A Fork in the Road: Ontario Food Trails

You’ve heard it before: food is the number one reason why people travel. It’s visions of gourmet travel, of sweet discoveries and libatious excursions that have foodies chomping at the bit to get out and taste their way through yet one more experience.

Like others, you can visit museums, hike and bike, you can beach it or glamp it but no matter what you do on your leisure excursions, you will have to stop at some point and eat. Gourmet travellers know how to make the most of the world’s edible treasures. So, just like Nova Scotia is famous for lobster, Montreal for cheese and bagels, and Alberta for steak, here are my top 10 picks for eating your way across Ontario.

Chip Truck Trail

When in Peterborough, do like the Peterboroughians do and eat chips! That’s right; hot, crisp, fresh cut fries made from locally grown field potatoes and sold at chip trucks parked throughout the city and the Kawartha Lakes. It’s the comfort food of cottage country. Check them out, some of the fries are finger-thick cut, others are wire thin, some are seasoned and others are sea salted to perfection. The Chip Truck Trail is only open during the summer so don’t miss out. Download the map here, thekawarthas.ca/chip-trucks-trail

Apple Pie Trail

Who can resist slivers of warm, cinnamon laced apples enrobed in layers of buttery, flaky pastry? Now multiply that irresistibility by 40 times because that’s how many destinations are on Blue Mountain’s Apple Pie Trail. Taste traditional apple pies, tarts, blossoms and crumbles to the more exotic Caramel Apple Latte or Apple Cinnamon Creamed Honey. Along the route you can dine on an Apple Lentil Salad or sip on an Ida Red Frozen To The Core dessert icewine. It’s a free map that takes you through the quiet country roads of Blue Mountains at any time of year. Get to the Apple Harvest Festival on the Thanksgiving Weekend or check out their website for pop-up apple events. applepietrail.ca

Bacon and Ale Trail

Chefs and culinary entrepreneurs in pig country (Perth County) were given buckets of ale and asked to impress the palates of foodies looking their next edible fantasy. They outdid themselves in this fun culinary experience. For the purchase of a $25 voucher you get to choose five stops of your choice (out of 10) at pubs or food shops in Stratford. Try a cured bacon BLT with beer mustard, jalapeno poppers with bacon marmalade, chocolate covered toffee with smoky bacon bits or bacon butter tarts. The Bacon & Ale Trail is offered year-round, and is valid for three days from date of purchase. For more details, visit visitstratford.ca/stratford-bacon-and-ale-trail

Saints & Sinners Trail

It was during Prohibition (1916-26) when Owen Sound, better known as ‘Corkscrew City’ became the bootlegging capital of the region. In fact, even after prohibition, there was so much profit in illegal alcohol that the area remained dry until 1972 – 46 years later! Today, the bad boys of the North have cleaned up their act with 17 legal and delicious VQA wineries, craft breweries and heritage cideries using locally-grown grapes, hops and apples to produce some of the provinces newest and most exciting beverages and boozy destinations. They’ve plotted them all on a Saints & Sinners Bootleggers’ Run Map that is offered year round. saintsandsinnerstrail.com

Stratford Chocolate Trail

Like a treasure map is to a pirate, so is the Stratford Chocolate Trail to a chocoholic. X marks the spot to 25 different chocolate offerings from culinary entrepreneurs throughout downtown Stratford. For a mere $25 you get vouchers for six never-to-be-forgotten chocolate experiences. Taste a luscious hot chocolate, fudge sundae like you’ve never tasted before, let a famous Rhéo Chocolates Mint Smoothie melt across your tongue or walk away with the greatest treasure, aged dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. The Chocolate Trail Pass is offered year round, and is valid for three days from date of purchase. For more details, visit visitstratford.ca/stratford-chocolate-trail

Ontario Butter Tart Tour

If it’s true that we are what we eat, then it appears Ontarians must be awfully sweet and a little flaky. This Butter Tart Tour centres on the town of Peterborough and branches up to Kawartha Lakes and down to Lake Ontario from Port Hope to Brighton. This large, sweet region has been divided into four mini, viciously competitive, sub regions with bakers crafting butter as obsessively as brew masters have been crafting beer for generations. Taste your way through artfully crafted caramel infused tarts, others with nutty options, a few surprisingly exotic renditions and even more with dominant butter flavour. The map is free, drive at your leisure and bring a cooler. For more details, visit kawarthasnorthumberland.ca/experiences/butter-tart-tour/you-had-me-at-butter

Muskoka Maple Trail

If you’re a lover of the natural sweet sap that flows from our maple trees, you’ll want to mark your calendars for this luxuriously, golden rich experience to be had only in the spring. The Muskoka Maple Trail is only open from mid-March to the end of April (check the website). Twelve of the sweetest destinations are offering unique experiences such as maple cocktails at The Mill on Main, Maple Beer Barbecue Sauce at Yummies in a Jar, Maple Sundae’s with crumbled maple tarts, pecan caramel corn and Skor bits (yum!) at Belly Ice Cream and maple tours at three maple syrup farms. Also seasonal is the Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale at Lake of Bays Brewing. For more details, visit discovermuskoka.ca/muskoka-maple-trail.html

Oxford Cheese Trail

It’s called the Dairy Capital of Ontario, and for good reason. In Oxford County they produce over one billion glasses of milk a year and now they’re fine-tuning their cheese making skills! The Oxford Cheese Trail is a free map of 23 delicious stops featuring Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Bright Cheese and Butter Co., Mountainoak Cheese and Local Dairy Products (Indian-style cheeses) cheese. The rest are restaurants and local food producers offering cheesy themed dishes and flavours that reflect the region. Don’t forget to visit Springbank Snow Countess, the cow in Woodstock that was famous for giving a record-breaking amount of milk in her lifetime. The Oxford Cheese Trail is open year round, for more details, visit tourismoxford.ca/Cheese-Trail/articles/detail/articleid/5783

Ontario Craft Beer Route

Design your own route on this comprehensive locator of over 60 Ontario’s craft breweries. Some of these brews you’ll discover for the first time, others have such limited quantities their product would never meet you unless you went out to meet them. The map allows you to be on top of seasonal beers you’d otherwise miss and spend a summer sipping suds. Dedicate a few weekends, plot your own course, overlay the breweries onto one of your favourite food trails. The map is produced by the Ontario Craft Brewers. For more details, visit ontariocraftbrewers.com/breweriesMap.php

Butter Tart & Buggies Trail

The Butter Tart Trail of Central Ontario just merged with the former Mennonite Horse & Buggy Trail to create a unique experience in North Wellington Township, north of Guelph. The new Butter Tart & Buggies Trail is a combination of delicious, sweet butter tarts and Mennonite buggy culture. A strange combination for Ontario farm country, but it works brilliantly. Download the map to 31 culinary and country experiences like butter tart sundaes and goat’s milk butter tarts and in between take a buggy ride from a Mennonite farm. Check the Butter Tart & Buggies Trail website for Sunday closures and seasonal closings. For more details, visit buttertartsandbuggies.com

Written By: Lynn Ogryzlo

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