By: Agatha Podgorski
Less than an hour from Toronto, you’ll find a plethora of farm-to-table
focused food experiences.
Eating in Durham Region is always a surprising experience. There’s a close
connection to farmland in most every town you visit thanks to richness of the surrounding countryside. The area is home to a whopping seven large farmers’ markets and countless farms that grow everything from sweet summer corn to autumn apples.
Over the last decade, many big city chefs have migrated to the region in search of a fresh perspective and a closer connection to where their food comes from.
Nowhere is that connection more evident than at Bistro ’67 at Durham
College. The restaurant is the intersection point between its agriculture and hospitality students. They grow much of what Chef Raul Sojo and his students serve in the garden’s steps from the front door – think tomatillos, heirloom hot peppers, Chinese long eggplants and fresh, plump raspberries.
The college is also home to a teaching orchard, a cheese-making lab and apiaries that supply the restaurant with honey.
At KB Food, there’s farm animal themed graffiti on the walls and a long bar laden with craft spirits and locally-brewed beers on the tap rail. Chef Kevin Brown, the restaurant’s name sake, is driven to cook with the seasons so much so that he changes the menu almost daily. In fact, he recently bought a farm to supply the restaurant with heritage turkeys, hard-to find heirloom vegetables and fresh greens. If you eat one meal here, let it be brunch.
Meanwhile, in Uxbridge, the team at The Urban Pantry are foraging puff balls and fermenting vegetables to serve alongside their seasonally changing menu. They also deliver their delicious concoctions to The Second Wedge Brewery down the road where you can sip craft beers, devour a bison burger and play a game of backgammon or two. In the summer months, the brewery’s patio plays host to countless foodies, so arrive early.
In Pickering, you’ll want to spend some time on the waterfront patio at PORT. Recently renovated, PORT is the sister restaurant to celebrated Toronto restaurant Maple Leaf Tavern. With chef Jesse Vallins at the helm, they serve refined patio fair and sling a mean cocktail. Fun fact: Vallins has a unique flair for sausage-making and has been named Toronto’s Sausage League Champion three times!
Other places worth a road trip are Butchie’s, Food Network Chef Andrea
Nicholson’s new spot – and home of the region’s best fried chicken; Buster
Rhino’s Southern BBQ, for, you guessed it, piles of authentic Southern BBQ; and Patois Jamaican Restaurant for quality, unpretentious jerk.
In the warmer months, festivals and events like the Harvest Dinners at Nature’s Bounty Farm, the Pickering Food Truck Festival and Brock’s Big Bite bring the community together for good food and good times. At any one of these festivals, it’s easy to see why so many great restaurants have chosen to call Durham Region home.