The top 10 culinary weekend escapes from Toronto
As much as there is to do in Toronto this summer, it's nice to get away from the city every now and then. Luckily, there are plenty of places to escape to for a night or two that are just a short drive (or bus/train ride) away. Looking to sample your way through rural farmers markets, tour wineries, craft breweries or eat farm-to-table foods directly off the farm? This list is for you.
Here are my picks for the top culinary weekend escapes from Toronto.
Experience Niagara on The Lake
There's plenty to see and do in Ontario's wine county. Help celebrate the new growing season at a Tailgate Party on June 21st or hit up one of the food trucks at the SupperMarket every Wednesday 'til dusk. Or just go the conventional route and sip and taste your way through the wine maker's vineyards, cellars and kitchens. Dine at a vineyard restaurant like the one at Trius Winery, reserve a kitchen-side seat on Saturdays at Peller Estates Winery for a behind the scenes view, or join a guided wine and cheese pairing at Ravine Vineyard.
Discover the burgeoning Hamilton food scene
Eat your way through the Steeltown's vibrant food scene on Locke St. and James St. North in the heart of downtown Hamilton. Popular spots like Chuck's Burger Bar and The Burnt Tongue are just the tip of the great eats available here. For more spots, check out this round-up. For a quick meal on your feet, be sure to track down your favourite food trucks like Gorilla Cheese as they congregate at Food Truck Alley, a plot of land devoted to street eats and outdoor summer events. When night falls, rest your head at Puddicombe Estate home to a winery, market, country store and Caboose Farm Stay rental. Sleep in a retired CNR caboose then awake to find breakfast items at your door step to cook up yourself.
Go hyperlocal in Collingwoood / Singhampton
Chef Michael Stadlander's Eigensinn Farm in Singhampton is a culinary destination in its own right where hyper local cuisine is served as multi-course dinners in a eclectic farm house setting surrounded by vegetable gardens, roaming livestock and an art park. Dinner is a set $300 while wine is BYOB. Plan to stay overnight at a local B&B like Pretty River Inn who can shuttle you to and from dinner. Return the next day for lunch at Haisai, a restaurant and bakery also in the Stadlander family, where the menu features dim sum, wood-fired pizzas and other seasonal specialties sourced from Eigensinn and other local farms. While in the vicinity, soak up some sun at Wasaga Beach and pick-up some beers from the newly opened Collingwood Brewery.
Eat your way through Creemore
The famous copper kettle brewery (now owned by Molson Coors Brewing Company) might be the pride of this charming rural destination but there are plenty of other culinary highlights including the seasonally driven Creemore Kitchen. Go for a scenic drive in Eugenia for dinner at the charming Flying Chestnut Kitchen or venture off the beaten path to find the roadside BBQ shack, The Saucy Pig on County Road 92 in Elmvale.
Tour Prince Edward County
Known as the Taste Trail, Prince Edward County is packed with dozens of restaurants, wineries and breweries worth driving for in this region encompassing Trenton, Belleville and Picton. Highlights on the route include stopping at Slickers for homemade ice cream or an afternoon spent at Norm Hardie's tasting bar or vineyard-side patio enjoying wood-fired pizzas and vino. Stay at Maison Depoivre, a farmhouse and boutique bed and breakfast that lists a French fine food shop amongst its amenities.
Get acquainted with our nation's capital
Byward Market was formerly the big draw for culinary tourists in Ottawa, though the dining scene continues to flourish with food trucks like Trailer Pork Boys and Gongfu Bao cart catering to the public at markets and outdoor patios along the Rideau Canal. Essential stops should include Art is Bakery for its behemoth open-faced brunch burger, Two Six Ate for an eclectic snackbar menu, and dinner and drinks at the Hintonburg Public House.
Get beyond Blackberry in Kitchener / Waterloo / Cambridge
In the region once dominated by the once popular smartphone manufacturer you can now drop the tech talk and instead splurge for the luxe amenities and pampering services at Langdon Hall. A stay at this hotel, spa and acclaimed restaurant (where jackets are recommended for dinner) features a la carte selections or a regional and seasonal multi-course tasting menus. Indulge the next morning with a country breakfast buffet or explore the huge farmers and flea markets in St. Jacob's Country that are stocked with mennonite-made goods and hot apple fritters. While you're there check out Block Three, a small batch brewery that hosts complimentary tours and tastings.
Fatten up at Pelee Islands
Plan for a shore-side stay at a B&B, cottage rental or campground and enjoy the serene natural beaches of this island in Lake Erie. Pelee Island Winery vineyards and wine pavilion is among the most famous attractions offering tours ($5) and wine appreciation seminars daily in the summer. Back on the mainland in nearby Kingsville, visit the Tasting Room for wines paired to cheeses or chocolates ($30), or dine at Jack's Gastro Pub of You Gotta Eat Here fame.
See the non-theatre side of Stratford
In the heart of Perth county, this city is home to one of the oldest farmers markets in Ontario and hosts summer festivals like the weekend-long Savour Stratford and weekly food-focused walking tours. Details for the 2014 edition of the self-guided Bacon and Ale tour have yet to be released, though looking back at last year's program (PDF) will point you towards a wealth of Perth pork products paired perfectly with beers.
Fill up on meat in Windsor / Essex
It may not be top of mind when it comes to culinary destinations, but the food scene in this border-city is ever evolving and offers some notable spots that are worthy additions to any BBQ fanatic's bucket list. Visit Tunnel BBQ, an institution for over 70 years to mow down on platters of rotisserie side ribs and broaster chicken or head to Smoke & Spice Southern Barbeque for a thick sliced smoked and fried bologna sandwich. Discover the city one beer at time with the Bikes & Beers cycling tour offered one weekend monthly, or visit the Walkerville Brewery on Saturdays to tour the facilities and sample along the way.
What did I miss? Plug your favourite culinary weekend escapes from Toronto in the comments below.