[Note: Not much of a food post but at least you know what I did in Upstate NY/Niagara Falls]
My journey up North actually started at 2 AM when my entire family hauled our butts from bed, brewed really strong coffee and set out to upstate New York (by car) to go to our first destination – a farm. Yes, as an urbanite, it’s almost a shock to me since I never seen so many rolling green hills and farm animals.
By the time we finally got to Murphy’s Orchards, we parked out on the lot of paved dirt and set out walking to the a huge field of cherry trees.
So we all started to walk to any tree that has good looking, sweet cherries (my family’s not too fond of sour cherries and we can’t bake within a few days) and picked them.
As you can see at the photo above of my brother’s palm, these cherries ain’t puny. They’re large, sweet-tart and delicious. Sometimes I wish I could live on a farm for the sake of having very fresh fruits and veggies. Except I’m a lazy bum who wouldn’t really want to do a lot of physical work.
Crossing over the border, Vineyard, and Hillebrand
After getting burned by the scorching sun a bit and gotten several pounds of cherries, we all went back to the car and drove across the border to Canada. To go to Hillebrand Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I thought we’re going to take a winery tour except the fact that my dad can’t drink since he’s mainly driving and I think you know by now I have a low alcohol tolerance. (The tour concludes with wine tastings.) But what we ended up doing was perusing their wine store and bought two bottles of wine to bring back home. What I learned was that Canada (or in Niagara only) doesn’t charge sales tax on wine.
Then we schlepped ourselves over to Niagara Parks Botanical Garden. Personally, I don’t care much for flowers but since my mom was strongly urging me to plot this into the GPS, I don’t have a choice. She loves flowers, so this would make her happy. Of the few things I’ve encountered in that garden was the fact that they do publicly display poisonous flowers like the one you see above without any fence or glass to shield anyone off from potential death. And they grew some vegetables like soybean and eggplant…except it looks a bit dehydrated sitting out in the sun.
My parents decided to have an early dinner. And I do mean early – as in 4 PM. Does that count as dinner? Anyway, since I’ve tried scouring the Interwebs for the past few weeks while planning on this vacation, I found out that Niagara Falls does not have good food. I searched through Chowhound that there’s at least one decent place called Betty’s Restaurant that has good fish and chips.
My entire family ordered pretty much the same thing except different sides and I wanted something quasi-healthy (which I will tell you in a bit what they were). The coleslaw and rolls served to us were pretty darn good. The slaw isn’t swimming in a ton of dressing and it’s not too sweet. The rolls were slightly warmed, sweet and fluffy.
As you can see, most of my family ordered the seafood platter, which is composed of fried fish fillet, shrimp, and maybe a few small scallops and some type of starch on the side. The seafood was pretty crisp that it’s fried crust shattered a bit when my family was cutting into their fish. As for my Halibut Creole; which is halibut baked with tomato, onion, and spice (whatever that means) served with potato – I opted for fries. I have to say, my dish was as good as it looks. Meaning, it’s sloppy and it’s not that tasty. The fish was too wet and overcooked, the tomatoes were pretty lifeless and the fries were soggy. I should have stuck with my family’s choice.
We move over to dessert. If you ask what they have for dessert? The only thing they have are pies. So, the flavors of the day were strawberry, rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, coconut cream, lemon meringue, and a few others that I can’t remember. So, my brother and my dad opted for strawberry rhubarb since they never eaten it before and I had the lemon meringue. My mom felt really full that she didn’t want any dessert.
The strawberry rhubarb pie was actually pretty good. The filling was sweet from the strawberries and a touch of bracing tartness from the rhubarb; nothing was too overwhelming. But the crust was a bit too soggy and not much flaky action going on. It ain’t bad.
As for my humongous slice of lemon meringue pie, I have a similar qualm with the crust. In terms of flavor, it’s fine – refreshingly tart and bright from the lemon but texturally, it’s like eating lemon flavored jello. Not exactly what I want to eat when I’m eating pie. The meringue is good, nothing much to write about except it kind of acts like baked whipped cream in contrast to that gelatinous lemon filling.
This diner is decent for what they serve despite being almost in the middle of nowhere and I prefer eating in a local diner than some overpriced franchise or restaurant that’s moments away from the Falls.
After finishing up and pay the check, we drove back and thankfully found parking and wait until nightfall for the illumination and fireworks. Patience is a virtue in order to get a good spot to see everything and take a decent picture of the event. So, just to get you in a slightly festive mode, here’s a few of the photos I’ve taken.
The finale that lit up the night sky
Stay tuned for the food fest in Toronto…
2402 McClew Road
Burt, NY 14028
Hillebrand Estates Winery
1249 Niagara Stone Road
ON L0S 1J0, Canada
8921 Sodom Road
Niagara Falls, ON CA L2E 6S6
What was poisonous about the flowers? Like you couldn’t touch them, or eat them?
Danny: According to another sign (I forgot to take a photo of it), says that we can’t touch them. It’s tempting to do it but I don’t want to ruin my vacation by a trip to the emergency room.
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