If you listen closely, you can hear foodies softly singing ‘It's the most wonderful time of the year'. While Andy Williams may have been referring to Christmas, people who love food know that autumn is in fact the hap-happiest season of all. That's because harvest baskets are overflowing and there's so much fresh, delicious food out there that it's hard to think about anything else.
One of the best ways to enjoy all that goodness is with a plan, a map and a vehicle that points in the direction of Manitoba's Parkland region. Most famous as the home of Riding Mountain National Park, a bison herd, towering forests and cool lakes, this neck of the woods is hiding a big secret. It also has great food! Now you know.
To make it easy to find these culinary treasures, the good folks of the Parkland have created The Flavour Trail. Shall we have a little sample?
Gone Scrappin' in Bloom, Rossburn
It's hard to believe that such an oasis of cool exists in a town with a population that hovers around 500. But that's how we roll in Manitoba-cool joints where you least expect them. Yes there are scrapbooking supplies in this 1940s general store-turned-meeting-place. But there's also the kind of gifts you would find in an uber-trendy shop in an uber-chic city neighbourhood. And then there's the food-homemade soups and sandwiches, frothy cappuccinos and irresistible desserts that probably include apples from the tree across the road.
Sparrow's Bakery, Wasagaming
Tyler Kaktins wasted no time in returning to his ole' stomping grounds after getting his culinary training in the big city. He then opened Sparrow's Bakery in the Clear Lake Trading Post, and boy, are we ever glad. In a nook at the back of this grocery store, you'll catch Kaktins with hands full of oversized foccaccia (topped with dill), loaves of his seedy, nutty Canadian Harvest bread and a tray of ooee, gooee good cinnamon buns made with whole wheat. The best thing you can do is gather up some goodies and have a picnic at Lake Katherine in the park.
Now it's time for you to get out there and explore. The Flavour Trail has 17 official stops, but that doesn't include the farmers' markets and roadside stands (think honey, tomatoes and dill pickles) that you're sure to find along the way.
To reward your touring efforts, there's a prize at the end of the trail. Get yourself a Flavour Trail passport at your first stop, collect seven stamps and you qualify to win a two-night stay at the Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park. Now go eat!