by Malcolm Jolley

Whenever someone mentions The Stratford Festival I have to remind myself the bucolic Southwestern Ontario town by the Avon River is one of the Country’s leading theatre destinations, because all I think can think of is the town’s great food festival, Savour Stratford, which takes place September 24 and 25. My colleague, Jamie and I have attended in years past, but this time we’re heading down the 401 together for what promises to be the best Savour Stratford ever to hang out with the celebrity chefs, craft winemakers, farmers, cookbook authors and all other manner of good food folk, stuff our faces, toast our great gastronomic heritage and generally revel in the Ontario harvest and culinary scene. We invite all GFR readers to join us for a day, or make it a weekend.

There are way too many events at Savour Stratford to list in this post, but luckily our friends (and Certified Good Food Fighters) at Savour Stratford Perth County have put together a fantastic website that not only provides a schedule and map for all the tastings, workshops, farmers markets and events, but also has information on where to stay and background information on the celebrity chefs attending like Chuck Hughes and Top Chef Canada’s Connie DeSouza (watch for Jamie’s interview with DeSouza at GFR soon). Click here for the site.

Jamie will himself be conducting a tasting workshop called ‘Ontario vs. The World: A Wine Smackdown’ that promises to be great fun, and there’s no way my kids and I are going to miss Montforte’s Ruth Klahssen’s ice cream making demonstrations, which are free and on the hour. Savour Stratford is family friendly (although some boozy events are adults only because of the province’s liquor laws) and boasts its own ‘Kids Tent’.

If the two days of jam-packed eating, drinking and tasting activity at Savour Stratford weren’t enough, the event has one of the best farmers markets ever. There’s no better agricultural soil in the world as what’s in Perth County and not only does it produce delicious crops it also attracts agricultural innovators willing to grow or raise the best possible quality food, like Soiled Reputation’s Antony John or Perth County Pork Products’ de Martines family. Savour Stratford is a true harvest festival, and everything on display in the beautiful riverside market is at peak season and just picked. In other words, it’s worth the trip just for the food shopping.

What might distinguish Savour Stratford from so many other food and wine celebrations is what they say about retail business: location, location, location. Let me explain:

  1. Its location near Toronto makes it easy for folks to get to, including top chefs from the city and GTA, and winemakers from Niagara (and even a few from Prince Edward County);
  2. Its location in Stratford means it’s in a town with fantastic tourism infrastructure, with lovely hotels and restaurants professionally staffed (sometimes with alumni from the Stratford Chef’s School) and culinary culture in keeping with it’s role as a centre for the arts; and
  3. Its location at the centre of one of the world’s great agricultural regions means that the local talent and produce – whether it’s participating Grand Chef Jonathan Gushue from Langdon Hall or one of several new-breed organic producers – is absolutely the best.

Come and find out why Savour Stratford is gaining the reputation as one of Canada’s greatest culinary celebrations. Book your tasting event at the Savour Stratford website now, before they fill up. And we’ll see you there!

Malcolm Jolley is the executive director of Good Food Media, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to educating the public about artisanal food and the publisher of Good Food Revolution. Follow him