What is a cheese trail anyways?

It sounds delicious because it involves cheese but what exactly is a cheese trail?

When you hear the words “cheese trail” do you picture a little dirt trail through a beautiful woods with tasty treats of cheese lining the way?  Although not as “storybook” as that, the Oxford County Cheese Trail can be a picturesque and tasty adventure.

The Oxford County Cheese Trail features over 20 stops throughout the county that feature cheese and dairy products made right here in Oxford County.

Cheesemakers, restaurants, retailers and attractions all make up part of The Oxford County Cheese Trail. Oxford County, being the dairy capital of Canada and home to a long and rich dairy heritage, makes it the perfect place to taste and learn all about cheese and dairy products.

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Meet our award winning cheese makers

The Oxford County Cheese Trail features four cheese makers including Bright Cheese and Butter Manufacturing Co., Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd., Local Dairy Products and Mountainoak Cheese. You can stop by the Bright’s shop and do some tasting before you buy from the varied selection. If you want a behind-the-scenes experience, Gunn’s Hill and Mountainoak Cheese offer tours as well as tastings and the ability to purchase straight from where the artisan cheeses are created. Then taste authentic Indian and Latin cheeses by picking up some Local Dairy Products from Tremblett’s Independent Grocer.

Jo at the Cup and Cake Counter Holding a Bowl of Scones

Try a smoked feta and apple scone at The Cup & Cake

After tasting and buying some delicious cheeses to bring home, maybe you have worked up an appetite. There are six restaurants on the Oxford County Cheese Trail that feature dishes on their menus that are made with some of the more than 70 types of cheese and dairy products that are created in Oxford County.  Charles Dicken’s pub has a curry poutine made with Gunn’s Hill cheese. Talk about taking your fries up a notch!

You’re energy has been replenished with a great meal so now it is time to check out some other great stops on the The Oxford County Cheese Trail.

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Culture and great cheese at Woodstock Art Gallery Openings

Browse through shops and galleries like Patina’s in Ingersoll and The Woodstock Art Gallery. See the amazing local hand-crafted pottery and wooden cheese boards, perfect additions to serve your favourite cheeses on.  Attend a gallery opening while noshing on a local Asiago.

 

NorwichMuseumSqueezeToCheese.jpgThe Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum and the Norwich and District Museum and Archives offer great ways to delve into the rich dairy history of Oxford County. What better way to get the full experience then to watch a butter churning demo? You can also learn cool facts like area farmers produce over one billion glasses of milk annually.

Make plans to explore the trail  www.oxfordcountycheesetrail.ca

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4 Artisan sales you need to visit this holiday season

Tis the season for  artisan sales.  Take some time to explore four shows featuring artisans from Oxford County and the region.

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Woodstock Art Gallery 50/50 Exhibition and Sale

The annual Woodstock Art Gallery 50/50 Exhibition and Sale offers a selection of art in various mediums including glass, ceramics, painting and printmaking.  All proceeds are split evenly between The Woodstock Art Gallery’s programming and its artists.  You will also enjoy local cheeses that will be served at this exhibition, as the Woodstock Art Gallery is part of the Oxford County Cheese Trail.  After your trip to WAG, check out what else is happening in Downtown Woodstock as part of  Festive Friday.

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Deck the Halls (Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre)

Every year members of the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre come together for their annual art sale. Being an arts cooperative home to potters, painters, quilters and fibre artists this show offers a wide variety of artisan goods.  Get that special someone on your list a truly one of a kind piece of art for their home.

If you come in the evening make a night of it and walk through the winter lights to Santa’s Village at the Ingersoll Cheese Museum.

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Rombouts Pottery  & Floral Arrangements

Owner Ienke Rombouts is known for her unique flower arrangements, pottery and decor.  While open by appointment year round she holds a spring (May) and Christmas (November) open house inviting other artisans and small businesses.   This is a great chance to see beautiful floral designs and pick up some great pieces for friends and family.

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Down Home Christmas Craft Show

The Tillsonburg Down Home Christmas Craft Show is a great event for holiday shopping and unique finds.  From beautiful wood works to handcrafted jewellery and fresh herbs, you won’t be disappointed in the vast selection at this juried craft show.  Meander through booth after booth of craft items and treasure hunt for that truly special holiday gift.

Looking for more holiday ideas? Visit the Tourism Oxford website for boutiques and bakeries, Christmas tree shopping, and special events.

 

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One-of-a-Kind Antique Mall: Canada’s largest Antique Mall


One-of-a-Kind Antique Mall in Woodstock, Ontario is your one-stop shop for all things antique and collectible. With three floors packed with vendor booths, finding the unique item you are in search of is a spectacular treasure hunt.

Located in a historic textile factory, One-of-a-Kind is now known as Canada’s Largest Antique Mall. It’s no wonder why visitors come from afar to visit and collect.The first two floors of One-of-a-Kind feature a smorgasbord of items from fur coats and dishes, to furniture, art collectibles and both vintage  and antique jewellery. Wander the aisles and you’re sure to find something of interest. On the first floor you can also find a great display of dairy and cheese items that owner Jack and his staff have created for the Oxford County Cheese Trail.

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If it’s home décor you are after, the third floor is the place for you. A change from the first two, this floor provides inspiration for Pinterest projects, decorator and designer booths with kitschy pieces and fabulous taste. It is a great place to find that unique accent chair you’ve been searching for or a rustic table for your family to sit around.

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After your busy shop grab a bite to eat nearby. Enjoy casual fine dining at SixThirtyNine (FeastON certified) or for traditional scratch British pub fare and popular salads at Charles Dickens Pub (open Sundays) or grab soup and a sandwich at the Dairy Capital Cheese Shop. Afterwards go for a stroll taking in historic downtown Woodstock and the latest exhibit at the Woodstock Art Gallery.

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From Feed To Farm To Table

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Every day Parion Animal Nutrition delivers quality feed to farms in Oxford County and the surrounding area. These farms then send their products to market. Parion owners Peter Vanboekel, T. J McDougall and Burt Wilkins saw an opportunity to celebrate … Continue reading

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It is beginning to look at lot like Christmasfest!

If you are looking for a town in the Christmas Spirit head south – not north. For over 20 years Tillsonburg has hosted an annual Christmas Festival providing six weeks of festivities.  Here are a just a few highlights for 2015.  For a full list of events visit their website www.christmasfest.ca

Tours

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Annandale National Historic Site is decorated for the season. Wander through this historic home to get into the Christmas Spirit. Enjoy their special museum Exhibit celebrating over 100 years of Christmas lights.  See lights from decades gone by and the latest innovations.

Make a day of it and take the annual Tour of Homes.  Enjoy wonderful holiday decor and themes highlighting architectural features of the host homes. This tour includes admission to Annandale National Historic Site and the Station Arts Centre Tea Room.  Read more

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Performances

Looking for live entertainment to help put you in the Christmas spirit?   Enjoy the beautiful sounds of the Alleluia Bell Choir performing time honoured Christmas music, Celtic Harpist Jennifer White, a holiday reading of “Young Copperfield” – with Stephen Bourne appearing as Charles Dickens or the iconic Senior Centre Singers. Read more

Down Home Christmas Craft Show

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The Down Home Christmas Craft Show is Tillsonburg’s original holiday tradition. Featuring many vendors, this juried show is celebrating its 31st anniversary in 2015.  Find handcrafted jewelry, ornaments, pottery, clothing and more.  Wrap up a one-of-a-kind gift for everyone on your list.

Community Celebrations

Join the community to celebrate.  Attend a turkey supper, winter lights, bazzars, the Santa Claus Parade, BIA events, breakfast with Santa and much more. Visit the Christmasfest website and get into the holiday season in Tillsonburg.

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A Heritage of Quality at Bright Cheese & Butter

Bright Cheese and Butter is working hard to ensure the proud tradition of great Ontario cheese and dairy continues. As one of the only heritage cheese-makers left in Ontario, Bright Cheese and Butter have been around since 1874. While a 140 year old company they are progressive and always looking forward.

General manager Stefan Cartmale feels “the community is the essential part our success. Most of our employees reside in or around Bright. Our cheesemaker Spenser Haskett grew up on the neighbouring farm.  Community support has always been there 100% and together we are raising awareness of the heritage, tradition and high quality of Ontario cheese and dairy.”

With the full support of their Board of Directors investment in infrastructure, equipment and product development saw significant changes over the past two years to build a vision for the future and increase brand visibility.

“Changes to our processes, including food safety, redeveloping cultures through research & development allows us to offer a better quality cheese,” said Cartmale. “We provide quality Blue Cow Milk Products that are all natural from local farmers’ dairy and we do not use modified milk products.”

Manager Stefan Cartmale standing in factory at Bright Cheese and Butter

Bright Cheese & Butter’s Asiago and Aged Cheddar both became finalists at the Great Canadian Cheese Grand Prix 2015. They also worked with ADW/Acostca to provide local Costco with Bright Brand Havarti. The dedication to quality, food safety and tradition has recently garnered the company a Premier’s Award.

Integral to the ongoing achievement of Bright Cheese & Butter are partnerships established with local small dairies to develop and promote new cultures made by heritage cheesemakers. Their partnership with Monforte Dairy in Stratford has produced a Providence cheese which is like a mountain cheese from Switzerland.

Bright Cheese & Butter and Monforte are also working with St Brigid Dairy in Burgessville to launch an organic cheddar in May 2016. Organic cheddar is a rare find in Ontario and Cartmale suggests pre-ordering.

Recently Bright Cheese and butter has paired up with local artist Cathy Groulx to develop a new logo to refresh their branding while recognizing their heritage.  Cathy visited an area farm to find the right bovine model. Having local farms represented in the brand was important as it reflects the premium product made with local milk.

Check out their new products, award winning cheeses and new packaging. Visit Bright Cheese & Butter at their original location at  816503 County Rd 22, Bright ON. Plan a trip to Bright on the Oxford County Cheese Trail and taste cheese made at its finest with old fashioned customer service at its best!

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Home of the Big Ass Panzerotti Celebrates Cheese

Louie’s Pizza and Pasta is known for their hearty portions and laid back fun roadhouse atmosphere.  The place is always full of locals and regulars that make the trip from out of town.

You get the feeling that the staff and customers are one big family.  From the recent “Get well Norm” message on their sign,  to menu items created and named for staff, it’s clear Louie’s is an Ingersoll institution. Most recently this included a Walking Dead inspired menu (a show loved by many on their team) – Darryl’s ears sounded particularly tasty.

louiesdiningroomOwner Cindy Skater and her father Louie built this business from a take-out pizza company into the booming restaurant it is today.  If you love a thick crust pizza with a sweeter homemade sauce and oodles of cheese – put this restaurant on your bucket list.  Their iconic menu item is their “Big Ass Panzerotti” and Panzerotti challenge (think of the Ole’96er on the Great Outdoors).  I expect when they made this menu item they were inspired by Ingersoll Cheese history as the home of the Mammoth Cheese.

Therefore it is quite fitting that they are a new stop on the Oxford County Cheese Trail.  Their Cheese Trail menu includes great items to share with friends including Gunn’s Hill with Charcuterie, Coney Island Curds (beer bathed deep fried curds with chili), Steak “Queso”-dillia, and the pizza of the month (featuring local cheeses). You will want to stay and order a main course – view the full Cheese Trail Menu.

Executive Chef Mike Gibbons getting creative in the KitchenMike whipping up a dish of Coney Island Curds

The trail is a great fit for executive Chef Michael Gibson who loves cooking tex-mex. He has plenty of options using La Vaquita cheeses made in Ingersoll by Local Dairy Products (including their award winning Oaxaca).  The menu also has items featuring Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and Bright Cheese and Butter.  Also check out the daily and weekend chef specials, which often feature local cheeses, ingredients from their garden and local produce.

Louie’s Pizza and Pasta is located at 440 Bell St in Ingersoll Ontario and is open 7 days a week, including most holidays.  Make plans to try their new Cheese trail menu for a meal out, or make a day of it visiting the next stop on the Oxford County Cheese Trail.

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Savoury Scones on the Trail

Jo at the Cup and Cake Counter Holding a Bowl of Scones

A new savoury cheese scone is being featured on the Oxford County Cheese Trail.

This creation has come to fruition as the result of cooperation between two local businesses: Joanne Brooks, owner of Tillsonburg’s The Cup and Cake and Ellis & Hazel Morris, Sheep Farmers & Owners of Quality Sheep Milk in Salford.

The Cup and Cake is worth the visit alone for the bright friendly decor and the fact that they serve tea in traditional china teacups.  What will make you stay is their variety of delicious sweets, scratch soups and hearty sandwiches.  Joanna’s English roots can be found on the menu from the Princess Margaret Cupcakes, Hummingbird Cake and of course scones.

The Cup and Cake likes shopping local and looked to Quality Sheep Milk for ingredients.  Quality Sheep Milk is known for 100% sheep milk cheeses including cheddar, percorino and feta.  One of Quality Sheep Milk’s more unique cheeses is their smoked feta which has been popular for adding to pasta salads, bruschetta and now scones.

Stop by The Cup and Cake to try new a smoked feta and apple scone – you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to snap a picture of your order and share it with #TryTheTrail on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

For more information and other stops on the trail visit www.oxfordcountycheesetrail.ca

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Apple Pie Without the Cheese….

“Apple pie without the cheese is like the kiss without the squeeze” states the obvious.  Apple pie and cheese are a perfect match, and Leaping Deer Adventure Farm and Market has elevated this flavour combination to a whole new level.

What do you do when you have extra apple pie?  If you are Julie Budd, owner of Leaping Deer Adventure Farm & Market, you make apple pie bread of course.  As soon as these savoury loaves were placed on the shelves they were a hit with regulars at the bakery.  Naturally Julie didn’t stop the creative process here but started thinking of new ways to use the bread.

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Leaping Deer’s mouth watering apple pie bread grilled cheese, made with local apples and cheddar from Bright Cheese.

When I met with Julie, she talked about all the ways customers use the bread – including French Toast.   The item she put on her cafe menu though that keeps people coming back is her Apple Pie Bread Grilled Cheese, made with two slices of their apple pie bread and cheddar from Bright Cheese.  It is so delicious, you will likely purchase a loaf of bread and brick of cheese, in their shop, to make it again at home.

Naturally this sandwich was a perfect fit for the new Oxford County Cheese Trail.  The trail guide will be available soon – but why wait.  Head out to Leaping Deer Adventure Farm and Market for their fall season.  Shop the bakery, dine in the Green Room Cafe and maybe take a stroll through the 10 acre corn maze.

Make sure you take a picture with one of the many scare crows adorning their porch.  Some are just plain cheesy!  Share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #TryTheTrail to be entered in  our cheesy contest.

Scarecrow sitting on a cheesebox wearing a cheese hat

It is Oxford County, so naturally Julie Budd had an old cheese box in the basement for this scarecrow to sit on.

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Oxford County Cheese Trail: more cheese, exciting flavours & new experiences

More cheese, exciting flavours, new experiences – the slogan for the re-vamped version of the Oxford County Cheese Trail- says it all. The new and improved Trail, which officially launched in September 2015, delves even further into Oxford County’s rich dairy heritage and provides visitors with expanded opportunities to explore and savour its flavours.

To give the Trail a fresh feeling, we decided it was time to give its logo a facelift. In our search for something new, we looked to the past for inspiration. And where better to do so than the Ingersoll Cheese and Agriculture Museum? This Oxford County institution and Cheese Trail favourite has been preserving the history of cheesemaking in the area since 1977. During a recent visit, curator Scott Gillies graciously allowed us access to the museum’s storerooms, which harbour invaluable artifacts that illustrate Oxford’s cheesemaking heritage.

Ingersoll Cheese Museum, Ingersoll, Oxford County Ontario

Among them was a tiny dress, covered from skirt to collar with an array of colourful ribbons. The ribbons were awarded to Tom Aicken, a champion cheesemaker from Oxford County. Between 1947 and 1955, Aicken won a total of 54 ribbons, which his wife proudly sewed onto a dress for their two-year old daughter. The dress is a testament to Oxford County’s ability to produce award-winning, artisan cheeses – then and now.

Girl wearing dress covered in cheese award ribbons with trophies

dress covered in cheese award ribbonsAs we continued our search through the storerooms, we came across a set of stamps used for local cheese products. In the past, these stamps were used by local cheesemakers as a way to brand their products and assure customers that their cheese was hand-crafted with care. The symbolism of the cheese stamps struck a chord – like the cheesemakers of the past (and present), we have taken pains to create a Trail that will satisfy and delight. And just as cheesemakers choose only the best ingredients for their product, we have scoured the County for the best artisans and vendors in the hopes of crafting an unforgettable experience for those who try the Trail.

Ingersoll Melted Cheese

With minds full of metaphor, we selected the Tom Thumb New Cheddars stamp from the Ingersoll Cream Cheese Company collection at the Museum as our model. The product stamp from this former company – like our cheddar cheesemaking heritage  – is old, but the revised Oxford County Cheese Trail is ‘new’ and while we may be small, we are big on service and experiences.

Tom Thumb Cheese Stamp, Ingersoll Cheese Museum

The final product is a visual representation of what we want the updated Trail to be – a reflection of Oxford’s past and a symbol of its future as Canada’s top dairy destination.  To be on new trail items, events and more sign-up for our newsletter.

Oxford County Cheese Trail Logo

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