Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wining and Dining, Part I

Last month, while I was back down in London for my convocation ceremony, the family and I decided to swing by the Niagara peninsula for a quick holiday. It has been a few years since we've been back in the Niagara region, and the last time I was there, I was still underage and thus, such trips visiting vineyards just wasn't very exciting for me. (Honestly, how exciting can it be for someone to be stuck in the car waiting for her parents while they get to taste wine?!?) For the past couple of years now, my mom and I have been mentioning how we'd love to visit Niagara again and pick up a few bottles of wine, especially since the 2004 crop was an especially good year. However, it wasn't until this year that we found some free time, as well as a good excuse (with my graduation, upcoming birthdays and having the whole family back together) to enjoy some good wine and good food.

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I've always been envious of people living in the Niagara peninsula; it seems like one of the most beautiful places to live in Ontario, and you're only steps away from an abundance of locally grown produce and wine. If you haven't had a chance to visit Niagara in your lifetime, it's definitely a place to check out at least once; it is an epicurean heaven for any foodie. One restaurant we checked out was the famous Inn On The Twenty, an upscale restaurant located east of St. Catharines, in a tiny, tiny (main street is literally a block long) but very quaint village of Jordan. Anyone familiar with Anna Olson will know that she, along with her husband, used to work at this restaurant.

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The restaurant had a bright, welcoming atmosphere with large windows facing the valleys behind the restaurant, an absolutely breath-taking view if you're lucky enough to get a table by the windows (which we were). Our meal started off with an amuse-bouche courtesy of the chef: freshly-shucked PEI oysters with a homemade dill. It was a perfect starter to the meal, both to whet the appetite as well as to cleanse the palate before the rest of our courses began. The salty/sourness of the homemade dill was a nice contrast to the freshness of the oysters.

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My starter was a Saffron-Scented Clam Chowder, a twist on a New England classic. Clam chowders, if done badly, can often be either too heavy or too thin, or the worst case scenario, clumpy. This soup was absolutely delicious, and the saffron not only adds a nice yellow touch to the soup, but a different layer of flavour to the palate without being too overpowering.

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My main course was off the special menu, a Grilled Erie White Bass with wild leeks, fiddleheads and purple potatoes. The presentation of the dish blew me away, with the vibrant green of the sauce and the vegetables, the purple potatoes and the unique way the fish was filletted. The fish was cooked perfectly, and this dish truly showcased the best of the local ingredients of Ontario during the early summer season.

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What's a meal without finishing off with a little something sweet, especially when I am have a huge sugartooth. I had a Walnut Financier with Pears and Maple Gelato. The highlight of this dessert was definitly the gelato; the smoothness and richness of the gelato was a perfect match with the sweet maple syrup. What I wouldn't do to have more of that gelato...

It was no surprise that my expectations for the IONT was very high after hearing and reading so many great things about this restaurant, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The food was absolutely delicious, and the view was breathtaking. This place is definitely worth checking out the next time you're in the Niagara region.

Name: Inn on the Twenty
Address: 3845 Main Street, Jordan, ON
Cuisine: Canadian, Regional, Seasonal
Price Range: Dinner $40-$70
Accessible: Yes


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