Why winter? Because without it we wouldn’t have maple syrup. It’s coming! Check out your favourite syrup producers to see what they have planned:
In Goderich, Samuel’s Hotel has maple-themed events during March Break. Enjoy a special dinner on the Friday night, horse drawn sleigh rides, maple tours, activities, heated patio, hot alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks all day, and a maple-themed dessert extravaganza.
The Springwater Maple Syrup Festival runs weekends beginning March 8th, and during March Break from 10am-3pm each day. Enjoy interpretive wagon rides through the Carolinian Springwater Forest. Tour the old-fashioned sugar shanty for demonstrations on maple syrup production. Partake in a complimentary tasting of the maple products which are available for sale. Dine at the pancake house, operated by local community organizations. www.catfishcreek.ca
Celebrate spring at the Annual Maple Festival at Crinklaw’s Sugar Bush near Lambeth. Maple products for sale, free samples, tours of production facility, displays, sugar on snow, farm store, horse-drawn wagon rides and meal offered. Saturday March 21 and Sunday March 22, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (meal available until 2 pm.) www.crinklawmaplesyrup.com
Since 1972 the Kinsmen Club of Greater London has been providing outdoor family fun at Fanshawe Sugar Bush. There are demonstrations of tree tapping, and sap lines, craft demonstrations, musicians and displays by community groups, and mouth-watering pancakes! This year they offer evening tours for community groups. www.kinsmenfanshawesugarbush.com.
The Savour Stratford Maple Trail celebrates the taste of Ontario’s first crop of the season and is only available for the months of March and April. Enjoy a self-guided taste of maple delights at various food shops and restaurants this spring. www.visitstratford.ca/mapletrail
Also in our region, visit McCully’s Hill Farm (www.mccullys.ca), Fort Rose Maple Co. (www.fortrose.ca), and one of our favourites — McLachlan Brothers Maple Syrup Camp & Pancake House (mclachlansyrup.ca).
Crossing the border? Or maybe you already live in the Old East Village. Either way, be sure to stop in at The Boombox Bakery at the corner of Adelaide and Lorne. Alexandra Connon creates delicious (and beautiful) pies, cupcakes and other mouth-watering treats. You can order online at theboomboxbakeshop.com. Visit the facebook page for the latest news.
The 2015 London’s Local Flavour Culinary Guide will be available later in March. A project by eatdrink magazine with Tourism London, the guide provides a rich overview of the city’s breadth of exciting local restaurants, culinary retailers, and farmers’ markets. The guide goes out to Ontario Travel Centres, London’s Tourism Information Centres, and major entry points to the city, such as the London International Airport, the VIA Rail station, the London Convention Centre, the Downtown London office, as well as at dozens of local businesses, libraries and the farmers’ markets. It’s also available online, with links both on the Tourism London website and the eatdrink site. For a view of the guide and more, go to www.londontourism.ca/culinary
Food Trucks: After three years of acrimonious debates, London residents will be able to eat at food trucks on city streets. During London City Council’s meeting on Feb. 24, council voted unanimously, 15–0, to approve changes to the city’s Business Licensing Bylaw to permit eight food trucks on London streets by this summer. City staff is expected to review the results of the pilot project this fall.
At The Root Cellar Organic Cafe the menu is seasonal, organic and local, and everything is made from scratch. The Root Cellar also has a calendar of events that features local musicians like Marty Kolls. Details on the Surprise Earth Hour concert (Saturday, March 28) can be found on the facebook page. For more special events information, or to inquire about hosting an event, contact Ellie at email@example.com.
The restaurant at Idlewyld Inn & Spa has launched a new gastropub menu for the business lunch crowd. Chef Trevor Stephens puts an upscale spin on pub favourites: Wagyu Beef Burger with Truffle Cheddar Cheese, Guinness Prime Rib Shepherd’s Pie Skillet, Harp-Battered Fish & Chips and Braised Bison Short Ribs, all on offer for $20 which includes a pint of Harp, Smithwick or Guinness. The Idlewyld will also host an outdoor Easter Egg Hunt and an Easter Sunday Brunch, April 5. www.idlewyldinn.com
Wortley Village’s Black Walnut Bakery Café was already proud winner of London’s 2014 Consumers Choice Award for Best Dessert/Pastry, and then came The Cruffin! After a Facebook flurry of enthusiastic comments, demand exceeded supply for a number of days. The popular pastry — the bakers melded a croissant with a muffin and piped inside a rhubarb ginger custard — is described as “the ultimate breakfast.” www.blackwalnutbakerycafe.com
The Blackfriars bridge is closed to all but pedestrian traffic these days but the Blackfriars Bistro parking lot is cleared, and a new heating system is keeping customers cozy. The always colourful Blackfriars is wearing a pink coat these days, and will be featuring a new menu mid-March. Owner Betty Heydon is planning a theme dinner in April, so watch the website or call for details. www.blackfriarsbistro.com
The 58th London Poultry Show is a must-do event for anyone associated with this important agri-business. It’s a blend of trade show and professional development featuring networking opportunities, a wide array of products and services, guest presentations and informative seminars. April 22nd and 23rd at the Western Fair District’s Agriplex. www.westernfairdistrict.com
Downtown London …
Calling all Downton Abbey fans: You are invited to a tea party in the Eldon House Interpretive Centre on March 28. There will be Downton Abbey trivia and prizes for best costume. Tour the museum and discover the many commonalities between Eldon House and the Crawley residence. To register call 519-661-5169. www.eldonhouse.ca
Kiss the Cook has an exciting line-up of chefs (including Chris Squire, Dacha Markovic, Mies Bervoets and Thomas Waite) who will be sharing their knowledge in cooking classes. Visit kissthecookonline.com if your taste buds tingle at the thought of such dishes as Thai Coconut steamed mussels, Ragout of Rabbit with Spring Vegetables, or Pear Pannacotta with roasted pears, crumbled pastry and whipped cream. www.kissthecookonline.com
After 10 years in the fine dining business, the Auberge du Petit Prince closed on February 23rd. The Arroyas family extends their thanks and best wishes to staff, and to customers for their patronage over the years.
Nicole Arroyas, who ran the Auberge du Petit Prince during its first five years, continues to operate Petit Paris Crêperie & Pâtisserie in Covent Garden Market, offering freshly baked croissants, scones and breads, pastries, cakes, sandwiches, salads and made-to-order crêpes. www.petit-paris.ca
Downtown London is also working with Tourism London, downtown hotels and the London Convention Centre to promote businesses to visitors this spring. In particular the organizations are working with them to distribute the newly expanded visitor dining guide, Taste Downtown London, to help people find places to dine. www.downtownlondon.com
The Raja is continuing their four-course Raja-Licious dinner for $30. The regular dinner menu has recently been updated. www.rajafinedining.ca
Restaurateur Mike Smith has installed a brewery in the basement of his former Jim Bob Ray’s bar and is geared up to launch a line of locally-brewed craft beers. Smith has enlisted expert brewing masters to develop several different brews that will be marketed under the Toboggan brand which will be made and served at the Toboggan Brewing Co., (the new name for the highly anticipated repurposed bar and grill that now houses Jim Bob Rays), next door to Joe Kool’s, Smith’s flagship restaurant on Richmond Row. The primary market for his beer will be his own establishments: Joe Kool’s, Fellini Koolini’s Italian Cuisini, The Runt Club and the Toboggan Brewing Co. To augment the menu of his newly minted 519 Kitchen, Smith will relocate his Richmond Row P.Za.Pie operations and wood-burning oven into the new site.
The Talbot St Whisky House is a new 1920s prohibition-themed bar and restaurant. Chef Taylor Forrester’s menu is a blend of fine dining and comfort food made from scratch, fresh daily. The restaurant, newly renovated in the former home of the Coates of Arms pub, showcases a large assortment of whisky and designer cocktails as well as beer on tap, in bottles, and a good wine list. www.whiskyhouse.ca
Chef Thomas Waite (formerly of Icarus Resto Bar) is joining chef Josh Sawyer at Wich is Wich, the sandwich shop that is expected to open at 125 King Street beside the office of Downtown London, the first week of March. The 40–45 seat upscale shop offers dine in, grab & go, and catering services. Customers will be able to email their orders in and pick up orders. The business is the creation of London radio show host, Elaine Sawyer. www.wichiswich.ca
The former owners of Wonder Sushi, who opened the Japanese-inspired Sakata Bar and Grill on Richmond Street (formerly Blue Ginger) is opening Sakata Ramen in the space previously occupied by Gozen Bistro on Queens Avenue at the beginning of March. The ramen noodle house will also feature Yakiniku, a variant of bulgogi.
Join Mark Serré and the friendly staff at the Morrissey House for Winesday! By-the-glass wines are $1.50 off and bottles are $6 per bottle off. Don’t want to finish the bottle? Have it recorked to take home. Enjoy your own wine selection (must be a 750ml bottle, commercially produced — no homemade wines) for a flat corkage fee. www.themorrisseyhouse.com
Chef Tim Larsen and Jessie Larsen are leaving Mercer Hall to open a new restaurant on Wellington Street in Stratford. The projected opening date is early June 2015. At the time of writing, the name has not been announced.
Pazzo Pizzeria and Taverna features half price basic pizzas and $5 pints (all domestic draught beer) all day Fridays. This may be the best thing to happen to Friday since the invention of the weekend! www.pazzo.ca
Chefs Aaron and Bronwyn Linley have sold Bijou after 14 years. They were very ready for a change, and hand over the reins in March. The Linley’s have been operating the restaurant in The Bruce Hotel for two years and have decided to move on when their contract expires at the end of March. In the meantime, they are toying with going abroad with their kids for a year and working (something they’ve long thought about) or working somewhere in our area in the interim … or possibly opening their own place again shortly, which they say is definitely in the future anyway.
Rob and Candice Wigan of Molly Bloom’s Irish Pub in Stratford have just bought one of the city’s flagship fine dining restaurants, The Church Restaurant, to re-launch this May as Revival House. Chefs Kyle Rose (late of London’s Auberge du Petit Prince) and Byron Hallett will run the expansive kitchen, emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients on the daily menu.Revival House will offer “dining as event” for two to 200, from tête-à-têtes to tour groups, weddings and concerts. Upstairs will feature The Chapel, an intimate 80-seat gastro pub, and a VIP lounge called Confessions.Stratford design consultant Martine Becu is transforming the three dramatic rooms.
Stratford Chefs School offers Adult and Teenager Cooking Classes. Aspiring chefs will work in real kitchens with restaurant chefs, preparing recipes from the School’s actual curriculum. www.stratfordchef.com
Mingle with friends, wander among “Blooming Beautiful” gardens and browse the Marketplace while sipping a glass of Pelee Island wine and savouring canapés showcasing the Flavours of Perth during the Stratford Garden Festival’s opening Garden Party. The show runs March 5-8. www.stratfordgardenfestival.com.
Savour Stratford Tutored Tasting: Ancient Art of Japanese Matcha. This hands-on workshop introduces you to techniques, history, health benefits, cooking how-to’s and much more. Take home a chashaku, a chasen and a passion. March 6 and March 13. Tickets are available on-line. www.visitstratford.ca/stratford-tutored-tastings
Join in the fun at Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. The actors are right there amongst the audience. The story unfolds throughout dinner. It’s a great event for parties or couples. March 20 at The Parlour Inn. www.theparlour.ca
More Downton Abbey! A proper dinner, in the hands of a good butler! Begin at the bar with a complimentary themed cocktail and snacks inspired by the genre. Proceed to the private dining room for dinner. Themed attire is encouraged! March 21 at Mercer Hall. www.mercerhall.com
Swan Parade Weekend: April 11 and 12. Stratford salutes spring with the quirky ritual of marching the swans to the Avon River. Family fun starts Saturday downtown with live entertainment, music, street performers and a quest for decorated swan topiaries. Sunday’s family entertainment and food trucks run from 12 noon–3 pm on Lakeside Drive with the swans parading at 2 pm lead by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums. www.visitstratford.ca/swans
In April, join naturalist/forager Peter Blush for Puck’s Plenty Early Spring Foraging. Search forest trails for wild edibles such as leeks, trout lilies, saddle mushrooms, wild ginger and more while you discover the natural beauty of forests and field 15 minutes from Stratford. Learn to harvest these delicious gems of nature sustainably. Recipes for seasonal wild edibles will be supplied. www.pucksplenty.com
The Little Inn in Bayfield is Ontario’s oldest inn, dating to the 1830s. Mark and Joanne Oliver recently took over the reins (see Issue 50, November/December 2014), and the inn is undergoing some substantial changes. The rooms are being completely redesigned by Cynthia Weber, the restaurant will be under new direction, and the bar will offer a new lineup of wines, craft brews and cocktails. The Olivers plan to open for business by the end of March. www.littleinn.com
Railway City Brewing tells us that their delicious Black Coal Stout is now officially available in the LCBO year round in Tall Boy cans. Black Coal Stout is Railway City Brewing’s signature seasonal dark ale. It pours a thick and frothy dark chestnut colored head, and the nose is dominated by coffee and toasted characteristics with underlying tones of rich dark chocolate. www.railwaycitybrewing.com