Monday, October 11, 2010

October: Slow Food and Slow Cycling

While there is absolutely no official or obvious connection between Slow Food and bicycles, as an avid fan of both, I always look forward to this time of year. There is nothing like a bike ride on a fine, warm day in October to remind you of the beauty of the area we are fortunate enough to live in. The bike gives you ample time to savour the smells of autumn as well as to observe the incredible diversity and abundance of the food that the Niagara Region produces.
Recently, Alan Wheeler (another of Slow Food Pelham’s members, and an avid cyclist) and I mapped out a leisurely ride through some of Pelham’s most beautiful areas, taking us past many of the food producers, retailers, and farmers that Slow Foodies treasure.

We began with a tour of the Short Hills area, along Effingham, Roland, and Hollow Roads. This stretch took us past White Meadow Farm, a landmark for its maple sugar products; Bow Ridge Herbs, one of the area’s leading suppliers of herbs and herb seedlings; and a short detour out to Howell’s Pumpkin Farm. Doubling back to Hollow Road, we wound along that lovely street for a rest at St. John’s Conservation Park before continuing to Williams Orchards where Hollow turns into North Pelham.

Entering Fonthill, we saluted Klager’s butcher shop and Zest Restaurant, scene of one of our memorable Slow Food dinners, turned onto Pancake Lane and rode past the pick-your-own blueberry farm and vegetable stand before turning left on Effingham to pass Gwennol Farm (more pick your own berries) and eventually all the way out to the Welland River. There we turned left for a short detour to see Zeta Farms on River Road, producers of organic lambs and eggs, then doubled back, admiring the new O’Reilley’s bridge on our way past. Along the way we were amazed at the amount of soy bean we produce in Niagara; field after field along River Road and many of the other roads on our route… all devoted to production of soy… that’s a lot of tofu!

Our tour then took us out along River Road west to Wellandport, where we passed Tree and Twigg where more than 1000 varieties of heirloom vegetables are grown. Turning back east along Canborough Road, we whizzed past Tom Ball, out in the field of Rural Roots, in Boyle, where he produces the organic veggies he sells at Pelham Market. Just past Rural Roots, we crossed Victoria Avenue and entered Greater Metropolitan Fenwick.

Chez Fromage Etc. in downtown Fenwick is a Pelham treasure where Nathalie Kita offers an amazing variety of gourmet cheeses, curds, and breads from Québec, across Canada, and around the world. Fenwick Subs and Bakery across the street features local fruit in their pies and tarts, and between Fenwick and Ridgeville, the verandah at Berry Patch Tea Room is a hugely popular spot for lunch and afternoon tea. Further along Canborough, on the edge of Ridgeville, Town and Country Farms vegetable stand is one-stop shopping for whatever is in season in southwestern Niagara.

And that brought us full circle to Ridgeville, where the village shops feature chocolate creations at Sweet Thoughts, baked goods and lunch treats at Nature’s Corner Bakery, and all the kitchen supplies you could want at Whisk and Ladle… along with delicious lunch specials at their Knife and Fork Garden Café.

While Alan and I didn’t have time to stop and enjoy any of the goodies along the route, or the space to carry any of the produce that we might have bought, we enjoyed the 60km route for the scenery and the connection it provides to our food and those who grow, produce, and prepare it. Cycling enables us to make that connection vividly.