The enjoyment of food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I’ve certainly been enjoying my fair share lately.
You may have noticed that around here. A lot of my posts this winter have been about food, which is a bit unusual for me, but good in a way. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a bit more about the food scene in Niagara, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the delicious things I’ve found, and the scrumptious meals I’ve had.
Though my palate has been rejoicing, my waistline has not.
Henceforth, I will be living on kale, water, and the odd rice cake.
Not when there’s such an incredible food community like the one we have here.
And last Sunday, I saw yet more evidence of that at the Tastes of Niagara Pop-Up, held at LIV Restaurant at White Oaks.
This special one-night-only pop-up was organized by Mike Graveline, from The Wandering Gourmet. You may remember I attended his last event, the Tastes of the Camden Lock Market? We had such great food and a good time that night, and I loved that there was a theme for the evening. When I heard he was applying the same thing to Niagara, well, of course I had to go.
I’m glad I did.
This tasty menu consisted of a six-course extravaganza celebrating the bounty of Niagara, and was a fantastic collaboration between local food producers and chefs.
When we arrived at our table, the first course was waiting for us. This was freshly fried corn tortilla chips, served with Gourmet Taco Cart‘s signature pico de gallo.
The perfect starter. Fresh, lively flavours, and crunchy, slightly salty tortillas. One of my most favourite snacks ever too.
We nibbled away while the restaurant filled with fellow diners.
I was happy to see there was a local wine flight offered to match four of the courses. As you would expect, this was the option I went with for the meal. There was an interesting sounding cocktail on offer too – A Hibiscus Rose Cocktail, made with muddled mint, Dillon’s Rose Gin (which I still must try), Two Siblings Hibiscus Rosebud Kombucha (yes – kombucha!), and lime juice, topped with soda. I would have loved to try this one. Another time, I hope.
As we started sipping, Mike welcomed us all to the evening
Then Chef Dave Cottingham from Simple Food told us about our first plated course, which he had prepared.
It was a fried ravioli that consisted of ricotta cheese, locally raised chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic and arugula with toasted walnuts, brown butter, pesto and balsamic reduction.
Utterly delicious. Even more so when matched with Reif Estate Winery’s Pinot Grigio.
As we finished our plate, Mike came back out and told us there was a birthday celebration going on that night.
So of course, we all joined in a round of “Happy Birthday” for the lucky guy.
Niagara folks are a friendly sort.
Next up, Mike was responsible for the tasty Charcuterie Salad – Pingue prosciutto, home grown sprouts, gourmet greens, kombucha vinaigrette, grilled asparagus, and shaved goat cheese. I loved the concept of a charcuterie board as a salad. If I follow Mike’s idea, I just might eat more of them.
This was matched with Inniskillin’s Montague Vineyard Chardonnay, and it was a lovely pairing.
But. The salad contained goat cheese, and I will admit here that goat cheese is on my very small list of foods that I don’t like. It’s right up there with rutabaga. And beets. I just find that most goat cheese is very, very, goaty, and I’m not big on the whole barnyard flavour profile.
This one though, was surprisingly NOT goaty, and I quite liked it.
A pleasant surprise, indeed.
Next up was Niagara Maple Duck, prepared by Chef Michael Price, the Executive Head Chef at White Oaks.
This consisted of maple smoked and brined duck breast, parsnip, Saskatoon berry and thyme purée, paired with Henry of Pelham’s Baco Noir.
Glorious, glorious duck. I love it, and as it is something I wouldn’t prepare myself, this was a beautiful treat. Such a lovely presentation too.
Then we moved onto the last main course dish. It was called A Little Lamb, and was also done by Mike – braised Beamsville lamb, with a sweet potato yorkie, roasted garlic mash and verde gravy, served with Trius Cabernet Sauvignon.
I don’t eat much lamb, basically for the same reason as goat cheese – you know, that barnyard flavour profile I mentioned above. Mike promised that this one wouldn’t be very lamby, and it certainly was very tender and beautifully done, with such an elegant presentation. I loved the sweet potato yorkie too, and you can never go wrong when you serve garlic mash, in my opinion.
So now, let’s talk dessert.
Listen to this. These are Rosalie sparkling wine marshmallows infused with local cherry juice. Roasted and warm and all things heavenly. Just part of another brilliant creation from Kit at Scratch Bakery.
The rest of the dessert consisted of salted wildflower honey mead pie with spiced mead whipped cream. The mead was supplied by Rosewood Estates Winery. The entire dessert was fantastic. I’m always impressed by the creative ideas Kit comes up with.
However. I’ve got one more dessert component to tell you about.
There was a dessert beverage provided too – but no, not an alcoholic one this time. We were given a small glass of Two Siblings Naturals Blueberry Lavender Kombucha! Local kombucha can be found in Niagara now, and I am thrilled. We all were given a bottle to take home too.
Really, I don’t know if I can handle all of my dreams coming true here. I mentioned in this recent post, that I wished for a Thai restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and poof! – my wish came true. Last year, I wished for a local Kombucha producer – again, poof! My wish came true. Next, I’ll try wishing that we never get snow ever again, and maybe, poof!…..
…..nah, I think I’m kinda stuck with snow during Canadian winters.
But at least I have Kombucha and Thai food. And I can still dream about the no-snow wish. Maybe, just maybe, it can come true.
So. My impressions overall?
Well, Mike is definitely onto something good here. We had such a fun evening. The food was delicious, and our server was gracious and helpful. I loved the camaraderie I saw between all of the chefs. I also loved seeing our local food producers celebrated in such a lip-smacking manner.
Don’t worry, though. If you missed out, Mike is offering another of these special White Oaks pop-ups. On Sunday, April 2nd, he will be hosting A Night of Tapas, which sounds just perfect for this time of year. We will be in Spring by then, right??
We’d better be.
And what better way to welcome Spring than some delectable tapas with friends.
If you’d like to join in the fun and deliciousness, all the ticket details are here.
Hope I’ll see you there!