After a long winter season of packaged produce, flash frozen veggies and fruit from a bag, nothing quite tastes like summer has arrived like a fresh Ontario berry. That plucked straight off the vine pop of a sun warmed strawberry, ready to burst blackberry or spicy tart currant can elevate any meal from basic to restaurant worthy.

The Orillia area has long been known for its farm-to-table homage to cooking. Local restaurants repeatedly choose to embrace their local farms – instead of shying away from the produce cultivated in their very own backyard. By choosing to utilize these homegrown ingredients as the driving force behind their renowned seasonal menus, both locals and tourists alike continue to return to these restaurants season after season for another taste.

St. Germain’s Steakhouse at Casino Rama Resort offers an unforgettable fine dining experience in the heart of Ontario’s Lake Country. Dimly lit dining rooms and plush leather booths join to create a welcoming ambiance and offer front row seats to the exposed kitchen’s world class cooking show.

St. Germain’s presents diners with a diverse yet timeless menu: featuring an evolving selection of both fresh surf and turf classic combinations alongside signature dishes with local twists. St. Germain’s head chef Todd Marshall proves that the key to elevating flavor and creating a show stopping menu is to utilize both local and Ontario grown produce; from write home worthy proteins like the Grilled Ontario Lamb Rack Chops and Newmarket King Cole ducks, to Niagara stone fruit chutneys and desserts featuring local fruit, the menu boasts the best and finest ingredients from Ontario farmers.

“We use local produce in St. Germain’s as much as possible to showcase the bounty of great produce that Ontario has to offer,” says Chef Marshall. “This allows us to promote local farms and contribute and encourage farm to table cooking. Any time I get the opportunity to use local ingredients I take full advantage.”

Marshall said the menu continues to evolve twice a year – once in May for the spring and summer season and then again in November for the fall and winter – as to best reflect the seasons and fresh produce available at both times of the year.

“Inspiration primarily comes from the seasons and many past experiences within the restaurant industry,” said Marshall. “We do have some staple items that stay on [the menu] but I change up several appetizers and main courses to reflect the time of year: such as lighter salads and raw applications in the summer and heavier braised items like Beef Short Ribs and Ontario Duck Confit in the fall.”

During the peak summer months Marshall said he likes to source a variety of produce and berries from local farms, Barrie Hill Farm in Springwater, Ontario and Thunder Beach Berry Farm in Tiny, Ontario.

Barrie Hill Farm is Southern Ontario’s leading farm destination for berry picking and farm fresh food. A staple in the region for over 40 years, this family owned and operated farmstead offers visitors the option to purchase farm fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from their store or get their hands dirty in one of their pick-your-own fields – ripe with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pumpkins and more – depending on the season.  Barrie Hill Farm also features an on-site café and bakery so pickers can cool down and share a treat before heading back out into the fields to fill another basket.

Thunder Beach Berry Farm welcomes pickers and berry fans of all ages to immerse themselves in a day at the farm. This third generation family owned and operated self-proclaimed You Pick berry farm boasts its produce as 100 per cent pesticide free so that families can feel confident in allowing their children to eat the fruit right from the bush. Strawberries are available for picking starting in mid-June and blueberries may be picked between the end of July and beginning of August – with all fruit priced per basket.

Ego’s Garden Centre and Farm Market in Coldwater, Ontario is a one-stop shop for all of your produce and outdoor needs; housing both a garden centre, plant nursery and seasonal farm market shoppers can pick up both their season’s plants as well as groceries simultaneously. Ego’s farm market operates from April to December and features a variety of seasonal farm fresh produce for purchase as well as pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries, peas and tomatoes.

McArthur’s Berry Farm in Oro Station has been a resident of the area since the mid-1800s. Focused solely on strawberries, McArthur’s farm offers pick your own options as well as pre-picked strawberries available for purchase. Visit their website for operating hours as they tend to fluctuate.