I know that I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times, but in the interests of Making the Most of the Dash, I thought a debrief was in order. So, to the After Action Report, then! The way this tour works is that you go to the Stratford Tourism Alliance on Downie Street, you get your map and vouchers for the Trail. $30.00 per person, and you’re off! Mike and I each got 5 vouchers, here’s how we spent them:
Stop 1: Madelyn’s Diner (vouchers #1 and #2 surrendered)
We got to Stratford at about 10am, and had Madelyn’s Diner for breakfast. We each spent our first voucher here for Bacon Butter Tarts. There’s a whole display case full of tarts at the entrance, and with the voucher, you can select any variety you want. Mike ate his after we got home, and I had mine the next morning. It was debatably the best butter tart I’ve ever had. Would butter tart again.
Stop 2: Black Angus Bakery (voucher #3 surrendered)
On the way out of Stratford toward St. Mary’s, there’s a little bakery/restaurant in an unassuming strip mall. The signs on the windows and on the sandwich board outside say that they sell meat pies and cabbage rolls and do catering. We went in the bakery side, and boyhowdy, smells like a good bakery should – all buttery and yeasty. I spent a voucher for a dozen maple bacon shortbread. We didn’t try these until the day after we got them, but they were still melty with a little bit of crunchy bits from the bacon in the batter. Mike says they aren’t the best shortbread he’s ever had, but I notice that he still ate half of the dozen. I liked them. I don’t know if I could tell you the best shortbread I’ve ever had, but these ones were solidly enjoyable.
Bonus Stop: Junction 56 Distillery
This wasn’t on the trail, and we got there a little late for the 11am distillery tour. So we just talked to the fellow in the storefront and tasting room. Their schtick is that they’ll be creating whiskey, but whiskey needs to be aged. So until this winter, when their first offering has completed the aging process, they’ve been making things that don’t need to be aged, like moonshine and gin and vodka. We tried the Eclipse Anisette Moonshine, Sugarshack Maple Moonshine, Black Raspberry Gin, and Cinnamon Fireshine. I was hoping that Eclipse would be a good locally sourced substitute for the Sambuca at my house, but alas, Mike did not enjoy it as much as his Sambuca. I liked Sugarshack and Fireshine more than I expected. We still have some Fireball at home, but when it’s done, there may be a bottle of Fireshine in my life. In the end, I bought three minis (bigger than airplane bottles, but not a mickey either), including their Timewarp Lemonshine. I gotta say, I like how Stratford businesses and restaurants embrace the festival with their product and menu offerings. Well done, Junction 56!
Stop 3: Treasures Gift Shop (voucher #4 surrendered)
After the distillery, we parked downtown in Stratford and just wandered around for most of the rest of the stops. Treasures gift shop has all kinds of Stratford, Shakespeare, and Bieber souvenirs (some quite clever), as well as solid Canadiana for visitors. I surrendered a voucher for a I am Canadian soap (made, of course, from Molson Canadian). They also provided a little silicone mustache on a ring that you can put around the top of your beverage bottle. Cute. I haven’t used the soap yet, but it’s a nice oily but not greasy texture on my hands when i was handling it, and has a fairly subtle scent.
Interlude: Between Treasures and Kandy Cakes, we walked along Ontario Street, and wandered into shops like Fanfare books and MacLeods Scottish Shop. There was a custom wood furniture shop as well that we visited. It’s fun to watch Mike let someone blow smoke up his skirt about Products and Processes and then drop the lexicon that shows them that he’s not some noob. But these kinds of interactions make it clear that Snob genetics run in both sides of Connor’s parentage. Sorrynotsorry, Pup.
Stop 4: Kandy Cakes (voucher #5 surrendered)
This tiny cupcake shop had two very cheerful women working there. The trail voucher was good for either 2 regular sized cupcakes or 4 minis. We selected 2 regulars: Mike got coconut and I stuck with the tour and got vanilla with a caramel icing and candied bacon. Both of us took our cupcakes home, and ate them the next day or two. There was a lot of icing on mine, so it was a little too sweet for me. The flavour was excellent, it was just too much for me. But the cake was great – good crumb, moist, and subtly vanilla. Mike’s coconut cupcake didn’t have as much icing on it, and was covered with shredded coconut on top. He very much enjoyed it.
Stop 5: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Shop (voucher #6 surrendered)
As we looked at the places where we wanted to spend our vouchers, we removed the places where we didn’t feel inclined to go, and the places where we absolutely wanted to go, and we found that we had one voucher un-assigned, so we spent it at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Shop on chocolate covered toffee with smoky bacon flavour. We haven’t tried this yet, and the good news is it didn’t melt either as we were wandering around, or in the car. Mike pointed out to me the wedges of cheesecake, dipped in chocolate, on a stick in the ice cream freezer. If it wasn’t so hot and I didn’t think I’d be wearing my cheesecake pop 10 seconds in, I’d have been all over that. I may or may not be pining for it right now.
Stop 6: Black Swan Brewing Company (voucher #7 surrendered)
I’m not a beer person, but Mike is, so he surrendered a voucher at the Black Swan Brewing Company for a flight of their beers on tap. We had English Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Porter, Road Trip Ale, and (because they were out of Wild child Weisse), the same India Pale Ale carbonated with nitrogen. Other than the veryVeryVERY coffee flavoured Porter, we drank them all. I wouldn’t be able to pleasurably drink a pint of any of them, but the IPA with the nitro boost was different and palatable for the mouthful I had to try them.
Stop 7: Downie Street Burgers (voucher #8 surrendered)
Downie St. Burgers is right beside the Avon theatre, and I’ve been there a few times for a pre- or post-show repast. The offering at DSB was a plate of poutine with bacon-stout jam, but it was only offered between 2-5pm; the time when Trail participants wouldn’t be competing for tables with patrons of the Avon. So Mike and I waited until 2 for lunch (which was OK because our breakfast from Madelyn’s was substantial enough to hold us over). We had our poutine to start, and burgers for lunch. It’s always overwarm in that place, but it was almost empty (there wasn’t a matinee at the Avon that day), so the floor and ceiling fans were able to make it pleasant.
Stop 8: Soup Surreal (voucher #9 surrendered)
Soup Surreal is kind of like Zoup, but they offer them frozen, as well. Even in the heat of summer, the place was full of people. And really, who doesn’t love soup? The offer here was two frozen portions of soup: Gouda, Beer and Onion soup and Maple Bacon (in a navy bean puree base). Those sound delightful to me!
Bonus Stop: Stratford Antique Warehouse
Wandering through an Antique Warehouse is a satisfying way to spend an hour or two. Mike always enjoys the multi-vendor ones because he can dig through boxes of tools to find something he needs for his shop. There’s always someone with military medals and cap brass, brass buttons from different regiments, and felt badges. There are teacups by the thousands. There are weird old travelling salesman boxes (including one with rows of display teeth for dentures, this time!) So. Many. Bunnykins. Vinyl records, Tetley Tea figurines, vintage spangly dresses and shoes… It’s like going to a museum and a curiosity shop rolled into one. We got out having spent only $75, but Mike’s Christmas shopping is complete.
Stop 9: Best Little Pork Shoppe (voucher #10 surrendered)
We timed our trip home so that we got to the Best Little Pork Shoppe in Shakespeare before they closed. Their offering was 4 frozen bacon burgers. We don’t know if that means bacon and beef burgers, or like, smoked pork burgers, but it doesn’t really matter. Because bacon burgers can’t really be wrong, right?
Bonus Stop: Shakespeare Pies
I work with a bunch of nerds, so our DayJob gets a carful of pies from Shakespeare Pies for Pi Day (March 14th). Seriously, this year, there were 40 pies. As our last stop on the way home, Mike and I stopped. He got cherry and I got peach. Once again, Shakespeare Pies, you definitely did not disappoint.
There were 5 places that we didn’t visit on this trail, so it can easily be a different tour if we did it again. But I mentioned to my girlfriends that there’s a Chocolate Trail, and Chocolate Momentum is totally science.