Monday, 16 December 2013

Love is Always in the Air at Wish Designs Event Planning and Decorating

Love is always in the air at Wish Designs Event Planning and Decorating in Springfield, where owner Tricia VanGorp has been making bridal dreams come true for seven years.

VanGorp was the first of her friends to get married and she put her formal training in interior design to work planning the wedding. With help from her sister Tara Gavey (trained in hotel and restaurant management), she was able to plan an unforgettable event. VanGorp and Gavey continued helping family and friends with their weddings and soon the two of them were decorating the weddings of friends-of-friends and thus Wish Designs was born.

“We jumped in with both feet,” says VanGorp.

Word of their quality services spread in their tight-knit Elgin County community and the business continued to grow. In 2010 VanGorp gave up her full-time job and took over the company on her own as Gavey stepped back to focus on her young family.

Now in its seventh year of operation Wish Designs’ season runs from January to November and VanGorp decorates anywhere from 20 to 35 weddings a year. In addition to weddings, Wish Designs is also available for corporate, charity and family events. The company works within a 40 minute radius of Springfield catering to clients as far as Aylmer, Shedden, St. Thomas, Delhi and Woodstock.

Wish Designs’ number one service is decorating. It has a collection of linens, backdrops, ceiling features, chairs and centre pieces available for rent. The company works with brides and grooms to create a vision of what they want their wedding day to look like and then it handles all set-up and dismantling as required by the event venue. Examples of the company’s past work can be found on its website

Four years ago Wish Designs expanded into on-site coordinating and bartending.  VanGorp found that many clients were looking for help on the day of their wedding and that many of the venues she worked with did not provide this service. If required, Wish Designs will now stay on-site during the wedding and reception ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that every last detail is taken care of. 

"Whatever the client wants we try to make it happen,” says VanGorp. “Working with local brides and using local talent to make their dreams come true is what Wish Designs is all about.”

VanGorp is passionate about promoting local business and believes that Springfield is a perfect location for her business to thrive. Over the past several years a cluster of wedding-related businesses have sprung up in the area and Wish Designs works in conjunction with all of them. Two caterers, a photographer, three churches, a cake decorator and a brand new event venue, the Malahide Community Place, are all located within the small village.

When VanGorp started her business she was able to take advantage of family name recognition in the community and surrounding areas (her father-in-law is a well known local business owner) but now she is being recognized in her own right for the work that Wish Designs does in the community. It is important to VanGorp to give back in any way that she can. She is a great supporter of Pearce Williams Christian Retreat Centre in Fingal, Springfield Brewers Fastball Association, and other local charities where she can use her decorating talents for their events when needed.

“I started my life in East Elgin, moved away and came back. I really feel like this is home and I am very proud of it,” she says.

Elgin County Holiday Event Listings

Looking for something to do over the holiday break? Check out some of the great events below:

Tim Horton Free Skates - St. Thomas
Fri Dec 20th, Sun Dec 22nd, Mon Dec 23rd, Mon Dec 30th, Tues Dec 31st, Thurs Jan 2nd, Fri Jan 3rd & Sun Jan Jan 5th

Time: Dec 20th 3:45pm; all other dates 2:45pm
Venue: Timken Community Centre Arena
Address: 2 Third Avenue, St. Thomas
Contact Phone: St. Thomas Parks & Rec Dept, 519-633-7112

Tim Hortons Free Skates - Aylmer
Fri Dec 20th to Tues Dec 24th & Thurs Jan 2nd to Sun Jan 5th

Dec 20 - 10am-12pm
Dec 21 - 9:15-11:15am & 5:15-6:15pm
Dec 22 - 1-2:30pm
Dec 23 - 10am-12pm
Dec 24 - 9:15-11:15am
Jan 2 - 11:30am-1pm
Jan 3 - 10am-12pm
Jan 4 - 5:15-7:15pm
Jan 5 - 1-2:30pm

Venue: East Elgin Community Complex
Address: 531 Talbot Street West, Aylmer
Contact Phone: 519-773-5631

Tim Hortons Free Skates - Port Stanley
Sun Dec 22nd, Fri Dec 27th, Sun Dec 29th

Time: Sun Dec 22nd 1-2:30pm, Fri Dec 27th 1:30-3pm, Sun Dec 29th 1-2:30pm
Venue: Port Stanley Arena
Address: 332 Carlow Road, Port Stanley

Family New Year’s Eve Party
Tues Dec 31st

Face painting, cotton candy, crafts, carnival games, inflatables, photo booth and Val the Snake Lady. Public skating in the Kinsmen Arena. 

Time: 6–9pm
Tickets: $10/family
Venue: East Elgin Community Complex
Address: 531 Talbot Street West, Aylmer
Contact Phone: 519-773-5631

New Year’s Eve Dinner & Dance
Tues Dec 31st

Featuring DJ Eugene Burge and Saxonia's famous all-you-can-eat: garden salad and bun, chicken, beef, cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable, dessert and coffee/tea.

Time: 5:30pm
Venue: Saxonia Hall
Address: 522 Talbot Street West, Aylmer
Contact Phone: 519-773-5271

*Info from

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Oegema Turkey Farm & Shoppe - Over 50 Years of Excellence

The first generation of Oegemas immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1957. They purchased a farm in Talbotville and decided to get into the turkey business. At the time turkey wasn’t part of a regular Canadian diet and the Oegemas were eager to embrace something new. The business is now in its 55th year of operation and third generation Oegema brothers Mike and Wayne continue the farming tradition by combining years of experience with education in business and agriculture.

Oegema Turkey Farm raises approximately 55,000 turkeys each year spread out over 6 different flocks. The Oegemas’ commitment to raising the best birds possible requires them to spend many hours in the barns caring for their flocks. The chicks start out in the Brooder Barn – a very controlled environment where they are kept warm and receive the attention they need. After six weeks they are moved to the Grow-Out Barns. These barns are large with lots of room for the turkeys to move around. The sides of the barns are open to let in light and fresh air and the turkeys have access to feeding and watering stations to use at their leisure. When the turkeys reach six to nine weeks old they are sent to the processor. Many of theses turkeys are sold to private companies who give the birds to their employees for Christmas and to catering companies and restaurants.

In 1992, the Oegemas opened a store on-site that allows them to sell a variety of products directly to the customer. Originally there was one employee and the Turkey Shoppe was open three days a week. Over the years the business and product line has grown and the store is now open six days a week. Five employees now work in the Turkey Shoppe making and selling turkey products to consumers in ways that they cannot find in the grocery store. These employees are friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to share cooking advice and delicious turkey recipes.

“We’ve really tried to promote turkey as an everyday alternative,” said Annie Oegema, manager of the Turkey Shoppe. “We want people to know they don’t have to cook the whole bird every time to enjoy turkey.”

Customers can purchase whole turkeys, turkey parts, smoked products and other turkey products including: pies, kabobs, medalions, meatloaf, meatballs, schnitzel and shepherd’s pie. All product recipes have been tested to perfection and everything is delicately seasoned. The Turkey Shoppe also sells a variety of products that go well with turkey meals including sparkling juices, stuffing, cranberry sauces, chutneys and spices. In addition to the products they sell in-store, select products can be purchased online at  for several weeks before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The Oegemas believe that their Elgin County location is ideally situated for doing business with customers from both London and St. Thomas.  They are centrally located near major transportation routes and areas that have a large population base. Additionally, the Oegemas products are so good that they have customers who come from as far as Windsor and Toronto to stock up on their high quality products. 

Howe Family Farms Receives Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence

Congratulations to Howe Family Farms in Aylmer for their regional Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

The award was given to the Howe Family for a unique pumpkin growing technique. The family has over 40 years of experience growing pumpkins and gourds; however, in recent years, rising production costs motivated them to try something new: a no-till approach. The process involves growing a rye cover crop in the fall.  When the spring pumpkin-planting season arrives, a custom-made roller knocks down the rye prior to seeding. The new approach has slashed labour costs for weeding by 75 per cent, prevented soil erosion, increased soil health and reduced the need for herbicides. Growing the pumpkins on a thick bed of fallen rye also means less contact with the soil, which has translated to a 25 per cent reduction in washing labour and a cleaner, jack-o-lantern-ready product on store shelves.

In addition to pumpkins, Howe Family Farm Market sells local strawberries, beans, beets, cantaloupe, cucumbers, melon, okra, squash, peppers and tomatoes and are a member of the Savour Elgin Culinary Trail. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Eric Salin is the 2013 Elgin County Ambassador of the Year

Elgin County is pleased to announce that Eric Salin, owner of Sport in Port Adventure Outfitters, is Elgin County’s Ambassador of the Year for 2013.

Elgin County Ambassadors are people who volunteer their time to help promote business throughout Elgin County and actively participate in the growth and development of the County. The Ambassador of the Year is awarded based on points that are given to ambassadors for a variety of items including attendance at quarterly meetings, recruiting new members, promoting Elgin County at events, and informing the County’s Economic Development staff about new business in the area.

Salin opened Sport in Port Adventure Outfitters in 2013. This new and exciting retail and rental business provides sales, activities and rentals of products and services that support health and fitness in Elgin. Salin is also President of the Port Stanley Village Association and an active member of the Port Stanley BIA. He has been a regular attendee and active participant at ambassador meetings in 2013, recruited new ambassadors to the program, helped to promote tourism in the area and partnered with Savour Elgin to organize running events at member locations. 

“Eric’s energy, optimism and winning attitude have been an asset to our program,” said Economic Development General Manager Alan Smith. “The County would like to thank him for his continuing efforts to fuel tourism and economic development in Port Stanley and the surrounding area.”

The Elgin County Ambassador program is open to entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders. For more information on the program please call 519-631-1460 ext. 168 or email

Alan Smith, Elgin County Economic Development General Manager presents Eric Salin, owner of Sport in Port with the 2013 Elgin County Ambassador Award.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

2013 Elgin County Holiday Parades

The Following is a list of holiday parades in Elgin County this November and December! 

Dutton - Saturday November 9, 1:00 pm
Port Stanley - Friday November 29,  7:00 pm
West Lorne - Friday November 29, 7:00 pm
Aylmer - Saturday November 30, 2:00 pm
Fingal - Sunday December 1, 2:00 pm
Belmont - Sunday December 1, 6:00 pm
Springfield - Saturday December 7, 1:00 pm
Rodney - Saturday December 7, 5:30 pm
Port Burwell - Saturday December 7, 6:30 pm
Straffordville - Saturday December 14, 10:30 am

Local Holiday Open Houses and Shopping Events in Elgin County

The holiday season is fast approaching. Support local business and easily cross everyone off your shopping list by attending these great local shopping events and open houses.

Christmas Open House at Victorian Elegance
November 8 – 10, 2013
9:30 am – 5 pm Fri & Sat; 12 -4 pm Sun
Victorian Elegance, 109 Talbot St. West, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 765-3634

Christmas Wine & Cheese open house with gifts & décor from around the world. Tearoom specials are available. Explore the many Christmas trees magically decorated with treasures hand picked from around the world.

Port Stanley Village Open House Weekend
November 8 -10, 2013
Village of Port Stanley

Visit the merchants and business owners of Port Stanley for special deals and activities.

Cooking with Herbs Workshop: Party Planning
November 9, 2013
Tickets: $25 (pre-registration required)
Heritage Line Herbs, 53443 Heritage Line Aylmer
(519) 866-5577

Learn the secrets and tips of throwing a great party and making everything with herbs!

Pinecroft’s Annual Pre-Christmas Sale
November 9 – 10, 2013
Green Frog Tearoom at Pinecroft, 8122 Rogers Rd, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 773-3435

Rush Creek Wines Christmas Open House
November 9 -10, 2013
10 am – 5pm Sat, 12 -5pm Sun
Rush Creek Wines, 48995 Jamestown Line, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 773-5432

Store-wide sales on wine and giftware. Wine sampling paired with cheese and finger food. 

Canadale Nurseries Christmas Open House
November 9-10, November 16- 17 & November 23 -24
8 am – 5 pm Sat, 10 am – 5 pm Sunday 
Canadale Nurseries, 269 Sunset Dr., St. Thomas
Contact: (519) 631-7264

Celebrate the season with fun and exciting decorating demos and workshops. Free photo opportunities with Santa, Mrs. Claus and their live reindeer. Outdoor arrangement and cookie decorating workshops.

Sparta Village’s 200th Christmas
November 9 to December 8, 2013
Village of Sparta

Contact: (519) 773-2313

Sparta Village will host an array of Christmas happenings throughout November and December. Be sure to visit the Shelley McVitties Christmas Shoppe, open in the Sparta Tea Room side room from Nov 9th to Dec 8th, and Peter Robson Studio's 30th Year Celebration Sale.

Village festivities will include: • Christmas cracker craze - Nov 9-10 • Scrooge's ghosts haunt Sparta - Nov 16-17 • Santa comes to the village - Nov 23-24 • Aladdin & Group Tally Village - Nov 30-Dec 1 • Turkey Tinsel Tradition Triggers - Dec 7-8

There will also be brass bands, Christmas choirs, Tammy's Carollers, Farmtown's mini horses and buggy, Rush Creek Wine tastings, Sparta Candles brings Santa with gifts for the little ones, free draws, prizes, family fun and more.

Horton Farmers’ Holiday Market
November 16, 2013
8 am – noon
Horton Farmers’ Market, Manitoba St., St. Thomas
Contact: (519) 317-3398

This is the third annual Horton Holiday Market. Find many of your favourite vendors and many new crafters. Get all your holiday shopping done. 

Diva’s Christmas Day Out
November 16, 2013
10 am – 4 pm 
Tickets: $5
Saxonia Hall, 522 Talbot Street West, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 773-5271

Over 40 vendors, including InStyle Salon and Spa, Tru Hot Yoga, Epicure, Holistic Awakenings Day Spa, BeautiControl, Heritage Makers, Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Javita Coffee, Party Lite, Inside Fitness Nutrition Consulting and more! First 100 women receive a free gift bag.

9th Annual Heritage Line Herbs Christmas Open House
November 16 & 17, 2013
 10 am – 4 pm Sat, 11 am – 4 pm Sun
53443 Heritage Line, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 866-5577

Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale
November 21 – 23, 2013
9 am -9 pm Thurs & Fri, 9 am – 2pm Sat
Aylmer Old Town Hall, 38 John St. S Aylmer
Contact: 519-765-3020

Home for Christmas Shopping Event
November 22 – December 6, 2013
Rodney, West Lorne, Dutton, Wallacetown

Western Elgin shop local event. Visit each business location for draw tickets to win in-store draw prizes. Draws to be held on December 6.

A Lavender Christmas
November 23 – 24, 2013
Steed & Co Lavender, 47589 Sparta Line, Sparta
Contact: 519-494-5525
Drop in for some festive cheer and delightful lavender treats. And while you're here, fill out a ballot for a lavender gift collection.

Pinecroft’s Annual  Christmas Sale
November 30  –  December 1, 2013
Green Frog Tearoom at Pinecroft, 8122 Rogers Rd, Aylmer
Contact: (519) 773-3435

STEPAC Winter Gift Shop Sale
December 7, 2013
12 noon – 4 pm
St. Thomas – Elgin Public Art Centre, 301 Talbot Street, St. Thomas
Contact Phone: 519-631-4040

Looking for a unique gift? Visit the St. Thomas–Elgin Public Art Centre for hot cider and shopping at the annual Winter Gift Shop Sale! Local and regional artists will be featured in an expanded gift shop area. Paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery and art cards will be just some of the original artworks featured.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Elgin County Remembers

The following is a list of Remembrance Day Services, Ceremonies and Parades in Elgin County.

Dutton/Dunwich Evening of Remembrance
November 7, 2013
Dutton/Dunwich Municipal Office, 199 Currie Rd. Dutton
Contact: Kate Morreau (519) 762-2204

Port Burwell Armistice Day Parade
November 10, 2013
Parade will start at the Port Burwell Legion, making its way westerly on Wellington St., turning left on Robinson St., then left on Pitt St. to the Cenotaph.
Contact: (519) 874-4308

Shedden War Memorial Service
November 10, 2013
9:30 am
Shedden Keystone Complex, 35921 Talbot Line, Shedden
This year Ted Barris will be speaking about his new book The Great Escape: A Canadian Story.
Contact: (519) 769-2010

Rodney Remembrance Day Service
November 11, 2013
11:00 am
Rodney Library, 207 Furnival Rd., Rodney

West Lorne Remembrance Day Service
November 11, 2013
11:00 am
Cenotaph at West Lorne Arena, 171 Graham Rd. West Lorne
Contact: (519) 768-1890

Aylmer Remembrance Day Ceremony
November 11, 2013
10:30 am
Cenotaph Parkette at Aylmer Town Hall (46 Talbot St. W) and Aylmer Legion (211 John St. N)
At 10:30 am there will be a Parade of Veterans from the Aylmer Legion to the Aylmer Town Hall. At 10:45 the service will begin and will include the laying of the wreaths followed by a moment of silence at 11:00 am. A light lunch will follow back at the Aylmer Legion. 
Contact: (519) 773-5249

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tall Tales Café Thrives as Wallacetown’s Community Hub

Chef John Mairleitner has lived in kitchens and in Elgin County most of his life, and there’s no place he’d rather be.

You might have seen him cheerfully giving cooking lessons at the Arts & Cookery Bank, or cooking at local fairs and charity events in Dunwich Township, or attending FreshFest in St. Thomas. He is a familiar face at many places in Elgin County, but he is most often seen at Tall Tales Café in the village of Wallacetown, his longstanding family business that has just expanded because it is so busy.

The restaurant with its satellites of a gas station and post office has been a family business since Mairleitner’s parents established it in 1982 on the main street of Wallacetown, at 29634 Talbot Line on the corner of Curry Road where cars turn south toward Port Dover on Lake Erie, about five kilometres away.

“We are a small-town community hub in the heart of Ontario’s breadbasket,” Mairleitner says. “We are getting busier and busier and busier.

“In the summer Highway 3, the Talbot Trail, is inundated with motorbikes and campers. In the fall we have our fair and there’s the harvest, and then all winter long we get hunters coming in.

“There is something going on year-round. Whenever there is a ‘Friday the 13th’ event in Port Dover (the most recent was July 13, 2012), it gets absolutely insane here -- we can see 500 motorbikes or more come through!”

More than just its location has made Tall Tales Café successful. The talents of Mairleitner, trained as a chef at Fanshawe and George Brown college, are in demand for the quality of food he serves in the restaurant and at catered events. His pies are especially famous. It’s the crust, he says – and experience.

“When I was five years old, my mom worked in a bake shop and I was in the back chucking dough through
the machine,” Mairleitner recalls. “My parents later had restaurants and I always helped.”

What’s the secret to a good crust?

“Don’t overwork it. I show people all the time. It’s flattering being a master of something so simple.
People are amazed.”

There’s more to it, though. Mairleitner uses fresh local produce in his pies, including several types of fruits grown in his own garden, and he has a way with recipes. Listen to him describe his caramel pumpkin pecan pie:

“It has butter, brown sugar and pecan pieces, and we drizzle that on top of the pumpkin pie and bake it. I’d send you a piece but I doubt that it would get there!”

Tall Tales Café has just expanded its seating capacity to 50 seats from 36. The restaurant employs four full-time staff and a dozen part-time students, in addition to Mairleitner and his wife Holly. Their three daughters aged 14, 8 and 4 help out, too. The family tradition continues.

“I’m living the Canadian dream,” Mairleitner says.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

ElginLicious is Back this Fall!

Savour Elgin wants you to mark your calendars for the return of the popular ElginLicious event this fall.  

ElginLicious is an opportunity to enjoy the area’s restaurants, wineries, specialty food shops and agri-tourism destinations at three great price points. Special promotions will be running at $10, $15 and $25 at participating Savour Elgin businesses from October 10 to October 20, 2013. ElginLicious features restaurants offering fixed-price menus and also allows visitors to enjoy unforgettable experiences at a wide variety of Elgin County culinary destinations.

Fresh apple pies, creamy fudge samples, juicy pears, delicious local beer and three course meals are just some of what will be available during ElginLicious.  

See below for a full listing of ElginLicious promotions or visit and click on the Events link.

ElginLicious Promotions

Clovermead              -----    Your choice of 4 types of  honey in 90 gram jars with a small honey dipper. Retail value $15
Great Lakes Farms     -----    2 pieces of pie and 2 drinks
Mad Hatter Tea Room -----    Royal High Tea.  Retail value $15
Heritage Line Herbs    -----    Personal pan pizza and beverage
Tasty Sweets Café & Bakery  -----    Cabbage roll dinner with pie and a drink

Berry Hill Fruit Farm  -----  2-10lb bags of apples
Kettle Creek Inn       -----  Daily lunch entrée special, plus dessert plus beverage
Killer Desserts & Café  -----  Choice of any sandwich, or half a sandwich with soup or salad, plus choice of dessert and tea or coffee.
Howe's Family Farm Market -----  2 medium pumpkins,  2 squash, one 3L basket of pears and a 3lb bag of apples.
Harbourtown Fudge   -----  Fudge Sampler Box, fifteen different one ounce pieces of house made fudge packaged in a window box decorated with a bow
The Windjammer Inn -----  Two course lunch or brunch
Pinecroft Green Frog Tea Room  ----   Soup tasting, choice of daily special, dessert and beverage
Railway City Brewing Company  ---     Tour and up to 3 samples each for up to 4 people, 1 souvenir glass, 1 souvenir t-shirt & $5.00 gift card, value $35.00 for only $15.00

Great Lakes Farms  -----  Whole pie, 10lb apples and 4L cider
Kettle Creek Inn     -----  Daily dinner entrée special, plus dessert plus beverage.
Quai Du Vin            -----  A bottle of our Riesling 2011, bottle of our Merlot 2010, wrapped up, with corkscrew included, savings of $10
Heritage Line Herbs   ----- Full High Tea for Two
The Windjammer Inn ----- Three course dinner
Arts & Cookery Bank ----- Thursday, October 10, 6:30 pm. Cheese-making demonstration and guests will receive a special "cheesy" gift to take home.  

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Discover Inner Creativity at Artastic Elgin

The Elgin Arts Trail is pleased to announce the first annual Artastic Elgin Art Tour on September 28 and 29.

During this two- day event, participating members of the Elgin Arts Trail will be offering workshops, gallery events, art talks, specials and interactive tours for the public. Visitors are encouraged to see behind-the-scenes as ideas come to life and learn first-hand how pottery is crafted, how paintings are created and how colourful stained glass is designed.

"This event will give visitors the opportunity to discover their inner creativity while engaging with local artists themselves," said Elgin County Tourism Coordinator Kathryn Russell.

The event will be held in conjunction with Culture Days, a national initiative designed to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities.

More information about Artastic Elgin and copies of the tour map can be found at all Elgin Arts Trail member locations, at the Elgin County Tourism office at 450 Sunset Dr., St. Thomas and online: 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Kick off Apple Season at Great Lakes Farms

Great Lakes Farms is pleased to invite the public to celebrate the beginning of apple season with Apple Fest on the farm.

The event will be held on September 7 from 10 am - 5 pm and September 8 from 11 am - 5 pm and will include the opportunity for visitors to pick their own fresh crisp apples (MacIntosh and Gala) and to enjoy some delicious, made on the farm baked goods.

“Kick off the fall season with some good old fashioned farm fun,” said owner MaryAnne Van de Gevel. “Get lost in our corn maze or take a tractor ride around the farm.”

The farm will also be a stop on this year’s self-guided Elgin Farm Adventure Tour hosted by the Elgin Federation of Agriculture on Saturday September 7. For more information about the tour or to pick up a location map please visit Elgin County Economic Development & Tourism at 450 Sunset Dr., St. Thomas.

Great Lakes Farms grows high quality Elgin County fruit, just minutes from scenic Port Stanley. Fresh strawberries, juicy tree ripened peaches, pears, pumpkins and 12 varieties of crunchy delicious apples are available fresh when in season.

For more information about Great Lakes Farms, entrance prices or to learn about Apple Fest visit or search Great Lakes Farms on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Savoury Tomato Pie - The Perfect Taste of Summer

It's the time of year when gardens and farmers' markets are filled with delicious ripe tomatoes perfect for making salsa, tomato sauce or eating fresh in salads and on hamburgers! Elgin County is lucky to be home to some of the best sources of fresh local produce in the area. Check out our Savour Elgin website to learn more about the different locations you can visit to get all the ingredients to make your recipes unforgettable!

Check out this recipe for Tomato Pie - yes you read it correctly -Tomato Pie! This is not a traditional sweet pie but a savoury dish using fresh local tomatoes, onions and basil!


1 pre-made pie shell
4-6 medium tomatoes, chopped and drained
1 onion diced
10 basil leaves finely chopped
1 cup of real mayonnaise
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese


1. Chop tomatoes and let drain for approximately 20 minutes squeezing as much juice out of them as possible - this will ensure that your pie is not runny.

2. Pre-heat oven to 375 F and bake pre-made pie shell for 7-8 minutes. Remove to cool for 5 minutes. You can make your own pie crust too if you have the skills.

3.  Chop onion and place on the bottom of the pie crust.

4. Place drained tomatoes in pie crust on top of the onions.

5. Finely chop basil leaves and add to the pie crust.

6. In a separate bowl mix grated cheese, mayonnaise, and hot sauce. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture.  

7. Spread the cheese and mayonnaise mixture on top of the pie.

8. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes until topping is browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 

9. Enjoy as a main course or a side dish! 

The Art Emporium: A Diverse Regional Collection

A popular destination for art enthusiasts, Port Stanley is home to the Art Emporium, Boathouse Gallery and Gift Boutique. Located at 177 Main St., Port Stanley, the facility consists of two unique sections: The Boathouse Gallery and the Gift Boutique.

The Boathouse Gallery is a bright and spacious area with a beachfront view. It houses the original fine art of a diverse group of over 30 talented local and regional artists. The artists work in many media spanning from paintings to sculptures, photography, pottery, textiles, and more.

While at the Art Gallery explore the Gift Boutique, offering a wide assortment of handcrafted items, made by artisans in the community. The handcrafted goods are a treasure trove of wood turning, hand painted silks, one-of-a-kind aprons, jewellery, bead-work, art cards and more. No two visits to the Art Emporium are the same; visitors and art enthusiasts alike are sure to find a unique memento or a special gift.

The artists of the Art Emporium demonstrate their passion for art and their desire to share it with others. The five members on the board of directors act as responsible members of the art community by giving their over 30 member artists input into decisions made at the gallery. They are committed to fostering growth in the arts community and supporting the efforts of the many talented artists in the area by providing an affordable display space and promoting the sale of fine art.

For more information about the Art Emporium or to discover the Elgin Arts Trail visit

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Presto Pesto

Here is a simple recipe to help you use up all that fresh Basil in your garden! If you didn't grow Basil yourself, head to one of Elgin's many farmers' markets or to Heritage Line Herbs to get some of the fresh, locally grown herb.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts/walnuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. 

2. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

3. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. 

4. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor. 

5. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. 

6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Everything is Peachy at Great Lakes Farms

Great Lakes Farms is pleased to invite people young and old to celebrate their first ever Peach Fest.

The event will be held on August 17 from 10 am - 5 pm and August 18 from 11 am - 5 pm and will include the opportunity for visitors to pick their own fresh juicy peaches and to enjoy some delicious, made on the farm baked goods.

“We give people the chance to have some good old fashioned farm fun,” said owner MaryAnne Van de Gevel. “No visit is complete without a wagon ride around the farm or a trip through our corn maze.”

Great Lakes Farms grows high quality Elgin County fruit, just minutes from scenic Port Stanley. Fresh strawberries, juicy tree ripened peaches, pears, pumpkins and 12 varieties of crunchy delicious apples are available fresh when in season.

For more information about Great Lakes Farms or to learn about Peach Fest visit or search Great Lakes Farms on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

North Star Windows and Doors Builds Success in Elgin County

North Star Windows and Doors has become an industry leader in Ontario, and one of Elgin County’s major manufacturing employers, by following a simple formula.

The company, founded in London in 1985, moved to Elgin in 1993 and has since become Ontario’s largest manufacturer of vinyl windows and patio doors.  It has distributors all over Ontario, in Quebec and several US states, Eastern and Western Canada and as far away as Mexico.

“We are known in the industry as having the highest-quality vinyl windows around,” general manager Lorne Girard says

“We are unique in that we not only make our own extrusions, we process all of our own glass, we do injection moulding of some of our hardware, we fabricate all of our own windows and distribute all of those products ourselves.”

Employment has grown to 285 people from about 50 in 1993.  You can see some of the employees at work, and talking about their pride in their work, in a video labelled “See How Our Windows Are Made!” at

The video mentions many innovations that North Star has introduced over the years, including designs that reduce condensation and enhance energy efficiency, and improve the ease with which windows and screens can be opened, raised and lowered, and removed.

This year the company has introduced a new Espresso colour for its products, which complements the colours of many houses from red brick to contemporary designs.

“We built the company around an outstanding team of people committed to our foundational cornerstones, Girard says.  QVSD is a short form for quality, service, value and delivery, and remains the focus of everything we do today.”

An example is the company’s delivery promise.  Standard product is delivered within 10 days, 100% on-time.  North Star was the first company in the industry to make such a promise and we have maintained this delivery mantra ever since.

Girard says North Star’s location in St. Thomas gives it a big advantage in keeping its delivery promise.  Its fleet of trucks operates in a 600-mile radius with easy access to major highways.

Girard also likes the business environment in St. Thomas.  He is a member of the St. Thomas Executive Forum, a group that meets regularly to help each other address businesses issues and share best practices.

Having access to such expertise, and the skills and dedication of North Star employees, will be invaluable to Girard as he sets his sights on expansion of the company’s 250-member dealership network, especially in Quebec and Western Canada.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Savour Elgin Mystery Tour

The Savour Elgin Mystery Tour will begin on July 19 and run until August 6. During this time participants will be given a passport and will be encouraged to travel to a number of Savour Elgin member locations. Once each participant’s passport has been stamped at 4 different locations, they will be eligible to be entered into a draw for a basket of delicious Savour Elgin products. The passport will be available at FreshFest, at Savour Elgin member locations and at the Elgin County Economic Development and Tourism office at 450 Sunset Drive.

Savour Elgin is a program that takes visitors on a journey to 22 of the best restaurants, wineries and agritourism operations in Elgin County. For more information Savour Elgin visit

Photo Courtesy of The Arts & Cookery Bank - 1st stop on the tour! 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Raspberry Simple Syrup and Raspberry Lemonade Recipe

Berry season is in full swing in Elgin! Delicious ripe Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries are available at Farmers' Markets across the county. Head to Empire Valley Farm MarketBerry Hill Fruit Farm, Howe Family Farm Market or the Horton Farmers' Market to pick up some raspberries and try the following recipe to cool you down during this intense heat wave! 

3/4 cup of white sugar,
3/4 cup of water,
1 1/2 cups of fresh local raspberries,
Juice of 3-4 lemons

1. The first step is to create the Raspberry Simple Syrup.

2. Mix sugar, water and raspberries together in a small sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until the first bubbles of a simmer appear.

3. Turn down the stove to medium/low and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Take off and let cool before using a strainer to get rid of the raspberry seeds. The mixture should be liquid. 

5. Pour into a jar or container. The mixture can be stored up to one week when refrigerated. This syrup can be poured over ice cream or added to a variety of beverages (it tastes just like liquid jam).

6. Squeeze the juice out of 3-4 lemons into a pitcher. 

7. Add 1/2 cup of simple syrup and stir.

8. Fill the remaining space in the pitcher with cold water. Stir. Taste to determine if a bit more sugar is needed.

Voila! Fresh Squeezed local raspberry lemonade! 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Head South to Elgin's Ports and Win!

This summer Elgin County Economic Development and Tourism is running a Head South to Elgin’s Ports contest to encourage visitors to discover the area’s scenic ports.

“This contest will spark interest in Elgin’s four ports; Port Stanley, Port Burwell, Port Bruce and Port Glasgow,” said Tourism Development Coordinator Kathryn Russell. “From intimate live theatre, engaging museums and inspiring art galleries to warm sandy beaches, tantalizing food and unique boutique shopping, there is something for everyone in Elgin.”

The contest will run from July 4 – August 31 and will give entrants the opportunity to win one of three Getaway Prize Packages each with an approximate value of $400:

Prize Package 1
Live Theatre Tickets, Restaurant and Ice Cream Gift Certificates, Train Ride Passes, two Rounds of Golf, Wine Gift Package and Landscape Supplies.

Prize Package 2
Overnight Stay with Breakfast, Restaurant and Brewery Gift Certificates, Live Theatre Tickets, Fresh Pies.

Prize Package 3
Overnight stay with Breakfast, Restaurant, Spa and Shopping Gift Certificates and Submarine Passes.

Entrants must submit their contest entries online by visiting and completing the entry form. At the end of the contest period, contest entries will be eligible to be entered into a random draw. The contest is open to all residents of Canada and the United States that are of the age of majority in their province, territory or state of residence.

For more information about the Head South to Elgin’s Ports contest and contest rules visit, or call (519) 631-1460 ext. 168.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Easy Toblerone Mousse with Local Strawberries

Nothing says summer has arrived like juicy local strawberries! Visit  Empire Valley Farm Market, Berry Hill Fruit Farm, Howe Family Farm Market or the Horton Farmers' Market to indulge in this sweet summer treat!

This recipe for Toblerone Mousse with local Strawberries is so easy that it takes 5 minutes to make but is so delicious that anyone you serve it to will think you slaved for hours!

The only ingredients you will need for this recipe are:

  • 1 tub of thawed cool whip (light cool whip if you choose) 
  • Fresh local strawberries
  • 1 regular sized Toblerone bar

1. Melt the Toblerone bar in the microwave for approximately 1 minute. Take the Toblerone out of the microwave and stir to prevent burning. Put it back in the microwave for another minute or so until completely melted. 

2. Mix the melted Toblerone bar completely into the thawed cool whip.

3. Wash and slice up some of the local strawberries.

4. Place the sliced strawberries in the bottom half of small dessert bowls or serving dishes.

5. Spoon the Toblerone Mousse mixture on top of the berries and add a whole berry for garnish.

6. Put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool.

That's it! Easy and delicious!