I’m really excited to tell you guys about a few things today, because I have a feeling that you are going to be as into this as I am. First off, Transparent Kitchen. I was introduced to Transparent Kitchen a little while ago, and they invited me to come check out their Niagara partner, The Restaurant at Redstone Winery. I decided to look into Transparent Kitchen and what they represent as well as the restaurant’s menu, and was so impressed – clarity regarding ingredient quality and the chefs behind the kitchen, absolutely beautiful and truly creative food, mindfully-sourced ingredients. Even just looking at the photos of Redstone’s dishes featured on the Transparent Kitchen site had me mentally debating which dish I’d want to try, a very hard decision because it all looked so good. Excited to check out the restaurant and see it all for myself in person, I booked a reservation through Transparent Kitchen and Zach and I went for dinner last weekend. We’ve had a late winter here in Niagara, and last weekend it finally started to feel like Spring – bright and sunny, though still a little chilly. Our growing season is still a little ways out, but there are small signs of what’s to come – a few buds, the grass is turning green, and crocuses and daffodils are starting to bloom. You can see in the pictures below that the vines haven’t started growing much yet, but I’ve heard we have a hot dry summer ahead so fingers crossed for a burst of growth soon!
Living in wine country feels somewhat like a holiday during the summer and autumn months, when everything is so picturesque and it’s easy to visit wineries for tastings as part of a celebration or just for a fun afternoon with friends. I’ve started to wonder, though, about the use of pesticides and insecticides in the wine industry given that their use is so widespread by food growers. Conventionally grown food is almost certain to have pesticide residue, so what is the state of use in the wine industry? I’ve been personally seeking out local wineries that use organic and sustainable practices, since I don’t know exactly what the practices are for conventionally grown grapes. My father in law works with many wineries and farms locally, and told me that the vineyards at Redstone are tilled by Clydesdale horses and that sheep graze on the land and lower leaves of the vines rather than using heavy machinery for these tasks. Just the image of that is sort of dreamy to me, in a naturalist and of-the-earth sort of way. I also learned that the winery at Redstone was named 2017 winery of the year, and has had organic and biodynamic certification since 2013. Zach and I love to go for long drives along the wine route in Niagara on the weekends, and this summer I’m hoping we’ll catch a glimpse of these animals in action!
Given the organic practices of the winery, I was particularly interested in checking out their accompanying restaurant. Through the Transparent Kitchen website, I learned that Chef David Sider of the Restaurant at Redstone is committed to sourcing the best ingredients locally. As someone who cares deeply about the food that I eat and in supporting local organic growers, David’s philosophy resonates with me. One of my favourite farmers at the market I shop at almost every weekend throughout the growing season often tells me that this or that chef bought almost all his tomatoes or the special carrots he grows in a rainbow of colours. I love hearing that local chefs are getting the good stuff when it comes to the amazing produce available around here.
To me, eating out is a special experience because we don’t do it all the time. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel a bit hesitant asking questions about ingredient sourcing when I’m eating out. It’s not that I’m not curious, but I don’t want to come across as impolite or judgemental, or to make anyone uncomfortable if the answer is unknown or that not-so-great ingredients are used. I told our server that I liked how the website spoke to ingredient sourcing and quality, and we chatted a little about how at their restaurant, she could tell people the exact fishery they sourced from or that where the animals they used were raised. The staff obviously take pride in the deliberate choices that are made there. I was thrilled in a wellness warrior kind of way when I read that transparency and quality were pillars of David’s choices, and even more so when we actually got to taste his food.
Honestly? This is probably my new favourite restaurant in Niagara, and it’ll be at the top of my list for places to go for special occasions or to treat friends who visit from out of town. I loved that they offered the menu as a tasting menu, letting you choose the number of courses you’d like, or to order traditionally from the same menu and receive larger portions. We chose to go with the tasting menu, since it allowed us to try more variety and we were really happy we went that route because it was ALL. SO. DELICIOUS. They were also incredibly accommodating of my dietary restrictions, and I was shocked when our server told me that everything on the menu could be adapted for me – that basically never happens, but I’m really glad to be able to tell anyone who needs to eat gluten free that this place is an absolute gem for us! They even had a gluten free dessert option. I can’t tell you how many times that dessert hasn’t even been an option for me at a restaurant (I don’t blame those places – no gluten, dairy and corn can be a challenge – but I just mean that it’s exciting to hear that there’s a sweet treat there that ticks all the boxes!) Zach and I have a soft spot for East Coast oysters, and we both chose that as our first course. It came served with an apple sorbet, local gin, radishes and topped with a nasturtium leaf and I think I probably had heart eyes, in real life. We got to taste Redstone’s sparkling rosé, and each had a glass of their cabernet sauvignon – both were amazing. I’m planning to pick up more of the rosé to serve at my birthday for a toast next month! Another dish that we just couldn’t get over was the roasted celery root served with morel mushrooms. I mean … this was my favourite thing we ate and I’m racking my brain to remember all the details to try to recreate it. Imagine thinly sliced celery root that’s wrapped into a log, roasted so it’s a deep brown and has a really rich flavour, then sliced so you get to see all the thin layers, served with the most incredible stuffed mushrooms and a mild sauerkraut. I would go back for a large plate of this alone. We also loved the sablefish that was served with a sticky, pepita-studded citrus caramel. The link takes you to a photo of the dish, it’s description, as well as a quick video of how the dish is made. Foodie friends, doesn’t this just make you want to get into the kitchen and start experimenting?
So far, Transparent Kitchen is partnered with restaurants in Toronto, Guelph, Ottawa, Kitchener and Hamilton, in addition to Redstone as the Niagara option. Since all of those are places around Ontario that I visit from time-to-time, I’m planning on using Transparent Kitchen as a resource to help me choose where to eat in each of those places. Not only is this helpful for me as someone who lives in Niagara to learn more about what my local offerings are, but as a tourist in other cities this opens up a whole other level of insight into the best quality options to visit for good food. You can book reservations directly through the Transparent Kitchen website, so it’s quite convenient to use.
It was really fun to visit Redstone and experience their incredible food and hospitality. Niagara has so many beautiful places to eat, be in nature, cute shops, and fun things to do, that I’m planning a little guide similar to the one that I made for Nashville – places that I love as someone into good vintage, amazing food, nice wine and cocktails, healthy living, and all that so keep an eye out for that in the next couple months, once the weather gets really good!