So many stories, so little time.
That’s how I feel sometimes when I look at my inbox or social media feeds and see the fast and furious changes, new restaurants and events happening in Niagara’s food world.
In an effort to get caught up on some of the local food news, here’s a sampling of stories that need sharing sooner than later.
Opening a restaurant has long been a part of Shawn Murphy’s business plan.
That’s why the chef and owner of Your Farm Gate butcher shop and local food hub in Ridgeway didn’t hesitate to offer his services when he heard a fellow restaurateur’s plans to open a French bistro in town.
It was Dave Bergeron, purveyor of tacos and Mexican street food at Crystal Beach’s Casa Hugo. He was considering opening the new restaurant and needed someone to helm the kitchen.
“He said, ‘Do you know of anyone?’” Murphy said. “I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ With the butcher shop, I’m always thinking that final piece — how (food) is on the plate. This lets me do that.”
The two are planning to open their 30-seat venture, named Solange, the maiden name of Bergeron’s mom, in June.
They’ll put their thumbprint on French food by making Solange at a ‘nose-to-tail’ bistro. This reimagining of classic bistro fare will draw inspiration from all corners of France and be in keeping with how Murphy does things at Your Farm Gate.
His focus there is on whole animal butchery, supplying customers with household name cuts of meat while raising the profile of lesser-known cuts, such as the hanger steak or bavette.
Solange, at 367 Ridge Rd. N., will offer three menus each week, including one celebrating proteins done up in classic French styles, and brunch.
“The whole animal… has a place,” Murphy said. “You can’t just have rack of lamb or ribeye, which is a tiny part of the animal. Having the butcher shop allows us to do things differently than a typical restaurant.”
Fireside Drive a hot new catering option
Chef Jess Stone is hitting the road with her new mobile catering venture.
The Triple D’s Diner chef and winner of Food Network Canada’s “Fire Masters” realized taking her meals on wheels was the way to fulfill her dream of having a venture of her own.
“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing,” Stone said. “After the pandemic, getting a bricks and mortar (location) for me didn’t seem like my next move.”
Instead, a souped up concession trailer filled with all the tools one chef could need to feed up to 50 people on site of their event was the way to go for Stone, who worked with Connie DeSousa, one of Canada’s most celebrated chefs, in Calgary before coming to Niagara.
Menus will be tailored to the event and client, and can include barbecue, Southern-influenced dishes and vegetarian options. (Ella She’ll have the barbecue she won on “Fire Masters” in tow.)
“I want to make everyone happy,” Stone said. “I want to show off everything I’ve learned over the years.”
Stone, who now calls St. Catharines home, is also working out details to do pop-ups at a local winery through the summer.
You can follow and book Stone and Fireside Drive on Instagram @firesidedrive.
Dispatches from Sri Lanka
His name is a secret but his food won’t be after May 1.
That’s when The Secret Chef Niagara pulls into Dispatch restaurant in St. Catharines to do a multi-course homage to Sri Lanka, where he grew up.
The four-course tasting menu will showcase Sri Lankan flavors and Canadian ingredients in dishes that include sweet potato and coconut roti with fermented habanero and mushroom sauce, and tempered coconut sambal; and crispy artichokes or prawns with Sri Lankan sunchoke ambul curry (sour stew) and pipinna mallum (cucumber slaw).
The Secret Chef has worked in kitchens in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Jordan, but was keen to do something on his own when he launched his pop-up full of intrigue.
“People like that mystery, that exclusivity,” he said about The Secret Chef person.
“The whole purpose is to build something for myself but where I don’t have to be there all the time,” he added.
After the May 1 event, he said plans are in the works to do more dinner series and collaborations with the kitchen at Dispatch, including chef Adam Hynam-Smith and sous chef Gizem Afsar.
Meanwhile, tickets for the May 1 dinner are available through Dispatch or thesecretchefniagara.com.