December in food blog land — ”flavour country” to you and me — is the magical time for giveaway contests. The PR companies that represent various brands approach writers and say: “we have this really great doodad that we’d like you to give your readers a chance of winning.” Often the doodad isn’t so great or it just doesn’t have anything to do with the conversation I try to have on Food With Legs. That’s my fairly obvious way of introducing an exception, a really great prize that I think you’ll want to win, to give to a loved one or keep for yourself.
The Wine Council of Ontario runs a programme they call Wine Country Ontario that promotes the idea that our province’s wine regions are more than just a great place to get sloshed surrounded by rows of grape vines, disappearing over the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, they like wine, but also want to help you find a place to stay in the County, plan your route while on Pelee Island and a great restaurant to eat at while in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The neat thing about this giveaway is that the WCO let me pick an experience (so long as it was under $100) that we’re putting in the big glass prize case. Naturally, since I’m a bit of an eater, it’s a restaurant meal that you’re all playing for.
I’ve spent my fair share of time eating in Niagara restaurants so the list of easy-to-recommend favourites is a long one, but the top slot — depending, I guess, on what you’re after — has to go to the Stone Road Grille. During 30 Days of Ontario Wine in 2011 I spent a day in the kitchen with chef Ryan Crawford and his team, making charcuterie from the Tamworth pigs they raised that summer.
Crawford is a patient teacher and it was really generous of him to invite me into his kitchen for that experience. Ryan and his family are moving to Prince Edward County and opening an inn-cum-restaurant (check out their Tumblr and Twitter pages) but his executive sous chef, Steve Page will be taking over. I think this is a great time to head down to Stone Road Grille and check out what the chef Page does differently and what he keeps the same.
When food writers go on TV and talk about the differences between restaurants in Europe and North America they always seem to, at some point, get around to the complaint that at French truck stops you can get a plate of out-of-this-world fried eels for a few euros but we don’t start competing until you get into the fancier echelons of fine dining. Stone Road Grille isn’t serving long-haul drivers while their big rigs wait in the parking lot but with the simple “REST” sign and the location in a strip mall on the edge of NOTL they act as a firm reminder that great wine country restaurants should consciously avoid pretense.
I wish I was eligible to win this prize; the rest of you are if you do one of the following:
- Follow me and Wine Country Ontario on Twitter and Tweet the following: I entered the #12daysWCO contest from @ortdavid & @WineCountryOnt and could win $100 to spend @stoneroadgrille info http://ow.ly/g6zeD
- Like the Food With Legs Facebook page and leave a comment in the thread that introduces this post.
Fine print: One entry per person, per method for a total of two possible entries over the whole length of the contest. (I reserve the right, at my own discretion, to disqualify entries that appear to use tomfoolery (e.g. multiple Twitter accounts for one person) to make an end run around this provision.) You must be 19 years of age to enter. If you already follow me or like the page on Facebook you need only complete the second half of those tasks to be eligible for those entries. I will use random.org to select a number and, counting from the first entry, that will determine who wins. You’re responsible for whatever part of your meal (including tax and tip) is over $100.
Wine Country Ontario logo was supplied and I took the other two photos for my original Spotlight Toronto piece in 2011.