Perfect Pairing

Food, Wine & Design Combine for an Inspired Stay In Ontario's Prince Edward County

A decade ago, Nancy Pavan and Frank Ellefsen took a fateful long weekend getaway to Prince Edward County from their home in Montréal.

As they explored along the winding country roads, a vision began to take over, one that saw them leaving behind their Montreal condo for a house with a view of the open fields they were passing.

To put it simply: they fell in love.

Frank Ellefsen and Nancy Pavan

Frank Ellefsen and Nancy Pavan

The County, as it is known locally, is a 1,050-square-kilometre community located on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. It is known for its beautiful sand beaches, wineries, and charming towns.

The bucolic surroundings felt like a breath of fresh air for the creative couple. Nancy, an art director and designer, and Frank, a chef and sommelier, immediately felt a kinship with the community of creatives and entrepreneurs that call this region home. 

“There’s a crazy energy here,” Nancy said. “We found that really refreshing.”

And so on their way home to Montreal, they started researching houses in the County — and less than a year later, they were moving into a beautiful 1850s farmhouse in Milford, a rural community located on the County’s south end. The farmhouse had been in the same family for generations and remained largely untouched. There was a small settler’s house (the original house on the property), a main farmhouse, a barn, and 5 acres of beautiful countryside.

“We were the first real estate transaction on this property,” Nancy says.

And the home couldn’t have landed in better hands. Not only did Frank and Nancy maintain the original character of the house while adding the necessary modern touches, the duo also infused it with so much light and personality.

The Design

The Wilfrid officially opened in May 2016. It is an eclectic space filled with light, original artwork, and a welcoming vibe.

“We wanted to preserve the historic nature of the house,” says Nancy, who designed the space in collaboration with Frank.

They scoured the County for auctions and estate sales, buying up quality antiques that would soon populate the newly renovated rooms and bathrooms. They added modern touches and completely renovated the settler’s house to include plumbing and electricity.

The settler’s house is now Nancy and Frank’s private residence, which connects seamlessly to the 3-bedroom luxury bed & breakfast.

Walking through the bright red front door, you feel right at home — perfectly comfortable to relax in one of the many common spaces. The library, with its pretty fireplace, is an inviting space to lounge, read, or have a cup of amazing coffee (the Wilfrid brews roasts from the great North Roast Coffee Roasters in nearby Kingston). The dining room has a wood-burning stove and a bay window. Every nook and cranny of the 175-year-old farmhouse has an interesting story to tell, with well-curated objects and interesting design.

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Outdoor pursuits

Guests who arrive at the Wilfrid will find an assortment of activities all year long. The summer is a busy season, with visitors coming for the County’s famous sandy beaches, wine tours, and many Instagram-worthy vistas. But the winter is an underrated time to visit. Many of the places people love in the summer are equally beautiful in the winter — and much quieter.

Sandbanks, for example, is a stunning spot for a winter walk. Wineries remain open and will be less crowded in the winter (there are two in walking distance of the Wilfrid, plus the Wilfrid's very own on-property vineyard). There is also an abundance of trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

The Wilfrid also offers a sauna experience right on the property.

From the farmhouse, the sauna is a short walk away — just long enough to get a taste of the chilly air before being enveloped by the heat of the barrel sauna — and is completely private, delightfully surrounded by trees and fields.

The experience consists of a changing cabin, a relaxation room, a cooling pool, a hot pool, an outdoor shower, and the star attraction, a cedar barrel sauna. The pathways between the various amenities are connected by an illuminated wood pathway, making the whole experience feel like a relaxing retreat in the middle of your County getaway.

Wining & Dining at the Wilfrid

Frank is a classically trained chef and sommelier. He grew up in the Eastern Townships, a region of Québec known for its incredible gastronomy and farm-to-table leanings, and spent a few years perfecting his craft in Alberta before moving to Montreal where he met Nancy.

Frank doesn’t like to create set menus, but instead takes a more creative approach in the kitchen — crafting dishes inspired by the fresh ingredients available to him from the surrounding farms and is mindful of his guests' dietary preferences.

“I like to be spontaneous and create on the spot,” he says. “We are spoiled here in the County with amazing farmers.”

Also offered to guests is the Wilfrid Cellar, Frank's personal wine collection containing bottles he has carefully selected over the years. Guests can lean on his expertise to pick just the right bottle.

A highlight of a stay at the Wilfrid is Frank’s legendary brunch — a multi-course, elevated experience that is included with every stay. Imagine a globally inspired, ever-changing selection that uses locally sourced ingredients for maximum flavour and freshness. As the couple is fond of saying: it’s not breakfast, it is dinner at the wrong time of the day. 

Prepare to be blown away not just by the quality and flavour of these meals but by the entire experience. Dishes come out on hand-crafted dishes and are served family-style on the long harvest table. Nancy's curated playlist adds to the ambiance.

"Prince Edward County is still very much a farming community and you can find pretty much anything you can think of grown and raised here," he says.

Frank sources locally caught fish, like the one included in this impossibly crispy Perch Fish Fry, year-round from a local fisherman who goes by Jay Pickerel.

Fresh herbs and edible flowers come from the Wilfrid's own garden. The couple also forages for mushrooms, fiddleheads, stinging nettles, and ramps.

Maple syrup is also sourced from their own trees but when the yield is not enough, they turn to Fosterholm Maple Syrup and Edwin County Farm.

The County is rich with farmers who grow incredible vegetables.

Frank's favourite vendors, such as the ones he'd use for vegetable-rich dishes like this colourful crudités platter with muhammara, include Hagerman Farms, Landry Farms, Vikki's Veggies, Edwin County Farms, Cressy House and Paper Kite Farm.

Dairy products are also easy to source in Prince Edward County. Frank uses Lighthall Vineyards (which is in walking distance of the Wilfrid), and Sofia's Fresh and Black River Cheese when he wants to add a cheese element to his dishes, such as the base of this Falafel and Beets.

Here & There Honey (a local producer who even kept hives on the Wilfrid property last summer) provides honey for the kitchen.

The Wilfrid Boutique Farmhouse is located in the bucolic countryside of Prince Edward County in the town of Milford. It is close to wineries (including one on the property), beaches, and forested trails. It is open year-round.

Landsby offers a Private Retreat to the Wilfrid that is inclusive of the famous brunch as well as chef-prepared dinners.

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