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Sometimes visiting a new restaurant, brewery, or winery is about more than just the food and drinks you taste. That’s why we’re here to show you what happens behind the scenes at the delicious local restaurants, breweries, wineries, and farms in Ontario’s Southwest.
Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery, Waterford
Anita Buehner was always drawn back to the farm that she’s walked since she was a little girl. Anita and her husband, Steve, used to be tobacco producers until there was a decline in the need for tobacco. When that happened, Anita would have moments where she would stand in their fields and tears would run down her face because she had no clue what their future held. But, as lifetime farmers, they knew they had to sit down and find a new purpose to bring life to their farming operation again. After researching, they decided to grow lavender because it grows well in their sandy soils, and they also chose to incorporate both wine grapes and hard apple ciders. Now, if you visit Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery, you’ll find a quiet, scenic spot to relax with a glass of wine or hard cider, to shop for lavender luxuries made right on site, and to take a guided walking tour or wagon ride through the fields of purple.
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The New New Age, Port Stanley
The New New Age is a market and brew pub with educational workshops on topics like foraging and permaculture, and an intriguing collection of locally sourced art and crafts. About two years ago, owners Steve and Katie Hotchkiss had the opportunity to help take over a family farm. They decided that moving to Southern Ontario would be a great opportunity to get back to nature, which is something they had wanted to do for a while. So, they created The New New Age, a celebration of sustainable living. Steve and Katie believe that there’s a lot of artistic, aesthetic elements to farming; they see farming and serving food and locally made crafts as a form of artistic expression. In fact, they have talented food artists on staff who do unique and creative things with the produce they bring in from their farm. When you head to The New New Age you’ll see more than just a seasonal foraged menu and a brew pub; you’ll take away an appreciation for the local abundance of wild and cultivated foods that Ontario’s Southwest has to offer.
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Apple Land Station, Thorndale
Apple Land Station is home to a whole crop of farm-themed activities including pick-your own apples and pumpkins, a farm train, a corn maze, and adorable barnyard animals. Ernie Muzylowski always loved picking apples, so when he purchased the farm enterprise in 1974 he decided to plant an apple orchard. They grow 17 different varieties of apples, and Ernie likes them all because they’re all unique and different. Their famous apple pies are truly extraordinary, piled high with 3.5 pounds of apples. But their pies aren’t stuffed with just one variety of apple, they’re made with a pile of different ones, and they’re all made from scratch. After a long winter, Ernie thinks that seeing the apples come out is incomparable, and then in the fall there’s nothing better than riding their train through the orchard, seeing all the fruit on the trees and picking them. The apples taste so much better because you’re picking all the flavour – that’s what makes the pick your own experience so delicious and unique. Learning is huge at Apple Land Station; they want kids to learn to be interested in where their food comes from. Ernie believes that agriculture has to tell a story, and he tells his story at Apple Land Station.
SixThirtyNine is a restaurant that is offering unique flavours that can only be found in the backyard of Oxford County. Chef, Eric Boyar, is always excited about gathering things that people really appreciate, food that has been picked with passion. He believes that what makes a dish worth eating is the love and care that people put into the fresh, clean produce they’ve raised or grown. So, all of the food in house is local. Even Chef Boyar himself treks into the forest for fiddleheads and wild leeks to deliver them to the community’s plate. One of their creative dishes is an apple smoked trout with fiddleheads and pickled shitake mushrooms, a wild leek puree, and finished with crispy leeks and a pine syrup. You can see and taste for yourself how every plate at SixThirtyNine that goes out shows a different part of him, and you can only get that kind of meal from a passionate chef that really loves what they do.
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Windsor local, Adriano Ciotoli, offers fascinating jaunts through historic neighbourhoods with WindsorEats, which originally started off as a restaurant guide for Windsor and Essex County. As it began to evolve, Adriano realized that there was so much more to offer than just the great restaurant scene in Windsor-Essex, so they started to incorporate breweries, wineries, and distilleries. One of the tours that they offer is the drinks in Walkerville tour where they visit is the old Walkerville neighbourhood and create a personal connection with it. When Hiram Walker founded Walkerville and built the distillery, he owned hundreds of acres of land, ran the bank, and owned all of the houses that his workers lived in. When you go into Canadian Club or Walkerville Brewery with WindsorEats, you sit in some of the original rooms, sampling Hiram Walker’s product and original recipe. You also head to the Willistead restaurant, where the front of the bar is built out of old doors from the original Harim Walker facilities. He was very influential in building up, not just Walkerville, but the Windsor region itself, so for Adriano, WindsorEats is about showing his passion for where he lives to other people and getting them to appreciate Windsor like he does.
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Munro Honey and Meadery, Alvinston
Munro Honey and Meadery has been producing honey for four generations, and was Ontario’s first mead producer in 1999. For fourth generation beekeepers, John and Davis Bryans, making honey is in their blood. They learned beekeeping through their father, who learned through his father and grandfathers, and they now have a nephew on board who is a part of the fifth generation. Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of agriculture known to mankind, and a lot of people are amazed at just how much work a honeybee actually does. In fact, it takes the lifetime of 12 bees to produce a teaspoon of honey. So, when you’re out in the bee yards enjoying the peace and quiet, you get to really be a part of nature. That’s why Munro Honey and Meadery prides themselves on producing Ontario based honey. They pride themselves on doing very little to the product to create the purest, most natural honey product on the market from the hive directly to the table.
If you want to learn more about the process and people behind the culinary scene in Ontario’s Southwest, check out the Next Stop Taste video series to guide you on your travels discovering the best wine, beer, cider, crops, and cuisine in Ontario’s Southwest. Click here for even more trip inspiration and CanadaStays can help you find the perfect place to stay in Ontario’s Southwest.