Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eating up Stratford!

If you’re looking for something delicious to do this glorious summer weekend, take off for a few days and explore Stratford. Sunday is the day for the Stratford Slow Food Farmers’ Market. What a fantastic market and what a fantastic marriage of a farmers’ market and the international Slow Food organization. Stratford has one of Ontario’s strongest Slow Food chapters and this is their market run by food blogger Steve Stacey

Antony John of Soiled Reputation is there selling his amazing greens and radishes so fantastic Jon couldn’t resist taking pictures.

Farmer, Brendon Lyoness of Caveman Crops is at the Slow Food booth along with Fred de Martines of Perth Pork Products. Fred raises the Tamworth, Berkshire and Wild Boar that all the restaurants go crazy over. There is Bizjak Farms from Beamsville with load of fresh strawberries and apples and of course Lindsay the baker who surprised me with a real croissant. Says it’s easy to make them for the market because people love a treat on Sunday mornings.

The market is right in the heart of downtown Stratford and if you know the beautiful town with the Stratford Chefs School and Stratford Festival Theatre at its heart, you know that it’s a great foodie town filled with farmers and folk that appreciate the finer things in life.

I met Shawn Hartwell of the Simple Fish Co. He also owns a restaurant called Simple Fish & Chips, with a twist and while his place may be casual and welcoming, it’s anything but simple. Shawn started out like many restauranteurs planning according to numbers on a business plan but soon decided to take a different turn with his restaurant, upping the quality by buying only seasonal river fish from trusted sources.

Hartwell tells me that perch and pickerel from Lake Huron are in season. He’s also buying any fish that runs up river right now meaning salmon from the Frasier or Stikine Rivers in British Columbia. Soon he says he’ll get fish from the Columbia River. Hartwell knows the seasons for fresh fish, like I know my vegetables.

Shawn is at the Slow Food Farmers’ Market offering a wide variety of fresh fish – pity I had no way to keep it cool until I got home, but lesson learned. I’m traveling with a cooler and ice pack in my car from now on!

Had lunch at the York Street Kitchen. It’s where I always go when I’m in the mood for something that packs a simple explosion of flavour. This little sandwich place should never be underestimated. Here a simple smoked turkey sandwich creates as much excitement, surprise, contentment and satisfaction as one would expect from high-end gourmet restaurant run by celebrity chefs. Plan on a long wait during lunch and dinner so do what I do, go mid-afternoon!

Downtown Stratford has more to do than one can pack into a weekend including perhaps a rare Bieber sighting, so go directly to the tourism office on Downie Street and they’ll help you narrow down your options.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Market Hopping

Some people like winery hopping, I love market hopping. I don't know why I love the unexpected discoveries, the tastes of the season and the people you meet that you remember forever.

It was a Tuesday and so I headed to the Kitchener Farmers Market - what a blast (and hey, they have free parking!). It’s a permanent market with loads of ethnic food stalls from Caribbean to Mexican and Croatian lots of food made with local produce. It was lunchtime and I ended up wearing some of my chicken wrap on my shirt, but worth every bite.

Then off to Hurrley's Market just outside Kitchener where they promote local with their 100-Mile map of suppliers. What a great market, they preserve a lot of summer fruit in jars, how beautiful to see the fruit suspended in syrup. I bought some of their sweet cherries and couldn’t resist a cup of delicious strawberry sorbet, it was a hot day - yum!

By the time I got to Martin's Family Fruit Farm in St Jacobs I noticed a bit of pink sorbet on my shirt right next to the lunch stain- evidence of a great day. I met owner Steve Martin and had a great discussion about the cost of food. Martin’s sells premium apples as well as seconds because he believes that food should be affordable for everyone – good man.

Feel free to ask Steve any farming question and he's never shy to give you more than the answer you expected. They’re little store is filled with apples of all varieties. Martins is also an apple sorting facility so they have the freshest and best apples. Besides the apples, they have lots of other produce that they source from across the province. Picked up a few apples to eat in the car – I’m amazed that this is June and the apples are still so crunchy and fresh.

Got home and made dinner from the things I found – yummy sausage from Hurrley’s and fresh peppers from Martin’s – dessert was a bit of yogurt drowned in the most luscious sweet cherries in a not-so-sweet syrup. Country markets are never far from home and I love eating food from people I meet along the way.