The vast majority of our foodie road trips are within a 100 mile (160 km) radius of our home however, when we are in the GTA which is almost double that radius we tend to take advantage of any foodie finds. I keep a list and have a couple of apps for finding the perfect foodie stops when traveling. This past weekend we spent in Niagara Falls were one of our kids completed a half marathon of 22 km (13.1 miles). That in itself was an amazing event to attend! Prior to the marathon, the focus for her was on high protein intake but for the rest of us it was business as usual. The marathon was in the morning so after resting for the afternoon, we enjoyed a 5 course gourmet dinner, chef's choice at Vineland Estates Winery. That in itself will be the subject of a couple of blog posts! My husband and I took our time coming home making several stops so we arrived home with purchases from Vineland, Dillon's Small Batch Distillery, Oak Manor, as well as rye whiskey (made with rye grain not corn), grape based vodka, grape based gin, strawberries, raspberries, peas, plain honey, blueberry honey and 92% raw cocoa with pure maple syrup. All of our purchases were grown and produced in Canada.
The Niagara area is rich in vineyards, producing some of the finest award winning wines there are. The sad reality is on 20% of wines produced in Ontario are carried in the LCBO, the only place to buy wine for home use outside of the wineries. As a Canadian I do feel this is wrong! The LCBO owned by the provincial government and funded by our tax dollars should be supporting our locally produced wines considerably more than what they are. The Niagara region is the place to go for superior quality grape juice as well as peaches, strawberries, and other Ontario produce. It is a mecca of farm fresh produce stands, farm markets and wine market stores all set in the beautiful and picturesque landscape. There are also microbreweries and distilleries in the Niagara region.
Unless I am making a specific foodie road trip where the focus is only on food, most of our road trips involve some type of food, more often than not bring home one or more foodie finds. What we generally look for is foods grown and produced in that particular area. We have several resources for finding these great gems! Here are a few:
- Foodland Ontario signs - Foodland Ontario is the long-established consumer promotional program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Growers and producers as well as Ontario produce sold in grocery stores are identified by the familiar Foodland Ontario green and white logo. This helps to distinguish farm markets selling Ontario produce from those that may be selling imported produce although generally that is not a big problem. Farmland Ontario also has free publications located at various retail outlets and farm markets throughout Ontario as well as a wealth of consumer information on their website.
- apps - Apps for iPad, iPhone and Android are available for finding restaurants, wineries, food trucks and various food stops of interest in Ontario. Some are free while other cost a small amount. Street Food Toronto is a great free app for finding all types of food stands in the GTA complete with locations, hours of operation and contact information. Ontario Natural Food Co-op is another great free app to help find natural and organic food growers and producers. This is really a must have app for foodie road trips!
- social media - A lot of food vendors, growers and producers are turning to Twitter and Facebook. I follow several on both. The nice thing about using social media is you can easily contact them directly, often getting a response within minutes and all from the comforts of your smartphone or tablet.
- GPS - A GPS either stand alone or as a smartphone app is quite useful for finding those out of the way foodie gems that may be difficult to find using only a road map.
- word of mouth - Honestly this can be one of the best ways to find a foodie gem. Before leaving the Niagara region our daughter texted for us to check out Dillon's which is a new small batch brewery on a service road off of Highway 403. The thing is from the road, it looks nothing more than a large storage building and really not all that large, something we certainly would not have been looking for. We found it only because of her. That is the way with a lot of foodie finds much the same way I will tell someone if you want great local honey go down this road, turn right at the white house with the green shutters, go down to fourth house on right and turn in their driveway then drive up to garage where you will see the honey for sale sign on the garage side door. There's no signage on a regular basis at the road but rather it is available when they are there.