Former Owner from 1950's Visits Vidya's

In late August of this year we hosted the Lucescu family who at one time back in the 50's owned the Queen's Hotel.  It was a trip down memory lane for them, and quite an experience for all of us at Vidya's to host them and hear their stories.
A letter from Melodie:
"I just wanted to thank you for staying open for us for dinner yesterday. It was certainly a trip down memory lane for all of us to be with our mother at the hotel again and to show all of our own kids one of the places that holds so many wonderful memories for us. We were all so excited, telling our stories as we walked from room to room. It was such a nice way to end our family reunion week.

We met your wonderful wife too. She was so kind, helpful, knowledgeable, and obviously passionate about your business. It is such a terrific concept! It was great talking to her. Everyone there was so kind, welcoming, and happy. They made us feel "at home" from the moment we walked in the door. 

So, thanks again from all of us. We wish you and Kim all the best for many years to come, both personally and with your amazing wellness business. 

Looking forward to seeing you again, soon. 
With best regards,
Melodie (and the Lucescu family)

By the way, my grandmother and uncle who owned the hotel were Corinne (Cartier) Bonneville and her brother, Bernard Cartier. I believe they  owned it in the 50's and 60's. My grandmother also lived there and operated the hotel.



Harkin' Back to a Man of the People

For those who have asked us about our delicious organic potato wedges, and how they came to be called Harkin's Wedges, we present here the story of Mr. Neil Harkin, who most certainly frequented the old Queen's Hotel in the 1800s, as Hwy. 27 was the main route from Collingwood to Toronto, and all by horse and buggy, of course.

Mr. Harkin symbolizes the spirit of perseverance and the indomitable will to overcome adversity. He arrived from Ireland on a ship stricken by disease, which killed two-thirds of its inhabitants, representing hundreds of people buried at sea. Fleeing poverty and famine in Ireland, the trip overseas must have felt like a journey of the damned for those onboard. Nearly escaping death himself, Neil Harkin would go on to become one of the most successful and loved men of Simcoe County. He was rich in love and family and friends, and he served his community staunchly and helped bring civilization to this neck of the woods. We present below the obituary from 1902, from the Stayner Sun, the year of Neil Harkin's passing.


Neil Harkin, Ex-Reeve of Sunnidale Township

Neil Harkin, Ex-Reeve of Sunnidale Township

Death of Neil Harkin, Esq.

One of the Oldest and Best Known Residents of North Simcoe Passes away, in his 74th year

Neil Harkin, Esq., J.P. died at his home at Corn Hill on Wednesday, Sept 24th, 1902. By reason of his long residence here and the active interest he took in public affairs, Mr. Harkin was known all over Simcoe County, and not only will his familiar figure be missed from the streets of Stayner, but many former residents of Nottawasaga and Sunnidale will learn with regret of his death.

Mr. Harkin was 73 years of age and his health had been poor for the past few years, but he was confined to his bed only two days before his death. He was in town the Saturday previous.

The funeral left his late residence, Corn Hill, on Saturday, Sept 27th, to St. Patrick's Church, Stayner, where high Mass was celebrated by Rov. Father Jeffcott, who delivred an excellent sermon, suitable to the occasion. The music of the choir was appreciated. Mrs. Hargraves leader and organist, sang Lead Kindly Light and Nearer my God to Thee. The pal-bearers were the deceased's six granddsons, Thomas, Joseph and Justin Guilfoyle, Joseph and Leo Harkin, and Alfred Shauacy. Interment was made at the R.C. cemetery, Nottawasaga, where the remains were laid in the family plot.

Neil Harkin was born in 1829 in the county of Mayo, Ireland, and sailed from there to Canada in 1847 by the ship Wolfe Villa, of Ardrosson, Scotland. Of the 750 passengers on board, 500 died during the voyage and their bodies were cast into the sea, among them being Mr. Harkin's mother and one brother. On arriving at Quarantine the Wolfe Villa cast anchor among other plague stricken ships from sone of which death had claimed every human being, passengers and crew. There Mr. Harkin lost two brothers and lay sick himself for weeks before he was able to proceed to the interior. He first settled on the first concession of the township of Nottawasaga, where he lived until 1865, and then removed to his last place of residence, the wet half of Lot 3 Concession 5, Sunnidale. At that time there was an unbroken forest for miles around, but Mr. H., though commencing with little or nother beyond the talents, physical and mental, with which he was endowed, used these so well as to secure the blessing of comfortable home, a title of 500 acres of land, 300 being cleared and improved, and an enviable reputation in private and public life. He was one the the first Township Councellors and contined to be a municipal representative for many years, being reeve in 1869. He was made J.P. in 1876. In 1879, he recieved the unanimous nomination of the Reform convention as candidate for election to the Ontario Legislature but sickness in his family led him to decline. He was of the staunchest type of Reformer in politics and was one of the first readers of The Toronto Globe. He was President of the Reform Association of the riding for 20 years and License Commissioner for Centre Simcoe for 28 years. in 1852, he married Mary, daughter of Mr. Patrick Dunn, of Vespra. They reared a family of eleven children, James and John dead; P.J. and Mrs. O'Keefe, Buffalo; Mrs. Shanacy, Tornoto; M.C. Harkin, merchant, Stayner; Mrs. J. Guilfoyle and Andrew, Corn Hill; Neil, Sarah and Agnes at home. Mr. Harkin's wife predeceased him seventeen years, she having died Sept 23rd 1885."

Source: Stayner Sun

learn more about Neil Harkin at



Vitality Magazine Visits Vidya's


The attitude, ‘eat healthy - feel healthy’ is embraced by the newly opened Vidya’s Veggie Gourmet Restaurant, which also houses The Vidya Centre For Yoga & Wellness. Apart from the healthy and delicious food offerings, this picturesque venue in Thornton, ON offers yoga classes, pilates, massage therapy, group cleanses, coaching and overnight retreats.

Attached to a pleasingly understated yoga studio, and complete with value-added options like nutritional consultation, an infrared sauna, and a taproom-cum-elixir bar offering organic beverages and fresh-made juices, Vidya's charm is her admonition to be, eat, and fare well. This gourmet restaurant offers delicious, nutritious, organic, and 100% gluten-free dishes. Vitality asked a couple of our ‘foodies’ to pay a visit and here’s what they had to say:

“Vidya’s Veggie Gourmet Restaurant offers healthy, clean, and conscious dining, with no sacrifice in pleasure or satiation. Its tastefully cheeky menu is more varied than one might expect and boasts fusion cuisines from around the world, forged with ingredients from around the corner (and closer - much of Vidya’s fare is sourced from its own garden). Fittingly situated in a former steakhouse, Vidya and her staff breathe new life into old but elegant bones. Faves: Maria's beautifully umami Mushroom Pierogis, and Coconut Kefir Cream Pie, a unique and tart take on an old favourite. Namaste, cheers, and bon appetit!”

Details: 238 Barrie St., Thornton (just south of Barrie). Call (705) 458-2000, or visit

See more at:


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Read Our Press Release Issued Today

Historic Location of Former Steakhouse Re-Opens As Vegetarian Restaurant

March 31, 2014

[Thornton, ON] - Times they are a-changin’. This Saturday April 5th (5-9 pm) marks the Grand Opening Celebration of Vidya’s Veggie Gourmet Restaurant on Hwy. 27 in Thornton, just 45 minutes north of Toronto. Located in the historic 1854 Queen’s Hotel (“The Village Inn”), in what used to be known as Simcoe County’s best steakhouse. The new proprietors have transformed it into a vegetarian restaurant. The public is invited to come out and taste samplings from the menu, meet the chefs, and to enjoy a live performance by accomplished Canadian singer/songwriter Sacha Williamson.

Singer/songwriter Sacha Williamson will bring her soulful voice to the party.

Part of The Vidya Centre For Yoga & Wellness, Vidya’s Veggie Gourmet Restaurant explores the delicious and nutritious abundance of organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices that nature’s bounty provides. It does so within the context of food that is natural and ethically-sourced. The kitchen offers food made with "metta", a Pali word meaning in line with principles of compassionate loving kindness for all life. The Vidya Centre offers yoga classes in two studios, pilates, massage therapy, group cleanses, coaching, and overnight retreats.

Vegans and vegetarians will rejoice at having a local place to eat, as the restaurant will be Simcoe County’s first full-service vegetarian dining establishment offering salads, raw dishes, and cooked food plus healthy desserts. But nutritionist and proprietor Kim Vidya believes that the restaurant will have wide appeal beyond vegans, “we think that the majority of our market will be people that just want to have a healthy, yummy meal and who want to eat more veggies.”

The menu is filled with savoury renditions of classic vegetable dishes, ranging from smoked oyster mushroom chowder to fresh hempseed basil pesto over a bed of gluten-free noodles, to an amazing coconut kefir cream dessert. The dishes borrow flavours from around the world, including pierogis, curries, noodle bowls, and in the dressings that adorn some wonderful salads.

The kitchen is 100% gluten-free, and although some beers sold at the bar do contain gluten, they offer gluten-free beer as well. The selection of red and white wines are 100% organic.

While the full menu doesn’t kick off until Monday April 7th, this Saturday allows the restaurateurs to meet the community and share some good tastes, good music, and to create the first of many good memories. For more info visit or write them Reservations can be made starting April 7th by calling 705-458-2000.



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Springwater Lives Up To It's Name

Take Hwy. 27 north from Vidya's Veggie Gourmet and eventually you'll end up in the Town of Elmvale, Ontario, located in Springwater Township. Pass through Elmvale and about 1 km north of the town on the right (east) side you will see a large steel structure with a paved drive leading up to it. Vehicles line up in cue to access the spring, from which flows some of the purest, most life-giving water in the world.

The water contains less lead than the cleanest ice layers in the Arctic. It has dissolved mineral salts providing a wide range of trace minerals that our soil and therefore our food supply lacks, including natural fluoride and silica. Local residents have known about the high quality of the water for generations, and stories abound of great-great grandparents filling their buckets there more than a hundred years ago.  Environmental geochemist William Shotyk, Professor of Earth Sciences at Germany's Heidelberg University, has studied this water source extensively for over 20 years and considers it the purest water he has ever tested. (Learn more about Prof. Shotyk's work at Canadian Geographic online.)

Only recently, however, has the Township stepped up and invested the appropriate level of funds needed to secure this incredible natural resource.  What used to be an old pipe and rough concrete footing has been rebuilt into a new triple-flow concrete and steel structure, erected with the kind of solid quality that looks like it will survive for a thousand years.

*CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO*  This is what the spring looked like back in 2009.

This new structure is important on many levels. People can fill their bottles much faster, so there is rarely if ever a wait to fill now. More people will notice the structure and stop to fill up a drinking bottle. It provides some protection from the elements. And in the long-range view, the investment indicates an acknowledgement from the Township that the Elmvale spring is an important resource of the people; that it is worth defending against future efforts to put a landfill site in the area. It's not a rusty pipe flowing into a broken grate anymore; it is a monument to nature, a proud and sturdy construction that will stand the test of time and announce to anyone paying attention that this is a tremendous natural resource that we should all be enjoying and protecting.

Stores like Water Depot sell empty BPA-free bottles for $10, and caps for $0.25. Grab some and make the journey north, and you will find like many families that it becomes an experience in nature that teaches fundamental appreciation for the planet and it's life-giving properties and the importance of protecting them. Our family and friends numbering 30 or more have been drinking Elmvale spring water for years now.  Our household has used it as our exclusive water source for people, dogs, and chickens since 2008. It is truly the champagne of drinking water.

And it comes with no fee attached. It is your right as a free man or woman of this great land to come and share this magnificent resource with your neighbours. If you live too far, check out to locate a great one near you!

After an investment from Springwater Township, the new Elmvale Spring flow is split into three downspouts. The flow is so strong it fills your bottles faster than you can cap and carry them.

After an investment from Springwater Township, the new Elmvale Spring flow is split into three downspouts. The flow is so strong it fills your bottles faster than you can cap and carry them.

The new Elmvale Spring: in partial state of completion. Roofing has been recently added in 2014.

The new Elmvale Spring: in partial state of completion. Roofing has been recently added in 2014.

Eggs are 70% water, and our backyard chickens have thrived on Elmvale spring water.  Here I am with Marjorie, who always wants to sit on my hand until it gets tired.

Eggs are 70% water, and our backyard chickens have thrived on Elmvale spring water. Here I am with Marjorie, who always wants to sit on my hand until it gets tired.

*CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO*  Learn more about spring water from Daniel Vitalis and David Wolfe in this interesting interview.



Cookstown, Ontario is coming up Green!

This past week has been awesome!  While the renovations continue in the restaurant and wellness/retreat centre, we got cooking in the kitchen and our chefs made some delicious food. And yesterday capped it off with an informative and inspiring visit to Cookstown Greens, who will be supplying huge amounts of our organic vegetables.

Although close to Cookstown, Cookstown Greens is actually in the Hamlet of Egbert, which is also home to the Vipassana Centre Dhamma Torana - two amazing examples of human cooperation at work.


Stretched over 80 acres of rich, well rotated soil, Cookstown Greens has been growing organically there since 1988, constantly enriching the land over time.  The result is a panorama of colours and shapes, with full flavoured vegetables that are the best nature has to offer.  We were so impressed by their dedication to quality and sustainable farming, that we have renamed our Superfood Salad as the Cookstown Greens Salad! It will always be made with their superior quality 100% organic lettuce greens and sprouts, 12 months a year.


But salads are just the start of what we can do with their veggies.  Chef Laurie and Chef Dave toured the facility, getting some great seasonal menu ideas by surveying the available options. Just wait until you sink your teeth into some of these incredible organic bounties.


The retail fridge in our Elixir Bar will soon carry their sprout snack packs, and our Norwalk juicer will be pressing litres of their organic black carrot, but in the meantime, if you're in the Toronto area, you can buy Cookstown Greens at retailers such as Pusateri's and the Big Carrot, or visit their website for a complete list.  BON APPÉTIT!



At The Source

Modern times and the convenience of prepackaged foods have led us astray and made us sick, or at least not as healthy as we could be.  One of the reasons for this is the disconnection we have with the foods we eat - foods we have nothing to do with creating.  The further an ingredient is away from nature, the more "improvements" man has rendered upon that product, the less good it is for you - with few exceptions. When you go back to the source, and use pure and natural ingredients chosen for their special qualities, then the result is food that bursts with goodness.  That's how we aim to cook.  This part is fundamental.