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Jan 31, 2010 02:40 PM

NOTL for Valentine's Weekend - the Ultimate Dead End?

Hi all,

After scouring the boards and cross-referencing with menus and availability, I'm growing a bit worried about an upcoming trip to Niagara on the Lake. It is scheduled for Valentine's weekend, an occasion that usually keeps us cooped up in terror with our own stove or takeout menus, but this year's intersection of the Wine and Chocolate month with a long weekend coaxed us out of hiding.

Based on our own experiences and the advice of this board, we've reserved our dinner on the actual dreaded V-day at the Stone Road Grille, figuring that it is the most consistent and reliable restaurant in NOTL, and used to dealing with large crowds.

But we are seeking some advice for lunch on Sunday (the day we'll actually be puttering around the wine trail) and preferably not the Old Winery Restaurant, as we are staying at a B&B where we will be having a large breakfast. Ideally, lunch would be a not-too-far out of the way snack.

Also, dinner on Saturday - I'm terrified of this one. I've seen many recs for dining at Peller, but to be honest, the prices are beyond our comfort zone. Zee's is probably closer to what we'd like to pay (hard to tell without prices online), and the menu (normal, not Valentine's) is really appealing, but reviews suggest that it is inconsistent and quality and service have recently declined. Treadwell looks good, albeit also a little out of our price comfort zone, and their Valentine's menu is terrifying. White chocolate lobster risotto? Really?

If anyone can weigh in on these or new options, I would really appreciate it. Oh, one last pesky detail - I've had a few recs for pub grub, but unfortunately can't count on my addled digestive system to be up for fried food. Onions and tomatoes are also out (think pizza).

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  1. For your Sunday lunch, I would recommend either the Pie Plate or Olson Foods at Ravine Winery. Both are perfect for a light lunch/snack.

    Enjoy Stone Road Grille -- it's a real gem.

    2 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      Olson Foods is no longer in operation at Ravine. I'm not sure if its replacement restaurant is open yet, but it sounds extremely promising. Press release from Ravine Vineyards:

      "Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery owners Blair and Norma Jane Harber are pleased to announce the return of their son Paul to the family business. Paul was expected to stay on at a Michelin starred restaurant in Stuttgart Germany for another couple of years. His return comes as a result of Anna and Michael Olson having to cut short their partnership in running Olson Foods at Ravine, sooner than expected.

      “We appreciate all the good things the Olsons did at Ravine with the deli and want to thank them for their contributions.” With their tremendously busy schedules they have elected to leave the operation in favour of advancing their respective careers. “The Ravine Vineyard team wishes them much success as they continue with their existing ventures.”

      Paul Harber, with his wife Nicola returned from Europe in late 2009, and they look forward to taking the lead on the culinary vision for the property. “We are really excited by the challenge of making an already excellent operation even more impressive.” Having had a tremendous first summer season in 2009, Paul is looking forward to implementing some new concepts that will please the crowds expected to be frequenting again in 2010, including intimate private dinners in the House of Nations as well as gourmet food and wine pairings for those sampling Ravine’s Reserve wines.

      Paul was trained at the famed Culinary Institute of America in New York (CIA), graduating top of his class. His first industry position after graduation was working with the renowned New York City Chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud. From there, Paul was selected by Executive Chef Andrew Carmellini to help open the A Voce restaurant in downtown Manhattan. The restaurant opened to rave reviews including a coveted New York Times “3 Star” rating. Returning home from New York, Paul worked at the side of legendary Canadian Chef Michael Stadtlander at Eigensinn Farm and then travelled overseas to cook with Michael’s Michelin starred mentor Vincent Klink in Germany."

      For additional information, please contact:

      Paul Harber, Chef de Cuisine Nicola Harber, Retail Hospitality Manager

      905.262.8463 ext. 29 905.262.8463 ext. 27

      1. re: Tatai

        Thanks for the info Tatai. I'm sad to hear about Olson's. They were definitely the stronger half of that partnership, IMO.

    2. I would agree with TJ's recommendations. However, for a romantic weekend, the ice wine brunch at Peller Estates is splendid. The other restaurants you've identified are quite good with one exception... Zee's This is one restaurant that I would not recommend. My first, and last, time there three years ago was very disappointing. Unless things have changed dramatically, the food was average at best, an uninspiring menu, with small portiions and a price point at least $10-12 too high for their entrees. I think the only thing keeping this place going is its proximity to old town NOTL. My top 4 for NOTL - in no particular order are: Stone Road Grille, Peller Estates winery, the Old Winery Inn, and although not in NOTL - Treadwell's. Not sure why you crossed Old Winery Inn off your list - it is a great place for a reasonably priced lunch. They do great pasta and wood-oven pizza - some options without onions and tomatoes.

      Olson's Ravine was great this past summery but I heard a rumour that they are no longer affiliated with it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cynalan

        Thanks for the advice on Zee's - I was worried about that!

        To clarify, we're not going for a romantic weekend per se. It's just a weekend away that happens to fall over Valentine's. We are more interested in the chocolate and wine tastings than we are in finding a "romantic" feel anywhere.

        Also, Old Winery Inn is off the list because their brunch menu does not line up with what we are looking for. It would take a much longer post to list all of my dietary restrictions, suffice it to say that there is literally nothing on the brunch menu I can guarantee being able to eat. With substitutions or a lucky day, there are a few possibilities, but nothing properly "snacky" after a large breakfast.

        1. re: c.cow

          Personally, I've always enjoyed Zee's. It's probably the best on the main drag. The Epicurean's not too bad either. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of the Old Winery- it seems like a lot of their food is processed/pre-packaged stuff. I agree with Peller's, Stone Road Grille. I also like La Cachette at Strewn. And, the pub at the Queen's Landing might not be a culinary mecca, but I've always enjoyed the service and simple bar fare.

          1. re: meld_la

            Good to have another opinion! If you have been to Zee's recently, can you recall their general price point? This is not listed on their online menu...

            For comparison, here's a link to Treadwell's normal menu:

            Is Zee's in the same range? Above/below?

            Sorry to be a pest - SRG is really the only restaurant we're familiar with in NOTL, so we're in uncharted waters for this one, and don't want to risk it on a bad choice this time of year!

            1. re: meld_la

              Actually melk_la, I agree with you, Zee's probably is one of the best in old-town. That being said, I would not spend my money there when there are so many better options in near proximity. I simply find the price points in-town too high for the product they deliver when there is much better quality nearby at the same price or less. I haven't tried Terroir de la Cachette yet. I would be interested to hear your impressions of the place. One more to try for me in Niagara is the new Tony de Luca restaurant (not the Old Winery but I don't know the name.)

        2. As a student, I might be biased, but the Niagara Culinary Institute dining room is a real gem at a great value.
          Loyalty aside, I ate there for the first time at the beginning of Winterlicious and was very impressed. The Valentine's menu looks great, and at $50 a person, economical. Very much worth checking out.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

            Thanks for the heads up on this! It does look like a good value with interesting menus - I think we might look into the Winterlicious lunch option! Unfortunately, since NC is a bit of a drive from our B&B and we'd like to take advantage of wine pairings (probably our budgetary downfall), I think we'd probably be better off within close cab distance for dinner. But it is something to plan for on a future trip if the lunch is good!

            I think we are going to try Terroir la Cachette on Saturday. If I'm right in guessing the price range is in the same ballpark as Zee's, but the experience is much more, it seems like our best bet!

            1. re: c.cow


              Please note that Treadwell will be offering the regular dinner a la carte menu over the Valentine's Day weekend, as well as the lobster tasting menu. They are also open for lunch too (the lunch menu can be found on the website)