For a hint oF napa valley in niagara
where: 242 Mary St., Niagara-on-the-Lake driving time From toronto: Two hours
There’s no shortage of charming gingerbread storefronts in Niagara-on-theLake. But this restaurant sits next to a Subway and a convenience store in a strip mall far removed from the town’s picturesque main street. It’s one of those unpromising locations that only heightens the feeling of a special discovery. Chef Ryan Crawford—taking inspiration from an apprenticeship at Michael Stadtländer’s iconic Eigensinn Farm and a spell at the French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley landmark— practises what he grandly calls “integrated cool-climate cuisine,” borrowing a wine term to describe how almost everything he cooks hails from nearby, including from his own produce farm less than a kilometre away. He cures his own bresaola and brines his own breadand-butter pickles. He dresses a salad of just-picked greens with barely-there verjus and locally cold-pressed canola oil. The pork in a light ragoût for a bowl of hand-made rigatoni comes from Berkshire pigs that roam freely on a neighbouring farm, dining on acorns and spent grains from the Oast House brewery. The dining room, filled with happy Shaw-goers, is spare and elegant, with oak logs stacked by the entry, a glassed-in wine cellar, and a view of an open kitchen where Crawford works a wood-fired brick oven and grill. I especially recommend the burger, which is flash-charred, and stacked with crisped pancetta, a funky aïoli made with local black garlic, pickles and melting slices of mimolette. It’s so good you might believe burgers are a local invention, too. Cost: $99 per person for the 12-course chef’s tasting menu. Wine pairings from $89.
1. House-made speck, capicollo, duck liver mousse, apricot compote, bread-andbutter pickles, and wood-oven rye and whole wheat sourdough breads
2. Chef Ryan Crawford
4. House-made rigatoni bolognese
3. Burger with black garlic aïoli, pancetta and mimolette cheese