Experience the joy of discovering delicious food right in your own backyard.
Written by Tim Johnson
Amandalas: Fine dining with the freshest ingredients
375 Water St., Peterborough
“We’re surrounded by farms, and really fresh farms,” says Amanda Menard. “They’re literally on our doorstep.” So, says the owner of Amandala’s, her menu is often composed according to three factors—what’s local, what’s fresh, and what’s available right now.
Her restaurant serves high-quality, fine dining cuisine in a relaxed environment in a small, tucked-away restaurant in the heart of downtown. Think: linen tablecloths, exposed brick, artwork painted by a dear friend, and warm conversation emanating from just a handful of tables.
I walk out feeling like I’ve taken a culinary tour of the county, right here in the heart of the city.
Black Honey: Barn, bakery, café and secret garden, right downtown
217 Hunter St. West, Peterborough
There’s a lot of life sprouting in the heart of the Hunter Street Café District. Right in the middle of downtown Peterborough, you’ll find everything from cherry tomatoes to beets, cilantro, and apples, enough to make dozens of jars of jelly, coming up from the ground behind Black Honey, between their café and a bakery that was once a barn. “It’s all things that we can pick, and keep growing,” says owner Lisa Dixon.
The café is a cozy spot and has been a fixture on Hunter Street for 15 years. Outside, behind it, the patio, and the plants. And just across a small parking lot, the bakery itself, which runs 24 hours a day, creating everything from breads using local microbrews, to their bestselling chocolate paradise cake. “This used to be a barn. There was an owl inside, I used to watch him every day from the kitchen of the café,” explains Dixon. “When the barn fell over about ten years ago, I bought it, and rebuilt it as the bakery.”
“It’s simple,” she says. “Everything I do, I do with love.”
Burleigh Falls Inn: Cascades and local cuisine, on the land between
4791 ON-28, Lakefield
The beauty of Burleigh Falls is the kind that sneaks up on you. A tiny village nestled in the Canadian shield.
Burleigh Falls Inn set on an eleven-acre island. Technically, this area is known as the “land between,” rockier and hardier than the farms just to the south, but not as rugged as the heart of the Shield, just to the north.
And, not surprisingly, co-owner Jennifer Craig and Chef Tammy Laroche aim to make the dishes they serve here as lovely (and local) as their surroundings. For example, a signature dish, still in the planning stages—and thus, for the moment, without a name—with pulled bacon on a flatbread, with mixed greens and a poached egg. “It’s wild and crazy, that smoked, pulled bacon, on a raft of flatbread, and the surprise of the egg,” says Laroche. “Like going over the falls in a barrel.”
Rare: Hyper-local, and more than just steaks
166 Brock St., Peterborough
Once, this downtown favourite made its name on excellent steaks. But after Tyler and Kassy Scott took over about two years ago, they decided to broaden things. Renovating the space, they took “grill house” off the sign, and poured their creativity into a menu that changes every single week and redefines the meaning of a high-end night out. “Fine dining doesn’t mean a suit and tie and a $500 bill at the end,” says Tyler. “For us, it’s about hand-selected wine and delicious dishes that put local ingredients on a pedestal. We want to blow your mind with a carrot.”
Rare makes everything in house, including their own ketchup, and tomato and barbecue sauces, dill pickles, pickled asparagus, even pickled spruce tips. Plus, the restaurant has a robust pasteurization program, taking local produce—including berries from McLean’s, in Lakefield—and preserving 400 to 500 jars every year. “Even in the cold of winter, you bite into that, close your eyes, and feel like you’re on the farm,” says Tyler.
Pastry Peddler: Sweet and savoury freshness, on two wheels
17 King St., Millbrook
Sitting next to the four corners in charming village of Millbrook, it’s an easy drive to find this café, housed in a graceful historic building right in the heart of town. But it’s even better if you bike. “Our place combines Colin’s two passions in life,” says co-owner Deanna Bell, about the other co-owner, Colin Hall. “He envisioned a place where cyclists could just stop in,” she adds, noting that Hall will bike 12km, just for fun, on a leisurely afternoon. (Officially, his title is executive chef and peddler.) That vision has been realized—the café has hosted bike races, and sits directly on the Hills, Views and Pastries cycling route.
But it’s not all about the bikes. Here, the food is fresh, and as local as possible, with many of their producers within easy cycling distance (for Hall, at least). The strawberries for some of their pies come from The Berry Patch, just around the corner in Ida. Bell shops for produce at the farmer’s market in Peterborough. The java comes from local roaster Kyoto Coffee (in Lakefield), with rhubarb often brought in by friends who live nearby.
Rolling Grape: Big hills and robust flavours, on the family farm
260 County Rd 2, Bailieboro
“We always talk about farm to table,” says Jon Drew. “But there’s not many farms where you can actually sit at the table.” But that’s the routine at Rolling Grape Vineyard, although Drew, a second-generation farmer, isn’t serving up your typical crop. “I wanted more—I wasn’t very excited to grow corn,” he remembers.
So, on these picturesque, rolling hills, he began planting grapes. Drew started with a series of test crops about a decade ago but, with no other vineyards in the area, he wasn’t sure what would work. “When I was planting, people would pull up in their cars and tell me, ‘You know that grapes don’t grow here, right?,’” he says. “I was like, ‘I’m going to show you that they do.’”
Take a walk, then settle in to enjoy a glass, or a bottle, at the sleek, blue tasting room settled into a glacier-carved, green valley, with a sprawling patio off the side and back.
Publican House: Legendary beer and super-local cuisine
294 Charlotte St., Peterborough
Mention Publican House to most locals, and they’ll think of one thing—beer. Long a legendary pub location, the place now makes some of the best craft brews in the city, right on site. But if you come for the beer, you’ll definitely stay for the food.
“I’m friends with a lot of the local farmers,” says Chef Brad Watt, noting that he spent years building relationships with producers across Peterborough County. “The quality of these ingredients, nothing is fresher than where you are, you see it as it grows, and you know the people growing it.” Once the chef and owner at Rare, another restaurant where farm-to-table is a top priority, Watt says he’d had his eye on this historic building at the corner of Rubidge and Charlotte in downtown for decades.
And Watt gets his hands dirty, too, foraging for days every year with a few friends for wild leeks, bringing bags out of the backcountry. It all adds up to a fresh, diverse menu that ranks amongst the very best in the area. “I’ve been here 20 years, and it’s astonishing to see the culinary growth in this city,” says Watt.
Old Bridge Inn: Ingredients from around the corner, at the end of the road
2057 Old Highway 28, Young’s Point
Once upon a time, the tiny village of Young’s Point was home to a steamboat dynasty. Francis Young founded the small settlement in 1825, and his descendants created the Stoney Lake Navigation Company in the 1880s. Starting with the 75-foot Fairy, and followed by other graceful vessels like the Empress and the Islinda, these wooden ships ferried well-dressed (and well-heeled) vacationers across the Kawarthas, in style. A grist mill was built, and, in 1887, the Kearny general store, which once sat right at the end of the road.
Now, that general store is the Old Bridge Inn (OBI), a restaurant and bed-and-breakfast, anchoring one end of an 1870s wrought-iron bridge. Boaters still wander over from Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, finding truly excellent food on a patio overlooking the village, now sleepy and scenic. And you can be assured that the food on your plate will be as local as possible, too. “We’re lucky, we have a lot, right here, around us,” says Chef Evan Podd, gesturing to places nearby. “The biggest thing—we know that the products are fresh. And it’s more than that—it’s about supporting your neighbour.”
The steamships may be gone, but the beauty of the lakes and rivers remain. “Nature is all around us—we’re always seeing herons and osprey, flying by.” Dinner, with a view.