Tucked away in Niagara Wine Region, Trius Winery at Hillebrand features an onsite restaurant, headed up by executive chef Frank Dodd, that turns out upscale plates built on first-rate, locally sourced ingredients.
One night, there are two stellar soups, one chilled, and built on sugar-sweet Niagara peas, brilliantly complemented by bacon ice cream; the other hot and silky and anchored by Ontario late-summer corn.
Served in a cast-iron pan, gently fried, sunny-side-up duck egg perches on earthy mushrooms, herb ricotta and basil pesto.
Pickled watermelon complements summer-perfect heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, golden beets and organic watercress. A plump pan-seared Atlantic scallop perches on a slice of rich head cheese, smoked apple and blood sausage providing sweet and earthy counterpoint.
Slender batons of zucchini blossoms, stuffed with goat cheese, are perfectly fried tempura-style and set off with sea buckthorn curd.
Bridging the gap from starters to mains is a tiny popsicle made from raspberry ice-wine granite.
Palates cleansed, we dive into two stellar entrées: beef ribeye paired with juicy pastrami sausage and bite-sized potpie animated by sweet ice-wine onion jam; and Cornish hen accessorized with smoked bacon, hen of the woods mushrooms, beets and corn polenta.
Finishing off this feast is silky potted cheesecake topped with diced sweet strawberries and chocolate ‘soil,’ and a petit four (smooth, dark-chocolate ganache lollipop on a marshmallow base).
Enhancing the night’s pleasure is an airy, high-ceilinged room outfitted with wingback chairs, modern light fixtures and picture windows looking out over the terrace and, beyond that, the sprawling vineyard.
Group dining options include The Studio, a private space overlooking Trius Winery Restaurant and seating 24 people; The Vineyard Pavilion, seating 110; Trius Red Barrel Cellar, seating 32; Winemakers Lookout, a seasonally available extension of the restaurant patio, seating 24; and the Trius Red Room, featuring a central tasting bar.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,200 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.