Friday, May 15, 2015

A night in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), Ontario, is just about halfway between Providence, RI, and Grand Rapids, MI so we've made a point of stopping there twice in the past seven months. The first time was this past December when we had a less-than-stellar experience but were intrigued by the town itself and wondered what it was like in the spring or summer.

Apple Tree Historic B & B
So we stopped again for an overnight this past Monday. While there were a few tourists out and about NOTL was mostly quiet and made for a pleasant way to see this bit of the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

We arrived mid-afternoon and after checking into the the Apple Tree Historic B & B ("historic" since it was built circa 1820) went for a leisurely stroll about town.

The town is centered mainly along Queen Street which parallels the lake shore and is about three blocks or so up from the lake itself.

Anyway, some shops were still open although we opted to spend our time outside soaking up the warm sun as we strolled past Simcoe Park down to the lake.

strolling downtown

Simcoe Park and the statue of John Graves Simcoe

looking across Lake Ontario

looking up Queen Street toward the Prince of Wales Hotel

There is a George Bernard Shaw Festival held in NOTL, inspired, we were told, by a devotee of the playwright and abetted by the local town government. The statue of Shaw along Queen Street, who as far as we could tell had never been to NOTL, was erected by the folks who run the Oban Inn.

note the new grapevines flanking the stairs to the front door
There were a few restaurants open so we opted for the Treadwell, a recommendation of our hosts at the B & B.

We spent a lovely evening at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. There were few other customers so we had ample opportunity to interact with Michaela, our server, about Ontario wines and food in Canada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

it was a quiet evening as we settled in with our Pimm's cocktails

The food was delicious, well prepared and nicely presented (the plating was done by a 16-year-old high school student intern no less).

We started off with a Pimm’s Cocktail and a tasting of three Ontario cheeses, which were, in a word, wonderful. The accompanying condiments were equally outstanding (red pepper jelly, a mustard seed concoction and honey with a portion of the hive).
l-r: Morning Mist, raw sheep’s milk Brie style; Pine River, cow’s milk, 7-year-old cheddar; Eweda, sheep’s milk Gouda-style
While I have no complaint about small portions generally, I did think the scallop/pork belly entree somewhat on the slim side: At 20 CDN for two small ocean scallops each resting on a nice piece of locally sourced pork belly it felt a bit high.

Overall, though, the meal was outstanding.

My wife's cold spring pea soup was very good and her house-made pan-seared gnocchi quite tasty. My chicken wrapped in bacon with fresh vegetables -- heirloom carrots, peeled asparagus stems and potatoes whipped with wild ramps with morel mushrooms were all incredible.

When in Canada we generally order Ontario wines, and the glass of Chenin Blanc we each had shows what the the Canadians are capable of doing with grapes. Oh, and we finished the meal off with a glass of local ice wine from Cave Head. I’d steer clear of the Stratus dessert wine: one-dimensional and just not very good in the bargain.

The one thing we both thought curious was they were a bit heavy-handed on the salt -- which may be a Canadian thing, perhaps? Our B & B innkeeper used a lot of salt in her breakfast as well.

They do have a luncheon menu and we had a chance to sample their pork loin roast sandwich. I'd definitely go back.
ocean scallops over pork belly

chilled spring pea soup


locally sourced chicken with heirloom carrots, radishes in a Morel mushroom jus


After dinner we strolled down Queen Street and took a circuitous way back to the B & B before turning in for the night.

We spent Tuesday morning taking our time before breakfast -- our host had even prepared a fire in the front parlor to take the chill off. The highlight of our breakfast was a "croissant cup" with a slice of prosciutto and an egg placed on top. Delicious!

But we couldn't put off the inevitable and before long we were back on the road heading east for Providence. Crossing the border took us about 20 minutes or so.

The weather was glorious and we made great time arriving back "home" (I think not) a little after 5pm after a stop at the grocery store for some essentials. I grilled chicken that evening and we caught our breath before the next round of trips.

We're in Providence for two weeks or so before we head back west once again. Our plan, such as it is, will be to stop in Prattsville, New York to see Don and Gloria and then meander our way to Ohio, staying somewhere on the southern shore of Lake Erie before the final push on to Grand Rapids.

Stay tuned!

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