I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an automobile aficionado, but I definitely know my way around a plate of food. So when I was invited to test drive the new 2013 Buick Encore on a road trip titled “Tantalize your Tastebuds,” I figured there was no better way to get into the driving spirit than a foodie road trip from Toronto to the Muskokas.
Hotel Le Germain‘s Victor Restaurant. Chef David Chrystian, who you may remember from Season 1 of Top Chef Canada, created our Toronto tasting menu, with dishes inspired by the city’s diverse neighbourhoods. We started with a creamy tomato soup flavoured with Chrystian’s signature “Toronto Spice” blend and topped with fried sunchokes and brussels sprouts. The Group of Seven entrée featured a chicken tagine (or, in my case, a vegetarian empanada) artistically arranged among dried fruit, mint purée and olives, followed by a course titled Ice Fishing in the Muskokas with white fish, bacon and sauerkraut (I had a perfectly fried egg). Dessert was a decadent tiramisu. I won’t lie. I ate mine and my table neighbour’s. I guess you could say I really went for the theme.
After lunch we piled into our shiny new Buick Encores and made our way toward cottage country. The Encore is described as a luxury crossover, meaning that it offers features of an SUV without being, well, an SUV. It’s definitely sleek and sexy, and without sounding too much like an automotive personal ad, it’s the kind of car that is as comfortable in the big city as it is in the back country. I could easily see myself darting between downtown appointments and Plateau parking spaces as well as filling the trunk with equipment for a weekend of skiing. But I didn’t have to use my imagination for long: After nimbly navigating busy Toronto streets, we wound our way up to our first stop, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where we toured the Group of Seven gallery and got a taste of the natural beauty of northern Ontario, and then drove in cushioned comfort to the Touchstone Resort on Lake Muskoka. No need to fight over the radio…we just plugged in our smartphones and took Leonard Cohen’s Live in London album for the ride.
Like the Encore, the Touchstone Resort offered the best of both worlds: modern comfort in a serene setting. We stayed in a luxury multi-room condo with pillow-laden beds and a deep soaker tub, just a short walk away from the main building that housed the restaurant and spa. The whole point of the trip was to enjoy the outdoors, rest, relax and eat our way into an oblivion, which we did at our 8-course Buick Encore Experience dinner created by Executive Chef Don Potter of Muskoka Catering.
Each course was paired with a different wine, including my new favourite bubbly Zinck Paul & Philippe Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, which is sadly not available at the SAQ. The evening was pure decadence, featuring local ingredients and thoughtfully prepared vegetarian options for yours truly. My favourite course was the rich and earthy cappuccino of porcini mushrooms, which I would have happily eaten for each of the 8 courses.
After a good sleep and a big breakfast we left the Muskokas for a snowy drive back to reality, conveniently located in Toronto.
* Please note that the trip, accommodations, food and transportation were all provided by General Motors Canada