Warmth and Wine at Dani’s Bistro [St. Catharines, ON]

Dani's Bistro - Caprese SaladMaybe it’s due to the end of the week or maybe it’s because of all the cooking that happens Monday – Thursday, but Fridays come around and I do not want to cook. And so, on Fridays I usually find myself exploring Niagara looking for the next best place to eat.

Yesterday was no different, thankfully I recently discovered Dani’s Bistro through my interactions in the Twitter-verse. How could I pass up comfort foods on a cold, Friday afternoon? It just is not in my nature to do so – as such I jumped at the opportunity to experience another one of Niagara’s local luxuries.

Opened in February 2011, owner Danielle Murray has a gem of a place on her hands and is serving up fresh and creative comfort foods in her European inspired bistro.

Dani’s prime location is downtown St. Catharines on St. Paul right near James on the south side of the road. I had the pleasure of being welcomed by Danielle herself whose cheery disposition and cool appreciation for food and wine are the inspiration for her business.

The bistro is warmly painted in a burgundy red wine colour and decorated to suit anyone with European taste. Modern black tablecloths and comfortable, heavy, wooden chairs compliment the wooden wine bar that flanks the right side of the space. And, it was a pleasure to have a gas fireplace greet my cold feet at the entry.

Dani’s menu has soup (made fresh daily), salads, warm and cold tapas, entrees of all kinds and – of course – a nice selection of Niagara wine. Because it was my first time to the restaurant we (Dave and I) decided to take advantage of the tapas menu; here is what we indulged in (with my favourites marked with a ✪):

Starters

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

Beef Barley Soup

Tapas

Caprese Salad

fresh tomatoes and bocconcini mozarella

Cajun Garlic Shrimp ✪

cajun and garlic sauced shrimp with sliced baguette

Mushroom Ragu

sauteed mushrooms to top crostini

Artichoke Spinach Dip

with gluten free tortilla chips

Risotto Balls ✪

filled with mozarella & mushrooms served with marinara sauce

Wine Flight

Reif 2010 Black Oak Cab Gamay

Reif 2010 White Sands Vidal Riesling

Kacaba 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ✪

Konzelmann 2010 Pinot Noir

Greenlane 2010 Cabernet

Dessert

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce ✪

bread pudding with raisins bathed in whiskey sauce (add the ice cream!)

We had so many tapas on our hands that we could have used a bigger table! Dani’s tapas are all comfort foods that sit light on the stomach and despite the amount of food we ordered I was perfectly satisfied. Our plates were colourful and flavourful and I appreciated the obvious care put into preparing each.

Dani's Bistro - Wine Flight

Naturally, I could hardly be inside a wine bar without trying a flight. We chose wines that we had not ever tried before.

I was excited to see the Reif Estate Winery White Sands and Black Oak on the menu – these are licensee only wines that are hard to come by. Both were fantastic – as one would expect from Reif in NOTL. The Black Oak had hints of currant and it is very smooth – perfect to drink with some chocolate in front of a fire. The White Sands was a little dry, fruity and smooth with a little bit of an acidic pop.

Kacaba Vineyards, which I discovered during Wrapped Up in the Valley earlier this year, did not disappoint with their Cab Sauv. It is bold and peppery and would pair wonderfully with lamb and gravy. I have a feeling we’ll be picking this one up for New Years.

Finally, this was the first time I have tasted anything from Konzelmann Estate Winery and GreenLane Estate Winery. The Konzelmann Pinot Noir was exactly what you “typically” hear about Pinot. It is light and has many white characteristics that would make it a great red for white lovers.

The GreenLane Cabernet was crisp and sharp edged, a little tanic and although it smells peppery doesn’t share any pepper on the tongue. All in all, it was a great ‘flight’. I love being able to try so many different Niagara wines in one place.

Come January 31st, 2013 Dani’s Bistro will be moving next door to take advantage of more seating and a larger kitchen. But not to worry – the wine bar with her fine selection of Niagara VQA wines and her great menu will follow her there.

In the meantime Danielle is featuring a great $39 4-course menu for New Years and still has a few select openings. What better way to ring in the new year with great food, great friends and great wine? If I were going to be here in Niagara for New Years – this is certainly where I’d be!

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