In Niagara (5) Judging ends and dinner at Fat Rabbit, St Catharines

So, the final day of judging of the National Wine Awards of Canada (NWACs). It’s a bittersweet moment, because although at the end of the day our work is done, most people departed for the airport or headed home, leaving just four of us holdovers: Jeremy Bonia, Evan Goldstein, Geoffrey Moss and me.

The NWACs are an excellently judged competition, and part of the reason for this is that the judges (pictured above) get on well together and respect each other. We have a few new faces each year – it’s necessary to rotate, or we will all grow old together – but the fact that there are so many who return every year, and that we all stay in the same hotel, and that most are Canadians (who are nice people on the whole) means that it’s like a big family. And families are wonderful in that you don’t have to earn your place: you have your place. Everyone accepts each others’ differences and we socialize nicely with drinking and singing, which always helps bring people together.

So the holdovers gathered to watch the England game in the European Championships (this is soccer; the previous night we’d watched the dramatic Stanley Cup hockey final, which Canadians understand better than soccer on the whole) and drink a beer, but sadly England didn’t perform and there were no goals. But we’d made an evening reservation at Fat Rabbit, an exciting new-ish restaurant in St Catharines, and the four of us were joined by local hero Magdalena Kaiser for a spot of supper.

Fat Rabbit is brilliant. As well as running a restaurant, they are butchers and caterers. All their meat is butchered in-house from whole animals and they make their own charcuterie. It’s a small-ish restaurant, nicely arranged with a good vibe, focusing on small plates but also offering some main-course-size dishes, especially with their meat. The wine list is a short but good one with an emphasis on natural, and is put together by my friends The Grape Witches in Toronto. We had a great evening here and it’s great to have another really good restaurant in Niagara.