This weekend, I had the incredible privilege, thanks to Suresh from Spotlight Toronto, to be part of a group of food bloggers invited to participate in a culinary tour of Stratford, Ontario in Perth County. Stratford may be best known, as is it’s UK counterpart, for it’s rich theatre culture, with a heavy focus on William Shakespeare’s works. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival has been running in the town since 1953, and I was happy to look through this season’s brochure and see an old university schoolmate of mine, Dion Johnstone, has returned to the company. But we weren’t here for the theatre. We came to explore Perth County’s rich and varied food offerings, with visits to a number of the region’s food producers.
We started the day bright and early with a tour of the Monforte Dairy, which will begin production at their brand new facility on June 1. Monforte has an interesting story. Monforte had already been producing cheeses in another facility and selling them at farmers’ markets throughout the region. Owner and founder Ruth Klahsen made the choice to generate funding for the building of the dairy through CSA subscriptions purchased by her loyal customers.
For breakfast we were treated to coffee from Stratford institution Balzac’s, along with Tango Cafe‘s house made granola topped with Monforte’s sheep’s milk yoghurt. Each of the elements taken separately certainly weren’t to my taste, but together the subtle tang and almost sinfully rich creaminess of the 4% MF yoghurt lifted the roasted flavour of the nuts in the granola and balanced out the sweetness of the dried cranberries.
The rest of the day’s itenerary had us visiting Antony John, produce farmer at Soiled Reputation (and Food Network Canada’s Manic Organic); Fred de Martine, pig and boar farmer at Perth Pork Products; a barn lunch at Soiled Reputation, created by Chef Neil Baxter and team from Rundles; a tea workshop with tea sommelier Karen Hartwick of Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar; trying our hand at candy making with Derek Barr of Chocolate Barr’s Candies; and wrapping up with quick visits to see Susie Wagler at Shakespeare Pies, Linda and Gerry Knechtel at The Best Little Porke Shoppe, and a tour of the vendors’ offerings at the Perth County Welcome Centre.
What all that means is that I’ve got a heck of a lot more writing to do and photos to process! For now, I’ll just say thank you so much to Danielle Brodhagen and Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance for putting together an incredible day, Suresh for inviting me, and Mother Nature for providing an absolutely perfect sunny day to enjoy my first trip to Stratford. I can’t wait to go back.