Blueberries, Beer and Cheese – Oh My!

The summer food festival scene is alive and well in Northeastern Ontario

Summer is here and I’ve prepared my wish list of food festivals and farmers markets to visit. My vintage Coleman cooler is in the back hatch, along with a few stacks of baskets for berry picking and some picnic-party essentials. I’m ready to hit the road for more gastro-missions in BIG Northeastern Ontario and hope you will come along, too! 

Markets and food festivals are a great opportunity to get a feel for the local taste, meet some pretty cool producers, and fill your campsite cooler. This culinary adventure will have us hitting points across Northeastern Ontario for a range of activities from blueberry festivals to beer pairings. We’ll round off this tasty travel itinerary in Hearst for the Foire des Saveurs de Hearst  the Taste of Hearst

Farmers Markets

As a globe trotter and market maven, I can tell you first hand the popularity of markets in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna or Grenada Island’s port city of St. George.  Markets are meccas for travellers—the most savvy are looking for that local flare to complement their overall destination experience. They buy goods as souvenirs, share stories with farmers, and learn about the local practices and what the land produces. And of course, a good meal is always enjoyed while you're there! 

It’s no different in Northeastern Ontario. Today, farmers markets are steadily growing tourist destinations in towns and cities, including North Bay and Sudbury. Veteran markets, such as the Riverside Market at Temiskaming Shores, have been in operation for decades selling honey, flowers, meats, produce and homemade gifts. 

Newcomers such as the North Bay Farmers’ Market, located at the Discovery North Bay Museum on the corner of Ferguson and Oak Streets, offer so much more than just delicious local eats. They have a full line-up of summer events and activities, but highlights include:

  • August 3: a Blueberry Social 
  • August 20: the all local Corn and Garlic Festival 
  • September 17: the Potato Festival 

In the City of Greater Sudbury, 'The Market' is open Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm at the VIA Rail Station on Elgin Street. From there you can skip across the street and stroll through old downtown, exploring the local food and drink scene. Sudbury's vision for a revitalized downtown market area includes ample room for future growth and development and a collaboration with the Laurentian University School of Architecture.

food and beer festivals

Let's talk about beer. Pairing beer with foods is a hot trend right now, and it’s not about to let up. So we're off to the Taste of Hearst (September 9 and 10) where we’ll experience a beer and local pairings event with Stack Brewing from Sudbury. Many cheese experts agree that beer is a more natural pairing for cheese than wine.

Speaking of cheese, there’s a new cheese maker in Canada – Francois Nadeau of Fromagerie Kapuskosie. He will be a part of the Saturday line-up of tasty treasures available to festival-goers. Francois is pursuing his passion to make authentic, high quality artisan cheese. This passion started while travelling in China, and led him to study intensively in France.

He brings his talents home to Northeastern Ontario where he sources local milk, and artfully crafts French-style cheeses. The cheeses are named in honour of great rivers in the region including Le Missinaibi, L’Opasatika, and Le Mattagami.  His first cheese was Le Kapuskois (pictured below), a cheese inspired from the small village of Morbier, France. 

Taste of Hearst promises to deliver! This is a destination event so pack up the car or get on your motorcycle—you are in for a BIG adventure. This is underscored by the presence of Marcel and Mireille Rheault of Rheault Distillers. When double gold spirit distillers are at the helm of an event, you know it’s going to be good time! Marcel and Mireille are world champion vodka and cherry liqueur makers. You can expect a few teachings and tastes from these resident mixologists. They recently sent me a sample of their new Canadian whiskey, which I used for a pulled pork dish. It’s made with local grains but not yet on the market.

More local tastes will come from Bison du Nord from Temiskaming, who will be serving up fire-grilled bison sliders. Their products always have a spot reserved in my cooler. I bet there will also be a few French pastries and blueberry pies from Sherry’s Preserves. Hopefully she will also be offering her extremely popular chocolate-dipped bacon and chips. 

Taste of Hearst is held Friday, September 9 from 4 pm to 7 pm, and Saturday, September 10 from 11 am to 3 pm. It’s a short but jam-packed festival with 20 exhibitors sampling and selling their products. 

More Summer Food Festivals

Blueberry festivals are the epitome of food festivals for me. This is the kind of festival I remember going to as a kid. 

The Greater Sudbury Blueberry Festival is taking place right now and continues all week long until July 24, 2016. This is the 31st anniversary of the  Festival!

You can also visit Esker Lakes Provincial Park from July 29 to August 1, 2016 for their annual blueberry festival. This is a family friendly weekend of games, events and contests celebrating the local blueberry crop.

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That’s a round-up, friends! Join me this summer to sip, savour, and enjoy the many gems that Northeastern Ontario has to offer. We proudly showcase producers and events with freshly sourced offerings. 

About Pamela Hamel

Chef, writer, traveller, and former executive, Pamela explores sustainable lifestyle trends. Aka “Martha Stewart” of the North, Pamela takes this as a compliment, but it’s a little too snobbish for this hometown girl. Born, raised, and career developed in Northeastern Ontario’s Kirkland Lake area, Pamela moved to Toronto to pursue BIG markets for her BIG ideas. With an appetite for adventure, Pamela boasts a biz savvy spirit, an eye for design, and an incredible talent for turning nothing into something. Search #foodsbynature to discover your next inspired living moment.

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