Unlike some of my fellow, luckier bloggers I was only able to make it to the Sunday of this year’s Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival. The event’s last day featured a slew of family-oriented events spread around Ontario’s largest small town but what really drew me in were the York Street Tasting Tent and the nearby farmers’ market.
As a town Stratford seems connected to the surrounding Perth County. Many of the stations in the tasting tent were manned not just by the chefs who had created the food but also by the farmers who grew or raised the ingredients and that echoed this sense of connection. I can still taste the delicious smoked whitefish from Purdy’s Fish Market by Simple Fish and Chips; the duck confit and sweet onion relish from Wildstone Bar and Grill and Erbcroft Farms; and the ecstatically delicious butter that Chef Baxter’s team at Rundles makes with milk from Hewitts Dairy.
Sometimes I find myself ignoring vegetables or dessert but not here. The sweets from Chocolate Barr’s and Rheo Thompson were all excellent. For the vegetable-minded the phyllo triangles from The Sun Room Restaurant and Shallot Hill Farms that tasted of autumn root veg like beets, carrots and squash were memorably delicious.
Maybe I’m biased (i.e. I’ve never eaten a bite of their pork that I didn’t like) but I have to say that if I had to pick a favourite bite it would the pork belly from Perth Pork Products that The Parlour’s Max Holbrook paired with veg from Caveman Crops and served on steamed buns. My kingdom to anyone who can teach me to make steamed buns like these. Also, I’ll share the Perth Pork Products berk shoulder that I have in the freezer.
Not forgetting that hungry eaters also need liquid refreshment the organisers invited a variety of Ontario wineries and breweries (as well as Rosewood Estate a winery and meadery in one) to showcase their wares. I had some memorable sips (not to mention great conversation with) from Chateau des Charmes, Lailey, Nyarai, and Tawse on the wine side and from Grand River, Flying Monkeys, and Mill Street on the beer side. For those abstainers drinking tea (see first paragraph reference to others who had been drinking in Stratford all weekend) the good people at Distinctly Tea were providing much complimented cups that had a built-in filter for the loose leaves.
At the market I managed to score some of the season’s last peaches for my rumtopf and apples for apple butter. I found seeds for Bloomsdale Spinach and heirloom black chiles and was reminded that along with preserves and baked goods this is a great way for consumers to support farmers during their low-revenue months. Farm-grown produce is great but the highlight of the market was definitely the apple fritter truck. For less than the price of the CNE’s much-hyped (but apparently underachieving) deep-fried butter one could have six generous apple slices, battered, fried, sugared and spiced. This is the sort of street food that sells.
Definitely a lot of eating and I have to admit that I found myself so satiated that I slipped into a brief food coma on the way home that I think my car-mates would have described as a “nap”. Apologies for not keeping up my end of the conversation, guys.