The October Tasting Trail is a walking feast of fall flavours, filled with memories for me. Once you share my journey through our downtown, I hope it will become a must do event on your seasonal calendar.
You may ask what makes the tasting trail memorable.
Might it be the tasty mix of downtown Barrie establishments creating an amuse bouche that best represents their establishment, from sweet to sipping that tempt the palate while introducing us to their wares?
Perhaps it is the opportunity to draw upon the harvest season with a refreshing, family friendly, Saturday stroll, all the while window shopping and taking note of businesses one is keen to explore on a return trip.
Are you new to Barrie or the downtown and out to discover, or a regular, engaged in the weekend tradition of supporting local with no rush shopping, such a pleasurable experience with not a shopping cart in sight!
As a champion of local, I am familiar with all the shops and stops on the tasting trail, traverse along with me.
This brainchild of the BIA is brilliant, an annual October event that engages downtown local merchants with the larger Barrie community, inviting them downtown to explore with their taste buds. An altruistic event that supports a community cause as all proceeds are donated. As Craig Stevens, Managing Director of the BIA shared with me, the October Tasting Trail raised $1000 for The Seasons Centre for Grieving Children.
Five dollar passports were available to purchase at all sites, travel took place on each Saturday in October from 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Each stop had a window of two hours, plenty of time to taste while moving along the trail. Travelers who turned in their stamped passports were eligible to win a $325 dollar prize package.
My photographer and I visited all the stops, meeting familiar faces and bumping into new visitors on our journey.
First up was WH Food Market where a full plate of tastes, both sweet and savory awaited us. A tiny cheddar shortbread, a wee scone made with caramelized onion, flavoured with Flying Monkey’s Acadia Maple beer, a bite of spicy bread dipped in Flying Monkeys Deep Tracks beer cheese dip and a sliver of chocolate cake. It was a mouthful!
Over to Owen Street we went next, the home of Homestead Artisan Bakery and Café; where on their specialty ‘country blonde’ sourdough bread we were served a house favourite, the ‘Veg’. This open faced tidbit of tastiness was a combo of roast veggies, goat cheese and tapenade. Try the sandwich version when you go for lunch, because I know you’ll be back!
Down to Dunlop Street we strolled to RIPE Juicery, as I type they are celebrating their win of the New Business of the Year Award at the Barrie Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. RIPE served us fresh apple cider and a seasonal fave, a pumpkin spice smoothie! Healthy, freshly made and energizing, just the boost we needed to carry on.
Another perk of the #OctoberTastingTrail is the opportunity to chat with the vendors. I found each shopkeeper keen to share a story, it’s all part of the process and the kinship that exists in the downtown core, they call it #locallove. There is an abundance of goodwill among merchants for their customers and neighbours.
Barrie Olive Oil was our next stop. The Collier Street location is their flagship store, but with recent expansion they have two more locations, one in the south end of Barrie at 31 Commerce Park another at Georgian Mall, this venue is open until December 31. If you haven’t tasted their wide variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars this was a great way to experience those as chocolate cake was involved. Don’t shake your head in surprise; it is an amazing taste sensation, robust balsamic vinegar on a rich chocolate cake! I combined the espresso flavour with chocolate, simply divine.
The timing was right for a saunter over to The Barrie Bean Counter, where Balzac Coffee is one of the beverage options, served with a perfectly spiced house made gingersnap cookie, it was a delightful respite. The Barrie Bean Counter is a cozy nook with newish owners; welcome them with a visit as they warmly greeted us on the trail.
Next to explore was J’adore Fine Cheese & Chocolate in their new home at 123 Dunlop Street East. This is a gorgeous space, totally reinvented but with traditional touches, serving smiles and accoutrements of every imagined cheese delicacy, gorgeous fine chocolate too! Our tasting trail treat was a slice of freshly toasted baguette, topped with Bouchee D’amore aka ‘love bites’ goat cheese, plus a nibble of chocolate bark.
Our journey continues to the Lazy Tulip Café. With constant rave reviews, an expansion in the works, this is the epitome of ‘bloom where you are planted’. The Lazy Tulip Café garden grows and multiplies. Memory takes over for me here. We are gracefully served perfect petite savory cheddar herb scones and offered a choice of soup. With beautiful deep colours and flavours we decide on one of each; curried squash with apple and tomato basil. Tasteful, all the while Buddha watches.
The Grilled Cheese Social Eatery is the personification of great kitchen karma. The grilled cheese offerings were a gorgeous combination known as ‘The Canadian’ with apple smoked cheddar, bacon, apple slices and real maple syrup to dip, a few sprouts on top for crunch and colour. Randy always gets it right! Buddha watches over things here too. Welcome is extended to all with their suspended sandwich and coffee program, just ask.
Shane L.S. Dennis embraces us with a warm hug as we walk into Unity Market where they were serving bowls of broccoli cheddar soup and gluten free chocolate brownies. The brownies were so popular there were only sample sized bites to try. I call Shane altruism personified; this man has generosity tattooed on his soul. Participation on the tasting trail with proceeds donated is a natural fit for Unity Market.
Avōco Bar opened their newest Barrie location on Collier Street recently. They were serving up butternut squash soup and a vegan chili, both loaded with toppings. It was great to see a specific vegan option available on the tasting trail. Welcome to the downtown!
Now we have been nibbling, noshing and slurping for many hours, before we hit the sipping portion of the trail it was timely to saunter over to Maple Avenue to see what Nutrition Plus was offering. As luck would have it their new café was serving espresso in delightful demitasse cups with a Sweets From the Earth caramel pecan bar. This tiny jolt of caffeine and a power snack was just what we needed!
Without broomsticks our feet flew over to the Flying Monkeys Brewery. Did I mention how I simply love my work! Flight time. In the new Tap Room with neon tribute to all that is not normal it was time to slow down and give the toes a rest. True confession, I am not a beer fan, forgive me please, but my photographer tucked into her glass with gusto, 12 Minutes to Destiny is a hip choice. Sporting a menu of edibles to accompany their unique craft beers, some of the friendliest servers in town and a website that wows, walk in and experience it!
Canvas and Cabernet, this is where I saddle up to the bar to lift my glass, the perfect place to end the #OctoberTastingTrail. Red, white and rosé are the colours but the varieties are endless, if you are not sure ask, as the amazing staff will make recommendations. A small pour and a chocolate truffle were the tastes presented.
As bubbles surface in a glass of champagne or prosecco, memories surfaced. Last year on the tasting trail, while at The Lazy Tulip Café I conversed with a woman who shared in a rich French accent that she was exploring the trail to learn about Barrie, as her daughter was here on a school exchange program. They wanted to learn about the city that would be their home for a year. We walked the trail together, sharing stories of local food cultures; the tasting trail was the walk towards a friendship for us and our daughters maintained, now oceans apart. Our city has heart.
What did you discover on the tasting trail, a new café or restaurant, a shop or perhaps you bumped into a fellow traveler?
The #OctoberTastingTrail isn’t just a hashtag for social media; the event is an activity that exemplifies the social consciousness of the downtown merchants.
In our ongoing collaboration in support of local; Erin Corcoran Re/Max Chay Reality Inc. Sales Representative and enthusiastic owner operator of Barrie’s Simcoe County Shop Local and I are pleased to share our finds with you.
See you in November!