Ontario’s varying soil conditions, climates and cultures allow for great diversity in what we grow, raise, produce and serve. Here’s a six course menu that’ll take you on a gastronomic tour across the province to discover there’s more to traditional Ontario cuisine than BeaverTails and Canadian bacon (although what’s not to love there?).
Savour locally grown and raised ingredients or surprise your palate with a dish made from wild edibles.
The beef crudo at The Courage in Wellington is a local Angus striploin, served with goat cheese, crispy bread, olive and truffle aioli, sourced from the bounty of bucolic Prince Edward County. This fresh and fiercely local bistro also offers a carefully curated local wine list.
Yours Outdoors invites you on culinary adventure in Haliburton Highlands. Forage for wild edibles from the woods and wetlands with a local expert, and learn how to prepare wild leeks, milkweek, cattails and mushrooms into mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres.
SECOND: FISH AND SOUP RELEVÉS
A shore lunch is the freshest way to enjoy pickerel. Combine crisp, clean air, the quiet majesty of the wilderness and the succulent flavours of your catch on a guided angling adventure with Wiley Point Wilderness Lodge on Lake of the Woods. Renowned for its farm-to-table philosophy, Treadwell Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake serves a heavenly seared Lake Erie pickerel with “Quiet Acres” sweet corn and sunflower seed risotto.
You’ll want to try the charred sweet corn chowder with extra aged Lancaster Cheese & water buffalo bacon served at Bayview Farm Restaurant in Kingston. Local celebrity chef, Clark Day, grows many of the vegetables served onsite and the restaurant is actually his own family’s old homestead (built in 1831).
Or opt for the corn chowder with coriander and fermented jimmy pepper from the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Backhouse Restaurant, a leader in cool climate cuisine in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ethical and local are key themes on their seasonal menus and wine lists.
THIRD: MAIN DISH
There are a number of great restaurants that will treat you to traditionally wild Ontario meat dishes, if you’re game for it.
Manitoulin Island born, Chef Joseph Shawana prepares a Hunters Stew with a selection of caribou, elk or venison, root vegetables and puff pastry at Kū-Kŭm Kitchen, a celebrated example of the rise of Indigenous cuisine in Toronto.
Diners rave about the 5 oz local water buffalo burger at The Root Cellar Organic Restaurant in London’s east village, accompanied with duck jus, aged cheddar, caramelized onion, sautéed mushrooms, house-made pickles and greens … and best washed down with a London Brewing beer.
Ottawa’s atmospheric favourite, The Albion Rooms, located inside the Novotel Ottawa Hotel, serves a classic ‘elk ranch’ burger with old cheddar and seed to sausage black pepper molasses bacon.
Cleanse your palate with a seasonal, locavore salad.
In the hamlet of Singhampton, just south of the Blue Mountains, Haisai Restaurant sources organic produce from local farmers and gardeners, including owners’ Chef Michael and Nobuyo Stadtländer‘s own farm. Taste the field to fork difference in the Eigensinn Farm radicchio and Niagara peach salad with creamy mustard dressing.
The pickled heirloom baby beet salad on SixThirtyNine’s menu is a sensation of flavour; whipped smoked ricotta, beet gel, poached pear, maple candied walnuts, organic arugula sprouts and brown butter rosemary. This Woodstock gem is a credit to Chef and Owner Eric Boyar, who also sources local, including from his family farm.
FIFTH: CHEESE & FRUIT PLATTER
Ontario is passionate about its cheese. With a long dairy farming tradition as well as new experimental practices, our cheese-makers have perfected a variety of award-winning fromage flavours and invite you to sample and savour.
East of Ottawa, St. Albert Cheese Factory Co-op produces cheddar made from 100% pure milk. Add a Creamy Dutch Gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, Ontario’s first to specialize in Gouda. Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese in Oxford County introduces a new sumptuous semi-soft cheese made in partnership with Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co in Vankleek Hill. The cheese, aptly named Beau’s, is washed every other day with the brewery’s seasonal beer. Round out the platter with Hodge Podge, an aged sheep and water buffalo mix from Stratford’s Monforte Dairy, and finally, decadent buffalo brie from Ontario Water Buffalo Co’s own herd in Stirling.
Fruit and berries in season include pears, apples, blueberries and raspberries. Pick Your Own farms and orchards such as Downey’s Farm Market, north of Brampton or Albion Orchards in Caledon are great weekend destinations as some turn into harvest fairs for the season.
SIXTH: DESSERT SELECTION
Finally, time to satisfy your sweet tooth with rich, decadent and sugary deliciousness, handmade in Ontario.
Choose from an assortment of hand-crafted chocolate, including small batch dark, crafted from cacao beans at Hummingbird Chocolate in Almonte, or nutty caramel truffles from Soma Chocolate Maker in Toronto’s Distillery District. Warkworth’s Centre and Main is whipping up innovative, artisanal chocolate wizardry.
Hamilton’s Donut Monster has been leading the donut revolution with their delightful creations. Our century-long love affair with the butter tart has not diminished. Try the classic, raisin, pecan, or maple walnut from Maple Key Tart Co., a Northumberland boutique butter tart bakery based on the owners’/sisters’ mother’s award-winning recipe, also a stop on the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour.
Northern Ontario’s prized pastry is the Thunder Bay Persian Roll, a deep-fried cinnamon bun with fruity pink flavoured icing that originated at Bennett’s Bakery in the 1940s and remains an institution to this day. Savour another local legend, the Red Prince Apple Pie at the Thornbury Bakery Cafe, one of the stops on the Apple Pie Trail along the southern shore of Georgian Bay. Pair that slice of pie with a dollop of Kawartha Dairy all natural ice-cream, and your all-Ontario meal is complete (you might also want to hit an Ontario trail to walk it off).
Hungry yet? Learn more about Ontario’s culinary delights, and be sure to tag all your foodie getaway pics with #DiscoverON.
NOTE: Check directly with each restaurant before you visit as menus may change.
Masthead Image Credit: The Courage, Wellington, by Danielle Matar http://daniellematar.com