The last lingering days of summer are the perfect backdrop for a road trip to Niagara. I got the chance to tag along with some like minded gallivant-ers and head to Niagara, courtesy of the Canola Growers. The ride down was the perfect opportunity for a mini education in Canola, one of Canada’s finest exports. I learned a lot about this abundant crop, thanks to Farmer Will Bergmann who gushingly shared more than just his experience of growing this plant, but of farm life itself, living on the outskirts of Winnipeg.
Our first stop in NOTL was for a picnic lunch curated by none other than Niagara’s fave food truck chef, El Gastrónomo Vagabundo Chef Adam Hynam-Smith. Author of the insanely delicious cookbook Curbside: Modern Street Food from a Vagabond Chef, Chef Adam created a tasty menu of elevated food truck munchies all made with canola oil.
Oast House Brewery provided the perfect picnic landscape, and drenched in sunshine we toasted the day with beer pairings to the Chefs 6 course tasting menu.
All the dishes were spot on (Adam’s known for his amped up flavours and complex layering of seasonal and local ingredients), and Adam took the time to explain how to use canola in everyday cooking-the oil really lends itself well to frying (which came as no surprise to this former line cook) but also to making confits, like the stand out peach, pepper and caramelized onion confit salad that he demo’d for us that day (and we scored a nifty take home just in case our note taking needed a refresher).
Oast’s brews were perfect partners to the dishes, my favourite of the day definitely was the Konichiwa Peaches, a stellar mashup of peaches and beer that is a quintessential refresher to warm temps and ample sunshine.
Capping off the lunch at Oast we headed to Ravine Vineyards, but first, at our host Suresh’s urging, we checked out a tiny shop by Oast called The Pie Plate. If you are in Virgil, then you gotta check this place out. Suresh as usual, is on point with his food picks!
Arriving at Ravine Vineyards, we were greeted by a perfectly chilled bottle of Rose to kick off our tour. Another family run business, Paul took us through the history of his family’s vineyard, enthusiastically sharing his predecessors efforts to secure farmland and grow more than just grapes on their acres just outside of St. Davids. A certified organic grower, they take their environmental approach sincerely and earnestly, caring more about the families that live around them then their bottom line. Paul, who has worked in the culinary world under Michael Statlander, and internationally with hordes of other Michelin starred chefs, curates the food program at their popular restaurant, giving Niagara some serious culinary cred.
Ravine’s wines were easy drinkers, and the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc recently won Gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards a testament to their winery and their ecological approach to wine making. Their reds were juicy and bold as well, I took home a bottle of the 2014 Meritage to uncork with my next beefy BBQ.
Huge thank you to Branding and Buzzing for organizing this road trip and to Eat Well Canola for having me! The day was an absolute delight thanks to your efforts! And let’s face it, I look good in hats, right?
Thanks Jeffery Chan Photography on behalf of Canola Growers for this snap of Chef and me!