We started our Taste Trek in Shakespeare, Ontario where the morning was greeted with a slice of rhubarb pie at Shakespeare Pies. Drawing on a family history of Mennonite baking, Kenton Plett and his family now produce 45,000 pies annually, including seasonal fruit pies and a selection of meat pies. We took home a frozen Tex Mex pie which was happily devoured by our resident teenaged football player. It was here we also picked up a steak and kidney pie, something not always available elsewhere but appreciated by those of a certain heritage. This special spot is open six days a week — closed on Sundays, as are most Mennonite bakeries. You can call ahead to have your order put aside.
At the other end of the quaint village of Shakespeare, we got a chuckle out of the giant pig statue in the yard of The Best Little Pork Shoppe. Owner Bruce Wettlaufer sources pork from the top-notch pork producers of Perth County. The Shoppe is well-known for smoked summer sausage, chops and other meaty delights. This is a good spot to pick up gluten-free, filler-free meats for the cooler or cottage — fresh or frozen. “We get customers from Windsor to Toronto,” says Bruce proudly. The stop is also a Perth County Visitors Centre and even offers a doggie rest area. Open from June to October, and on Fridays from 3pm to 7pm there is a farmers’ market. How better to get all you need for pork kabobs?
With Shakespeare on our minds we followed the Taste Trek routing into Stratford, which always has plenty of treats for theatre-goers. Looking for coffee, we headed off Ontario Street towards Stratford City Hall where Revel Caffe offers great atmosphere and a perfect cup of coffee in a relaxing indoor and outdoor location. Owner Anne Campion brews up four signature blends of beans (roasted in London by Las Chicas del Café). Paired with a savoury meat croissant and a hermit cookie this more than hits the spot. Some cinnamon buns topped with Monforte Dairy Chèvre icing make their way into our cooler.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, then Distinctly Tea on York Street facing the Avon River is a great alternative. With over 350 teas and herbs, owner Dianne Krampien also serves hot and iced tea to go. We also picked up a pair of tea-pot earrings as a gift for our favourite tea lover.
With thirst quenched, it was time to indulge in the battle of the cocoa bean by visiting Chocolate Barr’s, which is just about to move into a new, larger location at 55 George Street (the former Sun Room Restaurant). Chocolate makers Derek and Jacqueline Barr have their own line of bean-to-bar chocolate. The almond butter crunch, pecan pattie and sea salt caramels cannot be missed. Again, the cooler proves very useful. Also at Chocolate Barr’s is a full gelato bar.
Further along the chocolate trail is the well-loved Rheo Thompson Candies co-owned by Marc Johnstone and Kristene Steed. One really can’t go home without a mint smoothie, can one? Clearly, there is enough room in Stratford for both of these divine chocolate shops!
After taking time to stroll along shore of the Avon River, where paddle boats are available, it’s time to return to the vehicle as we continue the Taste Trek. Our destination — Goderich, on the shores of beautiful Lake Huron.
First stop is Culbert’s Bakery, which thankfully is fully restored following the tornado of a few years ago. Truly the most historic stop on the tour, Culbert’s has been operating as a bakery on the same site since 1877. The Culbert family took over in 1942 and now 4th-generation family member Darin Culbert handles all the baking of breads, cookies, shortbreads, pies and sweets. His on-going claim to fame is the famous Culbert’s Cream Puff, filled with a variety of flavours including chocolate (oh, my). Culbert’s also displays a mouth-watering arrangement of old-fashioned donuts. We put our white bakery box of treats into the cooler, as coming home from Goderich without them is, simply, unacceptable for those back at home.
The Square in Goderich has a lovely variety of food and culinary shops that are well worth visiting. We also recommend a stroll down to the harbour where fish ‘n’ chips are served in season. This provides a great place for some calorie-burning along the boardwalk.
Heading further along the shoreline aspect of the Taste Trek we end the day in Bayfield, where locals fill the patio of the Black Dog Bistro. You may consider spending the night in one of the spectacular rooms at the Red Pump Inn, especially after enjoying the impressive craft beer list at the Black Dog. We head in through the side door of the Bistro, where we find Kathleen Sloan-MacIntosh running the Black
Dog Pantry. Known for her line of cookbooks, Kathleen is most at home in the kitchen, so she has recently renovated the Pantry shop to include a full bakery. Everything from Red Velvet Cake to chicken pot pies and Jamaican patties are now produced in this upscale pantry for take-home enjoyment. Kathleen is especially delighted by the macaroons which colourfully adorn her counter. We also pick up some Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers Appenzeller cheese, some delicate scones and house-made granola.
The Taste Trek continues in various directions as far as Wingham, Listowel, Blyth and Exeter. With so many options it can be taken many times, finding new destinations on each trip.
Several stops also have seasonal farmers’ markets including Bayfield, Exeter, Goderich, and Stratford.
Shakespeare to the Shoreline is a partnership between the Huron Tourism Association, Huron County Tourism and Perth County Visitors Association. It began about 10 years ago with research into the reasons people travel, and their particular passions and interests.
Jane Antoniak is a regular contributor to eatdrink magazine, particularly in search of culinary tourism destinations. She fuels her adventures by working as Manager, Communications & Media Relations at King’s University College, Western University.
Bruce Fyfe slings his camera along the winding roads and shorelines for eatdrink magazine. He especially is pleased when travels result in a steak & kidney pie. Bruce is also Librarian, Weldon Library, Western University.