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Tasty trip

Tasty trip

Highway 41 to Denbigh (Photo: Jake Jones)

An Epicurean Rides the Highlands

It's not just about the beautiful sights and curvy roads. As this rider recounts, it's also about the great food and drink you can taste along the way.



I am an epicurean who has become a representative of organic wines, with a passion for all things related to art, music, food, agriculture, coffee, and wine. I've been working in the food industry for 17 years as a barista, pastry chef, waitress, sommelier, and most recently a wine merchant. I am involved with the Oneland team organizing the #motosocialmontreal and was part of the shooting of the Filles de Moto (Moto Girls) documentary series.

It was my parents who shared their love of the road with me. I've been riding a motorcycle for five years, but I have been surrounded by them since before I could walk. I spent my childhood running around the race track watching my father race on ice and dirt. Motorcycles represent freedom, crazy encounters, community, diversity, and beautiful landscapes.

I hit the road with the Oneland team to explore Ontario’s Highlands, home to a motorcycle paradise called Ride The Highlands. I was very curious to explore this corner of the country I had never visited before, and quickly found this region to be something special. It had everything to please me, large spaces, and an ability to create a road trip experience that goes beyond the memories of incredible curves and breathtaking scenery.


Calabogie Peaks (Photo: Jake Jones)

Arriving at Calabogie

After riding the 315 km that separate Montreal from Calabogie, we parked our bikes at Calabogie Peaks Resort. We met our hosts, Chris and Melissa, who invited us for a drink at Canthooks, the hotel’s restaurant. Warmed by the fireplace beside the bar, we were charmed by the impressive selection of wines and local brews on tap. This is a significant observation when you discover a region and want to soak up its flavour.

Once seated at the table, Chef Mark Jones joined us and talked about his favourite items on the menu. Choosing was difficult, everything looked delicious, and we were hungry, so we tasted everything. During the meal, the restaurant manager and hotel innkeeper explained how sensitive he is to the importance of buying food locally. For him, it is a way of offering fresh products while highlighting the knowledge of producers and artisans in the region.

We enjoyed an Apple Moonshine Reunion from Top Shelf Distillery, which was like drinking apple pie. Unanimously, we loved the grilled chicken wings, and substituted the deconstructed caesar salad for fries. All of the ingredients in the salad are so well proportioned that it creates a subtle flavor. This salad remains in my top three for life.


(Photo: Jake Jones)

Curves, coffee, and autumn colours

Before taking on the road, Thursday morning we prepared for our day in the Highlands. With the maps unfolded on the table, we discussed our plan. It started with a ride on wet pavement and dense fog, which dissipated mid-morning; just in time for our coffee stop at Madawaska Kanu Centre. Located on a tiny road along the Madawaska River, this place is known for kayaking and rafting. We tasted their special, a creamy maple latte made from local roasted coffee beans from Madawaska Coffee Co. Between meditation and contemplation in front of the river, I felt the sweet feeling of being even more connected to the nature of Ontario’s Highlands.


Stopping at Madawaska Kanu Centre (Photo: Jake Jones)

Back on Siberia Road, we headed towards Wilno. Guided by the map showcasing the planned routes by the  Ride The Highlands team, we stopped for lunch at the Wilno Tavern. This is what’s great about Ride the Highlands: everything is very well indicated, and the distances between the various attractions are, for the most part, short. It allows several opportunities to stop for activities in the same day, while enjoying the beautiful, winding, and uncrowded roads between them.

A taste of Poland

At the legendary Wilno Tavern, we were greeted by a friendly old biker, a local legend who once crossed the USA on his old Honda Rebel 500 with his wife sitting behind him. For this traditional Polish meal, we knew we were in good hands with Audrey, who for over 30 years has served the best perogies in the entire world. We followed the lead of our guide and opted for the hearty combo platter—polish sausage, sauerkraut, a cabbage roll, a jumbo pierogi, and mashed potatoes. BOOM!


Pierogi plate at the Wilno Tavern (Photo: Chris Hughes)

Soon we fought the urge to take a nap with the sugar rush from the homemade caramel bread pudding, capped with a real whipped cream. It was a bit decadent, but we were convinced that sugar would do us good.

High points and underground music

The day continued with a ride on the Opeongo Road. Along the way, we stopped to admire the landscape of Foymount, the highest populated point in Ontario, located 500 metres above sea level.


Foymount: Ontario's highest populated point! (Photo: Jake Jones)
 

Ready for a new adventure, we headed underground in the cool cellars of Bonnechere Caves. Here we met the owner, Chris Hinsperger, a passionate man who cares about the well-being and development of his community. In the underground gallery, we met two musicians, dressed in period costume, playing a classical hymn on the violin and the double bass. We settled in for a 30-minute concert ranging from classic regional folk music to La Bolduc’s “La Bastringue,” one of the most unbelievable moments of our road trip. The owner explained that he organizes gourmet meals and concerts in the caves. The evening shows are sold out in just a few days.

Go Redneck, or go home

We did the math and concluded that we’d seen more wild turkeys than cars on the way back to Calobogie Peaks Resort. To end the day, we opted for the Redneck Bistro. In addition to the classics such as fish and chips, steaks, and burgers, Redneck Bistro also focuses on Southern cooking comfort food. It was perfect because we needed heat. With a wide selection of local microbrews, cocktails and wines, the heat came quickly. The decor fits the modern rustic style perfectly, and I was amazed by the number of fresh flowers arranged everywhere. It may seem like nothing, but it captures the love the owner puts into the place; there can never be too much love in a restaurant.


Redneck Bistro (Photo: Chris Hughes)

I have to make some clarifications about gourmet Anglo-Saxon food. First, the English tend to eat their meat and fish more cooked than you will find in Quebec. If you are from Quebec and you want a medium rare steak in Ontario, I would suggest ordering it rare. Second, spice tolerance is different. Also, to ensure you don’t end up with a Bloody Caesar that makes your nose run with each sip, I recommend you answer no when the waitress asks you if you want it spicy. It's always easier to add more Tabasco than to remove it.

Below zero

Our last day on the road, and aware of the chilly October conditions, we decided to change the planned route to ride in the sun as long as possible. We enjoyed the extra time for breakfast before mounting our frost-covered motorcycle seats. Despite the desire to enjoy Ride the Highlands to its fullest, we all agreed on ​​respecting our personal limits. We all had different tolerances and experience levels for riding in these kinds of conditions. I felt that the well-being of everyone was paramount. It was great to ride with people who understood that.


Opeongo Point (Photo: Jake Jones)

Setting out, our host Chris told us about a place known for their sticky cinnamon buns. This was our first stop of the day. Located on the main street of Pakenham, the Pakenham General Store is a boutique, a grocery store, an art gallery, and a bakery that served decadent sticky buns, pies, and sandwiches. Chris was correct: this general store feels like being at Grandma's house baking pumpkin pies; and with the cold outside it was downright comforting. This was the second last stop before heading back to Montreal, and a kind of nostalgia hung over our sweet biker smiles.


Pakenham General Store (Photo: Chris Hughes)

From there, we took the Quyon Ferry to Quebec. In just a few kilometres, we arrived at Coronation Hall Ciders Mills. We visited the cider house where the owner told us the story about how her family got into the apples.

In front of a hot apple pie and apple cider, we marked the end of our journey in Ontario’s Highlands. In addition to surprising us with many attractions and charming us with its hospitality and unique routes, this stay with Ride the Highlands reminded us that we have a lot to learn from our Ontario neighbours when it comes to motorized tourism. Ride the Highlands is a region to discover for all lovers of wide-open spaces, tranquility and friendliness.


Centennial Lake Road (Photo: Jake Jones)

Plan your Ride the Highlands motorcycle trip today.

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