A Culinary Tour is the Best Way to Experience Niagara-on-the-Lake
Travelling makes me hungry. It really does. It’s like my stomach wants to get in on the action of exploring new places and indulging in new experiences. Well, with this in mind while travelling through Niagara-on-the-lake, we decided to delve right into the gastronomic side of this gorgeous old world little village-style area of the Niagara escarpment with a guided culinary tour.
A Little Background on Niagara-on-the-Lake
This beautiful village is approximately 1/2 hour from the famous Niagara Falls. Completely within the scenic escarpment, Niagara-on-the-Lake attracts visitors yearly to experience its unmatched hospitality, beauty, and charm. The flower baskets, colonial style homes, horse and buggies, and manicured gardens, all give this beautiful town the preceding reputation it has earned bringing millions to its doorsteps year round. A few more interesting facts:
- Population of just over 17.5 thousand
- Many flock to the village to take in the yearly theatrical Shaw Festival.
- The second highest percentage of retired seniors live in this beautiful area of Ontario.
- The region is renowned for its many wineries and in particular, its famous ice wine.
- John Candy’s last movie, Canadian Bacon was filmed here.
- Fort Niagara seen from Queen’s Royal Park right on Lake Ontario is the oldest structure in North America
- The Queen’s Royal Hotel was a beautiful vacation resort for tourists and A-listers alike. It sadly had to be torn down due to being unable to pay the upkeep and ever increasing expenses. Nowadays the grounds that were from this hotel are a lush green park for picnics, water sports, and other family activities which now make up Queens’ Royal Park.
So with all the beauty and old town charm that Niagara-on-the-Lake brings visitors, coupled with the awesome shops and untouched nature, it was only fitting to explore the foodie side of the place and get an inside scoop on the delicious spots that no visit should miss. We embarked on a 3-hour tour that took us to some of the most unique places full of character and flavour with historical background and incomparable humour all in one. It was definitely a recommended way to explore this town already famous for its cutesy appeal.
First Stop – Exchange Brewery
Can it get any better than a beer tasting to start off a tour? Didn’t think so. I am not the biggest of fans of the popular beverage, but do enjoy the odd ale or Pilsner now and then. This independent brewery right in the heart of the town was the perfect little spot for a people-watching session, snack, or relaxing afternoon. The tour brings guests to the upper floor and provides tastings of three different brews with a selection of cheeses to bring out the unique flavours.
The three beers we tried were a Grapefruit Pale Ale, a Yeast Forward Beer, and a Foreign Exchange Stout similar to Guinness. All had interesting tastes brought out especially with the variety of cheeses provided. It was a great start to the day learning about such notables as Oscar Wilde and Charles Dickens enjoying similar flavour fusions in the city back in the day!
After enjoying three cold beers on a hot summery day, we headed to the next stop on the tour with commentary in between of the various signature homes within the village. One house in particular that was brought to our attention was a popular bed and breakfast frequently sold out on long weekends and throughout the summer months. It was the setting for a beautiful Trisha Romance art gallery. You know that artist who paints delightful scenes of children playing in the outdoorsy beauty? Her works are popular with the folk in town warranting a beautiful display for all to purchase and fill the spot over their mantles. The place now is for sale, and should you be interested, you will need at least a million, or possibly two million to purchase it outright. (yikes!)
Next Stop – Niagara’s Finest Thai
Now for a change of pace from beer i’d say! The next stop on the tour is at Niagara’s Finest Thai, an authentic restaurant featuring the classic Thai dishes we have come to love and enjoy. The head Chef directly from Thailand takes pride in providing a truly authentic experience warranting a certification awarded for authentic dishes as close to those offered back in Thailand. The process in receiving this award involves dignitaries travelling from Thailand to evaluate the dishes determining whether they meet the rigid authenticity criteria. Only 21 restaurants in all of Canada have been given this certification which must be renewed every four years!
The dish we enjoyed here was a delicious coconut soup served with handmade cold rolls. The soup consisted of coconut broth, lime juice and seasonal vegetables. The rolls consisted of rice, vegetables, and crab with oyster sauce. The meal was delicious and it was even nicer being in a restaurant considered one of the more authentic in the country.
Once we finished our time at the Thai restaurant, we headed on a 2 km walk through the village ogling multi-millionaire homes and the utter beauty of this part of the escarpment. The manicured lawns, the horse and buggies, the old-fashioned picket fences, and my favourite bird, the robin, out and about enjoying the summer breeze made for a leisurely walk, building our already whetted appetites for some authentic wood stove pizzas on the next stop.
Next Stop: Butler’s Sports Bar
Now who wouldn’t enjoy some fresh wood stove cooked pizza? Butler’s was the next stop on the tour that brought all the everyone together sharing a slice or two of either spicy pepperoni or vegetarian of the Naples born classic. This pub was a beautiful little spot on the outskirts of the town and the perfect pit stop for a rest. This establishment is deemed the best pizza parlour in Niagara-on-the-lake so it is no wonder it was included on the culinary tour!
Next Stop: Willow Bakery
Now it’s time to sweeten the pot. Until now the tour has tantalized our savoury palates with Thai soup, beer and cheese, and delicious pizza. Now it is time to add a little sweetness with some homemade bakery treats. Willow Bakery has been giving locals that indulgence they crave for 13 years. Enjoy a yummy and flavourful fancy paired with a cuppa coffee for afternoon sugar fix. This bakery is so popular that for Canada Day every year they make the celebratory cake for the community events. For Canada 150 this year, the cake was 4 FEET WIDE and 8 FEET LONG serving 3000 people! The cake is so incredible that it warrants its own parade in town. Unbelievable if you ask me! For the stop on the tour, guests are treated with a lemon mousse tart and complimentary coffee or tea. After enjoying this luxury on a plate, you will definitely want to come back to buy some of their other classics including fudge tarts, bespoke pretzels, and one-of-a-kind breakfast pastries.
Last Stop: Carlotta Latteria
After enjoying a mini cream tea, the tour brings you back to the main street and final stop where you will enjoy a delightful scoop of gelato at Carlotta Latteria, voted the #1 Dessert Parlour by Trip Advisor! Although they had multiple flavours, I went with a sure winner- vanilla. Hubby on the other hand opted for a pistachio infusion.
Once you have completed your gelato, the tour brings you to a kitchenware shop to bid farewell and show you some truly unique sauces and spreads for your own cooked appetizers.
The tour was entertaining, flavourful and a great way to learn more about this beautifully charming village that brings travellers near and far to experience. The food on the tour was great as it covered quite a few different tastes and cuisines and the dessert was truly scrumptious. Don’t expect to waddle out after the tour being full to the brim, but consider it a great lunch supplement before enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. Tours run daily for approximately 3-5-4 hours. Bring your camera, walking shoes, and sunscreen along for the wonderful walk that will have you deserving the sweets you devour along the way.
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We were a guest of Niagara Culinary Tours while travelling through Niagara-on-the-Lake. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.