Ours to Discover
Looking for a charming town that’s got a big heart for culture? With but 35,000 laid-back residents and an artsy mindset, Stratford punches above its weight in the theatrical community with the annual Stratford Festival.
By Kylie MacKenzie
Located smack in the middle of an agricultural mecca, Stratford’s up-and-coming food scene is now also earning a headline or two. Train enthusiasts visit Stratford Perth Museum to learn more about the town’s storied railway history, and there’s a summer music festival that lives here too. From Bach to First Nations and back over to Celtic and rock, there’s something on the play list for everyone.
Bed and breakfasts are a thriving reality with the seasonal influx of theatregoers and a pleasant absence of large hotels. Each home has its unique charm and prices and amenities are as varied as their architecture. During our visit,we caught up with food personality Theresa Albert. A recent transplant from Toronto, Theresa’s the new owner of Rosehurst Stratford Bed and Breakfast.
Known for her foodie hospitality, television series and recently built keyhole garden (a “water retaining” concept developed to combat poverty and drought in Africa), Theresa’s commitment to sustainability and high-nutrient food keeps costs and waste low and maintains freshness that’s out of this world. Her breakfast ingredients are harvested daily and eggs are delivered as needed from a local farmer. “Rosehurst has no menu since your plate is my painter’s palette,” she claims. Whatever is available from local gardens ends up on pretty plates with fresh juice and a lovely cup of tea. Life doesn’t get much healthier.
Theresa’s Rosehurst isn’t alone in its commitment to the cultivation and serving of good food. The Stratford Chefs School, recognized for turning food aficionados into star chefs, teaches with only local meat and produce. For novices like me, the school offers a variety of affordable chef-taught classes. My afternoon invite is to participate in a fun and fabulous “fresh fruit pies and tarts” lesson in the “pro kitchen.” Grandma would’ve been proud of my flaky pastry.
When school’s in session, locals with a little more time on their hands (once the tourists have gone home) flock to the school’s coveted student chef’s dinner series. These “affordable” four-course meals are arguably some of the best in town for those “in the know.”
Dining out après theatre? The famous Red Rabbit stands out not only for its commitment to exquisitely prepared comfort food, but also for its hands-on, eclectic management style. “The Rabbit” is, after all, an eatery where the dedicated owners are also staff. On the menu are amazing appetizers and pre-theatre meal delights with two courses for $49. The jerk cauliflower and brined Perth pork shoulder are as intensely tasty as they sound.
Stratford, a mere 1.5-hour drive from Toronto, boasts plenty of character, an absence of traffic jams and is now home to Theresa as well. Worth a weekend visit regardless of the season.
Photos: The Stratford Chefs School