Over Thanksgiving weekend, we dined splendidly at upscale White Oaks Resort, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
First up was dinner at LIV, the resort’s softly lit, white-tablecloth restaurant decked out in understated greys and blacks.
On the plate, executive chef Michael Price has refined the menu to reflect the seasons and focus on glorious, locally grown produce.
Exhibit A: The nightly soup, velvety cream of broccoli given great depth of flavour with Asiago cheese. Salads also shine. There’s a Caesar built on an anchovy-forward vinaigrette, and another salad highlighting ultra-fresh mixed greens, grape tomatoes, julienned cucumber, red onion, smoked cashews, chevre and watermelon jazzed with a balanced mint vinaigrette.
Palates cleansed by passionfruit sorbet, we dig into a trio of strong mains: Caribbean-spiced chicken supreme accessorized with pineapple salsa and black bean wild rice; juicy, bacon-wrapped rack of lamb; and 14 oz. Ontario veal chop beautifully complemented by earthy bacon bean succotash.
Desserts bring rich, eggy crème brulée and sour cream apple crumble anchored by rich fruit filling.
Next day, refreshed from a good night’s sleep in the resort’s plush guestrooms, we explored Saturday brunch at Grow Kitchen & Café, the casual dining space that opened Sept. 6 in the lobby of White Oaks’ impressive health and racquet club.
Make no mistake: While Grow is a casual space, its brunch dishes, under the watchful eye of executive chef Kyle Paton, show great refinement. Fresh mint and dill perfume delicate scrambled eggs overtop aged cheddar. Thick-cut sourdough anchors a couple of super sandwiches: croque madame filled with thin slices of house-cured trout and topped with sunnyside egg, and an open-faced creation topped with wild mushrooms, chevre and pickled pearl onions.
That same sourdough is transformed into extravagant French toast animated by smoked Comfort Cream cheese and wildberry jam.
We finish with a trio of sophisticated desserts: tart, silky panna cotta made with Greek yogurt; smooth lemon curd buzzing with citrus; and frozen mousse beautifully scented with fennel’s black licorice notes.
Available for group buyout, LIV can accommodate 100 people, seated (menu prices start at $88 per person plus taxes and gratuities). Sunhill Dining Room accommodates up to 250 (its conference buffet costs $47 per person plus taxes and gratuities).
Another group option is the health club’s sizeable tennis court space that’s now available to host events and tradeshows.
— 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.