Niagara-on-the-Lake 2016

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.

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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.

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This End Up

Toronto Life’s Eating and Drinking magazine is my bible. It is leafed through, dog-eared, scribbled in and crinkled as I spend a year constantly referencing it and making choices about food. This year’s cover features “The Better Mac” from This End Up.

Eating & Drinking 2011-2015 Obviously as soon as I saw this, I knew I had to eat it. After a yoga session we ventured to Dundas West to see if this really was a better mac.

The Better Mac features fresh ground chuck patties, special sauce, lettuce, choice of American or cheddar cheese, pickles and sweet onion. There was never a question about the combination of ingredients on a Big Mac and whether or not they work together. They obviously do: secret sauce, cheese, lettuce and the double bun.

Secret Sauce: The best part of a Big Mac is the secret sauce. Anything secret automatically tastes better because there is a forbidden quality to it, a never-again attainable moment when you taste deliciousness that you don’t know if you will ever be able to have again. Then there is that moment where it clicks that Mac sauce is obviously 1000 Island dressing, and yet, that doesn’t make it taste any more simple and basic. Mac sauce makes you realize that burgers do not need to be topped with ketchup and that there is an endless possibility of toppings for your burger. Aiolis, chutneys, and spreads are just the beginning on a whole new burger.

Cheese: Despite loving food and my favourite food being cheese, I still eat Kraft Singles. I can’t help it. They are delicious and nostalgic. When I make my own burgers I usually top them with this terrible product. Because of my love for this fake cheese, this has never been a problem for me while eating fast food. The low quality of cheese has never been my sticking point or issue.

Lettuce: My love for Kraft Singles is similar to my love for iceberg lettuce. Although there is almost no flavour or nutrition from iceberg lettuce, I love it. I like how crunchy it is and how refreshing it is to eat. I love it on burgers, tacos and salad. It is the only lettuce I would eat solo. Iceberg lettuce is the only choice for a burger. Everything else has too much vegetable flavour and takes away from the fatty, greasy deliciousness that is a burger.

Double Bun: The double bun truly is a thing of genius. You are essentially eating two burgers but because there is only 1 ½ buns you don’t feel as guilty or glutinous. It doesn’t overwhelm the burger and its topping but serves as a platform for them. It helps create the balance between burger and topping, giving structure and support to the heaviness.

If the above is my love sonnet for the Big Mac, a burger I have eaten on less than 5 occasions, then obviously the Better Mac was going to be just that, better. The science behind the Big Mac is flawless and when you recreate it using high quality, real ingredients the result will be better. The above statements on the ingredients prove truer for the Better Mac. The sauce is better, a homemade style secret sauce, the cheese doesn’t perfectly crease when folded as it is not mostly plastic, the lettuce is as high quality as you can get with iceberg and the bun is actually a bun, not something that has been smushed into bread-shaped submission. However, while eating this, I slightly missed my Big Mac. When I eat a gourmet burger, I want something different; I don’t want to recreate something I can get in almost every country in the world. This is not a slight to the burger. It was delicious but it wasn’t special. I won’t crave it. I won’t want to eat it again. All there is to it is that it is a better Big Mac.One thing I will give it credit for, unlike a Big Mac, the Better Mac does look like it’s photo:

IMG_2431Please no one try and recreate my beloved Chicken McNuggets. Happy munching!