Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Foodie Getaway: Niagara-On-The-Lake

By Wendy Kam Marcy

It's summer and that means road trips! This month my family was looking for a quick escape (an hour and a half or less) from the city with lots of great food. Destination: Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL)!

Our friends at Ford generously offered to lend me their new 2014 Fusion SE Hybrid for my trip. I've always wanted a Hybrid but thought you can only really benefit from them if you do a lot of city driving. Turns out it's become very fuel efficient for highway commuting as well. And when gas prices are $1.35 per litre and climbing, the Ford Fusion Hybrid makes a whole lot of sense!

Off we go!

NOTL is a pictureque town in Southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. It's a charming place known for its vineyards, boutique shops and of course, The Shaw Festival. It is ranked #2 when it comes to Toronto's top five close-to-home driving destinations.

First stop... lunch at the prettiest vineyard!

Since we were driving, we skipped the wine tours and instead enjoyed wood fired pizzas at The Ravine Vineyard. And of course, we couldn't leave without stocking up on jams and pickles at their Canning House.

TIP: Take the scenic route in via Niagara Parkway. It begins at Fort Erie in the south and passes through several villages along the river and through the tourist district of Niagara Falls. North of the city it provides access to attractions such as the Whirlpool Rapids, Butterfly Conservatory, and Brock's Monument at Queenston Heights. The route ends at Fort George, southeast of the urban centre of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This route was perfect for putting the Fusion Hybrid to the test. Suspension is a huge thing for me and this car definitely hugs the road and delivers a controlled ride through the country-side. The feature I was most excited to try out was the active park assist - yes, this car parks itself! Well of course, you have to be in the driver's seat to press the gas but then it does the rest for you. The other two features that really impressed me was the lane keeping system to maintain proper lane position when you are veering off the course and blind spot detection - a must for safely navigating the busy streets of Toronto where people, bikes and other cars seem to appear out of nowhere at the wrong times.

All this driving is making us hungry so we stopped in at Il Gelato di Carlotta for a mid-day snack. This cute little shop serves up the real deal with locally sourced fruits and fresh ingredients.

When we walked in our eyes were immediately drawn to the selection of colourful popsicles and treats but the yummiest stuff is the gelato which is hidden in a dozen stainless steel containers. (Having them open would suck the flavour and taste out of them and we definitely don't want that since the gelatos take 16 hours to make!) There are 24 flavours offered at one time - the vegan dark chocolate and Fior di Latte were my favourites!

A day in wine country is never complete without dinner at the Grill On King. It's one of those authentic places with an inviting patio perfect for people watching and a handcrafted menu of seafood, pastas and Angus steaks cooked with a Mediterranean flair.

Must-try dishes are the char-grilled calamari, East Coast mussels in a white wine and tomato broth and the fluffy mushroom risotto. Oh My Yum!

We then drove to Niagara Falls to spend the night and stayed at the Niagara Grandview Manor, the oldest running Bed and Breakfast in the Niagara Region. It was recently renovated and reopened under new management.

The biggest selling point in choosing to stay here is that it's a 15 mins walk to the Casino and the attractions in Clifton Hills. Having this option off the main party strip where there was no falling asleep to rowdy bachelor parties or blinking neon lights was awesome! The guest rooms are clean, spacious and minimal but tastefully decorated with one of the most plush and comfy beds I've ever slept on!

In the morning, we enjoyed a complimentary hot breakfast (eggs, crepes, waffles or fresh baked quiche) in the main dining room overlooking the Niagara Gorge.

Our family had a deliciously wonderful weekend getaway and our total gas bill was only $30! I'm going to end this post now by showing off my efficiency leaves! By the time we arrived home, I had a full garden. As your driving efficiency increases, the right-side cluster display grows leaves and vines! How cute is that? Perhaps it's time to consider switching over to a Ford...

The 2014 Fusion Hybrid is definitely HUG approved! It starts at $27,105 and falls into the mid-size family sedan category (although we couldn't tell with the super sleek and sporty exterior). For more information, visit the Ford website. 4

Wendy is a VP of Marketing by day, a Blogger by night and a New Mommy 24/7.

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