Flavours of Niagara Falls

Niagara Flavours

Have you ever gazed at the colourful glow of Niagara Falls at night? How about with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine and a smorgasbord of Niagara’s cheese, charcuterie and fruit? Flavours of Niagara Falls gives us a reason to revisit this iconic destination, and re-calibrate to the message of glamorous dining on outstanding agricultural product that can sometimes be overlooked.

The inaugural Flavours of Niagara Falls that took place from January 13 to February 16, 2024 attracted renowned chefs like Chuck Hughes, Massimo Capra, Matt Dean Pettit, Bob Blumer and Roger Mooking to showcase their talent with local product for exclusive dinners in select settings from Ravine Vineyards to Niagara Brewing Company, historic restaurants, and classic hotel dining spots, including prix fixe menus at 25 different locations.

Celebrity Chefs of Flavours of Niagara Falls
Celebrity Chefs of Flavours of Niagara Falls

Watermark Fallsview Dining atop the Hilton Hotel Niagara offers the very best view of the Falls, and is the stage for Chef Matt Dean Pettit. In the mezzanine of Watermark, Chef Pettit presents an array of charcuterie including Pingue prosciutto and capocollo from Niagara Food Specialties, paired with large firm Niagara grapes, and divine cheese from Upper Canada Cheese Company including its renowned Niagara Gold, luscious Comfort Cream and tangy Benedictine Blue. With flavours so enticing I could satisfy all my cravings here, but restraint is in order since beyond this tantalizing display of accoutrements laid out before us, our dinner awaits.

Chef Matt Dean Pettit
Chef Matt Dean Pettit

Chef Pettit is the master of this vast dining room which has been structured by clever designers so that every table is the “best table in the house” for a spectacular view. Décor is simple: white and shades of blue complement the beauty of nature before us.

Mussels
Mussels

Now, seated at our “best table”, let the feast begin. A whole fresh Bocconcini comes drizzled with Balsamico dressing and shares the plate with tomatoes, baby arugula, and sweet pepper. It is said that the months ending in the letter Y yield the best mollusks. This is proven by a bowl of 100% perfectly plump mussels sauced with a most eloquent tomato and garlic sauce that enhances each perfectly plump nubbin. Would it be crude to spoon up some of the sauce with a shell?

As our heroic main course is served, we exchange comments of amazement with an adjoining table of diners from Buffalo. Where should I begin. Shall I cut into the huge Cuban lobster tail and dip morsels into the ramekin of melted butter, or slice into the gorgeous, juicy steak. First, I appreciate with my eyes, then just as a teaser, enjoy the carrots and green beans.

Steak and Lobster
Steak and Lobster

A violinist plays classical pieces with appropriate respect for the elegant and generous menu in which we are partaking. Chef Pettit is on hand to talk about the dishes while Ferox wines flow from a palate opening White Blend of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc to a Dornfelder Icewine with dessert.

A completely different dining experience is held at the Flour Mill Scratch Kitchen Restaurant where, in this historic Old Stone Inn, we are seated at a communal table and treated to a soft and aromatic Brut from Fielding Estate Winery. The Chef this evening is Bob Blumer, who has arrived from California with a west coast vibe and a playful menu.

Chef Blumer is creative with his dishes and shares his process with us, so that we can recreate them at home. We begin with a portion of raw silky tuna encased in a crunch of compressed kettle chips, paired with a refreshing citric Pinot Gris. This is quickly followed by a tea cup of thick and piquant Tomato Bisque garnished with crisp bacon. Warm, rich and savoury, I could sip a few more cups of this.

Tomato Bisque
Tomato Bisque

Chef Blumer demonstrates the next dish. An innovative raviolo prepared with boiled wonton noodles and sweet dollop of goat cheese and squash, followed by a ladling of brown butter-toasted pumpkin seeds, sage and garlic. It’s a surprising confluence of sweet and salt, with softness and crunch. Blumer shares that we can substitute with mushroom and hazelnut instead of goat cheese and squash, and thyme instead of sage. We all agree, this is next on our bucket list of fun ideas to try in our home kitchen.

See Also
Casa Loma

Chef Blumer emerges from the kitchen with a Buddha’s Hand. This shrivelled witchy-looking fruit is something we’ve sometimes seen in Whole Foods and wondered, “What the heck is that?” Turns out, this fresh, floral and sweet lemony pith, grated into a salad of fennel, dates, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil and lemon juice, lends a uniquely bright aroma and colour. Now we know, and can surprise our own guests with our new-found ingredient.

Beef Cup Cake
Beef Cup Cake
The Fielding 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon has a smoky vanilla essence with a plumy, black currant centre. As we discuss the nose and palate of the wine, we are served an unusual presentation. Ostensibly, it’s a cup cake. The “cake” is pulled slow-cooked beef, seasoned with Chinese five spice and packed into shape. The magenta-coloured icing is actually mashed potato and parsnip puree infused with roasted beet. A crowd-pleaser, the combination is both savoury and sweet. Chef Blumer tells us he likes to play with formats and that this is a beefy play on a fish cake, accompanied by lip-smacking ginger maple-glazed carrots.

Dessert is a mystery. “What came first,” we’re asked, “The chicken or the egg?” As our magical dessert egg is served, Chef Blumer shares the secret. Vanilla bean mousse and mango curd are sealed into an egg with a white chocolate base that fastens to the egg cup. The egg looks whole. A server cracks it open to reveal the smooth creamy interior that we scoop out with delight.

Egg
Mystery Egg

The inaugural Flavours of Niagara chef series was met with great fanfare. In from the cold, the unique bounty of Niagara’s harvest, prepared by the hands of visiting celebrity chefs and paired with delicious Niagara wines, was a resounding success. The diverse menus elevate Niagara dining to another level and inspire an exciting group of chefs for next year, too. And we will be there for the experience!

For more information, and to plan for next year, go to: Flavours of Niagara

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