On a sunny but cool Sunday morning, the boy and I set out on an early morning tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake. But we weren’t just planning to join the hordes of tourists cluttering the sidewalks of the prettiest town in Canada. No way! If we were going to drive two hours and then commit to walking for two more, there was going to be a reward that my taste buds would appreciate! Enter Niagara-on-the-Lake “Taste the Town” food tours.
We met Bill, the guide, and the other members joining the tour on the main street running through town. After an initial intro of names and where we hailed from, the thirteen of us, some from as far as Vancouver and Saskatoon, quickly fell into a friendly banter. Of course, I had to roll my eyes when once again someone assumed that we hailed from “the other London” (must be the accent…NOT!).
As the tour began, we popped into our first stop, Greaves Jams and Marmalades to sample three jams; apricot, plum, and blueberry. Everyone had a favourite. I had my first sugar rush of the day. Delicious!
Bill led the group on a meandering walk through the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Every so often he would pause to point out prime examples of the architectural styles that dot this early Canadian town. His booming voice and entertaining anecdotes filled us in on the historical significance of key locations. This was a place of many firsts. First capital of Upper Canada. First museum. First library. First national bank. And this is the only place in Canada that has a Lord Mayor!
Our next stop was an olive oil and vinegar tasting at Oliv Tasting Room. The owners import their oil from a family farm in South Africa, while the balsamic vinegars hail from Modena in Italy. The buttery flavour of the oils coated my tongue while leaving behind a fresh, green, peppery taste. The lovely owner of the shop shared a few of the uses of the products by handing out samples of quickly assembled hors d’ouvres. Garlic oil on popcorn won the day for me!
After the oil tasting, we plunged back onto the sun-filled sidewalks. We slowly wandered down to the edge of Lake Ontario where we got our next taste of the tour. We savoured a dark chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting and a luscious cheesecake bite courtesy of Con Gusto Artisan Bakery.
After a brief pause to rest our feet on the back patio of the Somerset B&B, we continued to our next two stops. At Bistro Six-One, we were greeted with a freshly wood-oven made Mediterranean style pizza and a beautiful dark amber beer. The aptly named Cheese Secret (a tiny shop hidden behind the buildings of the main drag – Queen Street) offered a sampling of their cheeses along with dried fruit and crackers.
On the way to our final stop of the tour we passed The Olde Angel Inn. The home of a delicious restaurant and an even more delicious tale of ghostly visits. The Olde Angel, Ontario’s oldest operating inn, is said to be haunted by Captain Colin Swayze who was murdered by American soldiers while awaiting the arrival of his sweetheart. He is said to walk the Inn at night and be responsible for many unexplained occurrences. Anyone who knows me and my fascination with the spooky world beyond will realize that dinner at the restaurant is now on my “Must Do” list. I might just have to do a Haunted Walk blog post from Niagara-on-the-Lake.
At this little shop a thought struck me about all the businesses we visited on the tour. They are small, local, often family run operations. They are the kind of places that make small towns special and need the patronage of both residents and tourists to continue operating. Niagara-on-the-Lake Taste the Town provides the tour goers with a 10% off coupon to each of the business for some after tour shopping. The boy and I were more than happy to oblige.
And since I’ve already let you in on my ghostly secret obsession, I might as well tell you that I also believe in fate. The fact that I now live in Canada, in London in particular, and the fact that I have a very special man in my life, I attribute to destiny. So I couldn’t leave Niagara-on-the-Lake without taking note of a very special sign. Maybe fate is telling me to find a more permanent spot in Canada’s prettiest town!