This year I have explored Ontario more than I have in the whole 10 years I’ve lived in the province. Living in Ottawa for eight of those years I drove the 2 hours to Montreal regularly. Honestly, most of my exploring was in Quebec. We camped there, we went on day trips, concerts or just for dinner.
Because of the blog and because of new friendships I finally dipped my toes, then jumped, into Ontario. Earlier this year I tagged along with Ama to take photos of places like Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Stratford. Truly magical places and wonderful examples of the rich land here in Ontario. Some of the most inspiring farm-to-table I’ve ever witnessed and enjoyed. But those places are well established as destinations. Going solo I also got the chance this Fall to see Small Town Ontario and find the gems that are doing the same great things larger cities are doing — culinarily speaking, and maybe even doing it better.
In the county of Northumberland you’ll find the township of Port Hope settled on the banks of Lake Ontario and where the Ganaraska river (“The Ganny”) runs through it. It’s widely known as one of the best preserved main streets in Ontario and you can see that right away as your stroll down Walton. You’ll also find a Queen Street that bears some resemblance to the one in Toronto. It’s a good place to go antiquing, but my question was, “where to eat?”
From my quick research it looked like there were three place to check out. My new friends living and working in the “industry” in Port Hope reaffirmed this thought.
First order of business was getting to the farmer’s market in the middle of town to visit our hosts for the day who run Atomic Roasters, which is hands down the best coffee in town. When you think about your options being small batch roasted with love versus the main coffee shop in town that has been know to run out of coffee (so small town), which would you choose? Two stalls over I picked up some of the best Crab Apple Jelly I’ve ever had (sorry Grandma Mair).
After tooling around town and taking a nostalgia trip over to nearby Cobourg, where my co-pilot and partner was born and raised it was time for serious eats. This I had been looking forward to.
On Ontario Street you’ll find The Social Public House, where Chef Isaac is doing beautiful things with an ever changing menu. Isaac cut his teeth in Toronto at Beer Bistro, but returned home to take full advantage of the rich agriculture of the area.
For a starter mussels and frites. We could have had five or six rounds one those but we knew we had the rest of the menu to tear through.
You’ll have to check the chalkboard often, I see it daily in my instagram feed. I’m happy to see that the duck confit is a regular menu item because it’s a favourite and the one at The Social hit it out of the park with a perfect cranberry jus. Writing about this dish just made my stomach talk.
Others at the table went their stand-by Social favourites, the Social burger and the Social club sandwich. Let it be know that here is where I had my first deep-fried cookie dough and I was happy to have saved that taste experience for this place.
TRIP NO. TWO
This Fall the friends we visited Port Hope with the first time around had their baby. Not wanting to exhaust the new parents with hosting us all day we planned a trip to the Pickering Flea around the visit. After hugs, laughs, baby holding and seriously needed shots of espresso we were pointed in the direction of Olympus Burger for lunch.
In what very clearly used to be a KFC is a bright diner space with a Greek flare. You order at the counter and watch through a pass as your burger sizzles. I went for the Artemis burger, guacamole, warmed mixed greens, Swiss cheese but opted for a lamb patty instead of chicken. I forget what my traveling companion got because my burger was all that mattered to me. Oh and the strawberry cheesecake milkshake I savored for an hour.
Happy and full it was time to take in the giant indoor Flea and Antiques market in Pickering. It instantly sent back to my childhood. Like most fleas we found those few treasures we’d been searching for, saw a lot of odd and wonderful things from eras long gone and picked through records we wouldn’t pay more than $0.25 for. We went through everything. One end to the other and came out very hungry.
We’d come too late in the day to savour much of the carnival like fare in the food pavilion, but there was funnel cake. Something else I’d never had before. It may be a staple here in on Ontario at things like the Ex, but I don’t ever remember seeing it at the Stampede. I think corn dogs were more Calgary’s speed. Yes, it was delicious. And yes we took home three bars of fudge.
Ontario is geographically much bigger than Alberta, but unlike my home province where you can drive three hours before you see the next town, my adoptive province has towns on top of towns. There’s a lot to discover.
Where has been your favourite #ExploreOntario discovery? Tell us in the comments, we’d love to visit.
Tags: #exploreontario, atomic roaster, explore ontario, olympus burger, port hope, the social public house, travel