The Niagara Chef Showcase

April’s been a busy month.

It’s been fantastic, but it means I’m a wee bit backlogged for events to share with you. Add in a dose of under-the-weatherness last week, and that means I’ve got some stuff to catch up on. That is also why there was no Niagarafied Weekend post last week. But never fear, it will be back this Thursday.

Anyway. Let’s get talking about this great event I attended recently.

It’s the Niagara Chef Showcase.

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The event was held at the scenic Legends on the Niagara Clubhouse, presented in partnership with Niagara Parks. I loved being able to sample foods from all of these talented chefs, all under one roof. Niagara Parks has five restaurants in total – Elements on the Falls, Queen Victoria Place Restaurant, the Queenston Heights Restaurant, the Legends on the Niagara Clubhouse and the Whirlpool Restaurant. All of these restaurants were represented that day.

What’s a bonus here is that Elements on the Falls, Queenston Heights Restaurant, and Queen Victoria Place Restaurants are also Feast ON certified. Feast ON is a program by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, recognizing places that showcase Ontario food and drink products. You can read more about the Feast ON program here. When you dine at a restaurant that is Feast ON certified not only do you get a delicious meal – you know that you are helping Ontario food and drink producers to boot.

The Niagara Parks restaurants were also joined by Chef Daniel Hong from Ah So Fine Foods, Chef Matt Atkinson from Remington’s of Niagara, and Chef Andrew Vergalito of Italian Ice Cream

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There were also VQA wines, craft beer, cider and distillery tastings to go with our delicious courses.

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But that’s not all. There was a bit of a friendly competition going on between the Chefs too. Attendees were given a ballot when they arrived, and we were asked to choose the winner.

A real dilemma, I tell you.

I didn’t get to sample everything unfortunately. There were seven dishes to choose from, plus sushi, dessert and ice cream.

Goodness, where to begin?

I decided to start with sushi. It’s something I don’t have very often, so it was a wonderful treat.

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After that, I wandered around a bit to see what was on offer.

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I’m a sucker for a good grilled cheese. Add in lobster and brie and you’ve totally got me.

Chef Matt Atkinson from Remington’s of Niagara was offering East Coast Lobster & Brie Grilled Cheese with Fresh Arugula. This was accompanied by a Roasted Tomato & Double-smoked Bacon Soup

Oh my.

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It was the grilled cheese of my dreams. Bread grilled just so, but still a bit of chewiness. Gooey, oozy melted brie, and the right amount of lobster for a totally decadent sandwich. The Roasted Tomato Soup was a great match for it.

As I was ooh-ing and aah-ing over my grilled cheese nirvana, I was chatting with a lovely food blogger, named Andrea Chan. She was ooh-ing and aah-ing over a course of her own, so we made a good team. She highly recommended the offering from Chef Elbert Wiersema, from Elements on the Falls Restaurant. So I was off in hot pursuit.

Skirt Steak Rouladen with Prosciutto, Spaghetti Squash Cake and Purple Shallot Merlot Drizzle.

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Oh come on, let’s look a bit closer.

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Delicious and tender. I loved the idea of a Spaghetti Squash Cake.

I was also curious to try the dishes from Legends on the Niagara Restaurant. As this is where the event was held, it seemed especially fitting. Legends on the Niagara had two featured dishes and they were both incredible.

The first one I tried was from Chef Dan Willick.

Smoked Duck with Ricotta Cheese Ravioli, Oven-dried Heirloom Tomatoes & Arugula Pesto.

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Ravioli has been one of my favourite pastas since childhood – but this was certainly a far cry from my childhood versions. Fresh ravioli with smoked duck, creamy ricotta, tomatoes, and a dash of peppery arugula from the pesto. It was a gorgeous dish. I could taste each of the flavours distinctly, but they blended together extremely well.

Food writers, did what I just say make sense? I hope so. Perhaps my descriptions are limited while I’m lost in memories of yumminess.

The second offering from Legends on the Niagara was created by Chef Chris Brown. But it was Chef Ross Mein who was there that day presenting the dish. He sure looked like he was having fun.

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And I’m sure he was. I also had fun tasting their Red Currant Plum-glazed Chicken in Mini Yorkshire Pudding.

Inside the Yorkshire Pudding went a scoop of Roasted Garlic Mashed, drizzled with a bit of gravy.

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Next went the Red Currant Plum-glazed Chicken

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Topped off with Baco Noir jus

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Finished with a dose of Crispy Leeks.

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Delicious.

Previously, I’d never really seen the fascination with Yorkshire Pudding. Served with a traditional roast beef they have no appeal to me at all.

Served like this was a different matter, however. When used as a vessel for Roasted Garlic Mashed and the Red Currant Plum-glazed chicken, Yorkshire Pudding now has new meaning.

By this point, I was getting full. Though there were several courses I wanted to try, one’s waistband only stretches so much. So what did I do?

Venture over to the Sweet Table, of course.

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Check out Ken’s massive waffle creation.

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As we nibbled our desserts, we were all asked to submit our ballots. While we scrambled to do so, the raffle prizes and silent auction took place. All the proceeds from the event went to support the upcoming Niagara Parks Commission Community Tree Planting Event on Saturday, May 7, with Forests Ontario. They are working toward a goal of planting 5,000 new trees along the Niagara Parkway in 2016.

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The third place prize went to Chef Bill Greenan from Queenston Heights Restaurant. I didn’t get to sample his dish, but it sounded good – Northern Rainbow Trout, Buckwheat Honey, Soya & Sesame Glaze, Sautéed Baby Bok Choy & Woodland Forest Mushrooms

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Second Place went to Chefs Chris Brown and Ross Mein from Legends on the Niagara for their Red Currant Plum-glazed Chicken in Mini Yorkshire Pudding

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And the day’s winner was the maker of my glorious grilled cheese, Chef Matt Atkinson from Remington’s. He also won at last year’s event, so continues to be the reigning champ!

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It was a fun Sunday afternoon event. Food, wine, friendly competition, and the beautiful scenery surrounding Legends On the Niagara. Put it in your calendar for next year.

Just make sure to wear super stretchy pants.

**I was invited to attend the Niagara Chef Showcase, but was not asked/required to write a post about it. It’s totally my own opinion that it is a fun and delicious event.**