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Jun 22, 2009 07:20 PM

My weekend in NOTL

Had a little vacation with my parents in NOTL to celebrate fathers day this weekend..We started by stopping by the Strawberry Festival.. it was raining a bit so we didn’t stay long.. just long enough to grab a gorgeous strawberry crepe and sausage (you can see this on the flicker pics)..

On Saturday night we had purchased tickets for the New Vintage Grille, an event where all of the small wineries in the region were sampling their new vintages. The event was a bit of a mess.. it had been raining all day and they had set up outside under a big tarp.. the problem was (which I dont think any of the guests anticipated) that they grass was muddy and wet (and actually was mixed with stray/hay) so all of us ladies had ruined shoes by the time we left. It was also a bit crowded, and their were weren't nearly enough people to pick up the dishes. The wine was great.. it was nice to get to taste from alot of the smaller wineries in Niagara that you don't get a chance to see at the LCBO.. I'm not going to give any notes on the wine, however, since I probably tasted more then 50 wines and they all kind of blended together by the end of the night. The food, catered by Food network hosts Anna Olson, Roger Mooking and Anthony Sedlack was great.. These chefs couldn't have been more friendly and they were happy to pose for pictures with me (I'm a bit of a food network junkie).. Roger Mooking's band actually played later on in the night, which I thought was a nice little touch..Here are some of the things we tasted that night (you can match my description with the pictures..)
Moroccan 5-spice chicken (one of the favourites of the night.. very flavourful and wonderfully juicy)
Flank steak with some type of spicy chimichuri sauce.. a bit tough, really hard to eat without cutting it..
Anna Olson’s BBQ rib with slaw and a cucumber ricotta torte (the rib was my favourite thing all night, not overly saucy, not fatty at all, just tonnes of tender meat)
Anna’s Rhubarb crisp with vanilla gelato (handed out by the adorable Micheal Olson)
Polenta with caramelized onions and lamb sausage
Anthony Sedlack’s Lamb with couscous (lamb a touch tough but really nice couscous, packed with nuts, herbs and dried fruit)
Italian ice (good palate cleanser before round two)
Roger Mooking beef carpaccio on a plantain chip (excellent crunch)

The next day we popped into Olson Foods at Ravine vineyards, an adorable country-house café near St. Catherines. The service was phenomenal! Micheal Olson was wandering about with fresh iced tea and chatting with all of the diners as we sat on the patio/porch and admired the view of the vineyard. What a little gem..I could hang out here all day and chat with the locals… I cannot wait to return to this spot, as the menu was so tempting, I wanted to try everything.. but we settled on the following:
Tomato, olive and mozzarella salad.. could have used a touch more salt, but the tomatoes were incredibly flavourful and the cheese was delicate enough not to overpower the salad..
Fried chicken with slaw and biscuits…These biscuits were adorable! The chicken was also incredibly moist inside with a perfectly crispy crust on the outside..
Roast beef sandwich with “lighthall tome” (somewhere between a goats cheese and a cheddar.. very delicious) and eggplant tapenade served with a fingerling potato salad with feta cheese.. I would definitely recommend this sandwich to anyone who loves roast beef.. it was perfectly cooked to medium rare, and pressed on a panini press to yield a crispy ciabata exterior.. mmm I would return for this sandwich alone.
Lemon square.. I know Anna is famous for these so I had to have it, and woah, what a burst of flavour!

Sunday night we went to the Stone Road Grille for dinner.. all I can say is thiank goodness for this site.. there is NO way I would have ever walked into this plaza restaurant without you. Inside, the décor is surprisingly sexy, the walls are done in red and black and the lighting is very intimate. Food was equally exciting… among the three of us, we tried:
Housemade bread (complementary).. a lovely rye, country sourdough and a cabernet bread (though, I never tasted the wine myself).. butter should have been less cold.
Sweet pea soup w/ crème fraise.. my mother described it as the best soup she has ever had. I had a spoonful, and it definitely was comforting. Apparently the chef used all fresh peas as well.
Charcuterie plate.. complete with various salamis, pickles, chutneys, and olives.
Foie gras poutine.. the foie gras was certainly not the best I have ever had but the accompanying gravy was deliciously sweet and played up the saltiness of the frites perfectly.
Steak frites with green beans and a béarnaise sauce.. my mothers came a tiny bit undercooked for her liking, but the meat was a very tender and they both enjoyed it regardless.
Duck confit with braised greens and a potato rosti served in a wine reduction sauce.. delicious! Just the way I like my duck, fall off the bone tender and juicy inside, no grisly fat exposed and a wonderful crispy crust on the outside. The potato rosti was really nice, it was wonderfully crispy, without feeling greasy or heavy.
Cloudberry crème brulee with walnut shortbread.. now I wasn’t sure what cloudberry looked like or tasted like when I ordered this dessert, and after eating it, I still don’t know.. This just tasted like a crème brulee to me.. but it was a pretty flawless plate, regardless of the title. Smooth texture in the middle, with a perfect caramelized crust.. the cookies were put to good use with my cappuccino.
Rhubarb clafouti with vanilla ice cream.. this was a huge portion, so definitely can be shared.. I honestly don’t normally like rhubarb, but this was lovely.. very lemony and light as air.

Service was top notch, our adorable server was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the wines, while plates were cleared and cutlery replaced promptly. As professional and helpful the staff was, the atmosphere was kept very informal, which I really appreciated. The bill with tax and tip for 3 apps, 3 glasses of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, 3 mains, 2 desserts and 3 cappuccinos was approximately $250- cannot be beat, if you ask me. Thank you so much to all who recommended Stone Road Grille.. its certainly not a place I would ever have thought to try on my own based on the location and signage but I will certainly return!

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    1. Thanks for the reviews! Glad you enjoyed Stone Road Grille, it really is a little gem in NOTL. And I'm very glad to hear that service is improving at Olson Foods, I hope it keeps up.

      1. Thanks for the review HA. I was in NOTL this weekend as well.

        We started off at Olson Foods. We walked in and Chef Michael came to speak with us and walked us through the desserts that they had. Everything looked delicious. Firstly, I would like to say that service was excellent and the place is so homey and comfortable. We sat down and ordered 1 pain au chocolat, 2 croissants, 1 oatmeal cinnamon scone and 1 fresh pea and radish bruschetta with goat cheese.

        The stand out in the group by far was the oatmeal cinnamon scone who everyone raved about. I didn't try it, but I have to say that it looked and felt a bit heavier that an ordinary scone. The croissant were deemed ok, and everyone liked the pain au chocolat. I had the bruschetta, and it was so fresh and actually quite nice. It was 1 piece of toast topped high with a bit of goat cheese, thinly sliced radishes (not much flavour, no spicy kick), and pea that wer chopped us with the outer husk, which I have never eaten before and provided a very slight bitter ending. There were a few microgreens on top as well, and the whole thing was drizzled with a nice olive oil.

        I also purchased a foccacia which was nice and oily and have a great chew and taste. Along with that, I purchased a loaf of the red currant and walnut bread, which had a delicious flavour and I have been eating it in the morning, toasted with jam.

        We then went to the Strawberry Festival that HA spoke of above, and it was raining quite a bit while we were there. We stocked up on a flat of beautiful fresh strawberries, and some fresh jam that was actually being made on site. I wasn't crazy about the fact that the makers were using bottled Lemon Juice, but once I took it home and tried it, it really did have a nice strawberry taste and nice texture.

        Finally, after a walk on NOTL and a stop at Greaves (LOVE!!!!!!!) and Kurtz (for Mango Garlic sauce, Apple Butter BBQ sauce, and a few other things), we decided on Epicurean for lunch. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy my meal very much, and left there wishing we had gone back to Olson Foods for lunch. I went with a Roasted Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese sandwich on white bread. The Roasted veggies were ok, but the eggplant had scorched skin and was very difficult to eat. The bread was not good at all and litterally fell apart to the point that I had to eat the sandwich with a fork. The goat cheese was pressed into a paper thin disk on plastic wrap and was so thin that the girl preparing my sandwich couldn't even peel it off. Anyways, I also had the gazpacho, which I did not enjoy very much at all. The only 2 veggies I could discern were the tomatoes and the chunks of cucumber in it. I couldn't really taste other veggies, or very much seasoning for that matter. Everyone else had the premade sandwiches were were deemed good, but not great (there was a grilled veggie and cheese, however half the cheese was extremely dried out and had to be thrown away, and the others had the turkey, brie and apple.) I was pretty disappointed and ended up eating my Olson foccaccia as soon as I got back in the car.

        1 Reply
        1. re: icey

          oh yah, isnt the apple butter bbq sauce amazing!! I too love Kurtz..

        2. Hmm, maybe I could go to Olson Foods for breakfast? Could I cycle here from NOTL or is it too far?

          2 Replies
          1. re: peppermint pate

            Olson Foods opens at 10 and it's about 13 - 20 kms from downtown NOTL, depending on where you're staying and the route you choose. The prettiest route would be South along the Niagara River Parkway, up the escarpment (wicked hill!) and West along York Rd.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              We did end up cycling out to Olson Foods for lunch - we took the route through town and the fields on the way there (BAKED under the sun) and the scenic Parkway route on the way back. It was a very fun excursion and a delightful destination. We too saw Michael and chatted with Anna. The tables overlooking the vineyard on the back porch are very pretty, though we stayed inside to cool off. They had just sold the last roast beef sandwich (argh!) but we did enjoy a caprese salad, a small pizza and a brownie. The food was very fresh, very nicely prepared. We took home a loaf of bread which we enjoyed that evening with some Pingue prosciutto, cheeses and one of the local rose wines that we picked up at the LCBO in town.

              I much preferred this Olson Foods in atmosphere and food to the place she had in Port Dalhousie. Thanks for the original post, icey.

          2. Hi
            I was at NOTL a few weeks ago and went to Peller estates for lunch. It was the best lunch I had in a very very long time. The homemade bread was the best I ever tasted!

            4 Replies
            1. re: ocean

              I also just got back from a weekend there and, thanks largely to this board, stopped at Olson and Stone Road Grille.

              Both were wonderful gems with great, fresh food and lovely service.
              Both Olsons were present at their restaurant and had a great lunch there.
              Hit Stone Road for dinner and was only able to get a late reservation at the bar but the owner asked us to wait four minutes and managed to produce a table.

              We had some other dining options too but were very happy to have discovered these gems.

              1. re: fleisch

                glad you enjoyed yourself! what did you have at olsons?

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  Lessee....there was a beet salad, tempura-style vegetables, and one more thing which will occur to me shortly after I hit POST.
                  Oh, it was a slice of cheddar-style goat cheese with honey and crostini. (Chevre Noir, IIRC)
                  And for dessert we got the last cherry tart; a tough call there.
                  Both Olsons were there and everything was great.

                  1. re: fleisch

                    mm sounds good. Im dying to go back