Monforte on Wellington (STRATFORD, ON)

3 Jul

(Note: This post was written with Mr. HoM hovering over the keyboard … correcting my factual and grammatical errors as well as proper spelling for Italian words.)

The last time we were in Stratford, Mr. HoM and I peeked into a restaurant on Wellington. We saw lightbulbs hanging from black wire, tables and chairs made from varnished 2X4s, and their menu scrawled onto chalkboards. The name of the restaurant (MONFORTE) was spray painted (but faded) in red on the storefront. It looked like a seriously cool place especially since Stratford is a bit of a cheesy-chain-greasy-spoon mine field.

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We made our way back this long weekend. We’d received intel that the resto would only be open for dinner with “family style menu” (prix-fixe) but when we got there they were open and offering their daily cheese/ charcuterie options. We were not looking for food. Yet, the menu compelled us to stop and stuff our faces.

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In the light of day, the decor is charming and whimsical. It’s like visiting your Danish friend’s flat: minimalist, warm, recycled/ handmade furniture. None of the dishes match. None of the cutlery matched. We each had a glass of water and soda (w rhubarb syrup) and there were four different glasses on the table.

The resto models itself after osterias, which are typically places for wine and simple food. The menu options are limited and emphasize fresh local ingredients and specialties. Monforte uses the products from their eponymous dairy (located literally down the street): butter, cheese, curds, yoghurt, and water buffalo ICE CREAM. The chefs source their other menu options (pork, honey, and wheat) from local farmers and artisans. The result of this effort is fresh dynamic flavours that showcase the sophisticated epicurean offerings of Southern Ontario.

We ordered the charcuterie & cheese plates ($18 for the combo, or $10 each).

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The charcuterie plate included: duck pastrami (made in-house), summer sausage (Dave Martin Farms), guanciale (cured pig jowls). We loved the summer sausage – spicy and tangy without being overpowering. Mr. HoM decided that the mustard would best complement the flavours of the duck, which were served thinly sliced. The texture was melt in your mouth tender. I only sampled a bit of the guanciale. Mr. HoM could not get enough of that thick layer of animal fat that was imbued with salty porky-goodness.

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The cheese plate featured: Black Sheep (mild and fresh like a glass of milk), Tomme (hand pressed sheep milk cheese, aged 2-6 months), and Piacere. The cheeses were served with a rhubarb chutney and buckwheat honey (from Bauman Apiraries). Mr. HoM was hypnotized by the creamy freshness of the Black Sheep, which reminded him of fresh mozzarella. The Piacere was like a buttery brie but more pungent – its flavours smacked you in the face when paired with the rhubarb chutney. We ate the Tomme (my favourite) with the buckwheat honey – malty and floral.

There were two types of crackers (both made in-house) on which the cheese and meats were eaten — one crispy and the other thicker with flax and sesame seeds. The flax cracker had a shortbread texture. It crumbled in all the right places, which made sharing a breeze. I was so obsessed with the crackers I took some home with me ($6) … to share … with only special people.

We lingered and took in the space. We conversed with Ruth (the cheese master) who shared with us that the restaurant is her little project right now and she’s tinkering with its offerings all the time. We promised her that we would be back for dinner … often. Mr. HoM wants to go back NOW to have the water buffalo ice cream.

Monforte’s Facebook – they announce their daily menu options with pictures of their chalkboard menu.

Monforte on Wellington on Urbanspoon

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