If you’re going to travel or go on day-trips, then you’ve got to eat.
“Virtually any tourism experience is enriched by food and drink,” says an Ontario initiative to boost the opportunities for “culinary tourism.”
This helps tell the story of the heritage, people and landscape of a geographic area, while enriching travel experiences. Add to that the popularity of travel-themed Food Network shows such as You Gotta Eat Here, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the Thirsty Traveller.
Here’s a sampling of trails in Ontario that tempt the taste buds.
Along with the performing arts, Stratford has been “cultivating a local culinary heritage and pleasing palates since 1832.”
It has one of Ontario's oldest farmers' markets, circa 1855, the Stratford Chefs School and now the Savour Stratford Perth County partnership.
The Stratford Chocolate Trail will satisfy chocoholics with a $25 tasting pass to choose eight treats from among 20 locations on a self-guided tour.
Go hog wild along the Bacon and Ale Trail with a self-guided tour of Stratford food shops and pubs featuring five tastings for a $25 pass.
The Pubs, Pilsner and Spirits Tour is a walking pub crawl with samplings of five Ontario craft beers while learning about the “tumultuous” brewing history of Perth County ($25 a person). savourstratford.com
A relative newcomer to culinary tourism is Savour Elgin, with a focus on “food and drink that is local and unique” to Elgin County and St. Thomas.
The area has more than 60 restaurants, 40 agri-tourism businesses, farmers’ markets and even more specialty food and drink businesses.
The new culinary trail visits some of the best restaurants, farms, wineries and other culinary attractions.
Members include Quai Du Vin; Railway City Brewing Company; Green Frog Tea Room at Pinecroft; Harbourtown Fudge; Killer Desserts & Cafe; Mad Hatters Tea Room; Ruby’s Cookhouse; and Clovermead Bees & Honey. savourelgin.ca
99 bottles of beer
Brewers say Ontario is “blessed with some of the finest craft beers available anywhere.”
They’ve established the Ontario Craft Beer Route to discover the tastes while travelling along a scenic one-tank trip route (with designated drivers a must).
Choose a destination and then download the route guide along with free brewery passes.
The trails encompass the Capital Region, Golden Horseshoe, Greater Southwest, Lake Country (Simcoe/Muskoka) and Toronto.
In the southwest, for example, the brewers are Brick, Grand River, Neustadt Springs, Stratford, Walkerville and Wellington Brewery. ontariocraftbrewers.com
Sip and savour
The abundance of wineries in Ontario has led to five sip-and-savour trip routes.
The province is divided into wine routes in Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island; Niagara-on-the-Lake; Niagara Escarpment and Twenty Valley; Prince Edward County; and “emerging regions.”
There’s a route planner on the web to customize visits to vineyards and wineries. winecountryontario.ca/wine-route-planner
In the heart of Canada’s Dairy Capital is the Oxford Cheese Trail in the county surrounding Woodstock.
There were 98 cheese factories here in the 1800s while today are artisanal, sheep and goat cheesemakers and large producers such as Saputo and the Bright Cheese House.
Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese lets visitors become a Cheesemaker for a Day and sample various varieties including curds. oxfordfresh.com
Apple a day
The Apple Pie Trail in the Blue Mountains is perfect for a getaway with cafes, bakeries, restaurants, markets and farms.
Enjoy delicious apple pies and apple-inspired creations where the moderating effects of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment create perfect conditions for growing the fruit. applepietrail.ca
The wonders of butter tarts can be explored and tasted in Wellington North, an area north of Guelph.
This self-guided,100-kilometre road tour offers at least a dozen varieties of “decadently sinful” tarts.
These include doggy butter tart treats, pottery trays in homage to the butter tart and scents, and the butter tart sundae. simplyexplore.ca/buttertart.htm
Happy trails to you
Discover the tastes of Norfolk County where FlavourFest and its “Two Fairly Fat Guys” have become iconic symbols of the local food movement. Continuing April 13 is “Eat & Drink Norfolk” from noon until 10 p.m. at the Norfolk County Fairgrounds in Simcoe with 40 producers, restaurants, wineries and breweries. norfolktourism.ca