Mini Vacation – Niagara-on-the-Lake

25 May

Statue of George Bernard Shaw in the courtyard of Shaw Café & Wine Bar

As soon as I hear the words “Niagara-on-the-Lake” I immediately think of beautiful wineries and delicious fruits like the peaches and plums that are grown in the region. So I was thrilled to find out that I had won a two-night Niagara-on-the-Lake bed and breakfast prize package from The Wine Ladies and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed and Breakfast Association last year. My husband and I booked our visit for the last weekend of March and were looking forward to touring several wineries. Unfortunately, we found out too late that the wineries are closed on Good Friday! What do you do in Niagara-on-the-Lake when the wineries aren’t open and growing season hasn’t begun yet? Challenge accepted!

The last time we stayed at a bed and breakfast (or B&B) was when we were in Europe on our honeymoon, so we were a little bit nervous about staying at one that was only an hour and a half away from Toronto. Would it feel odd to stay in a B&B so close to home?

I contacted AquaBella B&B to make our booking and I was immediately impressed at their attention to detail, as they asked what our plans were while we were in the area and if we had any dietary restrictions. I mentioned that I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian (I include dairy and eggs in my diet) and they said they would be happy to accommodate me. When it comes to breakfast food, lacto-ovo vegetarians like me are pretty easy to deal with and even better, my husband will eat anything. I then shared that I was worried we wouldn’t have anything to do in the area on Good Friday. Faith and David told us they would take care of it and do a little bit of research to help us along…phew! Since we were only staying for two nights, it didn’t take us very long to pack. We hit the road on the Thursday afternoon and were in Niagara-on-the-Lake in less than 2 hours.

AquaBella B&B
Photo credit: Faith and David Bell, http://www.aquabellabandb.com/

As soon as we walked into AquaBella B&B and were warmly welcomed by Faith and David, we both knew that we were in good hands. One side of Faith and David’s home is devoted entirely to the B&B and includes a separate kitchen, living room and fireplace. The kitchen had a tea/coffee station which was available to us at any time.

AquaBella B&B

We were escorted to the “River Room, which had a Queen-sized bed, television, Wi-Fi and a nicely decorated washroom. Added touch: There were fluffy bathrobes for both of us! Since we were the only ones staying at the B&B at the time, we took a peek at the “The Falls” room and “The Lake” room. All of the rooms were beautifully decorated and the beds looked very comfortable (that’s the key!).

AquaBella B&B, River Room
Photo credit: Faith and David Bell, http://www.aquabellabandb.com/

AquaBella B&B, River Room

Niagara On The Lake 067

The Lake Room, AquaBella B&B

The Falls Room, AquaBella B&B

After we got settled in, Faith and David gave us a few ideas for things to do the following day and then surprised us with a voucher for a wine tasting for two at Peller Estates, which was still open! They hurried us along, as it was almost time for the last tour of the day. Let the fun begin…

Peller Estates

We drove up to the Peller Estates grounds and I immediately fell in love with the place. The estate was beautiful and it covered a huge plot of land. Since the weather wasn’t so great, there wasn’t much to see outside, so our tour guide focused on the winery itself, taking us through the wine making process and cellar area. While on the tour, we received a step-by-step lesson on how to taste wine and even though my husband and I knew the basics, it was great to get a refresher from a passionate professional. In the process, we were introduced to a few of Peller’s wines and my favourite was the Signature Series Ice Cuvée, a sparkling wine made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with a dosage of Vidal Icewine.

After a great tour, we headed to the tasting area, where we enjoyed a flight of three wines and shopped for a few bottles to add to our collection. We both enjoyed the tour and felt it was definitely worth the price of admission. We can’t wait to visit the property again in the summer and enjoy a walk through the vineyard.

Peller Estates

The Epicurean

Soon enough, it was time for our dinner reservation at The Epicurean. Our prize package had included a gift certificate for the restaurant and after the busy week we’d both had, we were looking forward to a nice dinner. I was so glad that I had made reservations because the restaurant was packed and the only table available was the one we had reserved! They had been holding themed nights and that night was “Italian Night” with a special menu in addition to their regular menu.

I started with their Baby Green Salad, garnished with crunchy shoe string potatoes, parsnip chips, cherry tomatoes and dressed with Ontario vinegars. The salad was nice and light, which was perfect since my main course was a delicious Eggplant Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti. We were both too full for dessert so we ended our meal with espresso and house made biscotti.

Baby Green Salad at The Epicurean

Eggplant Parmigiana at The Epicurean

Espresso and scrumptious biscotti at The Epicurean

We walked up and down Queen St., afterward, which is filled with shops, restaurants and galleries. By the time we finished dinner, everything was closed but we were able to jot down the names of a few places we wanted to visit the following day. We headed back to the B&B to relax and get ready for bed…

Niagara-on-the-Lake – Day 2

We woke up the next morning to the wonderful smell of coffee and the lovely sounds of what I call “kitchen music” – plates moving, cutlery clinking and food sizzling as it hits a hot pan. We headed downstairs and Faith and David greeted us with coffee and a table beautifully set for four.

Beverage service at AquaBella B&B

Fruit, granola and yogurt parfait at AquaBella B&B

We started with banana bread and a yummy fruit, granola and yogurt parfait. I was already almost full when the warm apple cinnamon french toast casserole came out. After one bite, I couldn’t resist and I quickly finished my whole piece and grabbed seconds (hey, I was on vacation after all!).

Fresh banana bread at AquaBella B&B

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole

It was the Good Friday holiday, which meant that none of the wineries were open, however the shops, restaurants and galleries on Queen St., were open. We threw on some comfy shoes and headed out, ready for some retail therapy.

One of my favourite shops was Irish Design, a shop filled with products from Ireland, a country that is dear to both my husband and I, as we went there for our honeymoon. We make it a point to stop at any Irish shop as we can usually find Barry’s Tea and other items we enjoyed on our trip. We both love the beautiful Irish accent as well, so it’s a treat to have a chance to hear it again : )  This shop was extra special as an Irish Tea Room was attached to it, which served pies, boxty (Irish potato pancakes), quiches and other tasty treats. We ended up getting a box of Barry’s Tea to take home (it’s so good!) and a few snacks to munch on as we continued down the street.

Barry’s Tea, The Irish Tea Room

Savoury foods, including Boxty (potato pancakes).

Jams from Ireland and homemade scone mixes

What’s the best thing to have after a savoury snack? Something sweet of course! We saw a lineup forming outside of Nina Gelateria & Pastry Shop so we had to stop in to check it out. It was surprisingly warm and sunny outside, so everyone (including us) seemed to be craving a cold treat. I tried the passion fruit flavor and my husband went for his favourite, pistachio. Both were delicious and tasted really fresh, I could see why Nina’s was so popular. Pastries, cakes, macarons, crepes, sandwiches, Nina’s had it all, including Easter Bunny Bread as a special! It would take at least 10 more visits before I’d have a chance to try everything…

Nina Gelateria & Pastry Shop

Gelato at Nina’s

Gorgeous pastries at Nina’s

Vegetarian Panini at Nina’s

Easter Bunny Bread (sold only for Easter, sorry!).

We shopped and shopped and soon enough, we were hungry (Note: We both love food and when we travel, we always seem to be hungrier!). We wanted a quick bite to hold us over until dinner and we noticed that the patio at Corks Winebar and Eatery was open. A patio lunch in March? Yes please! The food was simple pub food and that usually means little to no vegetarian options, so I was happy to see a veggie wrap on the menu. The wrap consisted of a soft flour tortilla, stuffed with goat cheese, hummus and grilled portobello mushrooms, green peppers and onions. It came with a choice of side and I decided that since I was being “good” by having all of those veggies, a side of fries couldn’t hurt : ) It was delicious and it really hit the spot.

Corks Winebar and Eatery

Veggie Wrap at Corks Winebar and Eatery

My husband wanted to check out some of the antique shops in the area, so we headed over to Sylvia’s Antiques and then to Lakeshore Antiques and Treasures. While I love my stuff shiny and new, my husband loves items with history behind them. So I wandered around and reminisced as he began his hunt. He ended up finding a beautiful old camera, a few books and a souvenir spoon holder that one of our relatives had wanted. With so many items to look at, it definitely takes a lot of time and patience to get the most out of an antique shop. My husband has already made me promise that we’ll head back to both shops this summer.

Photo credit: Sylvia’s Antiques, http://sylvias-antiques.ca/

Photo credit: Sylvia’s Antiques, http://sylvias-antiques.ca/

We headed back to the car as we both wanted to visit a pastry shop that friends had recommended to us. Willow Cakes & Pastries was in a nondescript plaza and as soon as I saw the cute little door, I somehow felt that we would be in good hands. The shop was bursting at the seams with Easter goodies, they had cakes, cookies, chocolates…you name it and they had it. We decided to pick up some little cakes so we could have a late night dessert (the cakes were practically screaming “Buy us! Buy us!” so of course we had to).

Macarons and cookies at Willow Cakes & Pastries

Mini brownie cheesecakes at Willow Cakes & Pastries

After relaxing at AquaBella B&B for a little while, it was soon dinner time. We had made reservations at another restaurant but we ended up cancelling them, as the current menu didn’t appeal to either of us. Remembering how much we had enjoyed our meal at The Epicurean we decided to head back again. The staff greeted us with warmth (and surprise) when we came in, even going so far as to nicely ask us if we had left something behind from last night! We started with an amazing cauliflower soup (made with vegetable broth) that had both of us wanting to lick our bowls.

Cauliflower soup at The Epicurean. They get bonus points for making it with a vegetarian broth : )

For my main, they had a few veggie-friendly options on the menu but I asked the chef for a plate of their sweet potato gnocchi, along with the roasted Brussels sprouts and veggies they had served along with my husband’s main dish the night before. What I received was so delicious that my mouth is watering as I think about it, as everything on the plate came together so well.

Sweet potato gnocchi with roasted vegetables at The Epicurean

We were both so full from dinner once again, but thanks to our earlier visit to Willow Cakes & Pastries, we knew we had little cakes back at the B&B. As a vegetarian, it’s not often that I’m impressed by my meal but when I am, I always make it a point to thank the chef and his/her team. They rarely get thanked for their efforts! It was late and we were tired, so we headed back to the B&B…

The following morning, we woke up once again to kitchen sounds and the smell of fresh coffee (why doesn’t this happen EVERY morning?!?). Once again, we were greeted with another beautifully set table, this time with all the fixings for a fresh waffle breakfast. Faith and David’s daughters joined us for breakfast and we had a great time chatting it up with them. One of my favourite parts of breakfast was Faith’s strawberry sauce…it was so delicious and had a lot of depth. I learned that the secret ingredient was a few spoons of fresh strawberry jam to kick up the flavor a notch…it’s those little tips that make all the difference…

Fresh waffle breakfast at AquaBella B&B

After a filling breakfast, it was time for us pack up and get ready to head back to the city as we had tickets to the Toronto FC soccer game that afternoon. We took a quick little detour and sat by the water to soak up the scenery and get some sun. It was a wonderful mini vacation and we headed back to Toronto refreshed and rejuvenated. We’re already planning our next visit!

See you next time NOTL!

List of businesses: 

AquaBella B&B
511 Charlotte Street,
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 289-868-8784
http://www.aquabellabandb.com/

Peller Estates
290 John Street East
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 905-468-4678
http://www.peller.com/

The Epicurean
84 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 905-468-3408
http://www.epicurean.ca/

Nina Gelateria & Pastry Shop
37 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 289-868-8852
http://www.ninagelateria.com/

Willow Cakes & Pastries
242 Mary Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 905-468-2745
http://www.willowcakes.ca/

Corks Winebar and Eatery
37 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 289-868-9527
http://www.corksniagara.com/

Irish Design
75 Queen Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario LOS 1J0
Phone: 1-800-268-9064
http://www.irishdesign.com/

Sylvia’s Antiques
275 Mary Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake
Ontario, Canada
L0S 1J0
Phone: 905-468-1100
http://sylvias-antiques.ca/

Lakeshore Antiques and Treasures
855 Lakeshore Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0
Phone: 905-646-1965
www.lakeshoreantiques.net

Have you been to Niagara-on-the-Lake? If you have any recommendations for the area, please do share them in the comments section below.

8 Responses to “Mini Vacation – Niagara-on-the-Lake”

  1. Allison May 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Two NOTL recommendations:
    For a fantastic lunch (great sandwiches on delicious home-made bread) and dessert (pie!): http://www.thepieplate.com/

    An off-the-beaten-path steakhouse, filled with locals:
    http://www.stoneroadgrille.com/ -don’t be fooled by the minimalist strip-mall storefront, the food is fantastic.

    • Milk & Eggs May 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      I haven’t been to Stone Road Grille but I’ll have to make it there next time. I LOVE The Pie Plate, we were too stuffed to go there this time LOL

  2. shweta May 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    This is great! Going to NOL next month. Gonna check out some of these places.

    • Milk & Eggs May 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Please do and let me know if you discover any new places, I’m sure you will

  3. Christina May 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    I ate at Stone Road Grill a few years ago and can confirm what Allison says, it is delicious. I love Niagara On The Lake. So many cool things to do.

    • Milk & Eggs May 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Thanks for the tip Christina, I still haven’t been to that restaurant : (

  4. Bewildered Bug May 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    This looks like SO much fun! I never DID get to do my weekend in NOL before I left Canada :( On my bucket list now!

    • Milk & Eggs May 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      You have to go, you’ll love it there! There was so much to do, even though the wineries weren’t open on our only full day…we had a blast!

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