There are great things to eat in the province of Ontario – and in Waterloo Region. To highlight that fact, the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA), a body formed in 2006 with the purpose of advocating for Ontario’s foodways, has created The Great Taste of Ontario.
According to the website, CTA has collected many of the tastes of Ontario and placed them into regions six regions: The South, The North, Cottage Country, The GTA, Niagara(ish) and The East End. Each of those regions has great producers and food and beverage venues, including the three cities and four townships that make up Waterloo Region. Agatha Podgorski of CTA says the initiative is a reaction to the havoc wrought by the pandemic – but it also encourages Ontario food lovers to explore great taste.
“The Great Taste of Ontario was designed to help people rediscover their region at a time when shopping, supporting and experiencing local is more important than ever,” she says.
Graffiti Market is one of the food establishments featured in the Waterloo Region Passport for The Great Taste of Ontario
Food lovers are encouraged to visit the six regions (where travel is permitted in the current pandemic climate), read the stories of the businesses and support them by eating and drinking what they create – and generally to try to visit all the delicious places in Ontario. The way you do that is through the Great Taste of Ontario “passport.” It’s easy to use: just download the app to your smartphone and head out to 15 designated venues in our region.
The Great Taste of Ontario passports – there are nearly 100 participating food operations throughout the province – help guide your planning and inspire you try different food venues. “Check In” at these locations when you visit and enjoy their food and drink: not only are you supporting businesses dedicated to using Ontario ingredients, but you will be a step closer to redeeming Ontario-made gifts when your passport is full (you can also donate to food-based charities if you wish.)
I checked in at Four Fathers Brewering in Cambridge (Hespeler) – one of the 15 food venues featured in the Waterloo Region passport. I enjoyed a pint and a Cubano sandwich in the beautiful industrial design of the taproom which captures Hespeler’s rich manufacturing history: the heritage building was a millworks and the Simplicity Washing Machine factory.
Photo: Andrew Coppolino
In Waterloo, Nick Benninger says it’s a point of pride for Taco Farm to be participating in the program with CTA.
“They always strive to support those of us that support local. The Great Taste of Ontario is another good example,” says Benninger. “It’s a fun way to explore food pathways and trails throughout the province.”
Beef Tacos at Taco Farm (Photo: Andrew Coppolino)
Like Benninger, Red House Uptown chef-owner Dan McCowan also draws on local producers to fill his menu, from Eby Manor Golden Guernsey milk and cream to the fresh pastas they use made by Vincenzo’s.
“We also use Beverly Creek lamb, and I buy free-range chickens and maple syrup from a family farm in Maryhill,” McCowan says.
The CTA has found a “silver lining” to the pandemic, according to Podgorski.
“It’s the renewed interest and commitment that people – their families, organizations and businesses – have to Ontario food and drink. More than ever, people are choosing to shop locally and support the growers, artisans and makers in their communities that make them unique.”
Here’s a list of all 15 Waterloo Region Great Taste of Ontario participants:
Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England.
Wooden Boat Food Co. is one of 15 local food vendors participating in The Great Taste of Ontario (Photo: Andrew Coppolino)
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