By Michael Lowe
The 2017 edition of the Niagara Food and Wine Expo got off to a rousing start last night at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Here’s a peek at some great bites, sips and more.
This year’s pre-show prep involved highlighting, on my printed list of exhibitors, a few that I had not heard of or that I had not visited yet. By sticking to the plan I came upon some amazing new products and met some genuinely passionate producers in the process. But, let’s start with a perennial show favourite. Moksha Indian Bistro is a must if you need to perk up your taste buds. We started the night with their apple masala yams (at right, above photo). The combo of yams and crunchy apples tossed with plenty of fresh ginger, garam masala and cilantro is guaranteed to whet your appetite for more.
Our first wine of the night is poured by a gent I run into a lot. Ken Hernder kicks things off with a taste of Sue-Ann Staff’s Fancy Farm Girl rosé (above photo). Tip: It’s a nice match with the Moksha dish. With taste buds still tingling we drop by Mai Thai Cuisine. After a chat with a young lady named Xay, and noshing on rich and creamy crab rangoon (below photo), I vow to drop in one day for a more in-depth experience.
I usually leave the spirit world for our last stop. This time I break the rule when I spot the Rheault Distillery booth. Listen up now – If you’re a vodka purist, you MUST stop and savour their Loon vodka. More importantly, you must meet the folks that run this place. Marcel Rheault and Mireille Morin (left, below photo) are a joy to talk to. They are passionate craftspeople and their products are sublime. I recommend you also try the cherry liqueur – I sense a road trip this summer.
There’s a new grille in town and was surprised to find well-known local chef Mark Hand at the helm. Morton’s Grille is serving ahi tuna (left, below photo) and a Buffalo chicken meatball (right, below photo). That meatball was one of the best bites of the night, packed with flavour, juicy and tender – I, want, more.
That’s Mark on the right below with another passionate chef, Shawn Murphy. If you haven’t met Shawn yet, put Your Farm Gate on your list. This guy works his butt off to serve his customers fresh, local, scratch-made grub – Fresh breads, sauces, and hearty sandwiches to name just a few.
Beer stops of the night are at Lost Craft Beer and Niagara Brewing Company. At Lost Craft, a friendly fellow by the name of Cam (below photo), introduces me to a line up of refreshing, lower-in-alcohol beers that will make great patio guzzlers when the heat sets in. Their American pale ale, Syrius, is delicious and the packaging is pretty eye-catching too.
The nice folks at Niagara Brewing Company (see top photo) have a few tasty brews on hand. I particularly liked their IPA and the notably Canadian Amber Eh! (below photo).
Our last, but very satisfying, food samples are in the form of moist and spicy jerk chicken and rice from Kool Katts (at top, below photo) and a fabulous, meaty pork belly (bottom, below photo) courtesy of the Scotiabank Centre’s own chefs – I highly recommended both.
Lastly, a wee tipple before we head home. But not just any spirit – we’re talking premium Tequila. I can say that I have not tasted a better 100% agave Tequila than the one called Alacrán (below photo). It’s so smooth and appealing you’ll want to sip it neat – no mixers required.
This year’s expo has plenty of great flavours to enjoy, but do take some time to meet the wonderful people behind the products. The expo continues through Sunday, April 23. See links below for show information, hours and complete list of exhibitors.
Niagara Food & Wine Expo
Scotiabank Convention Centre
6815 Stanley Ave.,