We’re always watching what’s cooking in Thunder Bay, and are eager to revisit its menus and the attractions.
What makes Thunder Bay the next hot foodie destination? According to Jamie Kennedy, who was integral to developing Prince Edward County’s food tourism, “Thunder Bay is a vibrant community with a strong food strategy around it.” Shared Kennedy. “This is a unique place.”
What are the ingredients local to Thunder Bay? I had images of walleye and game, but I sampled Lake Superior Coffee; thirteen varieties of Thunder Oak Cheese Farm gouda; Boreal Birch Syrup; Boreal Forest Teas; and a refreshing range of Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. beer—all rich quality products making their way onto menus.
Restaurants are embracing local culture and local products like never before. The historic Hoito Restaurant, the heart of the Finnish community in Ontario, serves up the best thin and light Finnish pancakes, and is still the place to be for a wholesome breakfast of champions. The Silver Birch Restaurant incorporates local ingredients for a menu reflecting the outdoors of Ontario’s true north. Wild blueberry pork chop, Juniper chicken, Apple cider ribs, or for vegetarians, Maple whisky pumpkin gnocchi. The hot ticket in town is Tomlin Restaurant. Quality farm fresh ingredients dynamically presented for our eclectic palates, like tantalizing salmon tartare with yellow curry, Philly cheese steak Carpaccio, veal tagliatelli with hazelnut, pecorino, caramelized onion and tomato leaf pistou, and roasted trout with oyster mushrooms, bacon and walnuts.
Where is local for Thunder Bay? A short drive from the Minnesota border, many Americans seem to already know what the rest of Ontario is just starting to figure out. Situated at the northern tip of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is surrounded by both rich farmland and the diverse rocky topography of the Canadian Shield. Five Provincial Parks and one Great Lake make this an oasis for outdoor activities and adventure. In one day I toured the Thunder Oak dairy; attempted an exhilarating fat-biking excursion through the pristine snow-blanketed Sleeping Giant Provincial Park; and latched onto the ice-covered cliff of Mount McKay for a taste of what makes Thunder Bay the ice-climbing mecca of North America. It’s all so accessible, and within minutes of downtown. Guided by Outdoor Skills and Thrills, I felt so invigorated and accomplished; I wanted to call up everyone I know to get over here and try this.
A day in Thunder Bay makes me forget where I am. The most important ingredient in any local movement is the people, and here, the sincere warmth and good cheer is infectious. I love it. It’s easy to take distances for granted, but a trip to Thunder Bay really does feel like exploring a different a part of the country, and yet it’s such an easy jaunt from Toronto. Through OCTA’s destination development conference in Thunder Bay and all the insightful conversations about the food tourism scene that is cooking up a lot of buzz right now, I enjoyed a truly authentic taste of the North that has put Thunder Bay on my radar as Ontario’s emerging destination for bold flavour and adventure.
Visit Thunder Bay at: www.thunderbay.ca
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Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.