Travel Diaries – Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is full of charming and quaint buildings such as the Prince of Wales Hotel located in the center of town.

I recently took a weekend trip out to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my good friend Carmy. Niagara-on-the-Lake should not be confused with Niagara Falls – the region is a 20-30 minute drive away from Niagara Falls and the two areas couldn’t be more different. While they both cater to tourists, Niagara-on-the-Lake is more of a quaint residential community and is far more quiet and relaxed than the hustle and bustle found within Niagara Falls. I felt something slower paced and more on the relaxed side was perfect for this weekend.

The 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa is one of the many boutique hotels in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We arrived Saturday shortly before noon and checked into our hotel. The 124 on Queen is a boutique hotel located on Queen Street which is the main commercial street for Niagara-on-the-Lake. We found the staff friendly and helpful – they were able to accommodate our early check-in and took us to our room. The room itself was on the small side but well-appointed and cozy. The only thing I was disappointed with was that they didn’t have any spa appointments available for the day.

The interior of one of the rooms at The 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa.

After dropping our things off in the room, we headed out to explore Queen Street. Queen Street is the main thoroughfare in Niagara-on-the-Lake, it contains gift shops, hotels, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a couple of theatres. Below are a couple of pictures I took during our walk – it was a bit of a gloomy day because of the rain.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Tulips
The tulip lined streets in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the clock tower in the background.

Queen Street has hundreds of tulips planted on both sides of the streets. Typically tulips blossom at the beginning of May however, many of them remained closed today because of the cold and rainy weather. Tulips generally open during the day when it’s warm and sunny out and close at night or when it’s cool and rainy out.

Known as the “Heritage District”, many of the buildings located on Queen Street have a historical look to them, including modern franchises such as the LCBO.

Queen Street is also known as the “Heritage District” and many of the buildings are reflective of that. I found the architecture in Niagara-on-the-Lake to be quite charming with all the different colored buildings. It felt almost as though we had been transported to a different time period.

Gift shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake
One of the many gift shops in Niagara-on-the-Lake that we wandered into.

We found a number of little gift shops selling everything from baked goods, to clothing to Niagara-on-the-Lake souvenirs.

Greaves Lemon Marmalade
Yum! I do love some lemon marmalade on my toast at breakfast time!

Greaves has jam and jellies in almost every flavor imaginable along with all the accessories you might need for breakfast or an afternoon tea service.

Cow's Ice Cream
Apple Pie ice cream? Yes, please! I can’t say no to ice cream even if it’s cold and rainy out.

For those of you who are fans of Cows, there is a location in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was my first visit but hopefully not my last. It was hard deciding amongst the flavours but I selected PEI Apple Pie which had caramel ribbons and pieces of apple pie in the ice cream. The ice cream itself was creamy and rich without being overly sweet. It was delicious! And the staff take ice cream seriously – I noticed all cones were weighed before being given to the customers. I think this was to ensure that everyone had a uniform amount of ice cream.

Rancourt wine glasses

Rancourt winery was one of the wineries we visited while in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We sampled several of their wines while the owners talked about how the wines were produced.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is probably best known for all the wineries in the region. There are more than 30 wineries in the area and not all of the products can be found at the local LCBO stores. You can visit each winery individually but we opted to take a tour with Grape Escape Wine Tours (

The tour started in the morning when we were picked up by our tour guide and driver Diane at the hotel and then taken to several different wineries. We weren’t given a list or told of the wineries ahead of time so it was kind of an interesting surprise each time we made a stop. A few guests on our tour made a request to stop at one particular winery but were told it was not possible.

Jackson-Triggs winery
Our tour at the Jackson-Triggs winery not only included a wine tasting but also included a tour of their production and storage facilities.

Our first stop was the Jackson-Triggs winery. It
was one of the larger wineries in the region. We had a tour of their production facilities and learned how wine is produced. Our guide also explained to us how to do a structured wine tasting which involves several steps.

  1. Tilt the glass and hold it up to the light. You’re checking for the clarity of the wine, making sure it’s not foggy, bubbly, or containing cork pieces.
  2. Sniff to check for unpleasant aromas.
  3. Swirl the glass to add oxygen which helps to bring out flavours.
  4. Taste! The first sip should be used to cleanse your pallet and the second and third sips are used to taste the wine.
Ice wine from Strewn winery
The ice wine from Strewn winery was one of my favourites from our tour that day.

My favorite was an ice wine from Strewn Winery which was a little different from other ice wines in that it was double pressed. Our guide at Strewn explained that the double pressing helped to reduce the sweetness of the ice wine. I found that because it was less sweet, it was easier to drink than some of the other ice wines we had sampled that day.

The OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant
We enjoyed a three-course lunch at the OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant located on the grounds of the Strewn Winery.

Our tour also included a lunch stop at the OLiV Tasting Room and Restaurant located in the Strewn Winery. I thought it was a great way to finish off the tour – it was nice to sit down and enjoy a gourmet lunch after spending the morning at all the wineries.

All of the menu items included different types of OLiV olive oil and balsamic vinegars that were available for sale. I was surprised that balsamic vinegar was even used in the panna cotta dessert.

Tomato salad appetizer
I chose Caprese Insalata as my lunch appetizer. It had bocconcini cheese, basil pesto, red and yellow tomatoes, and Himalayan pink salt. The salad was finished with Italian herb infused EVO oil and black currant balsamic.
For my main, I selected the Atlantic salmon which was served on a bed of Israeli couscous containing Turkish apricots, pistachios, shallots, and green onions. The dish was finished with OLiV Lemon EVO oil.
Panna cotta
And finally panna cotta for dessert! It came with a bit of balsamic on the side to drizzle on top.

Overall I enjoyed my weekend away at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a nice change of scenery and pace compared to life in a big city like Toronto. With the number of different wineries available in the region, I will definitely be back for another weekend.


Travel Diaries – Hong Kong & Macau

Hong Kong Harbour
Hong Kong as seen from across the harbour in Kowloon.

Hong Kong was the first stop on my three week tour of China. I timed the visit so that I could run the Hong Kong Half Marathon. I had about a week to take in the city and see the sights. It was barely enough time in my opinion but those are the risks when you combine a race together with a vacation.  Continue reading “Travel Diaries – Hong Kong & Macau”

Whole Wheat Cherry Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Earlier this week, I decided to take an impromptu weekend road trip. It was one of those “I have to get out-of-town” moments. The weekend started off pretty well– I was packed and had my little survival kit including a batch of cherry chocolate chip banana muffins (recipe to follow). Unfortunately in the mishegosh of packing, it seems a certain someone forgot a certain driver’s license which meant I was stuck doing ALL the driving. Don’t get me wrong, I like driving and I like road trips, but the one thing I realized is that road trips have to be done with a group of people you don’t mind being around for a couple many hours. Especially when everyone in the car wants to play backseat driver.
Continue reading “Whole Wheat Cherry Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins”

Orange Honey Madeleines

I have a confession to make. The first time I ever ate a Madeleine was at Disney World and then the next time I had one was at Starbucks. You know the kind that you pick up on a whim at the cash register? The ones from the Boulangerie Pâtisserie in Epcot were also sitting by the cash. I guess they’re an impulse purchase. I’m not sure how authentic those madeleines were but I liked the ones I had so much that I ran out and bought a Madeleine pan but this was a few years ago. I’m a little embarrassed to say that the pan sat unused until last weekend. Continue reading “Orange Honey Madeleines”

Cherry and Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Cherries are in season and I came home with a big bag of them a few days ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them all but I knew I wanted to try something different. I had just finished making a focaccia and thought it would be interesting to see how a normally savoury bread would work with sweet ingredients. I still wanted to keep the savoury element so I added fresh rosemary and some fleur de sel for sprinkling on top.

The focaccia dough proofs in the olive oil but don’t let that throw you off. The oil gives the bread a really nice hint of rosemary flavor – it doesn’t make the bread  heavy or too oily. Finally, the cherries add a bright freshness to the bread. Not something you’d normally expect to find in a focaccia.So give this recipe a try the next time you’re looking for a slightly sweeter bread to serve during your breakfast or brunch. Enjoy!

And now to decide what to do with the rest of these cherries…  Continue reading “Cherry and Rosemary Focaccia Bread”

Broccoli Salad

Is it still too hot to turn on the stove or oven in your part of the world? Over the weekend, we had a small break from the hot weather when it rained on Saturday but it was still humid and muggy. It makes me think of that Simpsons episode where Homer builds a tent onto the fridge because it’s so hot. Ah, fridge tent! I think I’ll be needing one of those this summer. Phew! But back to the subject of cooking and eating. If you don’t want to cook, you can get take out but that gets boring and expensive after a while. I decided to take a recipe for one of my favorite salads and change it up a bit. Okay, it still involves a bit of stove top use but it’s worth it I promise.

Continue reading “Broccoli Salad”

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie Balls

Looks like July is here and I hope everyone’s summer is going well so far! I have no complaints except for the excessively hot weather. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the heat over the cold and snow any day, but I love baking and running. Especially with baking, I’ve only been turning on my oven when I absolutely have to. So I went through some of the recipes I had and came across one for a no-bake cookie that was given to me by my chiropractor Marco.  Continue reading “Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie Balls”

Review: Toronto Ribfest 2012

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It’s the Canada Day long weekend, which can mean a number of things – an extra day off work, a trip to the cottage, fireworks, or… Ribfest. Held every year in Centennial Park over the Canada Day weekend, Toronto’s Ribfest is a chance for you to stuff your face full of ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, blooming onions, and whatever else you happen to find.
Continue reading “Review: Toronto Ribfest 2012”

June Foodie Penpals – Reveal Day

The Lean Green Bean

It’s June 30th which means it’s reveal day for the Foodie Penpal program. The Foodie Penpal program is the brainchild of Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean.  I love the idea of penpals and getting something in the mail other than my credit card bill. Interested? Here’s how the exchange works: Continue reading “June Foodie Penpals – Reveal Day”