While many may lay claim to being the most diverse city in Canada, we would wager that Ontario is the most diverse province. Being that we call Ontario home, we may be just a little biased, but seriously guys – Ontario is an incredible province!
Home to our nation’s capital Ottawa, our “other” capital Toronto, the majestic Niagara Falls, acres of vineyards, and the world-famous Muskokas, much of Ontario’s cultural mosaic can be attributed to its sheer size. You can drive for 13 hours and never leave the province!
All of this has attracted a lot of people to the province from all over the world and thus created the global province we live in today, and while this diversity is what makes Ontario so great it has also made it difficult to define what “Ontario cuisine” is. So we’re not going to…who needs definitions anyways? It’s 2017 and we don’t need labels #amirite?
Instead, we’re going to celebrate the many people who make up this great place and give you the scoop on the must-eats in Ontario. But first let’s talk about how this great province came to be.
The Original Quebec
Did you know that originally Quebec and Ontario were one and the same? Until recently, neither did we! Apparently we did not pay enough attention during elementary school social studies. The land we now live on was originally settled by Algonquian and Iroquoian-speaking indigenous peoples. After the seven-years war in the mid-18th century, most of the land was owned by the British who called it Quebec. The total area encompassed Quebec, what is now Ontario, and parts of the United States. The area was then split into Upper and Lower Canada. Since Quebec was downstream of the St. Lawrence river it was considered Lower Canada and Ontario was Upper Canada.
So when did it become Ontario?
Good question! If you find the answer please let us know. We do know, however, that the name “Ontario” comes from an Iroquois word meaning beautiful water, beautiful lake or big body of water. This is fitting, because Ontario has more than 250 000 lakes, which makes up one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. Not bad eh?
This is all fascinating but let’s get to the food already!
Say no more! Read on to find out what, where and when to eat in our home province.
Ok we know, Quebec’s got maple syrup on lock, but if you find yourself in Ontario you can still get your fix. Lanark County is considered the maple syrup capital of Ontario, with plenty of sugar bushes to send you into a sugar-induced coma.
Surprised? Toronto has not one, but two Italian neighborhoods for you to carb-load in… take that, NYC!
No, not an actual beaver tail! This deep-fried dough covered in cinnamon (and other optional toppings) is like a national treasure. Head to the capital during winter and get your hands on one after a skate down the Rideau Canal. We even heard from a reputable source that University of Ottawa students can sometimes get one for free… Come for the beaver tails, stay for the degree?
After all, you’re going to need something to go with all that wine! (More on our growing wine-region in a second) Ontario is home to a huge variety of artisanal cheeses, with specialties in Guernsey milk cheeses, Dutch gouda, and beautifully aged Canadian cheddar.
Speaking of wine, you haven’t truly tasted the full range of Niagara wines until you’ve tried Icewine (they even have a whole festival every winter for it!). Sipped for dessert or poured over ice cream, we’re not sure what will get you buzzing more: the alcohol or the sweet taste! The Niagara wine region has been steadily growing over the last couple decades and is now gaining international attention. Coming from two people who have been to *almost* every winery in the region, we implore you to come on down and find out what all the hype is about.
If wine is not your thing, fear not! Ontario is home to hundreds of incredible microbreweries and small-batch distilleries. Nothing quite says fall in Ontario than a craft cider made from local apples!
Get a taste of Ontario
In such a large province there are hundreds if not thousands of food-related festivals every year so it’s extremely difficult to narrow it down to just a few. We’ve compiled a small list here, but you’ll have to do further research yourself if none of these catch your eye (although we know they will).
Eat and Drink Norfolk
Every April Norfolk County rallies it’s best wineries, breweries, restaurants and food producers, sticks them all in a giant tent and holds a big party where you can eat and drink your way through up to 50 vendors while you jam to some live music. Full disclosure: we have never been to this festival but April 2018 you’ll know where to find us. Get more info here.
LaSalle Strawberry Festival
You have not lived until you’ve had a fresh Ontario strawberry- trust us. No offense to other strawberry-growing regions (Cali we’re looking at you) but your strawbs just don’t measure up. Strawberry season in Ontario is sadly very short, so the people of LaSalle capitalize on the delicious fruit in the only way they know how- have a carnival, a parade and fireworks and of course stuff their faces with strawberries! Learn more here.
Every August Etobicoke serves up the best jerk food you’ll find anywhere- jerk chicken, pork seafood, veggies…trust us there’s something for everyone there. There’s plenty of live entertainment throughout the 3-day event, and if you and a group of friends are good at dominos, you could win $500… the festival is only days away so better start practicing. More info here.
Tecumseh Corn Festival
Ok so remember when we told you that you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Ontario strawberries? The same can be said for corn too. Honestly August is a great time for Ontario fruits and veggies as it is, with corn possibly being the king of the crops. People around here wait all year to bite into a fresh and juicy ear of corn, and for the full experience we highly recommend heading to Tecumseh. Just bring a set of toothpicks with you. More info here.
Winona Peach Festival
The popularity of this festival kind of blows us away to be honest. We have grown up just around the corner from the Winona Peach Festival and used to go every summer. Neither of us had any idea how big a deal this shindig was until recently. Now, if we tell people we’re from Winona the first thing they mention is this festival! You can go for the rides, vendors and crafts but it’s the peach sundaes that will keep you coming back again an again. Honestly, we have no idea what they put in those things that make the so darn good but wherever you live, find a way to get to Winona at the end of August because the peach sundae alone is worth the drive. More information here.
A massive food truck festival in Mississauga. Need we say more? Click here for the deets.
Niagara Grape and Wine Festival
This is another one that’s close to home for us. As previously mentioned, the Niagara wine region has been growing steadily over the past several years and is now able to stand up to any other wine region. Every september the festival gives wineries a chance to show off their best, and it is not to be missed. Read more here.
We could go on (and on and on and on) but we’ll be here all day. You can pretty much find some kind of food-related festival on any given weekend at any time of year throughout Ontario if you’re not afraid to travel for it, so get out there and explore the culinary delights this amazing province has to offer.