“Squint against the grandeur!”

I had a busy weekend, but not too busy to sneak in a couple of movies from last year’s best-of list.

Deepwater Horizon (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was an example of what I’m now calling the Peter Berg Special: something that sits right on the line between action movie and serious film, with a bunch of dude banter thrown in. It was better than I expected, especially with Mark Wahlberg in the lead.

I wasn’t sure what to think of Tower (imdb | rotten tomatoes) in the first couple of minutes. The rotoscope-y animation took a little getting used to, but I guess there was really no other way to comprehensively tell the story of a mass shooting — maybe America’s first and most famous campus mass shooting, the University of Texas tower sniper — without it. That animation, archival footage, and current-day interviews ended up being a pretty effective combination. The fact that, fifty years later, America is still asking the same questions about gun massacres that it did that day says a lot about the state of their society.

Finally, a light note: Hail, Caesar! (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was the Coen brothers’ homage to post-war Hollywood. It’s silly and cute and self-referential and pretty funny in parts. Ralph Fiennes during the “Would that it were so simple.” scene killed me.

Staging

After 4+ years in this condo, I’m selling it. It’s too much for one person to live in, especially one who owns as little stuff (wine notwithstanding) as I do. So it’ll hit the market next week; in the meantime my agent’s stager has been in to dress it up.

They left with strict instructions to touch nothing unless completely necessary, and to repair any damage I leave in my wake for the next few days. By, you know, sleeping and bathing myself. I feel like Michael Bluth living in a model home. Or like I’ve been trapped in a cover story for Canadian Living magazine. It’s nice and all, but so not my style. I mean:

img_20170127_132444

Anyway, I can’t get wait to get on with this bit and find a new place to live. The Toronto real estate market is calm and highly predictable, right? *sobs*

Cover photo from the Southbrook site

Balsam Houblon

I wanted to be nowhere near a TV on American inauguration day, aka the beginning of the end, so I worked in a frenzy until I had to run to the airport. I was headed to Montreal for the weekend where it was cold and damp and gray.

After a really interesting talk we grabbed dinner at The Balsam Inn. We split the Quebec mozzarella and garlic bread and chorizo cake with fried egg and tomato jam (!), and then the salmon tartare and beef tartare, all with a bottle of Pinot. We sampled a peanut blondie and orange/almond cake for dessert, with scotch for me and bourbon for Lindsay.

 

 

 

The next day was kinda lazy, slightly worky, heavy on the pastry (there’s this amazing bakery near Lindsay’s place that makes me SO happy), and ended up with us at Saint Houblon for beers and lunch. Lindsay’s lamb burger looked prety good; my duck confit burger was fantastic. The beers were all pretty solid too…great selection (some brewed there, some from other Quebec microbreweries) and laid-back atmosphere.

 

We relaxed a little back at Lindsay’s before dinner, and drank a bottle I bought (and left behind) the last time I was here: Beau’s “One Ping Only” Baltic porter. I mean, I love porter anyway, but the reference to The Hunt For Red October guaranteed I’d buy it.

 

Dinner Saturday was at our usual spot: Maison Publique. Our first time there together was stellar; the second time was good, not great. This time, though, we found that first height again.

  • We started, at our server’s insistence, with the foie gras parfait. I’m not a foie gras fan, and Lindsay wasn’t sure, but she was a pretty big fan by the end.
  • Around the same time we had a grapefruit and fennel salad as a palate cleanser. We paired all this with glasses of Spark from Tawse. This one’s a 100% Riesling sparkling so it’s not my favourite, but it helped cut the richness of the foie gras.
  • Our mains were a collection of winter vegetables covered in something called bagna cauda, which was this rich, salty, garlicky sauce; the pappardelle with beef cheek; and the Charlevoix pork, a brined chop served with sweet potato. We wondered what wine would go with all these — flavour-wise cab franc seemed the best choice but we needed something which could keep up with all that richness, so we went for Pearl Morissette’s big one-off variant: the 2012 Le Spectateur. It worked pretty well actually.
  • For dessert we couldn’t decide between the caramel pot de creme and the pistachio doughnut, so…yeah. We got both. We hadn’t planned to get a dessert drink but our server brought over a serious treat: a 2006 (!) Vidal icewine from Southbrook. I’d not had this before, and it was lovely — not that sweet for an icewine. Strong finish, Maison Publique.

 

Sunday was a big old pile of relax: pancakes, merguez sausages, mimosas, work, and watching The Invitation. I was so relaxed I forgot I even owned a watch, and accidentally left it behind when I took off for the airport.

See you in two weeks, Maison Publique. You too, rest of Montreal.

.:.

Cover photo from the Southbrook site

Bunnahabhain

Last night I went to the first (my first, anyway) in a series of whisky tastings at Boxcar Social. A while back I met the whisky director there, and he told me they’d be running events. Lo and behold, they did, and I came. It was probably a little beginner-y for me, but still worth it to help me structure my thoughts and notes about different whiskies.

We tried:

Throughout the evening they also brought out charcuterie boards and special pairings, like chocolate with the Nikka and a beautiful espresso (from Anchored, in Dartmouth!) with the Bunnahabhain.

Not a bad way to spend an evening, really. I’m interested to see what comes next in the series.

 

Cover photo by tpower1983, used under Creative Commons

Sweet Left Carnita Marshmallow

Clearly this week was all about eating. Wednesday night we had that meal at Richmond Station. Thursday we had a drink at The Jester On Yonge and then dinner with CBJ+M at Monk’s Table. Friday I was too sick to go to work so we had to cancel dinner at Carisma, but shifted it to Saturday.

Before that, though, we had much more (chilly) Saturday fun:

  • getting a painting framed at Telegramme
  • a beer at BQM
  • an amazing lunch at La Carnita: pork belly, tuna ceviche, beek cheek, and fried chicken tacos; spicy chips; Left Field x Sweet Jesus Mocha Marshmallow Stout; margaritas; Don Julio Reposado; and churros
  • coffee and treats from Versus
  • a marathon of old Friends episodes
  • dinner at Carisma: burrata, beef carpaccio, and Barbera; sausage orecchiette, truffle tagliatelle, and Barolo; cheesecake and espresso

 

 

 

.:.

Cover photo by tpower1983, used under Creative Commons

Meat snail

Last night we had dinner at Richmond Station, and it was predictably delicious.

We started with the sourdough bread and oil, then split the trout gravlax paired with two different glasses of Pinot Gris (one from Blue Mountain in the Okanagan, one from JM Sohler in Alsace).

Lindsay’s main was the Eurobass Grenobloise, paired with a glass of Leaning Post Merlot(!) while I had the special: venison Fleischschnaka (an Alsatian specialty — venison loin wrapped in a noodle) paired with the Pearl Morissette cab franc.

For dessert we split the London Fog: white chocolate cheesecake, almond, orange blossom, earl grey ice cream; I ceded the entirety of the ice cream and drank a tawny port instead.

Our colds interfered with our evening a little, but still…an excellent meal.

Holifax? Halidays? I can’t choose.

Well now. That was a fairly relaxing vacation. Not quite as relaxing as I’d intended, but not bad overall. I’ve been in Nova Scotia for a little over a week, and barely looked at work email at all. I flew here with Lindsay (my girlfriend, whose family is also from here), had lunch at a pub near her mom’s house, and dropped her off before getting on the road.

I then spent five days at my family’s farm, and it was just as uneventful as I’d hoped: nothing but family time, eating, crib games, eating, sleeping, eating, playing with dogs, eating, eating, then eating, and also some eating.

After the annual family reunion in Truro, a quick gathering in St. Margaret’s Bay, a speed run back to Truro to pick up the luggage I’d forgotten on the farm (which brother #2 very graciously brought half-way), and a hot turkey sandwich (turns out I like these, after years of thinking I didn’t) I was back in Halifax, enjoying some city downtime. Some highlights:

Tuesday

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

  • Cappuccino with brother #1 at Julien’s in the Hydrostone
  • Brunch, also with brother #1, at Black Sheep. He had breakfast poutine; I had the fried chicken sandwich and a very spicy Caesar made with pork jerky and steak spice.
  • A look-around inside the new Port (up-scale version of the NSLC) which netted a rare find, at least for an Ontarian: Kavalan Taiwanese whisky.
  • A look around brother #1’s beautiful new home.
  • Rogue One
  • Coffee and some exceptional macarons from Le French Fix
  • Pre-dinner drinks (Oban, gin + tonics) with Lindsay at my hotel bar
  • Dinner with brother #1 at Primal Kitchen, a newish carnivore-friendly spot just off Spring Garden. The tuna was very nice, the charcuterie was excellent, and my short rib was delicious. Would definitely go back.

 

 

 

Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

I had a lot more planned for the weekend, but Friday and half of Saturday turned into something else entirely, for which I cut my Halifax visit short. I did manage to get back into the city just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Lindsay, though, at a Codapop house party.

Happy 2017 everybody!