Luxury Travel Blog + trip

My Birthday Getaway in Southwestern Ontario

In the past, I've spent birthdays in Santorini and New York City, so I figured it's going to be hard to top those. This year, with two kids in tow, Mr. Folie and I decided to get away from the city with some of our closest friends and family. Of course, I've always celebrated my birthdays with my two passions in mind: food and travel. This year was no different.

We kicked off my birthday weekend with "camping" at Bingeman's in the southwestern part of Ontario, in Kitchener-Waterloo, which is a 1.5-hour drive from Toronto. I use the word "camping" quite loosely here because we weren't exactly roughing it (they have cabins and yurts on site), although facilities were pretty basic. I prefer to call it "rustic"!
IMG_0928 copy IMG_0931 copy
However, given my newly found interest in farm stays, back country, and living closer to nature, I didn't mind this kind of fun at all. In fact, I was totally into it, and so was my 3-year-old girl!

We ate and chatted and relaxed. Oh, and we had a game or two of volleyball and ultimate frisbee!
johnny flick Johnny frisbee
We prepared Filipino fare throughout our camping stay, in part due to the rustic nature of our food. Given that many Filipinos in the Philippines live with very little, the people should be able to put together a dish with the simplest of tools: a burner, a pot, and the cheapest ingredients. For instance, tinola is chicken soup with pepper leaves and ginger that is easy to prepare. In the Philippines, it is considered an excellent tonic for cold and flu.
IMG_0922 tinola
The famous adobo is a pork and/or chicken stew. It is traditionally made with soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, and bay leaves.
IMG_0921 adobo
We obviously love our meat: this is liempo - charcoal-grilled pork belly with ribs. It's simply marinated with salt and pepper or sometimes with crushed garlic - but that's all you need. Pork belly in itself is flavoursome already.
IMG_0912 pork belly
This one is not a Filipino dish, as you can see. It's flat bread with eggplant and cheese. Simply delicious when put on a grill.
IMG_0919 bread
My 5-month old reached a milestone that weekend! This was her first taste of solids: rice cereal. I hope this means more sleep for me!
IMG_0911 feeding
One of the weekend's highlights was a trip to the Saturday Mennonite market at St. Jacob's Country. Because we are city dwellers, we couldn't believe the great bargains we found at this local market!

Add to that the fact that I am so happy they spelled "farmers' market" correctly - not "farmer's market" (incidentally, there's more than one farmer there); not "farmers market" (I'm a stickler for apostrophes).
P9110935 market
P9110926 copy
P9110927 copy
I was curious why there was still dirt on the potatoes (Yukon Gold). Apparently, potatoes last for a few months in the pantry when left with the dirt on. So long as you keep them away from the light! When ready to be used, simply wash the dirt off with water. Sold! I came home with a basketful!
P9110928 copy
P9110929 copy
P9110930 copy
P9110937 copy
P9110934 copy
On our last day, we skipped the Sunday Antiques Market at St. Jacob's. Instead, I had a birthday brunch with family at Langdon Hall in Cambridge, about a 25-minute drive from the Kitchener-Waterloo area or a 1.5-hour drive from Toronto. I have heard so many good things about this Relais and Chateaux property, including resident Executive Chef Jonathan Gushue's innovative cuisine. I won't go much into the details because I am writing an article about Langdon Hall elsewhere (my writer's contract - blah, blah). But here are some highlights of the day!
IMG_0945 estate front
A lovely, sun-filled dining room awaited our party for a 12:30 brunch. The truth is, I had high expectations. Why? Because this comes after last month's Per Se experience in New York City.
IMG_1064 restaurant
The $42 three-course prix fixe brunch menu is as good as it gets! Trust me, this is a superb deal!
IMG_0964 menu
We started with a complementary country bread that was just irresistible. The crust was chewy and crunchy and very, very good! Normally, I'm not a big fan of crusts, but this one is sublime enough not to be tossed away.
IMG_0969 bread
It paired well with the soft, creamy, freshly-churned butter they make on the premises. The fleur de sel flakes were an extra special touch.
IMG_0970 butter
A lightly tart but sweet heirloom tomato gazpacho was the perfect backdrop to a clean-tasting lake trout tartare.
IMG_0971 gazpacho
The pasta on my duck tortellini was aptly al dente, with a rich duck filling that complements the accompanying savoury broth.
IMG_0977 tortellini
The pâté en croute on a wooden block was well-executed, served with an outstanding chili jam that is just rightly sweet and spicy.
IMG_0974 pate
The creamy sweet pea risotto with lemon gremolata left all the other appetizers in the dust, especially with its crown of crunchy fried zucchini blossom. By far the best appetizer on the menu.
IMG_0976 risotto
Every component of my crispy lake trout dish was delicate - the fish, the pink lady onions, the smoked bacon, the broth it was sitting on...
IMG_0979 trout
This veal shank crespelle was well-balanced: copious amounts of pulled veal shank meat mixed with creamy ricotta ensconced in a feathery crepe-like pancake and served with sweet seasonal tomatoes. My husband jokingly implied that this was the best burrito he's had in his life! Ok, so he likes to joke around, but he always means well.
IMG_0983 veal shank crespelle
When I first saw smoked black cod on the menu, I wasn't all too sure about it. I mean, it comes with almond gazpacho? Uh, I thought it was trying a bit too hard. But guess what? This was the winning entrée! The robust flavour of the smoked black cod had just the right hit! The micro greens were very fresh, obviously picked from their chef's garden. This dish just shone like no other!
IMG_0981 black cod
By the time dessert came around, I was happily and surprisingly satiated. It could be because I was tasting from everyone's plate, too.

Chocolate and hazelnut parfait with fruit compote...
IMG_0987 hazelnut
Dark chocolate coffee brownie bar with mocha ice cream and coffee wafer...
IMG_0989 choco
Pistachio creme with a dreamy vanilla sablé Breton, a crespelle of white chocolate gelato, topped with macarons and raspberries. This is my favourite dessert of all three that were sampled! Needless to say, more than half of us chose this one!
IMG_0990 pistachio
After the meal, we strolled through the immaculate grounds. I can't think of a better way to end the day. Except maybe with a spa treatment (or maybe the chef's tasting menu). I wish!
IMG_0959 portico IMG_0946 trellis IMG_1004 woods IMG_1022 cloister
My favourite part of Langdon Hall? Perhaps, the chef's garden where they grow leeks, zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant, figs, pepper, and all kinds of herbs and vegetables that are served in their restaurant.
IMG_1031 chef's garden IMG_1033 secret garden IMG_1032 leeks IMG_1034 zucchini patch IMG_1040 flowers IMG_1041 g run IMG_1057 side house IMG_1003 spa
Overall, I had one of the more memorable birthdays, even though we stayed within our own (Toronto's) backyard. Who would have thought there was an esteemed country estate with an award-winning chef in the middle of Cambridge, Ontario? I think this experience really opened my eyes to local travel. From now on, I am hoping to explore more of the places surrounding Toronto. This weekend, I will be reporting from Stratford, Ontario, where I will be sampling local foods!

bars, bridges, bus, Cambridge, cheap ways, cuisine, culinary, dream, family, Folie a Deux, food, Happy, hotel, market, restaurant, review, Toronto, travel, and more:

My Birthday Getaway in Southwestern Ontario + trip