Saturday: dinner at Capocaccia with friends from university. Then Primitivo, softball-sized burrata, brown butter agnalotti, Amarone. Then back to the lair. Then Merlot, Zinfandel. Then something…um, French? Then impromptu cleaning. Then a note that said Sale al Truffulo. Then Lagavulin and (je pense) Dalwhinnie. Then a cab.

Sunday: ouch. Then McDonald’s. Then season 2 of Breaking Bad.

Not elegant. But effective.

"The last chance for progressive politics for an awfully long time"

“It is time to stop listening to the voices who plead for calm moderation and for a cotton-candy centrism that melts at the first sign of resistance. It is time for politicians on the other side to be as fervent in their calls for economic justice as Newt Gingrich is in his calls for kiddie janitors and adolescent wage-slavery. It is time for someone — anyone — to step to a very big microphone and say that the problem with Americans is not that they are lazy, or coddled, or anesthetized by 70 years of the welfare state, or morally unmoored (Thanks, David Brooks!), but that the problem with Americans is that a bunch of expensive suits stole all their money, looted their pensions, made a mockery of their hard work, and labored for decades to develop dozens of ways to swindle them, all the while fashioning a politics that told them that the ultimate freedom was the freedom to have your pockets picked.”

Charles P. Pierce, on

"Arrogance is not a uniquely American trait, but you do it better than most."

Given the 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the fact that it’s a Marvel comic put to film, I would have thought that I’d enjoy Captain America (imdb | rotten tomatoes) more than I did. It was fine, I guess, but not one of the better movies leading up to The Avengers. True, the special effects were pretty incredible (especially how they imposed Chris Evans’ face on some little guy’s body) but the rest seemed hokey, like they were going for the 40s WWII propaganda film feel throughout. Disappointing.

Street Fight

What was this email in our inboxes? An event at a brewery? More to the point, a four-course meal? With both beer and wine pairings? Crowds of other people who also like both beer and wine? Bien sûr!

It was like someone custom-made this event for Nellie and I. We bought tickets as soon as we heard about it, and on Thursday rushed down to the Distillery District to enjoy the festivities. This was the second competition (well, third really, but the first wasn’t publicized) between the Mill Street Brewery and 13th Street Winery (hence the name of the event: “Street Fight”) wherein the beer and wine would be evaluated on how well they paired with each course by a panel of judges (officially) and the 60-odd participants (unofficially). Let the games begin!

The staff brought around several sample-sized glasses of beer and wine before the meal even got started. Eventually the appetizers arrived — artichoke and oka cheese fritters with tarragon aioli…tasty! By this time the tables were starting to fill in. Most people were attending in large groups, including the group of four to our right (who we talked to about good places in Ottawa, like the soon-to-be-open Mill St. Brewery, and Les Brasseurs du Temps across the river in Hull), and the group to our left who all work at Opera Bob’s, a pub on the west side of Toronto, and who entertained us for the entire evening. For example, there was a particularly humorous tale about a beautiful Indian lady and some snowballs. Et cetera.

Then the meal really kicked into gear. The first course was two huge chunks of wild boar sausage, paired with a Franconian Bock. And paired beautifully, I might add. By the time I finished mine (and a good part of Nellie’s) I was pretty much stuffed. Then came the main — a huge piece of duck with butternut squash risotto on the side, paired with a Gamay. I’m not the biggest Gamay fan, really, so while I quite liked the duck, I didn’t love the pairing.

I was stuffed, but there was a cheese course to eat. Three cheeses, one of which worked well with the wine (a Merlot; eep!) and two of which went better with the beer (an IPA). So…whew! Great. I’d managed to eat it all, despite being so super-full. All in all a very good meal, so have a good night everyone, and we’ll see you all next t…what’s that? What did you say? More? Seriously? There’s more?!? As in, more food? MORE food?!?

Yep. More food. Very well then. A soldier does his duty. It was an apple & rhubarb crisp and was actually quite good. The wine it was matched with (somewhere between a late harvest and an ice wine) was good, but the vanilla porter was excellent.

So…in the end, we both thought the beer got the better of the wine on the night. The judges, of course, ruled it a draw, but all the opinions I heard around the room leaned toward beer as victor. 13th Street does have some very good wine, but I’m not sure we saw the best of it in this competition. I look forward to them coming out swinging in the next match.

Finally…a breather

We got back from Australia three weeks ago, but it’s been tough trying to catch up, both at work and in real life. So I was more than a little happy to see this long weekend coming.

Granted, it wasn’t a long weekend for everyone (including Nellie) but it was long a weekend for me. At least, it was supposed to be a long weekend. I actually spent a full day in the office (part of the aforementioned ‘catching up at work’) before heading to old friend the Duke of York for a drink. The Duke pubs have always had a pretty generic draft list, but that night I had two from Muskoka (a Mad Tom and a Dark) and Nellie had a Hop City Barking Squirrel. Anyway, that’s where I’d planned to meet another old friend, someone I hadn’t seen since university. Nellie (who also knew her) joined us a little later and we got caught up. We then took her to Fieramosca where we were well entertained and, predictably, ate ridiculously well — I had the risotto special with prosciutto di parma, butternut squash and…something else that slips my mind, and our wine was some spectacular thing that I can’t remember.

Saturday featured beautiful weather, maybe some the last we’ll see this year, so I found an excuse to go for a walk. That excuse? Wine! Just a few bottles from the new Vintages release, nothing serious. Meanwhile Nellie was buying gifts that we took with us over to T-Bone’s place, to meet the new addition to their family, drink their wine and share some Indian food.

Sunday started with one of my favourite things (breakfast at Hank’s) and just got better from there.

Good weekend. Quiet, but good.

Project FiftyBrew status: project cancelled

Over a year ago I set out to drink what BeerAdvocate determined to be the fifty best beers made in Canada, labeling the endeavor Project FiftyBrew. Within six months I’d tackled nearly all of them, with only two remaining: The Wellington Iron Duke and the Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale. The Iron Duke was no problem; six-packs are available at any number of beer stores near me. But the Full Moon would be trickier. First, Alley Kat is made in Alberta and is hard to find here, even at places like Volo where they have limited stock and sell out quickly. Second, the Full Moon is an older beer, one Alley Kat might not even produce anymore. I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking #49 knowing I could never have #50, so I’ve put off buying the Iron Duke.

I’d still love to finish off the list some day, so if any Western Canadian readers come across a bottle of Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale, could you please wrap it up and mail it to me? Otherwise, I’ll admit defeat and call off the project.

Still, even if that officially ends the journey, I’m pretty happy with the 31 new beers that I probably never would have tried had I not given myself this little challenge. Thanks beer, for all you do!

That settles it, we need a bigger place

Yup, I know we just got back from a 3-week trip and our to-do list is still blazing out of control, but the hell with it…we felt like driving down to Niagara and stocking up on wine for the fall and winter. The weather gods were certainly with us — it was a beautiful, sunny fall weekend. We hit nine (!) wineries on Saturday and had an amazing lunch at Stone Road Grille as well as dinner at On The Twenty, across the street from the Inn On The Twenty in Jordan where we stayed. The soup we had at the former and the duck at the latter were among the best things I’ve eaten all year.

On Sunday we had a bit of a stroll on the Twenty Valley Trail, and then visited seven more wineries, including Vineland Estates — where we ate yet another spectacular meal. After pillaging the region for all it was worth we drove home, dropped the car and produced the final tally:

  • Calamus 2009 Gewurztraminer
  • Calamus 2010 Pinot Gris
  • Cave Spring 2008 CSV Riesling
  • Creekside 2007 Shiraz
  • Creekside 2007 Laura’s Red
  • Featherstone 2010 Four Feathers
  • Flat Rock 2008 Chardonnay
  • Hidden Bench 2008 Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay
  • Hidden Bench 2009 Nuit Blanche
  • Kacaba 2008 Cabernet Franc
  • Kacaba 2008 Meritage
  • Lailey 2008 Cabernet
  • Lailey 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay
  • Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Village Reserve Pinot Noir (x2)
  • Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Le Clos Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay
  • Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Village Reserve Chardonnay (x2)
  • Malivoire 2007 Moira Pinot Noir
  • Malivoire 2010 Pinot Gris
  • Megalomaniac 2008 Bravado Cabernet Sauvignon (x2)
  • Southbrook 2008 Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Southbrook 2004 Poetica Chardonnay
  • Staff 2009 Cabernet Merlot
  • Staff 2008 Riesling
  • Stratus 2008 Voignier
  • Stratus 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
  • Stratus 2006 White
  • Stratus 2007 White
  • Stratus 2010 Red Ice Wine
  • Thirty Bench 2008 Cabernet Franc (x3)
  • Twenty Twenty Seven Cellars 2009 Queenston Road Pinot Noir
  • Vineland Estates 2010 Pinot Meunier
  • Vineland Estates 2008 Pinot Blanc

We had two purposes on this trip: stock up for the winter, but also try some places for the first time. Calamus, Creekside, Featherstone/2027, Kacaba, Lailey, Malivoire, Staff and Vineland Estates were all first-time visits for us. Flat Rock and Megalomaniac were more proximity plays since we had to drive right past them to get to others on our list and we knew each had wines we wanted to pick up. Hidden Bench, Jackson-Triggs (for the Clos Jordanne), Southbrook, Stratus and Thirty Bench are practically must-hits whenever we’re in the area. And, in case you’re wondering, Cave Spring only happened because it’s the house winery at Inn On The Twenty and we felt bad leaving without one.

I’d classify most of the new places as good, not great. Only Kacaba really wowed us…their reds were terrific, and very reasonably priced. And it wasn’t even in our original plans for this weekend — several people responded to my tweet announcing our agenda, telling us not going to Kacaba would be a miss. They were right, and we left with two bottles. And there may be a case in our future. I should also point out that we didn’t spend nearly enough time at Vineland tasting their wine; we just tried three in the few minutes before our lunch reservation, but liked two of them enough to buy bottles, so more investigation is probably warranted.

And now, the classic follow-up problem…where do we put all this freaking wine?!?