Jamie Crosby, Vince Stacey,
Meaghan Evely, Ryan O’Donnell
Photo credit Terry Manzo

It’s time to start thinking about beautiful spring weather and that means it’s also time to start thinking about road trips! One of my favourite day trips from Toronto is to Stratford, Ontario. Clocking in at about 160km away, it’s an easy 2 hour drive so you can absolutely spend a lovely day eating, drinking, feeding the swans or hiking if that’s your thing. Make sure there is a DD if you are coming back in the evening or, better yet, you can grab a room and spend the night too. Stratford has a bustling restaurant/bar/music scene so you will not be bored if you choose to make it a weekend. You get a really amazing mix of small town with big city culture and a side of country air.

Last week, I got a little sneak peak of what new things this lovely little city has to offer when I attended the launch of their 25th edition of the Stratford Culinary Guide.

Richmond Station owners with other alumni in the kitchen – Photo by Terry Manzo

Stratford Chef’s School alumni Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donavan hosted the event at their Richmond Street restaurant, Richmond Station. Four of the hottest young chefs were brought into town to temp us with a wee sample of their wares, along with drinks provide by Junction 56 Distillery and Black Swan Brewery. Meaghan Evely from Pazzo Taverna, Ryan O’Donnell from Mercer Kitchen, Jamie Crosby from The Prune and Vincent Stacey of Pazzo Pizzeria were all on hand to answer questions, share their stories and their food and talk about what the city means to them.

innovative cuisine and craft beverages

The guide is available online or you can stop by the Stratford Tourism office at 47 Downie Street to pick up your own copy. There are 37 restaurants, food shops and producers featured, so, even if you just stick to the guide, you won’t run out of fabulous places to eat, drink and even take a cooking class at the Chef’s School.

If you want to make a weekend of it, there is no shortage of places to stay. From boutique hotels like the lovely Mercer to small Inns and B&Bs, there is something for everybody. If you are looking for fun, food centric activities, there are also lots of culinary adventures that you can book. I have done the Ale Trail, The Chocolate Trail and foraged with Peter Blush (you can read about my foraging experience on my blog ). One of my favourite stores, Bradshaws, happens to be in Stratford as well, so if you are driving, save some trunk space for some beautiful cookware and gadgets for your kitchen.

Visit Karen Hartwick at her Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar

All of this and we haven’t even talked about the world famous Stratford Theatre.

If you want to learn more, each one of the chefs will be featured in a 12 week blog series named, you guessed it, “Stratford’s #NextGenChefs”