Home?

More and more, lately, I’m struggling to feel at home in Toronto.

I’m certainly engaging with it less. I used to go to TIFF every year, and Hot Docs. I used to go to concerts and beer festivals and Raptors games, and try new restaurants, and go to St. Lawrence Market every weekend. Obviously COVID put a serious crimp in those plans, but I haven’t seemed to recover. Anyway, I was tailing way off on stuff like that before COVID. Even moving to this side of the Don River has made it feel tougher than when I lived a block from Yonge Street. It used to take 5-10 minutes to get downtown in an uber; now traffic and construction are so bad that it seems to take 25 minutes to get any-fucking-where. I know I can fix this particular sense of disconnection by just doing these sorts of things again, but it just feels like so much more effort now.

I used to feel more connected to the city by taking transit everywhere, but now I drive to the office. I haven’t been on the subway in nearly three years, and given the kind of random violence that seems to happen on the TTC every other day, I’m in no hurry to get back on it. Speaking of random, people getting stabbed to death by swarms of teenaged girls, or getting jabbed in the back with a needle by a stranger, or having their homes sold without their knowledge…Toronto’s always been a big city and it’s always suffered from violence, but this feels different. Maybe it happens every time a recession drives more people to desperation or conflict and I just don’t remember. But this is my third in this city, and it sure doesn’t feel familiar.

An overtly corrupt premier. A do-little mayor who thinks more police funding is the right answer. House prices and rents so high that seniors and nurses can’t live here.

Ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought this, but…if it wasn’t for our jobs, I’m not sure I’d still want to live here.

“This world’s a treasure, Don, but it’s been telling us to leave for a while now.”

I’ve probably watched Interstellar all the way through half a dozen times now. I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of it. The visuals, the music, the drama, the feels. I watched it again on Thursday and it still thrilled me. There are plenty of movies I’ll throw on in the background again and again, half-ignoring them while I read or do something else, but add this one to the short list of films that grab my attention every single time.

S’all good, man

I’ve finally gotten around to starting Better Call Saul (imdb | rotten tomatoes) and, two seasons in, I’m hooked. Such great fleshing out of backstory, plenty of familiar Breaking Bad characters appearing right from the get-go, and strong new additions to the universe, notably Rhea Seehorn.

Meanwhile, we’ve been trying to make our way through the first season of Slow Horses (imdb | rotten tomatoes) but it’s *ahem* slow going.

All that, and I haven’t even started the new season of The Bad Batch, The Last Of Us, Fleishman Is In Trouble, Severance, or a bunch of other apparently-good shows. I have work to do. (Fun, high-quality work.)

“You will get less than you desire, and more than you deserve.”

Last night we watched The Menu (imdb | rotten tomatoes). It’d been recommended by a bunch of friends, and I’d like the preview when it first came out, so we centered a quiet evening at home around it.

It was good — funny, dark, with plenty of fodder for analysis the next day. A little on the nose at times, but well worth a watch.

I also watched the latest instance of All Quiet On The Western Front (imdb | rotten tomatoes) a few days ago too, which was also good, but decidedly more bleak and depressing.

2022 Annual Report: Emergence

A year ago, as I wrote this summary for 2021, I was in Nova Scotia. We were fumbling through Omicron’s outbreak, haphazardly managing schedules and isolations and scrambling for booster appointments. I wrote,

I suppose it’s less optimism that 2022 will be different, and more hope. To be honest, I don’t care to contemplate another year of this.

Looking back at the last twelve months, it’s clear that it was different than the year before. Maybe not back to normal (whatever than means now) but it certainly felt like emerging out from under something. Right around the two-year mark of the pandemic really hitting Canada, it felt like things began opening back up for us. I began driving to the office 2-3 days a week. We did a little staycation here in town, went to see Jacqueline Novak live, and went to a few fun “flight club” wine tastings at Chez Nous. I also went to a Leafs/Habs game, a Sigur Ros concert, and a Jays game (where I saw Aaron Judge tie Roger Maris’ home run record).

We even got back to trying a couple new restaurants like Constantine, Eastside Social, and Greta Solomon’s here in Toronto, while visiting old favourites like Barberians twice, Richmond Station twice, Ascari, Kojin, and Aria, and others I’m probably missing. Sure, we’re not quite back to our old gastronomic selves in Toronto, but we do get after it when we’re out of the city. Trips to NotL took us to Treadwell twice (four times, truthfully; each time we went back for lunch the next day), Redstone a few times, and The Yellow Pear. We also made sure to hit some amazing restaurants in Montreal (Monarque, Marcella, Nora Gray, Maison Publique, Pichai), Halifax (Drift…many, many times; The Black Sheep, Café Lunette, Trattoria da Claudio), and Quebec City (Lapin Sauté, Chez Muffy, Chez Rioux & Pettigrew) too.

And yeah, we still haven’t left the country (or even gone west of Kitchener) since the pandemic began, but we did get down to wine country a few times, Montreal for a relaxing week, Halifax for my university 25 year reunion, all over Nova Scotia for a longer trip in August, and Quebec City for a very chilly long weekend in November.

There was plenty of reason to stay put in Toronto too. Having a house means more visitors from out of town, so we hosted N+J in Feb, brother #2 in May, brother #1 + fam in June, T+K in June, brother #2 + fam in July, and N+J again in November. I also got to have dinner out with old friends from MBA and undergrad days, and we had dinner with D+K at their house and at Kojin with K+P. It also gave us extra time with Kramer, who has become even more relaxed and affectionate (as I type this he’s lying next to me on the couch, purring and trying to coax me into a belly rub), and who has taken to kind of yell-meowing at us when we leave for too long.

Another thing having a house has meant: renovations. Sometimes the bad (read: expensive) kind, but sometimes the fun kind too: in November we finished construction on a new wine cabinet in the basement that holds ~700 bottles. You can imagine how excited I am about that.

So yeah: house-hermiting aside, it did feel like 2022 was a year of re-emergence for us. Still, the pandemic is far from over: 2022 was the most deadly year yet for COVID in Canada. To wit, this fall we got COVID-19 a second time. Luckily, the combination of this variant + all the boosters in our system made for a much easier ride than the first time, but it still wasn’t fun. But apart from that (and minor injuries to Lindsay’s eye and my finger) we came through the year pretty unscathed, which is always a reason to be thankful.

One other big re-emergence for me: while I’m watching virtually no new movies, and consuming far less new music, I’ve started reading books again. I read about a book a month in 2022 for a while before tailing off in the fall, but plan to start back up this week. Speaking of this week, we opted to stay put in Toronto for the holidays this year. No airports, no weather delays, no dodging storms on NS highways, etc., etc. As much as we’ll miss spending time with family, that’s exactly why we spent 2.5 weeks there in August. So we’ll catch up on TV, pet our son, not work, eat mountains of chocolate, drink the good stuff from the wine cellar, play games, and just generally recharge. Not a bad way to end the year.

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Annual reports from past years:

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[Cover photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash]

[Cover photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]

The best of everything from 2022

As with last year, I’m not limiting these lists to things that came out this calendar year, just what I consumed this year. And, as with last year, everything is listed in alphabetical order unless stated otherwise.

My favourite albums this year

I’m well-behind here, having not yet fully gone through this year’s albums by Alvvays, Beach House, black midi, Horsegirl, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, The Smile, Regina Spektor, or Sharon Van Etten, but here’s where I’m at for now.

XI: Bleed Here Now by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

Just when you think Trail Of Dead can’t get more epic, they drop a 22-song double album on you. Hit and miss like many of their albums, but the strongest ones stuck with me.

Life On Earth by Hurray For The Riff Raff

My first pass through this album I didn’t like it, but I kept coming back to it (mostly drawn back by “Rhododendron”) and eventually found a cozy little home in it.

King’s Disease by Nas

It was a happy coincidence that I was prompted to revisit Illmatic (see the TV section for the backstory there) not long before this was released, so there was some continuity there. Hard to imagine someone being this strong for this long.

11:11 by Pinegrove

Somehow it feels like every song is kind of the same, and every album is kind of the same, and yet somehow I’m captivated by each one.

Everything Was Beautiful by Spiritualized

This one grabbed me from the first listen, and only got better on replays. “Best Thing You Never Had” belongs right up there with their very best songs, IMO.

Lucifer On The Sofa by Spoon

Speaking of so strong for so long, it’s hard to believe this banger came out a full 20 years after Kill The Moonlight, still one of my all-time favourite albums.

Dig Me In: A Dig Me Out Covers Album by Various Artists

This set of covers of the seminal Sleater-Kinney album surprised me — it’s excellent pretty much top to bottom. When I saw a country artist was covering “Turn It On” (one of my favourite songs of all time) I was horrified, but…it’s good. It’s all good.

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My favourite songs this year

This is still very much a work in progress, until I work my way through the list above.

  1. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead . “No Confidence”
  2. Ethel Cain . “Thoroughfare”
  3. Cat Power . “I Had A Dream Joe:
  4. Dehd . “Window”
  5. Hurray for the Riff Raff . “Rhododendron”
  6. Nas . “Beef”
  7. Angel Olsen . “Go Home”
  8. Sault . “Life We Rent But Love Is Rent Free”
  9. The Smile . “Pana-vision”
  10. Spiritualized . “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)”

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My favourite movies this year

My movie consumption this year was even more meagre than in 2020. In fact, I watched only six movies released in 2022. Given the smaller pool to select from, I didn’t even make it to ten. Nonetheless:

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Hoo boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever swung so wildly between laughter and despair in a single movie. Beautifully shot and worth all the accolades for all four primary cast members. A tidy little metaphor for the civil war happening just across the water too.

The Dig (2021)

An austere and pastoral film set in the English countryside on the eve of WWII, a study of relationships and class and avarice and the quest for knowledge, all centered around some lumps in a field. Really lovely.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story (2022)

Oh, how I’ve missed Benoit Blanc. So much fun, this movie. Such a delightful little dinner theatre romp. Such fun skewering so many awful people. Such a cute little Hugh Grant cameo. More please!!

The Good Nurse (2022)

I knew nothing about this, but it showed up on the TV one day and we felt like watching it, and…oof. A dark story, made all the darker because it’s true, but so skillfully acted by Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne that it didn’t come off as hacky or gross.

Goodfellas (1990)

Hi there, I’m 32 years too late. Somehow, somehow, I had never seen this movie. I don’t know how it happened. I think I saw bits and pieces of it? Or maybe I saw it so long ago that I didn’t remember/appreciate it? I don’t know, but I’m glad I finally got to it. Another Scorsese masterpiece, as if that needed to be said.

Shang-chi: Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021)

Holy action sequences, kids. Really brought some martial arts flavour to the Marvel universe. Also: Awkwafina, who was so so so great. Aside: I laughed so hard at the chicken pig that I spit Diet Pepsi everywhere.

Spiderman: No Way Home (2021)

Sure, guys, sure. Prey on Dan and his Spider-Man nostalgia. At this point I suppose most people know the twist, but I shan’t spoil it. I’ll just say that a kind-of dopey worked for me in a year when I was probably going through a bit of Marvel withdrawal. (I’m looking at you, Thor: Love and Thunder.)

The F Word (2013)

Not a great movie, but a clever little rom-com that won some points with me for being set in Toronto. Like, actually in Toronto, and they made it look gorgeous. The scene where Daniel Radcliffe sits on his roof looks like he was somewhere in Riverdale, and the diner scenes made me miss brunch at my old local the George Street Diner. Also: Adam Driver is very hilarious.

Wind River (2017)

Basically a straight procedural set in the harsh American wilderness, but Taylor Sheridan does those well enough to keep me hooked for a couple hours. And maybe enough to make me kind of want to watch Yellowstone. We’ll see.

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My favourite TV shows this year

As with last year, this is the only medium we’re consuming with such frequency that I had to actually pick a top ten. Still, I find myself behind: I haven’t yet watched Severance, Fleishman Is In Trouble, The Bear, Reservation Dogs, Our Flag means Death, or any of Better Call Saul.

Andor (S1)

One of the best Star Wars series is also the least Star Wars-y. No Force, no lightsabers, no Yodas baby or otherwise, virtually no space battles. Just the sparks of rebellion, lighting little fires everywhere.

The Dropout

The story obviously wasn’t new, but Amanda Seyfried’s performance was a revelation. Takes on new weight, too, now that Elizabeth Holmes has been convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Euphoria (S2)

Let’s be honest, this is only here for two reasons: Zendaya’s brilliant ongoing portrayal of Rue, and Lexi’s play.

Gaslit

One of the things I loved about the Slow Burn podcast season about Watergate is that it told a part of the story that I — whose understanding of the incident was based almost entirely on All The President’s Men — didn’t know. That story was about Martha Mitchell, and it got turned into this excellent limited series starring Sean Penn and Julia Roberts.

House of the Dragon (S1)

I’ve been waiting a while for more GoT content, and finally got it with HotD. It was at once slow to get moving while also taking massive time jumps forward, but as season one comes to a close we’re finally ready for the dance of dragons…and I, for one, cannot wait.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (S1)

Speaking of slow to get moving, this series took its time, but by the end of season one I was hooked. Good reveals. Good backstory. Great visuals. I’m into it.

Ozark (S4)

I stepped away from this show for a long time, but ended up coming back to it and blazed through the final couple seasons in one go. Bonus content: Ruth’s impromptu music review with Killer Mike made me go back and listen to Illmatic again for the first time in a while.

We Own This City

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ll watch anything David Simon makes, especially if it’s about Baltimore policing and the rot at the heart of that city’s municipal systems. It was infuriating, but I suppose I expected that going in. Also: it’s always jarring, if a little fun, to see the actors behind such well-known Wire characters (Marlo! Landsman! etc.) play new parts here.

The White Lotus (S2)

We didn’t know how season 2 could live up to season 1, but…it did. Oh, it did. This time gender politics came in for its turn under the microscope (though some class politics seeped over from season 1, which I guess at a fancy resort will always be the case) and the run-up to the dead body mystery was *chef’s kiss*.

Yellowjackets (S1)

We’d heard about it but hadn’t watched it. Then we threw on an episode to see what it was about…and binged it all in like 2 days. Frankly, I’m glad we came to it late, because now we only have to wait three months for season 2. Killer (ha!) soundtrack too.

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My favourite books this year

After several of reading two, one, or even zero books per year, I came back strong this year. Granted, I petered off halfway through the year, and granted too that 50% of them were about wine, but still…this is progress. I forgot how much I love reading.

The Cinema Of Survival: Mad Max Fury Road by Matt Brown

I was part of the Kickstarter for this one, both a film-nerdy look at an excellent action movie, and a cipher for what Brown was experiencing at the time.

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

A book club book which took the three of us (me, Lindsay, our friend Shannon) nearly two years to finish. Staggering in its poetry (even translated into English), profundity, and relevance — some 60+ years on — the weight of the work demanded we take our time of it.

Dune by Frank Herbert

I finally got around to reading this, one of my dad’s all-time favourite books, after watching last year’s movie remake. From the elements of the book which now seem so familiar, it’s apparent just how influential and ahead of its time it was.

Wine Girl by Victoria James

The first of four wine books I read this year, this one was about the struggles of a young woman becoming a sommelier in the archaic and abusive wine & restaurant industry. As much as I love learning about wine and delving deeper into the world of it, this book just reinforced that even as a privileged white dude I would never want to enter the service side of it.

Wine and War by Don & Petie Kladstrup

A look at how French winemakers survived, and protected their greatest vintages, during Nazi occupation in WWII, from Alsace to Bordeaux.

The Lynching by Laurence Leamer

The story of a 1981 lynching of a black man in the American south, and the lawyer who launched a court battle that splintered the KKK. That same lawyer founded the Southern Poverty Law Centre…so there’s a lot going on in this book. Not an easy read, but an interesting one.

Tenth Of December by George Saunders

A collection of short stories that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages. I wish I’d reached for it sooner — so many of the stories are still in my head many months after reading it.

The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace

More riveting than you might think, this story about rich people buying ancient Bordeaux wines, including bottles that may or may not have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. Read like a John le Carré novel, and exposed me to a whole wine subculture I didn’t know about.

Godforsaken Grapes by Jason Wilson

A non-fiction endorsement of adventurous wine tasting, focusing on grapes beyond the everyday noble sort that can be found on any wine list. Bonus points for making the title a gentle poke in the eye to Robert Parker.

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My favourite podcasts this year

A change to the format this year: we can assume that perpetual favourites like 99% Invisible, Against The Rules, Dead Eyes, Office Ladies, Revisionist History, This American Life, You Are Good, and You’re Wrong About will remain so. I’ll instead list my favourite new (to me) podcasts here.

Passenger List (S2)

I finally got around to listening to season 2 of this narrative series, and got sucked right back in. The sound design continues to amaze.

Scamfluencers

Sure, the stories of people who use social media (or similar) influence to scam others out of money, trust, etc. are entertaining in a “Wait, what?!” kind of way, but the real draw here is the banter between Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi.

Somm TV

Imagine that, wine content! I’m late to this series, but I’ve already spent one episode disagreeing loudly with the hose while alone in my car, so you know I’m engaged.

The Wire: Way Down In The Hole

Again, I’m very late to this episode-by-episode deep dive on every episode of The Wire, but I’m excited to have finally discovered it.

Will Be Wild

A compelling and informative look at the run-up to, and events of, the 6 Jan 2021 insurrection at the US capitol building. The series ended up wrapping around the same time as the select committee hearings, and the producers were able to loop back with that new context.

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My favourite meals this year

Quite the inverse of last year: the majority of my top ten this year were outside of Toronto. Listed in chronological order.

Treadwell, Niagara-on-the-Lake

The first of two visits this year, this NotL mainstay never disappoints. Every time, the meal is so good we beg for a lunch reservation the next day.

Monarque, Montreal

Our first night back in Montreal we took a bit of a flier on this place in the old city, and it was tremendous. A great bottle of Meursault didn’t hurt.

Maison Publique, Montreal

Our return to our favourite Montreal restaurant lived up to our memories, and felt like coming home. I still think about the spicy duck hearts we ate that night.

Pichai, Montreal

Tucked into a cozy booth with N+J, trying not to sweat to death, piling one delicious dish (and bottle) after another down our necks — what a dinner.

The Yellow Pear, St. Catharines

Lindsay did a bit of digging before we drove from NotL to wineries in Vineland, and found this unassuming place in a strip mall. My barbacoa pork skillet was a revelation.

Drift, Halifax

I’d eaten solo at Drift several times during my visit earlier in the year, but this full-on dinner with Lindsay in the summer produced several superb dishes, and a stellar bottle of Chard.

Chez Muffy, Quebec City

The sort of gastronomic tasting menu we’d missed for years. Not surprising we found it in Quebec City. Many hours later, we were grateful our hotel was just around the corner.

Chez Rioux & Pettigrew, Quebec City

Honestly, we were just looking to kill a few hours before our flight home to Toronto, but this brunch spot ended up being an absolute gem. The fixed menu was loaded with enough food — delicious food, at that — to count as two meals on this list.

Greta Solomon’s, Toronto

Finally, a Toronto restaurant! This one’s been just down the street from us for years, but we’d never tried it until this month. It turned out to be a classic, tasty little French bistro.

Barberian’s, Toronto

The last of my three visits to Barberians this year. This one had the edge thanks to the steak/lamb combo, and the out-of-the-blue wine from Washington State.

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My favourite (new) wines this year

A process improvement over last year: I’ve added (occasional) scoring in Cellartracker to my sources from previous years — Instagram and blog posts. Perhaps surprising: five of these are white wines. Two notes: I’ve excluded anything my company makes, and these are listed in chronological order.

Dopff au Moulin 2018 Grand Cru Brand Gewurztraminer

Kind of fitting that I drank this one while studying for a WSET exam and watching a wine documentary.

Domaine du Bel Air 2012 Grand Mont Bourgueil

We bought this bottle in Paris nearly fiive years before, and managed to leave it alone until one night this past January. It was worth the wait.

Bachelder 2014 Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir

My favourite of the night (poured from a magnum) in an evening filled with Thomas Bachelder’s Chards and Pinots, at a charity-won dinner at Barberians with good friends.

Exultet 2019 The Blessed Chardonnay

No special occasion drove opening this one, other than the opening of it. Surely one of the best Chardonnays in a province that makes exceptional ones.

P. Frick 2018 Auxerrois Crémant d’Alsace

A delightful opener for a (somewhat disastrous) dinner at Nora Grey in Montreal. Beat out the Meursault we’d drunk the night before on the strength of how much it surprised me.

Robert Mondavi 2016 To-Kalon Vineyard Reserve Fumé Blanc

To-Kalon vineyard: believe the hype.

From the Heart Cuvée Number One 2019 Chardonnay

Not the most remarkable megnum of Chardonnay, perhaps, but noteworthy because of the story behind it (a blend of top Ontario chards created by Thomas Bachelder, purchased at the afore-mentioned charity dinner), the signature on the bottle (Geddy Lee!), and the company with whom we shared it (brother #2 and his wife).

Olga Raffault 2006 Les Picasses Chinon

Another magnum, this one shared with friends at Kojin.

Kelly Mason 2020 Wild Ferment Frontier Block Chardonnay

While doing a tasting at Southbrook in Niagara on the Lake, an employee heard us saying we’d ordered a couple of bottles of this particular Chardonnay from Kelly Mason. She insisted we buy more. We emailed Kelly and added two more to our order, and I’m glad we did — this one was unreal. I’m relieved we have three more in the cellar.

Andrew Will 2003 Sheridan Vineyard red blend

On the advice of our sommelier at Barberian’s, we ordered this mature Washington blend with our steak and lamb, and my goodness. It was superb.

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My favourite (new) beers this year

Like my movie consumption, my beer-drinking has reached its nadir, to the point where I barely drink — barely can drink — beer at all. In fact, I tried only three new beers all year.

Avling Foxtail Zwickelbier

Living even closer to Avling means it’s a pretty easy stop-in for us, like the dinner with our friend V where I tried this decent little zwickel.

Nine Locks Brewing Co. Double Chocolate Stout

I drank this on Canada Day, sat on a Halifax patio, one of the few remaining places I will probably always feel compelled to drink a beer.

Tilquin Oude Pinot Gris Gueuze

A variant of one of my all-time favourite beers, done on the skins of Pinot Gris grapes, this gueuze was one of the best things I drank all year.

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My favourite moments this year

In chronological order.

  1. Seeing a snowy owl launch itself off our roof, then fly back.
  2. An epic dinner at Barberians hosted by Thomas Bachelder.
  3. Seeing old Delano friends for the first time in decades:
  4. My first real haircut in two years, thank the maker.
  5. Book club in Riverdale Park with our friend Shannon.
  6. Getting over-porked in Port Perry.
  7. Seeing Sigur Ros live again, and tearing up at the end of Popplagið.
  8. Forest trails and roadside fries outside Montreal with N+J.
  9. Free drinks at Cluny with T+K, just for being nice Maritimers.
  10. Catching up with old classmates at my 25th university reunion.
  11. Speakeasy drinks with brother #1 looking over Halifax Harbour.
  12. Getting pooped on by a bird at Southbrook on my birthday.
  13. Meeting two of my favourite Niagara winemakers in one weekend.
  14. Hanging out with a school of fish on the Halifax waterfront stairs one night.
  15. Lindsay and I drinking the list at Obladee in one night.
  16. A glorious day driving down the Minas Basin shore with my mom.
  17. Eating the best donairs ever at a cottage in the Annapolis Valley.
  18. Skipping rocks on a beach while a seal kept an eye on us.
  19. A spontaneous art buy in Quebec City.
  20. Loading the first bottle into our new wine cellar.

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[Cover photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]

[Insert Christmas Carol Title Here]

Today is day one of ~1.5 weeks’ vacation. We’re not traveling to Nova Scotia this year, though, choosing instead to stay here in Toronto and be cozy. Good thing, too — today would have been our likely travel day, and it’s a brutal winter storm out there.

So, we’ll stay put. We’ll catch up on TV shows (we just finished season one of Yellowjackets (imdb) and an old British miniseries called Secret State (imdb), and I have plenty more lined up). We’ll delve into the wine collection. We might finish Pandemic: Legacy. I’ll watch the World Juniors and write up my year-end lists & summary. We’ll try to tackle the mountain of sweets our parents sent to our home. We’ll snuggle with Kramer. We’ll watch Die Hard and Four Christmases.

We’ll miss visiting family, but it’s going to be a fun end of the year.

Festiveating part II

Two more great meals over the past week.

First was Greta Solomon’s, a little French bistro down the street from us in Leslieville. It was our first time there. What a cozy, charming little spot — and one of our favourite ex-Chez Nous servers Trinette was working there! I think that, for first timers, we did pretty well:

  • Pain avec Beurre | sourdough + cultured butter
  • Olives Niçoise | orange + rosemary
    • cocktails
  • Saladé Cauchoise | warm fingerling potato + ham, celery, watercress, cider crème fraîche
  • Tarte au Poisson | poached pickerel + leeks, greens, pickled shallot, quail egg
  • Côtes Courtes | 36 hour 8 oz short rib + pomme purée, pearl onion, horseradish, jus
  • Steak Frites | 6 oz bavette + compound butter, duck fat fries
    • 2016 Clos du Château de Parnay Saumur Champigny

I really didn’t think I’d like a fish pie, but it was goddamn delicious. So were our mains, and that Cab Franc. Next time: dessert!

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Later in the week, I had a work-related dinner at Barberian’s, a very well-known commodity to both I and the friend I had dinner with. No surprises with the food — surprises aren’t really the point at a classic steak house — but we asked the sommelier for her opinion on what wine we should be drinking, and got an absolute treat in return.

  • Caesar salad w/ parmigiano & grilled bacon
  • Jumbo shrimp cocktail
    • Old fashioneds
  • New York strip
  • Rack of lamb
  • Mushrooms
  • Spicy, crispy Brussels sprouts
    • 2003 Andrew Will Sheridan red blend
    • Glasses of vintage port for dessert. Don’t ask me which.

I also left with a recommendation for an Italian Cab Franc I need to check out. So it was a Cab Franc kinda week, I guess.

Festiveating

It’s the time of year when dinners abound. This week it was Aria, where the food was very good, but the highlight was the long chat I had with the sommelier as he poured various dessert wines and amaro for us.

Last night I had a team dinner at Richmond Station, a delight as always:
  • Appetizers
    • Charcuterie with 3 meats, pickles, preserves, mustards, sourdough focaccia
    • Pain Au Lait w/ grass-fed butter, vancouver island sea salt
  • Mains
    • Others got the Stn. Burger, Tanjo Farms Duck, Arctic Char, and Cave-Aged Comté Agnolotti
    • I had the Berkshire Pork loin w/ brussels sprouts, caramelized apple, potato rösti, apple cider vinaigrette
    • Bottles of 2018 Big Head “Raw” Gamay
  • Dessert
    • Winter Spiced Pavlova w/ cranberry purée, spiced pastry cream, gingerbread cookies
    • Dark Chocolate Ganache Bar w/ brown sugar cookie, hazelnut & aged rum ice cream
    • Sticky Toffee Pudding w/ white chocolate, vanilla ice cream, madeira & wildflower honey sauce
    • glasses of 2016 Big Head “Select Late Harvest” Riesling and 2014 Domenico Fraccaroli Recioto Della Valpolicella

Two more coming up, too: Greta Solomon and Barberians. Wish me luck.

That 307 seems pretty doable

Just before we moved into this house (two years ago now!) we thought we’d use the basement the same way the previous owners had staged it: we’d put the TV and a couch down there, and keep our living room TV-free. However, once we moved in we realized that simply wasn’t realistic — the basement’s too small, it’s too cool in the winter and humid in the summer, and…y’know, Kramer shits in a box down there. So: on to plan B.

One of the top candidates for plan B quickly became to build a wine cellar down there. I had grand visions of a full-scale cellar, but that just wasn’t feasible, or even necessary — my collection currently stands at 453 bottles, only 415 of which are reasonably cellar-worthy. Still a proper wine cabinet could be good. And so, we had Rosehill build us one. It holds 722 bottles, and they finished it Monday of this week. (Thanks Chris!)

Look at this beaut:

After the first day of construction
The finished product

Since I took today as a holiday, I might just spend the afternoon filling it up. I’m surprised I’ve waited four days, frankly.