All posts in category “Beyond Niagara”

  • Road Trip Worthy: The Finger Lakes, New York

    Seneca Lake

    A version of this story appeared in Niagara Life Magazine. 

    I’ve been in love with The Road Trip since being rapt by a documentary about Route 66.

    Peter Fonda was fittingly the narrator. I was in my early 20s and filled with torturous amounts of wanderlust. I wanted to put rubber to asphalt that night and take in Americana at its finest.

    We never did the family road trip as a kid. The farthest we ever drove together was the three hours to our cottage near Oliphant. There was a lot of “How long until we’re there?” especially on rainy days with our Newfie, Bismarck, in the back of my dad’s station wagon, drooling on my sister and I, and fogging up the windows.

    But I started to realize the joy that a getaway by car could offer when I was 19 and drove to Newfoundland with my mom. Arguments about music aside (she cringed at my choice of the Beastie Boys; I rolled my eyes at her selection of 10,000 Maniacs), road tripping was pure bliss.

    The sense of freedom that came from the open road unfurling before us was intoxicating. The change of scenery at every stop was eyeopening. The agony of a full bladder with no rest stop in sight is also something a person never forgets.

    I’ve since learned you don’t have to venture far to feel like you’re escaping the day-to-day. Bonus: short roadies mean less worry about mapping those rest stops. It’s even better when a weekend away, compliments of a full tank of gas, doesn’t require negotiating Toronto traffic.

    Give me the American border over the 401 at rush hour any day. Give me the Finger Lakes. It’s New York’s Niagara, only three hours away depending on your final stop. Here are a few ideas of where you might want to put the car in park.

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    Category Beyond Niagara

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  • Peach Tree
  • From Niagara winery to Shawn & Ed Brewing Co.

    Ed Madronich of Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas.

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    The saying goes that it takes a lot of beer to make great wine.

    But one Niagara vintner is proving the opposite true.

    Ed Madronich, proprietor of Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, is showing that it also takes top-notch tipple to turn out noteworthy suds.

    He’s doing it with The Shawn & Ed Brewing Co., the 10-month-old brewery that he opened in an old Dundas curling and skating rink with university buddy Shawn Till.

    The venture fulfils a nearly lifelong dream the two discovered they shared while shooting hoops for McMaster University’s basketball team some 25 years ago. And even though the beverage lineup at the brewery, known to locals as “the Shed,” is more hoppy than tannic, Niagara’s influence on this heady pursuit in a Hamilton suburb is undeniable.

    “I believe there’s lots of synergies between the wine business and the beer business,” Madronich said. “I’m leveraging both for this to be successful.”

    Madronich flouts all those old wives’ tales about never mixing beer and wine with a lager-heavy roster that shows the two to be a perfect pairing.

    Take the flagship Shawn & Ed brew, BarrelShed No. 1. This ruby-red beauty has sweet caramel notes and gets its body from aging in Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir barrels. Since batch No. 1, some of each BarrelShed brew has been set aside to use in the following ferment. The result is glorious — rich and layered.

    “I believe over time, it adds complexity,” Madronich said about the BarrelShed’s secret ingredient. “It has the complexity of wine. BarrelShed is our globally unique beer. There’s nothing like it in the world.”

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    Category Beyond Niagara, Food Finds

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  • Peach Tree
  • 100KM Foods connects farmers and chefs

    Paul Sawtell of 100KM Foods.

    I originally wrote this story for Edible Toronto Magazine. 

    There was a time when Paul Sawtell had an affinity for shiny, expensive items.

    Such objects still occasionally catch the former pharmaceutical sales rep’s eye. He gets excited, for instance, when he sees a newly washed delivery truck sparkling in the sunlight behind the warehouse of 100km Foods. These days he prefers his flash with substance – the kind that comes from trading a career with lucrative financial rewards for one rich in social benefits.

    100km Foods Inc. is a wholesale and distribution business bridging the gap between farmers and chefs and getting more local food onto our plates in the process. The venture, started by Sawtell and life partner Grace Mandarano nearly nine years ago, was admittedly “warm and fuzzy” at the beginning. But it has become an important link in Ontario’s food economy – by handling product marketing for farmers who’d rather be tending their crops, while sourcing the best ingredients for chefs who prefer to spend their time behind the burner.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Blogging for a cause: Meet Charlene Theodore

    Publish, get huge hits, land a cookbook deal.

    It’s the recipe for success for many food bloggers. And why not? That sounds pretty sweet. But there other places food blogging can take a person.

    I heard the stories of a few who broke the book deal mould when I was at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento in July. The conference (if you’re a food blogger, go!) included a session called From Blog to Business.

    I didn’t read the fine print beforehand, so I figured it would be about turning food websites into big money makers through sponsored posts, advertising and book deals. It was better than that. It was a panel of three Sacramento food bloggers sharing their story of how food writing launched them into spinoffs that bettered their community. Blogging for a Cause would have been a more accurate name for this inspiring session.

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