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Posts Tagged ‘Niagara’

Thank you Barb, your anniversary post inspired JT and I to make our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) this past Christmas for a quick holiday. We stayed at Harbour House a relatively new boutique hotel just off the beaten path in NOTL.  We stayed at this place shortly after it first opened 8-10 years ago and it was lovely, this time was no different. JT booked us into a gorgeous room with a fireplace and we were upgraded to a suite — now that’s sweet!

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The living room with fireplace

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Very spacious

A festive touch in our room

A festive touch in our room

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The bedroom

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

A large jacuzzi tub, separate shower, double sink, what more could you want? Heated floors.

We arrived on Boxing day (December 26) with no weather issues at all, which was a little surprising since they had predicted a bad storm to come through and dump 30cm (12 inches) of snow in the area. We waited and waited and eventually it did snow, but not nearly as much as predicted. NOTL is a picturesque village with nice restaurants, quaint shops and lovely homes, some of which have been converted to B&Bs. It is also very close to Ontario’s Wine Country.

We ate lunch at the Oban Inn, which is always a treat with lovely views of their manicured gardens. We shared the Dungeness Crab Cakes with Micro Greens, Horseradish Espresso Remoulade, Grilled Pineapple Salsa ($16). For my main I enjoyed Icewine Salmon Gravlax, Carrot Slaw, Citrus Creme Fraiche ($12) it was delicious. JT had the quiche with field greens. I would recommend this restaurant highly. Service was also excellent.

Dinner our first night was at Zee’s a restaurant in The Shaw Club a sister hotel. We shared the Cheese and Charcuterie platter with 5 items for $25. On it was TIGER BLUE rich, aromatic with an intense blue flavour, in the style of stilton, ROARING 40’S BLUE cow’s milk, full flavoured blue with a honeyed, slightly nutty quality, rindless, smooth and creamy and a cheddar which they had to substitute. The Charuterie portion was made up of HOT SOPRESATTA from the Calabria Region, red wine, chili spices and salt, texture of prosciutto, robust and spicy and CHORIZO blend of pork, pork fat, smoked dried paprika, distinct smoke flavour, cured and smoked and neither of these impressed us either, not spicy or smokey tasting. JT had the Nova Scotia Lobster Poutine which included house cut fries, a generous serving of butter poached lobster, white cheddar cheese curds, red wine veal jus and a home made hollandaise sauce. JT’s meal was excellent, although it would not have been something I would order. I had the Warm Mushroom & Smoked Bacon Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms & Smoked Bacon, Parsnip Chips & Apple Cider Vinaigrette ($10) and sadly it was neither warm nor did it have many mushrooms, so even at the low price of $10 it was disappointing.

Our hotel included a wonderful breakfast both days, made of a hot egg dish, pastries, cheeses, meats, scones, preserves, yogurt and fruit. There was also cereal, but who eats cereal on their vacation? Let’s just say we didn’t leave hungry! Our first full day we decided to brave the weather and head down to Niagara Falls, NY to do a little shopping at Walden Galleria which turned out to be nothing special. Lunch was at Bravo Italian Cucina which I suspect is a chain. We both had the soup and salad combo; I had the Italian Wedding soup but was lacking in flavour and JT had the Lobster Bisque which had good lobster flavour but was too creamy for my taste. Our waiter was very talkative and we enjoyed the interaction. Would I go back? Doubt it, nothing special. We returned to NOTL by way of the Rainbow bridge and although we both now have Nexus, I prefer to go the human route when we buy things outside of the allowances. With both cases you must declare what you bring in, but at least the human factor gives us the possibility of not having to pay the taxes and duty on the items (free trade my foot). And this time the lady clearing us in chastised me for not buying enough! Go figure.

That night we ate at the Cannery another sister hotel/restaurant. This is a slightly larger hotel catering to more family style stays. Most of the restaurants in NOTL are casual, so for the most part people don’t really dress up but JT and I always do! I started with Sea Scallops which were Seared Sea Scallops, Petite Village Salad, Seedlings, Smoked Paprika Oil  ($18) it was delicious (I didn’t take photos because it was too dark), JT had the caesar salad. My main course was an appetizer portion of Spicy Udon Noodles which were Tapioca Noodles, Spicy Yuzu Sesame Sauce, Pork Dumplings, Shiitake Mushrooms Prawns, Matchstick Vegetables ($15) again, delicious and a perfect portion for me! JT had the appetizer portion of the Tagliatelle Pasta which was Semolina Broad Noodles, Pulled Braised Lamb, Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Paste, Asiago Shards ($15); we both enjoyed our meals. Having said that, the overall impression is kind of Cracker Barrel style decor, bright lighting and not much cozy ambiance.

Our final lunch was at an old favourite at On the Twenty in Jordan, Ontario a short drive from NOTL and an exceptional restaurant which is connected to Cave Spring Cellars an award winning winery. We ate a lovely table overlooking their perennial gardens which were romantically blanketed with snow. I started with Heirloom Beet Salad of smoked goat cheese, Dave Irish’s breakfast radish, pickled red onion, pistachio brittle, honey mandarin vinaigrette ($12) and JT had the butternut squash soup ($10) and both were exceptional. I then had the Vintner’s Platter in-house smoked salmon, pâté en croute, house-made mustard, pickles, charcuterie, artisanal cheese ($19) which could have easily been shared and JT had the Grilled Venison Burger with Juniper berry-infused tomato relish, feta cheese aioli, baby arugula, fresh-cut fries, house-made ketchup ($17) which was OUTSTANDING. We each had an espresso for dessert. Service is always exceptional and the ambiance is lovely. If you ever come up to this area, you must dine at On the Twenty.

View from our room.

View from our room.

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It’s these friendly touches that make this hotel

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A delicious cookie for each of us.

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It’s all in the details

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Each evening between 4-5:30 wine and cheese were served in the lobby. We gathered to meet the other lovely guests, most of whom were Americans, as far away as Philly.

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Our first lunch was at Oban Inn, these are most delicious crab cakes.

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This was my second course at the Oban, a wonderful Gravlox Salmon, home cured. Most delicious combination of flavours and textures.

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Our last lunch at Inn on the 20, a beet and goats cheese salad with pistachio brittle. Very tasty.

We made our way back home to find our driveway and walkways had been cleared of the massive dump of snow we got while we were away. We really do have the loveliest neighbours.

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The snow in our backyard

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The front yard, still snowing

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Each time we come down to the Niagara region we always pop by one of our flavourite little villages, Jordan. Because we decided to see Jordan on the way home on Monday most of the quaint little shops were closed due to the statutory holiday, sadly. But fortunately an old flavourite restaurant was open for business, On the Twenty. On the Twenty was likely the first winery restaurant in this region; originally boasting a couple of our celebrity chefs Anna Olson and Michael Olson. Since then there have been several award winning winery restaurants in this region which makes it difficult to go back to somewhere you’ve already been, we always want to try new places. The spot we picked out for our brunch on the way home was not to be – closed on Mondays, so we decided to try On the Twenty again, after all, it has been about 10 years!
On the Twenty is nestled into an old row of historical buildings on the edge of vineyards; the tables have a lovely view even if it is winter. We are seated and I face the window, it was a gorgeous, sunny day! We settle in with a glass of wine (now that would be sacrilege to be at a winery restaurant and not order wine!). The menu is lovely and we are tempted by two interesting selections: I choose the Vintner’s Lunch which includes sausage, pâté en croute, house preserves and pickles, house-smoked salmon, Pingue prosciutto, chorizo and Ontario artisanal cheese. It is a beautifully presented platter with a small selection of everything; my only complaint would have been that it lacked a little sweetness such as a chutney or compote, but it was divine! JT decided on the WillowGrove Pork Chop with rosemary forked Yukon mash, honey-glazed carrot, apple jus. The pork was juicy and tender with just the right amount of vegetables. A truly wonderful brunch, On the Twenty did not disappoint! We shan’t wait another ten years before we return next time!

Overall rating of On the Twenty (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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We went to see the Band from TV on Sunday Night. It was fantastic. The performance was wonderful and the actor/musicians were friendly and approachable. Jessie Spencer (House) and James Denton (Despirate Housewives) were even cuter in person than on TV. Teri Hatcher was gorgeous and so incredibly thin (much thinner than on TV). I would whole-heartedly recommend seeing them if they are in your area. Jesse Spencer is an incredibly talented violinist (check out this little duo of the Devil went down to Georgia) Jessie and James performed it on Sunday night. The ‘lead’ singer was Bachelor Bob Guiney; he had a great voice and really belted out the songs. Teri Hatcher sang about 5-6 songs and she also did great. The guys came down into the audience several times. JT caught one of the T-shirts they threw into the crowd. It’s an Xtra Large so I’ve got a little idea I’m playing with. Since they got together six years ago, they have been able to donate three million dollars to charities around the world. It’s such a lovely thing.

They performed without a break from 7 (and they DID start on time) to about 8:45, with a little encore at the end. Our 9pm reservations at AG was perfectly timed!

AG Restaurant is within Sterling Inn on the Canadian side of the falls. It’s a little off the beaten path but JT and I have stayed there a couple of times and know that the restaurant is one of the best in Niagara Falls. It was not busy at all (this is relatively low season for this area). Niagara is in the midst of one of our Wine growing areas and AG features many local wines on their wine list (as do most of the higher end restaurants in the area).

Flat Ruthie was feeling invigorated after seeing Jessie Spencer and James Denton and decided she had to come with us (so much for our romantic get-away!). She just wouldn’t shut up about it.

Ruthie was talking up a storm all the way through dinner.

Because we were eating so late, we decided we would only have appetizer portions; I was happy I did, they were very satisfying without being too filling. I started with the Gingered Carrot Velouté and lime and soy shrimp salad, chantilly – it was a little salad in the midst of a rather large bowl, the waiter poured the velouté around the salad. It was delicious.  JT began his journey with the “Bonnie and Floyd” Fifth Town Cheese Baked in Phyllo with a shallot marmalade, chestnuts, “Pingue” Abruzzi and yellow beet salad. It too was quite tasty and beautifully presented. My next course was Beet Cured Atlantic Salmon with apple fennel waldorf, caper and yellow beet salsa, caraway cracker (I think they forgot the caraway cracker, but it didn’t matter to me, I likely would not have eaten it since I am not a fan of the caraway seed!). The beet cured Salmon was such a gorgeous red colour. I wish I had taken a photo of it. JT had the Steak and Mushroom Pie which was a marinated flank steak, bacon sautéed mushrooms, Waterloo dark, classic flaky pie crust, thyme creamed onions. Very tasty. And all very small portions, but the flavours were so wonderful that you felt quite satisfied.

The service was wonderful and the waiter was quite chatty which we enjoyed. We closed down the joint around 11pm and headed back to our hotel. A very fun evening indeed.

Overall rating of AG (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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