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Oct. 25, 2021 | Monday
Local News
Progressive dinner rotates visitors through town during the Taste of NOTL
Phyllis and Doug Johnson, organizers of the Taste of NOTL in front of their B&B, WeatherPine Inn. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

The Taste of Niagara-on-the-Lake is celebrating 14 years. Highlighting local restaurants and wineries, Doug Johnson, owner and organizer, aims to offer a full experience of wine, food and community through a progressive dinner.

It’s a unique two-day event, taking guests on a bus tour to five restaurants in the heart of town providing a five-course meal with wine pairings. The tour has space for about 130 customers, three times a year. Slated for one weekend each in February, March and April, Johnson said he tries to plan around other local events.

“I try to pick dates that don’t conflict with anything.”

The upcoming seating is on the weekend of March 22 and the following begins April 5, both with only a limited number of seats left available.

He said his goal is to bring people to town and show them what NOTL has to offer. By planning the weekend around other notable events he’s adding to the flow of traffic instead of borrowing from it.

He created the event to bring more business to town, and in turn to WeatherPine Inn, a bed and breakfast he bought with wife Phyllis in 2003. Johnson said he wanted to offer a dining experience encompassing the spirit of NOTL.

On the Friday night, guests are invited to attend the wine and cheese party held at Navy Hall. During the evening, they receive their itineraries for the following night, displayed on wearable cards. They are encouraged to meet and mingle with the rest of the guests, getting to know the group they’ll spend the following night with.

On the Saturday night, the guests meet at the community centre on Anderson Lane before being split into five groups, each starting at one of the five restaurants for their first course and then rotating through until they hit their final stop for dessert.

Throughout the night, each group will have one course each at Bistro Six One, Epicurean, The Old Winery, Grill on King and The Oban Inn. Wineries offering pairings are Caroline Cellars, Pondview, Palatine Hills, Peller Estates and Reif Estate Wineries.

The event truly brings the town together, touching on notable town qualities by combining select wines from participating wineries with special menu options from each restaurant. The weekend event draws visitors in to seek accommodations at local B&B’s and hotels. It’s a marriage of the best of what NOTL has to offer.

Johnson said the event is the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway, bringing visitors down for a few days.

Enlisting the services of DanNel Transportation, Johnson and his wife arrange for each group to jump on a bus to visit every restaurant, doing what they can to adhere to food allergies and dietary restrictions.

He credits his wife with the task of sifting through each customer’s preference and planning their route for the night.

When they first acquired the B&B, he said they were looking to create an event to bring more visitors to town and increase business. Wanting to plan a dinner, he said he discovered that was a quick way to lose his license – a bylaw officer informed him he could only provide breakfast.

With his initial idea stomped out, the Taste of Niagara-on-the-Lake was born.

He said he contacted five restaurants with the idea of a progressive dinner, they were all on board. Then he spoke with five wineries who also decided to participate.

Working with many of the same businesses from the first year, it’s grown since its inception from one weekend a year to three, and he plans on continuing for the foreseeable future.

Irene Raralio, a Brampton resident who has been attending the Taste of NOTL since its first year, said she has always been satisfied with the weekend.

“I guess the biggest draw to me is just the fact that the food is phenomenal, the restaurants are wonderful, and the people are so much fun.”

She said she is always impressed with how smooth the evening goes.

“It runs absolutely seamlessly too. Doug and Phyliss are incredible. Considering the amount of people that go through, and they have to coordinate the buses and the whole bit. It’s always spot-on.”

She said she found the event after looking for something to do for her mother’s birthday 14 years ago, and she’s been attending ever since.

“I absolutely love trying new food and different restaurants, so it kind of combined both. The fact that it’s not at one particular restaurant, I love the idea of a progressive dinner. They’re always at really nice restaurants.”

Tickets can be purchased through the Taste of NOTL website.