Hop on the Pumpkin to Pastries Trail – it’s time to savour the local fall flavours, colours, and adventures in Halton! Not sure where to start? Halton Region’s P2P Trail website breaks the event up into six categories: Fall Events & Attractions, Farms, Farmers’ Markets, Bakeries & Cafes, Restaurants, and Retail. Before you go anywhere, grab your smart phone so you can enter the #p2ptrail selfie contest. This year’s expanded trail pops up in neighbourhoods all over the Region and in some unexpected (and delicious) places; as it turns out, pumpkins are good for more than just an amped up latte.
For example, there’s the Highballer Pumpkin Ale from Grand River Brewing – served on tap at the Shepherd’s Crook in downtown Georgetown. If the idea of an orange vegetable infused into your brew seems too unusual, the servers at this classic pub are happy to pour you a try-before-you-buy sample. The muted spicy and sweet flavours in this pale ale will help get you in the festive fall spirit, but if not, have another pint and you’re sure to feel at least a little spirited. The restaurant will have special fall food features all month. If you see Pumpkin Coconut Soup on the menu board, order it immediately! The soft hint of sweet coconut blends charmingly with the pumpkin to create a hearty, yet delicate soup – the perfect opener for something a little more indulgent, perhaps the lobster mac and cheese?
If you still have room after the Shepherd’s Crook, walk across the street to Heather’s Bakery Cafe, where the pumpkins really do become pastries. You should probably try everything from the pumpkin chocolate brownies (really) to the pumpkin tarts (because they look like adorable mini pumpkin pies). Aside from the orange gourd’s influence, there are many other treats to tempt you such as the lemon meringue tart (again, looking like an adorable mini pie) and the chocolate butter pecan tart (chocolate Canadiana anyone?). Perhaps your sweet tooth’s siren song is sung by cupcakes. Well then, you need to be at Sweet! Bakery and Tea House in the Bronte area of Oakville. Get a pile of mini cupcakes so you can try each of their features, including apple crumble, earl grey orange (personal favourite), rocky road, and pumpkin brown butter (it is the #p2ptrail after all).
Okay, time for the heart of the P2P Trail journey – get thee to a pumpkin patch! You can spot the pick-your-own pumpkins at Stonehaven Farm Market as soon as you turn into the driveway. The big green vines cover a vast expanse of ground dotted with big orange gourds, ripe and ready for picking. Get in there and pick the best one, but don’t get lost – save that for the corn maze (or the straw-bale maze for younger or more timid folks). You will find all kinds of gourmet treats inside their market if you feel peckish after you conquer that giant maize maze. Then you can put your feet up and relax on a scenic wagon ride to cap off the Pumpkin to Pastries farm experience.
Once you’ve acclimated to the great outdoors at the farm, make a trip to one of Halton’s conservation areas – remember to pack your hiking shoes and some snacks so you can hit the trails (maybe you have some mini cupcakes left, but probably not). At Mountsberg Conservation Area, a nature trail will take you into the fall foliage and bring you alongside magnificent horses and a field occupied by bison, including some baby bison (or you can just call them calves). Other notable wildlife encounters at Mountsberg include birds of prey shows and a barn housing the woolliest sheep you’ve ever seen. Imagine a #p2ptrail selfie with those adorable sheep faces in the background (just don’t hop the fence for that photo)!
Beware, all these outdoor adventures may lead to an overwhelming desire to “autumnize” your own home with the colours and foliage of the season. It’s okay though: D.G. Greenhouses has everything you need to indulge your inner Martha. With piles of decorative pumpkins, rows and rows of giant mum plants, and artful outdoor flower arrangements, you can pumpkin spice up your home (see what I did there?). D.G. Greenhouses is actually a one-stop fall-musement centre – they have pick-your-own apples and vegetables, along with a variety of edible gourds ready to be cooked into your own pumpkin soups and snacks.
After you start dreaming up your own scrumptious fall recipes, you can find the other fresh Ontario-grown ingredients that you need at your closest farmers’ market along the #p2ptrail. There’s loads of other stops on the Pumpkins to Pastries Trail, so grab your selfie sticks and head out there asap. All things on the P2P Trail will continue until the end of October with some special Halloween events too. We hope you have a gourd-tastic fall season!
By Michelle Malandra