Paris Comes to Picton

We are very excited to announce that soon, we will be welcoming a brand new next-door neighbor. The historic Ross/McMullen House, home to the Royal Canadian Legion since 1948, has been sold, and is about to be converted into a world-class cooking school. Our source suggests that it might be up and running by the fall of 2018.

There’s the Merrill Inn on the left …

According to our friend, Michel Baron, who is working on the project, the new venture will offer a cooking program for up to 80 students and will be certified by the Ministry of Education. The new school will be associated with world-renowned French chef Alain Ducasse.

Chef Ducasse is world-famous (check out www.alain-ducasse.com), and has a number of prestigious Michelin-starred restaurants in Monaco, France, and the UK, as well as other ventures in the United States, China, Japan, and the Middle East. He also runs a cooking school in the heart of Paris, offering classes in various styles of cuisine, as well as wine appreciation and education for all levels of expertise. His mission is to bring people together around a passion for discovering and learning to cook delicious food. The opportunity to attend these classes are open to anybody, and he even has classes that cater to children.

At the new school in Prince Edward County, aspiring professional chefs will be able to study classical traditions in cookery, as well as modern techniques using the latest equipment. There will also be classes available to join for people at all levels of ability. Once they are fully underway, we will look forward to pairing up some packages with the school, offering our guests the opportunity to stay and play, so to speak.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of this exciting new addition to Prince Edward County.

Edward Shubert, innkeeper

Amy’s Garden at the Merrill Inn

Spring is one of our favourite seasons, as we anticipate the beautiful colours around the property of the Merrill Inn.

A number of years ago, Amy took on the massive task of redesigning the various gardens at The Inn. In the early years, we did our best to add perennials and other materials to make the gardens look as vibrant as possible. We eventually came to realize, however, that it was time to completely re-vamp the entire grounds to ensure a new, updated look and continuity, and that we could enjoy colour all year round, not just in the summer months.

We came to meet Drew, from Fields on West Lake, who helped us with a plan that would become the basis for our new gardens. Drew passed away suddenly in November of 2014, but our gardens remain an enduring legacy to his passion, and we will be forever grateful for that. Amy and I also had help from Chip Morch, who takes care of our grounds. Chip put in new seed beds, to which we planted many dozens of new flowers and plants, and a herb garden expressly for our kitchen’s use.

I couldn’t even imagine taking on this kind of a physical project today – it was days and days of enjoyable, but nonetheless back-breaking work. It’s much more enjoyable to stand back and admire the result, and always gratifying when it makes an impression on our guests.

Here is a diagram of Drew’s original landscape design, along with a list of what’s planted there … kind of looks like a stomach and kidney, doesn’t it? In spite of this, we tend to think of it more as the ‘solar plexus’ of the Merrill Inn:

These days, Martin Sundland takes up the trowel around the property, and we still count on Fields on West Lake to arrange our stunning seasonal planters.

 

We went from having colour for only a couple of months of the year to being able to enjoy a riotous display all year-round – even in winter:  A few years ago, we commissioned local artist and good friend Celia Sage to do a painting of our gardens for us. We have it now in our permanent collection, proudly displayed in a place of honour over the large fireplace in the main salon of The Inn. Next time you visit, make sure you have a look!

 

Easter Traditions in the County: the Rotary Waterfall Tour

A number of years ago, the Rotary Club of Picton (of which I am a member and past president) introduced an initiative to bring awareness to the world’s water shortage. The program was to lead fundraising efforts aimed at bringing clean water and sanitation facilities to underserved communities. To further illuminate the project, the Rotary organized a ‘tour’ of County waterfalls, inviting one and all to tour these seldom-seen sights each year on Easter weekend.

Like many people who live in the County, I was surprised to find out that we have several beautiful waterfalls here. One of our members, Jim Hughes, brought this to light, and suggested that the Rotary Club create a fundraising activity over the Easter weekend that would bring some understanding of the world water crisis to our community.

Over the past ten years or so, thousands of people have visited both Jackson’s Falls (County Rd 17 just east of Milford), and Cape Vessey Falls, (east of Waupoos on County Rd 8), to witness the early spring runoff as the ice and snow melts once again. This is the only time of year that you can visit these falls, courtesy of the property owners, as both are situated on private property. This year, the tour takes place Saturday April 15 and Sunday April 16 from 11am to 4pm, and will mark 11 years of this treasured family tradition.

I remember taking our son Nathan to see the falls the first year of the event. At the time, we were completely awestruck, not realizing there were such incredible things to be seen right here where we live! Over the years, we have come to appreciate the enduring beauty and the many natural treasures the County provides. They are truly a wonder to behold.

During the tour, as you check in to hike down to each waterfall site, the Rotary will be collecting donations for the Rotary Water Project, with proceeds going to clean water initiatives in Africa. In part, they are raising money to send LifeStraws to water-challenged locations in Africa. Approximately 4,000 African children die each day from diseases caused by a lack of clean drinking water. LifeStraws are two-stage filtration devices that act as a straw, allowing you to draw up clean water from any source: a stream, river, lake, or even a puddle. One LifeStraw can provide a child with about one year of clean, safe drinking water.

In this time of family togetherness, it is always important to remember that there are many who are far less fortunate than us. Water is a precious commodity, even for those of us who live surrounded by it. We saw this very recently with our own water crisis in Picton Bay, and it’s important that we do not take for granted what we have come to depend on: were our water supply to be compromised, we would all be in the same boat.

In the true spring spirit of love and renewal, happy Easter and Passover!

Edward Shubert, innkeeper

A Friend Pays a Visit

 

Edward, Amy and Caroline, 2017

This week we had a very dear friend, Caroline, visit us in the County for several days.

Amy and Caroline go way back … I mean, all the way to public school, and that is a LONG TIME! (Sorry, Amy!) Caroline lives in England, and is an archaeologist who has lived in Japan, and has roots in India, France and the UK. This was the first time she has visited our little slice of the world, and we wanted to show her the sights.

So where do the innkeepers of the Merrill Inn take their guests? so glad you asked … here are the highlights of Caroline’s week in PEC:

To get the lay of the land, a Horn Trip was in order. (For non-locals, this is County-speak for a drive around the County). It takes a few hours, but you get the idea that there is water everywhere. We stopped at Lake on the Mountain to take in the view, and then it was on to Cressy, and Waupoos, over to Milford, Cherry Valley, Sandbanks, Bloomfield and then back to Picton.

This time of year can be a little grey and bleak; however, walks at the dunes are a calming experience, especially as there is no one there except the ducks on the now ice-free open waters.

To fill another day, we visited Bloomfield and Wellington, had a lunch out at the “competition,” a little shopping and then a couple of wineries for tastings – Rosehall Run and Huff Estates, two of the mainstays of our local wine community.

As we are deep into Countylicious, a very busy time at our local restaurants including the Merrill Inn, we booked well in advance and managed to get a nice table – Amy always jokes that we are so busy we never have time to eat at our own restaurant, so it was nice to have an excuse to do so.

A walk in the rain in Picton to check out some of the shops, and some quiet time to enjoy the Inn’s public spaces and you really can have a chance to decompress. We even made some progress on the new puzzle Amy started last week!

Parson’s Brewery is just down the road from the Inn, and it’s a great place to enjoy excellent craft beer. We are looking forward to working with them on a new craft beer tour & taste package this summer.

Caroline had the opportunity to visit the old RCAF airfield in Picton, with its barracks and guard towers. Still standing from WWII, it is now used for movie sets, storage facilities, for military glider training, and by remote control flying enthusiasts. On some long weekends, the old runway is used as a drag racing strip.

The Merrill Inn is a sponsor for the PEC Jazz festival, held in August, and there is always a press event this time of year. The venue is Oeno Gallery at Huff Estates. Caroline tagged along and was able to take in the gallery’s fine collection of art.

Last but not least, lunch at one of our favourite local places was in order – the Acoustic Grill has become a mainstay in Picton for many reasons, but our lunch was all about craft beer, great burgers and fried pickles!

All in all, we were thrilled to have shown Caroline our home (The County), even in the ‘off season,’ and are sorry to see her go. We look forward to her next visit as there is always something new and exciting to share.

Edward Shubert, innkeeper

It’s Countylicious!

our 2017 Countylicious chefs at the media event @Parsons Brewery

Now into its 11th year, the bi-annual Countylicious restaurant promotion is a “celebration of culinary experiences.” For the spring of 2017, Countylicious runs from March 31 through April 23.

The Merrill Inn has participated in Countylicous every single year since it started. I have personally enjoyed seeing the progressive growth over the years as a member of the ad hoc restaurant committee that organizes the event along with members of our local tourism and economic development offices.

This year, we have 13 outstanding restaurants participating – the largest group to date – each offering a unique and seasonally inspired menu meant to appeal to a vast audience of locals and visitors alike. It is an opportunity for our visitors to discover new flavours, new restaurants and new dining experiences, and at the ‘friendly’ price of $40 for a three-course meal, it’s easy to be able to enjoy several restaurants over the course of the promotion.

Over the years, The Restaurant at the Merrill Inn has become known for the unique themes we offer during the Countylicious event – while every restaurant has their niche, we like to colour outside the lines, bringing our diners an experience that just can’t be duplicated. Twice a year (in early spring and fall), Amy, myself and chef Michael Sullivan sit down to discuss a potential theme, and brainstorm ideas on how we are going to present it.

Most times, we draw inspiration from our travel experiences, from personal experiences, events in our lives, or our history of working together over the years. Some notable examples include:

The Mad Men theme: Amy’s father worked in the advertising business in the 1960’s, and her fascination with the TV series Mad Men spurred this idea. We even featured some popular wines and cocktails of the era, such as Mateus and Black Tower, a Tom Collins, an Old Fashioned and of course, we can’t forget the Manhattan.

That’s Amy’s dad, the second from the right, in the front with the glass of milk. Cool shot, eh?

The year that the film Julie & Julia was released spurred our Julia Child theme.

One year we did a “retro” menu, which led to a Jos Louis chocolate whoopee pie, complete with the plastic wrapper.

Last fall, we did a tribute to Quebec, featuring lots of French favourites like tourtiere, duck confit, and a roasted root vegetable “poutine”.

Last spring, we did a “South Beach meets North Beach” theme around the fabulous Cuban cuisine we love so much.

Trips to Europe and California have provided endless ideas, and this spring is no exception: it’s a Mediterranean theme, inspired by a cruise Amy and I took this past fall. We visited Italy, France and Spain, during which we were inspired to create a menu based on our experiences, complete with wine and cocktails. Curious? you should book now – we are already filling up!

So, get in the spring spirit, check out our menu and book today! you truly don’t want to miss this one.

Edward Shubert, innkeeper