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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Peller Estates Winery

This weekend GC and I went to Niagara Falls to celebrate our anniversary (more on that later – there was loved themed baking involved). On Saturday we went to Peller Estates Winery for lunch.

1. One of the great things about living in Southern Ontario is how close we are to the Niagara wine region. There isn’t a lot of geography in Canada that allows us to produce good wine but the wine in this area is something truly amazing. I am biased because of my mother but I will always choose an Ontario wine over anything else. I think a wine tour in the summer is in order.

2. Jason Parsons is the chef at the restaurant in the winery and he is amazing. He is innovative and from eating his food, you can tell he is inspired by food, organic/fresh produce, the seasons and the relationship between wine and food. He is young and hip and his food is comforting. I am salivating thinking about it now. I think this is some of the best food I have ever eaten. If you can, make a point of getting to Peller to eat Chef Jason’s food.

3. We were seated at Mrs. Peller’s favourite table by the big fire place overlooking the whole winery. The table had a simple arrangement of little daffodils in polished rocks – it made me yearn for April. I was so at ease in this setting – it was warm and cozy and you just felt like you were at a friend’s house about to try their latest fresh-from-the-oven baked good.

4. Our server was amazing. She was knowledgable without being pretentious, and friendly without being clingy – just delightful. She supported all my menu choices and said they were her favourite menu items. She allowed me taste different wines to see what I liked best with my main course. It is nice when you are actually served at a restaurant as opposed to just being brought your food. She is part of the reason we had a great experience and want to go back.

5. They were serving the Sparkling Brunch which started off with a complimentary glass of Iced Cuvée Sparkling wine. A mixture of ice and sparkling wine – a gentle, sweet taste as opposed to the dry quality sometimes found in sparkling wines and champagnes.

6. The Sparkling Brunch is a fixed price menu that also has suggested wine pairings. I love the idea of always having a fixed price menu – it is a great way to get a sample of menu items and learn about the menu and the chef. There is also the Seasonal Tasting Menu which is whatever Chef Jason has decided to put together that day. It is based on whatever produce has come in fresh that day and they also take into account any allergy/dietary restrictions one may have. I would have loved to try this but I wasn’t adventurous enough. I like to know what I am going to eat. Next time though!

My starter.

Chef’s Signature Parfait – Creamy Chicken Parfait with an Icewine Sugar Crust. I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this but it sounded so intriguing that I had to order it. The chicken was creamy and had a smokey taste that you had to break through the sweet, sugary crust to get to. The compotes were so pure in taste (a berry, grainy mustard, and mustard seed) and had such unique tastes that all complimented the parfait perfectly. This is one of the most unique things I have ever eaten and I am glad my curiosity got the best of me.

My main.

Truffle Sea Red Diver Scallops with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Sage Risotto. Can we all reflect on the size of these scallops? They are huge! They were perfectly seared with a perfect crunch and when you bit into them they were fleshy and juicy. I love seafood. The risotto was creamy and the goat cheese was smooth. The sage was incredibly fresh, it was as if it was picked moments before it ended up on my plate.

My dessert.

Cheese board with a selection of three Canadian Cheeses. I can’t remember what the first one is – second was a brie – third was a bleu cheese. Cheese plates are the greatest dessert ever. A nice, savoury way to end a meal. And no nuts! I love it!

GC’s starter.

Beef tartar with a fresh quail egg. The restaurant got in a fresh shipment of quail eggs so they were a fresh addition to some select menu items. Our server suggested that the Chef intended for the egg to be mixed into the beef and it works. I love tasting notes given by the Chef. And can we talk about this presentation? This is one of the best meals that has ever been presented to a table I was at. GC said the tartar was flavourful and the capers and pepper offered a nice heat and flavour. I have yet to try beef or any other type of tartar. I fear.

GC’s main.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with House Baked Beans, Riesling Braised Winter Greens. And a fresh quail egg! The pork just fell apart under GC’s fork, he didn’t even need to use his knife. The beans were rich in flavour from the pork. This is such a hearty winter meal that should be enjoyed in a bowl curled up the fire – this is an adult deconstructed chili.

GC’s dessert.

Spice Cake with Roasted Apples, Honey Cream, Late Harvest Sabayon. A dense cake, complimented by the lightness of the honey cream and the sabayon. Cake should always come in a bowl so it can have a delicious sauce.

This is the best dining experience I have ever had and I am looking forward to going again. I would encourage everyone to go for a tasting, a tour and a meal.