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BIG Refreshments - Summertime Beverages and Treats

BIG Refreshments - Summertime Beverages and Treats

Stay cool while travelling across BIG Northeastern Ontario this summer with bevies to wet your whistle. Follow me on this gastro mission to discover new local taste sensations including vodka, ginger ale, and Haskap berry frozen yogurt. There’s something in this mission for the whole family, even your furry travel buddies.    

As we discovered in an earlier gastro mission to Sudbury, titled, There Must be Something in the Water, we learned about the proliferation of new craft brewers. Well, as it turns out, there are many more sips to discover.

Our first stop is North Bay, parked in front of the Discovery North Bay Museum, at 100 Ferguson St., where we meet up with Ms. Sarah White, who serves up Yo to Go, which is frozen yogurt made your way . . . on your way. This is her first season and she’s off to a stellar start with a new upgraded trailer and a plan to take on festivals across Ontario in 2016. As I discover, Sarah knows a thing or two about packing nutrition and buy-local in a cup.  While visiting a farmer’s market, Sarah discovered a locally grown super food called the Haskap berry. She bought some, tried a few blends, fell in love, and went back to buy what she could freeze for the season. Apparently, the Haskap and Nutella are top-shelf delicious. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Leisure Farms – fruit growers located near Verner known for their wide assortment of jams. Be sure to stop in and try Yo to Go treats or NO YO, a dairy-free cup of goodness. Sarah says she is experimenting with smoothie recipes and hopes to bring them to market soon. Spoons up for this gastro-discovery in North Bay.

Now let’s talk lakeside happy hour – filled-to-the-brim with ice cube drinks listening to the sounds of nature . . . oh, wait a minute . . . did I hear a loon call?  This gastro-discovery starts in Hearst, along the Hwy. 11 corridor, where dynamic duo Marcel and Mireille Rheault, produce a world-class artisanal small-batch vodka, called Loon Vodka at their Rheault Distillery. As I discover, this vodka is a diamond in the rough, and rightfully so. This sparkling, crystalline vodka is a premium product having earned a silver medal at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition as an emerging star amongst 1480 entries. 

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What makes the product so great is that it’s considered an alpha-vodka, distilled four times in a single-batch steel copper pot with a reflection column, creating a vodka that contains 0% methanol – the only one of its kind being sold in Canada. Ethanol is what contributes to the hangover effect. I think it’s the locally grown wheat they use. Marcel and Mireille, are award-winning personalities and high-spirited, down-to-earth folks. I met up with them recently in Barrie where they were showcasing and taste testing their NEW Sinful Cherry Liqueur that won the annual LCBO ELSIE award. KUDOS!

Both of these products are distilled in the couple’s home with a variety of wheat grown at a nearby farm. Loon Vodka is classified as having a crystalline lustre, a sweet odour, goes down very softly, with a velvety taste and silky finish. It’s a great addition to summer Gazpacho. They also produce Whiskey (apparently not for the faint heart).

On your next trip to a Northeastern LCBO, be sure to stock up for your round of Caesars, martinis or good old fashioned screwdrivers. Whatever your summertime spirit mix is, give Loon Vodka a try. I guarantee you will like it so much you will be ordering it into your hometown LCBO.

As kids we grew up with a treat of Temagami Dry Gingerale and Cream Soda. It was first bottled in 1916 when the McDonalds’ Company in North Bay manufactured it under the name North Bay Dry Ginger Ale.  Apparently, the name did not have enough of an impact on consumers so it was re-branded as Temagami Dry Ginger Ale. 

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For the bartender, it is an indispensable bar mate, perfect for serving at meal time or as an aperitif.  But what about as a marinade?  It’s a great way to use up the 2L bottle that you left open to go flat. Try marinating your pork chops in ginger ale, and add a few red pepper flakes, soy, and green onions, and refrigerate for a few hours before grilling. 

Temagami Dry Ginger Ale is purely refreshing anytime of the year, but I must admit to having some fond summer memories of the cottage with a few batches of Loon Vodka and Scotch Cream Soda. It’s a girly drink kind of thing. 

That’s a wrap for this gastro-bevy mission in Northeastern Ontario. I hope you enjoy your summer sips and be sure to share your discoveries with us at Northeastern Ontario. And wait . . . while travelling with your furry pals, be sure to pack their water dish for the road trip and keep them hydrated too with ice cube water and plenty of swims!

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