Who says going to the lake has to be about going to the beach? Our favourite road trip to Lake Huron involves an empty picnic basket, a cooler, a thermos, some books and a blanket. Give yourself a few hours, a tank of gas and follow our local foodie route. The result? A perfect locavore picnic in our favourite backyard – Huron County!
Head north out of London on Highway 4 through Lucan and into Exeter. Here you can pick up a ready-made gourmet pizza from Chef James Eddington, owner/operator of Eddington’s Restaurant. No, he’s not in the take-out pizza business! But he makes an outstanding pizza featuring unique ingredients like potato slices and caramelized onions. Everyone loves Thursday night pizza nights at Eddington’s. And cold pizza can be pretty great too!
In our basket, chocolate is also a food group. Stock up at Sugar and Spice on Main Street in Exeter. You can also find their goodies at the new Charles St. Station market in Bayfield. Cooler required! Keep heading north to Hensall where we have two favourite stops. At The Garlic Box look for Peach Salsa made with fresh Ontario garlic. The tapenade is also delicious. They sell right out of their corporate office on Highway 4, just north of Hensall. If it’s not office hours you can pick up their products at Metzger Meats (our other favourite in Hensall) on Brock Street off Highway 83 (the Zurich-Hensall line). Follow the signs to Metzger’s. Turn onto Brock Street at the huge blue building, Ice Cultures, where you can buy bags of ice for your cooler or take a tour of their ice experience. At Metzger’s pick up some house cured salami: we love the traditional Hensall salami but for a zestier taste grab the Jalapeno salami and some hot pepperettes. Gerhard calls them pepperonis so that the corporate giants don’t sue him. With eleven smokehouses on the property, this is a meat lover’s dream.
Moving towards the lake, a quick stop at Jerry Rader’s shop in Zurich nets us some of his famous butter tarts. These may not make it to the basket! You can also get a cup of coffee to wash them down.
As we crest the highway and can see the lake, we start thinking about fish. Pull into the beautiful Hessenland Country Inn on Highway 21 at St. Joseph, and hopefully Chef Frank Ihrig can fill your thermos with his signature Lakefood Chowder made from the Lake Huron catch of the day. This is also a great spot for a cold beer and a quick stretch of your legs as you stroll the five acres of manicured lawns.
From St. Joe’s it’s on to Bayfield, where we zip into the plaza next to Foodland on Highway 21. Here we grab two vital items: smoked fish from Out of the Blue, and a bottle of Pelee Island Secco from the Bayfield liquor store. They do sell it chilled. The best thing about Secco, besides its great taste and active bubbles? You don’t need a corkscrew to pop this cork! In Bayfield you can take a walk along Main Street and pick up:
– Gunn’s Hill Cheese (made in Oxford and award-winning) at Black Dog Pantry;
– Blyth goat cheese at Charles Street Station;
– and more sweetness than you can imagine at Erin Bolger’s new bakery, Pink Flamingo. Try her pink lemonade signature flavours in lemon squares, sandwich cookies, buttercream cupcakes and more. Bolger is the author of the fabulously fun cookbook, The Happy Baker, and has baked her way into our hearts with stories of dating and dining. On towards Goderich now and we stop in at the Bayfield Berry Farm – which is a few miles inland (just follow the signs) – where you can pick up house made cherry juice along with berries in season. Nothing goes better with our Secco then berries Yum.
Our picnic destination is the Rotary Park at Goderich , right by the marina. It offers a boardwalk, beaches, shady trees and playgrounds. But first we need to head about five miles past Goderich to Red Cat Farm, where Sophie will supply us with some delicious European breads made in their imported German oven – complete with rainwater mist infusion! The bread is extra crispy and a meal in itself. With our cheese, fish and salami, this is going to be outstanding!
Back in Goderich we pull into the famous Culbert’s Bakery for some doughnuts. We’ve already eaten the butter tarts from Rader’s so we really need a bit more sugar!
Finally, it’s picnic time! If you find yourself wanting to stay late to enjoy the sunset then you may want to ease your way back to Bayfield for a late night respite at The Red Pump. Not only does it have a fantastic patio but the guest rooms are spectacular.
Another great day on the road in Huron, and no kitchen to clean up!
JANE ANTONIAK is the Manager, Communications & Media Relations, King’s University College at Western and a regular contributor to eatdrink magazine.
BRUCE FYFE is a contributing photographer to eatdrink and a librarian at Weldon, Western University.