Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wining and Dining, Part II

Our second day in Niagara was focused solely on wines. Niagara boasts some of the most famous Canadian vineyards, as well as dozens of smaller, private estates that are a treat to come across. We checked out some more popular, well-known estates, like Inniskillin, perhaps most well-known around the world for its icewine, as well as some smaller estates like Lailey Vineyard.

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But after a long day of testing wine, it is only reasonable to go refuel ourselves with some food to go along with all the delicious wine we sampled. With our wine-filled day, it was only fitting that we finished our day at a vineyard, Hillebrand Estates. For starters, I had the Trius Icewine Smoked Salmon and Crab Terrine with Phelan's Asparagus and Spot Prawns and St. David's Cucumber Sorbet (pictured above, top). It was a delicious starter to my meal, something cold and fresh that featured the best of the local, seasonal produce, and the cucumber sorbet was especially refreshing and a great palate cleanser.

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Hillebrand served up a palate cleanser as a second course, which is always a nice and refreshing treat. What's unique about their Green Apple Sorbet is that it was in the form of a mini popsicle, rather than traditionally scooped out into a little cup. A great idea on the chef's part to turn a classic childhood treat into something that any adult would want on a hot summer's day. I had another fish dish as my main course, a Line-Caught Pacific Halibut, although it was not what I had not originally ordered. I had originally ordered the rabbit, which surprised everyone at my table, including myself, considering I had always avoided eating rabbit in the past due to personal reasons. Perhaps it was fate telling me that it just wasn't my day to start eating meat. However, all was not lost by having the wrong main course served to me, as I was eyeing the halibut as my second choice if I hadn't ordered the rabbit. Beautifully presented with a simple arrangement, the fish was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!

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No meal is complete without a little something sweet, and I just couldn't resist the Warm Vanilla and Icewine Caramelized Pears with Honey and Black Pepper Ice Cream and Almond Cake. The caramelized pears were extremely rich and nutty in flavour due to the caramelization, and the ice cream was interesting, although I would have perhaps liked to have tasted a bit more of the black pepper. An extra special treat to finish the evening was a glass of icewine served to each of us at the table from our server to make up for the mix-up of my order. I certainly couldn't complain with this little gift: I ended up not eating a cute little bunny and got to try their 2004 Vidal Icewine on the house. A truly golden nectar, if I must say so myself! Might I also add that Hillebrand also serves a mean cup of coffee; definitely one of the best cup of brew I've had in a very, very long time.

All in all, dining at Hillebrand was an incredible experience. I've always wanted to dine at a winery, and Hillebrand certainly didn't disappoint. The estate is beautiful itself, with its large fields of grapevines, the boutique, the manufacturing site and its own restaurant. The stone and wood work of the establishment gives off a warm and welcoming feeling. The dining room is large and spacious, with large floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the expansive vineyard fields. And despite the mix-up with my main course, the service was really great, and they did make up for it. Hillebrand is definitely another restaurant you should check out if you're in the Niagara neighbourhood. Great wine should definitely be enjoyed with great food, and what better place to enjoy both than at a vineyard restaurant?

Name: Hillebrand Estates
Address: 1249 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Cuisine: Canadian
Price Range: Dinner $60-$80
Accessible: Yes


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