In anticipation for the TASTE Community Grown event at Crystal Palace on September 24th 2016, we received a preview of some of the most delectable food and drink in Prince Edward County. TASTE is considered one of “Ontario’s Top 100 festivals”. The annual culinary event is a showcase of wines, beers, ciders, and delicious food from the surrounding area.
PEC is located in Southern Ontario on a large irregular headland at the eastern end of Lake Ontario; from Toronto, it is about a two hour drive. As a picturesque island, it was once referred to as the “Garden Capital of Canada’; this gastronomic community boasts artisan delights where sourcing locally is considered a way of life. Surrounded by water, you’re only a car or bike ride away from the stunning coastline vista.
PEC is only getting more popular, around 50 vineyards and over 40 wineries are present and the number is always growing; this is due to the ideal and moderate climate (from Lake Ontario) and soil composition that includes clay and limestone bedrock embedded with shale fragments. The wines produced in the area offer complexity, depth of flavour, and minerality. PEC is considered one of Ontario’s newest designated viticultural areas.
Make a weekend getaway to this burgeoning area because there’s no shortage of culinary and wine-making talent. Consider contacting Visit The County for advice and tips; the tourism board is comprised of friendly and helpful staff who can help you make the most of your visit.
But perhaps we should let you in on the best part of visiting PEC: Prices are much more affordable than those found at other wine hotspots in Ontario.
Here’s our guide for the best food and drink in Prince Edward County:
The traditional art of fermentation is practised here by owners Jenna Empey and Alex Currie. Products are crafted with care using local, raw ingredients. Many flavours of Sauerkraut, Kimchis, and Kombucha are available for purchase. Because fermentation is natural (uses bacterial culture), many items have a pleasantly mild tang compared with pickled/ preserved foods in vinegar.
Our favourite? Kimchi Sauerkraut with killer spices that will liven up your burgers, hot dogs and potato salads.
With the dream of owning a winery, husband and wife team, John and Sacha Squair planted vines in 2000. Today their winery boasts award-winning varietals, an outdoors pizza oven, and by October 2016 – the first yoga studio in North America. The 100 acre estate can be enjoyed with a glass in hand or lounging on their patio. And of course, pets are welcome to visit the winery or walk the trails nearby.
Our favourite? The 2013 Dog House Red. It’s a vibrant red with balanced acidity. On the palate, there are undertones of sweet plum and black cherry. This is the perfect pizza and steak wine.
This bakery, owned and operated by Rebecca Brown, is just over a year old. As a graduated of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute, she received a diploma in pastry there. After working at numerous restaurants in Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston, she decided to open up Pink Lunch Pail in 2015. Many of her sweet creations have been a result of her years travelling and living in Europe.
All ingredients are locally sourced. Only organic flours, sugars, natural colours and flavours are used. In fact, high fructose corn syrup has been replaced by local maple syrup or honey.
Our favourite? Local apple crumble pie with housemade ice cream.
Located in a centuries old barn, sample delectable wines from Sherry Karlo, vintner and owner. Derek Barnett, Karlo’s winemaker, is happy to guide you through the different varietals. Bragging rights for Karlo include being the world’s first Vegan certified winery. Don’t forget to stroll through the vineyards and visit their dry stone bridge, deemed as the largest in North America.
Our favourite? Lake on the Mountain Riesling (2015) with citrus pear on the nose, finishes of lilac, and flint. There’s immediate sweetness that mellows out into melons and apples. With a lingering minerality, the wine is delectable and can hold its own with oily fish like salmon.
If you’re a fan of small-batch craft wines, make sure to stop by Trail Estates for unique wines. In addition to the 14 acre vineyard, they source from grape growers throughout PEC and Niagara-on-the-Lake. The wines are terroir driven and showcase strong varietal character. Don’t hesitate to speak with Mackenzie Brisbois – Winemaker & Vineyard Manager – about her recommendations based on your taste preferences.
Our favourite? 2014 Riesling which also happens to be a VQA Bronze medal winner. It’s an aromatic and fragrant citrus bouquet with fresh minerality. On the palate: grapefruit, slightly dry but well-balanced texture. Crisp and refreshing.
Run by boyfriend and girlfriend team, Lance Calvert and Ashley Ingles, the duo are serving Latino street food, using locally sourced ingredients.
Located outside Traynor Family Vineyard, the couple opened Guapo’s in June of this year. Both have hospitality backgrounds, and the initial plan was to get a food truck in fall– but the space at Traynor became available to them first and business has taken off ever since.
Our favourite(s)? Addictive Roasted Corn Salad featuring fire roasted corn, queso cotija, red onion, cilantro, and lime. And Korean Beef Tacos that include ginger-soy brisket, sesame cabbage slaw, scallions, gochjang, and crema.
Keint-He was historically the name of a Seneca village in the region. They were a sub-tribe of the Iroquois and when the French passed through this area, their name was given a francophone pronunciation to Quinte (Keint-He). Today, it is the name of that whole geographic region. As a result, the winery’s name is in honour of its historical past and the wine labels include rich cultural references as well. Winemaker Lee Baker says that the wines here carry European flair that offer lots of minerality and acidity. The vines are grown in limestone rich soils which result in distinct wines that are very terroir driven.
Our favourite? Queenston Road Pinot Noir (2012). A burst of red fruit on the nose that include cherry, raspberry and strawberry aromas. To balance out the sweetness, there are undertones of cedar and mushroom-like umami flavours. Sweet and savoury are married well in this wine, as well as pleasant fine tannins and a long, complex finish.
Find casual comfort favourites that utilize seasonal ingredients at this popular bistro. Proprietors Kimberly Humby and David O’Connor support local county farmers and talented winemakers in the region.
Our favourite? Housemade charcuterie for two that features house-made paté, salumi, cheese, preserves, and pickled vegetables.
Photos by Tiffany Leigh