While attending an event in St. Marys, Ontario, I decided that this beautiful town merited a longer and more leisurely visit. On a bright, sunny Saturday morning in October we drove northeast from London, with a list of places to visit. The short drive was enhanced by the masses of spectacular colour as the leaves were turning to their autumn colours of orange, crimson and gold.
Our first stop was the farmers’ market, which is open from May until October. At Breadtopia, which has a wide selection of breads and pastries, we bought freshly baked ginger snaps, red onion and aged cheddar focaccia, and loaves of Stonetown and Thames Grain bread. We left the market laden as well with fresh-from-the-farm vegetables, delectable pastries from an Amish family’s booth, and some Middle Eastern treats from The Syrian Baker, known for baklava, sambosaks (samosas), falafels and hummus.
Next stop was McCully’s Hill Farm Market. At the store entrance we were met by the aroma of freshly-baked apple and pumpkin pies. The huge variety of baked goods, maple syrup, fresh local meat and cheeses, homemade pickles, jams and preserves made for another shopping spree. After a tour of the barn, where we met the farm animals, we were treated to a sampling of Fiege’s Gourmet Dressings and Sauces, which led to yet more shopping.
One can’t visit St. Marys without checking out the local cheeses. Hans and Jolanda Weber, with Swiss cheese maker Ramon Eberle, have brought the art of cheese making to St. Marys by opening Stonetown Artisan Cheese. Our guide gave us an interesting and informative tour of the facility, and we enjoyed samples of some of Stonetown’s 14 different curds and cheeses. It is no surprise that Stonetown is a two-time award winner at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Agritourism is alive and well in St. Marys. Transvaal Farm Guest House is a two-storey house with a living room and fully equipped kitchen on the main floor and two bedrooms upstairs. The hosts, Cindy Taylor and Scott McLauchlan, make their guests feel at home. Eggs are there for the gathering, visits to the barn are encouraged, and the vegetable garden is there, in season, for guests. Transvaal Farm is also home to another artisanal cheese maker, C’est Bon Cheese Ltd. Cindy also operates Kitchen Smidgen, a small bakery on Water Street in St. Marys. There’s a patio where you can enjoy your treats in nice weather, overlooking the Thames.
Troyer’s Spices on Queen St. is filled with over 100 quality herbs and spices from around the world and is a utopia for chefs, bakers and home cooks. Over 55 herb and spice combinations are handcrafted in the store, and are displayed in large glass jars. You can bring your own spice containers or purchase items pre-packaged. Other quality goods available include Aunt Milly’s Soup Mixes, oils, vinegars, vanilla products, local honey, organic maple syrup, and Urban Hippie Granola.
Of course we had to check out The Chocolate Factory to try the homemade truffles. It was a challenge to choose between truffles, smoothies, chocolates and the specialty Halloween creations.
It was time for a coffee break, so a stop at Stonetown Coffee was in order. The coffee was great and the homemade pastries and cakes looked mouth-watering (but I was full from all the sampling earlier). The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed with people visiting amongst themselves while others relaxed in armchairs by the windows. Stonetown Coffee serves breakfast and lunch, and gluten-free items.
After our check-in at the award-winning Westover Inn our hostess Kaitlynn gave us a tour of the historic property. Built in 1867 by the Hutton Brothers, The Manor sits on 19 landscaped acres, along with two other buildings that also provide accommodations. The property was bought by the Roman Catholic Church in the 1930’s and was operated as a seminary. The property was sold again 1985, and after two years of renovations the Westover Inn began receiving guests. The walls are lined with hospitality awards and it is apparently one of Christopher Plummer’s favorite inns.
For dinner we headed off to the Wildstone Bar and Grill at Stone Willow Inn. The atmosphere was inviting and comfortable, and the service friendly and professional. The chicken breast with lemon grass, mango and strawberry reduction, served with rice and vegetables and topped with toasted coconut, was cooked to flavourful perfection. The evening special was prime rib, cooked to order. We topped off the evening with specialty coffees and shared a piece of cheesecake with fresh fruit. Wildstone Bar and Grill offers a selection of regional wines and craft beers.
Breakfast at the Westover was an early morning pleasure. My order of smoked salmon on a house-made mustard seed bagel with cream cheese and arugula was served with a fresh fruit salad. The perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
For years our vacations were long trips; I wanted to see the world. Now I am loving the short weekend jaunts and day trips. It is amazing what you can find close to home.