Archive for May, 2016

Reminiscing about five influential restaurants in Niagara Falls

May 6th, 2016

Reminiscing about five influential restaurants in Niagara Falls

By Joseph Temple

For centuries, the scenic beauty of Niagara Falls has attracted scores of visitors from around the world like a magnet. With more than six million cubic feet of water going over its crest line every single minute during the peak of tourist season, the sheer volume of this natural wonder makes it one of the most photographed cataracts in history. “Few natural wonders have inspired the passions and the imaginations of so many as Niagara Falls, whose sublime beauty and awesome power have made it a magnet for statesmen and stuntmen, poets and poseurs, ordinary sightseers and exceptional visionaries,” writes historian Pierre Berton.

And during the immediate post-war period, the Falls became etched in stone as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” Publicized in popular Hollywood films like Niagara starring Marilyn Monroe, Horseshoe Falls provided the perfect backdrop for millions of couples celebrating their holy matrimony. Of course, with so many newlyweds around, there were also plenty of superb places to wine and dine in between snapping all those pictures.

While today many associate Niagara with casinos, wax museums and inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffets, it’s important to remember that there were (and still are) some excellent restaurants on both sides of the river. So travel back in time to the golden era of Niagara Falls tourism as we reminisce about five iconic establishments that helped to make the region a must-see destination.


Queenston Heights Restaurant
1. Queenston Heights Restaurant

Situated next to a monument honoring General Isaac Brock from the War of 1812, Queenston Heights Restaurant is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and floral arrangements, making its rustic ambiance hard to beat. And once you sit down inside or on the outdoor patio, you’ll be given a breathtaking panoramic view of the Niagara River as you dine. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this upscale restaurant has entertained dignitaries from around the world, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill who ate here with his daughter Mary during the height of the Second World War before a strategy session with Franklin Roosevelt in Quebec City.

 

Hotel General Brock Niagara Falls
2. Hotel General Brock

Opening its doors in 1929, the Hotel General Brock is known by many as the place where Marilyn Monroe stayed while filming Niagara—the same hotel where she had a torrid love affair with future husband Bob Slatzer. But its crown jewel was the Rainbow Dining Room, which offered diners a spectacular view of the Falls. The view was so outstanding that in 1939 when the King and Queen of England visited Niagara Falls as part of their North American tour, they enjoyed a private and 100% Canadian dinner that included Filet of Lake Superior whitefish and Tenderloin of Northern Ontario beef.

 

Victoria Park Restaurant Niagara Falls
3. Victoria Park Restaurant

Located on the Niagara Parkway and directly facing the Falls, Victoria Park Restaurant is as old as the city itself. Originally called the Refectory, this restaurant built in 1904 by the Niagara Parks Commission from boulder stone acquired from the bed of the Niagara River and modeled after a Swiss chalet quickly became one of the more posh places to eat for both locals and tourists. In fact, until 1926, the upstairs served as the quarters for the Parks Commission and has been home to numerous ghost sightings ever since.

 

revolving restaurant niagara falls
4. Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant

Soaring 775 feet above the Niagara River, the futuristic Skylon Tower, which opened for business in 1965 gave tourists a fantastic bird’s eye view of the Falls from its observation deck. Featuring state-of-the-art technology for its time that included Canada’s first outside elevators, the grand opening was attended by both New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Ontario Premier John Robarts. Adding to this sense of being on the cutting edge, a fairly new concept—the revolving restaurant—debuted in Niagara with Skylon diners being treated to a 360 degree look at all the scenic wonders as they sat down and enjoyed a formal meal.

 

Where to eat in Niagara Falls New York
5. The New York side

Niagara Falls has essentially become a tale of two cities. And when looking back at the New York side’s culinary history, we see a strong influence from Italian-Americans that lives on to this day. In fact, many travel guides recommend a stroll through Little Italy where you’ll find “authentic Italian restaurants and a sense of what the city was like at its zenith in 1950.” Two of the oldest establishments are The Como Restaurant and Fortuna’s, opened since 1927 and 1945 respectively.

Sources:

Berton, Pierre. Niagara: A History of the Falls. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 1992.
City of Niagara Falls Centennial Book Committee.  Images of a Century: The City of Niagara Falls, Canada, 1904-2004. Oshawa: Maracle Press, 2005.
Dombrowski, Joel A. Moon Niagara Falls. Berkeley: Avalon Travel, 2014.
Strand, Ginger. Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.


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Ask Sid: Why Salmon with Red Wine?

May 4th, 2016
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Why Salmon with Red Wine?

Question: There seems to be a growing trend for serving red wine with salmon. Why? I don’t get it.

Answer: I like your question. There are opinions out there that any colour wine goes with any dish – and to simply choose the wine you enjoy drinking. Certainly a lot of red wine doesn’t ideally suit salmon or any other seafood. However there is more to it than that. Traditionally it was always red wine with meat and white wine with fish. Too rigid. Salmon comes in many varieties from delicate trout-like to wild oily Spring or Chinook. Lots depends on how it is prepared and the sauce as well. I still enjoy a rich chardonnay with most salmon dishes. However a red wine can work very well if is not too heavy or tannic and has a good acid balance. A good variety choice is pinot noir. One of my all-time favourites combos was the 1972 La Tache red Burgundy with a soy BBQ salmon. Try some pinot noirs with salmon prepared in different ways and I believe you will see the magic of red wine with salmon.


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Graham Vintage Port Vertical

May 2nd, 2016

Graham Vintage Port Vertical
Photos credit: Milena Robertson

Older vintage port still remains a relatively great value in the fine wine market. Certainly Graham is one of the very best houses. Knowledgeable Jim Robertson with his talented wife Milena run the thriving Vancouver Branch of The International Wine & Food Society. They just orchestrated an authentic Douro experience to try 10 Graham vintage ports over 30 years between 1955 and 1985 with insight into Portuguese food dishes with an very appropriate lunch superbly prepared by Milena including items like bacalhau (salted cod), red pepper & anchovy, chicken with chorizo, and warm custard tart.

Brought back fond memories of January 18, 1987 when the late dynamic Haskell Norman founder of the Marin County Branch who organized during the eighties the very best wine events in the world did a similar 8 vintages of Graham from 1945 to 1887 with port lover the late Barney Rhodes making comments. Barney noted that port unlike most red wine gets darker for some years after it is bottled because of the higher alcohol acting on the fruit and only later slowly becoming lighter with aging. Showed how successful vintage port can be with extended aging as the 1927 was the a star at 60 years in 1987 while the big sturdy classic 1945 still had a ways to go – just like the 1955 at 60+ years is such a memorable highlight in 2016.

Graham was founded in 1820 but the current Symington family bought it in 1970 and acquired the fine south facing steep Quinta Dos Malvedos vineyard near Tua (east of Pinhao) only in 1981 with major replanting taking place in the late nineties. Prior to this they accessed other family owned vineyards including the massive chewy Quinta Das Lages, Quinta Do Tua, Quinta Da Vila Velha, and Quinta Do Vale De Malhadas. Keep in mind there are several grape varieties used including Tinta Barroca, big Touriga Nacional, perfumed lighter Touriga Francesa, and fruity Tinta Roriz adding different dimensions. All their wines are either by foot treading or use of their “robotic lagar” treading machine since 2000.

Graham Vintage Port Vertical

My short personal comments on the 10 Graham Vintage Ports:

1955: Berry Bros. bottled showing paler mahogany rim. Lovely licorice, violets, chocolate, rounded with other sensual delights on a magnificent plateau at 60 years. Lots going on. Impressive!

1960: Harrod’s bottling with even lighter browner colour notes. Porty with more noticeable hot spirit showing through. Elegant but lacking fruit depth.

1963: Berry Bros. with some light red tones left. Classic but tea-like with less sweetness showing in this bottle and is slightly unbalanced to the brandy side. Drying out. Still interesting but have had better bottles of this year.

1966: Good red tones left. Open and so classy. Sweeter fruit dense and most complex. Enjoyed this vintage of Graham many times previously and always feel it is underrated. Again it shines here as a superb vintage port. Not really jammy but luscious liquid bitter chocolate. Really like this. So stylish!

1970: Wildman selection. Darkest colour so far but unfortunately showing too much TCA corkiness for me. Some bad floral. Can be wonderful.

1975: Palest of all from a weak year. Vinous and good effort by Graham but lacks the fruit to stand up to the other vintages here.

1977: Good colour but not as dark as 70 or 83. Dumb and closed for many years but now is opening up in its evolution. Cork was difficult to extract. Delicious nonetheless with prune chocolate notes again. Noted port authority Roy Hersh (www.fortheloveofport.com) in 2011 stated that he was wrong on his initial assessment of the 1977 and sees it “continuing to improve for at least another 15 years before hitting a plateau” with a 93+ score.

1980: Dark enough but a touch of oxidation takes the edge off it for me in this bottle. OK. Good useful easy drinking year.

1983: Very darkest with a lot of big intense fruit left. Flavours perhaps coarser pepper and less classy than 1985 for me. Solid with potential to develop even further with more bottle age.

1985: Less colour than 1983 but more stylish. Wonderful ripe plum and cherry fruit on both nose and palate. Like the elegance harmony and balance here. A more forwardly year in 1985 but superb.


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