A few weeks ago we had a belated one-year anniversary brunch with my parents in Niagara. The reason we were about 6 months behind was because in the fall JDL had his knee replaced and then who wants to go to Niagara in the winter?
The day started with a visit to Southbrook Vineyards, Canada’s first bio-dynamic winery. We tasted a flight of four different wines, two whites and two reds, each highlighting the unique growing conditions and techniques at Southbrook. Our server was incredibly knowledgeable, having studied cuisine and wine at Niagara College. He was well spoken on the interplay between wine and food, something I completely lack and admire in other people.
After a few tastes of wine, we headed over to Trius Winery for our celebratory brunch. The brunch at Trius is a three-course tasting menu with the option to pair each course with wine as selected by the restaurant. Mom, being the classy and knowledgeable person she is, made her choices based on the wine; everyone else made their choices based on the food.
The dining room at Trius has been recently redone, featuring bold furniture in yellows and reds. The main dining room features huge spherical light fixtures that resemble fireworks exploding in a night sky. The dining rooms open out onto a patio which overlooks the vineyards. In early April this is not quiet the focal point that it is in the summer. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which was a little more private and with a view of the courtyard and vineyards.
After we were seated, we were immediately greeted with glasses of Trius Brut Rosé – all brunches should start with pink bubbly. It should be noted that this is apparently supposed to serve as a palate cleanser between courses and should last the length of your meal, not gulped down shortly after the first course like mine was. Oops. It was just too tasty to not enjoy that quickly.
Mom and JDL started with the Ontario Mushroom Collection.
Ontario Mushroom Collection with Everspring Farm duck egg, fresh cow’s milk ricotta, rosemary focaccia and balsamic baco noir paired with Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2011.
GC started with the Hearts of Romaine.
Hearts of Romaine with crisp prosciutto, parmesan, garlic croutons, marinated white anchovies, quail eggs and creamy parmesan dressing paired with Trius Riseling 2014.
This is a beautiful way to highlight a deconstructed salad without it looking busy or overdone. The accompaniments of the salad are carefully draped over the top of the romaine heart, creating a beautiful serving dish in which to enjoy the whole salad. Each bite works its way through layers of your traditional Caesar salad allowing you to enjoy each component as it plays across your palate.
I started with the Icewine Smoked Salmon Terrine.
Icewine Smoked Salmon Terrine with pickled onions, caper, lemon curd and bagel crumble paired with Trius Chardonnay 2014.
The presentation of this dish was simplistic but elegant. The terrine looked like a fancy petit four you might expect to find Maria Antoinette enjoying. The toasts wrapped in chequered paper give this dish a more accessible, homey touch. The terrine was so delicious. The salmon was slightly smoky and creamy layered with cheese dotted with herbs and freshness. The tartness of the pickled onions and the capers played off the fruity tartness of the lemon curd, lightening the richness of the dish. The lemon curd was a floral note cleansing each bite that paired perfectly with the wine. The wine is fresh but with a bit of smoky, nuttiness that highlights these flavours found in the terrine. I could start every day with this for breakfast.
Mom ordered the Fish and Chips for her main.
Fish and Chips with Lake Huron white fish, Trius brut tempura, celeriac slaw, duck fat Yukon fries and malt vinegar mayonnaise served with Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc 2013
JDL ordered the Lobster Omelet for his main.
Lobster Omelet with Maritime lobster, blistered tomato, zucchini, potato and goat’s cheese croquette served with Trius rose 2014.
GC’s order the Trius Rib-Eye Burger for his main.
Trius Rib-eye burger with peameal bacon, aged cheddar, icewine onion marmalade, duck fat fries and house ketchup served with Trius Red 2013.
For my main I ordered the Perth County Pork Chop.
The Perth County Pork chop with white bean cassoulet, ice wine chorizo sausage, ice wine pear served with Showcase RHS Merlot 2012.
This was an unusual choice for me: although pork is my favourite type of meat, I have a well-known dislike for beans and there was also the option of lobster on the menu but the simplistic nature of the dish caused me to order it. And I was glad I did.
This is the best pork chop I have ever eaten. It was well-seared with beautiful grill marks that locked in all the juicy, tenderness of the pork. This is something I have yet to master in my own kitchen and this pork chop makes me want to learn how to do that. The ice wine pear salsa on top of the pork brought out the fruity, sweet side of pork that is usually left up to apples.
A cassoulet is a traditional French dish that is almost like a casserole with slow cooked beans and some type of meat, typically pork. This was my first taste of real traditional French cuisine that I will be stuffing my face full of in one month! Despite my loath of beans (which I credit to years of eating chilli as a child), I loved this. It was hearty and comforting. I would love to curl up by a fireplace and munch on this all winter long. The beans were sweet, plump and juicy, taking on the flavours of the chorizo they were cooked with. The chorizo was subtle, not with an overwhelming spice, just the perfect balance of sweetness and texture to break up the softness of the beans. The cheese curds were squeaky and creamy, dissolving with a satisfying squeak over my teeth.
The merlot deserves recognition all on its own. This is the best glass of red wine I have ever had. It was intensely red, almost black in colour and had amazing legs (the one wine term I know). It was rich and smooth and brought out the intense woody flavours of the pork. Mom was generous enough to get us a bottle of this wine after brunch from the winery but there is only one problem – this is a $45 bottle of wine. I am too scared to drink it! It has been sitting in my kitchen for the past two weeks taunting me and encouraging me to cook something worthy of its deliciousness.
Mom ordered the Baked Apple and Pear Pie for dessert.
The Baked Apple and Pear Pie with ginger ice cream, salted caramel and toasted almonds served with showcase Riesling icewine 2012.
And in case you were wondering, although delicious, Mom said it wasn’t as good as her apple pie but would we did we expect anything else?
GC ordered the Chocolate Pot du Crème.
Dad and I couldn’t resist the Artisan Canadian Cheese Plate.
After we feasted we went to Peller Estates where we enjoyed the “Ultimate 10 Below Experience.”
The Ultimate 10 Below Experience is heading down to the cellars at Pellar and donning a heavy winter jacket. You then enter a room made entirely of ice to enjoy some of their finest ice wine at the temperature that it is harvested at, 10 degrees below zero. The room is recreated each year and the ice is worth approximately $70,000! The ice is backlit and changes colours from green to red to blue, creating the atmosphere of being under the Northern Lights while you sip your ice wine. It was a really neat experience to learn about ice wine at the temperature needed to make it, even if I was in a dress.
Another beautiful day in Niagara that left me with the anxious question of “When do I get to come back?” It would be worth learning how to ride a bike alone for the opportunity to return this summer and do a bike tour of our beautiful, backyard wine country.