Thanks very much to the hounds on this thread for all their recommendations:
Headed to the County on Monday -- arrived in time for lunch at Lake on the Mountain resort. Got a seat on the patio. I'm not sure why the patio is placed so close to the road, when there is a gorgeous spot next to the lake itself another 20 feet over. A huge wasted opportunity. Regardless, the weather was beautiful and it was perfectly shady and breezy, so the patio was the place to be. DH and I split the BBQ pulled pork sandwich and the quiche Lorraine. They smoke their own pork in house, and while it wasn't the smokiest pulled pork I've ever had, it was moist and we got some bark in and amongst the meat. The bun was appropriately soft and squishy. Very tasty sandwich. The quiche had massive chunks of triple smoked bacon, the custard was light and creamy and the pastry was reasonably flaky and delicate. Again, a very tasty dish. We upgraded to the strawberry social salad as a side for both of our dishes -- greens, red onions and local strawberries in a poppyseed dressing. The strawberries were delicious, but the dressing was too sweet. The salad needed something salty (like some crumbled feta) to offset the sweetness. I had a glass of their house white, which was from a Pelee Island winery -- it was crisp and dry and perfect for the day. Despite the overly sweet salad, lunch was really nice and a perfect way to kick off the trip. $32 before tip for 2 entrees, 1 glass of wine and a half pint of beer.
Headed to Huff Estates Winery and Inn, where we were staying. Note to County trippers -- the inn at Huff Estates is great, especially if you are looking to avoid "country quaint" (we had a premiere suite overlooking one of their vineyards -- midweek pricing is very reasonable, and a hot breakfast is included, as is a winery tour and tasting). It's also conveniently located halfway between Picton and Wellington.
We stopped at Schoedter's Market right before we got to our hotel. Big thanks to k8supergrover for recommending this gem of a place. First of all, they've got the best cinnamon-sugar dusted cake donuts I've ever had. They make them fresh everyday and they were so good that we went back all 3 days we were there to grab a couple. They also have a small cafe with homemade soups (served with their homemade brown bread) and sandwiches. We had a light lunch there on Tuesday -- soup, bread, freshly made buttertart and a delicious strawberry shortcake (real shortcake! local strawberries!). On our way out, we picked up several dozen donuts to freeze and a loaf of their dark rye, which we sampled at home -- wonderful. They have lots of pickles, gluten-free baked goods and freezers full of local meats and other goodies.
Schroedter's Market (Cafe and Bakery) - corner of HWY 62 and Country Road 1
Dinner on Monday was at East and Main in Wellington. It was the only fine dining option that was open on Mondays, and thank goodness it was, because dinner was really fabulous. I started with a beautiful sparkling rose from Hinterland winery. We skipped apps and went right to mains -- a pork wellington and their local, grass-fed 12 oz. ribeye (not exciting, but fit the bill at that particular moment). The ribeye was cooked perfectly and served with a delicious carmelized shallot and wild mushroom reduction. Excellent fries, too. The pork wellington took about 40 minutes to prepare and it was well worth the wait. The pork was tender, juicy and soooo flavourful with some sort of herb paste rubbed on before they wrapped it in the pasty. The pastry was flaky and buttery. It was served with a green peppercorn demi-glace and some perfectly cooked veggies, including some delicious fresh peas. The red blend from Rosehill Run went nicely with the pork. We were too full for dessert (though I was sorely tempted by the honey panna cotta), but another glass of the Hinterland rose was my dessert. :) $95 before tip for 2 mains and 3 glasses of wine.
Tuesday breakfast was at the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Picton Harbour Inn -- a classic old-school family restaurant just past the bustling main street. DH's peameal, eggs and toast were cooked perfectly and the homefries were some of the tastier ones I've had, as they are sauteed with onions and mushrooms. I had wild blueberry pancakes, which were chock full of blueberries, but sadly the pancakes were gummy and they were served with "pancake syrup" rather than real maple syrup. I found out afterward that I could have asked for maple syrup for an upcharge. Our waitress kindly took my uneaten pancakes off the bill. My side order of farmer's sausage was tasty, especially since they offered to butterfly them when I asked for them well done. Crispy, fatty goodness. I'd go back, but would skip the pancakes. $15 before tip, after the removal of my pancakes.
We had limited options for Tuesday's dinner, as most restaurants are closed. We honestly would have gone back to East and Main to try more of the menu, but it was closed. We decided to go casual and went to the Barley Room Pub at the Waring House. DH had a very good club sandwich (real turkey) and a mediocre minestrone soup. I had their "special" shepherd's pie, which is the meat and veg wrapped in puff pastry, served with mashed potatoes and veggie of the day on the side. The shepherd's pie part was just ok -- the gravy (served separately) was thick and congealed, but the mashed potatoes were awful and the veggies were bland and dry. I got a slice of coconut cream pie to go, and that was probably the best part of the meal. Bottom line -- this place is a pass. It was half the cost of East and Main and waaay less than half the value. $52 before tip for 2 entrees, dessert, 1 cocktail and 1 glass of wine.
Wednesday breakfast was at the hotel -- a perfectly reasonable hotel breakfast in a nice setting. But "dessert" was more donuts from Schroedter's.
Wineries we intended to visit were:
- Closson Chase
- Norman Hardie
- Rosehill Run
- Keint He
Tastings at Closson Chase are pricey at $12 for 3 2-ounce pours (very generous 2 ounces, I might add). They let you take your glasses out to their lovely patio garden to sip if you wish.
Ended up stopping in at Hinterland to pick up a couple of bottles of that very nice sparkling rose, which it turns out is all they have available at the moment. Made with methode champenoise, it's a decent value relative to true champagnes and relative to other wines in the County.
Norman Hardie: closed on Tuesday. :(
Rosehill Run: closed on Tuesday :(
Keint He: no idea, as we were so disheartened that we gave up and went back to Huff Estates to do a tour and tasting there. Learned some interesting facts about the viniculture practices in the County vs. the Niagara region.
Stops at Fifth Town Cheese and Black River Cheese (had to get fresh curds!) rounded out our eating tour.
I should note that the service was uniformly friendly, and in a really genuine, relaxed way. I would be happy to get that kind of service in Toronto regularly.
All in all, it was a great trip with beautiful weather. It was a nice change for us from the Niagara region. It's always surprising how darn BIG the County is. Can't see it all in just a couple of days, which makes it nice to go back to and explore other areas in future trips.