August 31, 2012

Wine Country – PEC Style (Part 2)

With our early bedtime we got up and ready early and were at the Picton Harbour Restaurant shortly after it opened. With the city being so busy we wanted to get there before the rest of the crowds did. Unlike the day before, the morning was cool and very overcast. Rain was expected, but we still wanted to enjoy our day. We packed up our things and went to Sandbanks. We had heard from friends how nice it was and how beautiful the sand was and we thought it perfect for a nice morning walk. The sky never cleared as we drove across the island, but we weren’t worried. We were alright with grey skies compared with the day before. Unfortunately we discovered upon getting there that we had to pay to park and it wasn’t cheap, especially since we only wanted to go for an hour or so. We turned around and followed our map to a few other roads thinking we could get lakefront access somewhere (in Cape Cod it wasn’t only common, but also easy to do), but we were again met with private land and access. Again we turned around and found ourselves at West Lake. Since it is a part of Sandbanks there is a meter to pay for parking, but seeing that it was so early and the parking lot was empty, we took our chances. It was a quick walk to the beach, but we could smell it before we could see it and it wasn’t pleasant. The sand was cold and dark and the water wasn’t very warm; all very surprising. We attributed the smell to the temperatures and the washed up seaweed and vegetation and we hoped we were right. There were some tall sand dunes that were easy to climb and offered a nice view of the lake. We discovered some wind-scrolls that were hard as a rock. Their lines and shapes were very interesting and intriguing. 

Back at surface level the smell continued and the sand was no longer soft. As we walked by picnic tables and forgotten lawnchairs we commented on how much garbage there was. It was a beach and a park and it seemed as though people couldn’t care less. We thought it ironic that so many people would go out to enjoy nature and get out in the ‘good ‘ol outdoors’ and leave their garbage behind (there was even a pair of 4” heels!!).

Disappointed we made our way back to the car. The sky was growing darker and we didn’t really want to get drenched so early in the day. Being close to Bloomfield we drove to Schroedter’s Farm Market, Bakery and Café. Having heard that they had baked gluten-free goodies, I was hoping to stock up before leaving. I was also really hoping that it wasn’t the pre-packaged gf stuff that is shipped all over the country by El-Peto and the likes. If they say it’s baking, I’m looking for real baking, and luckily that’s what I got. They didn’t have any fresh gf goodies that day, but there were 2 small upright freezers and a large one full of homemade gf baking. The Honey laughed at my excitement and went to the cash to pick up a carrier basket. I went overboard, but who could blame me?! Butter and jam tarts, pumpernickel bread, turkey and chicken pot pies, date squares. It went on and on. Everything has been really good and with flavour (I’ve still got some bread stocked away). The tarts aren’t delicate things you’d find in the city. The pastry is thicker and sturdier, and for the size, it’s ok. They hold in the jam or butter filling nicely.

By the time we had gotten back in our car the skies had opened up; perfect timing for us. The rain continued on and off; sometimes in bucketfuls, sometimes just a drizzle. As we drove we continued to admire the views, and sometimes we just had to stop.

Not too far off was Prince Edward Country Lavender, a lavender farm and store. There is nothing quite like the smell of lavender and I pictured fields that rivaled Provence. Unfortunately, the lavender was finished for the season, but there photographs of the fields and it looked stunning. I’ll definitely have to go back. The owners were friendly and chatted while we browsed through their wares. They even had a recipe for lavender lemonade which they shared at my request (after I had dropped quite a bit of cash). I had never heard of such a thing and cannot wait to make some!

The rain had let up and we continued to pass more wineries. The Honey offered to stop, but I didn’t think it would be fair if he got tired of driving on his way home. We eventually came upon Wellington, a small village with lake access. We stopped at a park and walked down to the small stony beach. The wind and waves were wicked, but the sound of the waves crashing always relaxes me. We found another somewhat sandy beach further along the road where people were frolicking in the water. It looked cold, but it wasn’t too bad. The sky grew darker again and we got back to the car just as the first drops were beginning to come down. The village had some shops and restaurants, and if the weather had been better, we would have taken a stroll.

We drove back to Picton to get some lunch and wander the downtown a bit more. The clouds had passed and the sun was out. The temperatures hadn’t risen yet so it so great for a little walk. We popped into a shop here and there, looking at kitchen and food wares, some furniture, and some tchotke. We popped into Miss Lily’s Café, reading that they would have some gf options, and it was quite the busy spot. Some were having a late breakie, some an early lunch, and others were just hanging out with their coffee. There was quite a crowd at the counter and the chalkboard menu wasn’t easy to read – so many items squished up there – so we turned around to try somewhere else. Another time. Further down the street there was Coach’s, a pub with the largest patio in the city. It had been busy the day before so we walked the few blocks there. We still needed some a/c so we sat inside. The Honey got a token sandwich and I got a delicious Greek salad – lots of olives, but also too many onions.

After lunch we decided to pop into a few more shops then head back home. It was nice just popping in and browsing. Every place had something different. Before getting into the car I needed a coffee for the drive home. If I didn’t, I was sure I would be asleep even before we hit the 401. The Bean Counter Café was just up a block so I popped in and got in line. The place was packed with people; drinking, eating sandwiches or baked goodies, plus many in line with me. If there had been somewhere else to go, I would have gone there. The line took so long (I was only 7th in line!!) and a woman and her children behind me were driving me nuts. I did my best to be polite, but really, I don’t care about your child’s special issues. He hit me and I’m not impressed. Unfortunately, she put me in such a foul mood and just as I was about to finish a nice trip too. I just kept thinking ‘Just give me a cup of decaf, pleeeasssse!’. I had never been happier to leave a café as I was at that moment.

We were finally on our way and everything went smoothly on the way home. The scenery put us back into good spirits and getting a good deal on gas also helped (Hwy 49 between the 401 and the island is Native Territory so there’s no tax on gas and cigarettes). In no time we were home.

The County, or Prince Edward County, is a nice place to spend some time. It has a relaxed slow-paced vibe to it and everyone, and I mean everyone, is so friendly (except for crazy mom, but she was from Toronto). We would be driving down a quiet street or road and people would wave. At first we thought we were driving too fast, but then we realized it was a friendly gesture and began waving back. There is a small-town feel everywhere you go and it’s such a nice feeling, even with the long-weekend tourists. It reminds me of Niagara wine country many, many years ago, before it got so big (seriously, there are over 80 wineries now!!!) and PEC has just over 20. I’ll return again; there are more wineries to visit, after all!

August 28, 2012


Having Homer Simpson in my head, I just couldn’t figure out how to draw out the ‘o’sound without it sounding like dewnuts. Doughnuts (with proper spelling) are as Canadian as can be and most Canadians have one alongside their ‘double-double’. If your daily routine includes a trip to Timmy’s, you may feel a bit at a loss. Maybe, like you’re missing out on something. If you’re a doughnut lover, you may be right; but you’re in luck.

Kinnikinnick, maker of great gf items, also makes doughnuts. Usually found in the freezer section alongside other gluten-free products, their doughnuts come in chocolate and cinnamon sugar. Each box contains 6 doughnuts and at first, it seems a little pricey. But once you think about it, seriously, what does a Timmy’s doughnut cost these days (and depending on the last time you had one, they may have changed quite a bit)?

I was skeptical at first, but was pleasantly surprised. In fact I think I like these better. I had been expecting something dry and heavy, and probably quite bland, but it was the opposite. They were tasty and enjoyable. The only downside: they were so good that the box lasted only 2 days. These would make a nice treat for a road-trip or camping (or anything else for that matter). The doughnuts also happen to be dairy and nut free. While the box does say to keep frozen, I left mine on the counter to thaw and they were fine. Really, who wants to eat a cold or defrosted doughnut?

It’s been a long time since I last had a doughnut (high school after a summer of working at Timmy’s part-time), so I don’t have much to compare to. Either way, they get a thumbs up.

If you want a posher doughnut, contact Marysol at Edgar. She made some fabulous gluten-free pumpkin doughnuts in the fall. After hearing about it on CBC, I rushed over the river and bought the last few. Heavenly! Just like everything else she makes.

Pumpkin Doughnuts from Edgar

August 25, 2012

Wine Country – PEC Style (Part 1)

For many years now we’ve wanted to traipse around Prince Edward County and enjoy ourselves. It finally happened the August long weekend, solely by chance that a reservation happened to cancel five minutes before I called. We had tried booking something for a few weeks but there was no room anywhere. Luck was now on our side and the drive there was effortless. We stopped at the first rest-stop along the 401 for gas and a bite and found a booklet on the area. We had hoped to find something as we knew there were wineries and Sandbanks, but that was it. Quickly flipping through the booklet showed us that it would be a relaxing trip.

Hwy 49 took us straight from the 401 right into the town of Picton. It was the place to go for nice little shops and restaurants. Being a Saturday and a long weekend the place was busy. It was also very hot, possibly one of the hottest days of the summer so far, and The Honey was not a happy camper. The poor guy can’t tolerate the heat and wilts very quickly. Our first goal was to locate our inn then do a few wineries until we could check in. Going through the list in our booklet there were quite a number in the south and east of the island and probably not too far to drive.

We parked just off the main street and did a quick walk down Main St. We stopped in at The Regent Café, a quaint café with big windows to the street. They had come up in a Google search for gluten-free items and we picked up a few butter tarts. They were tasty and different than I’ve had. Their menu looked really good too with a few ‘naturally’ gf items. After a bit more grumbling from The Honey we moved on; The Honey really needed some air conditioning and it seemed like everyone in town had their doors open. We had a light lunch at Currah’s Café, a sandwich for The Honey and a delicious beet and feta salad for myself, and enjoyed the cool air while watching people go by. After lunch The Honey was cooled and refreshed and ready to venture back outside.

To the wineries!!! Our first destination was the Black Prince Winery located on Hwy 33, just west of downtown Picton. They have a mix of traditional (Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc) and lesser known (Chambourcin, Marechal Foch) grapes and wines. The three I tasted were nice and had different qualities, and found them to be much different than what I usually pick up at the LCBO. My favourite was the Melon de Bourgogne and so I left with a bottle of that.

We drove back through Picton and along the bay. There is a nice provincial park in Lake on the Mountain, but it was just so hot we couldn’t bear leaving the air conditioning of the car for a long walk. The temperature got hotter as the day wore on. We enjoyed the views along the drive: farmers’ fields, rows of grapevines, and glimpses of the bays with a sailboat here and there. We were so busy looking around us that we almost missed Devils Wishbone Winery.

Located in an old barn, this new winery officially opened in 2011 and produces some very easy drinking wines. They aren’t the complex and thought-provoking types; they are the type to enjoy sitting on the back deck with friends or with an easily prepared meal. They have a traditionally produced blush (Pinot Gris Rosé) that was just divine. Upon arrival we were quickly greeted and given a tour of their barn/store renovations. Our guide/sommelier was not only happy to show us around, but proud of their ongoing accomplishments. It was quickly translated into the wine as well. The Honey smiled when he saw my excitement on seeing the crackers. The gf CrunchMaster crackers allowed me to cleanse my palate like normal people.

After purchasing a few bottles we went on our way to The County Cider Company. Their Waupoos cider can be found in some restaurants and pubs in Ottawa and although I find it way to sweet for me, I thought we would swing by to see if they offered any others. Upon arrival we realized it was a popular spot. Not only did they have an orchard, a vineyard, and a tasting room, but also a patio-restaurant outside overlooking the vineyard and the lake. It was a beautiful sight and we would have liked to stay (I think The Honey could have used a break). Tastings at their small counter were scheduled every 15 minutes and we weren’t the only ones waiting for the next one. It would have been nice to try their other ciders (the Feral one sounded interesting) and their wine. Unlike many others who were leaving with cases and large bottles of cider, we left empty handed. We’ll try to return another time. Lunch on that patio would be heavenly.

We made our way onto Hwy 8 for some more beautiful views of the water. We kept our eyes open for any place to stop and go for a walk, but it seemed like most, if not all, of the waterfront property was claimed and private. Along the drive we came upon Waupoos Estate Winery which surprised us since it wasn’t on either one of our maps. Even more surprising is that it is one of the oldest (since 1993). It is a beautiful winery that overlooks Lake Ontario and there is something serene about it. Even though it was busy with people there for the BBQ and Elvis show, it was still relaxing. While walking past the store and restaurant, you walked by the vineyard and interestingly landscaped gardens. In their store they have tastings available for their many wines (a wide variety), a chocolatier, gelato, and wine-related goodies for purchase. The chocolate was tempting, but we knew it wouldn’t last very long in the car. Just my bottle of White Rabbit (how predictable!) and off we went.


There was one last winery on my list – Long Dog – near Milford (yes, there was a method to my madness). Not only was location key, but in choosing from so many I decided on quirky names. Why not?! Half the time I pick up a bottle it has a quirky label or name and often they become a favourite (and easier to remember).

We intended to drive along Hwy 8 along the bay, but somehow got turned around. Our first hint was that the water was behind us instead of on our left and GPS systems seem to be hit and miss (ours couldn’t locate us) in the area. Coming up to the winery we saw a pretty, bright, yellow farmhouse and across from it the sign for LongDog Winery. The small barn/outbuilding has been nicely converted into a tasting room that is warm and inviting. The Honey opted to stay in the car with the a/c blaring so I was alone in my tasting venture. While it did seem awkward at first – me, myself, and I – the co-owner made me feel at ease chatting about the area, our jobs, our experiences overseas, and of course, the name – from their wire-haired dachshunds. My sample of Chardonnay would go wonderfully with so many dishes, and even on its own, that I couldn’t resist leaving without one.

After all our driving around we were ready for a break. We ventured north back towards the inn for some a/c relief and to relax a bit. We caught up on the Olympics and enjoyed the break from the heat. Starting to feel hungry we decided to go out for dinner and a few drinks. I had read about The Acoustic Grill and it seemed like a great spot with live music and fabulous burgers. It seemed like a perfect way to spend an evening while on holiday and apparently so did a lot of other people; it was packed! There were so many people waiting that we decided to try somewhere else (we’ll return another time) and wandered down Main St. Earlier we had walked by Portabella and while it looked a little posher, many customers were in shorts and t-shirts. After a short wait we got a table and I ordered a glass of Sandbanks wine. It was nice, light and refreshing – perfect to help beat the heat. I couldn’t decide whether to have the pickerel or the pecan chicken, and the waitress’ knowledge of gluten issues put me with the chicken. It was absolutely delicious; I took my time and savoured every mouthful. After dinner we were growing weary from the heat and wine sampling and thought about just crashing and going to sleep. It hadn’t been a busy day, just an extremely hot one.