Tag Archives: Travel

A Culinary Getaway at Hockley Valley Resort

10 Dec

Hockley Valley Resort

As we get closer to the snowy season in Toronto, many people will make the short drive out of the city to Hockley Valley Resort in Orangeville. Over the past 25 years, Hockley Valley Resort has become well known for its skiing. And given my complete inability to ski or snowboard, it’s probably not surprising that I’d never given much thought to visiting the resort. That all changed this past summer when I found out there was far more to the place than just winter sports.

Over the past couple of years, Hockley Valley Resort has gone through a transformation under president and general manager John-Paul Adamo. As the son of the owners, Adamo has basically grown up at the resort, where he cooked in and then ran the kitchen. Since taking the helm, a large part of Adamo’s focus has been on capitalizing on Hockley Valley Resort’s location in fertile Dufferin County and making the place a culinary destination.

Hockley Valley Resort Garden
The vegetable gardens at Hockley Valley Resort

Jenny and I had the chance to see the fruits of his labour firsthand when we visited in August. One of the first things you notice as you pull into the resort’s parking lot is its two-acre vegetable garden. The garden was planted in 2009 on the spot where Hockley Valley Resort’s tennis courts used to stand, and it now supplies a large portion of the produce used by its kitchens (what doesn’t come from the Hockley garden is sourced from local farmers). In the summer, a woodburning oven that sits in the garden is used to bake pizzas.

Hockley Valley Resort Charcuterie Salumi
A sampling of some of the great charcuterie at Hockley Valley Resort

The self-sustaining food ethos continues inside as well, with a cold room full of made-in-house prosciutto, capicollo and pancetta.  The meats—as well as other meat products from local producers like Pingue and Il Tagliere, and an assortment of cheeses from around the world—show up on the menus of the resort’s wine bar, Babbo, and its Restaurant 85.

“Growing up in an Italian family, garden-to-table cooking was the norm. I remember going to my grandfather’s house and watching him in the garden. Cured meats, wine, bread and cheese were staples in our house and I was introduced to them at a very young age,” Adamo told me when I asked him about what influenced his decision to produce so many of Hockley Valley Resort’s food products in-house. “Moving to Florence and Switzerland for three years only reinforced my roots and beliefs when it comes to food and how we should be eating.”

Hockley Valley Resort Lounge
The lounge in Hockley Valley Resort’s Restaurant 85

There’s more to come in the resort’s culinary transformation, too. Its latest restaurant, Cabin 1865, is set to open in late December, with chef Michael Potters (known for his time in kitchens around Toronto, his own Harvest Restaurant in Prince Edward County, and a brief stretch at Angeline’s this year) running the show. A smokehouse is also in the plans, for in-house production of everything from bacon to smoked cheese and fish. And expanded baking facilities will allow the resort’s chefs to make everything from breads to wedding cakes.

Hockley Valley Resort Patio
Dining al fresco by the pool at Hockley Valley Resort

And Adamo has big plans for the small vineyard that was taking shape on the grounds of Hockley Valley Resort when we visited. “This is the brainchild of my father, who has always been the visionary. He sees our area as the next big wine region. We have just under 1,000 vines planted this year. There are plans for 2,000 to 4,000 vines next year, with production of sparkling wine to start in three years.”

Hockley Valley Resort Menu

Of course, food alone doesn’t make a great vacation spot. During our visit, Jenny and I had the chance to enjoy Hockley Valley Resort’s spa and their outdoor pool (they have an indoor pool and a hot tub as well, both undergoing renovations when we were there). And as we sat on the outdoor patio enjoying one of the Pasta Sociale dinners they hold throughout the summer, and later drove around the surrounding areas, we both talked about how it all reminded us a bit of the time we spent in Tuscany last summer. While we may not take advantage of the skiing that’s made the resort a winter destination for a quarter century, it’s nice to know that there’s a place so close to home that we can visit when we need a small taste of Italy.

Hockley Valley Resort Pasta

The overhead photo at the top of this post was borrowed from the Hockley Valley Resort Facebook page.

A Taste of Rome

19 Jul

In my last post, I mentioned that our silence earlier this summer was the result of our trip to Italy. I also promised some posts detailing some of the culinary delights Jenny and I experienced in our travels. While it’s been a while coming, this is the first in what will be a series of posts focusing on what we ate in the different places we visited.

First up, Rome. For most people, Rome is the natural starting point to a trip to Italy. And why not? It’s full of amazing things to see, and equally amazing things to eat. And while few things ruin an appetite like jet lag, we still managed to pack quite a bit of eating into three days. Okay, we ate a lot in three days. So rather than bore you with every detail, I’m only going to talk about the highlights.

Pizza Napoletana Rome

Rome is the only place in Italy where we ate pizza. Those who’ve spent time in Italy will know that pizza isn’t that common in most cities outside of Naples – the birthplace of pizza. And so it was appropriate that our first Italian pizza experience came at PizzaRè, purveyors of great Neapolitan-style pizza. We split two pizzas: the Napoletana ai fiori di zucca (bufala mozzarella, fresh anchovies, and zucchini flowers) pictured above, as well as the Rucola (mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula and shaved parmigiano).

Pizza Arugula Rome

While the crust, char and cornicione (that’s pizza snob-speak for crust) were outstanding on both pizzas, the flavour combination of the anchovies and zucchini blossoms on the Napoletana was something I’m still craving as I write this. Along with our pizza, we shared a stewed octopus dish that was also fresh and delicious.

Octopus

Like most regions and cities in Italy, Rome is home to several unique culinary delights. The Jewish quarter is a perfect example of this. Home to Rome’s Jewish population for centuries, today the quarter is full of restaurants serving interesting Jewish Roman specialties. We ended up at one of the oldest and best-known restaurants in the area, Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia, for lunch one day, and it definitely ended up being one of the most memorable meals we had during our entire two weeks in Italy.

Carciofi Rome

On the plate of fried goodness in the above photo is carciofo alla guidia (Jewish-style fried artichoke), filetto di baccala (deep-fried salted cod), and fiore di zucchina ripieno (deep-fried zucchini blossom). The blossom was stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, and the taste was – not surprisingly – reminiscent of the pizza we’d had at PizzaRè. The anchovies we had in Italy were so different from the ones we find here in Canada – far less fishy tasting; just fresh, salty and delicious.

Tripe Rome

We followed our sampling of fried goodies by sharing an order of Roman-style tripe, which is stewed in a tomato sauce flavoured with mint. Growing up Italian, I remember having tripe served to me a few times. And while it’s definitely an acquired taste that I haven’t entirely acquired yet, it was something I was determined to try while in Italy. Verdict: surprisingly good, though I’m probably okay with not eating it again until my next trip to Italy.

Caffe Sant'Eustachio Rome

Next up, Caffe Sant’Eustachio for some espresso. This place, located near the ancient Roman Pantheon and in business since the 1930s, is a legend in Italy. Many regard Sant’Eustachio as the best espresso in Rome. Some say it’s because of the water, from a 19th century aqueduct. Others claim it’s the method used in brewing the coffee, which is kept secret from customers’ eyes by screens around the espresso machine.  Honestly, considering the fact prices at Sant’Eustachio are considerably higher than at most other caffes in Rome, and the fact that just about every espresso in Italy is a good espresso, the experience left me a bit underwhelmed.

Mozzarella Obika Rome

The final stop on this quick taste of Rome is a mozzarella bar called Obika. Since the first location opened in central Rome in 2004, its popularity and the concept of featuring fresh mozzarellas and meats from Italy have taken off. Today, there are more than a dozen Obika locations across Italy, Tokyo, London, Kuwait and New York. I was initially skeptical of this place when we decided to stop in to Obika’s Campo de Fiori location for aperitivo (a relatively new Italian tradition of having a snack and drink in late afternoon or early evening). I mean, I like good mozzarella, but it’s not the most exciting cheese in the world. But the combination of fresh bufala mozzarella with a tasting of prosciutto di Parma, mortadella and a Tuscan finocchiona (a handmade fennel salami) made for the perfect snack. It was especially good paired with an Aperol spritz, a popular Italian drink made with prosecco, Aperol bitters, and soda water. And as Campo di Fiori was drenched in a torrential downpour while we ate, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.

So, that’s a taste of Rome. If you’re hungry for more, watch for future posts on the foods of Florence, Tuscany, and Bologna.

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