Cover photo by James Marvin Phelps, used under Creative Commons license

Where it lands…

Right now I am packing for a trip. I do not know where I am going. Nellie has long been planning something for my birthday, and has managed not to accidentally tell me where we’re going or what we’re doing. I’ve just been told what I need to bring, half of which may be misdirection.

So, this time tomorrow I’ll be…somewhere. Doing…something.

See you Monday?

.:.

Cover photo by James Marvin Phelps, used under Creative Commons license

Old-fashioned

Last night I had occasion to eat at a steakhouse, but felt I had to switch it up a little — it can’t be Jacobs & Co every time, right? And so, I made my first visit to one of Toronto’s quintessential old-man steakhouses: Barberian’s.

Barberians doesn’t seem like it’s changed in fifty years. Even the font on the menu has remained the same. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to stay the course like that for so long, but it also takes good execution. And the execution was good: I ate only a tiny bit of the seafood starter, and didn’t really order a side: I just wanted to focus on my 10oz New York sirloin, cooked rare. My knife sliced through it like it was barely there, and it tasted fantastic. Nothing fancy…just a bad-ass steak.

Also, since the meal was on someone else’s dime, I was on the hunt for bargain red wines to have with the steak, and found a couple: first, the 2005 Catena Zapata Nicolas. Now, $305 might not seem like a bargain for one bottle, but that’s half of what we would have paid for a good Napa cab, and a fraction of what a comparable Bordeaux would have cost. And it was tremendous. After a few bottles of that  (plus cocktails before dinner) we’d had enough to drink that another such bottle might have been wasted on us, so we hunted down another bargain: the 2012 Thirty Bench Red. At $75 it was one of the cheapest bottles on the entire list, but a solid red blend from a great Ontario vintage.

After dinner the staff took us downstairs for a quick look at the wine cellar, and I almost committed grand larceny. I can’t talk about it. I’ll get emotional.

.:.

Cover photo from the Barberian’s website

Jacked up

Squeezed in around work, we’ve had a nice relaxing weekend. If a little fattening.

I’ve already written about our Friday night adventure in beer, coffee, and bourbon tasting.

On Saturday we decided to finally visit the Left Field brewery with the intention of buying some bottles, sampling some different beers, and showing our support in the face of whining neighbours. We might’ve chosen the wrong travel route on one of the warmest days of the year so far: taking the streetcar across Queen and walking up Greenwood proved to be…a little sweaty. Plus, the tasting room is attached to a (naturally very warm) brewing, so according to their own thermostat the tasting room was 91°F — or 33°C in the modern world. Either way, much too warm. I didn’t enjoy my Prospect: Simcoe (maybe the first Left Field I’ve ever had which I didn’t love) but I had a sample of Eephus to make up for it.

Later, Nellie made dinner: watermelon, cucumber, and sheep’s milk cheese salad with a balsamic reduction (paired with another disappointing wine club white from Benjamin Bridge) followed by grilled steaks and asparagus (paired with a simple Wynn’s Coonawarra cab sauv). We ate while watching nearly the entire last season of Nurse Jackie.

On Sunday we attended the rescheduled Northern BBQ event, just down the street from our place. We were barely there for an hour, but we managed to taste at least one thing from all six vendors, and left extremely full. This is what we tried:

And now I’m supposed to work for the next six hours. We’ll see how that goes.

George Howell / Guatemala Puerto Verde: Cocoa, Apple, Panela

The plan last night was to keep it simple.

We tried, we really did.

We stopped in at Monk’s Table after work for dinner and a pint. That turned into dinner and three pints. So, okay. A little more than planned, but still under control.

The weather was perfect when we left, so we decided to walk at least down to Rosedale station before getting on the subway. That led us right past Boxcar Social, which I’ve been telling Nellie about. We stopped in; my plan was only to have an espresso to wake up a little. I was soon enticed by something their offer of a Whiskey Tango: two pairings of espresso and bourbon. Uh…HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD ABOUT THIS BEFORE??!?!!?!?

The first espresso was unbelievable: a lightly roasted Guatemalan that featured everything I love about Central American coffee. It was followed by half an ounce of Blanton’s original bourbon, which sort of became my new favourite on the spot. Then, after a little water, I got into the next espresso, which was Kenyan, and it reminded me that I tend to not like Kenyan coffee. That was followed by (if I remember right) Baker’s 7. That was followed by a glass of Evan Williams while Nellie drank some kind of weird small-cask Oban called “Little Bay”. And then THAT was followed by a Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodite. Then we lazy-cabbed home.

So it turned into a whole thing. I feel surprisingly okay this morning, especially considering I woke up at 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Let’s see if I’m in any way productive though…

I was on a boat

Toronto has worked itself into an absolute froth at the idea of increased traffic due to the Pan Am Games. I’m still pretty confident that it’s going to be a non-event (in more ways than one) but it didn’t stop everyone from fleeing the city early on Friday. I’m sure many drove north to their cottages on Tuesday and Wednesday, taking the half-week off, but as of 4pm on Friday Google Maps still showed hideous traffic on all northbound routes out of the city. I really did think we were hosed, as we had plans to drive north around 6:15, but then…nothing. By the time we loaded the rental car and got underway the roads were moving well, and we had a completely non-stop drive (except for one little construction zone on the 400) all the way to Barrie. Calm yourselves, Toronto.

We found our friend Matt waiting for us in their backyard, and soon we were enjoying a beautiful Ontario evening with beer (and, once Kaylea got home, local blanc de noir: Trius 5 and Two Sisters Lush) in hand. Matt prepared a ridiculously delicious chicken, and potato salad made with bacon, and a very nice Lighthall Pinot Noir. Then I inhaled the strawberries and raspberries and whipped cream. And then I pretty much passed out. What hosts.

Speaking of the hosts, they were up and out of the house super-early, so we slept in a bit, collected our gear, and caught up with them at the Orillia farmer’s market. We scored a sweet parking spot, dropped off some supplies, got the tour, bought some lunch (giant homemade Oktoberfest sausage for $4 — check) and cheese and wine, and said goodbye.

We left Orillia and drove to a marina in Bolsover, where we met our friends Joe and Sheila to help them celebrate a big birthday. We hung out on their boat, cruised up the canal a bit to a nearby lake, dropped anchor and had a couple of beers in his honour (being the captain, he remained drink-less). I also acquired a slight sunburn. Yay. Back at the marina we snacked on cheese, scratched dogs, played with toy trains, and feasted on grilled lamb and strawberry shortcake.

The perfect, sunny day had tired us all, though, so we took our leave. Nellie drove home (again: zero traffic…though I suspect today might get hairy), we dropped the car, and I pretty much don’t remember anything else besides hitting the couch.

Happy birthday, Joe!

Cover photo by Alex Indigo, used under Creative Commons license

I am a negligent citizen

I celebrated Canada Day by working from noon until 10:30pm. Such is life right now, I guess.

Thankfully Nellie didn’t have to work, and dedicated herself to grilling up delicious meals all day…apart from my gigantor cappuccino this morning, which was 100% Fahrenheit. Anyway, here’s what she made:

Lunch was burgers from Sausage King (I used a bourbon-chipotle barbecue sauce), with a Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA for me and a Red Racer ISA for her. We ate on the balcony for the first time this year, goddammit.

Dinner started with four jumbo scallops and two prawns the size of my hand paired with a Benjamin Bridge 2014 Riesling (part of their wine club* shipment last week), followed a while later by New York strip steaks (also from Sausage King) with Ontario asparagus and tomato, paired with a Black Hills 2013 Nota Bené. We decanted this one about 9 hours in advance, and it tasted much better than the one we drank one at Bat Lake in March.

I really only emerged from my work lair to eat and watch a bit of TV (a Daily Show, the first few episodes of TURN), then skulk back to the den to try to un-fuck the rest of my week. Nellie was the hero of the nation this July 1st; she even wore a red tank top all day.

Sorry for being lame on your birthday Canada. I’ll catch you next year.

* We actually dropped out of the BB wine club earlier this week. We love their sparkling, but they just cannot seem to make a decent still wine — their Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t good, their Chardonnay wasn’t good, and the Riesling was decent at best. I get that the vines are young, but given that our family connections in Nova Scotia can get us the sparkling when we want it, it just wasn’t worth paying the premium price (plus shipping) for the other wines in each shipment. We dropped that subscription (and Black Hills) and signed up for Le Vieux Pin‘s club today.

.:.

Cover photo by Alex Indigo, used under Creative Commons license