The eternal dilemma: where to go out for food and drinks. Do you take a risk and pick the new restaurant that just opened around the corner? Or do you go for the tried and true bistro? Maybe a little expert advice would help. Few have as discerning a palate as those who work in an area’s culinary industry, namely its chefs. That’s why I went to two of the best from the Bay of Quinte — Jesse deWal of Gourmet Diem and Jeff Camacho of Burger Revolution. Keep reading for a few of their favourite spots to grab a bite or a drink right now, as well as Jesse’s go-to for finding the best ingredients when cooking for others.
Jesse deWal: Gourmet Diem
Like his café, cookware and specialty food store Gourmet Diem (249 Front Street, Belleville), Jesse deWal likes to mix things up at his preferred restaurants and bars. He does have a few he likes to return to, but that’s where the consistency ends. “I’m never a go-to guy for a meal at my favourite spots,” he says. “I always want to try something different because I know it’ll all be good.”
So what are a couple of those favourite spots right now, Jesse?
My favourite restaurant in the area is Blumen Garden Bistro [647 Highway 49, Picton]. Every time it’s a good meal, it’s something different and it’s just delicious food. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s a small restaurant, not huge, but it’s intimate and the service is always great. If I go to Blumen, I always know I’m going to have a good meal. My favourite thing I ever had there was a seafood chowder; it was just amazing. Other than that, my main restaurant that I’m at most of the time is Capers [272 Front Street, Belleville] because it’s conveniently located and they have a great selection of craft brews in Belleville.
How about a few favourite bars or places to get a drink?
In Prince Edward County, I like Hinterland Wine Company and County Road Beer Company [1258 Closson Road, Hillier]. They make great products there and the atmosphere is cool, too. There’s always something going on. The staff are really knowledgeable, they really know their product. It’s a really quality product, both the sparkling wine and the beer. Currently, the Saison is my favourite. I also really love Empire Cider [222 Old Wooler Road, Codrington]. I spent a few weeks in Devon, England, where cider originated, and that’s the most authentic cider I’ve had from North America. It’s good stuff.
If you’re staying in and cooking for others, where do you like to source your ingredients from?
You can find me at the Belleville Farmers’ Market trying to see what’s out there and local and getting inspired. Especially in the fall. There’s just so much produce that’s ready locally that you really don’t need to buy anything from a grocery store. Vaders is probably my go-to at the market. They grow all of their own stuff, they only sell what they grow. And certain times of year you can find their chicken. Everything they do is great, always good stuff.
Jeff Camacho: Burger Revolution
When Jeff and Rayling Camacho brought Burger Revolution (300 North Front Street, Belleville) to the masses in 2012, their manifesto was clear: bland, boring burgers wouldn’t be served there. Instead, creative, flavourful beauties made with local and sustainable vegetable-fed Enright beef and the freshest locally-grown produce and cheese available. Not surprisingly, then, Jeff’s favourite places to eat and drink in the area follow a similar local credo.
What are your favourite restaurants in the Bay of Quinte area right now, Jeff?
Blumen Garden Bistro [647 Highway 49, Picton] is one of our favourites if we go out. It’s hard to explain what it is, but the food is just amazing. The simplicity of everything and how he puts things together. He uses local but does a global twist. It’s just really good to see. East & Main [270 Main Street, Wellington] is good, too. The Miller House [264 County Road 7, Prince Edward County] by Lake on the Mountain as well, like that charcuterie thing and just the view are incredible. Trenton-wise, The Port Bistro Pub [21 Front Street, Trenton] is always good and Tomasso’s [35 Front Street, Trenton] if you want pasta.
The area has some great, and maybe underrated, Indian and Vietnamese restaurants. Do you have any go-tos in those categories?
I want to name a lot. Royal Haveli [366 North Front Street, Belleville] would be one for Indian cuisine. If you want to have Himalayan curry, you’ve got to go to The Oriental Wok & Himalayan Cuisine [59 Dundas Street East, Belleville]. It’s a different curry, Indian-style, but it’s spicy and they load it up with potatoes and peas and chicken or beef or lamb — it’s amazing. And if you want Vietnamese food, you have to go to Pho Viet [30 Dundas Street East, Belleville]
How about a few favourites to grab a drink?
Other than my garage, The Red Lion [211 Coleman Street, Belleville] is good for beer. That’s a cook’s favourite, everyone gravitates there. The County Canteen [279 Main Street West, Picton] is good, too, it’s fairly new, but the beer is great. Even County Road Beer Company [1258 Closson Road, Hillier] — the beer is amazing, and there’s something about the atmosphere; you’re sitting right on their vineyard and it’s just cool.