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Stay & Play – Ontario

Find your farm-to-lakefront cottage getaway at Elmhirst’s Resort

by Cherie DeLory

Know someone with a cottage? Now you do. Escape to Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake in the Kawarthas and you’ll receive a warm, family style welcome. This four-seasons cottage resort in Keene, Ontario, a quick 20-minute drive from Peterborough and only 90 minutes from Toronto, has been a family affair for over a century.

Elmhirst’s Resort offers a unique farm-to-table experience in a hybrid farm and lakefront cottage setting. Cottages overlook Rice Lake, each with a private balcony, barbecue and dock. A recent round of renovations included having the wood burning fireplaces replaced with electric. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool and fitness centre, and a full-service spa with DoTERRA essential oils. You can even sneak in a round of golf at the 18-course Bellmere Winds Golf Course next door.

A private landing strip is accessible in the nearby field for private aerial sightseeing tours. There’s horse-back riding, and to really get into the spirit of the cowboy way, you can partake in a hearty, country “cowboy breakfast” in the pasture.

An intimate, rustic wine cellar is tightly stocked with local Ontario wines for tastings and corporate events, and you can order fresh vegetables from the garden and meat from the farm to personally grill at your cottage. Dine in the Hearthside Dining room, with calming views of Rice Lake and the soothing crackling sounds from the wood burning stone fireplace, or settle in at the Wild Blue Yonder Pub & Patio for a trip down nostalgia lane where family aviation mementos are on display. Elmhirst’s Own Angus Beef is bred and raised on the farm, as are turkeys, Pekin ducks and chickens. Fresh eggs and honey are available for sale at the front desk. Taking a farm tour is a good way to experience an understanding of the family’s commitment to sustainable farming and environmentally friendly farming techniques.

On this summer’s afternoon, Culinary Team Leader, Jay Nutt, prepared a memorable gourmet farm-to-table lunch to host my travel writers’ road-trip tour. A graduate of the culinary program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Jay is the former owner of Nuttshell Nextdoor Cafe in nearby Lakefield and co-author of several cookbooks with his wife, Jennifer MacKenzie, a food writer and recipe developer.

Jay greeted us at the garden with a cool gin cocktail from Peterborough-based Black’s Distillery, blended with rhubarb ginger syrup and lemonade. Lunch is “representative of our farm, gardens and local suppliers,” he says. And he’s certainly spoiled for choice with veggies from the garden the likes of squash, swiss chard, radishes, and asparagus in the spring. “We plan on drying our herbs later this summer and making relishes and preserves with surplus vegetables.”

We were treated to a colourful medley of grilled vegetables, wild rice salad, puff pastry strudel of Elmhirst’s Own duck leg with caramelized onions, a vegetarian friendly strudel with southwestern black bean and sweet potato, house-smoked Linwood Acres rainbow trout with pickled onions and horseradish mayo, and Elmhirst’s Own grilled and chilled rib-eye steak.

I could barely remove myself from the table to head outside for Kawartha Dairy ice cream sundaes topped with homemade giant chocolate-coated peanut butter balls, whipped cream, and chocolate and caramel sauce. However, we were on a strict schedule. No time to linger and wallow in the pleasures of the moment. I’ll leave that for next time. Perhaps a Thanksgiving feast set amidst the fall foliage.