Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dani's Bistro, St. Catharines, Ontario

I really need to get something off my chest: bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. There. I said it! I feel much better. It's been consuming my thoughts since I went to Dani's Bistro in St. Catharines. I'll explain. 

First thing's first: Why Dani's? 

I had looked at a number of places online, reviewing the menus and wine selection prior to my visit. Dani's stood out to me because of their menu and the way it is written. Under each item is a description and/or commentary:

"Pot Roast: local grass-fed Beef from Comform Farm, braised in red wine served with caramelized onion mashed potato, veggies & yorkshire pudding (This will make you happy, I promise!)" 

Risotto Balls (Arancini)
I love the personable style of writing, not too mention the wonderful options and VQA only wine selection. I was sold!

The restaurant is fairly small with deep red walls and paisley table cloths. They have a nice big bar at the back and the service is fast and friendly (read: hilarious!) We started with a bottle of Southbrook's 2007 Cabernet Merlot Shiraz, upon the server's recommendation. It was a fruity-smoky-mildly acidic bottle of deliciousness. 

They specialize in tapas with various hot & cold options to choose from. My mom and I decided to order 5 different tasty plates to share which were perfectly staggered coming to the table. What is nice is that you don't have to wait too long for the server to bring by a complimentary bread basket with a pesto spread.  Shortly after that came our first round: Mushroom ragu atop golden toasted crostini. This was a warm, woody spread with crispy crostini! 

Following this was the crunchie brie, a big ol' wedge of brie that gets coated and deep fried. I love deep fried anything cheese! It came with a cranberry compote and more crostini. 

Crunchy Brie
Now, la crème de la crème: bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. ohmygoodness. I have never tasted something like this before. 

Crispy, salty bacon. Sweet, chewy dates. Tangy, creamy blue cheese. Yes. There were 4 on the plate and after they were gone, I was honestly considering ordering fifteen 4 more! My mom and I both loved them and they were easily my favorite item, despite also having ordered poutine.

The next item that came out was risotto balls (aka: arancini). While I really enjoyed the gooey cheesy centres, I would suggest adding some sharp parmesan and maybe event some fried pancetta to the risotto to really add depth of flavor. That's how I make it at home (lots of parm, pancetta and peas along with cream and one egg yolk to keep is creamy and rich). That being said, they were still a tasty addition to our Smörgåsbord of local flavor. 

The last tapas item was the pot roast poutine. A beautiful, cheesy poutine with big chunks of melt-in-your-mouth roast beef, rich gravy and stringy mozzeralla. 

Pot Roast Poutine
As an avid poutine lover/eater/maker, I would have to say that cheese curds (instead of the mozzarella they used) would really go a long way here. While I don't necessarily think that a poutine needs to have curds (see internal dialogue here) I think that the squeeky, creamy addition of a cheese curd would be pretty amazing in this dish.

Despite being super full I felt the need to order a dessert, you know, for the sake of the blog! 

I ordered the bread pudding with whiskey sauce because it had the following description: 

"#1 dessert in Niagara by Niagara Magazine so good it’ll make you say, 'I’ll have what she’s having!' "
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

I am not normally a bread pudding person and my mom isn't normally a dessert person and we both loooved it. There is a warm puddle of whisky caramel sauce in the bottom of a shallow bowl, topped with a gallette of warm bread pudding. We paid $1 extra for the vanilla ice cream. It was a perfect ending to our meal!

Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the bacon-wrapped dates when you visit Dani's :)