We Took Our Tastebuds To Prince Edward County

Lake Ontario from the Drake Devonshire

Lake Ontario from the Drake Devonshire

The first time I experienced the white, silky sand and ocean-like vistas of Prince Edward County—an island in Lake Ontario, east of Toronto—I knew I’d found a piece of our province to treasure for years to come. It happened when a group of my university friends decided we should reunite over the summer at Sandbanks Provincial Park for a weekend of camping. As I walked to the crest of my first sand dune, I noticed the sound of the shimmering leaves on the trees and the beautiful bending of the tall grass that lined the paths to the beach. I felt connected to where I was in a way that’s hard to come by during the usual rush and busyness of city life. And when I reached the top of the dune, I didn’t want to come down.

It was the start of a lifelong pull to the area, which you’ll understand if you’ve been lucky enough to spend time there, too. My friends and I continued to reunite in the park each summer, adding on our significant others over the years. And for my own family, camping there became a tradition. We’ve camped in numerous Ontario parks over the years, but Sandbanks is at the very top of our kids’ list.

Drake Motor Inn, Wellington, Ontario

Drake Motor Inn, Wellington, Ontario

drake motor inn

drake motor inn

This year, we decided to use our shared birthdays to experience the county from a different perspective (and during the fall, since we’ve only ever been in the summer). The weekend began by leaving the kids and ditching tents in favour of a comfortable bed and hot showers. We found exactly what we had in mind at the Drake Motor Inn (the sister inn to the lakeside Devonshire Inn). It would be too dramatic to say we wept when we pushed open the door to our weekend abode, but I will say my eyes were shiny with gratitude. And I know I heard my husband release a most contended sigh. When you live with four growing humans, minimalism is a laughable and lofty goal—one we’ve never been able to achieve.

drake-motor-inn

The location allowed us to walk through and around the town of Wellington easily. The inn also features common rooms filled with ‘70s-inspired decor, magazines, and board games, as well as private patios on each room, and a bespoke, communal firepit. We were also able to access the larger inn and all its amenities, and we enjoyed dinner with a gorgeous view of the lake on our first night.

drake-motor-inn

After a great sleep, we spent the day travelling from one end of the county to the other: visiting tiny shops, breweries and delicious eateries. I’m not saying those things are impossible with your kids, but it’s all so much more enjoyable without the work that comes with travelling as a family. We were able to wander in and out of shops and practice the lost art of browsing with no particular list or agenda at hand. We could feel the clutter of all those to-do lists evaporating with each passing hour. And that is a very fine feeling, indeed.

The actual distance across the county is very manageable and many visitors explore the county by bike. There are also several shuttle services and tour packages available if you’re planning to sample the wineries and breweries while there. The scenery as you move from one village to the next is quite beautiful and we took advantage of the winding side roads, too.

Drake devonshire inn

Drake devonshire inn

Here are some of the highlights of our two-day stay:

Bloomfield public house

Bloomfield public house

BEST FOOD

We set out to enjoy the food during our stay, and we were not disappointed. We dined at the Devonshire for both dinner and breakfast the day we left. There are beautiful seating options, beyond the seated dining area, including a beach bonfire pit and bleacher-style seating that faces the lake. We also ate dinner at the Bloomfield Public House (built inside an old bank) and thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, too.

La Condesa

La Condesa


The front desk at the inn recommended we stop by the local Mexican restaurant, and it ended up being our top food experience of the weekend. Served tapas style, the flavours and attention to presentation in each dish at La Condesa were absolutely wonderful. We couldn’t stop talking about it, and, yes, we can’t wait to take the kids next summer.


BEST COFFEE

enid grace cafe

enid grace cafe


Knowing we would be having a long day of eating ahead, we decided to go in search of a good coffee first thing in the morning, instead of a sit-down breakfast. Across from our inn, we found the Enid Grace Cafe and had the most scrumptious, perfectly smooth Americanos. There was a gorgeous offering of different baked goods, pastries, and breakfast options, too. But we deferred reluctantly and waited until we headed to another village for treats later in the day.

BEST BEER, WINE, AND SPIRITS

La Condesa & Prince Eddy’s cream ale

La Condesa & Prince Eddy’s cream ale

There’s a growing craft-beer industry in the county and the aesthetics of each location are fantastic. Most breweries in the county have vibrant outdoor spaces. The Drake Motor Inn actually backs onto the Midtown Brewery, which is very popular with both the tourists and locals. But the tastiest beer of the weekend went to Prince Eddy’s Cream Ale, from the Prince Eddy’s Brewing Co. Smooth and light, it went down well with the rich food we were recklessly consuming.



County cider

County cider


We also stopped for a cider at County Cider in Wapoos, where the views of the Lake Ontario are absolutely spectacular. Due to the unique topography of the area, there are more than 40 wineries to explore and each one has a signature style and vibe. One of our favourite flavours is the Pinot Noir found at Keint-He Winery and Vineyards.

BEST CHEESE

fifth town artisan cheese co.

fifth town artisan cheese co.

I’ve never been a cheese connoisseur, but after pulling into Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. to search for a birthday gift for a friend, I may be a convert. We had the opportunity to enjoy several samples and it was actually hard to narrow down the choices we took home with us. They offer eat-in cheese boards or can prepare you one to take on a picnic (which is what I would do if we went back again). All of their award-winning products are produced environmentally (it’s named Canada’s Greenest Dairy) with locally-sourced ingredients.

BEST BAKED GOODS

Throughout our travels, we noticed a lot of places featuring a Wapoos butter tart. I may not be cheese-savvy, but I do know my butter tarts, and I hoped to find them at another county favourite—the Argarian Market. This delightful market offers an array of locally-sourced and produced food including cheeses, charcuterie, picnic perfect bites (call ahead and they’ll pack a picnic for two for you) and meals-to-go. But it was the baked goods and coffee that we were in search of, and the infamous Wapoos butter tart did not disappoint. This is a must-see stop and there are locations in both Picton (market style) and Bloomfield (bistro and SpeakEasy).

wapoos, prince edward county

wapoos, prince edward county

For us, everything about being in the county can be described in a single word: community. Each business/restaurant/market you visit is a celebration of the people who appreciate the bounty of this unique agriculturally-abundant land. The attention-to-detail you encounter at each stop is what makes the county such a great weekend getaway. You won’t just feel like you’re just sitting down to a meal or sampling a glass of wine—you’ll enjoy beautiful aesthetics, a relaxed vibe, and a welcoming space that makes it so worth the drive.











Bake The Cookies

IMG_2853.jpg

I was raised in a culture of love-by-the-way-of-food. It comes down from both my mom and dad’s sides, and I’ve gladly inherited that legacy since becoming a parent. Food is made from scratch and piled on plates whenever there are more than two family members gathered in a room. For me, it doesn’t just bring comfort; it’s a call out for togetherness.

We’re nearing the end of a school year and looking forward to the shift in gears and a chance to let our collective guard down. We’ve filled the summer calendar with opportunities to relax and recharge (we’re not used to so many blank squares!). We do love to experience new things and spend time with other people, but being home together is always the favoured choice when we need a break from the rush and hustle.

I can almost see the finish line, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spending a lot of time looking back on the year behind us. I’m wondering if we got it right and what could have gone better, and I also worry about the year that’s waiting up ahead. When I’m feeling untethered like this, I usually go straight to the kitchen and start thinking about which favourites or comforts I can offer up like love notes. Last weekend, I landed on these power-packed breakfast cookies. My older kids are about to enter weeks of cramming and exams, so I’m trying to fill the freezer with quick snacks. This recipe was easy to double batch. And the cookies freeze well in an air-tight freezer bag.

They are actually a variation of a recipe I found here. I substitute the tahini with applesauce and add chia seeds for my own version. Thanks to Erin and Dara for their fabulous recipe (they have many more if you check out their site), which I’ve pasted below with my own twist.

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed and chia seeds (or hemp hearts)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ripe banana (mashed)

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce

⅓ cup maple syrup

½ cup chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, chia and/or hemp seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk mashed banana, apple sauce, and maple syrup.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix again.

4. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop batter about 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten cookies lightly with your hand. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and brown around the edges.

5. Let cool for five minutes on a baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack and let cool completely.


The Tale of An Accidental Squash And A Really Good Pot of Soup

squash-soup

I've been working my way through this new vegan cookbook and one of the recipes I had my eye on has a beautiful photo, including what I mistakenly thought was butternut squash (it's actually sweet potato). Once I decided to make it, I headed to the grocery store and grabbed the biggest butternut squash in the display — fully intending to use it right away.

Well, you all know what happened next. I had to go back to the grocery store (hey, with four kids I'm there every day anyway) to get the sweet potatoes. So the squash held court on a patch of highly coveted counter space in our tiny kitchen.

My husband does most of the kitchen clean up (since I'm the one creating most of the kitchen mess), so it was left to him to pick up and put down that squash every time he wiped down the counters. I knew I could get away with it for a few days, until finally and predictably he casually and cautiously asked, Are you using this squash for anything? 

I know how much he appreciates the effort I put into feeding our family, and he never questions how I go about doing it. But that huge squash was really getting on his nerves. 

Most of the week's meals are filled with tried-and-true recipes. I just can't take a chance with food experimentation when I'm facing hungry kids and limited time — and squash would definitely qualify as an experiment if you ask my children. I do my best to cook up a batch of vegetarian soup or stew for the grown up lunches, but I was finding it hard to think of something to do with that accidental squash.  

And so it happened that as I was flipping through my binder of recipes for the weekday homemade chicken noodle soup that I know everyone will eat, another recipe fell out and caught my attention. Its main ingredient is squash. 

But that's not all that made me glad to have found it. The recipe was given to us by a chef at a restaurant we visited what feels like a lifetime ago. We had been camping with three very young children in Prince Edward County, and my sweetheart planned a romantic (and we'll use that term loosely here since we had three kids with us) dinner at a local restaurant called the Waring House. He'd read about it in the paper, I believe, and knew we'd both appreciate the use of locally sourced food. 

Except — if memory serves — we didn't really get to savour the taste of any of it. I don't think it was one of the better eating-out-with-toddlers-and-babies experiences we've ever had, and I don't think it was for any of the patrons that were dining with us that night, either. We were seated in a quiet room with a beautiful view and a very cranky baby. I think we took turns standing outside with her, while the other parent coaxed the kids to hurry up and finish their food already. 

Maybe my soup went cold or I didn't get a chance to finish it, but somehow we came away with a printed copy of the chef's recipe, and it's been sitting in my binder waiting to be made ever since.

Tonight, my husband will come home from a long day at work, and we'll have the soup while it's still warm. And we'll catch up with one another, because no one will have to go outside with a screaming baby. Maybe we'll have a laugh about that disastrous night, maybe we won't. But I do know we'd both say we are glad we tried it anyway. 

And I don't mean the soup. 

 

Squash Medley Ginger Maple Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large squash, baked
  • 2 cups of sweet potatoes, baked
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Place the squash and the sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven, halved, cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for one hour. Sweat the onions until transparent in the oil and add the cayenne and ginger. Add the carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and stock and simmer for 40 minutes. Puree this mixture in a food processor in batches to get a smooth consistency (I used a hand blender). Return the soup to the pot and add the maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves six. 

 

 

 

Recipe: Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

teriyaki-pork-recipe

March break is behind us now, but it was so decadent when it came to pulling together family dinners. Most nights, we had an extra grown up around to either help in the kitchen or keep the kids entertained. We ate out a few times and got fed by Grandma one night, too. 

On the days I was on my own with the kids, it was still a nice pace. Normally, I'm coming or going from an after-school activity at the exact time my kids need to be eating — because they are S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G after a long day! The break gave us lots of time to get home from our outings and get dinner on the table with minimal drama.

We're back in the thick of a busy schedule again now. Our family is big and our activities are many. I've also taken on some new roles and responsibilities, in addition to my writing work, and we've had to be even more organized than usual.

The night before we returned to school and work and activities, I did a big grocery shop to prepare for a few days of lunch boxes and two night's worth of dinners. We tend to shop on a three day cycle, so that we're meal planning for two days ahead. I find a full week of planning never pans out, but every three days works well to cover any last minute changes to our schedule. 

Monday mornings, JB gets up first with the boy who has an earlier school start than his sisters. While dad is hanging out with him, he makes the school lunches for the day. He walks him to his bus stop and then leaves for work. I get the girls up and ready for school and, while they're getting themselves breakfast, I use the time to drink my coffee and do a quick dinner prep if I can (read: if we're not scrambling through any forgotten homework or piano practice).

This week it was my teriyaki pork tenderloin recipe. It takes less than five minutes to do the prep and it tastes so great. It's one of my youngest daughter's favourite meals. 

My mom taught me to cook using my intuition, when it comes to seasoning and flavouring food, so a lot of the meals I make are an improvisation. 

Here's my recipe for the teriyaki marinade (give or take a little):

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

I add the pork tenderloin to a large Ziploc bag, throw in the ingredients, seal the bag and then give it all a really good massage before throwing it into the refrigerator for the day (in the sealed bag). If you prefer to use a dish, I would whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl before pouring over the pork tenderloin. 

When we get home from school and work, I pop the pork tenderloin into an oven-safe dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep it from drying out. I bake it at 420 degrees for about 25 minutes. Slice open the centre and check for pinkness (adjust cooking time as required).

When it's fully cooked, I slice the tenderloin into medallions and serve it with rice or egg noodles and a vegetable. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think.