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Niagara And Surrounding Area

The Niagara Blog:     Lunch with Executive Chef, Frank Dodd, at Trius Winery Restaurant, Niagara on the Lake

Executive Chef Frank Dodd, photo by Mike Keenan
Executive Chef Frank Dodd

Located conveniently on Stone Rd., (Highway 55) mid-way from the QEW to Niagara on the Lake, the sprawling Trius Winery at Hillebrand Dining Room (owned by Peller Estates) is a convenient stop for both wine and food. Here, we soon learn that they are expert at pairing the two.

Executive Chef Frank Dodd lives close by in Virgil, and our gain is the UK's loss. Frank hails from Salford, just outside Manchester, and he learned early in school that he excelled at cooking and that the classes were predominantly female. With such encouragement, he eventually worked at some of the world's finest dining establishments including The Savoy and Dorchester Hotels in London as well as Cliveden Hotel, one of Trius Wine Rack, photo by Mike Keenan Britain's finest country houses. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has worked at Biff's, Vancouver's Wedgewood Hotel, and Langdon Hall before taking the Executive Chef position at Trius Winery Restaurant in 2006.

We discover that Frank devotes meticulous attention to detail in the kitchen. The presentation of each dish is as high-quality as the taste, and our capable server, Anthony, expertly describes each and every ingredient. We soon discovered also that the restaurant rating moves up a considerable notch when the savoury food is skillfully paired with Aussie winemaker Craig McDonald's (Ontario Winemaker of the Year in 2008) zesty wines. Craig admits, "Niagara's my kitchen, and like all good Australians, I went on walkabout, but never returned."

Frank oversees a staff of 14, and he is principally a European (French) style chef with "a North American twist." We start on a light note with Trius sparkling wine and a bowl of lollipops: yellow coloured ice-cream and carrot, pink macaroons and orange marshmallows enjoyed in a relaxed upscale setting, listening to soothing, soft jazz and gazing out large banks of windows, revealing multiple rows of grapes protected by the Niagara Escarpment under a lovely blue sky. Behind us is a glass-encased wine cellar, the symmetrical horizontal vintages serving as décor. Idyllic? Yes, indeed! All that is missing is a few fluffy sheep.

Soon, a variety of homemade, delicious breads arrive with butter infused with red wine and sea salt. My spouse and I are sure to soon join the 12-step program! For starters, she orders Spring Vine Tomato and Sweet Pepper Bisque - Sweet Tomato Salad and Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella paired with the Artist Series 'Limited Edition' Pinot Gris 2011. The soup is poured around the salad by Anthony. I order East Coast Diver Scallop - Confit Maple Pork Bacon and Sweet Pea Ravioli Apple, Bacon and Raisin Dressing paired with Trius Dry Riesling 2011. Both wine and starters are terrific.

East Coast Diver Scallop, photo by Mike Keenan  Lollipops, photo by Mike Keenan  Nova Scotia Salmon Fillet, photo by Mike Keenan   Spring Rhubarb and Apple Crumble, photo by Mike Keenan   Spring Vine Tomato and Sweet Pepper Bisque   Trius Rib Eye Burger, photo by Mike Keenan

Frank advises that GTA types have become regulars here with many joining the Wine Club which gives them first refusal at his cooking school (see recipes on website below) which has become a roaring success, catering to weekend groups of no more than 24, and utilizing high tech cameras and large screens.

For our main course, my spouse selects the Trius Rib Eye Burger - Maple Peameal Bacon, Blue Haze Cheese, Spring Cabbage Slaw Hand Cut Truffle Fries and House Ketchup paired with Trius Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, and I select Nova Scotia Salmon Fillet - Lobster and Scallop Sausage, Spring Asparagus, Dill Potatoes, Golden Beets and Hick's Greens paired with Trius Rose 2011. Both are superb. The Prix Fixe Menu is $38 with Wine Pairings at $25.

For dessert, we split the Spring Rhubarb and Apple Crumble-Ginger Cream, Rhubarb and Oat Sandwich paired with sweet Vidal Icewine 2010. Yum!

A special way to enjoy the wine and food served here is to attend Trius Jazz and Blues at the Winery, which has showcased premier Canadian talent in Niagara Wine Country for the past 24 years. Saturday, July 13 is the date for the Jazz Festival with Saturday, August, 10 set for the Blues Festival. Besides the restaurant, Frank will have a take-out "market" set aside for the music patrons.

If You Go
Reservations: (905) 468-7123
Website: http://www.triuswines.com/

Trius Winery at Hillebrand

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