Niagara Parks Pop-Up at Mather Arch

There are some good things cooking at Niagara Parks –  and I mean this in the literal sense.

I’ve tasted lots of these good things over the last year. Remember the Feast on the Parkway and the Niagara Chef Showcase? I sure do. Delicious food matched with creative presentation always leaves its mark on my mind.

But aside from the tasty morsels I’ve devoured, I’ve discovered something else that adds much to my dining experience.

The place I am in.

Do you know what I mean? When I think of some of the most memorable meals I’ve had, the place where I’ve had those meals has played a large part in its enjoyment.

And what a lovely place we had for the first of the Niagara Parks Pop-Up Dinner Series.

As part of their Begin Here: Canada 150 celebrations, Niagara Parks is hosting a series of special Pop-Up Dinners this summer. Different locations along the Niagara Parkway will be turned into a venue for fine dining under the stars, or in our case, under the trees.

Our dinner was held on the grounds of Mather Arch Park, in Fort Erie.

Mather Arch is a stunning monument, built in 1939, to serve as a grand gateway to Canada. It is dedicated to the architect of the International Peace Bridge, and the Bridge is directly in sight from the elegantly landscaped grounds.

When we arrived, the aromas from the food stations had us eagerly awaiting our feast. So I got myself a glass of wine, and took in the view.

I felt like I was attending a sophisticated, yet totally relaxed dinner party

Luckily for my appetite, it wasn’t long before we were able to begin grazing. And what a selection we had to choose from!

I kid you not – everything I tried was delicious. Not only that, it was created specifically by the Niagara Parks culinary team to highlight some of our local ingredients and food products.

Niagara Parks restaurants are very committed to using local food and drink as much as possible. So much so, that five of their full-service restaurants are now Feast ON certified.

The Feast ON certification is an initiative through the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance which recognizes businesses committed to sourcing Ontario grown and made food and drink.

It makes your meal even tastier when you know you are supporting local producers, right?

I’ll tell you what some of my favourites were.

The Lake Erie Pickerel, Wild Rice and Spinach Mousse in Puff Pastry with Peller Chardonnay Cream.

I could happily slather everything in that Chardonnay Cream.

Also the Fennel and Panko Crusted Erie Yellow Perch on Sundried Tomato Crostini.

The perfect crispy, juicy piece of fish.

My vegetable loving side adored the Vegetable Napoleon with Costello Gorgonzola Cheese, served with Grilled Niagara Bosc Pear Relish.

And my inner carnivore fancied the Char Grilled Beef Tenderloin Medallions on Rosti Potato Cake with Rosemary Jus and Crispy Leeks.

To tell you the truth, I went back more than once for each of those items.

But the one that I think stole the show was the Canada 150 Ricotta Filled Ravioli. To accompany it, there was a 40 Creek BBQ Chicken Drumette, with a finger-licking St. David’s Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

So patriotic.

In between bites, we chatted with other attendees

Until we found ourselves going back for another sample or two

When we had our fill of the main course options, it was time for dessert.

The main feature for dessert was Crystal Beach Candy Company Waffles, served with warm Jordan Cherry Sauce

That’s not all, though.  On the dessert plate you were also given a White Meadows Maple Butter Tart with Cranberry Gelato. As the reigning butter tart queen, I must admit this was my favourite component. But the Peach Creme Brulee and the Icewine Mousse in a Chocolate Tulip were lip-smacking as well.

Just look at this incredible dessert plate.

As we munched, a few speakers talked to the crowd. Niagara Parks Superintendent of Heritage, Jim Hill, described the unique history of Mather Arch and its connection to Niagara Parks. As well, Bill Curran, an architect from Thier & Curran Architects Inc., spoke about its architectural history. We also heard from Niagara Parks Executive Chef, Paul Pennock, who talked about the fantastic variety of Niagara food and drink, and the importance of the FeastON culinary initiative.

I loved how the evening beautifully celebrated local food, wine, history, and architecture.

Our dining experience finished off with a cannon salute from the guards of Old Fort Erie.

It was a fantastic night out in a very special setting.

There are plans for more of these unique Pop-Ups throughout the summer – the next one will be happening Thursday, July 20th at the Niagara Glen. More info will be announced as the date approaches. You can follow Niagara Parks on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to stay on top of the details.

I highly recommend you join in for the next delicious event.

**I attended this event as a media guest, but I would absolutely, definitely, buy tickets for another Pop-Up. It was terrific.