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A Day With The Stratford Chefs School

7 Jul

Do your dreams come true? One of mine did a little while ago, when I went to The Stratford Chef School. For one of its classrooms, the school uses the fabulous kitchen of Rundles in Stratford, Ontario. Eleanor Kane, founder of The Stratford Chef School contacted me, wondering if I was interested in visiting the school and seeing what they do there. I’m so happy that I said yes, because it was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. When I got there, I was very intimidated because all the student chefs were running around the kitchen with knives, cutting boards, and pans. They were being safe, but I just needed to make sure you knew how busy it was. At the school, they were at the student based stage. This stage is when two chefs combine their thoughts, creations, and recipes to make a several course meal. Those chefs will assign a dish/course to each of the other student chefs at the school. I started out with Cole, who was in the baking section – because I really enjoy baking. The two desserts on the menu that day, were a pear tart with prune ice cream along with red wine sauce, and an apple tart.

A sneak peek of how the apple tart turned out!

A sneak peek of how the apple tart turned out!

I started by peeling the apples and accidentally cut my finger! Oops! It was all good though, I got a bandaid on it and continued working. You’re not a chef unless you cut your finger once in a professional kitchen! After that, we got the previously-made prune cream out of the fridge and put it into the ice cream maker. It took under ten minutes to make some creamy goodness. When the ice cream was done, I got pulled away by Tara and Chef Aaron Linley (who was the Master Chef that day and owns Bijou Restaurant along with his wife Bronwyn) to make sushi! I had never made sushi before, just watched it being made, so this was quite an experience.

Shrimp cooking in boiling water!

Shrimp cooking in boiling water!

First, we had to cook the shrimp so we put them in boiling water and then into a snow bath that we had so conveniently gathered before (Tara and I may or may not have had a mini snowball fight).

Giving an ice bath to the shimp!

Giving an ice bath to the shimp!

The coolest step for me was actually making the sushi because it was very tactile.

Sushi Time!

Sushi Time!

On a bamboo board we laid down a rectangle of white sticky rice, covered it with seaweed, and flipped it over.

Learning how to make sushi from a pro!

Learning how to make sushi from a pro!

Sometimes, we wouldn’t flip it over so that the rice would be on the outside. Either way, the next thing we added was julienned cucumber and carrots, and the shrimp. We then used the bamboo board to roll up the sushi. It was very hard because you had to roll it very tight. After it was rolled, we cut it into equal peices and put it on a plate with some wasabi.

Sushi is finally done! Yum!

Sushi is finally done! Yum!

At that time, everyone had finished their dishes and it was time for tasting! There were too many dishes to count so I’ll just mention some. First, we tried mussels that were dressed with fresh, diced tomatoes, herbs, and a great vinagrette. I don’t usually like mussels but these ones looked so good, so I just had to try one. Guess what? I liked it! It was dressed so nicely that the mussel tasted great! One of the next things that were put out for tasting was a great salad with amazingly cooked potatoes, pearl onions, portobello mushrooms, goats cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Best salad ever!

Best salad ever!

Yum! That was probably my favourite thing. Everything was paired so nicely. Another dish that we ate was rabbit. I was a little bit sad to be trying it because I love rabbits but, when I tried it at first, I was in heaven. It was so juicy, tender, and just utterly sensational. It tasted a little bit like chicken, if I had to compare it to something, but, in my opinion it was better. I’m going to skip to dessert, because I can’t wait to tell you about it. My favorite out of the two would have to be the pear dessert with the prune ice cream and the red wine sauce.

Pear tart with prune ice cream.

Pear tart with prune ice cream.

It was a perfect pairing. The sweetness of the pear was cut with the unique ice cream. I don’t even have words to explain how much I liked it.

Mmmmmm.

Mmmmmm.

The whole experience was a great one! She has now retired from the Stratford Chefs School, but a very special thanks to Eleanor Kane for setting me up. I’d also like to thank all the chefs for teaching me many things I didn’t know before. What an amazing opportunity!

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Making Tourtière With Grandma

13 Jan

Every year around Christmas, my grandma makes tourtière for our family. It is the best tortiére I have ever tasted. I have always wondered what goes into that scrumptious pie, and now I do!

We were making 4 pies that day. One for my family, one for my aunt and uncle, and two for my grandma and grandpa. When I got to my grandma’s, she had already made one batch of filling and enough dough for one pie crust to speed up the process. Then, I got to get my hands dirty!!

Originating from Quebec, tourtière is a meat pie traditionally made with finely diced pork, beef or veal. One of the things that makes grandma’s tourtière so good is that she combines two of the meats. That particular day, we were mixing pork and beef. Yum! I got to make the pie that was going to my family all by myself and she made a double batch.

I added the meat to my pot along with some shredded potato (I didn’t know that you could grate a potato).Meat and Potato in the pot Then we chopped a few onions that also made it into the pot. I could only chop one onion though because my eyes just started watering like crazy!After adding more goodness. Next in the pot were some secret herbs and spices,

(Not really secret)

(Not really secret)

some vinegar, and my favorite, nutmeg! Adding nutMEG!All we had left to do was stir before we could start on the dough. It’s a pretty simple recipe but boy is it delicious!

For the dough, we started by adding all the dry ingredients into the food processor and mixed them up. Processing When it was all mixed up, we pulsed in the butter and shortening. Adding butter and shortening.It makes extremely good dough that is really hard not to play with when dividing it in half.  Ready to in the freezer.We popped it in the freezer and made two more batches.

When it was time to start constructing the pies, I watched my grandma do one first. I learned that you are supposed to puncture your dough before you put it on the top of your pie to let out steam. Puncture the dough first!

Then it was my turn! I started by rolling out part of the dough I made and transferred it onto the bottom of the pie shell. The dough went in first! The filling was the next element that went into my pie shell. Putting in the filling. It smelled so good even before it went into the oven! I rolled out the rest of my dough and punctured it before it went on the top of the tortiére. Almost done...With the dough we had leftover, we cut out little trees and polka dots that were going to go on the top on the pie. She usually makes holly to go on the top of the pies but that day we felt extremely creative so we put Christmas décor on the top! I egg washed my whole pie and then stuck on my trees and dots. Ready to go in the oven! For the tourtière that was going to my aunt and uncle, we put on the traditional holly. The pie with holly!The extra tortiére got some little gingerbread men along with a few little polka dots as well. Gingerbread men are so cute. My grandma has these little horses that came from Sweden (where my Aunt, Uncle and cousins live) and are really special to the family so her tortiére got two little horses kissing under the Christmas mistletoe.Horses can be romantic too!

We put them in the oven for about twenty minutes or so. That isn’t the complete cooking time but we had to under bake them so that we could put them in the freezer and bake them again when ready to eat it. All four pies!

We ended up having our tourtière on Christmas Eve with an awesome Caesar salad. It was so good! Thanks so much grandma for giving me that wonderful experience. Grandma and I are proud of our pies!

Savouring Stratford to the Fullest

4 Nov

David Rocco and I at the Gala

Savour Stratford is an annual event held in September that has been providing amazing culinary experiences for not just locals, but for people all across Ontario and even some from the U.S. for the past 5 years. From a kids tent to a Tasting Tent, its lots of fun for the whole family! If you didn’t make it to the 5th Annual event this year, here are a few things I got to do.

This year, the Opening Ceremonies on Friday was presented by Fanshawe College. The culinary students prepped some great food in several tents and the media arts students taped and photographed the whole entire weekend. I went with my Dad and we started off by going around to some of the vendors and trying the various food they were offering. I tried the Pork Tent first, which was pulled pork on a mini ciabatta bun.

Fanshawe College Chefs at the Pork Shop

Then we went off to the Salmon Tent where I tried smoked salmon for the first time. They served two pieces of delicate smoked salmon wrapped around mini breadsticks. They paired the salmon with a colourful squash soup and balsamic caviar (which I had never tried either).

The Rib Hut Chefs

I was happily surprised that I liked it! I felt like I just had to try it! We went over to the Rib Tent where they served the meat of the rib on a bun. Personally, I liked the rib best because the meat was cooked and sauced to perfection and they paired it well with the bun.

Smoked Salmon & Squash Soup

The smoked salmon and pulled pork were really great too!

Then came the fun part! The Opening Ceremonies and the cutting of… the sausage!!?! Not the ribbon… but a sausage from the De Martines family farm. The 4’ length of sausage was cut by none other than Connie DeSousa, co-owner of Charcut Roast House in Calgary and runner-up of Season 1’s Top Chef Canada.

The Cutting of the Sausage

Last year, Chef Chuck Hughes was the celebrity chef at Savour Stratford and he “cut the cheese” at the opening ceremonies. Since we have already cut a milk product and a product from the meat & alternatives food group I think they should cut something from another food group next year. Like cut the cucumber, cut the bread or even cut the cake!

Saturday morning, I met up with Paul Finkelstein, founder of The Screaming Avocado Café at Northwestern Secondary School here in Stratford and who starred in the Food Network show “FINK”. I also got introduced to Steve Dolinsky who is a highly respected ABC food reporter from Chicago. Steve has won numerous awards, including being a 12-time James Beard Award Winner for tv and radio food reporting. They were cooking pigs in a LaCaja China box which was very cool! The LaCaja China box is made from wood and lined with aluminum.

One of the Pigs cooking in the LaCaja China Box

With the pig inside the box, coals were put on the top of the box in a tray and the pig gets cooked all the way through with some great heat for a few hours. Paul told me that I couldn’t blog about it, if I didn’t help. So, I took the saw and tried cutting off the poor little pig’s leg … I’ll admit that it was fun but I couldn’t quite cut through the bone so I needed some help with that.

Cutting off the pig’s leg

Then, Paul rubbed the whole pig in a garlic spice rub. That pig only served about a quarter of the hungry visitors, so throughout the day, they made three more pigs! Yum!

Pig or Paul?

For the rest of the day I just wandered and checked out all the local vendors. While I was walking around, all I could think of was how amazing Stratford is! We have The Stratford Festival Theatre that people from all over the world come to, The Stratford Chefs School, amazing restaurants, beautiful parks and an awesome downtown, and of course, great culinary experiences like Savour Stratford. We are also the home town of Justin Bieber and Olympic swimmer, Julia Wilkinson. And all of that in a small town of about 32,000 people. Wow! I love it here!

On the Saturday night, I went to my very first cocktail party!! It was the Gala Cocktail Party at the Avon Theatre, and celebrated Stratford’s culinary past that included founders of the Stratford Chefs School and early restaurant owners. The Inaugural Gala was hosted by Stratford residents Peter Mansbridge who is the CBC news anchor along with his wife, Cynthia Dale who is a Canadian actress and starred in 42ndStreet this season at the Stratford Festival.

Cynthia, Peter and I

I noticed that Connie DeSousa was there as well as David Rocco.

When I went into the Gala I thought that I would possibly meet David Rocco and maybe get a picture but Renée from the Siren Group (Savour Stratford’s PR firm) asked me if I would want to have an interview with him. Even though, I didn’t have any questions prepared, I couldn’t pass up this amazing opportunity.

Interviewing David Rocco

David Rocco stars in his Food Network show “David Rocco’s Dolce Vita”. He was never actually trained in any culinary schools but is an excellent chef that was influenced by his grandmother’s fine cuisine. I asked him about his family, which I could tell made him very happy to talk about. David Rocco and his wife have 4 year old twin girls and a baby boy. He and his girls love making risotto together at home. The process of stirring the rice, adding the seasonings and adding water is just really fun to do with daddy in Emma and Giorgia’s eyes! I can totally relate to that because I love cooking with my dad too! David also told me that many people ask him ‘If he was stranded on an island, what would be his last meal?’ He usually replies with ‘My main course would be lasagna and for dessert, a hamburger’. He chose both because he just can’t decide between those two dishes! I would really like to thank David Rocco for giving me a few moments of his time so I could talk with him. It was a really great experience to meet him!

Sunday was probably my favourite day of the whole weekend because I got the opportunity to co-host the Culinary Breakfast of Champions with Paul Finkelstein and Steve Dolinsky at the Stratford Country Club!

Carl, Connie and I

It was exciting because the two Top Chef Canada champions I strongly look up to were Carl Heinrich, winner of Season 2, Stratford Chefs School graduate and co-owner/chef at Richmond Station in Toronto as well as  Connie Desousa, runner up of Season 1, co-owner/ chef at Charcut Roast House in Calgary and food truck Alley Burger. I had followed and cheered for Carl all the way through his journey on Top Chef Canada and I felt a special bond with Connie as I had talked to her many times over the weekend. I respect her as a female chef AND she is also a dancer just like me!

Before we actually had breakfast, Danielle Broadhagen, Director of Savour Stratford welcomed the guests and introduced the co-hosts. Paul, Steve and I then introduced ourselves, which I was extremely nervous about at the start but managed to get through with some notes I had prepared. I left the crowd thinking about one of my comments – “You need to expand your taste buds no matter how old you are.” The really cool thing was that my quote actually got tweeted (and re-tweeted) right away!

After that, Connie and Carl did a fun series of Quickfire Challenges that consisted of three stations – peeling carrots, dicing onions, and shucking corn. They got 2 minutes to get as much done as possible at each station. Before they started, Connie put on her brand new fireman apron (she really likes firemen), hoping it would bring her luck! I was the official timekeeper and also got to provide commentary and judging. At the carrot peeling station, Carl got all of his 12 carrots peeled in under 45 seconds but with some skin left on them, Connie was the victor.

Carrot Peeling Station

We then walked over to onion dicing station where I yelled “GO” and they both started peeling their onions prior to the dicing. Unexpectedly, Connie pulled out her secret weapon – the Slap Chop!

Slap Chop Surprise

Despite lots of laughter, the Slap Chop didn’t match up to Chef Carl’s fine dicing, who was the champion of this round.

Onions are diced

Finally, we came to the corn shucking station where Carl removed a half cob of corn from his “finished” bucket right before I yelled STOP!

Professional Corn Shuckers

While talking about choosing the winner with Paul and Steve, we noticed that even though Carl did remove that cob from his bucket, he still shucked one more than Connie. It was a very close call, but in the end, Carl won two rounds out of three and Connie won one.

And the winner is…

Congrats to Carl who won this fun competition!

With the fun competition over, breakfast was finally under way! The kitchen staff brought out many plates full of local bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausage and toast. It was a very good and filling meal! Over breakfast, I sat with Paul and Steve and we talked about a potential program for students to learn how to write about food at the high school level. It was neat to be involved in the conversation with them and hope to be invited to participate one day.

After that great experience I went over to the Tasting Tent to see what our local restaurants had prepared this year. The Tasting Tent is the premier event at Savour Stratford, where chefs/restaurants of Perth County and area are paired with local producers and together they make scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. I really enjoyed all the dishes that I tried but there were some that really stood out for me. The Prune and Northern Woods Mushrooms made a Smoked Mushroom tart with house made herbed ricotta, delicata squash and red pepper relish which myself and many other people enjoyed too, because it received the Peoples Choice Award. The Best Meat Dish was won by Mercer Hall and Churchill Farms with their Muffuletta Sandwich – it’s pork done 6 ways – coppa, rillette, prosciutto, country ham, black-strap molasses ham and pigs head mortadella. The Best Dessert was presented by Madelyn’s Diner and Yungblut Meats with their Delicious Bacon Butter Tarts. Yes, I said BACON Butter Tarts! Yum!

Loved the Bacon Butter Tarts from Madelyn’s Diner!

There was also the Best Vegetarian Dish which was created by Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 and my friends at Soiled Reputation. The dish was named the Veggisaurus-Rex and consisted of Cornmeal crusted beets with pickled hot peppers, cabbage-radish slaw and bronze fennel tips. Loco Fields and Pickles Eh! produced the most creative dish with their Tomatillo Corn and Black Bean Salsa. The Best Overall Beverage was the “Savouring Stratford Digestive Tea Blend” from Tea Leaves Tasting Bar and Peter Blush Foraging. Of course, there were some beverages  that I couldn’t try like the Best Alcoholic Beverage won by Silversmith Brewery with their Black Lager. My dad sampled these though, and he thoroughly enjoyed them.

After the Tasting Tent, we walked over to The Blue Donkey which is a Greek food truck from Toronto I met during my first blog post. When I noticed that they were there, I got really excited and told my dad that we had to get something. We got a Calamari pita and their yummy honey pita sticks. I was surprised that they recognized me since it had been a while, but sure enough, they came over to say hello. It was also great to hear that they have been reading my blog.

Savour Stratford was so good, but after eating for the whole weekend, I was so full that I  didn’t even need to eat dinner.

Thanks for the WIFI access Amanda!

The Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival  was a great event to be at! Full of my favourite thing… FOOD!! I was so glad to be there. Thanks to everyone at Savour Stratford and Stratford Tourism Alliance for putting on this great culinary festival every year. I especially want to thank them for getting me involved this year! I’m already looking forward to year 6!

Helping out at Soiled Reputation

9 Sep

Have you ever wondered how the yummy organic vegetables and greens at your favorite restaurants get to your plate?

As an Organic farmer, Antony John from Soiled Reputation grows about 50 varieties of vegetables on his 20 acre farm just outside of Stratford and he and his wife Tina have been doing this all for over 20 years! He grows everything from salad mixes to peppers and eggplant, but he also grows a few fruits like tomatoes, gooseberrys (in the tomato family) and cantalope. Antony gives many options of organic produce to everyone that wants them.

We started by doing a quick delivery just down the road to the de Martines Family who own Perth Pork Products. He was delivering a package that was heading to Niagara in Fred’s truck. They take turns driving each other’s products to the Niagara region since they live so close to each other and to share expenses.

When we got back, I got a tour of the farm. First, he showed me all of the flowers they have so the birds and the bees will come and pollinate their crops. We then walked into one of the green houses. Inside were various kinds of onions and garlic that were all laying in rows drying.

When we walked out of the greenhouse Jesus (pronounced Hey-zeus), their donkey, needed to be walked to a new patch of grass. Antony has four different kinds of grass planted all around the farm so Jesus can eat a variety of grasses.

We continued into the barn where two of his workers were washing some of the vegetables in a big basin. The organic salad mixes get washed inside the house both winter and summer. They get rinsed in a big sink, put into mesh bags and then go into a washing machine that is put on spin cycle (it’s like a big lettuce dryer!).

Behind the barn was their compost pile. I wasn’t expecting to see something so big! Both you and I  are used to a compost pile that might be a foot tall by a foot long but this one was taller than me and way longer than me. It was a sight to see.

After that, came the organic fields where Antony and Tina grow all their produce in the summer. Half the fields were filled with their produce and half of them were filled with wheat. They use wheat because it helps the soil. Every few years they switch the fields (crop rotation) around so the plants are where the wheat was and vice-versa. The only problem with using wheat is that, it is very hard to control without using pesticides. Instead of using pesticides on his wheat and other plants, he uses weeding equipment, a flame that burns the weeds before they come and he also weeds by hand.

Being so dry this season, Antony has had some troubles planting his crops (mostly salad crops). But of course he had some solutions. He didn’t plant until he knew for sure that some rain was coming, at one point this year he waited 4 weeks. He would also plant the seeds deeper and get all the beds ready to plant so that when the rain comes he can plant all the seeds quickly.

Something else that helps him grow his plants when its dry, is that he waters underground. Watering underground also helps save water. He has a pond that fills with rain water and all the water that drains down into it from the fields. Pipes are run off of the pond that go under the plants and every foot there is a little hole that lets out water. In Antony’s pond there are a bunch of fish that he and Tina catch and eat for supper somtimes. Yum!

When Antony is harvesting his crops, he just has to try some tomatoes here and there because they are his favourite! Another one of Antony’s favorite things that he grows are Padron chilis. They are like a hot pepper. The cool thing about them is that one in ten of them are super hot. Antony also grows organic corn on his farm.

On his corn, grows a special kind of fungus called ‘Corn Smut.’ You may think that sounds gross, but it is actually a delicacy in Mexico and starting to become that here as well. I tried a piece. It was surprisingly good, kind of like a sweet corn flavoured mushroom.

He also loves to go on the hunt for tomato caterpillars! They are also known as Tomato Hornworms. They are really bad for the tomatoes because they would eat the whole tomato plant if they got the chance. They are huge, fat and long, about the size of a grown man’s finger.

Finally, we loaded all of his produce that was going to the restaurants in Stratford into the truck and we went on deliveries on this day. We were just doing the Stratford deliveries, but in total he supplies about 25 other restaurants in Toronto, St. Marys, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo and Bayfield.

We first went to The Prune where I got to see all the chefs cooking away. In the winter, The Prune is one of the kitchens that the Stratford Chefs School cooks in. Then came Your Local Market Co-op where fresh produce was on all the shelves and tables. It is a great place to pick up all of your fruits and veggies! Mercer Hall came next. This is a beautiful new restaurant that used to be Tango. I can’t wait to eat there. Then we went to the upstairs and downstairs of Pazzo to deliver some fresh produce. Pazzo is one of my favorite spots to go to for pizza! Last was Rundles where I got a tour of the whole kitchen. It was so cool seeing the different parts of the kitchen!

I was sad that it was over because the experience was so great! I loved every moment of it and I learned many new things. But, I did take home some tomatoes, broccoli, onions and beans. Yum! They were so fresh. I could really tell they were grown with care. Thanks Antony and Tina for such a great experience!

Really Good Bread

26 Jul

Their cool retro sign

Their Ad says it, so why shouldn’t I? It’s so true! I know because recently, I went to Downie Street Bakehouse to learn exactly what was going into the bread. Downie Street Bakehouse is owned by Alan Mailloux and his wife Barb McMahon. Everything they make is touched with Alan’s hands, not with the big machines that you would find at large bread factories.

I learned everything from making the dough to putting it in and taking it out of the ovens and pretty much everything in between.

Alan takes some bread out of the oven

Alan always baked and cooked at home. One day it occurred to him that he could make a living with his talent, so he became an exceptional student at the one and only Stratford Chefs School. He and Barb traveled around Waterloo, London and Toronto. But, they loved Stratford so much that they just had to come back! They then, started their own B&B. Every Friday night Alan would stay up all night and make bread for the market. Very early in the morning Barb would load up all the bread and take it to market. One morning, a lady came up to Alan and asked him, “I smelled bread baking all of last night. Is there a bakery close by?” Alan responded with “As a matter of fact. Yes. Right downstairs.”
He decided that bread was his true passion. So, he opened Downie Street Bakehouse.

Now, Alan and Barb have any kind of bread you can wish for. Focaccia (one of their most popular), Stratford Sourdough, Potato Currant, Cinnamon Walnut Raisin, Olive & Oregano, Garlic & Parmesan, Sour Chocolate Cherry Sourdough and many, many more! They go and sell those breads at the Slow Food Market in Stratford on Sundays along with the Western Fair Market in London and the Uptown Market in Waterloo.

Now came the fun part, baking!

We started out by making a few different kinds of dough, like their Sunflower Bran. I learned that he uses weight to measure his ingredients instead of cups and tablespoons. He uses weight because, you can fill up a cup full of flour 6 times and each one will be different. But with weight it will be the exact same every time. He also showed me all the different flours (pastry, all-purpose, whole wheat, rye…) and all of their differences, like what they look like and how they taste. No bleached flour for Alan!

The Stratford Sourdough sitting after its pre-shaping

After that, he got out the dough for their Stratford Sourdough. It had already sat for a while and was ready to be pre-shaped. We cut it into pieces about 1.9 pounds (again using weight) and shaped it into dough balls. Alan told me that after they sat for a while he would shape them again but this time into more of a torpedo shape.

The 12 grain sourdough waiting to go in the oven

Then we went to the “Walk-in” fridge where we got out the 12 Grain Sourdough that was being held in this really interesting bowl. This bowl gives the dough a really cool pattern with flour that looks like stripes. We got it ready to go in the oven by slitting it and putting it on pieces of parchment paper. Legend has it that a long time ago, slitting your bread let the evil spirits out and if a baker didn’t slit his bread, whoever ate it would go crazy.

Lathering with butter before sprinkling with cinnamon sugar

After that, we took the Cinnamon Walnut Raisin bread out of the oven. To make sure it was done, he held the loaf in one hand and tapped the bottom of it with the other. He can tell if it’s done or not by the sound it makes when he taps it. I don’t know how he does it. Turns out they were done. So he took them out and placed them on a pan. He lathered them with butter and added a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. The smell was driving me crazy, in a good way!

The 12 grain sourdough in the oven

Finally, since the oven was empty, we put the 12 Grain Sourdough in the oven. Even though the oven is super hot, Alan still reaches his hands in there to slide in the parchment paper that holds the bread. Barb looked over at me and said “ I don’t want to try that.” I agree Barb!

Alan, Barb and I

We had gone through everything in just 2 hours. The time flew by. Even though I only spent 2 hours there, I know Alan spends hours and hours (with little sleep at times) to make sure each loaf has just as much tender love and care as the last one. It was a very interesting and great experience! I learned a lot! Thanks Barb and Alan.

Before I left, I selected a few different kinds of bread. I got the Stratford Sourdough, the Cinnamon Walnut Raisin and the Foccacia. The past 2 mornings I was so excited to get up and make French Toast out of the Cinnamon Walnut Raisin. I finished it off with maple syrup (as always) but added a new twist – cinnamon sugar on top! To die for!

To see why my title says what it says, go buy a loaf of their Really Good Bread at their bakery in Stratford and while you’re there, tell them Megan sent you!

The Stratford Sourdough gets some sun while waiting to go in the oven

Proof of the Pig

19 Jul

When I blogged last, I was at the Blues & Ribfest. When I looked just on the inside of Kentucky Smokehouse, I saw some words written in blue. They caught my eye, so I read them.

It said:

OUR SECRET…the reason we only use the right side ribs.

When I was a young boy growing up, I noticed pigs always flop to their ”LEFT” side to play in the mud. Soon I realized that the ribs on the “LEFT” side are tougher to the ones on the “RIGHT”.

Here at Kentucky Smokehouse we only serve the “RIGHT” side and we give the “LEFT” side to our competitors. Now you now where the term “LEFT-OVER” comes from.

Last weekend, we went up to Sauble Beach and stayed with some friends. They happened to be pig farmers. So, when my parents told them that story, they did some research for me.

Later on, they told us that most of their pigs were flopped over on their left side and very few were on their right.

Bet you didn’t know that before! Pretty cool!

Blues and Ribfest

23 Jun

On June 22 – 24 the third annual Blues and Ribfest took place in Stratford. It was just as good, if not better than the previous celebrations. Many Blues bands came out to make sure everyone was entertained while eating some delicious ribs!

I got the privilege to be a celebrity judge/taster of the ribs that were offered. The ribs came from Jack The Ribber whose ribs were very juicy, tender and well-cooked, Route 55 BBQ Team  who had tangy but spicy ribs that were nicely caramelized, and last but not least, The Kentucky Smokehouse who served smoky ribs that had a very pleasant texture.

During the tasting, I was lucky enough to sit beside Joe Dwyer, who is a professional rib taster and an Executive for the Ontario Pork Congress. He taught me how to professionally taste a rib. You pick it up and take a bite out of each side, then you flip it over and take one from the middle.  I was also very elated to be sitting beside Danielle Brodhagen of Savour Stratford. I was kept in good company.

After the tasting, I got a brief moment with each of the ribbers to chat about what makes their ribs so unique and special.

I headed off to chat with Jack The Ribber from London, Ontario. His ribs are so delectable because of the way they smoke them. They use Hickory, Cherry and Apple wood so that you get a triple threat of flavors in your mouth every time you take a bite. As an extra bonus, they use their own rub and BBQ sauce.  They have been using the same recipe since they started, 12 years ago. They also serve pulled pork and chicken with the same BBQ sauce, that you can try if you purchase the “Vegetarian Nightmare” (including their great ribs!) like my dad, sister and I did.

I then walked over to the Route 55 BBQ Team  from Chicago to have a brief visit. They use a very unique sauce that is sweet and tangy that crystallizes over when it’s added to the rib. They also have pulled pork and chicken on their menu that shares the sauce and rub with the ribs. Their difference is that they smoke their pulled pork for 14 hours so it pulls right of the bone.  For all of their meat, they smoke with one log of hickory wood and one log of cherry wood. They use the combination because the hickory wood gives it the flavor and the cherry wood gives it the colour.

I finally arrived at The Kentucky Smokehouse where I talked with them briefly. Their ribs are so special because they slow smoke them for 4-5 hours with Hickory wood and another wood (which is a secret only I know!). Then, when they add their own BBQ sauce it finishes them off real nice. The man I was talking to was very proud that his Grandpa started this joint 55 years ago (Did I just sound like Guy Fieri?). When his Grandpa was a young boy growing up, he noticed that pigs always flop over on their left side in the mud, which makes their left side tougher. So, they only serve the tender right ribs. They also serve chicken, pulled pork (which is smoked for 14-16 hours), baked beans with caramelized vegetables and scalloped potatoes.  They offer 3 types of sauce with their meat, The Original Smokehouse, their Honey Bourbon and their Southern Suicide. I had a quick sampler of the beans, the potatoes and the pulled pork. Delish! When I was interviewing him, you could really tell he was from Kentucky as the accent just set off a great southern vibe.

They also had a few concession stands like an ice cream truck, Ken’s French Fries and (my favourite) Beavertails! I enjoyed “The Triple Trip” which had chocolate icing, Reese’s pieces and peanut butter. My sister enjoyed the cookies and cream which included vanilla icing, crushed cookies and chocolate sauce. We also shared Ken’s French Fries, They were so awesome (as usual).

This whole event was a blast and a great experience! Thank you for inviting me to be a guest judge, I really enjoyed it! I would also like to thank all the ribbers for taking a few minutes to talk to me! I appreciate it! My mouth is watering just blogging about it!

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