Exploring Hastings County - Day 1

On Saturday, June 4th, I embarked in a “Hastings County discovery trip”. I planned my route ahead of time, took Highway 62 and enjoyed a serene and scenic one and half hour drive to my first stop, Wollaston Lake. A quaint little beach welcomed me on this sunny first weekend of June. “What a great spot,” I thought as I saw two teenagers enjoying the calm, transparent water. I should have brought my bathing suit! Then I settled for a small break sitting at the comfy and clean picnic table by the beach.

A certain stomach emptiness had now signaled me that it was time to move on with my exploration of Hastings County. My next stop was “The Barn Chefs” new shop in Coe Hill.

The Barn Chefs are Luca Molteni, a fourth generation chef from Italy, and Sarah Woods, a Canadian chef trained in Italy with extensive experience and knowledge of everything Italian from baking to preserving.

The chefs offer a wide variety of products, ranging from breads to pancetta and everything in between. The most impressive - and tasty - selection of cold cuts I have ever seen in North America; and all of this in small town Coe Hill! I had an urge to indulge.

I was presented with a “tagliere” covered in specialty cured meat, including pancetta cotta (cooked pancetta), coppa, culatello, lardo, and last but not least, buffalo corned beef with fresh focaccia and wholegrain bread. The presentation was amazing, but the flavour of those cured meats is unmatchable.  The only way to describe it is the experience of “delirious happiness of the palate”.

Sarah makes the breads daily, while Luca prepares the cold cuts from meat selection to your table. “Meat selection is a great part of my work,” says Luca, while I taste the delicious pancetta on a piece of focaccia. “I often visit farmers to make sure that the animals follow a healthy diet and we do not leave anything to chance. Everything is thought through,” he adds. He only uses Canadian prime pork meat for his nitrate-free sausages.

 The second tagliere delivered a selection of water buffalo milk cheeses, such as mozzarella di bufala, gongorzola (blue cheese) and robiola di bufala (an Italian soft-ripened cheese) as well as piave cheese, made from cow’s milk. An interesting fact is that while science hasn’t yet confirmed a reason why, buffalo milk products are easily digestible for lactose intolerant people, such as me, and so I was able to enjoy my tagliere of cheeses, consequence-free.

Indeed, a lunch like this could only be topped with the ‘best of the best’ dessert on Earth -water buffalo milk gelato. Best gelato I have ever had in my life, and trust me I had a lot of it! Mangia mangia!

At this point – and only after two stops - I am so in love with Hastings County, so much so that I have a feeling this is just the beginning on an amazing journey… care to join me?