The County Food Co., – Stratford, Canada

county food store.jpg

"Can one desire too much of a good thing?" 

–As You Like It, Shakespeare


Part store, part carry out/lunch deli and part restaurant, The County Food Co. in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, is all about local products. There are racks of packaged products, a salad bar, deli cases of potpies, prepared foods and desserts, along with tables to seat about 20 diners. Blackboard walls behind the counter tout local suppliers, craft beers and daily goodies. 

The menu features offerings from the deli cases as well as made-to-order sandwiches and specials. The brunch items on Sunday morning were particularly appealing – neither of us could pass up the "Country Food Special," house-made potato pancakes topped with smoked salmon, basted eggs and tomato salsa.

Now you might think that the combination of potato pancakes, smoked salmon, eggs and tomato salsa is odd. If it had been a traditional salsa I would agree, since the other elements are almost standard in many cultures. Think boxy, if you lean toward Irish styles. A traditional Polish breakfast or dinner may also combine any of these ingredients, but you don't often find the tomato salsa as a part of the deal.

As cultures collide, combine and blend, different ingredients and flavor profiles come together to form delicious combinations. When you take a traditional thing like salsa and twist it to be more of a fresh tomato salad, it becomes a light, zippy condiment that breaks through the strong, even heavy, elements of the dish. It works with each component individually, as well as in concert with the group.

This wasn't a meal that you walk away from thinking, "I need just a little more…" In fact, you’ll roll away thinking, "I think I'll skip lunch." But your brain and tongue will be begging for more.

Hungry Frog – Stratford, Canada

boars head.jpg

"A dish fit for the gods.” 

–Julius Caesar, Shakespeare


Every year my mom and I go to Stratford, Ontario, Canada, to see some Shakespeare plays and relax. A big part of our trip is exploring and eating at the great restaurants of the area. Deciding where to eat can be a major decision making process. We have some traditions, and our favorites, but over the years some have changed and new places have sprung up.

To pick a restaurant for dinner on the first night of our visit, we walked around town and looked at menus. Mom had scoped out some places online, and we decided English (Canadian, really) fare sounded good. The Boar's Head Pub at the Queen's Inn won.

A real pub in the middle of a tourist town, it’s full of colorful locals who just walked out of the factories and offices. There is a three-foot ad for Fuller Beer that is a portrait of Queen Victoria. As one would expect, there are dartboards, beer signs and oak tables.

The menu is what you would expect at an English pub in Canada. Along with the Shepard's pie and fish & chips, there is a nice selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers and pastas. The special daily offerings include a soup, savory pie, sandwich, pasta dish and a dessert.

It was a cool, damp day so I couldn't resist the lamb stew pie from the special board. A typical, personal-sized casserole came out topped with two, fluffy, golden brown, square, puff pastries.

Breaking the crispy pastry made me smile. Seeing tons of lamb with carrots, onions and potatoes in the steaming gravy was wonderful. The first bite of buttery pastry with the tender lamb slathered in the gravy was pure perfection.

My mom had the Shepard's pie, so we both sampled the other's entree. Hers was well worth ordering. Light and fluffy, the potatoes were topped with a nice, zippy gravy. Though it was ground beef, not lamb, it was perfectly seasoned and tasty.

A sip of hard cider, when I could move again, was a perfect way to balance my savory pie. A local beer from the large selection of on tap brews would have been great, but I can't drink beer (darn hop allergy). But then again, it may have pushed me even farther over the full line. The portions were perfect for hungry travelers.

Would I go there again? You bet I would. Mom agrees. In fact, because our favorite traditional Sunday dinner place changed their menu, we may make this our new spot to eat before we head home each year.