Cross Canada Cooks: Ontario
Blazing fall colours along a winding road in Algonquin Provincial Park. <br />Photo courtesy Thinkstock Credits: Blazing fall colours along a winding road in Algonquin Provincial Park. <br />Photo courtesy Thinkstock
Cross Canada Cooks: Ontario
We asked Gurth Pretty – author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese (Whitecap, 2006), co-author of The Definitive Canadian Wine and Cheese Cookbook (Whitecap, 2007) and jury member at the 2009 and 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix – to name his favourite Ontario cheeses. Here they are, with his tasting notes.
1. Fresh Cheddar Curds: St-Albert Cheese, Black River Cheese, Empire Cheese and Pine River Cheese and co-ops across the province.
Ah, curds. This tasty, salty treat is best purchased directly from the maker. The fresher they are, the more they squeak when you bite into them. Yum!
2. Fresh Ricotta, International Cheese, Toronto
Made six days a week, this cheese is popular with the local Italian community. It's pure bliss, especially when still warm. Now imagine your favourite cannelloni stuffed with it. Wow!
3. Buffalo Mozzarella, Quality Cheese, Vaughan, Ont.
Similar to Italian mozzarella di bufala, this less salty version is silky on the palate. Made with milk from Ontario water buffalo, it's perfect as an appetizer. Slice and serve with tomatoes and basil, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
4. Figaro, Glengarry Fine Cheese, Lancaster, Ont.
A unique soft cheese, Figaro has the slight tang of a goat cheese even though it's made with local cow’s milk. Whatever my cousin Marie and her colleagues are doing when they make this cheese, they had better not stop. One of my favourite ways to eat it is melted over grilled vegetables.
5. Piacere, Monforte Dairy, Stratford, Ont.
Monforte uses sheep's milk from nearby Mennonite farms for this seasonal soft cheese, which is covered with rosemary, summer savory and a touch of juniper berries and chili flakes. It is amazing on its own or stuffed in a chicken breast and baked.
6. Nine-Year-Old Orange Cheddar, Pine River Cheese and Butter Co-op, Ripley, Ont.
I call this cheese "Curl Your Toes." What intense flavours! If you're searching for a nippy old sharp Cheddar, this is it. Crumble it into a green salad as the main flavour component.
7. Harley Goat Blue, Thornloe Cheese, Thornloe, Ont.
Ontario's first and only goat blue, this firm cheese is salty with little blue veins. Imagine stuffing your favourite hamburgers with it. Oh boy!
Page 1 of 11 – Discover culinary gems Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County on page 2
Sights to See: Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County
Located about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto, this area has been busily expanding its culinary tourism offerings in the last few years. Rich fertile farmland, clean air and lots of fresh water make it an ideal spot for farmers, producers, chefs and retailers, who provide inspired local food experiences. Here's just a taste of the area's foodie highlights.
• Cruise up the Trent-Severn Waterway, sampling local culinary delights.
• Take a drive and soak up small-town hospitality from Lakefield to Warkworth to Cobourg.
• Take in the Kawartha Farmfest (kawarthafarmfest.com) on Oct. 1 and 2, 2011. This self-guided driving tour of farms throughout the City of Kawartha Lakes gives you the chance to learn about organic farming and spend an afternoon with cows, ducks, sheep, goats and chickens.
• Visit poet and bison farmer Rod Potter of Century Game Park (centurygamepark.com) in Warkworth. Follow him on a bison and elk safari through the drumlins of Northumberland County. Yes, you can buy bison meat to take home.
• Stop in at Stickling’s Bakery (sticklingsbakery.com) in Peterborough, a certified organic bakery that specializes in artisan breads. When you're done there, eat a tasty lunch at Stickling's Bakery Bistro at 191 Charlotte St.
• Glovers Farm Market (gloversfarmmarket.com) in Warkworth is the roadside store of a family-run farm, which stocks its shelves with locally produced (mostly organic) products. Specialties include in-season fruits and vegetables, hydroponic tomatoes, Mennonite pickles, bison and elk meat, and award-winning Maple Dale and Empire Cheese. A special treat: owner Denise Glover's cinnamon buns.
• The Apple Route of Northumberland County (appleroute.com) guides visitors through the orchards, farmer's markets and gardens of Brighton, Colborne, Grafton, Cobourg, Port Hope, Quinte West and other area towns.
• The Kawartha Dairy Company (kawarthadairy.com), based in Bobcaygeon, is a family-run operation that still picks up fresh milk daily from local farms. Their ice cream is divine.
• Mrs. McGarrigle's Fine Food Shop (mustard.ca), housed in a restored Masonic Temple in downtown Warkworth, sells world-championship mustards (made without preservatives or additives) alongside award-winning Sprucewood brand homemade savoury shortbread cookies.
• Kawartha Choice FarmFresh (kawarthachoice.com) maintains an online directory of local growers, eco-friendly farmers and the restaurants and retailers who carry their foods in the Kawartha Region.
• Visit Our Table (visitourtable.com) helps you find Lang Apple Butter, Red Fife Wheat, Empire Cheese and other local culinary favourites as you journey through Peterborough and the Kawarthas.
– Doug O'Neill, executive editor
Page 2 of 11 – Discover the ethnic neighbourhoods of Toronto on page 3.
Spotlight: Toronto's ethnic neighbourhoods
Toronto is a hub of diversity within the cultural mosaic of Canada. In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone, more than 100 languages and dialects are spoken. There are dozens of ethnic neighbourhoods throughout the city where you can find authentic food from virtually any cultural group – Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, West Indian, Iranian, Greek, Latin American, Polish, Hungarian and more. Here are some of the highlights of four of Toronto's diverse ethnic food–filled neighbourhoods.
Toronto has the largest Chinese community in Canada. As a result, Chinese culture is not confined to one area within the city limits. There are three major Chinatowns in the GTA.
Downtown Toronto's main Chinatown, around the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, is dense with restaurants, fruit markets, fish markets, bakeries, specialty shops and countless non-food related businesses. A smaller version – often called Chinatown East – is located in Riverdale, in Toronto's east end.
In the suburban area just northeast of Metro Toronto, you'll find the third major pocket of Chinese immigrants and Chinese-owned restaurants, plazas, malls and major grocery stores. Pacific Mall in Markham is the largest indoor Asian mall in North America and is a major shopping attraction for anyone looking for authentic Asian ingredients. Every summer, the two-day Night It Up Festival in Markham draws thousands of locals and tourists to experience an authentic Chinese night market experience.
Indian and South Asian
South Asians are the second largest cultural group in Toronto. Little India, located in Toronto's east end on Gerrard Street East, between Greenwood and Coxwell avenues, is actually made up of not only North and South Indian establishments, but also many Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi ones.
Little India is a culturally rich and vivid area. Markets feature a wide variety of foods, textiles and other interesting imports. The Gerrard India Bazaar – the largest marketer of South Asian goods in North America – is home to dozens of restaurants and grocery options.
Every fall, the holy festival of lights known as Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs in grand style throughout the neighbourhood. Streets sparkle with candles and twinkling lights and are ornately decorated to honour the occasion.
Greek food is the specialty on Danforth Avenue, particularly in the stretch between Chester and Jones avenues. Greektown always has something to suit your food mood: spit-roasted meat, ripe tomato salads and flaming dishes of saganaki (fried cheese).
Specialty shops along the Danforth are filled with imported cheeses, grape leaves and multicoloured olives. Neighbourhood bakeries brim with fresh sticky baklava, loukoumades (fried dough balls soaked in honey syrup) and the creamy custard pie called galaktoboureko. As if resisting all that wasn't hard enough, the aromas wafting out of nearly every home cook's kitchen window will remind you that this is one of the most delicious neighbourhoods Toronto has to offer.
Little Italy is located on College Street, between Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street on the western side of Toronto. Although this trendy area is now largely Portuguese, the Italian tradition remains at this neighbourhood's core.
Little Italy really comes alive at night, with its wide selection of trattorias, cafés, bars and nightclubs, which attracts locals and tourists alike. Butcher shops, cheese stores, fish markets and specialty food shops abound within this district, making it a great place to find fine ingredients, both imported and local.
– Annabelle Waugh, food director
Page 3 of 11 – Read about how Ontario's agricultural scene has changed over the years on page 4.
Small farms renaissance
Karen Campbell and Gavin Dandy were a young Toronto couple when they caught the farming bug. Their decision 16 years ago to spend a summer house-sitting on a Guelph-area farm led to their starting a market garden and later co-founding Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre.
The number of small- and medium-size farms in Ontario has been declining for decades. One of the many reasons is that the children of retiring farmers choose to leave the farm to pursue other careers. While many former farm dwellers have settled elsewhere, a small but steady flow of people has begun heading in the opposite direction.
This resurgent interest in small-scale farming harks back to a time when family farms dotted the province. Back then, chemicals and antibiotics had no place in agriculture, and it was unheard of to import such crops as apples, which grew so well, and so flavourfully, here.
Would-be farmers sometimes acquire land and learn about agriculture by trial and lots of error, as Karen and Gavin initially did. Others enrol in farmer-training programs such as those now run by Everdale, FarmStart and Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in Ontario. Many new farmers are committed to organic farming. They grow their crops and raise their livestock in a sustainable manner that respects plants and animals, the soil and the environment. Some even eschew gas-guzzling farm vehicles in favour of the original type of horsepower – draft horses.
Ontarians have a growing interest in purchasing organically grown and raised local ingredients, often via community-supported agriculture programs and farmer's markets. We have many new farmers to thank for the increasing bounty of sustainably produced fruits, vegetables, grains and animal products reaching our tables. Everdale's slogan is "Know your food, know your farmer." Amen.
– Gail Gordon Oliver
Gail Gordon Oliver launched Edible Toronto magazine (edibletoronto.com) in September 2007. As publisher and editor, she celebrates the bounty of local foods and beverages available in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe region. Edible Toronto focuses on farmers, producers, food artisans, chefs and organizations who strive to ensure a healthy, safe and sustainable future of our local foodshed.
Page 4 of 11 – Looking for fun food events to go to throughout the year? Find out what food and drink festivals are going on in Ontario on page 5.
Ontario food and drink festivals
We asked Kattrin Sieber, of Ontario Tourism, to share some of the best food and drink events Ontario will be serving up in 2011 and 2012. For more information, visit canadiantravel.com.
• Trent Hills Flavour Break, Trent Hills, Ont., Oct. 1 to 23, 2011 – Take a self-guided driving tour to 16 locations, where you'll enjoy the unique flavours of the region, including chocolate, cheese, bison and more.
• Applefest, Lang Pioneer Village, Keene, Ont., Oct. 2, 2011 – Enjoy a fall celebration, including horse-drawn carriage rides, children's activities, apple treats and lots more.
• FlavourFest, Simcoe, Ont., Oct. 4 to 10, 2011 – Visit the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show and savour the county's finest produce, cheeses, ciders and more. And don't miss the cooking demos by local chefs.
• Blue Mountains Apple Harvest Festival, Thornbury and Clarksburg, Ont., Oct. 7 to 10, 2011 – Enjoy Thanksgiving weekend and glorious fall colours while celebrating the apple harvest. Enjoy family activities, live music, tours along the Apple Pie Trail, pumpkin carving, buskers, hiking, biking and gallery tours.
• Apple Festival and Craft Sale, Bowmanville, Ont., Oct. 15, 2011 – Enjoy apple tastings, apple treats, a craft fair and family fun at this annual event.
• First Light, Midland, Ont., Nov. 24 to 26, 2011 – Visitors to this event, held at the famous Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons heritage site, will thrill at the magical glow of more than 2,000 candles and enjoy an enchanting community evening in the Christmas spirit. Be sure to savour the traditional French-Canadian cuisine and enjoy Christmas treats throughout the site.
• Christmas at Black Creek, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto, Nov. 19 to Dec. 23, 2011 – Celebrate the best of the past with tasty treats, homemade crafts and festive entertainment throughout the village. Take a journey back in time to marvel at how people celebrated the holidays a century (or so) ago.
• Alight at Night, Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ont., Dec. 2, 2011, to Jan. 7, 2012 – During this event, the village is illuminated with more than a quarter of a million lights. Take in the breathtaking sound-and-light show and drool over the creative entries in the Canadian Gingerbread House Contest. Enjoy nighttime horse-drawn wagon rides, or take a ride on the brilliantly lit Toy Train through Crysler Park. The Village Store is open nightly, featuring freshly baked bread from the Village Bakery and photos with Santa (on select evenings). Enjoy festive dining at the Harvest Barn onsite or at the nearby Upper Canadian Cookhouse.
• Niagara Icewine Festival, Niagara, Ont., Jan. 13 to 29, 2012 – This festival transforms the region into a winter wonderland and celebrates one of Canada's most cherished products: Ontario icewine. The festival is the winter portion of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, which takes place three times a year. In June, Niagara celebrates the New Vintage Festival, at which visitors get an exclusive preview of the past year's vintage. In September, the Niagara Wine Festival offers more than 100 events, including winery tours and tastings, concerts, Niagara culinary events, live entertainment and more.
• In the Winemaker's Boots, Flatrock Cellars, Niagara, Ont., March, June, August and October – Like taking a cooking class with a top chef, these hands-on sessions let you work with a vintner to learn what it takes to make a great bottle of wine. Participants enjoy activities in the vineyard, winery and lab, and participate in tasting and blending sessions.
• Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Elmira, Ont., March 31, 2012 – Since 1965, this festival has raised funds to support local charities and nonprofit organizations. Visitors will find plenty of fun activities that celebrate maple syrup.
• Savour Stratford Tastings, Stratford, Ont., monthly from April to October – Enjoy a taste of the culinary lifestyle in this pretty town. Past highlights include matching chocolate with tea with tea sommelier Karen Hartwick, making gluten-free bread, cookies and energy bars with master chef Brian Holden, and spending an afternoon at Monforte Dairy with artisanal cheese maker Ruth Klahsen. Don't miss the culmination of the tasting season at the Savour Stratford Perth County Festival in September.
• Ottawa Veg Fest, Ottawa, May – Celebrate vegetarian cuisine with exhibitors, speakers, a silent auction and cooking demonstrations.
• PoultryFest Niagara, Smithville, Ont., mid-June – This festival, now in its 13th year, is a day packed with food and fun in Canada's poultry capital. Entertainment includes shows, competitions, historical and educational displays, kids' activities and lots to eat.
• Amherstburg Ice Cream Festival, Amherstburg, Ont., July 1, 2012 – Celebrate everyone's favourite dessert on Canada Day. Admission is free, and there are many family-oriented activities, including games, entertainment and ice cream adventures for everyone.
• Festival of Beer, Toronto, early August – Celebrate Canada's rich brewing history at an event hosted by beer-making experts from around the world. More than 120 brands of beer are served up onsite.
• Alliston Potato Festival, Alliston, Ont., early August – This three-day event celebrates the humble tuber we all know and love. The festival always kicks off with one of the biggest parades around.
• Perth Garlic Festival, Perth, Ont., second weekend of August – Celebrate your love of Ontario-grown garlic! Visitors can share ideas on how to grow, harvest, market, cook and enjoy garlic.
• A Peach of a Celebration, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., mid-August – Revel in Ontario's prolific peach harvest with a day of music, fun and – of course – tons of delicious, juicy peaches.
• Leamington Tomato Festival, Leamington, Ont., mid-August – Visit the Tomato Capital of Canada for a fabulous festival that features continuous live entertainment, a parade, a pageant, the infamous Tomato Stomp, a golf tournament and custom car show.
• Feast of Fields, Ottawa, early September – Premium local, organic and healthy foods from the region are the focus of this delicious event. Visitors can sample and enjoy food created from local produce by local chefs.
• Brighton Applefest, Brighton, Ont., last weekend of September – Surrounded by an abundance of apple orchards, this town is the perfect location for apple-themed festivities. Applefest features activities all over Brighton, including barbecues, entertainment, children's activities, dances, a street fair, a car show, arts and crafts, and a parade.
• Oxfordlicious, Oxford, Ont., September – Only two hours by car from the metropolis of Toronto, Oxford Country hosts this exciting field-to-fork celebration of food, featuring locally inspired menus at its restaurants.
• Niagara Chili Festival, Niagara Falls, Ont., early September – Visitors to this entertaining festival can enjoy great entertainment and vendors, as well as witness the festival's Chili Cookoff.
• Taste!, Prince Edward County, Ont., last weekend in September – Celebrate this fertile county's regional cuisine at a one-day festival, which showcases premium products, wines, beers, cider and cuisine.
Page 5 of 11 – Find out what local goods you can try in Ontario on page 6.
Local and Tasty: Ontario Pork
Pigs date back 40 million years to the forests and swamps of Europe and Asia. Far from their wild roots, today's domesticated pigs are carefully bred to provide a lean, nutritious and highly affordable source of protein.
More than 2,000 commercial pork producers and a growing number of heritage pig farmers raise hogs in Ontario - and most still work on family-run farms. Producers can meet specific requirements and qualify for specialty programs that allow them to label their pork as certified organic, humanely raised or raised without antibiotics. Ontario is home to about 20 organic producers.
Heritage pigs - descended from Berkshire, Tamworth and English Large Black breeds in the United Kingdom - are increasingly popular for their outstanding flavour and hearty constitutions. Heritage hogs are allowed to forage, which cuts down on feed cost and enhances their flavour. They take longer to grow than commerical pigs, but they're generally raised in chemical-free pastures, fed chemical-free feed and not given artificial growth hormones.
Other producers are using enhanced feed to create pork with specific health benefits. Paul Hill of Willowgrove Hill Farms in Stratford, Ont., has created a nutritionally enriched pork that contains the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA, and selenium. Willowgrove is the only farm in North America allowed to label its pork with the health claim "Supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves."
- Soo Kim, food specialist
Ontario is known as the Butter Tart Capital of Canada. To celebrate that title, here is a collection of our favourite butter tart recipes.
Best Butter Tarts: canadianliving.com/food/best_butter_tarts.php
Maple Butter Tarts: canadianliving.com/food/maple_butter_tarts.php
Chocolate Butter Tarts: canadianliving.com/food/chocolate_butter_tarts.php
Heavenly Butter Tarts: canadianliving.com/heavenly_butter_tarts.php
Page 6 of 11 - Find out what to look for when it comes to berries in Ontario and satisfy your sweet tooth on page 7.
Local and Tasty: Ontario Berries
Wild berries grow plentifully in Ontario during the summer. If you're lucky enough to have a berry bush in your yard or a nearby field, you already know the delight of eating sun-warmed berries. If not, there are plenty of U-pick farms throughout the province where you can indulge in this harvesttime pleasure. Here are some of the tasty berries you'll find growing in Ontario.
About: Low-bush or wild blueberries flourish in Ontario summers. Wild blueberries are smaller and have a more intense flavour than cultivated (high-bush) blueberries.
Harvest period: July and August
Look for: Deep blue colour
About: Saskatoons don't just grow in their namesake city – Ontario has lots of them. They're excellent in pies and preserves.
Harvest period: July
Look for: Deep purple-blue colour
About: Tart cranberries grow in bogs in parts of Ontario. To see a working cranberry bog, visit Iroquois Cranberry Growers (iroquoiscranberries.com), which is owned and operated by members of the Wahta Mohawk First Nation in Bala, Ont.
Harvest period: September and October
Look for: Rich red colour; ripe berries will bounce when dropped on a hard surface
About: These heart-shaped delights are available all over Ontario. They're sweeter and more delicate than their enormous, imported cousins.
Harvest period: June and July; the everbearing variety can produce fruit throughout the summer and into fall
Look for: Blemish-free fruit with rich red colour all the way through from stem to tip
About: These thimble-shaped berries with edible seeds grow on thorny low bushes.
Harvest period: July and August, even into September
Look for: Ruby red colour (though you can find golden, black or purple varieties now); check berries over and discard any that show signs of mould. Wash just before serving.
Tip: If you want to preserve a taste of the summer harvest, you can freeze most berries (local strawberries and raspberries are a bit too delicate, so they're best eaten fresh). Spread in single layer on baking sheet; freeze until firm, then transfer to resealable freezer bags.
– Adell Shneer, Test Kitchen manager
Page 7 of 11 – Find out about Ontario's high school culinary programs on page 8.
Ontario High School Culinary Programs
In 2006, we ran an article on the Screaming Avocado, the after-school cooking club founded by educator Paul Finkelstein at Northwestern Secondary School in Stratford, Ont. "The Culinary Club embraces food as a tool for change," says Paul. "Mentoring is its backbone. Students learn from the many chefs, farmers, producers and former students who visit the Screaming Avocado on a regular basis. In turn, they mentor elementary school students on nutrition and gardening." Students in the club cook, share recipes, fund-raise, help at food drives and serve biweekly community meals to people in need.
Since the article ran, Paul's project has grown in reach, celebrity and scale. In its first year, the club travelled to New York City for a taste of global cuisine. The success of that first trip opened up the world to its student members. "It has since seen us venture to Japan, Italy, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Montreal and other great places in Canada," says Paul. The club recently cooked an Arctic menu at The James Beard House in New York, inspired by a trip they took to Canada's North. For more on the Screaming Avocado's recent adventures, visit Paul's blog at screamingavocado.blogspot.com.
With the proliferation of celebrity chefs and food blogs, culinary programs are becoming more widespread and accessible. Here are some other Ontario high schools with culinary programs worth noting.
• Central Technical School, Toronto, 416-393-0070, schools.tdsb.on.ca/centraltech
• Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, Toronto, 416-393-0620, schools.tdsb.on.ca/danforthcti/
• Bear Creek Secondary School, Barrie, 705-725-7712, bss.scdsb.on.ca
• Pretty River Academy, Collingwood, 705-444-5376, prettyriveracademy.com
• Centre Wellington District High School, Fergus, 519-787-0100, ugdsb.on.ca/cwdhs
• Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, Stratford, 519-271-9740, stratfordnorthwestern.ca
– Adell Shneer, Test Kitchen manager
Page 8 of 11 – Discover the fresh produce offered in Ontario's farmer's markets on page 9.
Ontario Farmer's Markets
There are plenty of fresh-from-the-fields markets across Ontario. For a complete listing, visit farmersmarketsontario.com. Here are highlights from four well-loved markets.
St. Jacobs Market, Waterloo, Ont., stjacobs.com/html/shopping-farmersmarkets.html
The town of St. Jacobs, near Kitchener, is one of the original Mennonite settlements in Ontario. Its beloved market, in nearby Woolwich, is open year-round. Specialties include regional favourites (such as maple syrup), baked goods and locally produced meats and cheeses.
Tasty Market Pick: Apple fritters
Byward Market, Ottawa, byward-market.com
Established in 1826, Ottawa's famed Byward Market is one of the oldest public markets in Canada. It got its name and layout from Lt-Col. John By, who supervised the construction of the Rideau Canal. In addition to being a local farmer's and artisan's market, it houses more than 500 businesses, including many restaurants.
Tasty Market Pick: BeaverTails
St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, stlawrencemarket.com
Located in downtown Toronto at the corner of Front and Jarvis streets, the St. Lawrence Market is the place to buy produce, dairy, meat, seafood and baked goods. It's a must-see attraction for foodies visiting Toronto.
Tasty Market Pick: Peameal bacon sandwiches
Evergreen Brick Works Farmer's Market, Toronto, ebw.evergreen.ca/whats-on/farmers-market
This hip and happening market is located in the former Don Valley Brick Works in Toronto. It features the best of the season from local farmers as well as local artisans. Check out their calendar for special event programming.
Tasty Market Pick: Homemade Belgian waffles
– Adell Shneer, Test Kitchen manager
Page 9 of 11 – Discover great culinary spots in Prince Edward County on page 10.
Sights to See: Prince Edward County
Jutting out into Lake Ontario south of Belleville, the jagged peninsula of Prince Edward County is a community flush with flourishing vineyards, organic farms and excellent restaurants. Drawing on its rural and agricultural roots, "The County" has become known nationwide for its wineries, cideries and cheese producers. Here is a sampling of some of the county's most delightful foodie finds.
• Set out on the Taste Trail (tastetrail.ca), a self-guided route showcasing the county's farmers, butchers, market-gardeners, restaurants, 50-plus wineries (including Closson Chase, Huff Estates and Norman Hardie), and cider and beer producers.
• From the Farm Cooking School (fromthefarm.ca) offers a field-to-table culinary experience, in which you meet local farmers then prepare traditional meals. Cooking takes place in a state-of-the-art kitchen in the restored 1830s farmhouse that chef and food writer Cynthia Peters owns in Ameliasburgh, Ont.
• Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. (fifthtown.ca) has scooped up multiple awards for its washed-rind Cape Vessey, hard-aged Lighthall Tomme goat cheese and other cheeses produced in their dairy in Picton. Visitors are always welcome; make sure you ask about the Cheese Maker for a Day program. The Lavender Bagel Chèvre is addictive – don't say you weren't warned.
• You'll find County Cider Company (countycider.com) on the grounds of Shingle Ridge Vineyard within minutes of Picton. It's known for its cider (obviously) and its outdoor lunch, which is served on a patio perched high above Lake Ontario. Recommendation: Try the wood-fired pizzas, especially the Salsiccia (tomato sauce, pancetta, hot Italian sausage, red onion and mozzarella).
• Black River Cheese (blackrivercheese.com) in Milford has been churning out superior cheeses since 1901. Their offerings include aged Cheddar, mozzarella, brick, fresh curd, and flavoured mozzarella and specialty cheeses.
• Sometimes you just want a (gourmet) hotdog. Buddha Dog (buddhafoodha.com) is so proud of the local farmers who supply the meat for their famous all-beef dogs that they feature them on a wall map in their Picton eatery. Co-owners Andrew Hunter and Andrew Mackenzie make their own toppings (the red pepper jelly and Cheddar is a classic) as well as their own ketchup. Order a dog, then head to nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park to chow down.
• Slickers Ice Cream (slickersicecream.com) in Bloomfield is a must-stop, especially if you like ice cream studded with chunks of home-baked apple pie or infused with rhubarb and ginger. Mmm.
– Doug O'Neill, executive editor
Page 10 of 11 – Love wine? Find Ontario's best white, red and sparkling wines on page 11.
Ontario wines to discover
In the last 15 years, Ontario's wine industry has come into its own. The quality and variety of its bottles have grown, and experts are praising Ontario's fine international-calibre Chardonnays, Rieslings and Pinot Noirs (to name a few). The locavore movement has also helped consumers appreciate – and demand more of – the fine wines available in their backyard.
Today there are three more recognized wine regions outside the well-established Niagara Peninsula: the north shore of Lake Erie, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County near Kingston. Vintners are exploring and testing other areas, including the Bruce Peninsula, Northumberland County and Rice Lake.
Wines made from 100 per cent Ontario-grown grapes qualify for the province's quality-control seal of approval, called Vintner's Quality Alliance (VQA). Here are a few great bottles to try:
• Pelee Island Gewürztraminer 2009, Pelee Island, $11: This classic white has notes of rose petal and lychee, with a hint of bitterness for balance. Try it with Thai or Indian food.
• Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2010, Niagara Peninsula, $14: With a lovely clean apple flavour and a citrusy zing, this unoaked Chardonnay delivers high quality at a reasonable price.
• Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2009, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, $18: This truly classy Riesling offers beautiful fruit, and balanced minerality and acidity.
• Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2009, Prince Edward County, $30: Ripe fruit is balanced with well-integrated oak in this Chardonnay. It's rich and tasty, especially with seafood or pasta with cream sauce.
• Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2009, Niagara-on-the-Lake, $14: We should see more of this charming, rustic grape variety from Ontario. Try it with stews and barbecued meats.
• Malivoire Gamay 2009, Niagara Peninsula, $18: Juicy, jammy and utterly quaffable, this wine is wonderful with burgers and can handle a spicy curry.
• Colchester Ridge Estate Winery Meritage, Lake Erie North Shore, $20: This delicious Bordeaux-style blend is the winery's signature offering.
• Tawse Grower's Blend Pinot Noir 2008, Niagara Peninsula, $32: Worth the splurge, this well-made Pinot Noir is a shining example of great wine-making. Savour it with beef tenderloin or lamb rack.
• Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2009, Prince Edward County, $35: Delicate and light, this classy Pinot Noir pairs well with roast chicken and lamb.
• 13th Street NV Cuvée 13 Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, $25: One of Niagara's top sparklers, this wine should not be missed. It's a stunner with lobster or sashimi.
– Anne Martin, sommelier
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