So, there’s this magical gem of a spot located in what’s called the “golden triangle” between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. A place where you can find amazing food, cute little towns full of shops, stunning scenery, beautiful waterfronts, and there’s lots of wine… ohhh yes, there’s wine.
If you’re looking for a weekend trip that won’t cost you and arm and a leg, but is also super accessible from these major cities, look no further my friends. This place is called Prince Edward County (PEC), or “The County”. It’s only about 2 hours away from Toronto, to give you an idea. Having spent a lot of time in this region as a child, I find it quite special every time I visit. I always discover something new and exciting that I can’t wait to share with others. So, that’s why I’ve put together a couple of tips for visiting PEC – and of course, it’s mostly about the food and wine… I mean, come on.
Where to Stay
Located in Wellington, the Drake Devonshire has brought a touch of Toronto’s urban Drake Hotel setting to country living. With stunning design, the hotel boasts uninterrupted views of Lake Ontario. Accessible to visit all year long, the hotel hosts year round cultural programming, featuring local musicians, artists and performers. They can easily help to arrange activities like tailored sightseeing tours and excursions. The County itself has awesome biking and cross-country skiing, fly fishing, golf, yoga studios, and water sports at Sandbanks Provincial Park.
One of my favourite places to hang out in the hotel (other than where the food is located, obvi), is the Living Room at sundown. It was easy cozy up by the fireplace, settled into the comfy and quite stylish furniture, while staring at the unique art or reading a book with a tea in hand. Our room itself was quite cozy and had it’s own balcony which faced the creek. And the bed – can we talk about the bed for a minute? It was insanely good. So good in fact, that I may have to visit again soon, just to sleep. Everywhere you look or visit around the property, both outside and in, is super Instagramable (cause that’s a thing now, right?).
Where to Eat
So, let’s get right to the point… FOOD! PEC is hosting Countylicious this year at fourteen local restaurants from November 3rd to 26th. By working with local farmers, bakers, fishers, brewers, winemakers, picklers and producers who work all year-long, this is a way of truly celebrating the seasons, while filling your plates and glasses. Each menu has been crafted and inspired by ingredients found right in The County itself.
“The relationship between chefs and local farmers, producers, winemakers, brewers, cheesemakers and more is so important. Year-round, locally-made products are readily available and nothing makes me prouder and happier than when I see locally grown and locally produced items on the plates and in the glasses of our dinner guests” said Lee Arden Lewis, owner of Public School House at Jackson’s Falls. “This is what Countylicious is truly about – a celebration of local food.”
Since it’s all about supporting food security locally, $1 from each meal in the first week (up to $500) will be donated to Food to Share, which is a local organization that distributes prepared food and produce through the food banks and other organizations within the area. “In our bountiful County everyone should have enough to eat. Using locally grown produce donated by County farmers, Food to Share cooks up fresh and nutritious meals for people in need. Food to Share is thrilled to be working with Countylicious and appreciates the support,” said Glen Wallis from Food to Share.
Participating restaurants include:
Agrarian, Amelia’s Garden (Waring House), Clara’s (Claramount Inn), East and Main Bistro, The Courage, Merrill Inn, Portabella, Pomodoro, Public School House at Jackson’s Falls, Soup Opera, The Drake Devonshire, The Hubb (at Angeline’s), Gazebo Restaurant (Waupoos Estates Winery) and Hartley’s Tavern. Countylicious is a twice-annual celebration of local food and fine dining in Prince Edward County. All menus are available online at Countylicious.com!
Just a quick note about The Drake Devonshire, separate from Countylicious – their breakfast is a solid must-try! Especially if you’re staying as a guest of the hotel. The views are epic, but the scones though. Oh my, the scones are next level. We actually ordered them before our breakfast… like a breakfast appetizer. Is that a thing? Well it is now. Pre-gaming breakfast with breakfast is the way to live, folks.
Where to Drink
Now, I mentioned there was wine, right? Well, that’s because this region is quickly becoming known for the high quality, complex and delicious wines they produce. At Waupoos Estates Winery and Restaurant, they understand that to make a good wine, you need to do everything with love and then let the grapes speak for themselves. Their Winemaker Amy Baldwin says, “Winemaking is one of those unique practices that harmonizes science and nature. Every year is different. Once the grapes have been harvested the creative possibilities become infinite. Wines can be similar but they will never be the same. From the vineyard to the bottle each step is as exciting as the last.”
This truly special spot came highly recommended from one of the staff at The Drake. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint one bit. When you walk into The Grange of Prince Edward, you immediately feel at home. Their space is welcoming, the staff is lovely and the wine is just amazing. One thing I really loved was that they carry and showcase a lot of local products, including Pluck Teas. But the one that suckered us all in (separate from the wine), was the Sprucewood Handmade Cookie Co. We each left with several boxes (which might be an understatement).
We stumbled upon this one while driving around and felt like we just had to stop in! Don’t let the small size of the space fool you, as they are producing some big wines. With a focus on small-batch, single-vineyard wines, they use grapes from their land in PEC and also from a select few exceptional growers across Ontario. One of my favourite parts of the property is that they showcase local artists, almost like an ongoing art exhibit. Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting and beautiful to go along with the delicious wine.
Where to Hang Out
Now listen, I’m not suggesting that you just hang out at the farm, but something tells me that Aaron would still welcome you if you just showed up there. The farm is a 17-acre property with 1 acre cultivated for vegetable growing. They specialize in salad mixes and baby greens, but also grow a wide variety of other vegetables such as beans, beets, carrots, onions, tomatoes, etc. They provide their fresh produce to several chefs and restaurants in the County, but also sell at local farmers’ markets, and at their farm stand on site. It’s pretty special to spend time on the land where the food you eat is grown. And even more incredible to meet the people who are working tirelessly, day in and day out, to nurture and tend to the nutrients you’ll consume one day. This is a true farm-to-table experience.
Thanks for having me, Prince Edward County, it’s always such an honour.
I’ll see ya again soon, I’m quite sure of that.