After our late night on Clifton Hill, we got to sleep in until 8:30! Our mornings during filming usually start around 6:00, so this was a treat. We enjoyed our lovely breakfast in our room, then met up with Chef Cory Linkson of AG Inspired Cuisine. Chef Corey is the executive chef and mastermind behind this fantastic farm to table experience at the Sterling Inn. And when we say farm to table, we really mean it!! Chef Cory leases 2 acres of land at a local Niagara-on-the-Lake farm. He employs a full-time farmer named Rick who oversees the produce. Chef Cory has total control over all aspects of the operation, from what he wants to grow, seed selection, and preservation of the harvest, not mention the creative ways he transforms the produce into his dishes. As he toured us around the farm, pointing out the tiny patty pan squash in the “jungle” of squash plants, the colorful swiss chard, it was so easy to see how much he loves what he does. He even experiments with different things to grow, such some tomatillos that he is mulling over how to use creatively. All of the vegetables he uses in the restaurant come from this 2-acre plot, so in a way, the garden dictates what he prepares! The fruit he uses comes from another farmer in the same terroir. He loaded up the back of his jeep with broccoli, patty pans, basil, eggplant, fennel, lettuce, cabbage, greens, and tomatoes. This would be the beginnings of our side dishes for later tonight. We could not wait to taste the dishes he would create with these “minutes- from- the- plant” veggies!
Appetites for fresh produce whet, we stopped by a nearby roadside fruit stand to pick up a few apricots, tiny yellow plums, and cherries to snack on as we headed into the countryside for our next adventure… the Whirlpool Jet Boat! As a side note, as US cell and interent coverage may be scare in outlying areas, maps are essential. The local maps available at most hotels and some shops are excellent, and we navigated everywhere with ease.
Back to the jet boat… this is not your run of the mill relaxing Maid of the Mist type ride, and certainly not for the faint of heart! It is a true whitewater adventure. You can catch one from closer to Niagara, but we chose the longer ride starting at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Tina and Jessica explained the safety precautions as we walked down to the dock near the mouth of the Niagara River. Heather, not being very adventurous, was just a wee bit about this after she had seen the videos online! Nate (one of the guides) did his best to ensure that the ride would be totally awesome. I did not need convincing since this boat ride combines two of my favorite things… white water rapids and going fast! And Gail was super pumped about this. She inherited the portion of adventurous spirit that Heather missed out on! Nate suggested we wear the yellow ponchos… not to stay dry though because no poncho in the world could do that! It was to keep us from being so cold since we’d be soaking wet as the boat zoomed at 60mph. After donning our “minion” look-alike outfits and life jackets, we boarded our boat, the Saute Mouton 17. Our guide was H.Y., a bi-lingual Korean-Canadian who leads the tours for their Korean tourists. We sat in the front row, which H.Y. explained was the Tsunami Row as we would feel the full force of the tsunami coming over the boat as we went through the Class 5 rapids. Bring. It. On!!!
The engine of this specially designed boat is 1800 horse power, or, as H.Y. pointed out, the equivalent of 1,000,000 squirrels! As we idled out of the marina, H.Y. told us some history of the War of 1812, as we passed Fort Niagara on the US side, and Fort George on the Canadian side. He did this is both English and Korean. Soon we sped up, with America to our left, and Canada to our right. We sped UPSTREAM over the water at nearly 60 mph toward the large bend in the rover called the Whirlpool. Before getting there though, we arrived Devil’s Hole – a series of Class 5 rapids coming straight towards us! So up those 1,000,000 squirrels pulled us, before our captain turned us around to go through them! That was when the fun began. Seriously, tidal waves of water came crashing down into the boat….100% soaked! Heather observed “There is nothing that can prepare you for that much water crashing at you” as you crash through the rapids. I literally lost a contact! Heather had a sort of mini-Niagara Falls formed from her hair washing in front of her face with an unreal number of gallons of water pouring over it. After the first run through the rapids, her apprehension died, and she was loving at much as Assistant Gail and I were. The captain made several passes for us back and forth before moving on to the whirlpool. Here we came up to the edge of what H.Y. told us were Class 6 rapids!! Oh.My.Gosh. When he told us to reach down to find the seatbelts under our seats, Heather was the first top frantically search…before realizing he was totally kidding. It is illegal to go over the Class 6 rapids! Once back at the dock, H.Y. pulled a little prank on Heather as we filmed the outro…and she ended up with a bucket of water over her head! Not to worry – not and square inch of you is dry after this awesome experience! This is seriously the most fun I have ever had. All the staff helped to make the trip super fun . Shout out to Alex for rigging up our GoPro, which survived the tsunamis very well, thank you very much… and way drier than us! There are changing facilitates available, and video footage and photos are available for purchase as well. A definite must-do!!! And sit in the front row, by all means!
Back at the Sterling, we showered the river water off, and dressed for our dinner at AG Inspired Cuisine. The ambiance is super elegant – the color motif is deep red, with modern crystal light fixtures, curtains, and sleek design. Kellie was our server, and her exuberance for her job was evident. The menu is season-driven, with only seasonal produce included. Lucky for us there is such variety in summer…except that it made deciding difficult. Before our appetizers, Chef Cory surprised us with a pre-starter appetizer! Venison tartare with a strawberry cream and balsamic glaze served over a wafer cracker. This was a real extension of my culinary bravery, as I am not a venison fan, and am not a raw meat fan! But it was very delicious – tons of spices and herbs in the meat. As a starter, Courtney chose the wild boar over pasta, with patty pans, mouton rouge cheese, and pesto. I selected the fresh sweet corn bisque. This was served with pesto and herb mélange in the center, and sprinkled table side with truffle popcorn! Gail’s appetizer was the charcuterie plate, with an assortment of sliced sausages and meats, various slaws and relishes. The most interesting item on her plate was the water buffalo sausage. The experience of dining at AG is just that – an experience, and not just a meal. We sat back and relaxed, and savored each course. Kellie arrived with another surprise – a glass of ice cold rose for each of us. Chef was preparing a “mid-course” for us, and she explained this wine would be the perfect pairing. It was a work of art – a puff pastry shell with sliced local tomatoes and peaches, topped with roasted rabbit and an herbed cream sauce. The plate was dressed with a sauce and a line of dehydrated crushed red pepper powder from last year’s crop. Chef explained to us that when he has extra produce left at the end of the season he will dehydrate it and find uses for it in other ways! Very resourceful.
Almost full already, out main courses arrived. Courtney ordered the horse-radish encrusted salmon with peach salsa and candied walnuts, all on a bed of thin sliced patty pans. Gail ordered the pork chop with turnip puree with balsamic roasted strawberries, served with a side of black truffle bacon potato salad. My entrée was almond brie encrusted beef tenderloin on a bed of lemon garlic green, on savory potato cake, all served on a foie gras currant jus. These entrees looked like art…but not only in presentation. The art of combining flavors and textures together just right is also a true art! And these dishes did not disappoint. It was so fun to recognize the swiss chard, turnips, basil, and patty pans we had seen literally growing in the ground that morning. And the degree of flavor and tenderness in veggies that had only been harvested 12 hours earlier was amazing. Truly FIELD to FORK!
Dessert was a must despite feeling already stuffed. Courtney opted for fruity – a cherry almond torte with dulce de leche and salted toffee gelato. Fruity for her as usual! And for me… the usual rich chocolate item – a dark chocolate velvet tart with cherry compote and vanilla bean chantilly. Three hours after we started, we had finished. This was one of the top memorable meal experiences we have ever had. Thanks so much Kellie and the rest of the servers for the incredible service ,and to Chef Cory for sharing your passion with us.
Enjoy the journey,
Courtney and Heather