Stratford is a happening place these days. Home to former resident Justin Bieber and the Stratford Festival where current shows include King Lear which stars the great actor and Stratford resident Colm Feore.
Stratford is also home to some great artisan food producers including Cheese Makers Monforte Dairy. Monforte Dairy sell their Artisan cheeses at many of Toronto's farmer's markets and are very popular in the markets.
I recently went on a road trip to Stratford for the day with some friends to check out the annual Savour Stratford Festival. It runs all weekend long but I just drove up for the saturday. I have been to Savour Stratford before a few years ago and was lucky to win a weekend stay and some Savour Stratford vouchers. I enjoyed my weekend very much as I was able to spend the weekend hanging out with an old friend that lives in neighbouring St. Mary's. I was lucky that the weather was beautiful and sunny that weekend. Not like the day I visited this time around. The drive to Stratford this time was grey and drizzly. I have to say that half of the festival is held outside where there is an Artisan Market. That's what I went there for this year. When we arrived the weather seemed indecisive, it drizzled then stopped then drizzled again and stopped while we were walking the Artisan Market street. So it was open umbrella, close umbrella and so on for about an hour. I was a little sad that there didn't seem to be as many vendors as there were the last time I visited. There were vendors spread around the grass as well as the street last time and there were quite a few fresh produce vendors with spectacular produce. This time there were more food truck and preserves vendors and less creative and quality produce vendors. The last time I brought back a huge bag of amazing produce. This time I didn't purchase anything.
After we walked through the Artisan Market we went to the Toronto Star sponsored cooking demos. This year they were held in a Community Centre but the last time I visited it was in a tent on one of the main streets. I think this was a good change because as it happens it poured while we were in the building watching the demos. Good timing on the demos.
We watched Rich Francis who was one of the finalists from Top Chef Canada. He made a Bison recipe and talked about Aboriginal native foods and techniques. In this photo Alison Fryer, former owner of the Cookbook Store in Toronto introduces him. It was great to see Alison and have a chat about what she's been up to since the closing of her store recently after 30 years in business.
I was able to sample a bit of the Bison and I liked it, although my friends didn't enjoy it as much.
The next demo was Derek Dammann who owns a restaurant called Maison Publique. Jamie Oliver is also a part owner of this restaurant. Derek worked with Jamie in the past and Jamie was instrumental in helping Derek open his very popular restaurant in Montreal.
After the demos we decided to walk around on the main streets and pretty much got stuck in one really great store with great things for the home. I picked up some great plates that were discounted. My new obsession is plates and placemats for my photos so that I can change up the style of what my dishes look like when I cook at home.
After a bit of shopping we decided to go and get something to eat. I suggested a couple of places and we agreed to go to the Montforte Dairy restaurant on Wellington.
It's a small cozy space and when we arrived all the tables were filled in the restaurant so we headed to the patio.
Keep in mind that it had been drizzling and raining all day but it stopped when we arrived at the restaurant. We sat down at a table with a large umbrella and just after we ordered our food it rained again. We had the over head umbrellas and still popped out our umbrellas to make sure our backs didn't get wet.
Luckily I didn't get wet but it made for an interesting dinner for sure.
The Monforte Restaurant features all of their locally made cheeses. I tried the Chicken liver mousse with a red pepper jelly and a goat cheese and pea crostini. I also tried the stuffed Zucchini blossoms. They were a bit tiny but tasted good. Everything was very tasty but we didn't feel stuffed afterward. Most of the dishes were small lunch size plates.
We decided to end our day after our dinner as the shops were already closing down and there was only ticketed dinners left at the festival. We would have liked to walk around the waterfront but with the weather being dark, rainy and just gloomy we skipped that. So we decided to head home while it was still light out, after traffic headed out of Stratford but before traffic picked up in Toronto. A rainy drive back to the City.
It was a nice day but I have to say I didn't enjoy the festival as the first time I went because the weather was really a downer on the event and unfortunately my friend that lives in St. Mary's was out of town for the weekend so I didn't get the chance to visit with her at the same time this time around.
We hope to return to see King Lear and hopefully the weather will be nicer and my friend will be around to join us next time.