I’m never clear why more people don’t venture into rural Ontario for a day of delicious adventure but I find it exciting and always so much fun, I can’t wait to go somewhere new. Ontario is a huge province and it provides a lifetime of adventure. I’ve been at it for the past 4 years and have rarely visited the same place twice.
This time I was leaving Perth and heading home to Niagara. My husband Jon and I left our great hotel, Code’s Mill Inn & Spa. If you’ve ever romanticized about having your own quaint but beautiful, little hotel, this is the one for you. What a great stay.
We drove out on Wilson Street and ran right into one of the greatest local food grocers in Ontario. Foodsmith is a healthy grocery store that is a fantastic example of just how much local food one grocer can support. We met store manager Molly who showed us around talking about family food businesses not food, she talked about people and their expertise in creating great food not food, recipes and how to cook the food. Hanging from the ceilings were posters of families and the food they grow or make. We willed our bags with local food and headed home.
Instead of heading home, we drove north to the town of Balderson. Balderson is a quaint little village with a few shops and the famous Balderson Cheese store. The amazing success of Balderson’s delicious cheeses means the cheese making has moved to larger facilities but the retail store remains and there is enough cheese here to make any dairy lover dizzy.
In this small village with limited resources multi purposing is important. For example Ema Lee Ladies Fashions also sells local garlic – the sign says so on the door – you gotta love it!
Driving west along highway 7, it’s beautiful country. Towards Addington County small wild blueberry stands pop up out of nowhere. Walk up to the stand and the tiny little purple berries can be purchased in many sizes, preserved in canning jars and made into pies. I looked at the large 750-mL size canning jars filled with preserved blueberries and to me it meant I could have a fresh wild blueberry pie in the middle of a dull dreary winter, or perhaps for a new Christmas treat!
The smallest container of wild blueberries are sold in oriental take-out containers. Just the suggestion of walking away with wild blueberries to eat in the car is too much to pass up. Wild blueberries are tiny and so we popped about 5 in my mouth. I bit down and the intensity of the flavour exploded in my mouth and the blueberry flavours shot off the reciter scale – it was pure blueberry porn. We squealed, laughed and savoured every mouthful as we moaned under the greatness of flavour. All blueberries should taste this good!
At the junction of highway 7 and County Road 41 there is the small Ontario town of Kaladar, which like many small Ontario towns throughout Ontario, it’s more of a busy intersection than a town. On one corner is a large building screaming visit me! The building itself is condemned and Jerry Sammut has parked his Spud Box adjacent to the front of it while he uses the large building behind as a billboard.
There was a few people lined up in front of The Spud Box Chip Truck and the look screams ‘food adventure’. We stopped in and ordered fish & chips to test it out. Jerry’s wife is friendly and helpful but Jerry himself is a bit of a stand-offish sort. I have to say the best part of The Spud Box Chip is the outside look and the vibe created by the people lined up. Good food inspires and while the food was far from bad, it didn’t inspire.
If Jerry was the sort of a guy that looked like he’d entertain a conversation about his food, I’d have told him about the amazing fresh fries in Sarnia. The chip wagons under the bridge in the downtown area are so delicious, they’re exciting and yes, I’d drive to Sarnia to satisfy a craving for really good fresh fries. You can tell they’re made with fresh potatoes and not ones stored. Fresh potatoes have a sweet flavour that makes the fries almost taste like they’re sugared. The older the potatoes are, the sugar converts to starch and you loose the brightness, the purity of flavour, the terroir – and the inspiration. This is another example why seasonal food is worth getting so excited about.
Down County Road 41, through Addington County is a beautiful stretch of Ontario. Waterways, marshes and almost every inch of water surface is covered with water lilies with their beautiful white flowers. County road 41 weaves it’s way through the best of it with little towns or ‘corners’ along the way.
Eventually you reach Hwy 401, the most impersonal highway ever travelled. For anyone wanting to explore Ontario, take the back roads, the roads less travelled and get a true flavour and experience the real beauty that is Ontario. We are so lucky to live here.