nothing beats fresh ontario produce, beer & butter tarts
What did you get up to this past long weekend? I got up to foraging for food at my friends’ hobby farm in Grafton, ON and stopping by some new, new to me, and old favourite eat and drink, 100 mile diet qualifying noshes.
My friends first introduced me to the wonderfully unique and fabulous taste of wild morel mushrooms a couple of years ago, and this year I visited at the perfect time of the season to go foraging.
These delectable treats can prove tricky to spot in the grass and undergrowth, often preferring to grow in older forested areas and in established or forgotten orchards. The key to true morels is that they are hollow inside the stem and head. False morels which are inedible, are solid inside and the cap is often wrinkled or brainy looking rather than honeycombed or net-like.
Once cleaned of soil and any critters, dried and fried to slightly crisp in a bit of butter so as not to over-power their flavour, they make a lovely accompaniment to breakfast.
Ontario asparagus is in season too, and again I was treated to these fresh spring veggies from my friends’ garden. The original plants, having been planted decades ago by my friend’s grandparents, still peek up through the field grasses every spring.
When one is foraging, one can also happen upon pretty little things like this unique flower.
One can also happen upon a new brewery, like Cobourg’s first brewery in 100 years – The William St. Beer Company. An indie micro brewery that just opened a few weeks ago, William St. currently offers three types of beer made with Canadian, all natural ingredients. So thirsty are the locals and visitors to Cobourg alike, the brews have sold out each week, but the tasting bar and store has reopened today, May 22, with the fridges once again stocked.
In addition to a couple of bottles of beer, other local delectables I brought home include my favourite butter tarts, the kind of which the syrupy goodness of the filling has to be lapped up as you bite through the tender crust. Betty’s Pies & Tarts is a home run business on Hwy 2 west of Cobourg, operating out of a professional bakery in the home’s converted two-car garage. Voted the Kawartha’s best butter tarts at the 2013 Flavour Festival, the butter tarts are available plain (my favourite) or with raisins or pecans and at $1.25 each, they are a thrifty country treat. Betty’s also offers a wide selection of fruit filled tarts and pies, all made fresh daily.
My friends also grew some amazingly delicious organic heirloom tomatoes last year, and my long weekend visit just so happened to coincide with one of the two weekends that the spot where they buy their started plants from is selling seedlings for the season. Wicklow Way (located just south of Grafton) is a certified organic farm that offers for sale, amongst other things, dozens and dozens and dozens of varieties of heirloom tomato plants. Tempted by the selection and the memories of the fruit from last year’s harvest at my friends’ farm, I picked up a Pink Tiger plant to try growing on my downtown Toronto balcony.
Wicklow Way is open again this weekend, May 24 and 25, if you’re looking to pick up some plants for your own garden.