Ontario’s much-talked-about gastro-getaway destination just keeps getting hotter. The County is ever-changing, evolving and adding new taste experiences, especially as more culinary pros flee the cities for a bucolic lifestyle. To help you find them, we asked our resident expert to help put together this guide. In the next few pages, you’ll find the new hot spots and the tried-and-true gems — wineries, restaurants, hotels and attractions — that make PEC a special place
THE PEC EXPERT
Natalie Goldenberg-Fife (@nataliegoldenbergfife) moved to Prince Edward County in 2017 and soon set up Gold & Fife, a chef-and-beverage-driven event company. She knows the lay of the PEC land.
Eclectic items and foodstuffs — the candy counter is particularly impressive — are complemented by prepared meals, pizzas and pastries made daily by chef Alexandra Feswick (ex-Drake Devonshire), along with products sourced from local makers, bakers and growers.
Tapas-style dishes are made to match the wines — local and international — curated by sommelier/owner Thierry Alcantara-Stewart. The joint jumps on jazz night and the bottle shop is spectacular.
Colin Stanners makes some of the County’s best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. One would expect nothing less from a winemaker with a doctorate in chemistry, no? Perhaps the terroir helps, too — ask him about it.
One of the County’s first — and, still, one of the best — wineries, where winemaker and proprietor Dan Sullivan nurtures outstanding wines from a modest acreage. No bells and whistles here. Just Dan, a cat, and a whole lot of one-liners. Book a tasting; you’ll see. rosehallrun.com
Ciders are inspired by Brittany and Ireland — that’s as old-world and traditional as it gets. Try the Éirinn Go Brách, a sparkling cider made with County McIntosh apples and fermented in French oak. Also say hi to Nestor, the donkey, and the six pigs.
Think: small, quirky and dog-friendly. Winemaker David Gillingham focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer — bring a picnic and linger for a while. It’s that kind of vibe.
For dining on the water, the Devonshire is hard to beat. Locally sourced ingredients are spotlighted by chef Amanda Ray, and there’s always something entertaining going on, usually around the beachside firepit.
WEEKDAYS IN THE COUNTY: avoid the crowds – and highway traffic – with a weekday jaunt. Hotel rooms will be discounted (just ask) and, though some wineries may be closed, calling ahead may yield a private tasting with a winemaker (sometimes for a modest fee). Restaurant reservations will be easier to land, too.
This is a grain-to-glass distillery — spirits are fermented, distilled and aged on-site. Be sure to book ahead for tastings — $15/ person for three spirits and a sample cocktail. Note: There are chickens… and a peacock.
The cookery classes are well known, and this revered historic inn is a one-stop venue for visitors in search of a place to stay and some comfort food, or a night of trivia and music in the Barley Room Pub — aka, the County’s gathering place. The holiday decorations are something to behold.
It’s a microbrewery and a pizzeria, packed with locals and visitors all day and night. For eight weeks starting in October, Thursday is trivia night on the patio — folks layer up for an evening of pints and trivial fun.
The wines are big, oaky and concentrated — just as vintner Gerry Spinosa likes them. His small-batch Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs have devoted fans, including the judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada.
Illustration by Emilie Simpson
Chef, The Royal Hotel
When the folks at The Royal Hotel asked Albert Ponzo if he’d like to leave Toronto and move to the County, he said yes (emphatically) – and bought a 50-acre farm near the scenic community of Hillier. We figure that makes him a local expert, so we asked him to share his favourite spots to relax, eat, drink and shop.
The beaches are the nicest I’ve ever seen – and not just in summer. Hike the dunes at Sandbanks in the winter and you’re in another world.
Some of my local favourites are Closson Chase, Hubbs Creek, Grange of Prince Edward and The Old Third Vineyard.
The Wellington Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Picton [Town Hall] Farmers’ Market on Sundays. Edwin County Farms – operated by the Sorbara family, who own The Royal – has a farm stand. At my farm – Ponzo Family Farm – we have laying hens and horses. I’m also a beekeeper and you can find our honey at County stores.
Chef, Drake Devonshire Hotel
Prince Edward County, Ont.
ARRIVING IN PEC TO TAKE THE EXECUTIVE-CHEF REINS AT DRAKE DEVONSHIRE IN 2021, Amanda Ray knew she’d come to the right place.
“The setting and backdrop at the Dev are truly special and unlike any place I have ever worked,” notes Ray, who came to the County after 19 years working with Oliver & Bonacini restaurants in Toronto and Montreal. “I love the mornings when it’s peaceful. You’ll see the different moods of Lake Ontario evolve over the course of the day. The sunrise and sunset are stunning.”
Pastoral bliss aside, working in one of the busiest dining hot spots in PEC includes the demands of big-city hospitality – but with a prettier view and proximity to bountiful farms. Her cuisine has benefited, Ray says, from the relationships she’s established, and these inform her days off, too.
“I’ll start with a coffee at Beacon Bike + Brew. Then I’ll grab some pastries at The Royal, [made] by pastry chef Sarah Villamere. I may take a stroll through the Macaulay conservation area, followed by a cocktail at Russ & Co. For dinner, I may hit one of the many amazing places near me, like Stella’s Eatery or Bocado.”
Ray won Ontario’s prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition in 2016 with a dish showcasing suckling pig from Fermes Gaspor, in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. Her updated version – on the menu at the Devonshire – features that same pork with a whole lot of local ingredients, such as squash from Honey Wagon Farms and wheatberries from Edwin County Farms, plus local cider.
“It’s amazing to be so close to farmers and growers who are passionate about what they do. I love living in such a close-knit community. ”
The reputation of Canada’s original capital city as a gastronomic destination continues to build apace. Here are some gems, all a short jaunt from one another.
The Everly Restaurant & Lounge
Handmade pastas, superb cocktails, premium ingredients from local producers – you’ll find all of these on the menu at The Everly, a stylish restaurant with pink walls and an opulent mid-century chandelier anchoring the space. Check the wine shop for low-intervention bottles.
Botanist-turned-bartender Sarah Sanders anoints cocktails with her handcrafted elixirs at the Bank Gastrobar. Put your trust in her knowledge of plant life and spirits. And, on that erudite note, a stay for dinner includes resident historian Arthur Milnes’ tales of haunted Kingston. Boo.
Sally’s Roti Shop
Trinidadian duo Sally and Bobby start cooking at 6 a.m., making curries and roti shells from scratch. Try the “doubles” (curried chickpeas between soft-dough patties) and the oxtail plate.
The Secret Garden Inn
For cozy B&B sleeps and afternoon tea with pastries – and, now, fondue for the colder months.
Kingston’s iconic restaurant has a menu influenced by those who’ve passed through the kitchen over the years – Newfoundlanders, Vietnamese, Mexicans. Yeah, it’s an 7 eclectic read. Of special note: cha gio chay (vegetarian spring rolls).
Attracting the city’s hip and studious, this chinoiserie-decorated nouveau Asian restaurant with a progressive zero-waste policy serves up meat-laden and vegan baos, rare sakes and impressive cocktails.