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12 Questions with Nicolette Novak

Nicolette Novak, Owner,  The Good Earth Food and Wine Company

1) You are a pioneer of the culinary movement in Niagara. What currently excites you about culinary tourism in Niagara?

I am particularly excited about people discovering our little corner of Niagara  – The Twenty Valley.  For most people “Niagara” means “Niagara on the Lake” or “Niagara Falls”.  People are coming out to the sleepy villages of Jordan, Vineland and Beamsville and absolutely falling in love with the wine and food scene that we have here.  They love the rustic and laid back nature of what we do.

2) What is your vision for the future of the Good Earth?

I see the Good Earth simply refining what we do so well – welcoming the world to our little piece of paradise and ensuring that everyone who visits has a great time.  My goal is not to get bigger but rather just get better at everything that we do – our food, wine and culinary offerings.

3) What is driving your philosophy?

My philosophy is really quite simple – be honest, warm and real.  I really look at every visitor at The Good Earth as a personal guest.  After all, this is my home and I am opening up my property and home to them.  Nothing contrived, no pretenses!

4) We read that originally, you had planned to own an Inn on the property.  How did your idea evolve and what factors affected change to your original plan along the way?

The limitations entrenched in the Greenbelt legislation really make certain aspects of “agritourism” almost impossible to deliver.  My vision was to have a nice small “auberge” that would have 12 rooms – just enough so that I could accommodate guests coming to a cooking demo.  It’s a very common model in Europe.  It became such an incredible challenge as obstacles appeared at every level of approvals, I abandoned the idea.  I guess I am just too old and worn out to take on anything more than I have on my plate.

5) Any plan to have animals?

I have my cats and dogs which are the official “welcoming party” at The Good Earth.  Last year, we got some laying hens which was a great deal of fun.  They were a HUGE success with our guests.  Everyone was taken by their personalities and just how pretty they were scratching about in the garden, orchard and vineyards.  We are getting some more again this season.  I would love a goat but goats and gardens don’t go hand in hand.  Quite seriously, I just don’t have any more time to add animal husbandry to my “to do” list.

6) Was the move into wine production a natural shift, or a planned development?

You don’t get into the wine industry without really considering why and having a plan!  There isn’t a more complex business in Niagara!  Of course, adding a winery to the food side of the business was a very natural decision.  I love it!  I think we make great wines but more than that we offer great food and wine experiences without all the stuffiness.

7) What is it like to live with beauty all around you?

There isn’t a day that I don’t marvel at all the beauty that surrounds me.  I really do consider myself blessed and never take it for granted.

8) What is your favorite Niagara gourmet picnic basket and location?

I never have the time for a picnic so I really can’t comment.  Sorry!

9) Any farmers you would like to give a shout out to?

I am lucky to have my property looked after by Chris Andrewes.  He is a great farmer.  I get a lot of great produce from Dave Hildreth and Jamie Warner.  Nobody has better roma tomatoes or early plums than Debbie Hipple!

10) How interested are your customers in the farm-to-table experience?

Our clients come to us primarily because they love the food that we do and the ambiance.  For some of them the “farm to table” experience is important but I would say for the most part people really just love good, honest food prepared with care and a little bit of “TLC”.

11) What’s cooking in your kitchen right now?

We are preparing for one of our “good girth supper club” evenings.  The theme is “La dolce vita” so there are a lot of wonderful aromas of garlic and basil – memories of Italy.  I am looking forward to the arancini that we will be serving.  We had them on our fall menu and people loved them.  It is nice to bring them back for a special evening.

12) What is your favourite way to spend a day in Niagara?

My favourite way to spend a day in Niagara is opening up the doors of The Good Earth and welcoming the intrepid traveller who ventures down our dusty laneway.  The smile on their face when they leave makes everything worth while!

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