By Mike Lowe
The Niagara Food and Wine Expo got underway Friday at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. Featuring local restaurants, food trucks, gourmet food vendors and a bounty of wine, beer and spirits, the event beckons to those in search of some great bites and sips.
At an event like this a solid game plan is essential to avoid getting tipsy too early, so starting with something substantial in the belly is usually a wise move. Our first stop is at Terrapin Grille where we noshed on succulent, tender and savoury braised beef short ribs. Smooth, garlicky mashed potato contrasts the crunch of the sweet potato chip garnish to create a fantastic, balanced dish (top photo).
There are some interesting craft and imported beers at this year’s show. The easy-drinking “Funz Over Dunkel” from Silversmith Brewery shows light coffee notes followed by a crisp finish. Not too heavy, and relatively light and refreshing for this style of beer.
Stop by Nicklebrook Brewing Company (above photo) for an upbeat tasting of some great offerings. Try the Maple Porter for a surprise treat. I tend to stay away from the latest maple-craze in beers and whisky but this one is not over-the-top — delicious stuff!
Pictured above is Chef David Berggren of Centerplate carving luscious roast pork. The moist, perfectly seasoned meat, along with a crunchy bit of crackling, is combined with rice and bean sprouts and wrapped in a lettuce leaf. I recommend this dish, but be warned, it packs a nice smack of heat.
The growing popularity of India Pale Ale has caused some of the bigger brewers to ‘hop’ on the bandwagon. I tried Alexander Keith’s Hallertauer Hop Ale (below photo) and found it to be a nice, reasonably robust ale with good balance and a clean, slightly bitter finish.
Over at Rockway Vineyards, they were serving plump, sweet seared sea scallops (below photo) which paired beautifully with their Small Lot Reserve White Assemblage.
So went the afternoon — alternating between food stations and drink offerings looking for the familiar and the new vendors, with one thing in mind — to find something special. Whether it was pulled pork tacos from Pig Out Roasters or lobster guacamole and beef sliders from Canyon Creek (below photos), there were some great bites to be sampled.
Saving spirits for last, we amble over to sample Silver Lake Vodka which, for me was a highlight of the show. The spirit is made in Simcoe, Ontario by Ray Hunter, a very likeable, down-to-earth guy. This premium vodka, which is made from corn, is smooth and sophisticated on the palate with no burning sensation whatsoever. I sampled it neat — twice — just for good measure. When it returns to LCBO stores in a couple of weeks or so, buy some before it sells out and relish this luxurious vodka.
If you need a break from the crowd you can always wander outside and taste some great ‘street food’ from food trucks parked just outside the doors.
There’s still time to take in the expo which runs through this weekend. Tickets are available online here or at the door. Food and drink sample tickets are $1 each (sold in sheets of ten). As a guide, I usually budget $20 per person in order to fully satisfy your senses.
Click here for a complete list of vendors, show features and hours and have fun at the show!