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Published: September 30th 2015
I have written this many times before and will probably write it many more times going forward. We love our central location in Stamford, CT. Flights are easy to most places and there are a lot of really cool things that's pretty drivable. This weekend was no exception.
I have blogged before about our first encounter with ICEWINE in the NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE region of Canada and how we were fascinated by it (https://www.travelblog.org/Admin/Blog/edit-entry.php?diary_id=652316). Well that fascination has continued ever since and we are "ice-wine believers". The couple times when we were there before everyone just kept talking about the NIAGARA ICEWINE FESTIVAL in the dead middle of winter - early to mid-January. You got to be crazy to go to Niagara that time of year right? Well - the icewine festival pull and mystique was too much for us so we packed it in and left early one Friday morning on our next adventure. We do love eagles as we have blogged many times before too and we were fortunate enough to see many eagles as we drove through NY state - just an added bonus on the trip I guess. As always we found a way to get off the
Someone got a ukulele not too long before so we all can be entertained on road-trips
highway and go through farmlands, small towns and deserted roads.
BUFFALO was our first stop. I love buffalo wings (Nikkie likes them but to a lesser degree) and the ANCHOR BAR FOR BUFFALO WINGS in Buffalo is on the to-do-list because this is where they were made for the first time - apparently. A really old time bar as should be expected since they have been around for forever. People leave license plates from all over which now decorate the walls. There are many, many, many other decorations that's pretty weird that just contribute to this place giving it that little extra atmosphere, character, or whatever else you want to call it. Nikkie got the beef-on-weck (another must have in this part of the country, which was really good - even though a little soggy, but with really tender beef). I had a dozen of the buffalo wings and they were pretty good as expected. One of those eclectic places that is worth a stop if you are in the area.
We have actually never been on the American side of the falls. We figured we'd stop and check it out. It was pretty late in the afternoon
Found these guys all along the river
so some of the better access points were already closed. We walked up to the falls, but the views definitely are not what they are from the Canadian side. You can get some pretty good pictures with the Niagara skyline in the background. There was snow everywhere on the ground so it made for some pretty unusual scenery with the falls and everything else snow white.
We found a hotel for the night at NIAGARA FALLSVIEW CASINO. Right on the falls, easy walk and pretty spectacular views from the rooms. It was cold. I did a little bit of research on the happenings of the festival for the weekend. That Friday evening there was a charity "dinner" in the Niagara-on-the-lake courthouse. It was $85 per person. We were not sure exactly what it was and it kind of seemed pricey. But at the end of the day our love for food won and our motto when spending money on something we probably should not when traveling is ""just helping out the local economy". It was for a good cause, we were here for the festival (what else would we do), and it was gonna be a good evening anyway
Just part of the decor
(so we hoped). So we kinda dressed up (did not really plan on a fancy evening) and headed out.
We arrived and were immediately handed a couple glasses of local bubbly - Nikkie was in heaven immediately. All the local vineyards were represented strutting their newest stuff for tasting. In addition chefs from the local restaurants and vineyards were there as well - each having their own station with their own little creation. We love this stuff - definitely money well spent. We roamed around and ate until we could not eat anymore, started scoping out some of the wines for possible purchases at the vineyards the next day and met and talked to some of the locals. At 10 they did an "ice-wine toast" outside in the street. It was freezing - about 10 degrees. There were 2 massive bars carved out of ice - how cool. And then a glass of ice wine in a glass made from ice - super cool. And then to top it all off they give everyone sparklers. It's like doing the things you did as a kid while drinking. It was an awesome night. The food was spectacular as well as
Home of the original buffalo wings
all the wine. For once I did not try and memorize every bite and describe it - we just walked around, ate, drank, and enjoyed the night. If you decide to do the festival this is one of the must-do events if you like food and wine. On the way back to NIAGARA FALLS TOWN we drove around and watched the WINTER FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS. There is an area/ park where they build all these structures that light-up at night. A little winter-wonderland with lights.
It was really cold Saturday morning, but we none-the-less made it down to the falls. We have done the falls several times now, but only in the summer. Winter was definitely a new one and oh so much more magical/awesome. The coldness freezes a lot of the spray from the falls instantly. The American Falls has a lot of rocks below it so a lot of these rocks become covered in spray and freezes over. The river itself almost completely freezes over and all you see is a white mass of thick, thick broken-up ice. This is what I imagine the poles would look like with thick chunks of ice. The scene in front
The real deal
of us was pretty breathtaking.
We headed out to Niagara-on-the-lake again since this is the center of the festival. They had some stalls set up selling food and various other things. We like the town because it is that small town with all the funky stores. Lunch was at Treadwell - a local farm to table concept restaurant. What a find this was. We had the:
- rosemary fries (really good)
- mushroom soup (it was so so - pretty bland and not seasoned very well)
- scallops and pork belly (really good)
- duck confit with brussel sprout leaves and mashed potatoes (excellent)
- creme brulee w/ vanilla ice cream (good)
Pair this with a couple glasses of awesome local wine and it was quite the feast we had. Highly recommended restaurant. Finding a place to sleep for the night was a true adventure. As always I decided that we would have no problem finding something the day off. That morning I started calling around and everything was booked. We like the B&B's in Niagara-on-the-lake. I finally found one about 20 minutes from town among the vineyards - Green Oaks B&B. Friendly, accommodating people who were willing
You can get some pretty decent pictures with the Niagara skyline in the background
to take us in last-minute even though they were kind of closed. We went back to town for the main event of the festival - the ice-wine cocktail face-off. The vineyards send their expert who concocts a drink with icewine as the main ingredient. You buy tokens for $3 or $4 a token and the stall with the most tokens at the end of the night is crowned the champion. A fun, light-hearted evening where everyone have a great time, but these guys take the competition pretty serious as it gives bragging rights for a whole year and I can only imagine how much bragging rights mean in such a small town. Oh and did I mention that this is held outside at night. Just adds to the fun.
Beforehand we sat down at Epicurean for a quick bite since we knew we would probably be drinking quite a bit that night so had to make sure we had something in our stomachs. We ordered a couple cocktails that were really bad. We also ordered a couple appetizers that were pretty average and throw in some really slow service (beyond slow - just purely bad) and this was a
very forgettable experience.
On to the good stuff. It was insanely cold outside, but the crowds gathered. We bought our tokens and walked around to find the stalls most appealing to us. The drinks were all over the place - hot drinks with cider, cold drinks with all sorts of alcohol, drinks with burnt marshmallow and popcorn, drinks with cotton candy, etc. You can see that these drinks were intense and really creative. It was an awesome night sampling away. Our favorites did not win unfortunately. We headed back to the B&B for the night before a long drive back the following day.
We were up and out fairly early. We figured we'd stop at a vineyard before heading back. We picked INNISKILLIN WINES WINERY. We showed up pretty early, but the tasting stations did not open until 10 so we hung around in the car. The icewine tastings can be expensive just because the wine itself is pretty expensive. Definitely recommend to try it first though. I am not a sweet wine person (hate port), but this is just fantastic. The white variety is a little cheaper ($30 - $40 for a small bottle) than the red
An evening of tastings and food
(could be anywhere from $60 - $80). The non-icewine wines in general are pretty good. We got a couple bottles of the meritage and also tried the sparkling chardonnay icewine. Another great purchase was the Vidal icewine. The cab franc icewine is also one of our favorites. The awesome part is that when you start looking on restaurant menus you will more and more see icewine from Inniskillin on the menu.
It was time to head home. We took the long way home going through backroads (covered in snow) looking for eagles which we did find. We also found some fresh, fresh powder on the ground and ice/ snow covered rivers with little ice crystals gently blowing up from the ground as we walked through snow-covered trees. What a magical time with not a soul around (just glad the car did not break-down). Likes
- love the icewine
- love the falls in the winter. It is completely different from summer/ fall/ spring and we think 10 times prettier
- B&Bs in Niagara-on-the-lake. Still have not had a bad experience Dislikes
- not much to dislike. We are not the greatest fans of Niagara since it is
Happy girl all bundled up
Another short adventure creating some very memorable. Nothing to add to our list of completions so in our books. So still 258 down and 5,523 to go.
Til next time from ice, ice and more ice
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