A candlelit dinner in a river-stone blackhouse. A country-kitchen breakfast for one, but really, three. And everywhere, from bakeries to breeders to beermakers, freshness, and flavour. Planted deep in tradition, yet bursting with innovation, and all cultivated with ancient respect for our land, our growers, our community.
From button-busting church suppers, to renting your own private wine cellar, to some of North America’s best Angus beef, to the varied and ever-changing crop of our exceptional soil, food has always fed our bodies, livelihoods and imaginations up here. And even when it’s fancy, it’s simple.
Start where it all starts. Visit a farmers’ market and meet the people whose dirt and love is all over your food. Stop at the original pop-up store, a farm gate stand. These unattended displays of fresh produce and farm fare that you see in front of farms are payable by the honour system. Like Reid’s Potatoes in Mono (get someone to help you with the 50-lb bag), or strawberries from Jenala Farms in Shelburne. You won’t get fresher.
Of course, water means mills, and mills mean flour, which mean bakeries. Beloved are the butter tarts at Marie’s in Grand Valley, or one of Laura’s Luscious Pies–cream, fruit, meat and more–from the freezers at Hockley General Store and Rosemont General Store and Café. Most restaurants have a garden, all have a deep bond with their producers. Start the day at a classic diner like Judy’s in Erin or Déja Vu Diner in Orangeville, and you won’t need to eat for a while. But there’s always tea-time, country-style: you can take one of the 30-odd teas in Tintagels Tea Room in Erin, and The Globe in Rosemont serves classic tea in stunning vintage surroundings.
Dinner is where country magic happens. At Landman Garden and Bakery in Grand Valley, the Landman family puts on a home-cooked farm dinner in a candlelit blackhouse that could welcome Arthurian knights. Real can be refined, too. The Millcroft Inn, Alton is a 4-diamond CAA treasure built over a stunning waterfall. Cabin at Hockley Valley Resort and Mrs. Mitchell’s in Violet Hill do wonders with local ingredients and bring fine dining down-to-earth. Or rent a private, stone-walled
wine cellar (for less than a good bottle of wine) at the Peter Cellar’s Pub, in the Mono Cliffs Inn, Mono Centre.
You’ve met the producers, the restaurateurs. Meet the rest of us over a drink, outside if possible. A former general store meticulously transformed, the patio at the Terra Nova Public House in Pine River Valley is surrounded by hills, streams and rivers. In Erin, Bistro Riviere’s lovely patio overlooks the grand Credit River.
To instantly go from a tourist to a townie, do a church supper. (Don’t be shy, we love visitors.) Long tables packed with homemade roasts, BBQ, dozens of vegetables and fruit and massive pies, all made and grown by your table-mates. Check local listings, or just ask around.
When you meet who’s grown it and who’s made it, and seen where it all happens, it just tastes better. Really.