A brand-new food tour company is unlocking the culinary secrets of Almonte for hungry visitors. I took a Good Food Tour last Sunday, and I can recommend it highly.
Photo: Cathy Reside (left) chats with me (middle) and Stephanie near the Almonte River Walk.
Owner/guide Cathy Reside got hooked on the food tour concept last year, when she took her first food tour in Las Vegas. At first, it seemed like an odd place for a food tour, she says, but it turned out to be fascinating.
She was so convinced the idea would work in her food-focused town that she spent a year researching the idea and forging partnerships with local restaurants, food shops and bars before launching her first tour on April 28.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, she’ll be running three three-hour walking tours a week—one each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is some overlap between them, but some destinations are unique to each tour.
My friend Stephanie and I opted for the Sunday afternoon tour, and met Cathy outside Almonte’s landmark Old Town Hall—which, Cathy told us, also once served as a fire station (she pointed out the doors to the main floor tourist office, big enough to let a small fire engine in and out).
Her tour is peppered with similar tidbits of local history. We also learned about a terrible train accident in 1942 and about the source of the town’s name (it’s an intriguing tale featuring a Mexican general).
However, the focus is strongly on the food. At each stop, we enjoyed a food or drink sample.
We started right across the street from the town hall at Pizza-Ria Unlimited (no, that’s not a typo) at 27 Bridge Street.
To be honest, I would have walked right by this little spot without stopping, as it looks very plain from the outside. Inside, there’s a takeout counter on one side and a scattering of small tables on the other. It’s far from fancy. But don’t let appearances deceive you; this is no ordinary pizza joint.
Along with standards like meat lover’s and Hawaiian pizza, the menu features a selection of chicken curries, samosas and other Indian dishes. And they are good. Wonderfully good. The curried chicken was rich with cumin and coriander, and the Canadian pizza was piping hot with a great tangy sauce. The butter chicken pizza sounded odd but offered the best of both worlds.
Our next stop, just around the corner, was Don’s Meat Market. Owner Don St. John greeted us with samples of mushrooms stuffed with spiced pork and peppers. We also had the chance to try handmade honey garlic sausages and skewers of chicken satay. It was all delicious, but the stuffed mushrooms were my favourite. And here’s a fun fact: Don can store 90 deer in his freezer. You never know when you might need deer storage.
Down the street, we popped into Pêches et Poivre, a gift and kitchen store that also has a fridge full of cheeses and meats at the back. They take cheese seriously here, with a cheese club, a cheese of the month and more. Roughly 70 percent of the products in the store are Canadian, many of them from Ontario and Quebec producers—look for honey from Pakenham, chocolate from Maberly and sugar-free jam from Prince Edward County, for instance.
Co-owner Lise Ladouceur presented us with a tasty board of cheeses from Kapuskasing, including a ewe’s-milk cheese paired with plump dried Inü cranberries from Quebec. There was also some Seed to Sausage blue cheese sausage that I enjoyed even though I generally loathe anything blue cheese related.
I was getting full, but there were more treats ahead. And I’m nothing if not diligent in my pursuit of tips for this site. Truly, I am selfless, dear readers.
With its large windows, Mill Street Crepes was light filled even on a drizzly day. And the plates of savoury pulled-pork crepes were delicious and warmed us up. Insider tip: gluten-free crepes and sweet crepes are also on the menu.
Next was Café Postino, a one-time-only participant on this inaugural tour. The restaurant serves up wonderful Italian specialties in the elegant setting of a former post office (hence the name).
Our last stop was the Almonte branch of Ottawa’s Barley Mow pub chain. If you’ve been to one of the other locations, the vibe will be familiar, but the big draw here is the amazing deck overlooking Almonte’s landmark waterfall. It was a bit chilly to sit out there last Sunday, so we sipped our included glass of wine or Perth Brewery beer indoors.
In sum? If you like food, history, walking tours or super-cute towns, you’ll enjoy this three-hour route (the Friday and Saturday itineraries look fun, too). Wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather, but don’t expect a long hike; there’s more noshing, sitting and browsing than exercising.
Sure, you could check out these places on your own…but you probably wouldn’t get to chat with the chefs, butchers and managers, and to get the inside scoop on the dishes prepared especially for you. And here’s a great bonus: most of the spots along the tour provide a coupon just for tour participants, providing a product discount or other perk.
Tickets are $65 per adult and $30 per child aged 6 to 13, and $1 of every ticket sold goes to the local food bank.
I participated in this tour as a guest of the Good Food Tour, which neither reviewed nor approved this post.
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