How To Plan Your Perfect Day at Niagara Falls. The Non-Traditional Way at Wayne Gretzky Estates & Trius Winery

If you're trying to find ideas and inspiration for a quick getaway to escape the city life just for a little bit at least, this is one article you are going to want to read! Now bare with me here as you are all probably rolling your eyes at the title of Niagara Falls, because quite frankly even I can admit that Niagara Falls as a getaway destination can feel unoriginal and overused. Everyone and their mother has probably gone to Niagara Falls at least once in the past few years, and when you have a distant friend or relative visiting the city the first place you think of taking them is to visit the Falls. Don't get me wrong, if you have never been to Niagara Falls going here is a must as it is most definitely one of Canada's biggest tourist destinations. However if you want to experience Niagara Falls in a non-traditional way for those of you who have been here many times already, this is one travel itinerary that is going to be perfect especially if you appreciate good food and wine.

Accommodations at White Oaks Resort & Spa

Now where to stay? Researching hotels, motels, AirBnBs, hostels can be a time-consuming and stressful experience in finding your nightly accommodations. I'm going to keep it simple for you here and just tell you straight up to stay at the White Oaks Resort & Spa. Nestled on 13 acres in the heart of Niagara area attractions, this modern and stylish facility delivers luxury hotel services and offers a host of outstanding amenities. This Four Diamond accommodation has award winning dining options, amazing fitness facilities, and is literally just a few minutes walking distance from the Niagara Outlet Mall. Yes, walking distance. It's literally across the street! The hotel is sitting in prime real estate close to all the Niagara attractions.

Breakfast at LIV Restaurant

So how does one experience the award winning dining options here? You most definitely need to check out LIV Restaurant inside, and personally having a good breakfast to start the day is a must! My recommendation on what to get here are their Avocado Eggs Benedict and the Maple Walnut Cappuccino Pancakes. They were both phenomenal and easily one of the best breakfasts I've had all year. The Avocado Eggs Benedict comes with two poached eggs, smoked virginia ham with hollandaise sauce, on a toasted english muffin with a breakfast potato. Probably my favourite of the two though was the Maple Walnut Cappuccino Pancakes swirled with espresso, maple, and crushed candied walnuts. The ambiance is also incredible surrounded by big windows that lets in tons of natural light, clean white linen table cloths, comfy chairs, and real flowers at every table to brigten your mood.

The Great Winery Tour at Wayne Gretzky Estates 

After a delicious breakfast to start the day, drive ten minutes away to the newly opened Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery. It is indeed THE Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time and what many may not know is his grandfather used to run a wine-making operation when he was a child. Now open in Niagara On The Lake, explore the estate by booking The Great Canadian Winery Tour which is a 45 minute guided tour of wine Wayne's way! Learn how Wayne Gretzky's dream of opening a world-class winery was realized and discover the process behind crafting his favourite wines. You will visit the vineyard and barrel cellar while of course enjoying his many wines throughout the tour. The tour is offered daily starting at 11AM for $25 per person.

Whisky Bartender Experience at Wayne Gretzky Estates

Once you have your fill of wine (for the time-being), register for their Whisky Bartender Experience with a 45-minute interactive cocktail lesson hosted by their best bartenders. You'll get insider tips on how to create the ultimate whisky cocktail, while sharpening your own bartender skills when learning the basics of preparing garnishes, simple syrups, shaking, and muddling. Best of all? You get to drink your very own Whisky cocktail creations right after! This work shop is offered daily at 1PM and 3PM for $35 per person. They are also known here for their Whisky Cream and I ended up buying a bottle to bring back home after tasting it during this experience. It's life changing and will spike your coffees and teas to new heights. A must buy in the gift shop after for a nice souvenir to bring home!

Lunch at Whisky Patio Bar

It's midday by now after an afternoon filled with food, wine, and cocktails, so I think it's time for... you guessed it, more food! While you are still at the Wayne Gretzky Estates, hop on over to their outdoor Whisky Patio Bar to enjoy some of their signature pub style dishes and drinks for lunch. As their menu for food is relatively small you easily can order everything off of it which includes the "Gretzky Beef Ribeye Burger," "White Bean, Smoked Bacon, Root Vegetable Cassoulet," "Butternut Squash Soup," and for dessert the "Gretzky Beaver Tail." One massive recommendation from me here is to order their "Farmer's Tea." The flavours may change depending on the season but ask them here to infuse the tea with their signature Cream Liqueur (the bottle where I mentioned earlier to buy for yourself at the gift shop). The fruity flavours of the tea, mixed in with the cream liqueur is unlike anything you'll ever have and on a cold Winter's day it warms your body from the inside out. It's perfect. The Whisky Patio Bar is also right beside a private skating rink. When the weather is right you will be able to bring your own skates or rent them to have a fun-filled day skating on the rink!

Tasting Stars - Sparkling Experience at Trius Winery

The great thing about spending the day at Wayne Gretzky Estates is it neighbours another winery right beside it. Literally a few minutes walk away is Trius Winery, a winery that has mingled with the A-list celebrities in 2016 as it was invited to be part of the 2016 Oscar festivities. When you arrive make sure you sign up for their new "Tasting Stars - Sparking Experience." It's an interactive tour where their wine experts will guide you from vine to cellar to explore everything sparkling, which is exactly what Trius Wines are known for. You'll begin the tour at Ontario's 2015 Winery of the Year with a stroll through the vineyard before descending into Canada's largest underground sparkling cellar surrounded by 350,000 bottles! This tour is offered at various times everyday for $25 per person.

Dinner at Trius Winery Restaurant 

You can't end a day of adventure without satisfying your stomach with a good meal. For dinner head on over to the Trius Winery Restaurant where they will provide you with all the luxuries associated with fine dining in an approachable and joyful way. Wine pairings are also a must when dining here and I think the reason why is quite self-explanatory. To really get the full experience of tasting the food here from Chef Frank Dodd who uses local ingredients from neighbouring farmers, growers, and producers, I highly recommend getting the 5 course Trius Tasting Menu for $89. This dining experience will give you a complete picture of the landscape of the Niagara food scene from start to finish which will include an Amuse Bouche, Mushroom Truffle Broth, Duk Egg, Atlantic Scallop, Wine and Fruit Inspired Popsicles, Birch Syrup Basted Beef Cap Steak, Apple Pie and Petit Fours for dessert. 

Summer Fresh Holiday Entertaining

Can you all believe it!? Christmas is here in just under two weeks and probably like most of us it's going to be one of the busiest two weeks of the year. Juggling with last minute Christmas shopping and holiday gatherings, the lead up to Christmas day can be an exhausting one especially if you plan on hosting a holiday meal with your family and friends. Lets face it, often times you end up spending hours on end in the kitchen pumping out dishes for your guests, but this year I am here to show you that holiday entertaining does not have to be time consuming if you have the right recipes in mind. This year by using Summer Fresh products you will be able to make some delicious holiday appetizers that can all be prepared in under 10 minutes and will satisfy your guests with every bite! 

If you are not familiar with Summer Fresh, catch up by reading my older articles here and here! But to give you all a quick refresher, Summer Fresh is a Canadian success story that has found a way into many of our lives at home through their line of salads, hummus, and dips. Made from clean ingredients with no added preservatives, Summer Fresh makes it easy for you to enjoy mealtimes with your loved ones without spending hours on end in the kitchen.

For this holiday season I've teamed up with Summer Fresh to create two brand new appetizer recipes for you all that are outrageously delicious yet takes only ten minutes to make! If you're in need of a new recipe idea to impress your guests at your upcoming holiday party, take a look below to learn how to make my "Honey Glazed Bruschetta" and my "Hummus and Cucumber Pita Bites." They are both to die for! 

Hummus and Cucumber Pita Bites

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Recipe

1) Toast the pita bread in the oven and cut it into 6 to 8 slices
2) Spread a layer of Summer Fresh Roasted Garlic Hummus on each wedge
3) Cut your cucumber into thin slices and place two of them on top of the hummus on each wedge
4) Sprinkle with paprika
5) Dab a small spoonful of Summer Fresh Artichoke & Asiago Dip
6) Garnish with dill weed

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Honey Glazed Bruschetta

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Recipe

1) Use your favourite cracker/toast as the base
2) Spread a layer of Summer Fresh Traditional Brushchetta on each cracker/toast
3) Crumple a pinch of feta cheese on top
4) Top it off with one ball of Bocconcini
5) Drizzle everything with honey
6) Garnish with a leaf of parsley

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For even more great holiday entertaining tips and inspiration, Summer Fresh has put together some fantastic food pairing ideas and created nine more unique and mouth-watering appetizer recipes for you to try this festive season. Pick up their free Summer Fresh APPYS Entertaining Guide in the refrigerated deli section at your local grocery store. A couple of my favourite recipes from them this year include their "Hummus & Baba Ghanouj Toasted Sweet Potato Rounds" and "Artichoke Asiago Spinach Stuffed Mushroom Caps." 

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Hero Certified Burgers - Taste The Hero Difference

If you're anything like me I am always craving for a big, juicy burger to devour. I'm a carnivore through and through. Years ago when I was still working downtown in the Financial District in Toronto I was first introduced to Hero Certified Burgers on my lunch breaks. Being a huge Leafs fan, Hero Certified Burgers ran a campaign where they were selling collective Leaf cups and a special Leafs burger where the Leafs logo was grilled onto the bun itself. I admit, back then I had no idea what Hero Certified Burgers was all about and I just wanted my collectible cups (in fact I still have them on my work desk to this day), but life has a funny way sometimes of bringing things full circle and now as a food blogger I've been able to experience and appreciate Hero Certified Burgers in a whole new way!

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Proudly Canadian, Hero Certified Burgers is a restaurant chain franchise that serves real, wholesome food that is sustainably raised. That means that they only ever use all-natural, fully traceable 100% Canadian Angus beef from local farmers raised range-fed without hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this taste better in flavour and texture, but it's better for you - with no added chemicals.

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One of my first impressions of Hero Certified Burgers years ago was that I loved how customizable the burgers are. They probably offer the most options for toppings and sauces out of any fast-food chain for your burger so be rest assured you can create your dream burger every time you go. From crispy onions to fire roasted peppers, fried egg, guacamole, mango and cranberry sauce, an array of 30 different topping and sauce choices to choose from will turn your fast-food burger into gourmet!

With such a vast menu I did have to take some time to figure out exactly how I wanted to construct my burger, but here is what I decided to get and let me tell ya... it was glorious! A side of poutine and crispy chicken strips tied the meal perfectly together.

Egg Burger - 4 oz Burger, Fried Egg, Bacon, Tomato with my personalized toppings of guacamole, sauteed onions, and cranberry sauce.

Egg Burger - 4 oz Burger, Fried Egg, Bacon, Tomato with my personalized toppings of guacamole, sauteed onions, and cranberry sauce.

Heavy Hitter - 2x 4oz Burgers, Cheddar, Relish, Tomato, Onion, Hero Sauce with my personalized toppings of fire roasted peppers, guacamole, and mango sauce.

Heavy Hitter - 2x 4oz Burgers, Cheddar, Relish, Tomato, Onion, Hero Sauce with my personalized toppings of fire roasted peppers, guacamole, and mango sauce.

If these pictures are not enticing enough for you yet to visit your local Hero Certified Burgers, I have one more surprise up my sleeve! When you go up to order your next burger here, say the promo code "FRYDAY" to get yourself a FREE order of fries with the purchase of a burger (excluding the Junior burger). So make sure you come taste the Hero Difference where fast food can be high quality and delicious! No matter what you order here, know that it will be REAL GOOD.

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Masterchef Canada Mary Berg's Original Churro Recipe

If you recently finished marathoning a Netflix show like me and is in dire need to find a new show to watch, I have a mighty good suggestion right here for you! Around a month ago I was on set of Masterchef Canada's Season 3 Winner Mary Berg's brand new cooking show, "Mary's Big Kitchen Party" and saw her whip up some delicious things! Premiering last month already in October, we all get to see Canada's favourite home cook make some of her best dishes for an entourage of some of her closest friends. If you haven't read my full experience of my visit on set and my one-on-one interview with her yet, you can play catch up by clicking HERE.

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Rolling out over 8 weeks on Bell Fibe TV1 and Gusto TV, Mary's Big Kitchen Party will see her create original recipes with unique ingredients in an effort to bring people together in her favourite room of the house - the kitchen! From seared scallops with crispy pancetta and poke crisps to peach pecan cake with burnt caramel and gingerbread whoopee pies with eggnog cream, each week will give viewers something new to try, allowing them to bring the party home.

When I was on set and watched the TV filming magic happen before me, I was able to witness Mary make these most delicious looking churros for her guests to eat. It was hard not to hear my stomach grumble as I watched from far away the entire cooking process of making this fried treat come to life. After filming was done I was able to grab one to eat and in my honest opinion, best churro I have EVER had! It was mindblowingly good and because it was just that tasty I made sure that I was able to share this amazing recipe to all my loyal readers!

Enjoy and don't forget to tune in every Friday at 9PM on Gusto TV and OnDemand on Fibe TV, Channel 1 to catch Mary make even some more mouth-watering recipes!

Mary Berg's Original Churro Recipe

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Serves 8

Ingredients

1 cup water
ยฝ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ยฝ tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ยฝ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
ยฝ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Store bought chocolate sauce

Directions

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, salt, sugar, and butter.  Bring this mixture to a boil, add the vanilla, and dump in the flour all at once.  Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.  Remove from the heat and continue to stir for about 30 seconds.

Allow the mixture to cool and heat 3 โ€“ 4โ€ of vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot to 375F.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

Spoon the slightly cooled churro mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a few churros at a time into the hot oil by piping and snipping with scissors.  Fry the churros until golden and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

While still hot, place the churros in the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.  Allow them to cool slightly and serve warm with store bought chocolate sauce.

Jarritos - The Perfect Cocktail For Any Party

When it comes to entertaining often times the hardest part of putting a party together is trying to figure out what drinks you'll be serving to all your guests. Of course you can go the easy route and have a selection of store bought juices, pop, and beers on hand, but that's not the type of party you want to have. That's not the host you want to be! You want to provide your guests with choices. You want to elevate your party with home-made cocktails that get the alcohol flowing and people talking. Something that can be put together in a jiffy without leaving you stuck in the kitchen for hours on end. By the time you get through reading this article, you'll have at least one more party trick up your sleeve and let me tell ya. This is a good one!

A simple solution to spice up your next party that will surely be a hit among all your guests is by offering up the Mexican soda, Jarritos. Introduced in 1950 as Mexico's first national soft drink, this drink has stood the test of time and is still enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Made with 100% natural sugar, many of their 12 delicious flavours here in Canada are sourced from actual fruit trees in Mexico. You can drink them straight up out of their distinctive glass bottles or turn them into colourful cocktails for a new and exciting way to make some boozy drinks.

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A few weeks ago Jarritos helped celebrate "Dia de los Muertos" aka Day of the Dead or All Souls Day in Toronto, where they hosted a media dinner at one of the city's finest Mexican restaurant La Carnita. We had the most epic Mexican feast the night after Halloween which consisted of Dips & Chips (the fresh guacamole was amazing), chicken wings, Mexican street corn, tacos, and paletas. One of the highlights of this feast was definitely the Jarritos cocktail that started the night off for me, and ended the night as well. I just couldn't stop drinking it and lucky for us here I have the recipe to re-create it back at home!

The "Strawberry For The Souls Cocktail" was created by Joanna Matysiak of La Carnita and incorporates the strawberry flavour of Jarritos in it. This is the perfect cocktail to incorporate at your next party because it's so easy to make and it just tastes absolutely delicious and refreshing with the aromatic strawberry flavour it brings.

Strawberry For The Souls Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients:

2oz Tequila
1oz Lemon Juice
3oz Coconut Water
3oz Strawberry Jarritos
Strawberry Slices (garnish)
Dehydrated Lemon Wheel (garnish)

Directions:

Combine tequila, lemon juice, and coconut water in a shaker and shake away. Strain contents into a mason jar (or glass) over fresh ice. Top up with strawberry Jarritos, garnish, and enjoy!

All pictures on this blog post taken by Josh Tenn-Yuk courtesy of Jarritos Canada

All pictures on this blog post taken by Josh Tenn-Yuk courtesy of Jarritos Canada

If you want to switch it up a bit, or add some more variety of flavours into the mix just replace the Strawberry Jarritos in the end and try some other fruit flavours such as Pineapple, Mango, or Grapefruit (all personally my other favourite fruit flavours from Jarritos). Half of the fun is getting to experiment with all the colourful and fruity flavours Jarritos offer!