In the cold winter months, I typically don’t have much of a desire to do anything but stay under covers. When I wake up in the morning, I wince at the first feeling of a draft as I reluctantly crawl out from under my soft down duvet. I step out of bed, affronted by the cold feeling of the wood floors of my Toronto apartment on my toes. “Winter,” I think to myself: “Why?”
After living abroad for three years in the warmer temperatures of Turkey, I was apprehensive about coming back to winters in Ontario. Enter Chris’s and my romantic weekend road trip for two hibernating through the regions of York, Durham and Headwaters. I’m happy to report that my winter blues were quickly replaced by the warmth of food, people and spending quality time reconnecting with my partner.
What better way to begin reconnecting than to start at the root of health and wellness: food? Too often, Chris and I look at our grocery list as a chore. We decided to change our approach by heading to Market & Co. in York Region to indulge in some delicacies which don’t ordinarily make the cut on our weekly list of necessities.
We’d heard great things about this new space in Newmarket which successfully combines the best parts of the traditional market experience, including the artisanal and local vendors they have, and blends it with a modern, hip atmosphere. The neon signs, inviting displays and the carefully selected upbeat music make for an inspiring weekend shopping experience. My favourite finds from our morning at Market & Co. were an organic soy and coconut candle, locally crafted garlic infused olive oil paired with wild fig vinegar, and a bottle of an Ontario reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that I hadn’t tried before, which I was able to sample from the wine tasting bar.
The experience at Market & Co. goes way beyond the typical market experience, especially since they offer classes. Chris and I took a pasta making classes hosted by Amano Kitchen, an open concept Italian kitchen in the heart of the action at Market & Co. We had the privilege of learning about traditional pasta making from Chef Cory Cucoch of Amano Restaurant. Cory’s experience working in 3 continents and being a chef for 17 years brought a lot of expertise to our class.
We began “learning” with homemade Italian sodas in hand and a mouthwatering charcuterie board at our disposal, featuring Italian staples like prosciutto and melon alongside locally sourced favourites like soft Ontario cheeses with honey and figs. Cory expertly led us through the meticulous processes of slicing fresh tagliatelle and stuffing spinach and cheese ravioli. (Pro Tip: where making fresh pasta is concerned, there is no such thing as too much flour.) We finished the class with a nicely prepared kit which included our own pasta to take home and an Amano homemade tomato sauce. This class was the perfect mix of actually working and a little indulgence, so I think it’s safe to say we’ll be back.
We left Newmarket and continued on to Scugog in Durham Region, and whatever cold we may have felt stepping out of our car instantly melted on the warm welcome we received at the charming Nestleton Waters Inn. Sitting on 96 acres, the Nestleton Waters Inn estate is a true escape from the big city.
The inn has been expertly created and designed by the Kiezebrink family, with matriarch Mrs. Kiezebrink steering the heart of the business, and husband and wife Erik and Deborah Kiezebrink at the helm. We were greeted by Deborah on arrival, and to say her smile could light up a room would be an understatement: the Kiezebrinks’ presence instantly makes you feel as though you’re with family.
We were shown up to our room called the “Mapenzi Suite” and were quickly transported to Sub-Saharan Africa. Decorated with artifacts and paintings from the countries of Kenya and Congo, this room is inspired by the life and hospitality experienced by Deborah’s family when they lived and worked as missionaries during her childhood in Congo. The cozy warmth of the room with its jetted tub, gas fireplace and oversized windows looking out onto the estate’s lake made me want to curl up with Chris and embrace the cold wintery weather outside. It was a feeling which had the memories of my cold apartment floors long forgotten.
While taking a cooking class together during our road trip was rewarding, awaiting the carefully prepared five course dinner by Chef Aaron Moss at the Nestleton Waters Inn that night was the real treat of our weekend’s hibernation. The inn puts on several variations of this experience throughout the year, and each one is crafted meticulously by Aaron to ensure that the best of Ontario’s flavours are showcased.
The intimate dining room at the inn accommodates around 25 guests which is the perfect size for conversation between courses. Favourites from dinner included the Beetroot & Goat Cheese Roulade and the Black Cod au Gratin. Our pleasure in savouring these dishes may only have been topped by Chef Aaron’s passion for sharing his menu. He is a talented storyteller, and the personal anecdotes he shares as he describes each course dismisses the idea that to enjoy such a meal you need to sit in contemplative, polite silence.
It was here, surrounded by good food, good company, and Chris, that I took a moment to pause and reflect: winter is a time to huddle close and spend time indoors, undistracted, with the things you care about most. Whether that means finding good food, people, or finding the right place to escape your apartment for the weekend, you only find it when you make the time to do so: when you’re hibernating in style.
Written by: Briana Mitchell