It is no secret that Ontario’s culinary scene reaches far beyond the urban city borders. Famous chefs, brewers, and winemakers have been setting roots in small towns across the province for years creating culinary pockets and Blue Mountain has undoubtedly become one worth a visit. From boutique motels to farm-to-table fine dining, fresh brews, and scenic wineries this corner of the province just might take your breath away. Each season has something different to offer making the Blue Mountains and Collingwood region an ideal weekend escape.
A culinary scene of its own
This entire adventure started with Heart’s Tavern in Kimberley (Ontario). It came recommended as a place to eat through the grapevine. This roadside tavern is a passion project of two restaurateurs, Teo Paul and Tyler Wilson (Union and Côte de Boeuf). A neon sign graces this cottage-style building, that casual atmosphere continues throughout into what is now two buildings connected with a narrow dining room. The menu is seasonal, focused on local produce, and as much as possible is done in-house. Pickled. Cured. Smoked. Just out there in the field, my eyes spot the smoker through the window.
This is a small community. People know each other well and without hesitation share recommendations. In Thornbury, two restaurants, in particular, caught our eye: Fabbrica (from the McEwan Group) and Bruce Wine Bar. Fabbrica is an Italian restaurant located mere minutes from the Bruce Wine Bar. Fabbrica has a lovely heated patio and a rich selection of hearty meals. From muscles to pizza and pasta, there is a lot to choose from. Bruce Wine Bar, on the other hand, also works as a bottle shop, but in addition to their impressive collection of wine, there is a lovely minimal menu with filling snacks and deliciously dressed salads.
A visit to Blue Mountain would not be complete without beers and oysters at Penny’s Motel & Apres. A small indoor dining area (primarily bar stools) is amplified by casual seating around an outdoor fire pit, a picnic table, and a sizable patio. Here you will find, in addition to the oysters and beer of course, a selection of small snacks, pizza, wine, and cocktails.
Bonus: Stop by the Kimberley General Store, for fresh bread and Amish butter.
Unique small-batch breweries
While this region might not be at the top of the list when it comes to wineries and breweries it certainly has a lot to offer. Still Fields Brewery and Grey & Gold Cider are two stops where you just might lose track of time.
Still Fields Brewery is a small batch, all-oak-brewery set on 22 acres of farmland in Meaford. The brewery is open 7 days a week and has a large outdoor patio as well as a few tables in the barn. People come here for the beers and the vibes. On the menu, you will find anything from ales to grisette and other unique, hand-crafted beers. The casual environment occasionally includes pop-up food stations and other community events. Similarly, Grey & Gold Cider is a sustainable, farm-based cidery and a community staple. With live music at sunset and other celebrations, this farm is a place to gather, mix, and mingle.
Adventurous cold-climate wines
Further into the hills are a handful of wineries. Georgian Hills Vineyards was our first stop. The visitors are invited to taste a selection of their cool climate wines at the indoor and outdoor tasting bars or by the fire pit. The views in each direction are sprawling greenery and vines, perfectly complementing the local wines.
Further up the hill is the Roost Wine Company. The scenic drive to the gate cannot prepare you enough for the view at the top of the hill. It feels like the highest point of the region (aside from the actual Blue Mountain that is) and offers a spectacular view of the rolling forestry and vineyards. In their own words, The Roos Winery is “dedicated to pushing the boundaries of cold climate wines on the fringes of Ontario’s winemaking territory”. On the menu, you will find interesting sparkling wines (think Pet Nat), some orange, and a selection of other interesting grapes like Marquette and Foch.
A quaint stay
Penny’s Motel is a boutique roadside destination. Family project of John Belknap (co-owner of John and Sons Oyster House) and his family. The property is a showcase of local artisan talent and the classiest 70s throwback one can imagine. Each room has a mood of its own while the shared spaces are built to facilitate casual social interactions. There is plenty of sitting, a large fire pit with cozy blankets, a sundeck room, and even a small tin pool (open seasonally). The rooms themselves are a bit small but the shower is spacious, the shared space is a party, and the restaurant is a destination within itself.
In the gear bag: In the gear bag: Fujifilm* X-T100 with a Fuji XF50mmF2 R WR and XF 23mm f/2 R WR lenses.