Why do you insist on using local ingredients?
You can feed people or you can give them an experience. I like to tell the story of each and every grower. It’s more work but well worth the effort. We print off a list of the producers on our menu with directions to their farm, tour times and the produce they sell.
Why are people drawn to regional flavours now more than ever?
People are looking for the flavour of the area they’re in. For some, it’s environmentally the way to go (shortening our food mile), for others, it’s an experience they can’t get anywhere else. It’s a foodie’s quest.
How involved are you with local producers?
Oh, very. We offer three different kinds of beef on the Steamers Steakhouse menu. To add a local ingredient, we’re working with a small highland cattle rancher. We’re breeding a new cow we hope to be able to call “Muskoka Highland,” which will be exclusive to us. When you have a say in what the animals eat and how they’re raised, you know you’re getting the highest quality product you can.
What inspires you?
I think if you have the passion, you see opportunity everywhere. While in California I toured an apiary. I tasted lavender honey and orange-blossom honey. It was really delicious and I thought ‘I can raise bees!’ Now I have 25 hives on the property. I love our honey—it has flavours of pine and wildflowers.
What is the most bizarre combination of local ingredients you’ve invented?
People don’t know how good this is unless they try it, but we use smoked trout to make a cheesecake. The trout is fished in Parry Sound and smoked in Bracebridge. We use maple syrup and create a smoked-trout ricotta cheesecake with caramelized onions.
What is Muskoka’s signature taste?
There isn’t just one. But we do produce really great maple syrup, and in Bala, we get the best cranberries. From those two ingredients we make a lot of things for the resort such as Cranberry Chutney (with maple syrup), the often-requested Cranberry Maple Syrup for drizzling over French toast, or the Cranberry Apple Bundle. We make over 150 different maple desserts in our pastry shop.
Do you have recommendations for visitors?
Yes, the Muskoka Roastery. We get their roasted coffee beans and make a killer chocolate-coffee brownie. They’re now buying these brownies from us and selling them in their retail store, so if you’re not staying at the resort, you can always indulge in one at their small café in town.—Lynn Ogryzlo