Part of my new work with Tourism Oxford and the Tillsonburg Cultural Improvement Alliance has been working on the culinary tourism of Oxford County. This has involved workshops, blogging, press releases and of course some of my own, personal research. By research, I mean eating. I’ve compiled a list of my favourite Ontario (and yes, Ontario is local) treats from fresh produce to chocolate. I hope you enjoy this detour from historical blogging!
1. Gunn’s Hill Cheese Curds
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for cheese. Even as a child, I had a…we’ll call it plumper… year during which time I ate far too many cheese strings. My brother and sister now refer to this as “the year of the cheese”. But hey! Oxford County is known for cheese and we should all indulge a little bit.
Gunn’s Hill Cheese is right outside of Woodstock on a gravel road where customers are welcome to shop. During my last trip, I picked up a stack of cheese that included Oxford’s Harvest, Oxford’s Harvest with Garlic and Chive, Beaus (a beer washed cheese using Vankleek, ON’s Beau’s beer) and a container of cheese curds. They were all super delicious (it’s no wonder they won a Grand Prix this year!) but my favourite were the squeaky cheese curds which use milk from the family dairy farm and are hand cut in small batches. You should definitely pick up your own! I won’t be sharing.
2. Hewitt’s Chocolate Milk
Hewitt’s Chocolate Milk may just be my favourite thing on this whole list. For those of you who don’t like your chocolate milk to be chalky or too rich- this is the chomo for you. Processed in Haggersville, Hewitt’s Dairy uses milk from Ontario dairy farmers. I’ve also tried their plain 2% yogurt which is pretty good too. The milk comes in cartons but also in glass bottles. Let’s face it- it tastes better out of glass!
3. Koteles Farms Limited Asparagus
Anyone from Tillsonburg knows that to get the best asparagus, you look for Koteles. There’s not much to say here folks, the proof is in the produce.
4. Chocolatea’s Dark Chocolate Coffee Lover’s Chocolate
Chocolatea, located in Ingersoll offers a great selection of in-house handmade chocolate and loose leaf teas at a completely reasonable price! The shop staff is always nice to talk to and mixed boxes of chocolates are always a good option if you want to try more than one thing. My favourite is the Coffee Lover’s chocolate because it’s a nice creamy blend of mocha and chocolate all in one- YUM!
5. Fresh Ontario Strawberries
‘Tis the season to indulge in the best and most fresh Ontario strawberries. I won’t even recommend where to go because I haven’t had a bad batch yet! If you’d like to pick your own, Sundown Farms is a great option (and wouldn’t you know they also stock Gunn’s Hill and Hewitts?).
6. Nith Valley Apiaries Cinnamon Honey
Honey is sweet enough but cinnamon honey is irresistible. Personally, I don’t like it on toast but a little bit stirred into some plain yogurt (perhaps Hewitt’s) is a delicious start to the day! Nith Valley Apiaries is located in New Hamburg.
7. YU Ranch Burgers
I recently took a trip out to YU Ranch with my mom and nephew to see the Texas longhorn cattle. They are absolutely gorgeous animals which makes this next sentence a little sad. THEY’RE DELICIOUS. Completely grass fed, you cannot beat the burgers. Even cooler, YU Ranch is an incredibly sustainable farm that takes advantage of an immense amount of solar energy. They practice “rotational grazing” that switches the cows between cool and warm season grasses. Many of the grasses on site are native and therefore would have existed there originally. You can learn loads more about their sustainability projects here.
8. Kawartha Dairy Scooped Ice Cream
I first fell in love with Kawartha Dairy when I was working at a resort up north and our boss would surprise us every pay day with milkshakes! Then I moved to Peterborough for school and my love continued to grow. Now a days you can find this cottage-country favourite all over Ontario, making it the perfect summer treat. My favourite flavour is the retired Marty’s Butter Tart (maybe Marty’s butter tarts should be on this list…) but I also love Muskoka Mocha and Moose Tracks.
9. Ramblin Road’s Dakota Pearl Potato Ale
This beer is the perfect thirst quencher for a summer day. Using a wash from Ontario Pearl potatoes, this ale has a really unique flavour that isn’t too “weird” for the unadventurous. The finish is smooth and blended with the brewery farm’s own hops.
I think if you take a look you’ll realize that eating awesome and eating local is right around the corner!