Welcome to my life in Niagara! Grab a glass, there's bound to be wine.

How to Eat Your Way Around NOTL

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I’ve talked a lot about wine this month. So perhaps it’s time I talked about food.

Food is a big part of Niagara life – restaurants, farmers markets, food trucks, special events, you name it. We love it. We want to know where our food comes from. We want to know who grows it, makes it, cooks it. And there are lots of ways to have a great foodie experience here.

I’m talking about one of them today – Niagara Culinary Tours.

Steven and Kimberley own Niagara Culinary Tours. After a great food tour experience on holiday in Charleston, South Carolina, they were inspired. “Why don’t we have this in Niagara?”, they wondered. After looking around, they realized no one was offering exactly what they were looking for. So they created it themselves.

What an amazing approach to life.

Not only do they offer tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake, they also have them in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. These are on my list of planned summer activities – and they should be on yours.  They also have started to host culinary events, the most recent one being at the fabulous Smokin’ Buddha. As it says on their website, “Whether you are a visiting world traveller, a day tripper or a local who wants to stop and smell the prosciutto, Niagara Culinary Tours is for you!”

I love that stop and smell the prosciutto part.

So, one glorious Sunday afternoon, Ken and I went out on the Niagara-on-the-Lake tour. I think I have mentioned before that the love of my life is a very picky eater. Since moving to Niagara he has become a LITTLE bit more adventurous. Baby steps, my friends. So I never really know what to expect when I go out to eat with him, and there is usually some funny little Ken story to tell. But with the promise of eating, walking, and learning a bit more about the local history, I knew there would be lots to keep him happy.

We met at the Grill on King, right in the heart of Old Town, where we were heartily greeted by Charlie, our charming host.

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Charlie is terrific – funny, entertaining, and full of local information. When stopping at different points of historical interest throughout the tour, he will whip out his handy iPad, which holds vintage photos of Niagara-on-the-Lake. For example, the building where the Grill on King sits used to be the town Firehall and stable many years ago. I never knew this.

He also kept us talking and laughing until our food came out.

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Food always brings people together, so it didn’t take long before we were all introducing ourselves and chatting away. Our group was made up of people from New York that day. One of the participants was very curious about our local wine, and specifically wanted to sample some of our red wines (her favourite) at each location. Yes, I forgot to mention that you can purchase wine at each of the restaurant stops on the tour. It’s a great way to taste some of our local wines from different wineries, matched with the restaurant’s offering. We have some fantastic local beers as well.

Here is our first course of the tour, a delicious Cream of Broccoli Soup with a salad.

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I have to tell you this broccoli soup was so creamy and tasty, that Ken didn’t realize it was broccoli. This is a good thing. You guessed it – my sweetie will tolerate broccoli occasionally, but in his words “Wow….I normally don’t like broccoli soup.”

That’s my Ken.

Then it was time to head over to our second stop, Zees.

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We enjoyed the Zees Caprese Salad, with red and yellow tomatoes, arugula, basil oil and balsamic reduction, and their own house-made ricotta cheese. The house made ricotta was the star of the plate to me. I could have happily eaten a whole plate of it, drizzled with that basil oil and balsamic.

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A nice, light second course.

Then we had a lovely, picturesque walk to our next stop, the Oban Inn.

I will never tire of walking around Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ever.

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Some of my pictures from the Oban visit didn’t really turn out…. I’m not sure why. It is a shame though, because I can’t say enough about what Chef Jason Dobbie prepared for us.

Personally, I think Chef Jason should probably be up for sainthood. Last year, he was at a different restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. On the day we were there, he made a special roasted parsnip soup shooter drizzled with truffle oil. It took the humble parsnip to a whole new level. Plus, I adore truffle oil. Adore it. As you can probably guess, Ken does not. But he loved this soup – and I can now have truffle oil in my house. Hallelujah. I have much to thank Chef Dobbie for.

Jason is also very down to earth – we had a great conversation about how to make the perfect peanut butter sandwich. A Chef who likes and perfects peanut butter sandwiches is pretty awesome in my book.

Anyway.

This time, he prepared a delicious pulled pork slider for us. He explained the way that they make their pulled pork, and to me it sounds like quite a lot of work. I would never attempt anything like it myself, so I was so glad that Jason and his team made it for me.

(There is a shot of him explaining the pulled pork process on my Instagram page. The one in my DSLR, sadly, did not turn out for some reason)

But behold the amazing pulled pork slider.

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As another surprise treat, they also gave us a sample of rosé to go with the slider.

The dining room was warm and inviting. Perry, the restaurant manager, is wonderful at making guests feel very welcome.

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(And yes, another glamorous lifestyle blogger shot below…)

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I definitely plan on returning soon for dinner. With Chef Jason and Perry at the Oban, I know it will be great.

Then it was time to continue on our way. With the promise of dessert at Willow Cakes and Pastries, we happily began our walk.

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Dessert at Willow never disappoints – as you can tell by the spontaneous burst of applause that sprang forth from our group.

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But when you are presented with a gorgeous, delicious slice of Red Velvet Cake….well, applause is necessary.

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Beautiful.

Then, feeling totally satisfied, we began the walk back to Queen Street, to our final stop of the day, Taste the 4th Sense

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Taste the 4th Sense is a gourmet food shop that has a wide variety of locally made infused grape seed oils, specialty vinegars, hot and barbecue sauces, mustards and other condiments. Something to please every foodie.

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Ken and I left with some balsamic vinegar and steak spice, but there are so many fantastic products to try there. I’m sure we’ll go back soon….

…If only to try this coffee. (If swearing is offensive to you, avert your gaze. I think this is hilarious myself, as this often refers to my state of mind in the early hours)

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Mmm-hmm.

A fun and tasty way to spend an afternoon, with some great people. A beautiful walk around Niagara-on-the-Lake too.

Add it to your Niagara Summer Bucket List for 2015.