Locavore: always up for a chance at exploring rural Ontario’s agricultural community
For this trip, Heidi and I set course for the culinary cornucopia of Lennox and Addington County. L&A County is rapidly becoming a prime destination for travellers in search of local food, craft beer, and wine. Let’s dive right into this culinary quest that we have named: The Locavore Loop.
First Stop: The Wilton Cheese Factory
The first stop on our journey was to the historic Wilton Cheese Factory. Not much has changed since I first visited the store as a kid, and that’s just how the owners want it. For 151 years this factory has been producing some of the region’s most famous cheese, using traditional techniques. We picked up a block of mild cheddar and some Havarti. We couldn’t leave without getting a bag of the Wilton Cheese Curds which are the factories claim to fame.
Conquer Your Carnivorous Cravings At Quinn’s Meats
After leaving the cheese factory, we headed to Yarker Ontario – home of Quinn’s Meats Ltd. This is a classical style butcher shop with a wide range of options from steaks, roasts, London broils, and various sausages.
All of the meat sold at Quinn’s roadside retail shop are naturally aged on-premises. We picked up some of Quinn’s own pepperettes, as well as some cajun beef jerky and all-beef salami.
Perusing The Wares At Season’s Fine Foods
Next up, we headed into Napanee’s to visit Season’s Fine Foods & Cookery School – a purveyor of local and international ingredients. Owned by Chef Patricia Forster – a veteran culinary arts master with over 30 years experience. Seasons is also a cooking school where students can level-up their kitchen game.
Good Food & Vibes At Ellena’s Cafe
Our next destination was a short walk to Ellena’s Cafe for some lunch. After a quick look at the menu, we didn’t have difficulty making up our minds ordering.
Heidi chose the taco salad which blended lettuce, onion, red peppers, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, taco chips, and seasoned ground beef. It also came served with zesty salsa and a generous dollop of creamy ranch dressing. When I read the description for Ellena’s smoked meat sandwich, it was love at first sight. This grilled beauty of a sandwich came piled with smoked meat, sauerkraut, tangy mustard, and smoked provolone cheese. For drinks, we each sipped on a Kombucha – also made by Pyramid Ferments. This was my first time tasting kombucha and I have to say – it was pretty darn good. Definitely more healthy than a sugar-ridden soda-pop – and super-good for your gut.
Before leaving, we picked up a pair of tarts (one raspberry, and one blueberry) as well as two scones. Heidi also noticed a peanut butter and chocolate crunch bar, which instantly ended up in our basket.
Pimp-Out Your Pantry With Harvest Brinery, Napanee Ontario
Once we finished up at Ellena’s, we took a short walk to visit The Harvest Brinery for their selection of award-winning, preserves. In fact, all of the items on the shelf were made on-premises by owners: Colleen and Myles Surette.
We selected a jar of pickled asparagus, garlic cloves, and a jar of white wine jelly infused with caramelized onion and garlic. Harvest Brinery has a delicious inventory of jams, preserves and salsas made the old-fashioned way. This is a great place to take your pantry to the next level.
See What’s Brewing At The Napanee Beer Company
With our precious cargo of pickles, we headed over to The Napanee Beer Company to visit with founder and brewmaster Geordan Saunders. The brewery is in close proximity to the 401 which makes this an easy stopover for any craft beer lover.
Geordan poured a tasting flight consisting of his main lineup of beer. First up, I tried Deadline a premium lager with a clear gold colour and crisp flavour reminiscent of European brews.
Next, I sipped the Blacklist which is a traditional German black lager booming with rich notes of coffee and dark chocolate. Mayday is a Belgian IPA with a sweet citrusy finish that carries a vibrant bouquet due to the special Belgian yeast used. The last beer I sampled was the Extremist IPA which is a triumphant marriage of American hops and Belgian yeast. Fans of punchy IPA’s will love Extremist’s liberating grapefruit and pine aromas.
In the end, I couldn’t decide on any one of Geordan’s amazing beers, so I chose a “sampler” pack.
A Slice And Sip At Bergeron Estate Winery
A short drive on the parkway brought us to Bergeron Estate Winery to enjoy freshly made pizza and locally made wines. Bergeron Winery has prime growing conditions for Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Vidal, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
We headed over to the tasting bar which overlooked the vineyards out back, and enjoyed a personalized tasting of Bergeron Estate’s wine. The lineup included a 2010 Second Harvest Gewurztraminer, as well as a Gamay which was an excellent precursor to Bergeron’s sweet, yet flavorful Rosė. In my opinion, there is nothing that pairs better with wine than freshly baked pizza. It made for a fantastic introduction to Bergeron’s wines and left me counting off the days until I go back!
A Sweet Sip At The Hard Way Cider Co.
Now that we were getting well into the beverage portion of our trip I was glad that I filled up on Bergeron Estate’s pizza. Heidi is the official designated driver for our trips, and by contract, I am the one who has to do all the drinking. Being the official drinker sounds like a rough job, but I am up for the task. I was ready, willing and able to perform my duties on some vital field research at The Hard Way Cider Co.
Located near Bath, Ontario The Hard Way is a relatively new member of the local craft beverage scene launched by Lisa and Steve Goddard. This quaint cidery is nestled among rolling fields and the calm countryside landscape.
At the tasting bar, Lisa poured me a sample of their signature ciders: Rogue Apples and Original Dry. Both ciders had a crisp and sweet flavour and balanced carbonation that made me think of sunny days on the patio. Their cider is made in small batches and aged in oak barrels giving the beverage a genuine old world flavour. This was the Real McCoy.
What’s On-Tap at MacKinnon Brothers Brewing?
Four minutes away is a personal favourite craft brewery that is well known to locals and travellers. Situated on a bicentennial family farm first settled in 1784, The Mackinnon Brothers Brewing Company has been making serious waves in the Ontario craft beer scene since opening in 2014.
Mackinnon Brothers’ beer is available at several bars and restaurants throughout the province and at the Beer Store and the LCBO. I was already familiar with their core beers: Crosscut Canadian Ale, Red Fox Summer Ale, and 8 Man English Pale Ale – but had never tried their peppermint stout: Wild.
The peppermint stout was a very unique traditional Irish take on an otherwise commonplace style of beer. I was told that this beer used hand-picked peppermint found on the Mackinnon’s property.
An Emerald Sea of Delicious at Burt’s Greenhouses
The final stop on our Locavore Loop was at Burt’s Greenhouses in Odessa. Heidi is quite the green thumb and has been going to Burt’s Greenhouses each summer so that our garden has a variety of veggies. The owner Brian, already had a bag of nasturtium leaves, pea shoots and green beans ready for us. After a dark and cold winter, words can’t describe how beautiful it was to take in the sight of all that green.
Do You Even Charcuterie?
Whew! After a solid 8 hours out and about, we were glad to get home with our gathering of local food and beverages. Below, is Heidi’s masterful craftwork on a charcuterie.
Pea shoots and nasturtium leaves topped with Blueberry vinegar from Canadian Vinegar Cellars (PEC)
Harvest Brinery Pickled Asparagus & Pickled Garlic. Pyramid Ferments Vegan Kimchi & Kombucha. Hard Way Cider Original Dry & Rogue Apples
Wilton Cheese Curds, Old Cheddar, Herb and Spice Harvarti. Quinn’s Pepperettes, Salami, Cajun & Teriyaki Jerky. Burt’s Greenhouse Green Beans. Ellena’s Cafe Thyme, Sundried Tomato and Toscano Hard Cheese Scones.
Ellena’s Raspberry Tart, Blueberry Tart, and Peanut Butter Crunch Squares. Season’s Fine Foods Banana Oatmeal Muffin.
Discover Local Food in Lennox & Addington County
This brings us to the end of our incredible Lennox and Addington County adventure! We had an unforgettable time exploring this slice of rural Ontario and meeting all the amazing people along the way. I openly invite you to think outside the city, and explore a thriving local food scene that is closer than you’d think!
Photography: Heidi Csernak