Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stratford Culinary Tour: Monforte Dairy

On Saturday, May 29th, I had the utmost opportunity to join some local foodies and food bloggers on a culinary trip to Stratford, Ontario, in Perth County. I just want to say "thanks" to Suresh Doss, publisher of Spotlight Toronto, for inviting me to this event. I truly feel really lucky to be invited since I've only started this food blog about a month and a half ago, and already I am given a chance to go on a culinary tour with food bloggers that write for the FoodNetwork.ca, National Post, blogTO, Toronto Life (just to name a few)! There was really no way that I was going to pass up this opportunity. The Stratford culinary tour turned out to be just as wonderful as I thought it would be; it was educational, fulfilling, fun, and exhilarating. The day was jam-packed with activities and it flew by so quickly.

To be honest, I haven't been to Stratford since high school for English classes, and up until I was invited to Stratford a month ago, I really had no idea that Stratford has become such a culinary haven full of rich farming region, which was cultivated since the early 19th century. Stratford is also well known for its Stratford Chefs School, which has been training chefs for 26 years and its alumni includes some of Canada's top chefs. For more information about Stratford, and its "Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Week" from September 18-26 (which I will definitely try to attend), visit Savour StratfordSavour Stratford is part of Savour Ontario, a program designed to campaign and promote more consumers in choosing the fresh, locally grown foods of Ontario.

The first stop of our culinary tour was at Monforte DairyMonforte Dairy is owned and operated by Ruth Klahsen, and is Southwestern Ontario's premier artisanal cheese company. It has been in operation since 2004, with 30 cheeses crafted from water buffalo, goat, sheep, and cow. Monforte only use seasonal milk from humanely treated animals. 

Ruth is a veteran chef, and is a graduate from Stratford Chefs School in 1983. She has recently won the 2008 Women in Agriculture Award in recognition of her role as a cheese maker and entrepreneur. What an inspiration!

Ruth Klahsen - you go girl! =)

We visited Monforte's new location on Saturday, which is set to begin production on Tuesday, June 1st. Monteforte introduced a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) subscriber program where people can invest in a share of their new dairy now, and receive an equivalent amount of cheese once the dairy is up and running. This business model will greatly help Monteforte's upfront costs, and at the same time, the consumer gains high quality fresh cheeses as it becomes available. It is really a win-win situation for everyone!

Once the dairy is in production, it will be open for tours, tastings and cheese making workshops on weekends until October.

Below is a floor plan, posted on the wall, of the new facility.

Maureen from Monteforte gave us a quick tour of the soon to be cheese factory. Below is the pasteurization room. Pasteurization is the process which slows microbial growth. 

After the plant tour, we were served Mapleton sheep's milk yogurt with Tango Cafe's house-made granola.

I'm not a big yogurt fan, but this yogurt is exceptional, and its nothing like the average store-bought yogurt. this yogurt was thick and creamy, with a light tangy taste.

It went together perfectly with the granola. 

What a perfect breakfast to start our day in Stratford!

We were also served coffee from Balzac's Coffee Here is Danielle, from Stratford Tourism Alliance, pouring us some organic herbal tea from Ontario.

Danielle is showing us the Bieber-iffic Map here, which shows the places that Justin Bieber hung out at before he became an international musical sensation. Too bad I'm not a Bieber fan, or else I would've felt ecstatic with this map in my hand.

Our foodie group was given a package full of information about Stratford, including pamphlets of local farms, a culinary guide of the area, information about culinary attractions and the Epicurean Treks. We were also given stainless water bottles filled with ice cold water for our farm adventures (how thoughtful!). 

I really commend Stratford Tourism Alliance for organizing this culinary tour for food bloggers - it really shows that Stratford has embraced the importance of social media, and recognizes how influential food bloggers can be. Savour Stratford is one step ahead by being involved in social media outlets, such as Twitter, thereby distinguishing itself as a trendy "culinary destination".

My next post will be about our second destination: Antony John's farm - "Soiled Reputation".