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In pretty Stratford, Ontario, sous-vide lamb is served as a prelude to Shakespeare.

15 June 2011
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This summer, actors will perform Shakespeare on outdoor stages, in cramped church basements and historic theaters. But one of the most engaging and intimate ways to see some Shakespeare between April and November is at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, a charming town about two hours west of Toronto named for the Bard’s own home. Main performances take place on an elegant wooden stage that’s surrounded by the audience on three sides.

Shakespeare lovers have been making the pilgrimage here for nearly 60 years, but there’s much more than award-winning theater in Stratford. Pre-theater meals at local restaurants are so impressive, they nearly steal the show.

With a sophistication and traditionalism that mirror the local approach to theater, Rundles Restaurant (open from late May until late September) combines haute cuisine with impeccable service. Highlights from last year’s prix-fixe menu include an appetizer of duck confit cakes and entrée of Ontario lamb slow-cooked sous vide, or “under vacuum,” in a water bath – a method that can take days and is said to preserve the integrity of the ingredients.

Far removed from the demands and cosmopolitanism of big-city dining, a tight-knit culinary community thrives in Stratford. Rundles head chef Neil Baxter offers weekend cooking classes to the public from March to May. He also teaches at the renowned Stratford Chefs School, which operates The Prune, another seasonal restaurant offering innovative cuisine with an emphasis on local ingredients.
 
Whether visitors come for theater or food – and they likely come for both – they’ll find accommodation at one of the more than 60 bed and breakfasts in Stratford. Two standouts, Eighteen Waterloo and The Queen and Albert, are both within walking distance of Rundles and the Festival Theater.
 

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