Heluva Good dip weekend

Last week our friends Kaylea & Matt offered to have us up to the cottage. We accepted; I needed a weekend off, and Nellie really needed a weekend off.

We dashed out of work and caught a Go Train to Barrie, where Kaylea picked us up and brought us to their place. We celebrated by breaking out some sparkling:

We had reservations at the Local Gastropub and, after some taxi qualms, took our seats in a booth by the bar. I had the battered cod n’ chips; Nellie had the triple smoked ontario bacon mac n’ cheese. We were in the mood for apostrophes apparently. I drank a Wellington brown ale and a Side Launch dark lager. We cabbed home and all fell asleep in front of the TV. It had been a long day.

The next day Kaylea had to work so Matt, Nellie, and I went for breakfast at the Midway Diner, which is exactly as authentic as it sounds. Nellie and I had full-on greasy breakfast: sausage (bacon for her), eggs, hash browns, toast, OJ, coffee/tea. It was goddamn delicious, and it more or less held us over until dinner.

Once Kaylea got back we loaded up the car, made a stop at Barnstormer for some beer, and drove to the cottage. We relaxed for a bit with some Barnstormers and then two amazing bottles of sparkling — a Benjamin Bridge 2008 Estate Brut which had just arrived in our mailbox that day, and a Two Sisters “Lush” sparkling rosé — until it was nearly dinner time, and Matt began prepping the meal.

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And quel meal it was:

  • roasted red pepper soup with shrimp and cumin (Creekside 2012 Reserve Viognier)
  • salmon in beurre blanc (Pentage 2012 Sauv Blanc / Semillon)
  • pappardelle with sausage and tomato (Niagara Teaching College 2011 “Dean’s List Desicatto” Cabernet Franc)
  • grilled ribeye (Black Hills 2013 Nota Bené bordeaux blend)
  • Pilliteri 2008 merlot icewine

We did our best to absorb all that, and eventually all fell asleep from the effort.

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The next morning we all slept in, except for when Kaylea’s phone alarm went off and it sounded like a jaunty police chase. Once we finally woke up Matt and Nellie prepared another big greasy breakfast (plenty of bacon, eggs, toast, Caesars, etc.) and we generally lay about for the whole day. Well, Matt and Nellie went for a walk, and I did some work, and we all watched many hours of news, but other than that: layabouts.

Finally we had to pack up the car, load up on Tim Horton’s, drop Matt off back in Barrie, and drive down to Toronto. The remaining trio of us ordered pizza, settled in to watch The Walking Dead, and went directly into pyjama mode.

Good weekend. Great weekend. But I’m going to pay for it this week.

Cover photo by Swire, used under Creative Commons license

But…but we want two pizzas

In between working, watching March Madness, and picking up some art this weekend, we’ve tried some decent new(ish) food joints.

First, after a stop at Bellwoods and before visiting Telegramme yesterday, we had lunch at Beer & Quality Meats. Honestly, I have no idea how I haven’t tried this place yet with a name like that. Anyway, we had burgers: the Hawaiian (pineapple, smoky chipotle aioli, jalapeno, mozzarella, bacon) for me and sliders doused in Sriracha for Nellie. They have a solid beer selection too; Nellie had a Steam Whistle while I had a can of Nickel Brook Headstock IPA.

Today, before really locking in with my laptop, we walked down the street to the brand new One Pizza. It’s one of the new breed of ‘good food, but fast’ restaurants popping up, like b.good around the corner. It keeps things simple: all pizzas are one size, and one price. Pick your toppings and it’s ready in 3 minutes. Nellie and I each designed our own (she: salami & muchrooms; me: chorizo and rapini; both: olive oil and basil) and each got a pint of Beau’s (she: lugtread; me: Tom Green milk stout). They also have Vineland Estates wine on tap.

The pizzas were damn good. The crust was perfectly thin but soft. The toppings were fresh…really fresh, like the tomato sauce actually tasted weird because I’m not used to tomato sauce tasting fresh on pizzas. The sausage, the basil, the oil…there was plenty of flavour without it tasting artificial. I’m guess that’s what we paid for…though, $40 tax in for two pizzas and two draft beers is fine by me if it all tastes like that.

We couldn’t quite finish our pizzas so we brought half of it home; maybe for dinner we could kill one each, but the next time time we go back for lunch it would be enough to split one. Assuming we could ever settle on the same ingredients, of course.

.:.

Cover photo by Swire, used under Creative Commons license

“But he’s not even a very good Prime Minister.” “***WHO CARES HE’S FAMOUS OUTTA THE WAY LITTLE GIRL!!!!!!!!***”

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I stared at this a lot last night. I mean, not this particular guy’s sweatpants-covered junk, but rather crowds of people all but standing on top of me.

See, Nellie and I went to the Raptors game last night. We hadn’t seen one in a while, and we decided to buy good tickets. After all, it was Andrew Wiggins’ first game in Canada, and against the T-Wolves the Raps were all but guaranteed a win. They did win, but it was closer than it should have been.

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Anyway, we discovered when we arrived (after it took us ten minutes just to walk the last 30 feet to our seats) that his gloriousness Stephen Harper was sitting across the aisle from us. That’s his head and torso (and, uh, son) in the bottom right of the picture. The crowds that were clogging up an entire section of the ACC weren’t his entourage, they were — and I still have a hard time even believing this — people lining up to have their picture taken with him.

*Sigh.*

Now, I’ll give the security guys credit: they actually tried to keep the aisle clear during play, as did the ushers. But the selfie-seekers are idiots, and would stand, gape-mouthed and blocking traffic, with Blackberries in hands until they could get a picture with that magnificent head of hair. As such we couldn’t see some of the game, and missed the entirety of the half-time show and on-court entertainment, including Raptor antics which, as everyone knows, are at least 15% of the reason to attend a game.

I actually felt a little bad for Harper…I think he just wanted to watch a basketball game with his kids. But then again, he decided to sit in a place which afforded maximum photo ops. Maybe he should have sat in a box where people wouldn’t bother him and where, oh I don’t know, crowds of people wouldn’t have trampled and blocked the thirty people nearest him who paid good money for their tickets.

The very best part? At some point in the evening he did a photo op with some actual players, and his social media lackey tagged the wrong player.

Oh, and the idiots next to us had a Wand of Narcissism, which just kind of capped off the evening.

11069260_10153062412070673_3175115648376994575_nMaybe the only thing salvaging the evening was meeting up with Kaylea, Jenna, and Jordan over some pizzas at Libretto. We used beer to wash away the distaste.

Cover photo by Kat N.L.M., used under Creative Commons license

XX

It’s a significant day. I mean yeah, it’s once-in-a-century pi day, but it’s also the day Nellie and I are celebrating a big milestone: this past Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the day Nellie and I met.

We both had (separate) late nights last night, so tonight we took it easy and Nellie cooked a fancy meal. Usually she does this on Valentine’s day, but a month ago today we were packing for New Orleans. This anniversary filled in nicely though. This is what she made:

  • Dark chocolate from Nadège
  • Jumbo scallops with corn & arugula (w/ Benjamin Bridge 2011 sparkling rosé)
  • Magret de canard (w/ Pearl Morissette 2010 Cab Franc)
  • Filet Mignon with green beans (still with the PM cab franc)
  • Apple pie (obviously)

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.:.

Cover photo by Kat N.L.M., used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo from the Beerworking website

#beerworking

Last week I read a post on Ben Johnson’s Beer Blog about an event he would be hosting involving beer, bourbon, and smoked meat.

Right, that’s what I said. So I clicked the link, and this was the description on the Universe ticket-buying site:

Join us for our very first beer and bourbon dinner. We’re pairing some of Stack Brewing’s delicious suds with a few tasty bourbons from Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and 1792. Top that off with a couple of Caplansky’s mouth-watering sandwiches and you’ve got yourself the world’s first beer, bourbon and sandwich networking event! Hosted by blogTO’s Ben Johnson at Project: OWL, this is guaranteed to be good night with great people and even better beer.

Tickets include:

  • 3 beers
  • 3 bourbons
  • 3 sandwiches

*Note – this is not a vegetarian-friendly event

So I obviously bought tickets. I like bourbon, I’d never tried Stack Brewing‘s beer, and I like smoked meat. This was a no-brainer.

So last night Nellie and I arrived at this address we’d never been to, or even heard of, and find out it’s a networking event. In retrospect it seems obvious that the ticket site’s page title — Beerworking — pointed to some kind of networking event, but we just thought it was some kind of half-clever beer event name. But nope: it’s a beer-themed networking series. Anyway, we’d pre-paid, so we were committed. We bought a pre-dinner beer (Stack’s Saturday Night cream ale) and unwound from our day on the comfy couches. Ignoring everyone else, of course.

When it came time to start the event we found a table and ended up sitting with some fun people. We had no interest in actual networking, but we met some cool beer nerds, so it worked out.

We also got to try to some beer that very rarely makes its way down to Toronto from Sudbury. Stack’s three beers for the pairing were the Shatter Cone IPA, Les Portes de L’Enfer Bière de Garde, and Stack ’72 Imperial IPA. They were good, excellent, and very good respectively.

The bourbons and tiny sandwiches were delivered at the same time, so…it was like three flights of beer + bourbon + smoked meat. Honestly, I’m not sure I detecting any real pairing synergies, but most everything was tasty. Bourbons #1 (Buffalo Trace) and #3 (1792) were really good; I didn’t like #2 (Eagle Rare) that much. Meanwhile, the Caplansky’s sandwich sequence was (I believe) corned beef, smoked turkey, and smoked meat. Actually, I kinda don’t care about the order; they were all terrific.

Neither of us really ate much all day, so when we left the beer, bourbon, and smoked meat event we took a cab to the everyday beer, bourbon, and bbq event: Triple A. We ordered pints and split ribs. I’m hungry just thinking about it all.

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.:.

Cover photo from the Beerworking website

Cover photo from Taste of Maclean's Dining Series website

You can really taste the Maclean

So there’s some new thing called Taste Of Maclean’s Dining Series. Yes, that Maclean’s. Anyway, it’s a series of dinners at great restaurants in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, hosted by excellent sommeliers, with Australian wines poured at each. We attended the Toronto event last night at Nota Bene.

The hosts

Jacob Richler mumbled his way through hosting duties. David Lee is an amazing chef…let him speak with his food, don’t drag the poor guy out to talk about it. John Szabo should have “Wine Bard” on his business cards. Seriously, after hearing him speak about Australian wine regions I want very badly to go back.

The menu

CANAPÉS
Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay 2011; Annie’s Lane Clare Valley Riesling 2013

NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER with Ataulfo mango, cashew milk, wakame, chili mint chutney
Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013

QUEBEC DUCK BREAST “PASTRAMI” with Lennox Farm rhubarb compôte, honeyed Cookstown sunchokes, pumpkin seeds
Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

“TONGUE N’ CHEEK”: PERTH COUNTY BEEF CHEEK & CONFIT VEAL TONGUE with squash & jicama salsa, sweet English peas, smashed potato, Cotija cheese
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2011

ARTISANAL CHEESES: Picobello (cow’s milk, Holland); Grey Owl (goat’s milk, Quebec); Blue d’Elizabeth (cow’s milk, Quebec) with wildflower honey, lavash seed crackers
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2011

DESSERT: salted caramel truffles; shaved almond biscotti; chocolate corn nuts

PORT: Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny

The verdict

THE FOOD: the lobster was fine. The beef cheek was very good, though Nellie didn’t like it. The veal tongue wasn’t for me; luckily I had Nellie’s extra beef cheek. The cheese were excellent. The duck, though, was SPECTACULAR.

THE WINE: the whites were decent, but just decent. The Wynn’s is, indeed, an excellent cab for the money. Both Penfolds were very good. But that port…good lort. That’s right, I said lort. Good lort. That port.

THE EVENT: good, and Szabo on his own is almost worth the price of admission, but I’m disappointed that with some kind of Australian wine association sponsoring (the name is Google-proof, alas) what they presented were Australian wine brands so well-known in Canada they’re practically clichés. Why not bring the 389 and Coonawarra to draw people in but then feature some lesser-known wineries? Not so small the LCBO can’t bring them in, but not Wolf Blass fucking Gold either.

.:.

Cover photo from Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series website

Cover photo by Early Novels Database, used under Creative Commons license

A sequel to the best of everything from 2014

Back in December I engaged my entirely healthy tendency to quantify, list, and rank everything, though I did admit that I was in no way caught up on 2014’s best music or movies. Since I’ve made some progress on that front in the last 66 days, here’s where my head’s at now.

MY FAVOURITE MUSIC OF 2014

  • Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything by A Silver Mt. Zion
  • Morning Phase by Beck
  • The Halls Of Wickwire by Cousins
  • Lazaretto by Jack White
  • Wine Dark Sea by Jolie Holland
  • Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  • Bring Down The Sky by Northumbria
  • St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  • RTJ2 by Run The Jewels
  • Seeds by TV On The Radio

I’ll consider IX by And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of DeadAge by The Hidden CamerasDo Not Engage by The Pack A.D.PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Pharoahe Monch, and Mended With Gold by The Rural Alberta Advantage to be the honourable mention list.

MY FAVOURITE MOVIES OF 2014

  • 2 Days, 1 Night
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • Boyhood
  • The Drop
  • Fury
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • Selma
  • Starred Up
  • Whiplash
  • X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Honourable mentions: The BabadookCaptain America: The Winter SoldierGone GirlLive Die Repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow, and Ned Rifle.

Of course, I still haven’t seen Life Itself, Citizenfour, Nightcrawler, Birdman, Force Majeure, Frank, Wild, Grand Budapest Hotel, Omar, Top Five, Locke, The Imitation Game, The Immigrant, Foxcatcher, Under the Skin, Cold in July, Listen Up Philip, Night Moves, or Interstellar. Gimme a break.

.:.

Cover photo by Early Novels Database, used under Creative Commons license