By Laura Byrne Paquet
Just because you’re heading to the country for a bit of rural R&R doesn’t mean you have to go without fancy mustards, artisanal sausages, or excellent cheeses. From dairies and duck farms to bistros and smokehouses, back roads are filled with destinations for the adventurous gourmet. Just one word of advice: call ahead, as hours (particularly for farm-based shops) change frequently.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll post listings for these small operations, many of which are seasonal. Here, we visit 10 food shops to hit up on your way out of town.
We’d love to hear from you: do you have a favourite out-of-town eatery? Share your finds in our comments section.
Balderson Fine Foods
Sure, this country-style shop has a huge range of local food products, such as Highland honey, Wheeler’s maple syrup, and Ouellette Farm’s vinegars and jams. And, yes, they specialize in making gift baskets, which they can deliver throughout Canada. The service is super-friendly. You can even get a free cup of coffee. But despite all that, I made a beeline for the freezer, stocked with goodies from Slickers, a Prince Edward County ice cream maker with which I am mildly obsessed. Don’t miss the apple-pie ice cream — the Slickers folks literally toss whole pies into the ice cream maker. To die for. 104 Fallbrook Rd. at Hwy. 511, Balderson, 613-264-1500, www.baldersonfinefoods.ca.
The Merrickville shop with the bright red door sells much more than mustards, although the mustards — in flavours such as chipotle lime and Canadian maple — are justly famed. As well as Maxwell & Williams dishes, French linens and glassware, Wusthof knives, and Trudeau kitchen accessories, the shop is crammed with jellybeans, popcorn, chocolates, and cheese. British products are a particular strength; anglophiles can pick up everything from marmalade and mushy peas to mint sauce and Marks & Spencer baked beans. Check the website for details on the store’s cooking classes. 311 St. Lawrence St., Merrickville, 613-269-3752, 877-768-7827, www.mustard.ca.
Balderson Village Cheese
Not surprisingly, Balderson cheeses (no longer made in Balderson, actually) are the highlight in this huge store, which also sells fromage from other eastern Ontario producers, including Ivanhoe and St. Albert. But there’s a lot more than cheese, which is why this store isn’t listed in the cheese section. You can find goodies such as Walker’s shortbread, Old Dutch potato chips, and sauces and spreads from Stonewall Kitchen, Garlic Box, and Almonte brand Kinkade’s too. The 40,000-square-foot building also houses a chocolate shop, an antique store, and a number of other retailers. 1410 Hwy. 511, Balderson, 613-267-4492, 877-267-4492, www.baldersonvillagecheese.com.
Country Flavours (Coutts Farms)
If you have fond memories of the corn relish, pickles, and chow chow grandma used to make, pop into this farm shop between Perth and Rideau Ferry for a tasty fix. Co-owner Diana Coutts bottles up a storm from spring through fall. The farm is transitional organic, so the beef is free-range and hormone-free. You’ll also find comb honey, maple syrup, baked goods (grab the delish maple-iced brownies, if they’re available), and naturally raised pork, chicken, and other meats. 1230 Port Elmsley Rd., Perth, 613-267-0277.
Hall’s Apple Market
From August through October, you can pick your own apples and pears (choose from more than 25 varieties, including McIntosh, Lobo, Honey Crisp, and Ida Red). Year-round the large country store sells apple cider, baked goods, maple syrup, honey, and other goodies. Store closed Sundays from January until early September. 2930 2nd Concession Rd., Brockville, 613-342-6320, www.hallsapplemarket.com.
If more health-food stores looked like posh Foodsmiths, even I might be more tempted to eat better. A far cry from most of the relentlessly earnest and dull granola shops of my experience, Foodsmiths exudes an urban gourmand Farm Boy vibe. Check out the yummy-looking produce, soy ice cream, and organic fair-trade coffee too. 106 Wilson St. W., Perth, 613-267-5409, 877-FOODIES, www.foodsmiths.com.
Kilborn’s on the Rideau
It’s a food shop. It’s a clothing boutique. It’s a furniture store. It’s a little bit of everything, sprawled across a series of connected houses that seems to take up half of tiny Newboro. Signs for miles down the highway point the way to this unclassifiable emporium full of lovely things, from Frye boots and Maxwell & Williams dishes to Elmira Stove Works wrought-iron appliances, as well as a huge range of packaged gourmet foods. Drop in for a minute, and you’ll be there for an hour. 10 Drummond St., Newboro, 613-272-0114, www.kilborns.ca.
As well as selling a wide range of bulk natural foods, wheat-free and gluten-free products, free-trade coffee, and so on, this Wakefield health-food store has a live juice bar — just the place to go for an organic fruit and veggie concoction with added wheatgrass, if that’s your thing. Au Coeur du Village, 757, ch. Riverside, Wakefield, 819-459-3555, www.la-foret.ca.
Rosie Yumski’s Fine Foods
Along with a wide range of gourmet packaged goods, you’ll find lots of gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free foods, as well as kitchen gadgets, cookware, fancy cookbooks, teas and coffees, and such international ingredients as Chinese five-spice powder. A great place to browse for uncommon products. Open seven days a week. 24 Church St., Westport, 613-273-8750.
Bribe your kids: in exchange for letting you peruse the gourmet relishes, pickles, and mustards in the farm shop, they can run through a maze, enjoy a puppet show or wagon ride, or play in a tree house or pirate ship. Then everyone can fuel up with ice cream, burgers (carnivore or veggie), and cookies. Open June through October. 7893 Bleeks Rd., Munster, 613-838-5440, www.saundersfarm.com.
From Food for Thought by Laura Byrne Paquet, first published in the Summer 2011 issue of Ottawa Magazine.