GPS – Great Palate Sensations By Judy Johnson
It’s hard to imagine a better area for gastronomic geocaching than the Lake Huron Shores area – superb foods and beverages are waiting to be discovered. Feast on palate pleasures from the Lake and our fertile farmland that stretches inland – prepared with creativity and care. Sample the food and drink of the many artisan craftspeople who bring their unique vision to produce extraordinary edibles!
Quick sampling of hints to begin your CULINARY QUEST
HINT – SIP & SAVOUR
A burgeoning beverage industry has taken root in Lake Huron Shores soil. Sip and savour the liquid bounty of family-owned and operated beer, wine and cider microbreweries. Taste test international, award-winning apple and pear ciders and wines at Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House. Or create your own viticulture tour starting with Alton Farms Estate Winery in Plympton-Wyoming, followed by Dark Horse Estate Winery near Grand Bend and finishing off at Maelstrom Winery (three award-winning wines) east of Vanastra. If a cool beer is more your style you won’t be disappointed, the area boasts seven microbreweries – Bad Apple Brewing Company near St. Joseph., Stone House Brewing Company (Bayfield), Bayfield Brewing Company (Bayfield), River Road Brewing & Hops (Bayfield), Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company (Blyth) and Half Hours on Earth Brewery (Seaforth) and Stonepicker Brewing Company (Plympton-Wyoming).
HINT – VICTUALS WITH VIEWS
Savour the scenery! Ipperwash Beach Club (Ipperwash), just a stone’s throw from the beach, is a place to enjoy a satisfying meal, refreshing drink, or ice cream on the large and comfortable outdoor patios. Check out the picturesque, sailboat-filled Bayfield marina while noshing at The Docks Restaurant & Bar and be sure to Funk Up Your Fries! Bring your camera when you dine at The Growling Gator or Willie’s Beach Bar (Grand Bend)! Lake Huron views are on the menu along with an array of drinks and eclectic dining choices. Steak night, specialty pizza, nachos and a splendid view of the golf course are among dining delights at Dave’s Pub & Grill at Oakwood Resort.
HINT – HISTORY & HOSPITALITY
History meets the present. The family at Aunt Gussie’s has been welcoming folks since the ‘50s. Sample great breakfast choices; enjoy homemade food, healthy snacks and drinks day-long. Menu innovations now include gluten-free muffins, raw vegan energy balls and organic Kombucha beside traditional favourites. The Albion Hotel has been a country-styled favorite for over 140 years and touts, some say, a resident ghost with a tragic story. Food-wise, think country classics, pub grub, fresh fish, ribs, etc. The Grand Bend Public School opened in 1874, known today as the Schoolhouse Restaurant it aces homework with dishes like meat loaf, chicken pot pie and ratatouille. Smaller portion sizes available as are your choice of more than a dozen savory sides.
HINT – FINE DINING
Locally world-class. . A sophisticated menu awaits you at The Willow Room at The Little Inn (Bayfield) – think Ontario Lamb, Duck Magret; savour Sunday Brunch. Sample the Ontario Tribute Board/Charcuterie or Chicken Appleby with Brie & Caramelized Granny Smith Apples at Eddington’s of Exeter. The Prime Rib Saturday Buffet that runs Victoria Day long weekend until Thanksgiving is a popular event at The Oak Dining Room at Oakwood Resort. A Seafood Sampler, Coconut Curry Chicken and Chocolate Toblerone Fondue tempt at F.I.N.E. A Restaurant.
HINT – INTERNATIONAL
Global Gastro. Sample authentic Caribbean cuisine at Island Spices (Grand Bend), where you can partake of homemade patties and coco bread. Famous for its fresh, home-made dough pizzas, including Mediterranean, Hawaiian and Mexicana, Grog’s Pub & Grill (Port Franks) also serves the yummiest combination of garlic and cheese known as Zaney bread. Destination restaurant Midori Sushi (Grand Bend) has out-of-the-traditional-bento-box sushi; enjoy the patio and live music. German küche at Hessenland Inn & Schatz Winery (St. Joseph) includes Kalbs Schnitzel Wiener Art; try with Helles draft beer or Hessenland’s own beer and wine. Be sure to make reservations for their Long-Table Vineyard Dinner. Discover Chevapi (Serbian sausages) at Veslo Family Restaurant (Port Franks), along with other specialties like Lepina bread, Goulash and Karadjordjeva (a rolled schnitzel stuffed with cheese and fried to perfection). Pad Thai and Lemongrass Spring Soup tempt at Exeter Thai Cuisine. Cornish Pasties and melt-in-your mouth shortbread entice at Grandpa Jimmy’s Scottish Bakery (Grand Bend). Sample Chicken Parmigiana and other pasta dishes at Pizza Delight (Grand Bend). Cucina Italiana includes panzerotti at Godfather’s Pizza (Exeter & Forest). Local craft brews are on tap at Paddington’s Pub (Grand Bend) as is the signature “Tilson Burger” topped with a fried egg, made using the owner’s own mother’s family recipe.
HINT – ON THE GREEN
A wonderful meal or quick lunch can be had at one of the local golf courses now offering great food options with relaxing views of a manicured greens. White Squirrel Golf Course (St. Joseph) boasts a gourmet food truck throughout the summer months and year-round dining in their newly renovated club house, where you can enjoy live music most weekends. The Barn (Exeter), literally a restored turn-of-the-century barn, is a locals’ favourite known for its rustic atmosphere, great views and freshly made menu items. Widder Station Golf Course (Arkona) has also expanded its club house for summer and extended seasonal dining along with its offering their own brew – “Train Wreck” – on tap.
HINT – FAMILY & FUN
Snacks & more. The Highway Girl (Grand Bend) offers raw, vegan and gluten-free savoury and sweet goodies and drinks along with vintage ambiance. Got a sweet tooth? Try a huge “Pink Lemonade” cupcake – just one of the delicious go-to treats at The Pink Flamingo Bakery (Bayfield). The sweet theme continues at BeaverTails (Grand Bend) where chocolate hazelnut spread topped with Reese’s Pieces and peanut butter create a signature decadent “Triple Trip” pastry. BeaverTails also makes their own ice cream! While Arbor Acres Country Plaza (Ipperwash) serves two dozen soft serve ice cream flavours. Classic outdoor dining at Denny’s Drive-In (Grand Bend) satisfies with summer favourites like fresh-cut fries, poutine and footlongs. Or, sit-out under the trees at family-friendly Woodland Drive-In (Bayfield) while enjoying classic burgers, wraps and “Fuller Fries” topped with cheese, bacon, diced tomato and green peppers and sour cream.
Flavourful & fresh Out of the Blue Fish & Seafood Market (Bayfield) is known for its fresh-from-the-lake fish. Eat in, take out or take home to cook. Pickerel and Perch are on the menu at MacPherson’s Restaurant (Port Franks) where home-style cooking and homemade pies also tempt. Purdy’s at the Bend (Grand Bend) offers locally-caught fresh fish take-out dinners along with views of the marina and lighthouse. Fresh fish also available to cook at home.
HINT – CATERING
No fuss, no muss! Back ‘n Time Catering (Grand Bend) offers personal chef service along with all the fixins for a backyard BBQ or hot or cold buffet setups. While Jerry Rader’s Homestyle Catering (Zurich) serves up roast beef, pork and turkey and old-time church supper recipe book pies, sweets and sides. The retail outlet in Zurich also boasts ready-made frozen single or family-size meals. Hosting something larger? Pineridge Barbecue Catering Company (Hensall) offers meat choices including chicken or baby back pork ribs slow-grilled over charcoal locking in the flavours of their secret sauce and served with home-made hot or cold sides. Finish with fruit crisps or a build-your-own sundae bar. Visually stunning, yummy custom cakes from Make a Wish Cakes (Exeter) are wedding, birthday and anniversary favourites. Think Pink Champagne with Raspberry Filling or Salted Caramel Cake. Gluten free and organic options available.
HINT – PATIO, FUN & MUSIC
Folks in the know embrace the area for a wide selection of live music, including local musicians and bands. Check out local listings in papers and restaurant Facebook announcements to discover what’s on. Drink up the summer on a patio and have fun with old – or new – friends. The Bourbon Bar at The Ashwood (Bayfield) accompanies Venison Striploin, Ribs and more with live music; kick back on the patio in warm weather. Gables in the Bend (Grand Bend) is a venerable beach venue with live entertainment – check out Monday Jam nights, Country Night summer Thursdays (show your dance moves), acoustic Sundays and more. Dine in or on the popular Uptown-Downtown Patio. The fusion menu at The Sandbar & Grill (Grand Bend) includes Seafood Jambalaya and Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl; Friday and Sunday live music adds to the laid-back enjoyment. Crabby Joe’s Tap & Grill (Exeter) offers burgers, pasta, ribs and wings; nosh in or out on the summer patio. Big screen TVs attract sports enthusiasts.
FARM TO FORK, FARM-GATE and EATING LIKE LOCAL
Farm-fresh foods and locally-produced specialities are plentiful throughout the area. This sampling is exactly that – just a taste of what you will discover.
HINT – FARM TO FORK & ARTISAN CRAFTED
Bountiful Berries: Visit family-run Bayfield Berry Farm to pick your own and buy in-season raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and saskatoons. Time your visit to enjoy a light meal or weekend Breakfast Buffet and then take home specialty preserves, berries and baked treats (low sugar and no sugar options). Meats: The Whole Pig (Dashwood) is a registered CQA (Certified Quality Auditors) family-farming operation whose pigs are fed on-farm ingredients. Their quality meats supply many local restaurants and are available direct to you from their farm retail store. Fans love The Whole Pig BBQ-Quarter package. Talking Turkey. Third-generation Hayter’s Farm (Dashwood), 65-years of turkey passion, offers turkey kabobs, fillets, sausages, roasts, burgers and more at their retail store, as well as being a Beer Store and LCBO outlet. Meat Magic. Buy locally-raised, in-store-made cold cuts and specialty meats from at Metzger’s Meat Products (Hensall) – a European style butcher store. Check out smoked pig ears and bones for your pooch. Williamson Farms Country Store (Forest) sells pork and beef from its own farms, maple syrup from their sugar bush and a selection of Ontario cheeses to customers. Gift selection too. Fruits & Vegetables: Fourth-generation-owned Crunican Orchards (Elginfield) grows about a dozen apple varieties to suit every taste, and sells apple cider vinegar, apple cider and more. Farm Fresh. Masse Fruit & Vegetables (St. Joseph) grows everbearing strawberries and sells seasonal produce. Watch Facebook for their strawberry announcements! Simply Sweet. Mennonite owned and operated Zehr’s Country Market (Bayfield) offers home-made pies, Chelsea buns and other treats, as well as Mennonite farm-raised meats and seasonal produce. Baked Goods: How Sweet It Is! Gregarious Cravings (Exeter) tantalizes taste buds with decadent treats to savour with your cuppa, while you browse their unique gifts and vintage items. Amazing Breads. Red Cat Farm & Bakery (Goderich) specializes in natural European-style breads, including wheat-free recipes. Hand crafted breads and scratch-baked pastries, buns and other treats are created at Khaos Artisan Kitchen (Port Franks).
HINT- COFFEE, JUICE & KOMBUCHA
Fair and So Fine. Shopbike Coffee Roasters sources organic and fair trade coffee beans to roast and grind in small batches. Try fan favs Coffee Americano and Maple Latte. Quality Coffee. Owners of Coastal Coffee Company travel to family-owned coffee growers in Nicaragua, Columbia, Rwanda and Brazil to source top specialty grade beans that are small-batch roasted. Coastal Coffee is proud of the long-standing partnerships with their growers that grow into friendships as well. Juice & Smoothies. Meanwhile, Registered Holistic Nutritionists at Culture Shock Kombucha brew up phytonutrient, antioxident, probiotic infused kombucha beverages using local and organic, quality ingredients, including reverse osmosis water. Nutritious and delicious try Pear Ginger, Cranberry-Orange, Vintage and Strawberry Basil.