Have you ever heard the saying everything tastes better when you eat outside? Couple that with a real life farm to table experience right on the actual farm and you have the makings of a delightful afternoon and a truly fantastic culinary experience.
The “Call to Farms” event was the brainchild of The Stratford Chef’s League, a local collective designed to showcase local farms, restaurants and chefs. Several times throughout the year, the rambunctious and fiercely talented group put their heads together and create a superlative dining event focused around a main theme or concept.
With a true commitment to showcasing local ingredients and an equal focus on their source and production, the team of chefs all work together to create and serve each course. All the ingredients are produced by local Artisan businesses, even the garnishes were foraged in surrounding fields.
All of this while we sat and enjoyed great company and scenery, right in the middle of McIntosh Farms, our lovely host, a true example of a farm raising their animals committed to integrity and quality. The idea of sourcing local and creating farm-to-table food has become quite trendy and mainstream, but The League has presented its own thoughtful perspective on the subject, starting with the actual slaughter and butchery of the protein.
While a little heavy for some, it’s meant to provoke people to really consider where their food is coming from, and appreciate the producers who are trying to create a livelihood focused on humane and healthy animal production. You don’t really ‘get it’ when you buy your meat shrink wrapped on a styrofoam tray but it really hits home when you actually see these animals roaming through the fields, eating and living naturally. That feels like the food I want to buy, the farmer that I want to support and the food that I want to put in my body. There’s a real energy at these events, a true synergy between the farmers, the chefs, and the guests. The whole farm to table experience doesn’t feel fancy or trendy, it feels real and right.
So take all that passion and planning and big chef personalities and put them on a farm on a rainy day and set them loose to do what they do best, create kick ass food and feed a bunch of hungry folks. These guys poured their passion into the food and the resulting experience was beautiful, satisfying and insanely delicious.
For me this event spoke to everything I love about eating. The meal was a rustic preparation with an homage to fire. Multiple courses of delicious bites, bursting with flavor, honoring the natural flavors and nuances of the ingredients. Excited and interested diners, chatting about food all around, meeting new people and sharing a great time. The meal was served with a superb local brew from Black Swan local brewery. A local bluegrass band played while our courses were served and the setting was nothing short of magical.
A mile long table set under awnings on a dirt road leading to the barn. Surrounded by a beautiful field of rolling grasses with animals freely running about. This felt like the true essence of a farm, almost out of a childhood storybook and we were lucky enough to share a meal smack dab in the middle of it. A family of pigs ran by as we ate, horses grazed, cows and sheep milled about. A family of ducks wandered afoot and as the sun peeked through the clouds I looked around and realized what they had managed to pull off was my rendition of a perfect eating experience, pure, beautiful and extraordinarily delicious.
Visit the Stratford Chef’s League Facebook page to see what they’re cooking up next. You can buy tickets here for their next event. It makes for a perfect day tripping destination from Toronto or and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Look for me, I’ll be there.