Lunch Date in St. Catharines

Last Friday, the sun finally returned to Niagara, and graced us with its lovely presence. Sun, I have missed you. It’s been an exceptionally long winter.

To celebrate, Ken and I decided to goof off a bit early, and have a lunch date. Our destination was the St. Catharines Farmer’s Market building. It wasn’t a market day, but the 9th Annual Downtown Chili Cook-Off was happening. This is a fantastic event. Not only do you get to sample ten different kinds of chili, but you get to help a fantastic organization – Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold.

When we arrived, there was already a good crowd. With upbeat music playing, the space was full of cheerful energy. It was absolutely buzzing with people talking, laughing, sampling.

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There were ten groups participating, all hoping to be declared the chili champion. All of the chilis looked so tempting, I didn’t know where to start. So we decided to walk around  and see what was being offered. There were lots of colourful characters, wooing members of the crowd to their booths. Every once in a while a booth would pound on their table with spoons, ring a cowbell, rattle something or just let out a general roar. As I said, the energy was pretty spectacular, and all for such a great cause.

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But we were enticed to begin at the Great Canadian Superstore booth. I couldn’t resist the outfits and big smiles from the team. Chef Greg‘s pants were the source of much discussion. Aren’t they the best?

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Their vegetarian chili smelled and looked delicious.

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By this point Ken and I were pretty hungry. We devoured the veggie chili, and told the Superstore team how good it was. Then we decided that in order to get down to some serious chili sampling business, we needed a place to sit.

I held our seats while Ken got the goods. Here’s some of what we sampled.

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I think I stopped after six samples. Honestly, they were all unique and tasty in their own way. It was hard for the judges, I’m sure, to pick a winner. Here are the results.

Next we decided to head off in search of dessert. Beechwood Doughnuts is just down the street from the Market.

If you are not a local, you may not know about Beechwood. Or maybe you do – they are legendary in these parts. They make magnificent vegan doughnuts – yes, doughnuts with no animal products at all.

Now, this has been a cruel winter.  But since Beechwood opened, they have had line-ups out the door pretty much every day. To wait in a line-up outside on days that were in the -30 and colder range? These must be damn good doughnuts.

And boy are they ever. They sell out every day, sometimes as early as noon!

So Ken and I headed off to Beechwood. There was no line-up that I could see from down the street. I was a bit worried.

“See????” I said to Ken. “They’re sold out. We should have come earlier!!”

I picked up my pace a bit. If they were sold out, I don’t know why I was walking faster, but some kind of doughnut-pursuit-instinct took over.

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I breathed a sigh of relief. The line-up was still going, just right inside the door.

I opened the door and asked “Are they sold out yet?”. The friendly chap in front of me assured me they were not.

My lucky day.

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As we waited in line, the friendly crowd was full of chatter, comparing Beechwood favourite notes. Everyone was  leaving with a large box full of doughnuts – no one seemed to be leaving with just one. How could you, when you have such unique flavours to choose from? I think it would be impossible to pick just one.

And behind the scenes, the staff are a hard-working crew. Boy do they hustle!

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We made it through the line, after a tough selection process. Our choices were Chocolate Chip Cookie, Coconut Cream, Cookies’n’Cream, Banana Chocolate Chip Fritter, French Toast, and Peanut Butter Chocolate.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This was all that was left in our box by the time we got home.

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Wanna know what one was my favourite?

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Cookies’n’Cream.

But come to think of it, Peanut Butter and Chocolate was pretty awesome too. Oh, and so was Chocolate Chip Cookie. And the Banana Chocolate Chip Fritter….

Perhaps it’s just not possible to have a favourite Beechwood Doughnut.

What a fabulous foodie Friday lunch in St. Catharines. I think I need to do this more often.