When your home province is the size of some countries, it is nearly impossible to have visited all of its hidden gems. That does not excuse that it has took me 36 years to truly experience beautiful Prince Edward County (PEC)–the first stop on our journey and Ontario’s crown jewel of culinary tourism.
Jutting out into Lake Ontario, PEC has really set the standard marketing itself as a culinary destination, and has many communities across the province trying to play catch-up. Tourists have always flocked to her beaches and sand dunes but increasingly are coming for PEC’s rich agricultural history and to “Taste the Trail“.
While their wineries are aplenty (boasting 50 vineyards and nearly 30 wineries), our agenda had us exploring all of the family-friendly stops PEC has to offer.
Spending an afternoon exploring Sandbanks Provincial Park – climbing up sand dunes and leaping down the other side, collecting shells, and building sandcastles with elaborate motes on some of Ontario’s most beautiful beaches.
For dinner a stop at the quaint Claramount Inn and Spa. With a wrap-around veranda open to summer diners, the picturesque inn is the perfect place to enjoy the view overlooking Picton Bay. The menu is really something to behold. Beautiful dishes concocted with the best of PEC’s bounty. As an up-scale eatery, it is certainly not for every picky eater in your bunch, but certainly worth stopping in at least for a drink on the picturesque porch.
After dinner a stop at Slickers Ice Cream is an absolute must. Slickers prides itself on its pure, handmade ice cream and rightly so. Boasting ice cream flavours such as Campfire Cream (made with burnt marshmallow), Apple Pie (each tub containing a full pie!), and Jack Daniels & Chocolate, the kids were on cloud nine. With all the sugar running through their veins it isn’t difficult to keep the kids up to see a movie at the Mustang Drive-In–a throwback to my own childhood when my parents would surprise us with a late night trip to catch a film.
No visit to Prince Edward County would be complete without a stop in to visit Vicki at Vicki’s Veggies. A roadside stand full of seasonal vegetables is reason enough to stop by and visit. My kids were blown away by the flavours and varieties of tomatoes picked fresh from the farm that day. Vicki is already in a number of the PEC and Toronto markets and restaurants, and as a 10th generation PEC farmer it does not take long to see why her passion and knowledge have made her a culinary celebrity around these parts.
Other great destinations include stopping in for ice cream or a sampling of cheese at the Black River Cheese company, where artisan cheese is still hand made. Also, check out Buddha Dog, a shining example of the local food movement – where they’ve brought together local farmers, dairies, bakers, and butchers to create a truly local hot dog joint. One of my favourite purveyors of food on PEC, the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company, is a must-visit! Lastly, For a refreshing afternoon the County Cider Company has sparkling apple juice for the kids and an adult version of the same.
PEC could easily be a week long culinary destination for families with great food and fun appropriate for all ages. With all of the great dairy stops in PEC, here’s a great recipe for Pepper Cheese Beer Bread you may enjoy. And it’s off to Montreal…