Oyster Fest Niagara!

We took a little drive down to Niagara on Sunday for Oyster Fest Niagara! The event started at two, but we couldn’t make it until later on. I would have liked to have seen the shucking competition. 😦 After a bit less than an hour of driving in the GORGEOUS weather, we finally arrived at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery in Beamsville, Ontario. Stepping out of the car onto a gravel road and taking a big breath of way-fresher-than-Toronto air instantly put a smile on my face. The sun was shining and, even though my hair was all tangled from the drive (windows down, sunroof open), I was happy.

But of course I got even happier after taking a few steps closer. With a plate of freshly shucked oysters in one hand, and a spicy caesar in the other, I stood taking in the sights and sounds around me. Talking, laughing, slurping, munching, drinking and dancing to the sound of the funkiest funk.

When I found out about the oyster festival, I got a little (a lot) excited. I thought I’d have to do some coaxing to convince the man to go on this hour-out-of-town road trip, but it just so happened LMT Connection was going to be there playing live! That sealed the deal. If you’ve never heard of them, you should do exactly that…go and hear them! LMT Connection is a Niagara Falls, Canada-based funk band. They are celebrated around the world and have been together for over 20 years. For anyone that’s interested (and doesn’t know already), LMT plays the Orbit Room on College Street, in Toronto, every Wednesday. We go to see them there all the time, so it was nice to get to chat with them outside of the city. What a pleasant surprise! (I missed The Roxwell’s, who played earlier in the day.)

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Oysters were served by The Tide & Vine Oyster Company. We were given five each, freshly shucked and served with lemon wedges, a mignonette and tangy hot sauce. Ours were gone in the matter of seconds.

The Silversmith Brewing Company offered two beer options: their Black Lager and their Oyster Stout. I opted to try the Black Lager, it was really nice! It had a mildly bitter finish, but went down smooth and easy. Pleasantly tasty! I liked them that much more because they had my favourite oyster quote on their chalkboard. 🙂 Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery was serving some tasty cocktails (gin and tonic, white rye thyme lemonade, and Sunday caesars) and wine was provided by Angels Gate Winery.

We let our eyes wander, agreed that we were hungry and then noticed AVella’s wood fired oven stood directly in front of us. AVella’s was serving up DELICIOUS wood oven pizzas. They offered four different freshly baked pies: pepperoni, margherita, spicy asparagus and the smoked trout’za. The margherita pizzas were an apparent hit, because they were sold out. (I can only imagine how good they must have been.) We requested a half spicy asparagus half smoked trout pizza, which they gladly made for us with expert skill. (Fastest pizza making I’ve ever seen, complete with dough toss.) 🙂 I couldn’t resist smoked trout on a pizza, something I’ve never tried before. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had, with a super thin, crispy, flavourful crust. The seafood half was cheesy with a little dill to accompany the trout. (Drool!) I also loved the asparagus paired with the tangy hot banana peppers. The half and half was a great decision. I got to try two amazing pizzas!

Just because my day had to get even better, the El Gastronomo Vagabundo food truck was serving fish tacos (among other tasty items). I’m a fish taco fiend, so we ordered the tacos of course. Each order came with two tacos, another perfect share! El Gastro’s taco had an Asian twist to it. The battered cod was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, dressed with pickled ginger aioli, cabbage slaw, furikake (Japanese salty seaweed + sesame mixture) and lime. Loved it. It would’ve been nice to have tried the pickled octopus salad (with fried chat, garlic aioli, broccoli and parsley) or the veggie tostada, but I was pretty full after eating the pizza and taco.

Things I missed out on: Tide & Vine was also serving up barbecued lobster tails and corn, which smelled really delicious. Hometown Ice Cream, from St. Catherines, Ontario, was serving big cupfuls of natural ice cream made without preservatives or additives. They offered flavours including Lavender, Ginger, Carrot Cake, Oreo, Grapefruit. There were more delicious flavours, but most of them were sold out by the time we decided we wanted to try some. Boo. Should’ve gone sooner. I heard the ice cream was sooo good.

As the food stations started closing up and the music began dying down, we made our way into the Dillon’s Distillery front showroom. We tasted the vodka, the white rye and the gin, all of which were really good! Dillon’s makes a variety of bitters as well. Though they all smelled wonderful, the pear and cranberry were my faves. I love the colourful labels, so pretty! And the bottles can come gorgeously packaged if you’re buying them as a gift. They are a fairly new distillery but are doing very well! Dillon’s white rye recently won the gold medal in the San Francisco Spirits Competition. If you’re ever in Beamsville you should definitely stop by and pick up a bottle. Their rye is now available at select LCBO stores too. We bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of gin to take home with us. Our souvenirs for the day. 🙂

Such a lovely time! I was so happy we decided to go, and we drove back home to Toronto smiling. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

Thanks to everyone that made it happen! 🙂

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