by Andrew Coppolino | November 2023
Feast On® is a certification program of the Ontario Culinary Alliance recognizing food operations committed to sourcing quality food and beverage grown and produced in Ontario.
There are currently more than 120 Feast On® certified restaurants in the province – 15 of which are located in Waterloo Region. And at this time of year, their menus feature “comfort foods” that are perfect as the weather turns colder and the days get shorter.
Here is a random selection of Feast On® comfort foods in Waterloo Region. Make sure you visit the Feast On® website and Explore Waterloo Region to find more local selections.
Soup at the Cambridge Mill
Evolving rapidly from its long manufacturing history with a revitalizing Galt downtown (check out the Gaslight District), Cambridge is home to the Cambridge Mill, an 1800s icon where you can snuggle in and gaze at the majesty of the Grand River, a Canadian Heritage River.
Formerly the Dickson mill, the stone building is warm and comforting in its appointments and the love it has been given – and the cheer that arrives from the kitchen is its heart and sole – dedicated to drawing on local producers.
Colder weather demands warming soups. The Cambridge Mill’s Truffle Mushroom Soup takes comfort food up a notch by incorporating earthy, heady truffle and mushrooms with whipped crème fraiche and a Parm crisp for further satisfying coziness!
Pizza at Graffiti Market
Using local in season ingredients, Graffiti Market is famous for deeper dish, crispy-edged pizza – a comfort food embraced by just about everyone. Drawing on Waterloo Region farmers and growers, the GM kitchen puts a new spin on traditional pizza: the sauce on top blankets a smorgasbord of satisfying ingredients from pulled pork to smoked bacon and crumbled tater tots.
Perhaps the best part? The deep edge of the crust gets wonderfully lacy and cheesy-crispy. Check out their on-site Stockyards Brewing too.
Burgers at Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery
Located on a family farm that has maintained its post-and-beam character despite the stainless-steel distilling equipment, Willibald is a farm distillery, brewery & restaurant located in Ayr, North Dumfries. It’s a rural township renowned for its agriculture, and provides a background for Willibald to focus on crafting progressive beverages that excite, respect tradition and foster community.
The burger at Willibald’s is a classic with a key distillery tweak: the Ayrsyde Farms grass-fed beef patty from Scottish Galloway cattle is topped with barrel gin-aged bacon jam, “Willi-sauce,” pickle, iceberg lettuce, heirloom tomato and Cheddar cheese with fries.
Insider Note: Watch for Willibald’s Winter Markets in late November and early December. Sip a hot coffee or a spiked apple cider from the pasture bar, and get an early jump on your holiday shopping too!
Fried chicken at The Lancaster Smokehouse
The Lancaster Smokehouse opened its doors in late 2011 with a simple and comforting vision to keep things local, fresh and homemade. The restaurant, though, is inspired by a Cajun kitchen and the southern-comfort cookery of the southern U.S..
Along with their Nashville hot chicken, the Smokehouse tones it down with a sure-fire favourite for kids of all ages: fried chicken tenders. Complement the crispy chicken morsels with corn bread, pickles and sides such as baked beans, mac and cheese and tater tots – plus a buttermilk-ranch dipping sauce.
Veggie bowl at Borealis Grille & Bar
Their tagline is “Obsessively Local” and that is certainly true. As part of the Neighbourhood Group of restaurants, Borealis Grille & Bar is an industry pioneer and leader in environmentally sustainable food operations and the responsibility and delectability of local food.
Their Three Sisters veggie bowl hits the trifecta in a couple of ways – it’s vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. But, more importantly, the dish is an important icon of Indigenous agrarian ingenuity and deliciousness that combines the “three sister” plants: roasted butternut squash, charred corn and spiced black beans are joined by hemp-seed pesto, toasted walnut crumble, a wild rice pilaf and a honey-cider gastrique.
It’s a truly comforting bowl that also represents just one good opportunity to explore and appreciate the rich diversity of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
Dessert at S&V Uptown
Focussed on exquisitely presented dishes for both their à la carte dinner menu and their five-course tasting menu, S&V cooks with a Feast On® attention paid to sustainability – using all aspects of ingredients and striving for minimal food waste – and foregrounding the variety of Ontario terroirs.
S&V’s tiramisu for dessert, a specialty of northeastern Italy, is a simple, almost rustic, layered dessert of coffee-dipped lady fingers, eggs, sugar and luxe-creamy Mascarpone whipped together into a fluffy, pillowy texture that satisfies and comforts with a good, rich demitasse of expresso. As its name suggests: it’s always a terrific “pick me up.”
Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino.