|see how my garden grows?|
Knowing that the coming week was going to be very busy and I would spend days eating and drinking too much, what did I have as my going away meal? Did I have a light salad, some quinoa and green tea?
Nooooooo, we went to The Wren and I had the cheddar jalapeno polenta with pulled pork and a poached egg. This is only the second time we have been there for brunch and the last time, Shack got the polenta and he made me get the eggs benny because he wanted to taste both. I ended up giving one of the eggs away to my friend's mom while Shack ate his entire portion himself, only giving me a tiny little bite. I have been jonsing for it ever since and was a little afraid that it wouldn't be as delicious as I remembered but it was. I only ate half of it though because it is ridiculously rich so I would recommend ordering it to share and maybe asking if you could just get them to put a second egg on top.
The polenta is rich, cheesy and mildly spicy, the pork is pulled pork so it's another layer of rich. Thank god for the fresh, zesty pico de gallo which provides some relief because when the perfectly cooked egg releases it's yolk over the top of the whole shebang, it's kind of crazy.
If you are around this weekend, The Wren is celebrating their diamond jubilee with a weekend long party featuring a selection of $5 beers and apps. It's not every day that a place can celebrate 75 years in the span of a year!
|burger w queso fresco and the polenta brunch bowl|
On Saturday, I caught the 5:40 bus to Stratford, Ontario, not really knowing what to expect when I got there but I was packed for anything. I was contacted by a PR company, The Siren Group , and asked if I would like to go on a media tour complements of Savour Stratford and I was far too intrigued to say no. It meant moving some stuff around and coming back from Ottawa early instead of continuing on to Montreal but I was very curious about the food scene there. I grew up in nearby London, Ontario and only remember Stratford for the theatre festival. One of my fondest memories of my youth is seeing Maggie Smith play Lady McBeth on a grade 8 field trip to Stratford in 1978. I had seen The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie so many times that I knew it by heart and to see her in person, wringing her hands and gnashing her teeth was almost more than I could bear so I already knew that the theatre was amazing, but what of this foodie scene?
I met chefs and some of the farmers who supply their food to them, fair trade coffee warriors, cheesemakers, a forager who often teams up with the tea sommelier, candy makers who are former funeral directors, old film industry friends who now run the family store and everything but a candlestick maker and I am sure he is around somewhere.
We sampled the treats available along the three "trails" that visitors can experience. $25 will buy you six (five in the case of the bacon and ale trail) tickets which you then cash in at a series of restaurants and shops during a self guided tour. We got to try a couple of different locations for all three trails: chocolate trail, bacon and ale and the maple trail. You get three days to use them all up so it's a great excuse to wander around the downtown, snacking as you.
Everyone we met is not only heavily involved in the myriad of local festivals and events that seem to go on daily in Stratford, including the granddaddy of all of them, Savour Stratford, but they are all connected to one another. The cheese maker helped the coffee house save their shop and the son of the pig farmer is marrying the daughter of a chef's aunt's third cousin while the forager is out gathering wild plants for the tea lady to turn into stinging nettle tea.
There is "The Local" as the The Local Food Community Centre is called around town but don't call it a food bank. It's not just a place for people in need can come and have a bite to eat and pick up some groceries, this place is something very special, indeed. From a jam packed schedule of free cooking classes that cover all the food skill basics, a breakfast that is preceded by a yoga class, weekly dinners, a community garden to a summer drop in spot for kids, The Local truly serves the community in every way imaginable. Chef Jordan Lassellie trained at the Stratford Chef School and left a career in fine dining to head up the kitchen, fueled by a passion to promote food security and the right to good food for all.
I did so much in those three days that I am still processing everything and will have to break everything down into a series of posts over the coming weeks but here are some highlights:
|After a restful sleep in my massive room at the Vintage Hotel, The Parlour Inn, I went for a little stroll to check out the town|
|morning walk to the Slow Food Market|
|along the Avon River|
|Wandering around the downtown|
|a remarkable lunch at Monforte on Wellington|
|A farm visit to Perth Pork Products (don't get too attached to that cute little lamb)|
|GE Chef Series Cooking Class at The Local Community Food Centre|
|Teatorial at Tea Leaves Tasting Bar|
|Dinner I can't stop thinking about at Pazzo Taverna|
|tour of Rheo Thompson Candies and perhaps a bite or six of chocolate|
|a morning of foraging for our supper with Peter from Puck's Plenty|
|you can see how delicious this sandwich was right there on my shirt at Canadian Grub , one of the stops along the bacon and ale trail|
|Another wonderful dinner at Mercer Hall before the theatah|
|why yes, that is Rufus Wainwright at the opening of King Lear and the Stratford season as a whole. He asked for my autograph right after I snapped this but I told him to simmer down.|
|Meeting Anne Campion, champion of direct trade coffee at Revel Caffe|
Big thanks to Stratford Tourism and Siren Group for hosting/inviting me on this fabulous adventure!
Because I was in Stratford ON his birthday, The Neighbours and I surprised Shack with a little pub grub mid week. We called in the afternoon to arrange for one order of fish and chips for the birthday boy since Wednesday is wing night and Friday is fish and chips night. After heated debate over putting a candle in his fish, we reached a compromise and a candle was shoved into a mushroom and placed beside the fish instead. Don't ask.
|Celebrating a belated birthday for Shack at My Place in the Beach where the chef, Mike, took out one piece of fish just for Shack on wing night. It's all about the perks people|
I brought home fiddleheads and ramps that were gathered on my foraging adventure in Stratford and after making pesto with the ramps and using it in a recipe that will be up soon, I used up the very last of it in this chicken dish. I also threw in some Monforte farmers cheese and basil from my garden. YUM
|using up the last dregs of my ramp pesto made from my own hot little foraging hands|
On Friday night, we left The Kid at home to work on his math presentation and jumped in the hot rod, put the top down and went for a cruise. We stopped by Patois to see what Craig Wong and his lovely wife, Ivy Lam, were up to but they were not there. We banged on the door and carried on about wanting to apply for jobs like hooligans until the neighbour kindly informed us that the place was empty.
After some harassment, they left their own urban foraging expedition at Honest Ed's to come open up the shop and show us their progress. The restaurant is coming along swimmingly and we are all excited for it to open so Craig can start feeding the city and all of you can experience what some of us have already enjoyed. He is a walking paradox. A Bocuse trained french chef who spins Jamaican Chinese food on it's head, he is a gentle giant in chef's whites and neon kicks - he's a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll, if you know what I'm saying.
|Ivy Lam, Chef Craig Wong and I in front of his awesome cock door at Patois, his soon to open restaurant|
Pinner of the week: sometimes you want to just look at pretty food
Facebook share of the week: because I am now totally enamoured with everything Stratford and want to make sure everyone else goes to see what I am talking about
Instagrammer of the week: this guy's feed makes me want to poke him in the eye, it's so nice
Tweet of the week:
Is This What Grocery Stores Will Look Like in the Future? Food news http://t.co/qsJf2HhkeO via @TheKitchn
— The Yum Yum Factor (@SMmamashack) May 31, 2014