Take A Foodie-Fuelled Road Trip Through This Tasty Slice of South Eastern Ontario

September 20, 2019

Story: Mike Hector

Photography: Heidi Csernak

It’s hard to believe that yet another summer has come to pass – and yet, here we are. On the heels of a particularly sweltering summer, the signature autumn breeze announces the arrival of a beloved season that is celebrated all throughout Canada and the world. No, I’m not talking about sweater weather or pumpkin spice lattes, although those are both fantastic things.

I’m of course referring to harvest time. That jubilant time of year when local farmers bring in their crops and the region blossoms into a vibrant mix of, festivity, community and robust culinary experiences.

For our second story with Cornwall Tourism and The Counties SDG, Heidi and I decided to take a deep dive into the regions flourishing local food scene from breathtaking countryside drives to farmer’s markets, creameries, butchers, breweries, vineyards and everything in between.

“Enjoy The Fruits” at Dentz Orchards & Berry Farm:

Our story begins in the scenic riverside community of Iroquois, famous for the St. Lawrence Seaway locks, and it’s splendid country scenery. Nestled among the rolling green pastures of the St. Lawrence valley, Dentz Orchards and Berry Farm sports an impressive roadside market where you can find a brilliant variety of fresh produce. Dentz is well known throughout the region for their delicious strawberries, but that represents only a fraction of the entire selection.

In addition to fresh produce, you can also pick up a jar (or two) of their legendary homemade strawberry jam, or pure unpasteurized honey. The biggest challenge of shopping at Dentz’s market is finding enough space in your trunk for all the goodies to bring home.

Schmooze With Some Lovely Ladies at The Upper Canada Creamery

A mere five minutes away from Dentz Orchards, is the Premiere’s Award-winning Upper Canada Creamery. The original farm was first established in 1981 and later started operating as an organic farming operation in 1989. In the time since there have been many upgrades and improvements along with organic certification.

In 2015 the Upper Canada Creamery officially opened and instantly became a must-visit destination. Not only can you get fresh milk, cream, cheese and curds – but you can also take a tour and learn more about ethical farming practices and organic dairy production. Last but not least, it’s a chance to visit with the real stars of the show, the lovely herd of cattle who are usually there to greet you as they graze about their pasture alongside the parking lot.

In fact, we could have visited with those lovely ladies all morning, but alas, we had to keep mooooving along.

Discover a Vibrant Culinary Collage in Cornwall and The SDG Counties

The next leg of our journey brought us to Long Sault for a stop at The Community Market. Only a short distance from the picturesque Long Sault Parkway, the Community Market is a one-stop-shop for all things locally made. Everything from arts, crafts, snacks, meats and more can be found in this quaint little market. There was also a great selection of tea from the Glengarry Tea Company, preserves by Chesterville’s Di’s Delights – and freshly roasted coffee from Coffey’s Coffee Cafe which is located in the nearby town of Ingleside.

Afterwards, we continued toward downtown Cornwall. Our first stop was at a little shop situated on Pitt Street called Marrow & Spice.  The shop is filled with a wide range of locally sourced and made in-store foods. Marrow and Spice also provide catering services, as well as a selection of portioned frozen meals that provide their customers with easy-to-cook options.

Our next stop was at Simply Jennifer, a nice little cafe specializing in vegan, plant-based goodies. Owners Jennifer and Patrick serve up a daily menu of tasty, healthy delights that are both unique, and organically sourced. It’s a great spot to grab an Americano and indulge in some guilt-free baked nomz.

A short stroll away, was Fairy Sweet, Cornwall’s only from-scratch bakery and artisan chocolatier. We found a wide assortment of tempting truffles, captivating cupcakes and delicious desserts that are sure to be crowd-pleasers for your next dinner party – or simply an indulgent treat for yourself. We won’t judge. If you’re an unapologetic sweet-tooth like me, then no trip to Cornwall will be complete without visiting this award-winning bakery.

When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like a BIG ESCA Pie…

After a fantastic morning of food shopping, it was only natural that we would eventually find ourselves a tad peckish and in need of some serious eats. We decided to pop into ESCA Gourmet Pizza + Bar to satisfy our hankering for tasty local fare. Conveniently located on Pitt Street, ESCA is a local favourite serving up an impressive assortment of local craft beers, and a scintillating menu filled with a selection unique pizzas, sandwiches and more.

Heidi selected The New Nick which combines the best parts of pizza and tacos with a seasoned sour cream base, mozzarella & aged cheddar cheeses, delicious ground chuck, bruschetta mix, shredded lettuce and crispy tortilla strips. It was a tasty amalgamation of Mediterranean and Tex-Mex.

I am a sucker for a good cheesesteak so I chose The Philly – which sports a zesty chipotle base, mozzarella, thinly shaved beef tenderloin, mushrooms, sweet caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, green onions, green pepper, and a delicious horseradish basil-cream. I also paired it with a pint of Wood Brothers Brewing Company: Overcast IPA.

Good Things are Brewing in Cornwall

After lunch, we popped into Rurban Brewing’s retail store and taproom which is also located in downtown Cornwall. There, we met Brewmaster: Andy Rorabeck who took us on a tour of the brewery and spoke with us about his approach to craft brewing.  The beer produced at Rurban is unfiltered and unpasteurized which produces a unique artisanal variety of beer that is filled with character and flavour. The typical filtration methods used in the brewing industry uses materials and produces byproducts that also remove key elements of flavour.

The beers available vary, and there’s always something new in-store. Before our tour, I tried a flight of samples which consisted of the staple: Cornwall Lager, an interesting Kumquat infused beer, and a Vienna style ale, as well as a delicious oatmeal stout.

Andy’s goal is to remain small-scale which allows him to remain independent and in complete creative control of his brewery. The unfiltered and unpasteurized nature of the beer also doesn’t allow for mass production and shipping as it’s shelf life is not extended by preservatives or synthetic ingredients. Providing beer for the Cornwall and SDG region is Rurban’s mandate, and they certainly seem to be fulfilling that objective.

Before we left, I sampled a unique batch of beer called “Bacon,” which is a German-inspired smoked lager. It had a completely unique taste that I have never experienced. Needless to say, I definitely grabbed a six-pack to enjoy later on.

A Scenic Drive to Alexandria

Before the end of the day, we have a few more stops to make. In the village of South Lancaster, we stopped at Épicerie Henderson’s Grocery – where we picked up some fresh local carrots and a loaf of bacon jalapeno cheese bread. We had a few minutes to spare, so we made a quick stop at The Millinery at Cornerstone Farms and scoping out the preserves in the pantry before continuing north on our journey.

In Alexandria, we discovered a cute little fresh produce stand operated by a farm called Les Jardins Lamoureux. There, we purchased a fine selection of raspberries, blueberries, radishes and other goodies. Last but not least, we stopped in at the impressive butcher shop and abattoir: Butchers to Go, and picked up a freshly roasted chicken to add to our already colossal inventory of local food.

At this point, you’re likely wondering: “What in the Sam Hill are they going to do with all that food!?”

Worry not, fair reader. We’ll get to that soon enough.

 Tranquil, Rustic Accommodations at Springfield Farm

After a full day of leap-frogging from one amazing local food venue to another, we finally arrived in Apple Hill. There, we would be spending the night #glamping in style at the Springfield Farm Yurt. Situated on a breathtaking 118-acre farm, Springfield Farm is embraced by a seemingly endless sea of enchanting rural scenery. The yurt itself is a Mongolian style “super tent” that is 100% off-grid. Inside the structure are an antique double bed, a fold-out cot, a cozy wood stove and comfortable furnishings.

When we arrived we met with Eleanor McGrath, who was a most gracious host. She gave us a quick penny-tour of our “campsite,” and ensured we were ready to settle into the comforts of our unique accommodations.

Do You Even Charcuterie? 

Now, we get to reveal the end-result of all of our food shopping. Heidi’s plan from the get-go was to take all the delicious items we acquired throughout the day, and arrange it (beautifully) into an amazing charcuterie board fit for royalty. The board itself was practically invisible beneath the bounty of fresh, locally grown and crafted delicacies upon it. Such a marvellous menagerie of mouthwatering delights was nearly overwhelming, but we certainly managed to enjoy a bit of everything.

Concord grapes, cucumber, roast chicken, berries, cheese and even some apples and even some yellow heirloom tomatoes that Eleanor was kind enough to give us – made for an unforgettable DIY dining experience made entirely from locally sourced items. Absolutely brilliant!

I’ll let Heidi’s charcuterie prowess speak for itself, as her photography surely demonstrates. Sitting there, in the yurt, enjoying this magnificent spread of food, I felt like a Roman General enjoying the spoils of his latest conquest.  In this case, we came, we saw, we ate very well.

Of course, no meal of this magnitude would be complete without a grand finale.  For dessert, Heidi put together a mindblowing decadent dessert charcuterie arrangement consisting of the goodies we gathered throughout the day. She arranged a staggering collection of truffles, cookies, date squares, peanut butter Nanaimo bars, cupcakes and more!

After our intimate dinner, we packed the leftovers into our cooler – and slipped into bed for a well-deserved food coma. Not without, of course, taking in the surrounding scenery during a rather unforgettable sunset. The overcast skies took on a series of brilliant violet and azure hues, as the shrouded, waning sunlight flared with its own crimson radiance.

A Beauty of a Breakfast at The Quirky Carrot

The next morning we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed back to Alexandria for a quick breakfast at The Quirky Carrot – a quaint little #FeastON certified cafe and eatery that has your caffeinated cravings covered.  I was still a bit full from the previous night’s Eating Olympics, so I opted for an Americano and an order of toast.  Heidi chose to enjoy a gorgeous Avocado Toastie that was so Instagrammable – that I wasn’t sure if she should eat it or have it framed!

Cruising Amid Captivating Countryside Views

There is nothing quite like the feeling you get after putting the city in your rear-view and leaving the urban chaos in your dust. Throughout our road trip, we were treated to brilliant views of the SDG Counties’ sprawling and vivid countryside. Verdant fields of gold and emerald that stretch on beneath brilliant, ever-changing skies. Out here, things just seem to slow-down and soon enough, the technological trifles, digital distractions and synthetic stresses of the city become a mere afterthought.

Often, the greatest escapes are found by taking a detour from the ruse of the routine.

History, Legacy and Fine Wine

Situated on a gorgeous five-acre plot in the heart of Ontario’s Celtic Heartland, is Stonehouse Vineyard. This property was first acquired in 1793 by John Roy MacMillan when he was granted 200 acres of land in Glengarry County. In the early 1800s, the stone house (and namesake) of the winery was built using money that John earned during his military service in the War of 1812. The farm was succeeded by a member of the MacMillan family until 1921 when it was sold.

In 2008, current owner Craig MacMillan, a direct descendant of John Roy privately purchased the farm and thus reclaimed it becoming the 8th generation of Macmillan to own the heritage property. The previous owners of the farm had planted a small two-row vineyard of experimental cold-climate grapes. It wasn’t long before Crag and his wife Joanne began to work with those crops – and within a few years, the concept of Stonehouse Vineyard was born.

Once we arrived at the vineyard, we met up with Craig, who took us on a walking tour of the vineyards. There we were introduced to the varieties of grapes he is growing and learning intriguing insights that he has learned since he began working with them. The various species of grape are all well-suited for cold climate growth in addition to the varying microclimates at work on Craig’s farm. Most notable is the Frontenac variety that includes a noir, gris and blanc.

I was fascinated by the Marquette variety of grapes, which look similar to Concord grapes, but are capable of being made into delicious rosès, and fortified wines. This particular variety of grapes produce tight bulbous clusters of fruit that when made into wine – produce aromas including “red fruits, plum, roasted coffee, and smoke.”

Once our tour was finished, we made our way to the vineyard’s wonderful timber frame barn, for a much-anticipated wine tasting with Joanne. To accompany our tasting, Joanne had prepared a pair of plentiful charcuterie boards. They both comprised a huge selection of locally grown fruits and other delights. Interestingly, one charcuterie showcased a selection of local artisan cheeses made by Glengarry Fine Cheese – and the other boasted a spread of delicious artisanal vegan cheese crafted by Fauxmagerie Zengarry.

We proceeded to nibble away on our generous assortment of local treats, and sip each of Stone House’s featured wines. Heidi only had a few sips of each, because she is the designated driver. Her wine(s) didn’t go to waste, as I was more than happy to finish them for her.

Before parting ways, we purchased a bottle of their 2017 Swenson White, which Heidi thoroughly enjoyed. This white wine has a fruity flavour profile, that is dry and refreshing. Perfect for pairing with the artisan cheeses we sampled.  I selected the complex and pleasing Marquette 2016 which is aged in Hungarian oak barrels and sports a magnificent taste and bouquet of dark cherry, smoky and spicy flavours.

Apple Cider, Fresh Fudge and Friendly Chickens.

One of the most iconic and authentically Canadian autumn activities of the fall season is packing up the car with family and friends, and heading out to the apple orchard. Whether it’s apple picking, wagon rides, maple syrup, a visit to the orchard is synonymous with the fall season. Cannamore Orchard is a well-known destination for travellers looking to get their fall-on.

Home to several acres of apple orchards, strawberry and pumpkin patches, Cannamore Orchard packs a ton of fun into their farm located only 35 minutes from Ottawa, of 45 minutes from Cornwall. It’s a great place to go apple picking, take a walk among the orchards and of course to say hello to some of the friendly chickens who will likely join you for a leisurely stroll.

During the Halloween season, Cannamore Orchard takes on a spooky theme with its annual Acres of Terror event that has been a local tradition for over 20 years. You can take a spooky wagon ride, wander through an eerie fog maze, and of course, fill your face with delicious fresh fudge – or all of the above for that matter!

By the time we wrapped up our visit at the orchard, the sun was starting to hang low in the late afternoon sky – and it was time to meander our way back to the car.

Escape, Explore and Indulge!

Autumn is the perfect time to set out on a foodie-fueled road trip of your own!

Whether you want to stock your pantry with show-stopping goodies for your next holiday meal, or just want to cut loose and travel with your tastebuds, there is an entire world of flavours to discover in Cornwall and SDG Counties! For a unique and unforgettable detour, getaway or tranquil road trip there are endless opportunities to discover a wealth of locally crafted food and connect with the dedicated communities who work tirelessly to provide it.