Tag Archives: Huron County

The Ashwood Bourbon Bar: New, yet pleasantly familiar

26 May
Even the bar is filled with patrons on this busy Saturday night.

Even the bar is filled with patrons on this busy Saturday night.

By Diva Heather Boa
BAYFIELD – It’s Saturday night on the American long weekend and there’s a sense of anticipation at The Ashwood, this village’s newest hotel with bourbon bar and restaurant.

In its first days of opening for The Ashwood Bourbon Bar, people have come to see first-hand what they’ve only seen in pictures

The Ashwood owner Kirsten Harrett at the front counter.

The Ashwood owner Kirsten Harrett at the front counter.

on the website and social media – the massive tree trunk that serves as the lobby counter, living edge highly polished tables with leather placemats, barrel vault ceilings above the bar that are lined with oak staves held in place by metal straps, an expansive L-shaped bar with oodles of bottles filled with all sorts of exotic liquids, and wait staff in aprons of heavy canvas and leather straps.

It’s all so new and intriguing and yet there’s something comfortably familiar about the bar. First, there’s owner Kirten Harrett who is greeting people this evening. She’s owned the Deer Park Lodge, just across the road, for a number of years, before purchasing the old Bayfield Village Inn and transforming it into its current state. There’s Peter Meades behind the bar, well-known for Meades Bros. Productions, which books entertainment at various venues in the village – and now he’s booked an eclectic lineup of Canadian and international artists with an emphasis on roots music and singer-songwriters for the bar. See what the summer season brings on its event listings. Some of the wait staff are the teenaged children of people we know. And, of course, there’s opportunity to stop at various tables to say hello to folks who haven’t been seen all winter long. Even before we enter the bar, we meet up with some friends who have spilled out of The Ashwoody Shuttle, its funky shuttle bus.

In these early days of opening, chef Robert Whyte has created a limited menu of lunch and dinner items while the staff settle into

The Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, with King crab leg, is a favourite.

The Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, with King crab leg, is a favourite.

the routine. Tonight there’s a Mexican beef soup – I’ve forgotten it’s name, but I know that if I close my eyes while eating a mouthful of the spicy soup that’s topped with chopped avocado and sour cream, I am once again in Ajijic, Mexico. Also on the menu are: pan seared 10 oz New York steak with crispy fingerling potatoes, green beans and horseradish butter ($29), ratatouille with arancini and parmesan tuile ($18.50), lamb burger with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, dressed with a tzatzki and tomato jam, served with chick pea fries ($16), trout with roasted fennel and tomato purée served with wilted spinach and a panzanella salad ($22).

It’s a wise decision on the chef’s part to create a small menu, and our service is seamless. Water glasses are always full and drinks are efficiently replaced. My lamb burger special ordered with no bun did indeed arrive bunless and, as requested, my glass of red wine arrived with the meal. I would dearly have loved to have ordered the Ultimate Ashwood Caesar, which comes with a King crab leg, or the Don Draper ($14), a mixture of double Makers Mark, bourbon soaked cherries, giant ice cubes and a Popeye smoke, but alas, I’m driving.

By the time we’re offered dessert, there’s only one taker for the bread pudding with a bourbon caramel sauce ($9), although the spoon does get passed around, with agreement that the sauce is just a bit too boozy.

When we leave, the place is full, with a long table of people who are filling time between a wedding and its reception, Americans on vacation, and locals who’ve come to check out the newest hotspot in Bayfield.

It’s shaping up to be a great summer in the village.

The high ceilings and line of windows give the bar an airy feel.

The high ceilings and line of windows give the bar an airy feel.

There’s a lot of history packed into village of Auburn

21 May
Main Street of Auburn.

Main Street of Auburn.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

The main street of Auburn is pretty this time of year.

The road is surprisingly wide and grand trees are just starting to come into bloom. There’s a post office shingle and a number of sheds in which business might take place, but most of the buildings, including an ivy-covered church, on main street are now homes. There are no cars parallel parked at the side of the street and my car rolls quietly.

At this time of day, people are outside waiting. Waiting for the bus that will bring their children home from schools in neighbouring communities. A woman sits in her idling car in the church’s driveway. A mother and a her two youngsters sit on the steps in a doorway. A man on a bike waves as he rides by.

It’s worth a day trip to come poke around Auburn, if you’ve never turned off Cnty. Rd. 25 or Base Line Road. Check out the Huron Bay District Co-operative for garden flowers and supplies, maybe grab a bite to eat at the Auburn Grill or pack a lunch and enjoy it in the park down by the Maitland River. Or stay overnight at the Auburn Riverside Retreat, a family-run campground, which also has timber framed cottages and pine cabins for rent.

And while you’re there, keep in mind these historical notes that were gathered by researcher Diane Smith for a project done by the Municipality of Huron East to expand the Huron County Historical Society’s Driving Tour a few years ago:

Auburn – The village is divided, east from west, by the Maitland River. The lines of four different township boundaries auburnsignintersected here, and those lines also divided Canada Company land open to settlement from the government-owned hinterland beyond. Later, streets and plans were divided along the same lines, thus creating Auburn’s distinctive layout of “dogleg roads and offset lots.” Auburn, as with many other locations, became an area of settlement because water power was readily available here. The village was called both Auburn and Manchester – early maps of parts of the village dated 1854 and 1856 called it Manchester while the post office name assigned in 1854 was Auburn. In fact, the name of the village was Manchester, for all other purposes except postal service, until 1978 when it officially became the Police Village of Auburn.

United Church – The Presbyterians had begun a congregation in Manchester in June 1860. They were the first to construct a unitedchurchchurch building, which opened in March 1863. In the early days, the service was given first in Gaelic and then in English. The old Knox Presbyterian Church became Knox United Church when the three Protestant denominations united in 1925. The church building you now see dates to 1904. The red brick manse to the west was built in 1913, but the original Presbyterian Manse on the east side dates to the 1870s.

Apple Farms – (Maitland Terrace) The once abundant orchards of Auburn and the rest of Huron County supplied maitlandterracethe local apple evaporator plant. The Caldwell General Store was converted into the plant in the late 1890s. It continued in business until it was destroyed by fire in 1925. Local apple supply dwindled and by the 1930s the rebuilt plant was closed.

Dam – Manchester Park – In the mid-1840s, most of the land of what would become the auburnparkfuture townsite of Auburn was bought by the first settler to arrive here, William Robert Garratt. Because the provincial government had reserved all the waters of the Maitland River for its own use, Garratt was stymied in his plans to build a mill, and he soon left. Eneas Elkin was next to arrive in 1850, buying land in the Hullett section. Elkins ran a ferry service across the river. In 1854, Elkin had the northern part of his farm surveyed into a town site he called Manchester Village. Sales of lots enabled him to build a dam and a four-storey grist mill on the Maitland River just south of the main village site. In the late 1860s, a spring flood destroyed Elkin’s mill dam and it was then rebuilt by James Cullis. A short distance downstream the Cullis sawmill provided another essential service to the village.

Have a look, too, at the unique entrance signs on Cnty. Rd. 25 that announce your arrival in Auburn. These blocky cement letters are listed among the Folk Art Treasures of Huron County, a book written by Ron and Bev Walker.

Stocked pond provides hours of family fun

5 May

fish3By Diva Caroline Thuss

Looking for a great (and inexpensive) way to entertain everyone from young to old now that the nicer weather is here?

Hop in the car and take the short and scenic ride to Falls Reserve Conservation Area in Benmiller and check out its stocked fish pond.

My family headed out for our first fishing adventure of the year at the Falls Reserve on opening day. For the cost of a gate pass ($15 per vehicle) and a fishing permit ($8 for adult and $4 for child) for the stocked pond we were ready to enjoy several hours at the beautiful location.

fish5Don’t have a fishing rod? Don’t worry! The Falls Reserve is a loaner site for the OFAH / OPG TackleShare program where you can sign out a rod, etc. like you borrow from a library! The fish pond is located shortly after you enter the park and very close to the Maitland trail. There is lots of room for picnic lunch on the grass or a table nearby.

When we arrived there were already several people around the pond looking for that beautiful big trout. Some were using spinners, others jigs, and some the classic worm bait to get them to bite. We chatted briefly to the father and his son who had caught their quota of four beautiful trout already and were heading out. It was great to see so many people taking advantage of this program.

We enjoyed the sun while we cast out our lines hoping that we might get lucky. It did not take too long before we had a fish on the line and were able to reel in a nice sized trout, which my kids were super excited about…okay I was a little excited too as it has been a long time since I was able to catch a nice sized fish. We did release a few other lucky ones as the kids were more excited about the chance to reel one in than the thought of eating our new “friend” for dinner. It is all about building a positive experience for the children and encouraging them to practice sustainable fishing.

We will be back on July fourth when they host the Family Fishing derby, which is like a small derby for children with lots of prizes fish6and excitement from what I have been told.   This annual event will occur from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  There is no cost to participate although park admission will apply.  The maximum park admission fee is $15 for a car load of people.  There are three age categories (10 and under, 11-17, 18+) and prizes will be awarded for the three longest fish caught in each category.  A prize will also be awarded for the smallest fish of the day.  There will be a variety of prizes donated by local sponsors and provided by the Falls Reserve C.A.  After prizes have been awarded according to the categories a draw will be held to give away the remaining prizes so all participants are encouraged to register to be eligible to win a prize.  They must also be in attendance to win a prize.  There will be a barbecue and refreshments available during the event.  Bait will also be available to purchase.

We were able to enjoy a short hike on the Maitland Trail as well before heading back into town to dress the fish and get it ready for the barbecue. Yummy! You can access the recipe I used here.

What: Falls Reserve Conservation Area

Where: 80900 Falls Reserve Line, RR 4, Goderich, ON N7A 3Y1

Why: Stocked Trout Pond

When: Day permits valid from 8 am. to 10 p.m.

Cost: Daily vehicle permit: $15. Daily pond permit: $8, adults; $4, children aged 5 to 12 (April 25 to June 26, trout only); no charge children aged 5 to 12 (June 27 to Sept. 30, catch and release only.)

fish2

Favourite Five stops on day trip through Huron County

30 Apr

IMG_9773

By Diva Heather Boa

Fuelled with a cup of coffee and the voice of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café for company, I headed out for a day trip to some of my favourite stops in Huron County. Today is a food-themed tour, a gathering of locally produced food to stock my fridge.

Stops along my three-hour, 120-km trip take me from Goderich through Hensall, Zurich, Dashwood and back to my lakeside home.

As I drive, the sun throws its warmth across the countryside and farm machinery massages the winter-worn earth, getting ready for another season of growing. Rows of mailboxes mark the ends of country laneways, hand-painted names clustered along family-owned farms. Small cemetery plots give evidence of lives lived.

Here are my Favourite Five stops for an afternoon day trip in Huron County:

  1. IMG_9752Laithwaite Apple Park, 35563 Huron Rd. (Hwy. 8), just east of Goderich. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. This year-round farm gate store is tucked behind a scattering of sculptures George Laithwaite (1873-1956) fashioned from fieldstones, metal and cement. Inside the store, I usually have a chat with Ed Laithwaite about topics ranging from pesticide use to the disappearance of fruit and vegetable farmers in Huron County. Then I’ll buy apples, potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, onions, turnip or whatever happens to be in season. At the height of harvest, the shop overflows with squash, gourds and pumpkins for children to pick through. Today’s purchase: Courtland apples.
  2. IMG_9758Metzger’s Meat Products Inc., 180 Brock Ave., Hensall. Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, closed. The freshly butchered meats, rows of deli meats, display cases of frozen meats and variety of cheese hold so many possibilities for a backyard barbecue, intimate dinner or even a breakfast start to the day. Purchases by other patrons in the store include London broil, smoked pork chops and breakfast sausages. Today’s purchase: Tuscany turkey and prosciutto salami deli meat.
  3. IMG_9762Rader’s Homestyle Market, 38110 Zurich-Hensall Rd., Zurich. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There is also a store in on Stanley Street in Goderich.)The market’s namesake, Jerry Rader, is out front today, preparing the yard for the summer season. He begs off a photo, and refers my questions to his children, who now run the business. This is a neat store to poke around, with racks of giftware like scarves, purses and glittering slippers surrounded by frozen pies and gravies, fresh salads and daily lunch features. At the height of summer, the gardens will be bursting with flowers, there will be entertainment on the lawn – under that tent Jerry is putting together in the photo – and rows of local produce will be on display outside the store. Today’s purchase: A small container of baked beans.
  4. IMG_9767 copyCoastal Roastery Café, 17 Goshen St. N., Zurich. Hours: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Watch Facebook and Twitter sites for expanded spring hours.) I’ve followed the owner of Coastal Coffee Company, Ben Gingerich’s, story from its start when he roasted coffee beans in a popcorn maker and used his wife, Brianna’s, hairdressing clients to test his small batches of coffee to their success in marketing the fair trade, locally roasted coffee in retail outlets and restaurants throughout Southwestern Ontario and at farmers’ market across the county. But I’d never been to his new 1,400-square-foot storefront and roastery in Zurich. Today’s purchase: A cup of micro-batch Nicaraguan medium roast coffee for the rest of my trip.
  5. IMG_9774Hayter’s Farm, 37467 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hayter’s is a delightful one-stop shop just on the outskirts of a small rural village. It’s delightful because on one side is frozen and fresh turkey products of all kinds, from breasts to sausages to schnitzel, along with frozen pies, sauces and berries, then on the other side is the LCBO outlet. All you need for an early barbecue in one stop. Today’s purchase: Turkey thigh roast and spinach & cranberry turkey burgers.

IMG_9778Okay, I said there were five favourites. However, I took a wrong turn and discovered a sixth: The Whole Pig, 37871 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, call ahead to 519-237-3255 or cell, 519-851-3327. This shop is set up in a shed on the farm, with pepperettes and pepperoni in a fridge at the front entrance, an information table, and all the good stuff in a walk-in freezer. Just have a look over the lengthy order form, and a staff member will retrieve the product for you. My purchase: A package of four Chilly Hot Sausages.

Love Letters: Signed, sealed & delivered at Blyth Festival

26 Apr

loveletters

karenstewartBy Diva Karen Stewart

BLYTH – The Blyth Festival is my favourite place to escape to and last night was another enjoyable evening at the theatre. The new plays they present are always engaging and they have another great season opening up in a few weeks, but on this evening they were presenting a special fund-raising event. The play was Love Letters by A.R. Gurney.

Over five performances, this production will feature five separate couples. On this night, Jodi Kuran, who is the principal of St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, and Phil Main, a well-known radio personality from CKNX, played the parts of Melissa Gardner and Andy Ladd.

Melissa and Andy began corresponding in second grade with thank you notes and postcards from summer camp. Their correspondence is evocative, and often funny. They establish a deep relationship through letters that chronicle humorous observations and their feelings from age seven through high school then college and beyond.

Andy loves to write. He talks about how letter writing is a dying art and how he feels most alive when writing letters. However, when he tells Melissa details of his everyday life story, she is not terribly interested, telling him to write about his feelings. When she suggests the telephone might be not only be a more modern way to connect, but also much more efficient, Andy disagrees stating “telephone calls are dead as soon as they’re over” while letters are “alive” and can live on.

Kuran brings Melissa alive through not only her voice, but also her timing and befitting facial expressions. She crafts a cheeky Melissa who has privilege of wealth but lacks the richness of deep family bonds.   She fights to expose the hypocrisies of the times, preferring to be a little rebellious even though it spins her in dangerous directions at times. Lost for most of her life, she becomes more vulnerable throughout the play showing, she is real and down-to-earth.

Main’s portrayal of Andy is reserved and low-key. He is the mature one, continually living up to his parents’ expectations of who he should be. In doing so he manufactures an artificially perfect family life. He is inflexible when it comes to deviating from respectability – a trait that emotionally devastates him.   But, through his relationship with Melissa he admits to himself that she is the only one who truly loves him for who he is.

Letters are vital lifelines for Andy and Melissa. Their correspondence through the decades – like many love stories – includes silences and reconciliations, marriages, divorces, children, career adventures, and deaths. They share intimate details of love, relationships and opportunities missed because of ego and pride.

Kuran and Main make the characters of Melissa and Andy their own. They share a long enduring friendship that brings a sweet chemistry to the stage. Kuran brings a bit of sass and Main remains stalwart throughout the production.

Love Letters is a lovely theatre piece,” says the director, John McHenry. “There’s no elaborate set or special effects, the focus is on the words; it’s heart-warming, poignant, and funny.”

I wish I could see all five performances as I can only imagine how real-life couples Bruce and Margaret Whitmore and Duncan and Lynda McGregor will each bring vastly different personalities to the characters. I don’t doubt Lisa Hood will bring a little sass to Melissa too while Quinn Ross and Shawn Van Osch will each bring an intensity to Andy in their performances.


If you get a chance to go:

Where: Blyth Festival

When:

Thursday, April 30 at 8 p.m. features Shawn Van Osch & Lisa Hood

Saturday, May 1, at 8 p.m. features Lisa Hood & Quinn Ross

Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. features Duncan & Lynda McGregor

Cost: $25. Order tickets by calling 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or visit online.

Psychic medium stirs up the past in dinner at Part II Bistro

23 Apr
Medium Kelly Elston reads the crowd at Part II Bistro.

Psychic medium Kelly Elson reads the crowd of women gathered at Part II Bistro in Blyth. Photos courtesy of Darlene McCowan Photographer.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – Tonight I heard from my dad and my grandmother, which is weird because they’ve both been dead for more than a decade.

As generally happens when family gets together, they wanted to talk about the people we have in common – my aunts and uncles, my mom and my two brothers – and pass on a few hellos. The messages played out kind of like a cross between 20 questions and charades, as they communicated through Goderich psychic medium Kelly Elson during a group reading held at Part II Bistro in Blyth.

From what I gather, Dad showed her a symbol that looks like the Roman numeral II, which in the language of the dead (my words, not hers) can mean he’s trying to talk about twins, someone who is a Gemini, somebody’s birthday, or the parallel of two things falling close together. After more questions, it was possible that something happened on a holiday, or two somethings happened on two holidays.

Bingo.

My father was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer on Labour Day weekend in 1999. And he died on Victoria Day weekend in 2000.

She also said he kept coming back to a Canada flag.

kelly peek 2What I didn’t tell the medium was that my dad made a stained glass maple leaf set into a stepping stone, which was donated as the centre piece for the IODE Maple Leaf chapter’s public garden in Goderich. After he died, someone stole that stepping stone.

She asked too if lily of the valley, those delicate white flowers found in the woods, mean anything to me because dad kept pulling up handfuls of them.

Maybe a bingo.

Flowers were one of my dad’s many passions. He loved trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits and ferns from the forests, so he probably liked lily of the valley too. I don’t know for sure.

Kelly made her way around the room, telling the women gathered for this dinner what she saw – someone named John who smelled like a woodstove, about a hundred people gathered to pass on their thanks to a nurse, a father-in-law whose image appeared in black and white to signify he’s been gone for awhile, a grandmother holding a child in a pink blanket, a woman in an intense game of poker, and the images just keep coming.

The accuracy of some of her statements was quite astounding. There was instant intimacy in a room full of strangers and some of what was said should stay within the confines of that dining room.

Peter and Sarah Gusso, of Part II Bistro, were wonderful hosts, setting up the dining room in long rows of tables so that clusters of friends sat alongside strangers for the evening. The three-course meal included: spinach and bosc pear salad, with gourmet trail mix, Blyth spiced goat cheese and a maple-citrus-mustard vinaigrette; pineapple chicken atop a bed of coconut rice with volcano rice, all topped with a fresh salsa; brownies with coulis, plus a table tray of lemon tarts, coffee cakes and strudels.

Part II Bistro has a schedule of wine, Scotch or beer tastings, live music and other events. Check them out on Facebook or online.

Huron County readies for summer tourism season

21 Apr
Keynote speakers Rebecca Wise and Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s INNvasion’s reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia and urged participants to think of all the senses - smell, sounds, touch, and tastes.

Keynote speakers Rebecca Wise & Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s INNvasion’s reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia & urged participants to think of all senses – smell, sounds, touch, and tastes. Photos by Jenna Ujiye.

By Diva Karen Stewart

BLUEWATER – Tourism is the world’s largest industry with revenues of over $500 billion including travel, tourism and hospitality businesses. In Huron County, tourism is a major economic driver as we welcome over one million visitors to our region each year.

Recently, the Huron Tourism Association held its annual industry event. Over 100 tourism business operators gathered at the Community Centre in Zurich to listen, learn, and interact with their peers. By bringing together tourism operators to network and to sharpen skills, to learn about the County’s tourism assets and to talk about emerging travel trends we work to provide the best possible experience for our visitors.

This year’s theme was “Hospitable Huron – Weve got it, Lets flaunt it!” Our keynote speakers, Rebecca Wise and Victor Barry of Cottage Life’s Dining INNvasion reality TV show, talked about the growing trend for nostalgia and urged participants to think of all the senses – smell, sounds, touch, and tastes – whether in the kitchen or through decorating their public spaces. On the same note, Rebecca noted that her visit to Huron County exceeded her expectations, saying “You don’t know hospitality until you’ve stepped out into the rural countryside.”

Boxes and bundles of  new brochures are distributed to tourism operators throughout the county in time for the tourism summer season.

Boxes and bundles of new brochures are distributed to tourism operators throughout the county in time for the tourism summer season.

Heritage sites and stories, food, events and opportunities for outdoor adventures were all highlighted during three familiarization trips in the host municipality of Bluewater. Tourism operators gained a deeper awareness of just how rich in tourism assets that region of the county is.

One of the main activities during this annual event is the Brochure Swap. Participants are encouraged to gather related business brochures so they can promote each other to the world all season long. In

Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton (centre) receives the Tourism Champion Award from past recipient Jim Lee of Cinnamon Jim's and Huron County Tourism Co-ordinator Cindy Fisher.

Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton (centre) receives the Tourism Champion Award from past recipient Jim Lee of Cinnamon Jim’s and Huron County Tourism Co-ordinator Cindy Fisher.

addition, the newly re-designed 2015 Ontario’s West Coast Travel Guide was available as were the County’s specialty brochures including Fishing, Hiking and Cycling guides – each one a valuable tool that drives business in the County each season of the year.

And, finally, more proof of the good work folks are doing in the county was shared when two awards were presented. Huron County Museum and Gaol Curator Patricia Hamilton was honoured with the Tourism Champion Award, presented for demonstrating stellar hospitality, creative marketing savvy, inclusive partnerships and forward-thinking leadership and promotion of Ontario’s West Coast. And, the Maitland Trail Association, which

Roger Goddard and Suzanna Reid, of the Maitland Trail Association, accept the Tourism Development Award from John McHenry, an HTA board member.

Roger Goddard and Susanna Reid, of the Maitland Trail Association, accept the Tourism Development Award from John McHenry, an HTA board member.

celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was awarded the Tourism Development Award for demonstrating leadership, creative invention, partnership initiatives, community impact and excellence in the tourism industry.

In Huron County, we’re open and ready for business. We look forward to welcoming you to Ontario’s West Coast for adventure, theatre, festivals, events, and food.   You’ll find heritage and culture sites that share stories of our deep rural roots and you’ll find new friends offering you a warm rural hospitality.

Visit ontarioswestcoast.ca today to plan your visit today.

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