Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hip Getaways - Prince Edward County, Ontario

The View from the B&B of Lake Ontario
Spring is here and I am itching for a road-trip out of the city for an easy getaway.  Prince Edward County (PEC) is roughly two hours east Toronto and full of great foodie activities that could keep you occupied for a nice long weekend.  We have been visiting Picton and the surrounding areas for years because of a family cottage on the Bay of Quinte.  PEC itself is full of up and coming wineries, breweries and a cider house.  Here are some of our favourites whenever we visit:

Kelly's Shop
Where to Shop: Main Street Picton is quaint and full of charm.  You will not want to miss all the cute little stores like Kelly's Shop which carries an array of kitsch, clothing and jewellery.  Scooperman is one of the BEST names for an ice cream parlour and is a great place to grab a cone and watch the world go by.  You can find summer clothing, roxy bikinis and skate clothes at Beach Bum in the County.  City Revival is also a great place to troll for vintage clothing...from Toronto!  Warning: your cast-offs might actually follow you on vacation.  The Giant Tiger discount store is a small town fixture and a great place to stop for cheap clothes and anything you may have forgotten like jiffy pop, sunscreen or a bathing suit.  Make sure you stop at the historic Regent Theatre to see if any of the movies playing catches your eye.  It's a great place to head to if it starts to rain on your getaway. 

Buddha Dog - A great place to grab a quick lunch on Main Street after exploring the town.  They serve smaller than usual high quality 100% all-beef hot dogs.  These little dogs look like pepperettes, but the really pack a punch.  Gourmet spreads like mayos, mustards and sweet jellies are on offer with fresh chewy buns.  I could easily eat two or three in one sitting and they do incorporate local cheeses from Black River Cheese Company as  part of the menu options.  The last time I was there, you paid around $1.50 or so just for the hot dog and bun.  Then you pick a sauce/spread and then a cheese and pay for each topping.  It's super affordable and a fun concept.

The Cheese Factory
Black River Cheese Company - If you loved the cheese on your hot dog, stop in at the Black River Cheese Company in the town of Milford.  The company was founded back in 1901 and uses animal-free rennet.  I usually see it carried at The Big Carrot grocery store in Toronto.  However, they never seem to have the Pepper Jack Cheese in stock.  So grab a couple bricks to bring home with you.  The Pepper Jack has a tiny kick to it and would be great on a burger.  They also carry cheese curds if you're in the mood for poutine.

Maybe I was eating more than picking...
Berry Picking - If you check out what's in-season ahead of time then you can definitely plan a stop at a pick-your-own berries farm.  We went last August and found a blueberry patch in the town of Waupoos, right next to the winery.  It was great to fill up a little pint box to bring home for pancakes and to do something out of the ordinary for a weekend out in the country.  I think a pint only ran us around $2-3, so you could pick a whole bunch and freeze them.

The County Cider Barn
The County Cider Company - Stop in Waupoos to sample a couple varieties of refreshing County Ciders and tour their orchard.  A tasting fee of $5 provides you with four different ciders.  The County Premium Cider was a favourite because it crisp, fresh and classic when served ice cold.  However the Peach Cider just screams summer to me when the cider is blended with peach juice.  It could easily be served poolside and pass as a fancy cocktail.  Make sure you take a moment to enjoy a glass of cider and lunch on their patio terrace overlooking a lake view.  The outdoor wood-burning fire bakes homemade pizzas incorporating local ingredients and they also serve a variety of sandwiches and burgers.
The View from the Cider House Terrace
Pizza fresh from the Wood-Burning Oven
Merrill Inn - We absolutely never miss an opportunity to have dinner cooked by Chef Michael Sullivan at The Merrill Inn.  I have never had a bad meal there in all my years of going.  Sullivan has cooked at some of the hottest restaurants in Toronto including The Fifth and Auberge du Pommier.  He has brought his fine dining chops to this charming B&B.  The menu really is outstanding.  The past couple times we have had the steak, the risotto and the scallops, but the menu changes seasonally.  Make sure you book a reservation way in advance, the dining room is quite small - yet effective.  The appetizers are not severely overpriced like they are in Toronto and tend to stay under $10.  Mains range from $25-32.

The Merrill Inn

Waupoos Winery - If you do get a chance, The Waupoos Winery is on the same road as the cider house and also a great stop to sample another local winery in the area.  They also offer tastings, tours, lunch as well as dinner.  The view of the lake is equally gorgeous and the dining room is modern and elegant.  We only had the chance to stop in quickly for a wine tasting and only heard great things about the food.
Where To Stay - Prince Edward County is full of lovely Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Campgrounds.  We really enjoy Bayside Bed & Breakfast and have stayed their twice at around $150/night.  Peter cooks up a hearty breakfast with eggs, yogurt, fruit, toast and banana bread and his wife Paulette will give you some great tips on where to explore.  Bayside has two rooms on the lower level each with its own bathroom.  Breakfast is usually served at around 9 AM and you eat with the other guests at a formally set table.  
Our Room
Guests have access to the dock, canoe, campfire area and you could easily jump in the lake for a refreshing swim.  We loved how it was right on the water in walking distance of both County Cider and Waupoos Winery in the town of Waupoos.  Do call early to make your reservation as availability is limited.  Sandbanks Provincial Park is also not far at all, you might even choose to camp out instead.  However, sites also book up quickly and usually weeks in advance for a long weekend.

Mustang's Entrance

Mustang's Drive-In - You could watch TV at your B&B or Inn...but you're on vacation!  Get in the car and go retro at Mustang's Drive-In.  The owner is full of zingers, funny plot outlines and announcements to the audience.  We love the shadow puppet shows between movies and the 'admission bus' for a box office.  There's also a playground for the kids to go crazy in before sundown.  Of course, there's a snack bar with pogos, cotton candy, junior mints and nacho cheese!  Go on a long-weekend and be treated to a triple header and watch movies until the sun comes up.  Mustang's is located in Picton and packed in the summer time.

We tried to cover some ground here, but could barely touch on everything there is to do in PEC.  For more ideas on wineries and foodie adventures, visit the Taste Trail website for a map of some great places to eat & drink in the county.


  1. I love the avocado springrolls - my favorite dish on the menu. Also worth trying is the red velvet cheesecake. I'm heading to Buffalo on Sunday and I'm sure I will end up at Cheesecake Factory for a meal!

  2. That's a lot of helpful info, thanks for that.

  3. So glad we could help! Enjoy your trip.