also says a few words:

The background infographic Cynthia Dale talks about in the clip is a really cool Stratford Culinary Tree depicting all the great chefs who have worked in Stratford and their various career paths, most of which overlap with or originate at the Stratford Chefs School.

The food at the gala reflected the unparalleled quality of Stratford's flagship restaurants.

Chef Chris Woolf of Woolfy's at Wildwood presented a classic Duck Pate (check out the hi-tech tablets that were rolling little slide shows beside every dish all evening!).

The elegance, colour, and harmony of Chef Bryan Steele's T'J's Trout with Watermelon Radish and Olive Oil Emulsion just confirmed his status as the true living foundation of Stratford's fine dining scene.

The next day was the highlight of every year's festival: the Sunday Tasting Tent. Walking around the three tents really gave me an appreciation of all the great friends I've made over the last few years in this community.

Suzie from Pickle's, Eh! was paired with Ryan from Loco Fields. I loved their pickled green tomatoes (the judges loved their preserves too, awarding them "Most Creative").

Karen Hartwick from Tea Leaves won again for Best Bevvy with a tea that she personally rolled by hand on one of her adventures at a faraway tea farm.

My pork farmin' buddy Mark Lass was paired up with Foster's Inn... Craig Foster (in the background) personally made the BBQ sauce for the piggie eclairs they were serving!

Brendon from Caveman Crops (with his now-trademark hat) got paired up this year with Rob (on right) and the crew from Molly Blooms. The result was something pretty fiendish... So, those things they are holding are hollowed-out hot peppers that became the shooter cups for a super-spicy bloody Caesar with pickled beans. One word: HOT!!!! But I'd give them the prize for having the most fun.

Chef Aaron from Bijou (who was teamed up with Ryan from Weth Mushrooms) created a fun fungi Tamale.

But the award for People's Choice at this year's Tasting Tent was none other than....

That's right, Chef Bryan Steele and his team at The Prune along with their producer Northern Woods Mushrooms won for their Smoked Mushroom Tart with house made herbed ricotta, delicata squash and red pepper relish. I got an action pic:

This year's festival let us appreciate where our culinary scene came from and celebrate the folks who have made it all happen. Deep roots grow big trees, and  Savour Stratford is where we get to see our food community in full blossom.