Niagara Parks hosted their annual Niagara Chef Showcase at Legends on the Niagara complex on April 3rd, 2016. 7 Niagara Parks’ chefs and 3 local chefs showed their talent by creatively executing sample dishes of locally sourced products. At the end of the event, 1 chef took home the trophy that has been dropped and dinged a few times too many!
A little background about the Niagara Parks restaurants, their vision and direction is to use local and fresh because it’s rewarding. It’s, “the best way to support the surrounding growers and producers while giving diners the opportunity to enjoy premium local products.” – Executive Chef Paul Pennock. There are 5 restaurants under Niagara Parks: Elements on the Falls, Queen Victoria Place, Queenston Heights, Legends on the Niagara, and Whirlpool. The restaurants range from casual eatery to fine dining elegance, serving dishes you can really appreciate.
The Niagara Chef Showcase took over the breathtaking Legends of the Niagara Restaurant. The stone and timber structure was homey with a lot of class. Stone steps led up to humungous, beautiful, wooden doors, which opened to a spacious interior with a cozy, cabin atmosphere. The back of the restaurant looked out onto a stunning lake surrounded by a peaceful scene.
Onto the food! Drink stations were scattered between the food stations and I strategically paced myself so I could taste something from each Chef. I started my tour with a couple rolls from Ah So Fine foods by Chef Daniel Hong, then moved onto Chef Ross’ Red Currant Plum-glazed Chicken. The tender chicken sat on a mini Yorkshire pudding with roasted garlic mash, topped with crispy leeks and drizzled with Baco Noir jus. The next station over, Chef Elbert Wierseman’s Skirt Steak Rouladen was my favourite. It was prosciutto stuffed skirt steak with crispy spaghetti squash cake and a purple shallot Merlot drizzle. The sauce brought the dish to the next level and it went really well with the protein and veggie cake.
Chef Matt Atkinson’s Lobster and Brie Grilled Cheese assaulted my nostrils with the smell of delicious buttered toast. I loved every part of the greasy mini panini, the lobster and brie were in harmony. The cute little shot of roasted tomato and double smoked bacon soup washed it down nicely. Both elements were full of fun flavours! Onto another brie dish, Chef Sidney Krick stuffed brie, pecan and dried cranberries in puff pastry then topped it with a spy apple rosemary chutney. It was beautiful, delicate, and simple.
On my sixth sample, I got Chef Bill Greenan’s Northern Rainbow Trout. It came with a buckwheat honey, soy, and sesame glaze, sautéed baby bok choy, and woodland forest mushrooms. It was right up my alley with all the Asian flavours happenin’ – executed very well with the balanced glaze and the wonderfully cooked trout. I loved the little bites of bok choy and mushrooms too! I barely had enough for one more dish, I really wish my stomach could handle more food. Chef Tim Vandelaar’s Stuffed Ontario Pork Tenderloin was my last sample of the day. The sausage and Idared (type of apple) stuffed tenderloin came with a bacon and scallion roti and Dijon cream sauce. The protein was delicious and the cream sauce gave it a rich and beautiful texture. The bacon and scallion roti gave the dish a fun little crispy bite.
While speeches and door-prizes were underway to wrap up the event, I nibbled on some fruit and sweets from the gorgeous dessert table put together by Chef Richard Beiber. I should’ve just toughed it out and shovelled the Smoked Duck Ravioli down my throat. Then I could say I tasted all the dishes! Anyways, Chef Paul was a comical speaker and kept things light-hearted. I believe him when he said, “supporting local is an important direction,” because that’s how we can all grow. I’m really happy I got the chance to sample dishes from all of the Niagara Parks’ restaurants under one roof because, let’s be real. If I went to each of them individually, I’d have a panic attack from looking at the credit card statements.
After the Niagara Chef Showcase, I took a trip up to the Butterfly Conservatory! The drive from Legends of the Niagara was really easy, I just hopped on the Niagara Parkway and headed North until I saw signs for the conservatory. I really enjoyed the drive up there too. I passed a beautiful abandoned/close-off historic-looking building, a kick-ass view of the cluster at Niagara Falls, an insane perspective from a-top the Falls, all the lame tourists who stop their cars in the no-stopping-zones, funky souvenir-shops, a lot of Bed & Breakfast inns, The Great Wolf Lodge, and nature-y spots along the Niagara River.
It’s a neat place to check out if you’re into nature-adventures or if you’re looking for a fun family outing. I’m slightly afraid of insects so I was on dodging-mode whenever something flew near me. Yes, they’re harmless, I’m just a pansy. I admired from a distance! Beautiful little creatures 🙂 The lush greens and the humid air transports you into a rainforest and away from the icky, icy, coldness that’s still lingering in April!
Entry to the Niagara Chef Showcase and the Butterfly Conservatory was provided by Niagara Parks, opinions expressed are my own.