Another prime

Last year my birthday was an epic spin through Quebec, with friends and beer and Relaxios and adventure aplenty. This year we went in a different direction: we’ve both been working a lot, and just wanted to relax and prep for our upcoming trip. So we went to the market, bought a bunch of travel shit at MEC, had coffee at Quantum, and ate lunch at Wvrst. While Nellie continued shopping I skyped with some family, talked to other family on the phone, watched the nephew and nieces sing happy birthday to me on video, and had a bit of nap. (Birthdays!)

Nellie grilled some killer ribeyes for dinner, which we paired with a 2007 Fielding Cabernet Sauvignon, and we had a few bites from Soma for dessert. It could not have been more unlike last year’s extravaganza, but it was just as fine a birthday.

.:.

Cover photo by Stephen Mackenzie, used under Creative Commons license

Ba Rizabell

Last night I had dinner with T-Bone at Bar Isabel. I forgot to write anything down or take any pictures. There wasn’t much break in the conversation; our server could barely get our order in. I remember an Isabel Fashioned, a cured meat plate, jamón croquetas, shishito peppers, tostadas with tuna and pig’s ear, a big pork dish, a quarter octopus, and a bottle of English sparkling…Coates & Seely, I think? And some 1962 Don PX to end off. It was all veeerrrrrrrrrrry tasty.

Afterwards we walked off some of that food and had a drink at Archive. T-Bone had a Sancerre. I had a Pearl Morissette Pinot from Sonoma. We planned our next dinner and hugged goodbye and caught Ubers in oppositely directed vectors.

Dominion City

I had a quick work(ish) trip to Ottawa this week. I was there for less than 48 hours and pretty busy the whole time so I didn’t even try making plans with friends there. I did get to try (and re-try) a few decent places though:

  • I tried to go to Union613 but it closes at 10pm. Because Ottawa. Instead I went back to my hotel, the Alt, and tried the Dominion City Earl Grey Marmalade Saison and then had a glass of Norm Hardie Cab Franc.
  • Bread & Sons for a very good cappuccino and a straight-outta-Paris croissant.
  • After a work(ish) dinner at Wilfrid’s in the Chateau Laurier I walked into the market and went to Brother’s Beer Bistro, my Ottawa favourite. I had last year’s Bellwoods Jelly King and it nearly melted my face with sourness.
  • Coffee at the newest (I think?) Morning Owl.

Ostriching

A terror attack in Nice. A failed coup in Turkey. Murder, snipers, and racial unrest in the US. A murdered five-year-old in Calgary.

This isn’t my usual reaction, but I’m kind of shutting this stuff out. I know the world is getting less violent on the whole year after year, decade after decade, but that…that was a lot to take in a week or so. My brain’s just not having it. I know that’s a convenient reaction for someone out of harm’s way to have, but I don’t feel equipped to process it all properly this week. I’m just going to have a drink and hug the people I can.

Eigensinn Farm, again

Nearly three years ago we ate at Eigensinn Farm, Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander’s place in Singhampton, and reckoned we’d never probably never go back. Then, a few months ago, a plan formed with our friends Brian & Mandy to book a dinner (their first time) along with their friends who live nearby. After a lot of follow-up emailing we got the date we wanted, and after some wine planning last week and some road-tripping yesterday we arrived in beautiful Grey County at the friends’ place. It was great having a home base nearby; doing the trip up and back in the same night last time was a little much. Plus, their place is beautiful and they have a dog and a cat, so I was happy. The cat hated me though.

As for dinner, I didn’t think it could possibly live up to my memory of our first visit. I was so wrong. Here’s what we had:

Amuse geule. This was a collection of six or seven things on a horseshoe-shaped plate: a Malpeque oyster, a bit of perch in butter and hazelnut, a bit of pig head cheese, a white fish in a dill sauce so good we licked it off the shell it was served on, something that looked like prosciutto, some kind of cured meat wrapped around a chunk of pear, another cured (and smoked) meat on a triangle of toast, I think one other thing that I’m forgetting. We were handling the wine pairings for the first half of the meal, so we paired this with a 2005 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve — a hit, it seemed, with all those who hadn’t tried BB before.

Lobster soup with asparagus. Until we got there we didn’t know what kind of soup this would be, so we brought wine options. Once we found out it was bisque-y we opted for the 2009 Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay, and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did the soup — great buttery chunks of lobster and asparagus, and the broth was so good we (nearly) all tipped the bowl up and drank every last drop.

Composition of Eigensinn Farm piglet. I mean…seriously. It was so succulent and delicious I almost cried. The wine we paired it with — a 2009 Maison Roche de Bellène Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot — was something I’d been holding onto for a special occasion, and this dish certainly qualified. It was goddamned amazing. All of it.

Pickerel with sugar snap peas. Delicate, flaky but still meaty…just perfect. The wine was another game-time decision since we didn’t know how the pickerel was prepared, so we went with a 2015 Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc.

Black currant sorbet. I was glad to see the palate cleanser is still served in the upside-down bottoms of broken wine bottles.

We went for a short walk around the garden before the main course, during which Brian took over and opened his sparkling: a dry & delicious 2009 Trius 5 Blanc de Noirs. Palates: cleansed.

Eigensinn Farm lamb with garden vegetables. Madre de dios. It was so delicious we (who had been pretty boisterous all night, probably to the annoyance of some of the other guests) went quiet and just made moaning noises. Enough. Mercy. No mas. For this Brian broke out a 2007 Southbrook Poetica Cab Merlot, which I think I would have loved a little more had it been a little less Merlot-heavy. But that’s my thing. We quickly finished that bottle, though, and opened another special one: a 2012 Ravine “Stadtlander” Reserve red blend, which had been signed by chef himself. It put a nice little personal signature on the evening, and how amazing of Brian & Mandy to share that with us.

Cheese with walnut raisin bread. There were three cheeses: a Grey Owl (my perennial favourite), a mild blue (Benedictine from Quebec, I think?), and a third which I can’t remember but which was delicious. They all were. We finished off the rest of the Stadtlander reserve.

Dessert with strawberries. Uh, yeah. We expected a small dessert. Out came three desserts on the plate which, to be totally honest, I don’t quite remember. Nellie says there was a crumble of some kind and some sage ice cream. I just remember being really full. I also remember that we had it with the friends’ Colaneri late harvest Riesling. Oh, they told us while we were eating that one of the desserts had hand-written fortunes inside. That explained the over-chewy bite I had just pulled out of my mouth and had attributed to their first miss of the evening. Needless to say I could not read my fortune.

Petit fours. Sure, okay.

All in all, this meal was significantly better than our first visit, and probably ranks in my top ten of all time. We left feeling very fat, and very happy.

.:.

This morning the friends fed us a grand feast (bacon, eggs, french toast done in a waffle-maker, and enough coffee to waterboard my hangover) and we were on our way back to the GTA. Brian & Mandy were headed elsewhere so they dropped us at the GO Train to Union Station, which afforded us an excuse to check out the food vendor market on Front Street. I had an excellent brisket sammie from Carbon Bar, and Nellie had a lobster roll. We’ll be headed back there in some upcoming weekends.

Cover photo by Chris Connolly, used under Creative Commons license

Re-Cava

Since going to Cava a few weeks ago I’ve been meaning to return with Nellie, and Wednesday night we did. We had to meet friends nearby around 8 anyway. It wasn’t as epic a meal as last time I was there, but we did just fine:

  • pincho of valdeon with sherry-roasted figs
  • croqueta of jamón with caper-sultana sauce
  • roasted beets with honey, valdeon, and grilled escarole
  • jamón iberico, salchichon, chorizo, and idiazabal cheese

Had some good wine too, obviously.

I will say, though, that both in terms of the food and the value for money, I’d have to say that I prefer Patria. Twice now we’ve gone, both times being blown away by the food, and both times come away paying less than we’d expected. So while Cava’s a good midtown option I think Patria will remain at the top of my Spanish craving list.

.:.

Cover photo by Chris Connolly, used under Creative Commons license

CA+DA Day

We’ve just had a bit of a whirlwind visit from brother #2 and his better half. They arrived Thursday; that night we had dinner at Batch and attacked our wine inventory.

On Saturday we armed ourselves with umbrellas and coffee and drove around the lake to hit some wineries:

  • First: lunch and a tasting at Redstone, and wow what a burger. Can’t wait to go back there when their patio is open.
  • A tasting appointment at Pearl Morissette with the lovely Melissa. It was just the four of us and one other couple, who ended up with the patented Dan’s Shortlist Of Wineries To Visit Whilst In The Okanagan.
  • A quick stop at 13th Street.
  • An even quicker stop at Tawse, which was much too crowded. Pretty sure I’m done with that place for a while.
  • A much more in-depth visit to Back 10 Cellars, a first for all of us. We sat and tasted their entire lineup, and Nellie and I left with 4 bottles. I’ll be curious to see if the second taste justifies the enthusiasm we had on the spot.
  • A big haul from Hidden Bench: a dozen made up mostly of 2012 Terroir Caché and La Brunante. After the buying was done and the wine was shlepped to the car, we sat outside on their patio and enjoyed a glass in the shade.

We arrived back in Toronto, dropped the car, relaxed for a bit, and then went to dinner at Patria. We were a little slow getting into it (it’d been a long day already) but quickly picked up the pace. And what a feed it ended up being:

  • Pan Con Tomate (bread + tomato)
  • Aceitunas (house marinated olives)
  • Pimientos de padrón (blistered peppers + sea salt)
  • Sátiles (dates + ibérico bacon + manchego + guindillas)
  • Selección De Embutidos (ibérico lomo + ibérico chorizo + jamón serrano + salchichón)
  • Pulpo (octopus + olive oil + paprika)
  • Bombas con salsa brava (chorizo + aioli + spicy piquillo sauce)
  • Albondigas (wagyu meatballs + spicy tomato piperade + onion + manchego)
  • Brussales Bravas (brussels sprouts + spicy tomato + aioli + chorizo)
  • Paella De Bogavante (lobster + gulf shrimp + chorizo + peas)
  • Desserts (churros, chocolate pudding, mousse, etc.)

We struggled home, barely able to walk. I was still full the next morning when we woke up. After a while we did head off to Hank’s for brunch while Nellie slept in, then to the market, then back to Fahrenheit, and then off to Wvrst. Unfortunately Wvrst was already rammed in preparation for the Germany/Italy game and we couldn’t find a decent table. We left there and walked to the new(ish) Bar Hop, finding a spot on their fantastic rooftop patio. Well, three spots: we gingers had to keep moving out of the sun. We drank excellent beer and cider and had a very decent lunch — I’d heard troubling things about the food at the new Brewco, but my pork belly steamed buns were fantastic.

We swung back to Spadina to get some Quantum coffee and Soma chocolate, then trundled home. It was still beautiful outside so we drank gin + tonics on the balcony and enjoyed the day. Eventually Nellie started cooking, and over the next 5 (?) hours we ate seared Yellowfin tuna (with a Five Rows Pinot Gris), a small rack of lamb (with a Pearl Morissette Cuvée Métis Cabernet Franc), and two ribeyes  (with a Church & State Quintessential Bordeaux blend from the Okanagan). At that point we were done all around…too full, too tired, too richly-fed over the past 48 hours. We all kind of threw in the towel.

They left this morning, and hopefully their flights home went smoothly. As for us, we took advantage of the sunshine in our last few hours of long weekend, having beers and lunch on the near-empty Bier Markt patio.

Come back anytime, guys.