Hootin’ and feastin’ with Monforte’s Ruth Klahsen

Two pigs and five lambs were only the beginning of the feast at Monforte's hootenanny.

Ruth Klahsen sure knows how to throw a party. This afternoon, more than 800 of her closest friends showed up—and hardly anyone knew it was Ruth’s 53rd birthday. The invitations had only said it was to be a hootenanny in the Stratford Festival Theatre Lobby.

And what a hoot it turned out to be!

Ruth hosted the party to thank the 858 contributors who have raised $385,000 toward the cost of a new plant for Monforte Dairy. Government funding, including a $190,000 grant just the other day from Ontario’s rural economic development program, will make up the rest of $880,000 budget that will see Monforte return to cheesemaking on May 17 in a spiffy new production facility in Stratford.

Ruth Klahsen shows a flock of her supporters the new production facility taking shape in Stratford. Cheesemaking restarts on May 17.

“But it isn’t government that we have to thank for all this,” Ruth told her supporters during a tour of the the plant this afternooon. “It is you, the people who support Monforte, who made all this possible. Without you, we wouldn’t have got a penny from anyone else.”

Cheddar hoops once used by now-closed Forfar Dairy will find new life at Monforte.

Certainly, the banks weren’t interested in getting involved. As a result, Monforte Dairy now only deals with Mennonite Savings and Credit Union, the only financial institution to show support when Monforte Renaissance 2010 was started.

The public money-raising was all done with a model called Community-Supported Agriculture. Essentially, supporters paid in advance for cheese they would receive over five years. Here is CSA explained by Ruth in a video.

The hootenanny turned out to be more of a feast than a folk-music party—which is a good thing . . . when you have some of the leading chefs in Ontario showing up to cook for your guests. Take two pigs and five lambs, organize the chefs into two teams, and the result is sure to be outstanding. Here’s the who’s who:

Team Lamb: Joshna Maharaj, Anthony Davis of The Roosevelt Room, John Lee of Chippy’s, Marc Breton of The Gladstone, Jason Inniss of Amuse Bouche, Johan Maes of Petite Dejeuner, and Scott Vivian of Wine Bar/Hank’s.

Team Pork: Daniel DeMatteis, Steffan Howard of Palais Royale, Tyler Cunningham of Mildred Temple, Mark Cutrara of Cowbell, Martha Wright of Frank@AGO, Olivia Bolano of All The Best Fine Foods, and Chris Sanderson of The Drake.

Ontario wines, local beer and apple cider complemented the fine fare the chefs produced.

On the drive home, more than one guest likely reflected on truths that had become apparent during the afternoon:

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca.

Talk about being open to the public! This video camera in the make room at Monforte broadcasts 24/7 on the Web. Go to <http://webcam.monfortedairy.com>. The username is guest. No password required.

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