As a foodie and wine lover by nature and by trade there are few things more inspiring than a room full of people who are equally as passionate in these fields. The Taste of Burlington media launch was a successful event guided by the thoughtful details attended to by their team of experts. The truth of the matter is, I ate my way around a room and stopped in the middle for libations, all the while soaking up the enthusiasm for locally farmed and sustainable food and wine. Awesome.
I first toured the room and was overwhelmed with the smells of gourmet fare, the sound of sizzling oil in pans and the familiar grumble that was my empty stomach. I could not justify attending this event sporting anything less than a hearty appetite. Ready to perform a gastro tour of epic proPORTIONS, I decided my approach would be in the order of set-up. My culinary adventure began. Because my appetite knew no bounds, the amount of food I consumed is shocking, and so my highlights are listed below. The comprehensive list could be considered for publishing as a short novel. What does that really mean, though? That each restaurant is offering exciting and innovative dishes that drew me in for a taste. I couldn’t help but want to hear the chefs explain their food and introduce me to their culinary creations.
My highlight list begins with one of the first items I sampled at the event. Brought to the event by Ivy Bar & Kitchen, the shitake leek pot stickers were incredible. They were served on a bed of Asian noodles topped with a sweet soy and black sesame seeds. Decadent. The flavours were very well balanced and with an extra piece of shitake placed on top, the dish over delivered on delicious.
The second dish that I can’t help but share with you was prepared and served by La Costa Nuova. Part of a restaurant group represented by three establishments, La Costa Nuova brought their A-game with a 12 hour braised short rib topped with a fresh cucumber slaw on crostini. Decadent. The meat melted in my mouth and the cucumber slaw was a beautiful accompaniment, adding a freshness to the savoury short rib. Costa Nuova’s sister restaurants in attendance were Walkers Fish Market who served up fresh pacific oysters from P.E.I., and Pepperwood Bistro who mastered butternut squash perfection with a mulligatawny soup.
The next dish was the standout of the day, in my opinion. When I saw the sign that read Queen’s Head Pub I was prepared to dive into some classic pub fare. To my delight, the culinary team behind this establishment is not only creative but incredibly skilled. The dish was a sampling from their new menu which is more focused on creative gastronomy and will debut at the pub this week. I had the pleasure of eating slow braised beef backribs on a bed of chestnut chilled orzo with Moroccan salt spice, pumpkin seed oil and edible flowers. It sounds complicated and it looked beautiful, but what I can tell you is that it was so right as I enjoyed every last bite. I have never been to Queen’s Head Pub, but they can consider me their newest regular.
And finally an item that comes from the dessert end of the spectrum. It is on this plate that my farm to table sensibility was best satisfied by local flavours. The Water Street Cooker brought dessert, and not just any dessert. A strawberry rhubarb crumble, an amalgamation of some of my favourite flavours. The perfectly moist cake was topped with locally sourced strawberries and rhubarb and finished with a delicious crumble that added a nice sweetness to the tart rhubarb flavor. With each bite this dessert became all the more tempting, and I must say that sponsor winery Flat Rock Cellars’ 2011 Pinot Noir Rose was the perfect pairing.
This event was a delicious success, and with the dishes I enjoyed as an indication of what is to come, it is clear that A Taste of Burlington is a must-add to your social calendar. Affordable price-points for creative gourmet (and in some cases, locally sourced) fare, paired with delicious wines and all in your very own backyard. For a list of participating restaurants, pricing and menus visit the Taste of Burlington website. This is the definition of a fabulous life, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the restaurants that are making it happen.
Allie Hughes is a Niagara based food and wine writer and Partner at Hughes & Co. Her culinary tourism writing has been featured in local publications and large scale publications including WineAlign and Palate Press and she is the resident wine lover on NaturallyInNiagara.ca. Find Allie tasting at a local winery, “plugged in” for her clients or enjoying the local bounty of Niagara with friends and family.