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Port Stanley - Foodie Paradise

h
Higgette Oct 17, 2007 04:53 AM

Just came back from a three-day weekend there and having never been to this part of the province before I was pleasantly surprised by it's beauty and tremendous food on offer.

We stayed at the the Kettle Creek Inn which was enormously comfortable, affordable and offered magnificent fare. I had the mandatory meal of yellow perch, which is a specialty of the area (who knew we'd be eating great fish out of Lake Erie one day?) as well as the pickerel, some of which I brought home packed on ice. It proved to me that what I buy here in Toronto is definitely not fresh. There is no comparison to freshly caught lake fish and the local fisheries are doing a booming trade. The Kettle Creek also serves Cumbrae farms lamb and beef which we also enjoyed. My husband actually stopped chewing his lamb at one point to see 'if it would melt in his mouth'. For a starter I had the tomato bocconcini salad which was one of the first times in my long foodie life that I have ever had perfectly ripe tomatoes in this dish. The continental breakfasts included some home-baked oatmeal scones that were so good I was dreaming about them. If I had one criticism of the Inn's menu it would be that the dessert menu would be a bit more varied and not really so heavily on pastries brought in from elsewhere. Buying the inn package, which provided on nights' free accomodation if you dined with them was a very good deal.

There are many other quality restaurants in the town and we had an opportunity to try a few of them; M.E. and Suzies is an all-Ontario restaurant that features local farmers, seasonal fare and craft beers. I had a spectacular ale and cheddar soup there as well as a smoked trout salad for lunch. Mickey's Boathouse, which looked like a bar from the outside, but wasn't, had pretty good food too; my husband had a huge chicken wrap sandwich and I had a very good sweet potato and coconut milk soup but the shrimp satay was bland. The owner was slightly tipsy but very charming and it's a nice space, even if it does suffer from an identity crisis. We had another lunch at the Wharfside restaurant which affords stunning views of Kettle Creek but the food was only okay. I did like the buttermilk-dill dressing house dressing on my salad. We didn't get a chance to try the Pineapple, in the restored Victorian Telegraph House, which also operates as a B&B but we peeked in and the dining room was lovely and the aromas were tantalising. Also, the Roxy Diner looked like a fun place but I din't get inside. I imagine it offers a lot of burger and the 'perch platter' which is a local specialty served almost everywhere.

If you haven't explored the lake Erie shore I urge you to do so. It's really making me believe that ad they keep repeating on tv and radio about how 'Good things grow in Ontario'.

  1. DockPotato Oct 18, 2007 05:17 PM

    I've always found it odd that some of the finest fish in the world is harvested only one or two hours from Toronto, but so little of it finds its way there.

    Tonight I watched the crew of "Last Time" unload 1200 lbs. of succulent Whitefish on our pier. From here it will go to Southampton, probably to be tallied against quota, then down to Wheatley and eventually to the States. Why?

    Elsewhere on the Huron coast, as on Lakes: Erie; St. Clair; Ontario; Superior, and others, Walleye (Pickerel), Perch, Lake Herring and Lake Trout follow the same route. We are only 2 1/2 hours from Yonge & Bloor where the only choice seems to be well aged "salty" offerings presented with a flourish and a billet douxe on a brown, plastic Visa tray!

    Very, very sad as our local fish are so excellent and available.

    Good on you, Higgette. Fine report.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DockPotato
      h
      Higgette Oct 20, 2007 05:21 AM

      Thanks for the compliment! As it happened, 'Doors Open Ontario' was going on the weekend we were there and one of the fishing ministry's reps was available to speak to people at one of the fish processing plants on Kettle Creek. He too, mentioned that a great deal of Lake Erie's fish go to the U.S. Seems a shame. I asked him why so few restaurants in Toronto seemed to offer lake fish on their menu. He said that since fishing is an 'iffy' industry and restaurants require a steady and reliable supply it makes it tough for them to do so. I'm not really buying that. The fish certainly seemed plentiful down there. I think the U.S. market remains their priority.

      1. re: Higgette
        jayt90 Apr 12, 2008 03:16 PM

        Sounds like poor marketing, and a bias against the lake fish by many of us, including a lot of restaurants.

    2. c
      callitasicit Oct 18, 2007 03:31 PM

      Is Lake Erie far from Toronto? How long a drive is it approximitely?

      3 Replies
      1. re: callitasicit
        g
        grrlmet Oct 19, 2007 06:20 AM

        Port Stanley is about 230 km from Toronto - straight south of London - usually takes about 2 hours 15 min depending on traffic. It's a great getaway for a day or two - if you are going in the summer or on weekends its a good idea to book accommodation before you leave- rooms can be scarce!

        1. re: callitasicit
          c
          camp1980 Oct 19, 2007 06:28 AM

          If you are specifically looking for Lake Erie and not Port Stanely itself then you could get to it in about 1 1/2 hours by going to Fort Erie. There are some great restaurants there that serve Lake Erie Perch.

          1. re: callitasicit
            h
            Higgette Oct 20, 2007 05:22 AM

            It took us just over two hours driving at mid-day on a weekday. Weekends might take you longer. Since it's now off season you will probably find enough places to stay. There's another nice place we checked out for a possible return visit called Inn on the Harbour.

          2. w
            WelcomeBack Oct 18, 2007 01:12 PM

            What is the name of that hotel a few streets back from the beach that is renowned for their perch platters. I was there in the summer one Saturday and the place was a madhouse. The food was OK for the crowd of people I was with. They also had zucchini bread or something like that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: WelcomeBack
              h
              Higgette Oct 20, 2007 05:24 AM

              I know the one you mean but we only drove through the beach neighbourhood and I just caught a quick glimpse of it. We were told by locals that the beach scene in summer is where it's at. Certainly looked a heck of a lot better than Wasaga.

            2. d
              davey1 Oct 17, 2007 08:30 AM

              Hard to believe, but there is one more restaurant locals have recently grown to enjoy. A bistro called "The Windjammer". Local ingredients and wonderful preparation have made this our favorite restaurant south of London.

              5 Replies
              1. re: davey1
                h
                Higgette Oct 17, 2007 10:17 AM

                Missed that one. Is it on the beach? There were a few waterfront places that appealed but time was limited..

                1. re: Higgette
                  d
                  davey1 Oct 18, 2007 07:20 AM

                  The Windjammer is a B&B with bistro dining and is located on William St. which is the road that take you from the town centre area south to the main beach.
                  http://www.thewindjammerinn.com/

                  1. re: davey1
                    h
                    Higgette Oct 20, 2007 05:25 AM

                    How did I miss this place? We walked all over town and I have absolutely no memory of having seen it! Oh well, next time....

                2. re: davey1
                  b
                  bigos70 Oct 18, 2007 08:26 AM

                  I remember reading about the Windjammer - it is owned by Kim Saunders who was responsible for Verveine - a neighbourhood resto that I miss terribly! She clearly has a "knack".

                  1. re: bigos70
                    m
                    millygirl Apr 13, 2008 07:28 AM

                    Speaking of Kim....I hope she's lightened up a bit since leaving the hustle and bustle of Toronto. Having said that, I miss the early days of Verveine as well. It was a great place to have in the 'hood and nothing really has replaced it for us.

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