Join me for a no-shame, no-judgement, cheese-aholic's tour of Norfolk County, Ontario.
There’s an old saying that you should never trust anyone who doesn't love chocolate – and I think that should be extended to cheese as well! Fortunately, I had absolutely nothing to worry about in Norfolk County, Ontario. This is a part of Canada that gets food; they really, really get it. It’s so inspiring to see how the farmers, fishers, restaurateurs, and small businesses work together in mutual support. They aren't just paying lip service to the trend of local food – they live it every day. And at the heart of this is cheese. A lot of it. Norfolkers appreciate good eating and it's the perfect place for a no-shame, no-judgement cheese-aholic tour!
(Note: These are just the cheese based shops that I have personally visited - there are others in the area that I haven't had a chance to visit yet but they're on my list!)
Second Mouse Cheesetique
Second Mouse owner Teresa Wybo is far too diplomatic to say which of the dozens of regional and international cheeses on offer at her charming "Cheesetique" is her favourite - but I'm far less tactful!
I fell in love with Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese from nearby Woodstock, Ontario. At first I was captivated by their "Tipsy" cheese, a Swiss inspired cow's milk cheese that is soaked in Cabernet Merlot from one of their neighbours, Palentine Hills Winery. I felt quite certain that "Tipsy" was MY cheese - until I got a taste of Gunn's Hill's "5 Brothers".
This cedar planked aged cow's milk cheese (with hints of Gouda and Appenzeller) should come with a warning and is most definitely NOT to be served in polite company as it is impossible to eat just a few dainty nibbles. Norfolk County is the perfect place for a picnic and you should add Second Mouse to your list when planning a personal feast.
David's On Tour at Burning Kiln Winery
David's Restaurant of Port Dover is a popular fine dining destination year round in Norfolk County, but I think their finest cheese offerings are from their summer food truck, called David's On Tour, which spends the season parked at Burning Kiln Winery. Under the helm of Chef Ryan, the team makes incredible, irresistible, cornmeal coated wedges of melted cheddar cheese, which they pair with an onion marmalade and toasty baguette slices. And they don't use just any ol' cheddar! They use only Jensen cheese, from a Norfolk family-run business that's been perfecting their craft since 1925.
My idea of a perfect summer afternoon is relaxing on the Burning Kiln patio, sipping wine, devouring bread and cheese, and listening to some local music. But if you're looking to part take in even more cheese laden culinary treats, you're in luck. David's On Tour does scrumptious bruschetta with goat cheese, mammoth classic cheeseburgers, and open faced flatbread chicken and goat cheese sandwiches. If you can't visit in summer, the year-round lounge at David's restaurant offers a Jensen cheese plate.
Norfolk County is famous for its produce and it's fitting that some of the fruits of its labours are combined with cheese. At Schofield's Bistro in Port Dover, their spectacular cheese platter comes laden with greens, grapes, apples, and berries, along with creamy roasted garlic, relishes, and chutneys. And then there's the cheese! My favorite was a Quebec Oka - it was equally scrumptious with the roasted garlic and baguette as it was with the apples and strawberries.
The Little Cheesecake Company
You didn't think cheese was just for savory treats, did you? I first became acquainted with the Little Cheesecake Company when their key lime cheesecake was on the dessert menu at Schofield's Bistro and I was hooked. These most-generous individual cheesecakes aren't just creamy and delicious - they come in virtually every flavor imaginable, including hot chocolate with marshmallow, nanaimo bar, brandied cherry, peanut butter and jelly and so many more. When our summer camping trip at nearby Long Point Provincial Park suffered a day of wash-out rain, I hopped in the car to make the trek into Simcoe and grabbed half a dozen cheesecakes. They absolutely saved an otherwise sodden day!
The Combine is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. Everything I've ever had there has been so exquisitely good that it haunts my dreams until I manage a return visit. And in the face of so many incredible appetizers and main courses, it might be easy to overlook their dessert offerings. They too offer a fantastic cheese platter, but what you really need to try is their personal sized homemade apple pie topped with Cow's Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. For my money, Cow's makes the best cheese in Canada - proof that you should always trust an ice cream pioneer! The Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (so named to give a nod to Prince Edward Island's most famous town, the fictional Avonlea of Anne of Green Gables fame) is fantastic to nibble on with bread and spreads but once it's melted on homemade apple pie the magic really starts to happen!
While none of these cheese-tastique destinations are easy on your waist line, at least they are gentle on your wallet! Culinary indulgences in Norfolk County are a fraction of the cost for similar treats in nearby Toronto - and if you ask me, there's little comparison on both the price and the quality. Like I said, Norfolk really, really gets good food!
If you're looking to eat your way through Norfolk County (a plan I heartily approve of) these articles will help you plan your trip.
Tales from the Anti-Adventurist: Vanessa Goes Kayaking Norfolk Style
Restaurant Review; The Combine of Norfolk County
Glamping at Long Point Eco Adventure
The Golden Spruce of Norfolk County
A Day in Port Dover
My visit to Norfolk County was sponsored & facilitated by the Norfolk County Tourism Board. This did not influence my writing and all opinions remain my own.
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