Friday, June 4, 2010

Stratford Culinary Tour: Soiled Reputation Barn Lunch with Chef Neil Baxter

Time for lunch. Lunch was served in the barn at Soiled Reputation. I have personally never ate in a barn before, have you? Coupled with good food, good wine, and good company, that day's barn lunch was really something special; I think I will remember it for the rest of my life. The pictures here really don't do justice in terms of the atmosphere in the barn that day, but it's the best I can do =) 

To start off, we were served cold organic herbal tea. This was so refreshing after being out in the sun at Fred de Martines' hog farm and Antony's farm just before. We were  also served Pilsner from the Stratford Brewing Company  and wines from Malivoire. I admit, I was greedy and had all of the above.

Here are some pictures of the surroundings from my seat at the table.

Above me:

Behind me:

To my left, Derek Barnes providing us with live music:

To my right, looking out from the barn:

Our table: 

It doesn't matter how much you are willing to pay, you will never be able to experience anything close to this in the city. At that moment, it feels so good to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

We were all very obedient and took our seats at once when lunch was ready.

I should take some time here to let you know who cooked our delicious 3-course lunch that day. Chef Neil Baxter, one of Stratford's most celebrated chef, started at Rundles Restaurant as Chef de Partie in 1981 and was shortly promoted to Chef de Cuisine. He has also been trained in France at various Michelin starred restaurants as well as several prestigious North American restaurants for three years. Chef Neil has been The Master of Cookery at Stratford Chef School since 1984, and he is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the practical cookery curriculum as well as the dinner lab menus. He also offers private cooking classes, teaching 6 weekend classes to approximately 90 people.  We all felt so privileged to have him cook lunch for us that day.

Chef Neil and his team prepared our 3-course lunch behind the barn door, for all 20 of us! Impressive.

What is neat about our lunch is that Chef Neil used only local ingredients from the previous three places that we visited - Monforte Dairy, Soiled Reputation, and Perth Pork Products. So fresh and all local.

Our first course is Perth County Asparagus Salad with Crispy Eggs, Wild Arugula, and Shaved Monforte Toscano.

I loved everything about this salad. Everything is, and tasted, so fresh. Isn't that egg yolk beautiful? Unfortunately my point-and-shoot camera couldn't capture the colour of the yolk as great as I would've liked - the yolk was so incredibly bright and orange. Only the best from Soiled Reputation.

Our second course was the Spit Grilled de Martines' Wild Boar, Soiled Reputation Pea Shoot Spatzle and Mustard Seed Jus.

I really haven't tasted pork this had so much fattiness in it. The fat marbling is apparent in the picture below. I have also a new found love for pea shoot spatzle =)

I cleaned the plate up pretty well by dipping bread into that tasty mustard seed jus.

Me looking intently at something.

Picture courtesy of boneats. Feel free to visit her flickr album for
more beautiful Stratford pics.

After the Wild Boar, Chef Neil and his team began preparing our dessert course...

...Soiled Reputation Rhubarb Soup with Rhubarb Crush

This was heavenly. I have never been keen on cold soups (I usually prefer something chocolate-ty for dessert). But this rhubarb soup worked perfectly given that we were eating in a barn in hot weather. It was so refreshing! The rhubarb was tangy and fresh, and the mint leaves was a nice touch. 

Lunch ended with Antony and Derek serenading us with "Hallelujah".

After a few alcoholic drinks and the delicious 3-course meal, my eyes were getting droopy and the idea of lying on the hay behind me seemed quite pleasant. But not to worry, tea will do the trick! My next post will be about the tea workshop which we participated in with Karen Hartwick, a certified tea sommelier, from Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar.