The sixth edition of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival (#TGCCF16 for those sharing on social media) is almost upon us. Now the biggest artisan cheese show in North America, TGCCF will offer over 500 cheese, artisan food, craft beer and unique wine samples to taste and buy on June 4-5.
Centrally located between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and just south of Belleville in the Bay of Quinte region, Prince Edward County and the surrounding area are arguably the best of the best when it comes to culinary hot spots. But there’s no need to wait for June to experience the culinary masterminds of the area: If you’re itching to taste some mouth-watering cheese and sip on some locally produced wines and ales, take a peek at these Cheddar & Ale Trail stops to check out at TGCCF, or to take a detour to while you’re in the area.
Lighthall Vineyards & Dairy – 308 Lighthall Road, Milford
Open daily during the summer, Lighthall Vineyards and Dairy offers a unique cheesemaking experience with a delicious menu. The wine tasting bar is located right inside the production area, so visitors get the complete behind the scenes experience of a winery environment. Located 30 minutes from Belleville in Milford, Lighthall is a short drive away for high-quality wines and cheese that is worth exploring.
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. – 4309 County Road 8, Picton
Winners of four gold medals at the 2015 Royal Winter Fair, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. offers a selection of cheese from Ontario and abroad. While visiting, you can eat your cheese and learn about it too! The cheese experts behind the counter explain the history, production and inspiration behind their delicious items while you savour your choice of cheese. Located 20 minutes east of Picton, you are able to enjoy the scenic drive and work up an appetite before devouring dozens of unique cheeses.
Ontario Water Buffalo Company – 3346 Stirling Marmora Road, Stirling-Rawdon
Everybody’s got a water buffalo… Well, maybe not, but Martin Littkemann and Lori Smith from Ontario Water Buffalo Company in Stirling do! They have over 350 actually, and they use the milk from their water buffalo herd to make Mozzarella di Bufala, ricotta, smoked scarmoza, cheddar, smoked cheddar and Gouda. Tours of the farm are available from May to October by appointment or you can drop by the Buff Stuff Store Wednesday to Friday 11a.m. to 5p.m. and on weekends 11a.m. to 4p.m. to purchase some of their delicious cheese to take home with you.
Wilton Cheese Factory – 287 Simmons Road, Wilton
Located 30 minutes from Belleville, Wilton Cheese Factory is as old as Canada itself, having opened in 1867. They boast old fashioned, full-bodied natural flavours from a family tradition of the “Old World Curing Process” from 1925. As a family business, Wilton’s staff takes pride in providing quality products and friendly services for all of their customers, so take a drive and be treated like family while experiencing old fashioned cheese.
Empire Cider – 222 Old Wooler Road, Codrington
After gorging on cheese all day, you will definitely need something to rinse it down with. What better way to do so than with some traditional cider made from local products? Empire Cider uses all real Ontario apples and local honey for each bottle, leaving the product unfiltered to maintain the true taste of the region. Check their website to see where they are featured locally, including Tomasso’s in Trenton. After all, as they say, life’s better with cider.
Although TGCCF is an outstanding showcase of all culinary genius in the area and is a must-see event, you foodies out there don’t have to limit your taste bud travels to that weekend alone. All around the Bay of Quinte area you can find people dedicated to creating delicious food and drink for your enjoyment. The culinary hubs mentioned above are only a few of the delicious places to check out in the area, and more can be found on the Cheddar & Ale Trail.