We went to the Niagara Region recently to visit some wineries, see some historical sites and take another gander at the Falls. The amount of recent development geared towards visitors is quite astonishing. We also had a few interesting meals.
Our most enjoyable meal was our dinner at Terrior La Cachette at Strewn Winery. A full dinner for two with aperitifs, appetizers, entrees, desserts, a bottle of wine, tax and tip was $200. Of the two appetizers we preferred the house smoked duck over the spinach salad. The pancetta in the salad didnt taste quite like other pancettasit was saltier. The Rosemary & Tomato Crusted Rack of Lamb was worth every penny. The other main, a duck confit was well made, but the lamb shone. Not only, did it taste like good quality lamb, but also the lamb was cooked as ordered, and the crust wasnt overcooked. A pleasant surprise during the meal was the use of caper berries as a garnish. I dont think that Id ever these pickled berries before. They were quite nice, kind of like an olive sized less intense caper. When I asked one of the staff what the berry was she told me and commented that it was a common question. Their maple crème brulée was really good, very creamy with a nice top crust. I really like crème brulée so Id go back for this one alone. The berries in the other dessert seemed to be a bit out of season. We came back the following day to try some of their other wines and found that due to the darkness we had missed a lovely view the night before. This would be a great place for lunch.
Our other dinner was at the Gate House Hotels Ristorante Giardino. Unlike Terroir La Cachett, the Ristorante Giardino does not stress the local ingredients and local wines. Its basically a high-end Italian restaurant, once inside that you could be in Toronto. The food wasnt bad, but it wasnt exceptional. The veal chop entrée was a bit tough while the pork tenderloin was somewhat dry. The applesauce/compote that came with the tenderloin had a good strong apple flavour, but it didnt mask that dryness of the tenderloin. The carpaccio with truffle oil appetizer was nice, although I may be a sucker for black truffle oil. It was tender, not stringy. The desert we shared was really good. I like cream based deserts and their panna cotta fit the bill just fine. The total cost was once again $200 for two.
We had lunch in the pub at the Olde Angel Inn in Niagara on the Lake. We went here because I really wanted to try their steak and kidney pie. I really like steak and kidney pie and it bothers me that it is becoming harder to find good steak and kidney pie on the menu in Toronto pubs. So when I can get it, I have it. And that is what I ended up eating for lunch, but it was a hard decision to make. It turns out that they have steak and oyster pie on their menu as well. Steak and oyster pie is something that I havent seen much on menus in Canada and its one of the real classic pies. The pie that I did eat had a puff pastry top rather than the standard that I prefer. Inside there were lots of kidneys, which is important to me, and some beef as well. The gravy was lightly spiced. Its appearance was more of a greyish colour rather than brown, but it still taste pretty good. Good but not good enough to keep me away from the steak and oyster pie, if I get back there. The chicken peach pie entrée had lots of chicken and peaches, but was nothing special. The shared appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops with a dab of Chile or Tabasco sauce went over well. Bacon wrapped scallops or shrimp really hit the spot. All of this plus two beers and a cider was around $64.
One place that Id suggest avoiding is the diner with the sign Bacon, Egg & Pancake. It was an old-fashioned looking diner place on Lundys Lane near the Niagara Falls Lundys Lane border. I dont expect to get maple syrup at such a place, but I do expect the bacon be crispy and the pancakes to be light. We got neither. The coffee put instant coffee to shame.
For wine tasting we really enjoyed visiting Reif and Peninsula Ridge. Peninsula Ridge was great because it was fairly quiet and the guy pouring knew his stuff. They have a great Chardonnay if you dont like oak. The restaurant has a great view and its menu looks interesting. Reif Estate being on the Niagara Parkway was much busier, but we found that the people were still able to take time to talk knowledgeably about their products. Their Vidal Select Late Harvest was a good deal and they have just bottled Niagaras first Zinfandel. I suppose that Chowhound isnt really a place for wine comments, but I just wanted to share this
And yes, the view from Brocks monument is worth the climb.
Terroir La Cachette
at Strewn Winery
1339 Lakeshore Road
Gate House Hotel
142 Queen Street, P.O. Box 1364
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Tel: 905 468-3263
Fax: 905 468-7400
Olde Angel Inn
224 Regent Street P.O. Box 1603
Niagara-on-the-Lake L0S 1J0
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
5600 King Street West, P.O. Box 550
Beamsville Ontario L0R 1B0
Reif Estate Winery
15608 Niagara Parkway
LOS 1JO, Ontario