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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A sweet trip to the maple sugar bush and Tap into Maple in Ontario's Lake Country

   One-Tank Trip for March 8/14

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time to get a little sappy.
   Maple syrup time is almost here but is a little delayed due to the “real” winter we’re experiencing this year.
   “I’m thrilled at how the season looks with a good, solid three-feet of snow in the bush,” said Tom Shaw of Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush near Orillia.
Tom Shaw insets a tap into a maple tree to collect sap in the old-fashioned method. (Jim Fox photo)
   This is “like an old-fashioned winter,” with cold nights but once we get warm days, it will “trigger the sap to flow.”

   Tapping into maple
   The Shaw operation, with about 5,000 maple trees, is hoping to produce 1,000 gallons of syrup this year from an outpouring of 40,000 gallons of sap.
   It’s one of 23 businesses in the “Tap into Maple” culinary tourism venture by Ontario’s Lake Country that runs now through May31in the area roughly north of Barrie.
   “The ambitious new venture has evolved into a tour of the region’s most popular eateries, resorts, sugar bushes, museums and shops – where every destination will have something to do with maple, the quintessential Canadian flavour,” said marketing manager Jennifer Whitley.
Horse-drawn wagon rides of the maple sugar bush are offered at Shaw's. (Barbara Fox photo)
   Tap into Maple can be experienced in many ways, such as savouring maple through food at various restaurants and delving into the history of maple syrup production at one of the region’s museums, she said.
   There are also overnight stays with maple-infused packages and attending one of many events that will offer a maple flavour.
An historic photo of the Shaw syrup-making process
   The Shaw-family forest with its century-old maple trees has been producing syrup since 1904 and has expanded over the years to include a pancake house (open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until April 21).
   Thousands of visitors make a pilgrimage to chow down on buttermilk pancakes soaked in maple syrup as well as French toast, sausages and maple baked beans.
Terri-Lynn Shaw shows how to make maple taffy on the snow at Shaw’s Maple Syrup Bush. (Jim Fox photo)
   Visitors can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to see how sap is collected and then boiled into syrup as well as making maple taffy on the snow.
Pancakes doused in maple syrup along with sausages are popular treats at Shaw’s. (Barbara Fox photo)
   They can also take home syrup, maple spread, maple candy and maple barbecue sauce.

   A sweet trip
   Casino Rama’s “Sweet Stay & Play Package” includes a night in a deluxe fireplace suite, a $100 resort credit that can be used at any of the restaurants, including St. Germain’s steakhouse, and the spa and valet parking.
   There is also a Shaw’s maple syrup in-room treat, sugar bush tour and breakfast along with $10 free play per person at the casino. ($266 a couple; $316 on event nights).
Casino Rama's resort hotel (Jim Fox photo)
   “It is great to have a local product such as maple syrup that we were able to incorporate into all amenities – hotel, spa, food and beverage,” said Dave Han, assistant director, food and beverage.
   “We are offering comfort items in our restaurants, such as maple smoked pork back ribs at the Simcoe Yardhouse pub to unique items like maple glazed King Cole duck breast salad at St.Germain’s,” he said.
   Later in the month, Rama’s Willow Chinese restaurant will offer an Asian fusion-style maple braised beef short rib dinner.
   Rama’s Balance in Life spa has maple and vanilla body scrubs and pedicures this month.
   Over at Barrie’s Horseshoe Resort, along with a bed-and-breakfast package, is a Maple Fest on April 12.
Winter fun at Horseshoe
   This will include a pancake breakfast, activities for children, recreational expo, live entertainment and the opportunity to enjoy local maple syrup and taste-tempting maple beer.
   “This is a new event Horseshoe has developed and will include a maple syrup competition,” Whitley said.
   Forks in the Trail bed and breakfast in Horseshoe Valley offers a weekend overnight with a maple bush tour and tasting, breakfast and a maple syrup cooking class. ($250, double occupancy).
   Other stops along the route include samples of maple butter cream chocolate at Chelsea Chocolates in Craighurst and syrup displays and educational activities at the Coldwater Mill and Coldwater’s Canadiana Heritage Museum.
   There's also The FarmGate in Brechin, with a discount on Harrington's maple syrup and Meadowsweet Soap Work products.
   The program includes a passport with information on 12 maple-themed events and the destinations along the route.
   The pass provides for discounts and free treats along with a chance to win an overnight stay and goodie basket of maple treats by collecting at least three stamps from participating businesses.
   For more information and web links: www.TapIntoMaple.com; 1-866-329-5959
   To learn about festivals across the province, go to Ontario Tourism’s website: www.ontariotravel.net and “search” for maple syrup festivals.


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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