September is a brilliant time for culinary travel in Huron County. The earth has been warmed by the summer, the harvest of root vegetables is in full swing, the lake is the perfect temperature for swimming and the beach crowds have thinned.
Eatdrink writers and photographers have been road-tripping across Huron for nearly all of our ten years. While it’s impossible to sum up Huron in a list of ten, here are some of our favourite foodie stops, in no particular order.
Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Bayfield is the place to kick back while enjoying much more than a traditional pub menu. The offerings includes Ontario confit duck wings, local herbed mushrooms on toast with Quebec triple crème brie, and incredible burgers with a variety of cheeses. With an in-house baker and a culinary team led by cookbook author Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh, the food is not to be missed. Nor is the impressive selection of local and imported beers on tap. For winter, hit the whisky list. Then spend the night somewhere within in walking distance, such as The Little Inn.
Zehr’s Country Market offers another kind of bakery experience, including outstanding fruit pies and Chelsea buns, makeing this a must-stop, south of Bayfield. Go early for pies, especially on holiday weekends. The shop also has great cheeses, smoked pork chops, and other meats. For us, though, it’s the pies and buns! Closed on Sundays.
Metzger Meat Products — Winners of the Traditional Side Bacon award from Ontario Finest Meats numerous times, Gerhard and Heike Metzger run a superior, three-generation, German butcher shop in the tiny village of Hensall. With on-site smokers, expert butchery and natural ingredients, this is a must-experience for carnivores.
Hessenland Inn on Highway 21 between Grand Bend and Bayfield is a special occasion venue for weddings and other events. It is also home to a burgeoning vineyard, the passion of chef/owner Frank Ihrig. He and Liz Ihrig are the second-generation operators of this immaculate site, which includes five acres of gardens. The chef’s table kitchen dinner with wine pairings is a special treat. Or experience dinner at one of the summer or fall vineyard events. The care and craftsmanship of the kitchen, and the Inn’s hospitality are a winning pairing.
Culbert’s Bakery in Goderich is just off the square (which really is a circle) and is operated by Darin Culbert. Culbert is one of a long line of family members with a connection to this famous bakery that dates back to 1877. Culbert is also a local hero, after painstakingly restoring the bakery following the devastating Goderich tornado. Fans line up for the crème donuts, butter tarts and so much more. Old-fashioned goodness for those not on a protein diet.
If you want to cook your own local fish, Out of the Blue Fish & Seafood Market in Bayfield offers fresh and frozen local and imported lake and sea fish. It has now expanded, with table seating for you to enjoy fish and chips and more.
The Garlic Box in Hensall produces and distributes Ontario garlic products across Canada. Jackie Rowe promotes the healthy benefits of Ontario garlic through her delicious spices, oils, rubs, pickled bulbs, sauces and more. She has a small retail outlet on Highway 4. The products can also be found in culinary retail stores.
Local beer is flourishing in Huron with the opening of Square Brew in Goderich, Stone House Brewing Co. in Varna, and the mushrooming success of Cowbell Brewing Co. in Blyth. Cowbell won a silver for its Doc Perdue’s Bobcat in the North American Style Amber/Red Ale category at the Canadian Brewing Awards 2017. Cowbell’s brewery opening this summer may prove a game-changer for Blyth, already renowned for its superb summer theatre.
It’s just over the border into Lambton County. However, F.I.N.E. A Restaurant, draws Huron visitors to its quaint log cabin inspired setting on Highway 21 in Grand Bend. Erryn Shephard, chef/owner, and talented baker, provides a cottage style classy dining with great service. Her restaurant has shone for more than a decade and is the go-to location for local pickerel, beef and fabulous butter tarts. In the off-season Shephard holds special themed events where she goes all out decorating the space – especially for Halloween and Christmas. She is a modest recipient of consistent high praise.
No trip to Huron can be complete without raising your glass to the finest sunsets in Ontario. Catch the magnificent colours of nature from the Goderich beach, Bayfield pier or, if you are lucky, from a friend’s beachfront cottage.