Monday, July 15, 2013

Sampling Savory Stratford, Canada: Food and Theatre

A Revel Mocha in Stratford, Ontario
A city that boasts a Bacon and Ale Trail, a Chocolate Trail and a Maple Trail has got to be a foodie's delight. I'd flown to Toronto, Canada and couldn't wait to begin tasting my way through nearby Stratford. The farmers and producers in Perth County are known for pasture fed organic beef, Amish-raised goat milk, organic fruits and vegetables, heritage pork and artisanal breads and cheeses.

I hopped on a bus and arrived in Stratford in less than two hours. Beginning at Revel CaffĂ©, I sipped a Revel Mocha, a combination of coffee with fair trade cocoa and steamed milk, beautifully topped by the barista. This was my first taste from the Chocolate Trail and a great way to start any day. 

Each trail pass costs $25 and entitles buyers to choose from numerous stops on a self-guided tour for up to three days. Guests pop in in for a "tasting," the chance to speak to the makers, learn about the products and visit Stratford's unique restaurants and retail locations.

I had the best option yet. You see, I wasn't officially on any one of the trails as I was being hosted by Stratford Tourism and able to sample items from each of the trails.
Bacon and Ale Trail

Making a Caesar

I headed over to Mercer Hall where the bartender made me a Caesar- the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary made with vodka and Clamato instead of V8 juice, a light salad and some bacon. While I don't normally eat bacon, this was truly worth making an exception. Super thick and smoky.

Rain began to hammer the town so I tromped through puddles to get to Molly Bloom's Irish Pub. A serving of delicate sweet potato fries warmed my wet spirit, as did the pub atmosphere.  The fries came with the choice of three dipping sauces all using Perth County maple syrup - Maple Mustard, Maple Aioli, and Maple BBQ. I rated the mustard as the best. I also tried a small sampling of chowder along with some ale.

Back to chocolate and straight to Chocolate Barr's Candies. This establishment is known for handmade truffles. I sampled a dark chocolate cherry liqueur and believe the pairing was perfect. My second choice, ice wine truffle, was wisely saved for the road.  Barr's showroom is fun to browse and an ideal place to pick up food gifts. 

Seafood Tier at Pazzo Taverna
Down to the Local Market Co-op, a small grocery store and on-site bakery open to the public 7 days a week.  No membership necessary for gorgeous farm fresh produce and local products like honey and cheese. I was surprised to see locally grown saffron, Impressive. I would definitely shop at the Co-op if I lived in Stratford. 

Enough eating!  I was blessed to have a reserved seat at the famous Stratford Festival Theatre for a performance of The Three Musketeers. Stratford hosts an internationally-recognized annual celebration of theatre each April to November. The Festival's primary mission is to present productions of William Shakespeare's plays, but it also produces theatre from Greek tragedy to contemporary works.   

The Three Musketeers is set in the first half of the seventeenth century, so the costuming was elaborate and, of course, the play calls for lots of swashbuckling action. (Love that word and don't get to use it very often!) The acting was first rate; the set magically transformed between scenes and how can you go wrong with this classic tale. A stunning performance, I'd say. I can't remember when I've enjoyed an afternoon matinee as much.    

I was driven a short distance back into downtown and had a little time to stroll the park along the Avon river--Stratford on Avon- right. Then, I went on to dinner at Pazzo Taverna for Italian. The place was interestingly decorated with empty picture frames on grey wainscoted walls.

For starters, a tiered centerpiece of crawfish, lobster, king crab legs, oysters and scallops arrived at the table and my group feasted. Beyond that I remember some fabulous gnocchi and must have been too stuffed afterward to even make a note.

I rode home on the bus full of memories of a charming Canadian Victorian hamlet with an amazing amount of activity and outstanding food and theatre. Oh- can't forget...the city has one more claim to fame -- teen hottie Justin Bieber grew up there.  

Thank you Stratford for a fantastic day.

US residents can drive to Stratford in Ontario, Canada in about 3 hours from Buffalo or 3½ hours from Detroit.