Revive and Recharge in Oxford County

March is that grey bridge between February’s glistening snow and April’s blooming flowers. We need sunshine; we need fun; we need to crack this ice and fly.

DINE’s Pro-Tip

Oxford County is the best, most epicurean, easy-to-get-to destination, chock full of experiences, for anyone across the GTA seeking to revive and recharge. We don’t need to sit at the intersection of boredom and frustration, waiting for the weather to change, we need to sink our teeth into a rich wedge of cheese along the Cheese Trail, and melt our aching bodies into a relaxing, steaming Nordic Spa.


Let’s talk about this Cheese Trail for a moment…

At Bright Cheese and Butter, it’s all about the squeak. Winter is poutine season and it’s here that we purchase the freshest squeakiest cheese curds to lavish on our fries. Swiss Alpine cultures are used for their Horseradish Cheddar and their new sharp shooting Two Pistols Cheddar. Top quality milk is the key to the unique variety at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, from their 5 Brothers blend of Appenzeller and Gouda, to the creamy espresso-rubbed Moo Brew, and Dark Side of the Moo, soaked in Dark Side Chocolate Stout, from Upper Thames Brewing Co. Grilled cheese never had it so good! Mountainoak Cheese is gouda for everyone! Eighteen different flavours of smooth rich Gouda include Wild Nettle, Black Truffle, Fenugreek, and Chili Pepper! Warning: you can taste a sample, but you’ll likely want to walk out with a round.

Enter the Red Dragon. I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more, just to be blissed-out by the diverse range of rich, sharp Gruyere, Manchego, Pecorino Romano, Fontina and Feta. And! OMG! Their Greek-style yogurt is disarmingly refreshing and wonderfully thick and creamy. It is the dreamiest yogurt I’ve ever tasted.

Oxford_Golspie Dairy Vending machine
We line up for fresh bottles of 4% chocolate milk from the retro-style “Milk Vending Machine” at Golspie Dairy. This is wonderful chocolate milk that brings out the kid in each of us. The Double Golspie has a natural rind that is not washed, so there is a mild and yet rustic complexion that is so satisfying and would melt beautifully on a juicy burger. But wait. What’s this? There’s a new cheese in town! New Galma Dairy is family-run and uses century-old recipes to craft the most beautiful wheels of traditional Dutch style cheese. My personal favs have to be Pesto, Chili Pepper and Mustard Seed. The baby wheels make perfect pop-in-your-mouth midday snacks, and we fill our swag bags with these.

Time for Oxford County’s Liquid Assets

Early Bird Coffee, Oxford
Early Bird Coffee
Good coffee is hard to find. Am I right? But even better, in our Roasting Lab Experience at Early Bird Coffee, we watch the roasting process from green to rich brown, and sample roasts from light to dark, pairing them with delicious locally baked confections; and we depart with our own freshly-roasted bag of beans to enjoy at home. Here’s one for the “Unexpected Finds” category—and this is the kind of hidden gem we love to find in our travels—Habitual Chocolate. This is the largest selection of bean to bar chocolates in Canada. Magic beans, from South America, Africa and Thailand are roasted in house. The simplicity of the chocolate recipes belies the complexity of their flavour profiles. They range from 47% to 100% cacao, including a range of organic ingredients from sea salt to spearmint, and are keto-friendly, soy, nut and gluten-free. The chocolate is exquisite with luxurious mouthfeel, and the hot chocolate is a sexy, voluptuous, mic-drop.

Upper Thames Brewing
Upper Thames Brewing, Dudek Photography
Word on the street is that Upper Thames Brewing Co. is making their pizza dough with their own Backpaddle Blonde Ale. We opt for a scrumptious crackling crust of Gunn’s Hill Brie and Prosciutto with a fig jam sauce, drizzle of balsamic glaze and arugula for lip-smacking goodness. We sidle up to the polished wooden bar and sample a flight. Dead Reckoning OPA is smooth with a citrus and cedar essence. It’s made with all-Ontario malt and Ontario-grown Cascade, Rakau, and Glacier hops. Lazy Fox Amber Ale is a harmonious blend of honey notes, dark fruit and caramel. Making Waves with Plum has a pinkish hue, an aroma of plump yellow plum, and refreshing lemon-lime notes rounded out with vanilla.

And of course, when life throws you lemons, pour some maple syrup on it. Nowhere is winter’s elixir more divine than at Jakeman’s. Fluffy pancakes luxuriate in Ontario’s tree-to-bottle, energy-boosting, “Grade A” Amber Maple Syrup. These breakfasts are the quintessential small-town Ontario experience that everyone must try.

Unwind and Relax

Terra Nova Spa
Terra Nova Spa
Remember to breathe. The clean country air is brisk and revitalizing. Now wade into some hydrotherapy. Wave Nordic Spa provides that covetous hot-cold cycle of soaking in heat, combined with a cold plunge, a warm dry sauna and outdoor hammocks to linger and laze the day away while boosting our immune systems through increased circulation. The height of luxury is an afternoon nap, after which we dine on slow braised beef bourguignon in rich red wine jus, and house-made ravioli stuffed with burrata, pistachio and caramelized onions. Terra Nova Nordic Spa is a holistic journey. We’re in no rush. The café offers specialty coffees and a decadent High Tea. We’re here for the hot pool, cold plunge, wood-fired and electric sauna, and the rain shower, followed by the eucalyptus steam room. An extensive spa menu includes massage therapy, osteopathy and yoga. We lounge in the relaxation areas, including an authentic teepee and geodome that transport us a world away. Here, our cell phones and laptops are but a distant memory.

Alpaca Walk, Udderly Ridiculous
Alpaca Walk, Udderly Ridiculous
In addition to unique experiences like soap making and soap felting within the enchanting aromas of Wild Comfort; the array of beautiful designs at local art galleries; the myriad secluded and serene trails for bird watching; goat cuddling, alpaca walks and, wait for it…miniature cows at Udderly Ridiculous. There are so many irresistible local bakeries, cheese shops and local taste-of-place dining spots to indulge in happy flavours that make a short jaunt to Oxford County the best local mood-boosting experience we can give ourselves right now.

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