Niagara on summer’s horizon
I should have been a joiner not a writer. Renovating our new house on the edge of Chinatown is completely engrossing. These may be the longest days of the year (almost) but they wax and wane in a moment while I’m busy with screwdriver and taper’s mud. Coming home to do some actual work during the brief hours of darkness I find myself caught between two stools: as an editor trying to persuade tardy and recalcitrant writers to deliver their articles on time, and as a writer summoning ever more elaborate excuses to explain to editors why my own stories are late. It’s like playing both black and white in a game of chess—or reliving those endless whining debates of complaint and accusation with the imaginary sidekick who talks like Peter Lorre and lives inside my brain.
He will not be travelling with me to Niagara in September, when David Lawrason and I are hosting a rather indulgent long weekend of wine and food around the peninsula. Details are now in place and tickets are already selling. The weekend starts on Friday, September 12, when we sail from Port Credit to Port Dalhousie in a fleet of 46-foot Hunter yachts—at around five hours, it’s slightly longer than the three-hour cruise that started Gilligan’s Island and considerably more comfortable. We have taken over the Oban Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the weekend and we’ll have a dinner there on Friday night in Tony de Luca’s restaurant after David Lawrason conducts his welcome-to-Niagara tasting seminar, calibrating our palates for the treats that lie ahead. Saturday takes us off to private tours of some of David’s favourite wineries, including Hidden Bench (runner-up for Canada’s Winery of the Year award in 2007) and Southbrook (so new it isn’t even officially open yet, but is still ultra-chic). Lunch that day will be an al fresco feast in the garden and orchards of the Good Earth Cooking School, including a sampling of some of the Twenty Valley region’s finest wines. In the evening, we’ll go a little more formal for a “gastronomic winemakers’ dinner” up in the Lookout at Hillebrand Winery, with its view of the ocean of vineyards stretching all the way to the escarpment. On Sunday, my friend Dave Perkins and his wife, Nancy, owners of Wyndym Farm, will show us what they have been up to this year, and I dare say there will be some sampling of their superb sustainably farmed produce. The morning is devoted to a thorough exploration of the chardonnays and pinot noirs of Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs and Le Clos Jordanne, then we’re off for a long lunch at Treadwell in Port Dalhousie before sailing home.
Talking of the Good Earth Cooking School, owner Nicolette Novak has introduced a delicious service this summer: preparing fabulous picnics for anyone visiting the region. She’s offering four different menus, each designed for two people. My favourite is called “Would you have any Grey Poupon?” and consists of Twenty Valley country paté; a selection of charcuterie with demi-baguette, cornichons and Good Earth fruit mustard; German-style potato salad with grainy mustard vinaigrette; marinated green bean salad; marinated garden fresh vegetables; two artisanal cheeses with candied nuts, seasonal chutney and organic crostini; fresh fruit or a seasonal fruit salad and a freshly baked, seasonally inspired fruit dessert. Sounds heavenly. The picnics cost $60 including taxes. Novak needs 48 hours’ notice to prepare the picnics. Find out more at www.goodearthcooking.com or by calling 905-563-7856.
Excellent news for those who live around Yonge and Lawrence. Hemant Bhagwani and Derek Valleau, the owners of Amaya, that delicious modern-Indian restaurant on Bayview, are opening a new restaurant at 3305 Yonge Street. They are calling it Bread Bar (their naan really is the best in the city) and have come up with a new notion to avoid confusion with Amaya or its takeout sister, Amaya Express. Small portions is the revolutionary concept—which is good if you love to graze but not so good if you rely on leaving Amaya with a half-dozen doggy bags full of the food you ordered but could not eat. The Bread Bar will offer such yummy morsels as lobster naan, crab kulcha, sag paneer “pizza,” and lemon sole in a particularly delicious sauce. Sounds like another winner. Now the millionaire denizens of Hogg’s Hollow will have even less far to go when hunger gnaws.