As previously mentioned, I recently went to Canada for a few days, more specifically Ontario, for what was generally a relaxing trip. There was a mild amount of touristing, but a lot of the trip was about meeting friends and lazily hanging out in backyards eating cheese and drinking wine (as I grow older, I’ve become a lot more appreciative of taking the laid back approach from time to time).
The two other times I’d been to Canada before this were for a trip to Niagara Falls with my grandparents — who had come to visit from India — when I was about 12, and then about three years later, for a brief visit to Montreal and a few days in Quebec. I was young. I distinctly recall ordering a chicken sandwich in French at a “fancy”-looking Burger King or McDonald’s in Quebec, but I don’t recall much else about food from those visits. So I didn’t really have many expectations visiting Canada for a few days this time around, but I wound up being really impressed by the offerings.
We spent most of the trip based in Hamilton, a city that seems to have a lot coming together for it these days. In fact, I wasn’t even all that obsessed with visiting Toronto properly — we drove around the city and took in a few of the sites (walking around the University of Toronto, for instance), but the more I get a chance to travel and the longer I live in New York City, I understand what the majority of big cities have to offer… and I’d rather take a break from it when I can. We also visited a couple of wineries after swinging by Niagara Falls — the last time I had visited Canada, I was obviously too young for wine tasting, and I didn’t even realize that Canada has this wine-producing region until about a few weeks before the trip. We didn’t drink any ice wine while stopping by these wineries, but I did pick some up at the duty free on the way home… so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
Meanwhile, here are some highlights from the trip:
Saint James – This was where we went for brunch on our first morning in Hamilton, ravenous and ready for something delicious. And boy did this spot deliver. All three of us ordered “The Goodfella with Frites,” pictured above, which consisted of grilled ciabatta, fried mortadella, aged cheddar, a fried egg, tomato (I had mine without), arugula, pesto and garlic confit. My stomach was full and happy and the meal more than made up for the frustrating flight delays encountered the night before.
Mezcal – Did I expect to find excellent Mexican food in Hamilton, Ontario, of all places? Not really. But when we went out for a late-night meal because we were a little peckish after snacking all afternoon/early evening, we ended up here. I didn’t want to eat anything too over the top at that hour of the night, so I personally got a “crispy cauliflower” taco, which was really tasty and a little different from the usual tacos I’ve had before. I also shared a plate of nachos that was dressed with guacamole, pickled onions, cotija, queso and pomegranate seeds… and it was the most divine, wonderful thing. I’ve mentally vowed to recreate those nachos in some capacity at home.
Featherstone Estate Winery – This was our first winery visit while exploring Ontario and I rather enjoyed it. The winery is small, family-owned, and quaint with pretty roses on the grounds, and apparently this summer, they’ve also been offering wood-fired pizza at lunchtime on weekends. We arrived a little late for all that but did a sampling of three wines (and also purchased some to visit more friends later). I recall enjoying the riesling and “Phoenix” wines here.
Flat Rock Cellars – Unfortunately, I forgot to take note of exactly what we drank while here, though I did enjoy it, but we sampled three wines again and just took in the lovely grounds around us. The visitor center (which I didn’t take a picture of), is kind of neat and modern looking and there’s a bit of a deck/balcony area where you can just take your wine out and enjoy a panoramic view of the grounds.
Portland Variety – We ended up here for brunch our first day in Toronto — it’s a really nice spacious, well lit and well decorated place, and the food is pretty delicious (though the portions are a tad small). It’s fairly standard fare, but I felt I ought to highlight at least one place I went to in Toronto… and I will also credit this place for introducing me to the “Caesar,” the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary, which normally consists of vodka, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and clam juice.