In recent decades, urbanites have flocked to Prince Edward County, drawn by the promise of limestone-rich soil and a quieter country life. Since the migration of city slickers began, long-time locals have witnessed the county’s stark transformation, from a collection of sleepy farm towns to a trendy tourist destination. Now home to more than 30 wineries and a few outposts of Toronto’s most-famed establishments, like The Drake Hotel and Dakota Tavern, the region’s burgeoning food-and-drink scene has made it the perfect weekend getaway. For a few days filled with tipsy tastings, farm-fresh fare, and rural charm, here are the best places to eat and drink in Prince Edward County.
For more, check out our list of 10 Things You Have to do in P.E.C.
County Cider Company
Not far from the shores of Lake Ontario you’ll find the County Cider Company, a family-operated winery that specializes in hard ciders like the Waupoos Premium Cider and the County Pear Cider. They own two orchards, where more than 15 varieties of apples are grown, and offer educational tastings for $5 per person. But if you’re more interested in a stunning view and refreshing drink, stop by their patio, which is perched high above the lake. Can’t make it to the county this summer, here’s where to sip cider in the city.
Barley Days Brewery
Prince Edward County is best known for its wineries, but if you’re more of a beer drinker, you won’t be disappointed by Barley Days Brewery. Located in the heart of the county, not far from the quaint town of Picton, this small-batch brewer produces everything from pale ales to IPAs, using fresh, local ingredients. Whether you book a tour of the brewery or just pop in the retail shop, don’t leave before trying favourites like the Loyalist Lager and Scrimshaw Oyster Stout.
Slickers Ice Cream
If you’re craving something sweet, there’s a lively ice cream parlour in Bloomfield that’s become famous for mouth-watering creations you won’t find anywhere else. True to the county, Slickers Ice Cream serves 30-odd freshly churned options, including unique flavours like apple pie. To ensure it tastes authentic, they skip the artificial flavouring, blending three-house baked pies into vanilla ice cream for each batch.
66 Gilead Distillery
With more than 60 small-batch breweries in Ontario, there’s no shortage of craft beer in the province. But finding local, hand-crafted spirits isn’t so easy. That’s why a Toronto couple bought an old 80-acre barley farm on Bloomfield’s Gilead Road, where they began producing craft vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum. They also renovated the property’s crumbling 19th-century farmhouse, where they now offer tastings of their small-batch elixirs.
Took a road trip to 66 Gilead Distillery in Bloomfield Ontario today, which is in the Prince Edward County area. I picked up their Wild Oak Whisky 47% ABV which is a Bourbon style whisky and their Du Bois Whisky 40% ABV aged in maple syrup barrels. I'm not a big spirits drinker but it was cool to see a craft distillery like this one set up at an old farm. #66gileaddistillery #duboiswhisky #wildoakwhisky #bloomfield #princeedwardcounty #spirits #roadtrip
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
If you’re a cheese connoisseur, don’t miss the chance to stop at Fifth Town, a privately owned artisan cheese company, which recently won four gold medals at the 2015 Royal Winter Fair. All of the cheese at Fifth Town is handmade using fresh, local goat’s and sheep’s milk, and the friendly staff behind the counter is happy to educate you on how it’s done and the flavours that inspired them. During the summer months, Fifth Town also offers a limited number of tastings, where their cheeses are expertly paired with local wines.
Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard
It only takes a sip to find out why Norman Hardie has been praised for his distinct Burgundian-style chardonnays and pinot noirs. But your experience at his winery won’t be complete until you try the famous wood-fired pizza. It follows a recipe that was developed by some of Toronto’s top chefs, and is cooked in an outdoor oven next to the small dining patio, where you can enjoy your meal with a glass of wine and a view of the vineyard.
Karlo Estates Winery
A big reason to visit Karlo Estates is the 19th-century post-and-beam barn that’s been renovated into a rustic open-air tasting room, with an art gallery in the loft above. In spring and fall, tastings are often hosted on the barn’s covered deck, but in the heat of summer, they’re moved inside to where it’s more comfortable. If you’d prefer to relax on the deck or take a stroll through the vineyard, you can also buy one of their eclectic pinot noirs, chardonnays, or port-style wines by the glass.
Hinterland Wine Company
Hinterland Wine Company began just over a decade ago, when a self-taught couple from Toronto took over an old dairy barn and began producing sparkling wine. It was the region’s first winery dedicated entirely to bubbly, and it seems the couple’s focus paid off. The small, family-run farm has since become famous for producing some of the country’s best sparklers, so make sure you call ahead to book a tasting and a tour of the vineyard.
Wellington Farmers’ Market
Wine producers aren’t the only ones attracted to Prince Edward County—the region’s limestone-laced soil is ideal for all sorts of agriculture, which is why the county was once known as the Garden Capital of Canada, producing more than a third of the country’s canned food. To get a true sense of the region’s bounty, stop by the Wellington Farmers’ Market, where you can spend the afternoon browsing fresh produce, sampling preserves, and being serenaded with live music.
The Campbell’s Orchards
You don’t have to be a fan of apples to find something worth indulging in at The Campbell’s Orchards (though it does help). Alongside the orchard, the Campbells run a market filled with local items that change according to the season. Like the Wellington Farmers’ Market, the orchard is a foodie paradise, where you can pick up everything from local cheeses and meat pies to sparkling ciders and homemade preserves.
Picnic Food Truck
Although most country food trucks specialize in French fries and little else, Picnic is more akin to the gourmet trucks you’ll find in the city. They serve a rotating menu of sandwiches, salads, juices, charcuterie, and cheese plates, all of which are made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. This seasonal truck sets up shop from May to October, operating next to Rosehall Run, another award-winning winery known for its chardonnay.
(Photo by Jordan Johnson)