When I think of Muskoka my mouth automatically begins to salivate for some of Ontario’s most succulent beef, luscious maple syrup and of course a martini made with one of chef Rory Golden’s pickled wild leek stir sticks. Golden is the executive chef of the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville (www.deerhurstresort.com) and one of Muskoka’s most vocal local food advocates.
Chef Rory is the talent behind the Field to Fork event held August 14th (www.savourmuskoka.com). The format is quintessential farm and country with gourmet food tastings on a farm for the country low price of $65 a head.
There is an amazing farmers market in Gravenhurst at the Muskoka Warf. A double row of market vendors form a giant circle and shoppers meander around smelling the freshness and scooping up the seasons bountiful harvests. I was there promoting local food with my new book, The Ontario Table. Every book purchased earns a signature on the Ontario Table-cloth. As I travel across Ontario collecting signatures, it will surely be the longest tablecloth in support of local food. Chefs sign in red, farmers in green and locavores in black. At the end of the season I will roll it out and plan a huge feast where we’ll all sit around and read what everyone has written about local food. Keep posted on my blog for more info.
There is T & R Family Farm from Niagara-on-the-Lake with the seasons first cherries. Muskoka doesn’t grow cherries so the giant table of red and white juicy berries go quickly. It’s garlic scape season and you can overhear many conversations about delicious garlic scape dishes.
Today is a special day and Savour Muskoka is offering tastings of what is growing in Muskoka. Reed of Muskoka Meats is serving up delicious venison sausages, Black River Food Co is offering a beer, bacon and sausage soup. Strawberries play centre stage with mini strawberry shortcakes – fresh from the fields.
Huntsville seems to be the regions hot spot for resorts. In addition to the all season Deerhurst Resort, Taboo (www.tabooresort.com) is a luxury resort, golf course and spa. The new chef there is Andy Dymond, former chef of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara and another chef in love with food that grows near and around him. Can’t wait to visit and try his version of Muskoka cuisine.
While there is no competition among the great chefs of Muskoka , there is great fun for foodies to graze around Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Bala and Port Carling tasting and experiencing it all.
I love the little town of Bala, so pretty, so quaint. It’s the cranberry capital of Ontario and it’s worth taking in the festival every October (www.balacranberryfestival.on.ca). If you can’t make the festival, drive to Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh for everything cranberry you can imagine from fresh (frozen) to dried, juice – yes even wine from Muskoka Lakes Winery.
In Bracebridge, Marty’s is the hip place to be. Find a table among the locals and feast on his take out counter. I’ve never seen pies so big and abundant with juicy fruit that it inspires a direct face plant. The ice cream is just as exciting.
Gravenhurst is home to Muskoka Meats, also known as the 100 Mile Store. Owner Dave Purdon stocks a great selection of small artisan food products from within 100 miles – or 160 km. Their specialty is local meat and a look in their meat counter has you drooling over ultra thick cuts of well-aged beef. Best to ask for what you want because most of the meat is out back reserved for the local carnivors who know exactly what they want.
On the way home I discovered Fairdale Farm, went and met Kim Leatherdale who professes to be a new farmer in love with her new business and success. They sell beef, lamb and chicken. Freezers in the farm retail store carry a great selection of cuts and the honor box speaks to the trust in farm and country conviviality. You can find other farms across Ontario to visit at www.ontariofarmfresh.com.