Treadwell and Eat Well
I'm now back in England, but while at home in Canada I had the kind of culinary treat that makes me glad for tastebuds in good working order. Having spent the first two weeks of our visit in one of my two Canadian homes, Toronto, where my own family began, we then went down to Niagara to visit my family. My husband and I were determined to get out for a special dinner and I really wasn't sure where to go. Our favourite place had a new name and a new chef and no offer of a tasting menu (our favourite thing to do is eat brilliant little plates of food for two or three hours), so we started our search anew using Toronto Life's Restaurant Guide. They have an out-of-town listing which isn't comprehensive but you can find some gems you were previously unaware of, and we did.
Treadwell was the fortuitous find, set on the Lake Ontario waters of Port Dalhousie. The chef and owner who brings the 'farm-to-table cuisine' is a Brit named Stephen Treadwell whose accomplishments include taking Toronto's Auberge du Pommier and the Tiara Dining Room at Queen's Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake to award-winning heights, and co-pioneering the concept of "Niagara Cuisine" with chefs Michael Olsen, Mark Picone and Tony de Luca. (It was Tony that was chef at what was our favourite Niagara restaurant before he left, and thanks to google I have now tracked him down again. Now we have two places to visit next summer!)
We had to go all-out with the six course tasting menu and wine pairings which were chosen and presented by sommelier and co-owner James Treadwell, the chef's son. It was this service that made our dinner extra special, James himself was a treat. Without pretension he succinctly and joyfully described the qualities of each Niagara wine and why he chose it to accompany the course, and he was right about each and every one. They both balanced and enhanced the flavours in the food, and having the pairings gave us the opportunity to try wines we wouldn't have tried, or even discovered, on our own. A little table-side education is always welcome.
I apologise for the quality of the photos as I didn't want to take too much time getting the light right when I could be eating! That sounds like a pretty good excuse.
After a tasty amuse-bouche of warm, fresh yellow tomato soup (this would be presented as an amuse-gueule in France) we were served the first course of pan seared Grade A foie gras with local blueberries from Whitty Farms. It may have been the best foie gras I've ever had.
Roasted red pepper and local tomato gazpacho with sheeps milk and lime sorbet, presented with a cheese 'straw'. The lime sorbet was a nice surprise and just gorgeous.
Roasted beets with Best BAA feta, with dill and hazelnut vinaigrette. There were a few white cherries as well which I've never had before. That was by far the best feta I've ever had.
Seared Lake Erie pickerel with smoked bacon and tomato salad with fingerling potatoes. This was my husband's favourite.
After five glasses of perfectly matched wine and still one to go with pudding, I was off my nut. I'm the one who feels warm and sluggish after two sips of cab franc. I realised that I was no longer maintaining my elegant public decorum when I became aware that I had wrapped my fist around the fork and was punching at my succulent lavendar and honey glazed muscovy duck breast while embracing my plate. I'd like to say this was out of love - and it might have been as well! - but mostly it was because my body was becoming too heavy to support on my own:
Peach cobbler with local Whitty Farms peaches and rosemary caramel ice cream. I was so full by now that I just couldn't manage to eat all of the cobbler despite it being divine. One of my favourite things about tasting menus is that the chef always makes their own ice cream so you're guaranteed something very fresh with unique flavours. Rosemary and caramel didn't disappoint!
If you're outside of the city it's worth a drive into St. Catharines, especially on a clear, sunny day. Ask for a window table so you have a clear view of the water. Even at night it's really beautiful. (And at night you can no longer see the ducks swimming which is a small blessing when you're eating one.)