European Influence, Local Flavours

Grocery shopping inside a two-hour radius from your home isn’t an easy exercise. But when the choice is between a pint of strawberries from the local farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake or one from California, the homegrown sweets are the smarter buy, both for locally economy and taste. The Terrapin Grille Fallsview Restaurant has taken on this challenge and run with it, placing locally grown produce at the heart of their menu, transforming classic items into elevated and sophisticated dishes that simultaneously taste a lot like home.

Located in the Marriott Niagara Falls Fallsview Hotel & Spa, directly in the heart of Niagara Falls, Terrapin Grille’s seasonal menus, knowledgeable and friendly staff and breathtaking views combine for a memorable experience.  Featuring both a buffet and a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, Terrapin Grille has created an array of dishes that reflect both Niagara’s regional harvests and seasonal selections, paired to compliment Niagara’s award winning wines and craft beers.

Ron Kneabone, the Executive Chef and Direct of Food and Beverages for the Marriott, has a flare for transforming simple cooking procedures into seemingly complicated cuisine. Marrying his love for European culture and locally grown produce, Brantford, Ontario native Kneabone has created countless spectacular menu items for the Marriott during his ten year stay with the hotel – all mirroring his belief that all foods should be natural, fresh and never frozen.

“There is only one small freezer in the entire hotel and we simply don’t use it,” said Kneabone. “My cooking is simple. We are not masking the flavours, we are not masking the ingredients. If it looks like a peach, chances are it’s a peach. We are not all about twenty different flavours going on your plate.”

Famous for playing twists on classic dishes, Culinary Institute of Canada graduate Kneabone said though he is inspired by a great number of things, he tends to draw culinary inspiration from his 10 years spent living abroad, where he traveled the food and wine havens and small town boroughs of France, Switzerland, Germany and North Africa.

“My menu is heavily influenced by what I saw in Europe,” said Kneabone. “I do classics but with a twist. I rework the classics with whatever we have around us here. We adapt it and modernize some of the old recipes to accompany local ingredients.”

This hybrid of local fare meets European flavour can easily be found in Terrapin Grille’s new menu; featuring items like Pinot Noir stewed escargots, Balderson cheddar baked crab crusted orichetti, charbroiled Ontario Lamb chops with Reisling au jus and Cajun dusted Ontario trout with a fresh, simple macerated lemon dish that Kneabone discovered in the South of France.

“Currently everything within our fridge is within 40 miles away maximum,” said Kneabone. “Whenever I can we absolutely do include local produce. We use Wellington County beef, Ontario fresh lamb and Ontario trout along with local farm fresh vegetables for sides, soups and sauces. The steaks are fresh, the sauces are fresh, and everything is made to order. It is only the best quality ingredients money can buy. No frozen meats, no frozen seafood and no frozen chicken.”

Though the heart of the menu is adjusted four times a year to best feature the local produce and harvest seasons, the seasonal vegetables, soups and sauces are constantly adjusting to both Kneabone and his team’s inspiration. But a few regular favourites always make the list.

“There are a lot of favourites that have been on the menu several times,” said Kneabone. “The red wine and rootbeer short rib martini is a recipe that was created three years ago for the Niagara Wine and Food Festival and it was such a hit that we have taken it back every year.”

Accompanying the diverse food menu is a regionally focused wine list and local craft beer selection handcrafted by Kneabone when he took over the restaurant. The lists feature some of Kneabone’s favourite wineries and breweries, including both reds and whites from Jackson Triggs, Tawse Winery and Between the Lines, beers from Taps Brewery and Niagara Oast House Brewers, but is constantly expanding to include more local producers.

Kneabone said his exceptional staff use the wine lists to introduce tourists to Niagara’s thriving wine and beer region.
“90% of the tourists come in and they don’t even know we have a wine region,” said Kneabone. “They will come in asking for a specific Cab Sauvignon and I will say ‘I’m sorry sir we don’t carry that, but we carry a Tawse and this is amazing and it’s going to match it,’ and I talk them into it and it works.”

To encourage others to take part in supporting local farmers and experimenting with cooking, Kneabone is known to share his recipes with interested restaurant-goers who love any dish enough to ask for the secret.
“I do not hold anything private,” said Kneabone. “If anybody asks me ‘How do you make the Pinot Noir sauce,’ I’m going to tell them. I probably give away 100 recipes a month.”

Kneabone and his team are also known for committing time to the local food community, annually participating in multiple wine and food events, televised shows with chch and local winery events and dinners.
Though Kneabone attributes these events and the chefs he works with to helping him keep his culinary edge over the years, he said both his passion for continual learning, constant experimentation and drive to always try new things was instilled by the precedent left by his mother and grandmother.

“I have worked in the business for 30 years, I have travelled all over the world, but when I needed a pierogi dough recipe yesterday, who did I call? My mom,” said Kneabone. “My grandmother and my mother’s cooking are true to the same; true to form ingredients. If you’re going to be making French fries you aren’t going to go buy a bag you’re going to get a potato and cut it and put it in oil.”

“You can never be too old or too stubborn to learn,” said Kneabone. “The day you stop learning, you should stop working too.”

Whether you are vacationing in Niagara Falls and looking for a diverse, locally driven menu or you are a local to the area seeking a romantic spot to celebrate a special occasion, Terrapin Grille is a culinary experience next to none that your taste buds will thank you for at the first bite.