Tag Archives: Ontario

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

The famous Stratford Swans on the Avon River. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
The famous Stratford Swans on the Avon River

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare, swans, shopping, and spectacular eats – where are you? You’re in Stratford, Ontario!

This small town is one of the most vibrant arts and food towns I’ve ever visited – and like many who visit, I long to move there. Stratford is known for being a theatre town – it’s the home of the Stratford Festival, one of the best theatre festivals in the world (which runs from April through October each year). There are Shakespearean Gardens to meander through; make time to see the swans along the Avon River – the 24 swans are well-cared for and have an annual parade each spring! Be sure to tour the Costume Warehouse and see the tens of thousands of costumes used in the productions, and stop and shop at Bradshaw’s, a fantastic kitchen store.

Stratford Costume Warehouse. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Stratford Costume Warehouse

This town is a foodie town. There’s the Stratford Chef School and a plethora of extraordinary restaurants. The prevailing theme is locally grown/sourced, organic, fresh foods – you can see this when you talk with chefs, or shop the weekly farmer’s market. It’s amazing, and progressive, and just lovely.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
A variety of sizes for your fresh eggs at the Stratford Farmer’s Market

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Freshly baked bread at the Stratford Farmer’s Market

Explore the Savour Stratford food trails – Bacon and Ale, Chocolate, Pumpkin, Maple, and other seasonal trails that offer food and food items at stores all throughout town. Purchase trail passes at the Visit Stratford office downtown – it’s a great way to explore local food – and local stores.

I was completely surprised by the quantity of excellent food and great restaurants here – you will be, too. For a small town, Stratford just explodes with art, theatre, museums, and fine dining. The choices overflow – it was hard for me to narrow this down!

Please note all prices are in Canadian dollars.

Breakfast: The Bruce

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Buttermilk & caramelized apple pancakes with bacon, courtesy of The Bruce

My suggestion: We ate breakfast at our B&B, so I asked my foodie friend Cathy Rehberg, of Visit Stratford, for a suggestion. She made me hungry! Here’s what she recommended: “Chef Arron Carley, who will be featured on Food Network TV’s Chopped Canada, describes the vision for his new menus: “Looking into our past and understanding our roots as well as looking forward into the undiscovered wilderness of our nation we will forge New
Canadian Cuisine.” Now he is offering the Bruce-alicious menu which offers excellent value. Take a look at the fall and winter breakfast menu. Everything I have had there has been so good! And, it comes with a lovely view of the gardens just south of Upper Queen’s Park and a 5 minute walk to the Festival Theatre.”

Price: Bruce Breakfast Sandwich: Perth pork sausage, Avonlea cheddar, duck egg, tomato, awesome sauce, flaxseed bun, crispy spuds – $15
Hours: Restaurant: Thursday-Saturday plus Sunday Brunch; Lounge open every day.
Address: 89 Parkview Drive
Phone Number: 855-708-7100
Website: www.thebruce.ca

 

Second Breakfast: Rheo Thompson Candies

Rheo Thompson Chocolates. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

I have a soft spot in my heart for Rheo Thompson – not only for their extraordinary chocolates, but for the fact that we both came into this world in 1969. I adore this chocolate shop – and so does everyone who’s been to Stratford. It’s a must-visit. If you go on Savour Stratford’s Chocolate Trail, Rheo Thompson is one of the options.

Rheo Thompson Chocolates. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioMy suggestion: While all of the chocolates I have ever gotten from Rheo Thompson have been delicious, try to snag some Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows. They are homemade marshmallow pillows, square, drenched in a thin coating of luscious dark chocolate. Yes, they deserve all of those adjectives.

Price: inexpensive
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-5:30pm, closed Sunday
Address: 55 Albert Street
Phone Number: 519-271-6910
Website: https://www.rheothompson.com/

 

Lunch: Mercer Hall

Welcome to Mercer Hall. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioI absolutely LOVE this restaurant. Chef Ryan O’Donnell is the epitome of a chef that cares about locally grown, sustainable food sources, while being a great mentor and boss, AND bringing his creativity to the table.

Mercer Hall also serves hot tea from Canada’s first tea sommelier, Karen Hartwick (visit her shop, Tea Leaves, while you are in town), so be sure to order a pot.

My suggestion: House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus – I can’t resist a great sandwich. This one was incredible.

lunch at Mercer Hall. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus

 

Price: lunch mains $12-$17
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturda, 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-8pm
Address: 104 Ontario St
Phone Number: (888) 816-4011
Website: http://www.mercerhall.ca/

 

Coffeeshop: Revel Caffe

Revel Caffe. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioBecause there are many great coffeeshops in town, it’s hard to recommend just one. But I’ll try. Revel’s tagline notes: “independent coffee for a revolution home of direct trade coffee, delicious pastries & revelers” – indeed, this is the case. We walked into a bustling cafe – the sounds of the crowd were so happy and joyful – like old friends meeting up. Revel offers delicious baked goods and a variety of coffees and teas.

My suggestion: We went for lattes and a chocolate croissant. Heaven.

Revel Caffe. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

Price: large latte – $4.70
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8am-6pm, Sunday 9am-5pm
Address: 37 Market Place
Phone Number: 519-305-1600
Website: http://www.revelcaffe.com/

 

Happy Hour: Revival House

A restaurant and bar in an old church? It works! You walk in to thisThe bar at Revival House. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario gorgeous space, and immediately want to sit down and cozy in. There is sometimes a band at the front of the hall! Revival House uses fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in their menus. While we were there, we saw large families, couples, mother-daughter teams (us!), and more… This is a fun, upscale place that is hopping.

My suggestion: I don’t drink, so take your pick from their extensive drinks menu. What I will suggest is the charcuterie board ($27, to share) to tide you over until dinner.

Crudite platter at Revival House. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Just look at that!

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-1am. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Address: 70 Brunswick Street
Phone Number: 519-273-3424
Website: www.revival.house

Dinner: Pazzo

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioLocated on the main corner of Stratford’s downtown, this is the perfect place to stop in for dinner. BE SURE to make reservations if it is theatre season. If you’re not going to see a play that evening, make it after 7:30pm, so the theatre rush is done and you can relax in the large, comfy dining room. Chef Yva Santini, in her 9th year at Paazzo, received the Ontario Hostelry Institutes Top 30 under 30 award in 2014. She’s creative, friendly, and a genius in the kitchen. I love how she comes out into the dining room herself, to deliver the mains and chat with customers.

My suggestion: I could eat just off the appetizer menu, honestly. My favorite is the Burrata with balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and pesto, $13. But there is much to recommend on the mains menu, including the unlimited hand made pasta special – enjoy as much of Chef Yva’s daily pasta as you like, $20, or try the Taverna fondue (!!!).

Burrata at Pazzo. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Burrata at Pazzo

Price: $$
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-12am, closed Monday
Address: 70 Ontario St
Phone: 519-273-6666
Website: www.pazzo.ca

Pazzo Taverna Dinner from One O Six Media on Vimeo.

 

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted

From Ohio To Newfoundland: My Best Eats, 2015 Edition

What a year this has been! It started last December, when I was one of the top travel bloggers in the world to visit the White House for a special summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. There was plenty of great food in DC (food trucks!  and on the way, Cleveland’s Westside Market!) – a fantastic prelude to this year.

2015 heralded many trips, including a trip to Turkey in May, with Turkish Airlines, weekends at our cottage in northern Michigan (with grilled meats and fresh tomatoes), an epic Canadian road trip – driving from Kalamazoo, Michigan all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland!, forays into Ohio and over to Stratford, Ontario, and circling back to a cozy Thanksgiving with family that live close by. Here are the highlights. I think you’ll notice that the underlying theme is friends and family – because who else do we want to share meals with?

that popcorn mango creme brulee... one of my favorite meals this year, in Istanbul
that popcorn mango creme brulee…

Whilst in Turkey, I had many memorable meals (because, after all, Turkey is known for its delicious cuisine!). From the huge, dripping

Honeycomb at breakfast in Istanbul - one of my favorite meals this year
Honeycomb at breakfast in Istanbul

honeycomb on our breakfast buffet to freshly baked simits slathered with nutella to roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob to Turkish tea and coffee and freshly squeezed strawberry juice, we did not go hungry. I loved the meals of fresh fish, yogurts, and grilled meats, but the highlight for me was at 360 Istanbul, a rooftop restaurant that served traditional Turkish cuisine with modern twists. I had the kebabs, and a gorgeous salad, but the highlight was the dessert – a creme brulee with mango sauce, salted caramel popcorn, and a nutty caramel ice cream. It was a melange of every taste you can imagine – sweet, salty, umami, smooth, crunchy, syrupy, icy, warm. The view was pure Istanbul, wide-ranging and gorgeous; the company was delightful.

the view from the terrace at 360 Istanbul - site of one of my favorite meals this year
the view from the terrace at 360 Istanbul

 

Toronto hit my 2015 best food list because of our lunch at America Restaurant, by Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, located on the 31st floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Our daughter enjoyed a cauliflower macaroni and cheese that she said was the best she’d ever had; Ed had a delicious Wellington beef burger with brisket, slaw, and artisanal bun. I had the speckled trout tartine – this genius dish consisted of grilled piece of house made sourdough bread, with French remoulade sauce, daisy capers and elderberries and leafy greens, finished with pieces of sous vide smoked speckled trout, served rare. This dish? It is one of the best things I have ever eaten – the crunch of the bread combined with the creaminess of the trout and remoulade, and the fresh and pickled accoutrements – it was perfect. We enjoyed a great view, lovely art, and excellent company, including a new friend that felt like family.

Smoked trout tartine at America Restaurant, Toronto - one of my favorite meals this year
Smoked trout tartine at America Restaurant, Toronto

 

Newfoundland
St. John’s gets a three-fer for the nod for favorites, with a plus. The plus is an event we went to on our very first night on the Rock – Food Day Canada. There were chefs from Newfoundland, as well as from all over Canada, each showcasing the best of their restaurants and regions. I can’t even begin to say how great the food here was, but I will say that I have built a healthy respect for the chefs, farmers, and producers that work within the island and the weather to create such imaginative, delicious food. (Interviews to come!) Also, please note that while I have many favorite restaurants in St. John’s, I’ve focused on fine dining for this 2015 roundup.

Tavola
Tavola, a small Mediterranean bistro, is located downtown. What the unassuming facade hides is a treasure within. The food, mostly small plates, is a mix of Mediterranean and local. Take, for instance, a dish I’d sampled at Food Day Canada and was delighted to find on the menu: BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.

BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree. at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my top meals in 2015
BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.

Now, let me tell you why this is so amazing. First, the Rock is known for its baked beans. And, as a midwesterner, I can attest to the nourishing properties of baked beans, especially in the cold winters, but also for fun in the summer. These baked beans? The absolute best I’ve ever eaten. A humble dish, elevated to the stars. Now, I must mention (because my brother is a firefighter, and you know how they love food and work hard on bbq dishes) the bbq smoked pork shoulder. There were crispy bits. The kind you long for, covet when someone else is pulling the pork, snitch when you’re pulling the pork, guard with a fork when there are poachers about. LOTS of crispy bits. Any restaurant that serves this? Immediately in my favorites list. Tavola on that list? CHECK.
The second reason why I love Tavola? It’s owned by Great Big Sea musician Bob Hallett. I was lucky enough to dine with him that day, and hear stories of growing up in Newfoundland, fish, halibut (did you know they are enormous?), community, and bringing the meals he loved while touring home. It isn’t often you dine with a famous musician – even less so, I’d imagine, one that is so down to earth, friendly, and welcoming.

Fresh oysters at Adelaide Oyster House, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite meals this year!
Fresh oysters at Adelaide Oyster House, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Adelaide Oyster House
While this happening restaurant is somewhat loud and a bit hip for this mama, I have to say that not only was the service incredible, but the food was extraordinary. Adelaide Oyster House has won many awards – and in one visit, you can see why. I had the kale salad (don’t hate – it was sooooo good!); we also ordered oysters (of course), fancy cocktails, fish tacos, charcuterie with olives, and a birthday cake/dessert plate that needed to be tripled. By the end of the evening, we’d danced in our seats (and out of them) to the fantastically curated dance music, made new friends with our servers and chefs, and cemented friendships over food – the best way, isn’t it?

Kobe beef lettuce wrap with pickled vegetables, wild rice puffs, and special sauce at Adelaide Oyster House, St John's, Newfoundland - location of one of my favorite meals this year!
Kobe beef lettuce wrap with pickled vegetables, wild rice puffs, and special sauce at Adelaide Oyster House, St John’s, Newfoundland

 

Mallard Cottage
Chef Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage has not only restored an historic cottage in Quidi

Myself with Mallard Cottage chef Todd Perrin - site of one of my favorite meals this year! St. John's, Newfoundland
Myself with Mallard Cottage chef Todd Perrin

Vidi Village, but has brought back traditional Newfoundland cuisine – with a twist. There’s an herb garden outside, and across the alley, another garden. The fish is freshly caught, and on Sunday brunch, there’s a $10 CAKE TABLE.

Chilled lobster bisque at Mallard Cottage, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite meals this year
Chilled lobster bisque at Mallard Cottage, St. John’s, Newfoundland

Now that alone should do it for you, but let me tempt you with other things we ordered at our table, including a fresh Caesar salad with cured pork cheek and piled high with thinly grated parmesan, a fresh scallop ceviche, a chilled lobster bisque that was the best soup I’ve EVER EATEN, fresh halibut, cod, fresh Newfoundland scallops, and a dessert assortment that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

 

Mallard Cottage, St. John's, Newfoundland - one of my favorite places to eat this year!
Mallard Cottage Menu

 

New Brunswick
New Brunswick, Canada, was a complete surprise. I had no idea of the fresh seafood along the Acadian coast, the locally sourced food, the creative cuisine, the beauty of the landscapes, and the rich cultural heritage. My best meal here was in Miramichi, at 1809 Restaurant, along the Miramichi River. Yes, I loved it so much that I interviewed Chef Jesse MacDonald for i8tonite.

Divine stuffed haddock at Rodd 1809 in Miramichi, New Brunswick - one of the best meals I ate this year
My stuffed haddock – divine!

The seafood chowder was the best I’ve ever had – even with daily seafood chowder eating in Ireland – and my stuffed haddock
filet was divine. We dined out on the deck at sunset, enjoying the ambience, company, and delicious food. Our time in Miramichi was too short, but filled with great meals, excellent company, interesting conversations about place and food, and a warmth that the Rodd Miramichi so beautifully filled in our travels.

Montreal
Montreal gets two best food nominations – and I know that if we were there longer, it would have been many more. Another reason to go back…

Oh! Dumplings
Let me tell you how much we love dumplings. Wait, it can’t fit into this very small paragraph. Let’s just say top 3 foods our family loves. So when we were in Montreal, a visit to Chinatown was a must. We’d had great dumplings in Toronto, but not SUPER GREAT dumplings. Canada needed to step up to the plate and bat some excellent dumplings our way.

Dumplings and one of many scallion pancakes we ordered at Oh! Dumplings in Montreal - one of the best meals I ate this year
Dumplings and one of many scallion pancakes we ordered at Oh! Dumplings in Montreal

Meandering through Montreal’s Chinatown almost seemed sacrilegious – why weren’t we getting Montreal smoked meat? The lure of the dumpling, I answer. We found Oh! Dumplings, right next to a square where a hundred people or so were dancing. It was a sign. We ordered some of the 12 types of dumplings here, and then the scallion pancake, because the table next to us kept ordering more of them. Well, it’s a good thing the dumpling ladies were fast at making the fresh, juicy dumplings. Everyone left happy, including we three. Canada’s dumpling reputation was restored.

Making dumplings at Oh! Dumplings, in Montreal - one of my favorite meals this year
Making dumplings at Oh! Dumplings, in Montreal

 

Breakfast at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth
Often, hotel breakfasts are meh. Cold cereal, hard apples, gross coffee. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth changed all that with their luxurious breakfast buffet. Now, the thing that enticed me most

Bread station at the Breakfast Buffet at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal - one of my favorite meals this year.
Bread station at the Breakfast Buffet at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal

was the bread station. LOOK AT THESE GEMS! But if you didn’t want to carb out, there were several kinds of yogurt, an array of cut fruit (11 bowls!), pitchers upon pitchers of fresh squeezed juices of all kinds, and the spacious hot bar. Here, you could get a made to order omelette – or 3 other kinds of eggs, several kinds of sausages, plenty of bacon, french toast, crepes with a brown sugar glaze, several kinds of breakfast potatoes, and, my favorite, a European-style array of many sliced meats and even more gourmet cheeses. The coffee was delicious, the environment was beautiful and elegant, and the service, well, these waiters know their stuff – and are funny, to boot. We fueled up here and were satisfied until dinner. It was the perfect start to every day in Montreal.

Guild House
Closer to home (in Columbus, Ohio), we enjoyed an incredible meal at Guild House. One of the Cameron Mitchell Group restaurants, this new restaurant is worth visiting. We loved it so much that we interviewed Chef Patrick Hofer for the Chef’s Questionnaire here at i8tonite.

the toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio - part of one of my favorite meals this year!
Toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio

The restaurant is beautiful, has outstanding talent in the kitchen, and sources locally and organically when possible. As the Guild House notes on the menu, “There’s a lot of love on every plate.” We had extraordinary appetizers (be sure to get the cheese plate with house made crackers and local sourdough toast), entrees (Lillie said that lasagna was a masterpiece, and the best lasagna she’d ever had – and she’s a lasagna connoisseur), non-alcoholic shrub beverages (swoon), and desserts. My favorite was the toast with burrata, avocado, pickled red onion, and salsa verde.

Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio - one of my favorite meals this year
Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette at Guild House, Columbus, Ohio

OR the Prime rib cap, sweet onion relish, Pointe Reyes blue cheese, mustard vinaigrette. Let’s be honest – you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. It also features in my mind as a top pick because it was here that our teen daughter announced that she was a gourmet cuisine aficionado. Now, while I’ve known this for years, it was this restaurant that sharpened her instincts for dissecting a menu, picking out the bits that attract you, and chatting with the waiters and chef to learn more.

 

Closer than Newfoundland, a visit to Stratford, Canada taught me a great deal about this well known theatre town. There is so much going on here with the food scene that I can’t wait to go back and eat. Every meal was a treat, and much of it is locally sourced. One of my favorite meals was our lunch at Mercer Hall Inn.

House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus at Mercer Hall Inn, Stratford, Canada - one of my favorite meals this year
House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus at Mercer Hall Inn, Stratford, Canada

The meal was outstanding – truly, some of the most clean and fresh tasting food I’ve had in a long time. We went back into the kitchen with Chef Ryan O’Donnell – and saw some of the ingredients he was working with, including freshly baked bread, wild rice crackers, and gorgeous, colorful vegetables straight from local growers. He’s an artist, with a full palette of organic, local food to create with – and an instructor at the Stratford Chef School. Mercer Hall also features tea from Tea Leaves – home of Canada’s first Tea Sommelier, Karen Hartwick – a genius at delicious, enriching teas.

 
Thanksgiving was special. I loved it for the family, for cooking

Thanksgiving Dinner - one of my best meals of 2015
Our Thanksgiving Dinner – delicious, familiar, and full of love

together with my mom and aunt and daughter, for the tablecloth and dishes and place cards we use every year, for the decorations that are familiar and the dishes that we tweak a bit each year (or not). It’s the perfect combination of tradition and deliciousness, and is always a highlight of my year.

 

 

 

 

And the coffee:
We moved to Kalamazoo this spring, although I’ve lived here before and grew up a half hour away. I am so happy that there are many great coffeeshops in town, including Black Owl (purveyors of Kalamazoo Coffee, roasted out back), and Something’s Brewing, home of delicious coffee and homemade cinnamon pop tarts. Yep.

Delicious coffee (and tea) at Black Owl Cafe, Kalamazoo, Michigan - one of my favorite places to eat this year!
Delicious coffee (and tea) at Black Owl Cafe, Kalamazoo, Michigan

 

 

When you think back to your favorite meals, what made them so great? For me, it’s a combination of company and delicious food. Luckily, I have had plenty of both this year.

 

The End. Go Eat.