Among the Pines

DINE and Destinations - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Adam Wax­man

A pad­dle through Al­go­nquin, plus wax­ing po­etic on our Cana­dian ca­noe

“In Al­go­nquin Park...see­ing Adam pad­dle a ca­noe was like watch­ing po­etry in mo­tion. I loved go­ing up there ev­ery sum­mer” –AL WAX­MAN, FROM THAT’S WHAT I AM

HE WAS SO PROUD AS HE WAVED TO ME FROM THE DOCK. Speed­ing across the lake in my cedar strip ca­noe, heel­ing right to the wa­ter­line and carv­ing a rolling wake, I bar­reled closer. Each sinew of my arms and chest was ripped. My heart raced as I made out his beam­ing cheru­bic smile. “Hey, my boy!” He ex­cit­edly cheered. I aimed straight for him. Pad­dling a ra­zor line full throt­tle to­ward the dock, I ca­su­ally stretched my arms back and, in the last pos­si­ble sec­ond be­fore crash­ing like an ac­cor­dion, cut the wa­ter with my blade for a shock­ing inside-turn-land­ing a hair’s dis­tance from the edge. “Hey, Dad,” I coolly smiled.

Each rip­ple on the lake now, 20 years on, is a wave of nos­tal­gia. One day my son is go­ing to pad­dle like I did for my Dad on that day. The bell rings for din­ner.

Through­out the Arowhon Pines wafts a sweet smell of burn­ing wood from within the iconic hexag­o­nal-shaped, hand-hewn log din­ing room. Built in the 1930s with axes, saws, hand winches and a team of horses, it still stands in all its glory. A mas­sive cen­tral stone fire­place crack­les up­ward through a 19-foot iron chim­ney. The ve­randa over­looks the se­cluded lake where I re­cline with a book. The only sounds are of the wind sweep­ing through the trees and the wa­ter lap­ping the rocks along the shore. This sim­ple retreat is ex­actly what we look for when we travel abroad in search of an au­then­tic des­ti­na­tion, but this is where I de­fine my­self as Cana­dian.

The so­phis­ti­ca­tion of din­ing at the Arowhon Pines is now, as it al­ways was, the same ethos of ac­quir­ing the best pos­si­ble in­gre­di­ents cooked sim­ply and with re­spect. A re­cent over­haul has en­abled “the kitchen of my dreams,” shares Ex­ec­u­tive Chef David Cooke. An ex­tremely disciplined kitchen in­cludes its own in-house baker, butcher and pois­soniere, all fo­cus­ing on fresh lively tastes. Herbs grown on the prop­erty punc­tu­ate the menu, for­aged from the thick for­est trail sys­tem, the shore­line and an ex­ten­sive herb and veg­etable gar­den. Eleven types of bread are baked fresh daily, cheeses and char­cu­terie are all lo­cal, fish is never frozen and pri­vate lo­cally sup­plied meats ar­rive four times a week. Noth­ing is out of sea­son.

Chef Cooke en­thuses that vegeta­bles and gar­nishes have be­come more prom­i­nent than be­fore, be­cause ev­ery­thing on the plate is de­li­cious in its own right. “The tie should still match the shirt,” he tells me. “But now the tie is much more colour­ful.” A bou­quetiere of vegeta­bles el­e­vates

corn­meal-crusted trout, ten­der con­fit of duck, and a suc­cu­lent duo of lamb and veal chops to unique plat­ing that dis­tin­guishes this kitchen. Pic­nic lunches are pre­pared for us to en­joy a true taste of place as we hike into the woods and pad­dle to dis­tant lakes.

With­out los­ing its rus­tic ap­peal, the Arowhon Pines has been main­tained with com­fort in mind. My cozy pri­vate cabin with a fire­place and deck once be­longed to Lil­lian Kates. Imag­ine the chutz­pah of this woman who, in the 1930s, built this re­sort for par­ents vis­it­ing their chil­dren at Camp Arowhon. Who even heard of Al­go­nquin Park back then? It was rev­o­lu­tion­ary. The sail­boats, the ten­nis courts and the hik­ing trails are all mine to ex­plore, with the space and time to re­con­nect and re-col­lect, but it’s the din­ing and ca­noe­ing here that re­main un­ri­valed as the quin­tes­sen­tial taste of On­tario.

My Dad was a ca­noe trip­per at Arowhon. It’s where I learned to pad­dle a ca­noe, and later be­came the ca­noe in­struc­tor. Now, pad­dling silently above the re­flec­tion of an opaque moon off the wa­ter, amidst the haunt­ing call of the loon, swirling ed­dies swish by as I breath the legacy that is my Canada.

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