№ 38 | November/December 2012
including cheese, meat, chocolate, bread, and wine. Each table at the Tasting features a restaurant owner/chef paired with a producer. “Sometimes this is the first time the producer and the chef have actually connected, spent time with each other,” says our tour guide, Cathy Rehberg, Marketing Manager of Stratford Tourism Alliance. One such connection was the pairing of fresh Ontario lamb from DelMac Farm, north of London, with the culinary team at the leg endary Church Restaurant, Stratford. Farmers Robin and Richard Cooke provided lamb education while Chef Caleb Stewart prepared pulled braised curried lamb served with pickled red onions and apricot conserve. The Cookes can normally be found at the Strat ford Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, but that weekend saw them side by side with the staff of one of Canada’s renowned restaurants. “We’re just thrilled that the Church Restaurant wants to serve fresh, local lamb. It’s a first endeavour for us to work with them and very exciting,” says Robin Cooke. Other interesting producer/chef combos included lavender farmer Suzanne Steed of Sparta (near St. Thomas in Elgin County) pairing her culinary lavender syrup, jams and sauces with chocolate made by her sister Kristene Steed’s company, Rheo Thompson Candies of Stratford. “This festival helps to build a sense of community between producers and restaurateurs. We celebrate our agricultural roots through our restaurants, cuisine and culture,” says Danielle Brodhagen, Culinary Program Coordinator at Stratford Tourism Alliance. Brodhagen encouraged visitors to “speak with farmers directly” to better understand the source of their food. This year visitors to the Tasting were each allowed one vote for the People’s Choice award, with the winning chef receiving $500 from sponsor GE Café Appliances. It must have been a close race, as so many teams offered incredible samples: of note were the edible bell pepper “shooters” filled with zesty gazpacho created by Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub and Caveman Crops. They took the environmental beliefs of the festival to a whole new, and delicious, level. Also, the cornmeal-crusted beets from Soiled Reputation, created by Chef Nick Benninger of Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 Restaurant and personally handed out by Antony Johns, were stunning and won Best Vegetarian Dish. A dollop of creativity and humour was shown by Rene’s Bistro, which used strawberries from Sheldon Berries to create the appearance of “meatballs,” which were actually cake. Fun and satisfying! In the end, Chef Bryan Steele of The Prune and his partner producer, Northern Woods Mushrooms, won the People’s Choice award for his Smoked Mushroom Tart with house-made herbed ricotta, delicate squash and red pepper relish. Bravo! To help the guests wash down all the incredible samples, ten VQA wineries participated, including Pelee Island Winery, which released its new organic vintage, Pelee Pure. And eight breweries also offered samples, which went particularly well with the Metzger Meat ribs prepared by Huron County chef Devin Tabor of Bon Vivant Catering. Be sure to plan to visit Savour Stratford next September and, in the meantime, look for locally sourced items on your menu! Jane Antoniak and Bruce Fyfe are regular contributors to eatdrink.
Rheo Thompson Candies / Steed & Company Lavender Aboriginal Culinary Concepts / Palace Hillside Elk Farm
Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub / Caveman Crops
Pazzo Ristorante / DeWetering Hill Farm