From The Shores of Lake Huron, Prost!
Steeped in history, the lakeside resort known as the Hessenland Country Inn marries two intriguing stories. The first story belongs to the farm itself and dates back to the late 19th century when it was owned by the Bedard Family who were one of the first families to settle in the area. The second story began in Germany, in the province of Hessen over 30 years ago, and belongs to Ernst and Christa Ihrig who moved to Canada to open a business that satisfied their passion for adventure and hospitality. Today, the Inn is run by the second generation of Ihrigs. Frank, the eldest son of Ernst and Christa, has taken over the role of head chef, along with his wife, Liz, who manages the day to day operations as Innkeeper.
Frank spent his formative years on the farm at Hessenland surrounded by the traditions of his German heritage and experiencing all the joys and follies that any 80s kid would growing up in rural Ontario.
As a teenager Frank’s summers were spent alternating between afternoons on the beach with friends and working for the family business. Over the years Frank took on many roles at the Inn but eventually he found his passion and life’s ambition in the kitchen.
Frank attended the University of Guelph where he acquired a degree in hospitality and met his future wife, Liz. He moved to Europe to obtain his chefs papers at the Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch in Frankfurt, Germany while Liz honed her hospitality skills in Toronto at the Westin Harbour Castle. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Frank travelled, working in some of the world’s finest kitchens including: Chateau Whistler, Greystone Country Club, a winter season in Switzerland, and a half year in Australia before finally returning home to Huron County where he settled down and took ownership of the Inn. Soon after, Liz, yearning for country life, left the city to join Frank on the farm.
Over the years, Frank has developed a unique menu for Hessenland based on Canadian-German fusion. The Inn is probably best known for its schnitzel and spaetzle, a dish that has been on the menu since the doors opened over 30 years ago. Frank still hand makes the Inn’s famous schnitzel using his mother Christa’s original recipe and technique.
Many people understand that the perfect complement to any schnitzel dinner is a cold refreshing beer! To acquire the perfect flavour profile to pair with his schnitzel, Frank worked with the brew master of the Niagara Brew College to develop a custom German style lager. “Hessenland Helles” translates to pale lager and is reminiscent of a classic German Beer. It’s easy drinking flavour lends itself nicely to everything on the menu. Hessenland Helles is available only at Hessenland and the Niagara Brew College.
In addition to being a great place for schnitzel, Hessenland is also known for their weekly Mongolian Grill. This amazing, German-Mongolian grill is served on Thursday evenings in the summer and customers declare that you have to taste it to believe how great it truly is. Make sure to reserve early as this event sells out every time!
“Building on our family’s heritage juxtaposed alongside the rich agricultural traditions and unique climate of the area, we look forward to developing our own distinct terroir in the time ahead.”
~ Liz Ihrig
It’s not surprising that over the years, Hessenland has become a popular destination for weddings and events. Its lakeside location and historic Coach House make it an attractive option for any celebration. The Coach House was originally the Bedard family barn. Originally constructed in the late 1800s, the Ihrig family lovingly restored the barn 100 years later using traditional techniques with the help of a group of Mennonite farmers.
Today, with true Ihrig passion for adventure and new challenges, Frank and Liz are boldly taking the Inn to new heights. They have become early adopters in the agricultural practice of viticulture in Huron County. With a dream of creating their own signature “Hessenvien”, Frank and Liz have planted a five-acre vineyard at Hessenland with a growing family of grapes including: Marquette, Petit Pearl, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Frontenac Gris and Siegerrebe (Victory Vine). Soon Hessenland will be serving its very own wine, but they’re not waiting to enjoy the beauty of the vineyard! You can join them for long table and harvest dinners served al fresco in the vineyard in the summer and fall.
Learn more about Hessenland online: