May 21, 2013

Food Truck Eats at Peller Estates Winery

If you've ever been to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, you probably know the main strip is like Piccadilly Circus mixed with the vibe of creepy clowns and amusement park rides. When I was younger, I was somewhat traumatized by the The Fun House--not so fun as an anxious child--and especially the Butterfly Conservatory.

However, about 20 minutes away from Niagara Falls is Niagara-on-the-Lake, a beautiful town set right where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario among wineries, scenic roads and quaint shops. For tourists and Ontarians, it's a relaxing destination to sip some wine, take a romantic stroll and stop to smell the flowers. 

Even better was the opportunity to hang out at a winery, taste some wine and eat food from gourmet food trucks! Food Truck Eats was the perfect summer kick-off with 20 food trucks and 20 different wines to sample at Peller Estates Winery. The event is in its second year and this year offered an afternoon event and an evening market. This year both events completely sold out with about 3,000 tickets sold. 

Peller Estates is one of the flagship wineries in the Niagara region and has been making their award-winning wines, including their famous icewine, for about 50 years. They also know how to throw one heck of a party. Included in each ticket was entry to the event, a souvenir glass and a complimentary glass of wine. I had my game face on:

Before the event they sent out a list of "Top Tips to Enjoy Food Truck Eats." They recommended to make a plan of the trucks you wanted to visit and to "not wear white." My partner in crime did not wear white, however, and spilt some red wine on his shirt in the first 10 minutes. The only thing about these events is trying to balance wine in one hand, food in the other and good conversation. My friend Steve also came along for the festivities. 

The first step was to get some wine, which is the best thing to mull over as you're waiting in line for food trucks. Peller Estates had many of their wines to sample, including their icewines and Late Harvest Vidal. I tried a glass of the Gewuztraminer, as I tend to go for light, refreshing wines.

Then we waited in line for our first food truck Gourmet Gringos for their tacos, ceviche and Huevos Rancheros. I got the Peruvian Tiradito, which was fresh seared marlin, jicama and in a jalapeno-lime mojo along with beer battered mahi mahi tacos with coleslaw and guacamole. There were also tacos with a variety of fillings, including chicken, chorizo and black beans. 

Whenever I tell people about food trucks and how popular they are now I think they are still a little hesitant about the idea. Someone I know said they probably wouldn't order seafood off a truck, but I think it's just the misconceptions about street food. This is definitely still gourmet food and beautifully prepared even if you do eat it while sitting on the ground. The seared tuna was refreshing and the salad underneath was tangy and crispy. It was the perfect cool appetizer to start the warm afternoon.

Then we ventured to Rome N' Chariot, an Italian food truck and tried their Holy Trinity of sliders with meatball, veal and eggplant with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese on slider buns. Again, a nice little sample of the different foods as opposed to gourging ourselves. 

There were so many trucks I wanted to try, but alas, so little time. The boys were looking forward to the "Dirty Southern Love" sandwich, a triple-decker made up of fried chicken, candied bacon and waffles topped with Louisiana butter sauce and Ranch dressing from Dirty South. Unfortunately, they were sold out of those before we got there.  

My favourite looking truck was Manual Labour Coffee with their 1969 Bailey Travel Trailer converted into a mobile espresso and coffee truck. My dream is to one day restore a vintage RV or camper van. Maybe I'll be in the food truck business one day...or at least take it on some adventures. 

The classics were also there from my days hunting down Toronto food trucks. Gorilla Cheese never disappoints and Feisty Jack was serving some classic British favourites, including Tikka Masala, Scotch Eggs and Fish and Chips. The line-ups weren't so bad if you had a glass of wine in hand. I have to praise the food trucks workers and cooks for being incredibly efficient and friendly, especially serving crowds of people on a hot afternoon. 

We stayed at the Moffat Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is part of the Vintage Hotels group who also own the Prince of Wales Hotel. That doorway was actually the door to our room, which had two doors: one on the inside and one to the street. 

We then strolled through the nice shops on the main street and got some ice cream for dessert. There were so many neat goodies and treats in that shop. Don't let me into a speciality food shop, especially a tea and coffee shop. We ended up buying a bag of Niagara Icewine tea made from the frozen grapes that produce Ice wine although there is no alcohol in the tea. 

The next day we stopped at some wineries to check them out and then had to leave the wonderful paradise. This was part of my birthday present and it was a nice, relaxing weekend to kick off my birthday, the long weekend and the start of summer. 

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