For those of you who have been following Heidi and I on our adventures throughout South Eastern Ontario – it goes without saying that we’re huge fans of the local food scene. We are unbridled and unapologetic #locavores to the core, always up for a chance to explore rural Ontario’s dynamic and inspiring agricultural community.
For this #foodie fueled foray, Heidi and I set course for the culinary cornucopia of Lennox and Addington County, a picturesque community nestled between Kingston, Prince Edward County and The Bay of Quinte. L&A County is rapidly becoming a prime destination for travellers in search of legendary local food, craft beer, and wine.
Heidi prepared an incredible itinerary that would take us to several locations throughout L&A County’s rolling fields and timeless rural landscapes to gather a list of lovely local delights. Once acquired, she aimed to assemble a next-level charcuterie spread using 100% locally sourced items.
Without further delay, let’s dive right into this culinary quest that we have affectionately named: The Locavore Loop.
First Stop: The Wilton Cheese Factory!
The first stop on our journey was to Odessa Ontario to pay a visit to the historic (and aptly named) Wilton Cheese Factory. I used to live in nearby Amherstview Ontario for a better part of my childhood and early teen years and can remember exciting class trips to the factory as a kid. As we walked around outside the factory and took a few photos from the bridge over Wilton Creek (AKA Big Creek), I was instantly met with a profound sense of deja-vu.
Not much has changed in the thirty-or-so years since I first visited the store as a kid, and that’s just how the owners want it. For one hundred and fifty-one years this little factory has been producing some of the regions most famous cheese, using traditional “old world” techniques to produce an old-fashioned and superb variety of artisan products.
We chose a small block of mild cheddar and some herb & spice Havarti. We also couldn’t leave without getting a bag of the famous Wilton Cheese Curds which are a claim to fame for the Factory – and can be found on the counters of most corner stores from Napanee to Kingston and beyond.
Conquer Your Carnivorous Cravings at Quinn’s Meats
After leaving the cheese factory, we headed North on County Road 6 (Wilton Road) to Yarker Ontario – home of Quinn’s Meats Ltd. I had heard wonderful things about this renowned producer of locally sourced products, including high praise of their selection of jerky, salami and smoked meats.
All of the meat sold at Quinn’s roadside retail shop are naturally aged on-premises – and prepared by a staff that has been perfecting the art of butchering over the past few decades. This is a classical style butcher shop with a wide range of options ranging from steaks, roasts, London broils, and various sausages – to name but a few.
We picked up some of Quinn’s own pepperettes, as well as some cajun beef jerky and all-beef salami. I also made sure to buy a small package of pepperette “ends” so that we had something to snack on in the car.
Sunbeams & Countryside Daydreams
As we made our way along County Road 1 to our next destination, we had to pull over and soak in some of the captivating country scenery spread out all around us. We found a particular spot next to a cattle-crossing sign that made for a scenic place to double check our itinerary, and step outside to breathe in that fresh country air!
While farming is a simpler and less complicated way of life – it is a demanding and laborious working livelihood reserved for a dedicated and hardened group. You have likely seen the famous “Farmers feed cities,” bumper sticker on more than a few pickup trucks – and after a drive through the beautiful back roads of rural Ontario, you’ll know how very true that statement is.
Perusing The Wares at Season’s Fine Foods, Downtown Napanee Ontario
Next-up, we headed into Napanee Ontario’s historic downtown area to visit Season’s Fine Foods & Cookery School – a purveyor of several local and international foods, spices, drinks, ingredients and more. Located right on Napanee’s main strip Season’s is a fantastic and old-fashioned feeling store in the heart of downtown.
Owned by Chef Patricia Forster – a veteran culinary arts master with over 30 years experience, Season’s also doubles as a cooking school where students can level-up their kitchen game in a fun, and engaging environment. The selection of items in the store is a reflection of Patricia’s experience and dedication to providing only the finest products available. Pro-tip: shop for ingredients in food stores, owned by a chef. You won’t find anything that they wouldn’t otherwise cook with themselves.
We wanted our charcuterie project to have a well-rounded selection, so Heidi selected a container of vegan kimchi made by Pyramid Ferments – a local producer of probiotic food and beverages operating out of Prince Edward County. We also picked up a jar of Cressy Mustard (also from PEC) and a dozen eggs from Reinink Family Farms an organic free-range poultry farm located in nearby Yarker.
Good Food & Vibes at Ellena’s Cafe
Our next destination was a short walk East on Dundas Street to the famous Ellena’s Cafe for some lunch. Ellena’s is a gorgeous storefront reminiscent of vintage General Stores, with high ceilings and a warm atmosphere. We stepped up to the front counter, and after a quick look at the menu, we didn’t have difficulty making up our minds.
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 site.
This grilled beauty of a sandwich came piled with delicious smoked meat, sauerkraut, tangy mustard, and smoked provolone cheese on rye which is then grilled to perfection. 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 delicious tarts (one raspberry, and one blueberry) as well as two delicious looking scones which would no doubt add some flare to Heidi’s charcuterie presentation. Heidi also noticed a peanut butter and chocolate crunch bar, which instantly ended up in our basket.
I also grabbed a pair of those kombuchas for later because after trying it for the first time, I have to admit that I am officially in love with the “booch.”
Pimp-Out Your Pantry With Harvest Brinery, Napanee Ontario
Once we finished up at Ellena’s, we took a short walk to 128 John Street to visit The Harvest Brinery and peruse their selection of award-winning, locally made preserves. In fact, all of the items on the shelf were made on-premises by owners: Colleen and Myles Surette. I absolutely loved this little store, and when we walked in the air was filled a smell that reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen.
We selected a jar of pickled asparagus, garlic cloves (some the size of my thumb) and a jar of white wine jelly that was infused with caramelized onion and garlic. Harvest Brinery is a great place to take your pantry to the next level – with a mind-blowingly delicious inventory of jams, preserves and salsas made the old-fashioned way.
See What’s Brewing at The Napanee Beer Company
With our precious cargo of pickles safe and secure, we headed over to The Napanee Beer Company to visit with founder and brewmaster Geordan Saunders and of course sample some of their award-winning Ontario craft beer! Located just a block East of Centre Street the brewery is in close proximity to the 401 making it an easy stopover for any craft beer lover passing through.
Geordan poured a tasting flight consisting of his main lineup of beer, explaining that each of their releases is based on his own acquired taste and affinity for quality. First up, I tried Deadline a premium lager with a clear gold colour and crisp flavour reminiscent of top-shelf European brews. While many lagers tend to fall within a certain taste profile, Deadline had a much more robust flavour presence setting it apart in a league of its own.
Next, I sipped the smoky and aromatic Blacklist which is a traditional German black lager booming with the rich notes of coffee and dark chocolate with a surprisingly smooth finish. It was a nice segue to the spicy and fruity undertones of Mayday, a Belgian IPA with a sweet citrusy finish that carried a vibrant bouquet due to the special Belgian yeast used.
The last beer I sampled was the rebellious and raucous Extremist IPA which is a triumphant marriage of American hops and Belgian yeast. Fans of punchy IPA’s will love Extremist’s arsenal of liberating grapefruit and pine aromas that make this beer a perfect pairing for spicy dishes.
In the end, I couldn’t decide on any one of Geordan’s amazing beers, so I chose a “sampler” pack made from a bit of everything. I also bought a bottle of Dweller on the Threshold a limited single-batch release comprising a red wine barrel-aged Belgian Dubbel brewed in the summer of 2017. It is described as possessing “Rich plum, fig and raisin notes, followed by dark chocolate and anise, warm spices, bold red wine.”
Moo-ving Right along…
As we made our way along County Road 8, with a gorgeous view of Hay Bay to the North, we once again we had to pull off to the side of the road and take in the gorgeous scenery of L&A County. The arrival of spring was in the air, and the bay had bright blue sections of water where the ice was retreating from the shoreline. On the other side of the road was a group of beef cattle that watched as we took photos for Instagram.
The unimpressed looking cows were probably thinking to themselves: “Pfff. Check out these tourists.”
A Slice and Sip at Bergeron Estate Winery
We continued along County Road 8 until it looped us South onto the Loyalist Parkway at Adolphustown. A short drive East on the parkway brought us to Bergeron Estate Winery with prime growing conditions for Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Vidal, Riesling and Gewurztraminer grape varieties. Bergeron Winery is also a fantastic place to stop along the parkway and enjoy some freshly made pizza and sample some locally made wines. So we did just that!
As we arrived, we met up with David Bergeron (Owner) and John Anderson. After making our introductions, we headed over to the tasting bar which overlooked the vineyards out back, for a personalized tasting of Bergeron Estate’s delicious wine! The lineup included a splendid 2010 Second Harvest Gewurztraminer, as well as a very nice Gamay which was an excellent precursor to Bergeron’s sweet, yet flavorful Rosė – both from 2013.
As David described the characteristics of the wines, John brought us some of the best pizza I’ve had in ages. In my opinion, there is nothing that pairs better with wine than a freshly baked slice of pizza. Especially when you’re looking out at the vineyards and chatting with the winemaker himself. It made for a fantastic introduction to Bergeron’s wines and left me counting off the days until I go back to get some more of that tasty pizza!
A Sweet Sip (or two) 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 epic pizza. Heidi is the official designated driver for our blogging 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.
Joking aside – It’s plain common sense to ensure that if you’re touring local breweries and wineries to make sure that you drink responsibly and arrange a DD or hire a local driving service in advance.
That said, I was ready, willing and able to perform my duties and conduct 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 in the summer of 2017. Located at their property on Townline Road this quaint cidery is nestled among rolling fields and the calm countryside landscape that always gives me pause to soak it all in. Just magnificent.
At the tasting bar, Lisa poured me a sample of Hard Way’s signature ciders: Rogue Apples and Original Dry. I’m relatively new to cider, but after tasting Lisa and Steve’s craftwork, I was thoroughly impressed. Both ciders had a crisp and sweet flavour and balanced carbonation that made me think of sunny days on the patio, loud music and BBQ sessions with friends.
Their cider is made in small batches and aged in oak barrels giving the beverage a genuine old world flavour not prevalent in mass produced “ciders” common on most store shelves. This was the Real McCoy. Lisa also poured me a sample of a special cider currently being aged in whisky barrels, which blew my mind. Picture the sweet aspect of cider, coupled with the distinct character of top-shelf whisky in the background. All I know is that I’ll be first in line when they bottle it!
What’s On-Tap at MacKinnon Brothers Brewing?
Four minutes away from Hard Way Cider on County Road 22 is another (and personal favourite) craft brewery that is well known to locals and travellers alike. 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 first opening in 2014.
Mackinnon Brothers’ beer is available at several bars and restaurants throughout the province and can also be found at the Beer Store and the LCBO. I was already quite 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.
This was also my first time visiting the brewery – and I loved the rustic feel of the tasting room. It was cozy, inviting and even had a woodstove providing some much-appreciated warmth on what turned out to be a sunny, but rather chilly Saturday afternoon. It’s a great stopover not far from the Loyalist Parkway, ideal for a tasting or to pick up a growler or some tallboys for the fridge at home.
The peppermint stout that I sampled was a very unique traditional Irish take on an otherwise commonplace style of beer using hand-picked peppermint found on Mackinnon’s property. This sensational winter seasonal is likely in limited supply, so if you’re a connoisseur of stouts, I’d recommend getting your hands on a growler (or two) while it’s still available.
An Emerald Sea of Delicious at Burt’s Greenhouses
The final stop on our #Locavore Loop was at Burt’s Greenhouses in Odessa, Ontario. During the summer months, Heidi is quite the green thumb and has been going to Burt’s Greenhouses each year to ensure our garden at home has a variety of plants and veggies. As we arrived, we were greeted in the parking lot by Mudd, the resident puppy.
Mudd is pretty big for a pup and is super affectionate and very playful. It was likely the sound of Mudd and I running around playing in the parking lot that brought Brian Burt himself out from one of the greenhouses to say hello. Heidi had called ahead, and Brian already had a bag of nasturtium leaves, pea shoots and green beans ready for us.
Before we headed home, Brian let us take a peek into one of the greenhouses to get some photos of this year’s microgreens. 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 of beautiful country driving in L&A County, we were glad to get home with our lovely gathering of local food and beverages. We weren’t in the door for more than ten minutes when Heidi set to work meticulously arranging everything into a visually stunning arrangement.
Below, is a photo gallery with captions describing Heidi’s masterful craftwork. Something tells me that if blogging doesn’t pan out, I can always put her to work as a caterer and food photographer.
Pea shoots and nasturtium leaves from Burt’s Greenhouse topped with Blueberry vinegar from Canadian Vinegar Cellars (PEC)
Harvest Brinery Pickled Asparagus & Pickled Garlic – Pyramid Ferments (PEC) 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
Hard Way Cider Original Dry & Rogue Apples, Cressy Mustard “Sassy”, Harvest Brinery White Wine Caramelized Onions & Garlic Jelly, Reinick’s Eggs – hard boiled
Ellena’s Raspberry Tart, Blueberry Tart, and Peanut Butter Crunch Squares, Season’s Fine Foods Banana Oatmeal Muffin
Take The Locavore Loop!
This brings us to the end of our incredible Lennox and Addington County adventure! We had an unforgettable time exploring this breathtaking slice of Rural Ontario and meeting all the amazing people along the way. I’d also like to take this moment to wholeheartedly thank our readers and the dedicated team at The Great Waterway. Writing these stories, and embarking on our experiences to date has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege.
I openly invite you to think outside the city, and explore a thriving local food scene that is closer than you’d think! Naturally, we have compiled this epic and tasty adventure in a convenient Google Map to help you follow our route, or go beyond that- and customize your own version!
As always, thank you for following our stories and keep wandering!
Photography: Heidi Csernak