Guest Writer: Robert Iantorno
Robert Edward Iantorno (1986) is curious; always has been. Raised by his Nonna, he grew up in Toronto in the family business and learned the value of kindness and good work. Robert studied at U of T and has designed products and managed companies in the building products space, always with the ethos of customer service, quality of product and responsible Canadian industry. Robert lives in Singhampton with his lovely wife Maria and their dogs in a Quonset shell house that he built. He loves sharing his enthusiasm for rural places and bringing people together over common ground. Robert especially likes the popping sound of his Triumph motorcycle under deceleration when heading down Grey Road 30.
Take the epic winding Grey Road 13 northbound from Grey Road 4, and you will soon be passing through the mysterious and wonderful hamlet of Eugenia, perched high on the south end of the Beaver Valley. This dramatic and fertile territory has drawn people here for thousands of years, ever since the glaciers receded.
In the late 1800s, Eugenia experienced a gold rush of prospectors which lasted only a few weeks - as it happens, that was just long enough to confirm that the sparkly rocks were iron pyrite, aka “fool’s gold”, lolz. The super cool Eugenia Hotel, a now abandoned Victorian era building, still stands as a relic of the times, replete with its fancy ornamentation and brickwork.
Nowadays, tourists and locals alike enjoy the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of the Beaver Valley. The dramatic Eugenia Falls, Bruce Trail and Lake Eugenia are prime attractions, but not many people are aware that the lake itself was artificially created to generate hydroelectric power. To this day, great riveted metal pipes still carry water from the lake down the steep slope of the valley to run turbines at the historic Eugenia Powerhouse on Lower Valley Road.
Eugenia is the kind of place that reveals itself over time. This place has always attracted the intrepid and the interesting, and the local businesses are no exception.
Located on Pellisier St just West of Road 13 in an eclectic wooden building is Chef Shawn Adler’s Flying Chestnut Kitchen (FCK). Known for years as the spot for fresh, creative food and friendly service and catering, FCK now offers rotating and wonderful takeout on the weekends. Their Fried Chicken Fridays are really something. I enjoyed Tandoori fried chicken with a refreshing cucumber yogurt salad and a slice of mango pie. This is the kind of food that The Chef loves to cook - portions are big, and something different is always on offer.
COVID prompted FCK to innovate and birthed the Thursday Market (4-7pm) right beside the restaurant. Staff and friends of The Chestnut now offer their foods for sale under their own brands from this friendly and delightful incubator.
Locals Sam and James are food industry veterans and offer catering at the FCK Market and at popups throughout Grey County, including Goldsmiths Market near Meaford and the Thornbury Farmers' Market. On Thursdays, you can enjoy fresh made takeout tacos with pork carnitas and slow cooked yam.
Order in advance via Instagram or email, pickup at the FCK Market or Owen Sound Farmers Market and bake at home. This pizza features the freshest ingredients, and a flavourful, yeasty sourdough crust that is easy to digest. The hand stamped boxes and cupping of the pepperoni exemplify the care that goes into each pie.
Each bag of Heart and Soul coffee is hand roasted over a fire by owner Katie, who employs the philosophy of “one cup at a time”. Beans are sourced from women farmers in Rwanda, and all of the packaging is low waste and compostable, and stamped by hand. I enjoy the medium roast, which is mellow enough to drink on its own without cream or sugar. Product is available at Artemesia Cheese in Flesherton, Susan’s Deli in Markdale, and at the FCK Market.
Barbara Pearn is a local artist, writer and historian (she wrote the definitive history of the Eugenia Powerhouse, and each year publishes The Art Map studio tour). From her home studio, Barbara paints Grey County impressionist landscapes and objects. I’m proud to have one of Barbara’s barn paintings hanging in my office, adding interest to my ZOOM background.
Keith Barkhouse (yes, that is his real name) selects each and every item in his store with care. Barkhouse features high quality, Canadian made pet foods, treats and accessories, and they also offer grooming. My shepherd Lola and Retriever Bonneville greatly enjoyed their organic baked treats from Barkhouse while Keith and I discussed how much we love our dogs.
Owner Dane Nielsen loves talking about wine with customers, so plan to stay a bit! Gristmill offers a winemaking experience to their loyal customers, including custom blending, bottling and even labelling of wines.
For decades, Top O' the Rock has been the spot for staple groceries and local maple syrup pickups. They have a selection of local baked goods (my wife loves the buttertarts, and the carrot cake is my favourite), as well as takeout pizza and fresh made deli Sandwiches, and their location and big parking lot makes them the ideal spot to stop and meetup with friends.
Please drink responsibly, know your limits and do not drink and drive.