Not that Hollywood

I was just in Florida again. For the second time in less than two weeks, after only being there once in my life to date. Not Miami this time though — just north of there, in Hollywood. Which is an odd place. (Like, you know, Florida.)

I was there for a conference, and flew in the day before. I flew Air Canada Rouge for the first time, which — because my bid for an upgrade was accepted — was pretty smooth. I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (imdb | rotten tomatoes), which I thought was pretty meh.

From the Fort Lauderdale airport I went to the conference resort, the Diplomat Beach Resort.  Resorts like that weird me out — there’s nothing around there but other resorts, so people check in with the express intent of not leaving for a week. Anyway, I checked into my room, which had this view. Pas terrible.

 

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

I ate dinner at the bar at Diplomat Prime, their steakhouse. I had summer sweet corn bisque w/ alaskan king crab, black truffle, crème fraîche, and caviar (along with an Alsatian Pinot Gris) and an 18oz ribeye + jumbo asparagus w/ hollandaise, and crispy onion (with a glass of 2012 Chateau Magnol from Medoc). I could only eat about half the steak (I mean, seriously) and took the rest home, and skipped dessert. Well, mostly: I had a glass of Angel’s Envy Rye, which was intriguing.

Breakfast the next day — the next three days, really — was at Counterpoint downstairs, and lunch was a room service fried chicken sandwich + Hollywood Brewing session IPA.

Dinner that night was down the road, in another community with even more ridiculously flash resorts (there was a collection of Bentleys out front of this one), at the Il Mulino New York in the Acqualina resort. Tasty food — caprese, cheese tortellini, chicken w/ asparagus, and a pile o’ desserts — but my favourite part was the conversation with the other people at my table. I bonded with the Newfoundlander and the military guy across the table. As one does.

The next day, after the conference wrapped for the evening, we were hosted across the road at Portico, facing onto the intracoastal waterway. I scarfed a bowl of rice, gulf shrimp, spicy beef, and avocado, and a glass of sauv blanc (fucking Kim Crawford) and admired the view before I ran off. My brain was working overtime and I wanted to get my thoughts out before banal conversation killed it all.

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Later that night, after working a bunch, I was still hungry and popped downstairs to Point Royal for a solo table. I had grilled spanish octopus w/ pickled fresno chili, celery, fennel, mint, basil, and roasted garlic yogurt, and yellowfin tuna tartare w/ avocado, and chili-sesame seed vinaigrette. It was pretty unremarkable.

The conference wrapped the next day and my airport experience / flight home was unremarkable, except that I chatted with this lady for most of the flight, which never happens to me. Oh, and the Newfoundlander from two nights’ previous was sitting behind me! I guess the universe wanted me to socialize.

.:.

Cover photo from the Diplomat site

Cover image from the (unrelated) Byblos Bakery site

Byblos

Brother #1 was in town this week, and we had an opportunity to catch up last night over dinner. After Lindsay and I had a drink at Nota Bene we joined him at Byblos. Here’s what we ate:

Starters

  • lamb ribs w/ dukkah + buttermilk sauce + carob molasses + red chili schug
  • spanish octopus w/ fingerling potato + biber chili vinaigrette + preserved lemon
  • tickle bread (inside joke — it was really bread with house-made labneh)

Mains

  • short rib kebab w/ chemen + truffle tatziki + pine nut dukkah + oregano
  • grilled whole branzino w/ chermoula + saffron toum + watercress
  • crispy confit duck rice w/ barberries + date molasses + almonds + crispy garlic gremolata

Dessert

  • hazelnut chocolate mousse w/ sweet cream + katafi + coffee molasses + chocolate caramel tuile
  • pavlova w/ sumac & strawberry sorbet + white chocolate + milk crumble + sous vide strawberry
  • burnt honey ice cream

Delicious, as usual. I think the brother left suitably impressed, and full.

.:.

Cover image from the (unrelated) Byblos Bakery site

High high high low

Once again, on a weekend where we were just too busy and tired to do much shopping, let alone cooking, we’ve eaten very well these past few days.

Saturday morning we hit Eastbound for what’s becoming our go-to brunch option. I had the pancake + fried chicken + omelet dealie, and Lindsay had the fried cod sandwich. We each had a Left Field “Squeeze Play” sour and one of their house beers.

Saturday evening, because we liked it so much the first time but found ourselves in a bit of a hurry, we returned to Gare de l’Est. We took our time, and after a wobbly start with our server, the meal really found a groove. We had half a dozen oysters and glasses of Tarlant. I started with the salade de betteraves (beets, cashews, watercress, Grey Owl cheese) while Lindsay had the soupe à l’oignon gratinée (beef broth, soft onions, Gruyère & Emmental, crouton). I had the canard (pan-roasted duck breast, port jus, white bean fricassee, charred treviso, bacon lardons) for my main; Lindsay the saumon a l’oseile (Pacific King Salmon, Tokoyo Turnip, fresh sorrel, beurre blanc). We paired that with a bottle of 2009 Savigny-Les-Beaunes. For dessert they brought us out a bit of cheese while we finished our wine. Superb meal all around.

Today for brunch we made breakfast at home (!) with buttery eggs, spicy chorizo sausages, and sourdough bread, all from Butchers of Distinction. We ate this simple feast while watching Bob’s Burgers and drinking a 2010 Benjamin Bridge Brut sparkling.

Tonight, though, we ruined the streak when we finally tried the Cider House, the newest addition to our neighbourhood. We had high hopes given the menu, but man…what a letdown. The pork belly ribs were good, but two of the four ribs that came out had virtually no meat on them…just bone! Lindsay’s burger & fries were meh. My pork chop was okay but a little overdone. The apple + chorizo mash that came with it was pretty good though. Our ciders — the popular mint + basil, and the dry hopped — were better than I expected, but I’m still not that much of a cider fiend, so I opted for a Mill Street (that’s all they carry) vanilla porter for my second.

More than the food, the real let-down was the service. Our server was trying, but he seemed over-matched. We were missing side plates, then cutlery, then I didn’t had a knife suitable for my chop. And my second drink order was forgotten. In fairness, he took that drink off the bill — good thing, too, since one app + two mains + three ciders came to $97 before tip. Not insane for this city, but it was hard to discern value for money.

On top of that, the place just had a weird vibe. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but we both left thinking this place was no threat to Eastbound. Eastbound’s beer may be just north of okay and their prices are high, but their food is excellent, the service is always on, and it just feels more relaxed.

Cover photo by Kay Gaensler, used under Creative Commons license

Miami

I spent about 36 hours in Miami this week. After kind of not wanting to go back to Florida ever, I’m going twice in two weeks, which is weird. But this quick there-and-back for work was pretty fun.

First of all, neither I nor the conference organizers knew it was spring break season, and the hotel closest to the South Beach conference venue was a short walk from the beach. As a result it seemed the entire guest roster of the hotel was drunk, loud, and scantily clad. The walls of that hotel are also paper-thin, so when the room next to mine became a nightclub around 2am, I was off the sleep.

Anyway, the event went well and the venue was very cool. It was chilly (by Miami standards; I was still in a t-shirt) on Wednesday when I arrived, but the day of the event it got up to 28º and I was more than happy to be walking around outside. I got a coffee at this cute place on Española Way called Papo, and had plans in the afternoon to go back to what seemed to be a nice little French café called A La Folie, but there was a blaring alarm going off across the street which would have killed the vibe.

After the work event we had a few drinks (sadly, Blue Moon was the best beer on offer) and I did a bit of work before heading to dinner. I crossed the bridge into downtown Miami for drinks at Area 31 (where I had some kind of ridiculously delicious sweet & smokey cocktail) and dinner at Zuma, both at the Kimpton EPIC hotel. Zuma was an excellent spot, and I was yapping a bit too much to get much of the food, but what I had was stellar. So was the wine. The hosts let me order a bottle, which was a big mistake on their part.

Anyway, as much as I still get the heebiejeebies going to a state like Florida, I will admit that Miami has some charms.

.:.

Cover photo by Kay Gaensler, used under Creative Commons license

Toqué

Last Saturday, while in Montreal, I went to Toqué with Lindsay. I was excited to do a proper tasting menu again after a bit of a hiatus, and at the #2-rated restaurant in Canada no less. I’ve posted a scan of the menu, but suffice it to say it was one of the best tasting menus I’ve ever experienced. Impeccable from start to finish, and the drink pairings were inspired.

A few notes on the below:

  • We led off with oysters, and two glasses of Champagne each: a blanc de blancs and a blanc de noirs. Lovely both, though I (not surprisingly) favoured the blanc de blancs. One (I can’t remember which) was by Benoit Lahaye; I don’t remember the other.
  • The wine pairing for the fish course (Lindsay had the foie gras and, therefore, the Xeres) was an adventure:
    • The wine with the halibut was not the Lighthall Chardonnay as shown below, but in fact a Bachelder Wismer Vineyard chard.
    • However, since the Sommelier and I were bonding over the evening’s wine, he brought out a blind taster for us to try. We didn’t have the printed menu yet, so I didn’t know it was the Lighthall. The crispness and lack of oak made me think of Chablis, but it had an unmistakable Ontario character. I just couldn’t get my mind to it though, and when he produced the bottle I sighed, “Oh, Glenn made that!”
    • Finally: because we were chatting so much about Lindsay’s Xeres he accidentally poured me a glass as well. Sweet.
  • Every course was stunning, but the venison, halibut, cheese, and dessert were really special, and Lindsay’s foie knocked her out.
  • The drink pairings were so fun and out there — the somm actually sounded apologetic when he explained that they went with a straightforward pairing for the venison — with a French table beer, a Portuguese wine made up of just about every grape there is, and what was essentially a German pet-nat made from Müller-Thurgau. Stop it. Just stop.
  • A few key translations: bar = bass; l’oursin = sea urchin; flétan = halibut (from Nova Scotia no less!); cerf = deer; and L’Adoray is a local cheese.

Anyway, here’s the menu of the year so far:

toquemenu.jpg

Cover photo from the Brasserie 701 site

Boozi

For the first time in quite a while, I spent this weekend in Montreal visiting Lindsay. I missed it. Also: we appear to have saved up our appetites until now.

I landed Friday and dropped my bags at Lindsay’s, and after scratching Roscoe hello on his stupid little dingus head we shot downtown. We grabbed lunch and a (tasty, but too hot) cortado at Kafein, and spent the afternoon at an event.

After that we hit N Sur Mackay for cocktails; I had the special (which was Laphroaig and red wine and something else but mostly tasted like Laphroaig) and a Lemon Tartlette.

Tartlets? Tartlets?

We were all hungry, and this trend of pouring cocktails into empty stomachs seemed dangerous, so we walked to Café Parvis. Lindsay and I had been there for brunch before (though she didn’t remember) but it was much better for dinner. We all shared a big cucumber salad, then Lindsay and I split a white margherita pizza — basically a caprese salad on a thin crust — and it was fantastic.

After dinner four of us walked a few more blocks to the Benelux on Sherbrooke and fought for some seats long enough to have one last beer. For me it was one of their house beers, the Captaine Ganache imperial porter.

Man. Busy day. The weekend was just getting started though.

On Saturday, after we dragged our tired asses out of bed, we did a bit of work and then got ourselves some brunch. We walked to Maison Publique, a frequent dinner destination, but not somewhere I’d had brunch before. While they have a varied menu, I went pretty straight down the middle re: brunch: pancakes + bacon. But wow, it was good. I wolfed it all down along with a Caesar. Lindsay had some kind of sausage + mushroom dish, with a bunch of Tawse sparkling.

After brunch I was on the verge of a pancake coma, so we stopped at Cardynal on the way home. Nice shop. Nice cortado.

After picking up a few supplies and heading home to pack, we Uber’d downtown to the Hotel Nelligan, where we’d stay the next few nights. It was a lovely, classic Old Montreal hotel, with exposed brick and such. We did some more work in our room, then did away with most of the supplies we’d brought while the snow whitened the outside.

That night we had dinner at Toqué, which…I mean, I’m going need some time & space to describe. There’s a reason it was ranked the #2 restaurant in Canada last year — it was the best meal I’ve had in Canada since the last time I ate at Alo (which was #1). I’ll write about that later in the week.

On Sunday we slept in a bit, but got up with the intention of heading downstairs for the last 30 minutes or so of breakfast…and then realized that daylight savings happened overnight, and the clock by the bed was wrong, so we’d missed breakfast. Dagnabbit. We came up with a plan B: Brasserie 701. As many times as I’ve stayed at the Place d’Armes, I’ve never eaten brunch there. We hit it pretty hard, starting with the bottomless mimosas (!) and going from there. My burger was one of the best I’ve had in ages, but I left in some full-stomach agony.

We grabbed a coffee on the way home from Crew Collective & Café, and just did more work back in the room.

It was a cozy room to work in too, I can tell you. We hung out there until it was time for dinner, which we’d arranged down the street at Bocata, a place we visited our first time together in Montreal. We had a few oysters to start, then Lindsay had the lobster carbonara tagliatelle and I had the sea bass. We paired this with a California white which, while predominantly Chardonnay, had a bunch of Rhone varietals in there as well, and it knocked us out. Terrific stuff. We had a cheese board for dessert with the last of our wine, then got some sweet Quebec wine and cider for a last taste. Well, almost: our server brought us a few shots of Sortilège. Ouf. We rolled home for more work.

This morning we got up early, ate some overpriced room service, and went to a thing for Lindsay. I got some work done back at a nearby cafê (Kafein again), then rejoined her for the rest of the day.

We had a little time at the end of the day before I had to leave for my flight, so we went to Dieu du Ciel for some beers (a Nativité blonde, a Résurrection porter, a Déesse Nocturne stout, and — praise be — a Péché Mortel) and very-late lunch before I hopped in a cab.

I got home a few hours ago, and I’m not happy about it. That was honestly one of the best weekends of my life, and it hurt to leave Lindsay, even if I’ll see her again in a few days. We’ll be talking about this weekend for years, though.

 

.:.

Cover photo from the Brasserie 701 site

 

Cover photo from the Bar Hop site

III / Session / East / Danforth

Earlier this week I met up with my friend Sue at the new Bar Hop on the Danforth. I’m confused about what they’re calling it…Bar Hop III? Bar Hop Session?

They’re still getting their head around the decor a little bit, I think (we sat in a weird alcove that used to be where darts were played) but the fundamentals are there: same great tap list and bottle fridges. I had a Left Field Squeeze Play, a Tooth & Nail Fortitude, two Blood Brothers Unify or Die, and some Dunham grisette that I can’t remember.

There’s also a pretty welcome difference in crowd/vibe than the two downtown Bar Hop locations. It’s pretty chill; feels more like a neighbourhood local. Not that I don’t like the downtown spots, but this place just feels more east end. Pretty excited it’s there.

.:.

Cover photo from the Bar Hop site

 

Cover image from Skin+Bones site

An Eastern bias toward laziness and delicious food

I love having east end friends. They don’t ask me to travel all the way across the city for dinner on a Friday night. They’re totally into amazing places in, say, Leslieville

So, last night I met my friend Andrea at Skin + Bones. We shared house-cured charcuterie with pickles, dijon, and crostini. We split two specials, the duck breast and the short rib. We drank Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc and Meldville Chardonnay, and Cave Spring Pinot Noir, and big glasses of Touriga Nacional and Corvina. Our server treated us to glasses of Jurançon. We laughed a lot and I said something terribly douchey about Tannat. Great dinner.

On the way home I stopped in at Chez Nous for one last glass, a big-ass Marechal Foch amidst a very busy crowded joint. I didn’t stay for a second; I was knackered.