If you ask us, a laid-back food road trip hunting down new places to eat and drink is pretty close to summer travel nirvana.
The independence afforded by driving (stop when you want, where you want) is perfect for hunting down hidden culinary gems. Is there another way you can properly explore small towns and their unique offerings?
The folks at the recent Ontario’s Southwest City Fare were the inspirational source of our food road trip fantasies. On offer was authentic Ontario-made foods featuring specialty cheeses, local craft brews, herbs, jams, jellies, sauces, spices – even handcrafted chocolate. In case you aren’t familiar, Southwestern Ontario encompasses Essex, Elgin, Chatham-Kent, Norfolk, Sarnia-Lambton, and Middlesex counties, making it perfect for a day trip from Toronto.
Here’s a look at some of the food that got our engines revving:
The Combine in Norfolk County served a deliciously fresh, made-to-order perch taco. The corn tortilla was topped with butternut aioli, pickled salsa, avocado cream, and a fried lemon, and we couldn’t help but admire this tasty use of local fish. The supper menu (think Corn Dogs, Pork Chops, Great Lakes Fish) is fun and perfect for summer.
Grand Bend’s Smackwater Jacks Taphouse is worth putting on your itinerary. With a water’s edge setting and a mandate of locally grown produce served with meat from local farmers and cold craft beers, it’s exactly what you want from small town dining right down to the fish and chips made with pickerel.
Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese is a small artisanal cheese plant nestled within the rolling hills of Oxford County. With over a dozen cheeses on offer, it’s a picturesque setting for a tour (book ahead) and means you get to take home some great cheeses, perfect for an end-of-day repast with wine from local wineries.
And if a day trip just won’t cut it, consider snuggling up at the boutique Elm Hurst Inn and Spa. This southwestern Ontario landmark has been in business since 1872, and combines historic charm with modern amenities and a kitchen committed to working with local growers and producers to source and serve the finest and freshest local produce, cheeses and meats.
Ready to roll ? For more food road trip direction, head to OntarioSouthWest.com
Gunns Hill Photo: Geoff Robins