Posted : August 16, 2022
Our blog is chock full of great ideas for fun things to see and do in York Durham and Headwaters. We are always adding new content and updating old posts, but sometimes you might stumble upon something from our vault. If this article has inspired you to hit the road, be sure to double-check that the featured stops in this post are still welcoming visitors.
In Caledon, set on 100 acres of striking Ontario wilderness, is Mount Alverno Luxury Resort. Just 50 or so years ago, this land was actually the site of a Franciscan monastery. The monks purportedly chose the site because of how calm and humbling the natural surroundings were – the rolling hills and lush meadows, the natural pond, and the palpable sense of reprieve from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities.
In 2018, the site was purchased with the intention of creating Ontario’s newest luxury resort and retreat. Their plans were ambitious, and they focused on building over 20 boutique style suites, 15 or so chalets, as well as ample indoor and outdoor event space, including the Glass Conservatory which can accommodate up to 450 for a seated reception, and Thompson Hall, a more intimate venue that is actually a repurposed chapel.
However, for Mount Alverno, who were and are striving to be the new name in town when it comes to “rustic luxury” in Ontario, it was cuisine where they felt they could truly define themselves.
Hungry for Excellence
For Mount Alverno, their foray into the food world had to start with the right chef. From the onset, they knew they wanted Chef Denis Jaricot to lead the charge. Chef Denis, originally hailing from France, has worked in renowned restaurants throughout Europe, North America, as well as the Caribbean.
I spoke at length to the team at the resort, asking how they knew that this was their person. Nipun Vijayakumar, from the marketing team, summed it so succinctly when noting that they loved that he “tries to get inspired by the local ingredients and farms nearby. He strives to source the best out of what is easily available around him.”
His restaurant is called “The Vista,” and his main aim is to redefine classic Canadian cuisine with modern French influences, while never forgetting to focus on eating with the season. He wants to harness the power of local ingredients, but also tap into his diverse culinary history to be adventurous in pairing local food with global spices.
There are many dishes that exemplify this confluence to perfection. Take, for example, the Foie Gras Pie & Duck Prosciutto featuring a grilled porcini mushroom salad and Niagara montmorency sour cherry chutney. Another dish that’s hugely popular and demonstrates Chef Denis’s aspirations is the Ontario Double Lamb Chop Pumpkin Seed Crumble which rests atop an eggplant caponata and a Nigara stone fruit chutney.
They also have The Vista Lounge on the property, which offers scenic views and a curated selection of over 40 new and old world international and domestic wines. Personally though, I’m taking in my views with one of their signature cocktails, and in particular the Smoked Canadian Old Fashioned which has rye, maple syrup, bitters, orange zest, and is all built over an ice sphere and smoked with cherry wood.
They aren’t just painting themselves as an elevated dinner destination though. Nipun was quick to tell me that people come from far and wide for lunch, and once they’ve set eyes on the view, there’s been no shortage of repeat customers.
“Vista has had tremendous success with the patio,” he told me. “That’s one of the best selling points.”
Sleeping Amongst Caledon’s Hills
There are six different room type configurations as it stands, and each offers something a little different. For me, for example, the Signature Suite is awfully alluring since it comes equipped with a work desk with additional outlets and a media hub, and an ergonomic chair to boot. The diffusers, quality tea and coffee and king bed don’t hurt either, of course. With its soaker tub, the Signature Suite is more geared towards couples looking to treat themselves, but here I am just thinking about all the writing I can do in the quiet refuge of its confines.
What’s true of all rooms is that Mount Alverno is striving for a baseline of grandeur. They mention that they hope that “each room captures the language of rustic elegance and the luxury of surrounding scenic romantic hills.”
Their emphasis on finery and quality is all about demonstrating that even if you’re a half hour or hour away from where you call home, you can come here and feel worlds away.
A Gathering Place
Providing a place for people to come and make memories is high on the list for Mount Alverno. They have four event spaces – The Conservatory, The Pond Terrace, The Barn, and Thompson Hall. They do everything from weddings to corporate events to gatherings amongst friends.
Nipun was quick to mention their specialized event planning team. I have a propensity to let my curiosity guide me, so I began posing hypothetical events that I could host to Nipun down the line and asking if they’d be able to accommodate it. After some time, he laughed, and noted that they “have the space to provide for 20 people, all the way up to 6000.”
His way, I think, of kindly letting me know that if I could dream it, they could pull it off.
They also are experimenting with events, and this past winter even converted their rustic barn into “Santa’s Workshop,” for the children of the community to come and enjoy.
A New Name in Ontario Resorts
Their timing in their launch was difficult to say the least, but it seems that Mount Alverno is finally starting to spread their wings. They have a restaurant run by an acclaimed chef who is harnessing the ingredients around him. They have rooms and chalets that are now finally ready to open their doors to excited guests. They have kilometres upon kilometres of hiking trails, and remarkable access to the sweet outdoors. They have a history and a story as well, and aim to continue to carry on the legacy of providing a place for contemplation and reprieve.
And they have a vision. This is, I’m told, just phase one, with phase two including things like a Scandinavian spa and more.
At one point, I asked Nipun what he thought made Mount Alverno Luxury Resort different. Why, I asked, did he feel so strongly that they had something special here? His answer was succinct yet profound. “We are surrounded by the rolling hills of Caledon, Chris. There are great views all around us.”
He paused, then said, “Here, you have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in nature.”
By: Christopher Mitchell