Cover photo by Rich Kaszeta, used under Creative Commons license

“There’s a lot of gasping in this house.”

After winding down a long work week at Chez Nous, followed by a satisfying Raptors game to close out the Wizards in 6, I settled in to wait for Lindsay to arrive home. After she landed Saturday we had just enough time to stuff in some lunch at Eastbound and then turn around to head down to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We (and CBJ+M) were having dinner and spending the night at our friends Brian & Mandy’s place.

We had a look around at the new house developments, began the wine drinking, shared a meat + cheese platter from Sandy Aleksander, ate a delicious dinner centered around an enormous prime rib, drank several Ontario reds (a 2010 Hidden Bench Terroir Caché, a 2011 Hidden Bench La Brunante, and a 2010 Tawse T-Blend Red) and a 2010 Le Vieux Pin Syrah from BC, played Pictionary and Cards Against Humanity and pool, nibbled on pie, and then fell asleep. This morning CBJ made us all a stellar breakfast before we rolled on out of there.

Lindsay and I hit a few wineries on our way home: Kew for some sparkling, and Hidden Bench to pick up the latest vintages of Terroir Caché and Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay. Maura from Hidden Bench had been the one commenting on my Instagram posts of the previous nights’ bottles, so it was nice to connect in person this morning.

We had a long slow slog back into Toronto but eventually dropped the car off and settled at home. We had a bit of a crash-out afternoon too, I’m afraid.

Thanks for having us kids.

.:.

Cover photo by Rich Kaszeta, used under Creative Commons license

 

Public speaking

This week has already turned into a bit of a gong show, which has me thinking wistfully back to a wonderful weekend. First, and maybe most importantly, the weather finally turned springlike. Hallelujah.

We had a nice (read: farging huge) Saturday breakfast at the Broadview Hotel café. Lindsay had duck benedict. I had a stack of pancakes covered in peanut butter mousse, I shit you not. Then we drove out to Mississauga to meet our contractor for some kitchen renovation design decisions. While there we bought a whackload of pretty new appliances (all European: Bosch, Miele, and Liebherr) at Tasco and kitchen fixtures at Taps. After all that we drove home, dumped the car, and sauntered up to The Wren where we…well, drank too much. But I mean, their bottle list is just so good.

On Sunday we went back to the Broadview Hotel café for the schmear platter (sesame + poppy seed bagels, citrus-cured salmon, capers, pickled onions, sliced cucumber, smoked mackerel + crème frâiche, horseradish + chive cream cheese, caper lemon + dill whipped ricotta) and Cava before heading up to the Hot Docs theatre to see one of Lindsay’s idols: Fran Lebowitz, in conversation. She’s a consummate wit, and entertained us greatly whilst fending off stupid (and uncomfortably weird, in one case) questions. Fran had a meaningful role in the early days of our relationship too, so…special. Lovely.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad either, frankly — I flew to Ottawa in the morning for meetings, flew back late in the afternoon, did a bunch of work, stopped in at Eastbound, and then met Linds at The Roy for pub heaviness and mediocre beer. Honestly, though, the service and vibe at that place are why we always want to go back.

Pa’lante

Even though I moved to this neighbourhood a year ago — almost exactly a year ago, actually — I hadn’t been back to The Opera House to see a gig. In fact, looking back through this here blog machine, I see that it’s been (again, almost exactly) sixteen years since I watched Spiritualized play there, and more than fifteen years since I watched my beloved Sleater-Kinney blow us all up there. Nothing since though, at least as best I can remember.

The reason I say all this: Thursday, after some dinner at La Carnita, we headed to the Opera House for a triple bill. We arrived in the middle of Bedouine‘s (website) set, which sounded lovely. I wish we’d seen a little more of her.

Next up was Hurray For The Riff Raff (website), a band I’ve listened to a fair bit in the past and whose last album I really liked. I would have gone to see them on their own; the fact that they were co-headlining with another excellent band made this ticket a steal. I loved their set — singer/guitarist/songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra has a voice that doesn’t seem real, and an incandescent stage presence. Some of their songs are fun; some are heavy as fuck (like “Kids Who Die” which Segarra wrote after reading the Langston Hughes poem), but all were captivating.

The headliner that night was Waxahatchee (bandcamp), whose last album I also loved. Their set was a little less incendiary than HFTRR’s, but as solid as I wanted: lots of songs from the last album, a few good cuts from Ivy Tripp, fun banter. It had me listening to their whole repertoire the next day.

Also: walking in our front door, like, three minutes after the show ended? Sweet.

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Third winter

While Toronto comes to grips with this crazy goddamn three-day rain/snow/ice storm I/we have been just trying to stay warm and fed.

On Friday I tried to meet someone at the new Walrus pub at Bay & Wellington at 5, which was a mistake, because it was a sea of suits. We opted instead for the chef’s table at Beerbistro, which were the last two seats they had, and any port in a storm and all that. Afterward I wanted some dinner while Lindsay made her way home on a train, and sandwiched between unsuccessful attempts to find a spot at a Keg and Ardo I ended up stopping in C’est What for a couple of drinks. Happily enough my buddy Jeff was working that night so we got to chat for a bit. I ended up just getting shawarma on my way home, which was delicious, even if it almost burned my face off.

Saturday morning I got up early, trying to get some errands done and supplies bought from St. Lawrence Market before the worst of the storm arrived. I did so, but later in the day we were both a bit hungry and decided to brave the ice pellets anyway, getting some lunch and beers at Eastbound.

After that it was all hatches being battened down as we huddled to watch the Raptors win game 1 of a series (finally!) and catch Lindsay up on Fargo and scarf pizza and Two Sisters cab franc.

Sunday was a whole lot of work and a little relaxation (including more Fargo) indoors as we tried to ignore the Hoth-like conditions outside our windows. We did have a delicious pasta and 2007 Nebbiolo to end the evening though.

Image from http://www.les400coups.ca/en

Montreal, mozzarella, and a near miss

I was back in Montreal this weekend for more fun and relaxation and Roscoe-visits. Once again we spent some time at Lindsay’s, and some time downtown in Old Montreal.

I arrived after work on Thursday, and between being tired and Lindsay being sick we didn’t have much in us other than to order some Uniburgers (which were damned good) and drink some of the Péché Day 4-pack that she bought for me at the Metro a few weeks ago.

The next morning I got up and let Lindsay sleep while I walked to Maamm Bolduc for breakfast with Mark. We scarfed sausages & eggs & fruit & potatoes & coffee and felt we had the energy to get into the day. We walked home and I found Lindsay feeling a little better, but we still took it pretty easy on the day: we watched a bunch of Fargo and ate some snacks and had a little nap, all in service of conserving her energy for dinner. We had plans to take Sara and Mark to Maison Publique to celebrate Mark’s birthday.

The dinner was, as always, outstanding. We had Quebec sparkling, fennel salad, Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir, deer tartare, duck sausage, this outstanding ‘nduja sausage ravioli in brown butter sauce, Frogpond Cabernet Franc, pork belly, halibut, a couple of pôts de crème, and some kind of fortified barrel-aged maple syrup. It was all incredible. Our night wasn’t quite done though — we decided to have a few beers at Pub Pit Caribou. It was a later night than someone just getting over a cold should have done, but Lindsay held up like a trooper, and I was really excited to get back to Pit Caribou for a second time.

The next morning was a little rough, so we all dragged our asses down to Maamm Bolduc again, and had pretty much the same breakfast (with some Caesars). That helped. After that, Lindsay and I said our goodbyes to Sara and Mark and zipped downtown to our hotel for the night: the Auberge du Vieux Port. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we ran out to Pub Brewskey for a beer and a bite. We split the same bottle of A La Fût Flanders Red that I drank myself (!) while here last fall.

We hung out back in the room for a few hours, then walked to dinner at Les 400 Coups, a joint recommended to Lindsay a while back. It was quiet when we got there (8pm is early for dinner in Montreal, I guess) but soon picked up. The service experience was slightly uneven, but the food – New Brunswick oysters; oxtail dumplings w/ wild bay leaf, and shiitake mushrooms; red chicory salad w/ pear, maple, and sunchoke; beef tartare w/ bone marrow, crispy shallots, espelette, and wild rice; scallops w/ glazed pork belly, sweet potato, and oyster mushrooms – was excellent. The drinks were great too: we had a lovely Blanc de Noirs when we sat down, took sommelier Jonathan’s excellent recommendation (2015 Allegracore Etna Rosso Doc) to have with our meal, including some stellar cheese for first dessert. Then second dessert – a crazily rich chocolate moelleux with dulce de leche – was paired with something I’ve never seen before: a Tannat dessert wine. When remarking to the sommelier that this was a strange new find for us, he recognized that we were a worthy audience for some other treats stashed behind the bar: a prune eau de vie, some kind of beautiful tomato (!) liqueur, and a craft elderflower liqueur that makes me never ever want to see St Germain again. What a lovely experience.

Sunday morning I checked out Café Olimpico, which had good Americanos and superb croissants, and we chilled in the room for the morning before checking out. We grabbed lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, Taverne Gaspar (surprisingly good mussels and fish + chips, actually) then posted up at Olimpico to do some work and drink some cortados.

We decided to grab some early dinner at Mangiafoco before my flight. Last time I came to Montreal we stayed right across the street from it, but hadn’t noticed. Turns out it has very good pizza, and amazing cheese. (It actually bills itself as a “Mozzarella Bar,” bless its heart.) We had burrata with tomatoes and some salumi, and a sausage pizza, and a very nice bottle of Pinot Nero from Piemonte, and a nice apple-y dessert. While we were sitting there my flight got delayed, and delayed again (turns out a small airplane had broken down on the Toronto Island runway, wreaking havoc on all flights for the rest of the day) so we ended up going next door to Philemon Wine Bar for one last one: Franciacorta for Lindsay, and orange wine (again, from Piemonte) for me.

Finally I jumped into an Uber, which turned out to be an ordeal: one highway closure and this guy was utterly lost. After going in a circle and threatening to do it again I had to direct him out of downtown and to the airport, all while nearly missing a number of exits. I arrived at the airport to find out that if my flight was delayed so much as five minutes we risked being redirected to Pearson, or even Hamilton, but Porter came through and got us off the ground in record time. We landed with thirteen minutes to spare.

 

Tastes exactly 57 years better

Last night a few of us gathered for a little work celebration dinner at Jacobs. I wasn’t going to say no to that.

We had cocktails and oysters and jumbo shrimp and beer tartare and caesar salads to start. We had the UN assembly of steaks for our mains (Wagyu from Japan, non-Wagyu from the US, Argentina, and Canada, all in descending order of deliciousness) along with mushrooms and spinach and duck fat fries and multiple bottles of Ridge and a Bordeaux I didn’t catch the name of (because I didn’t order it). We had 1986 Don PX to drink, except we all shared a glass of the 1929 just to taste the difference, and my god the difference.

I don’t care what anyone says. Best steakhouse in Toronto.

 

Ascari

Last night (after we’d also had a pretty bad ass meal at White Lily earlier in the day) we had dinner at Ascari Enoteca.

We had cocktails (a Paper Plane and a Manhattan), then arancini cacio e pepe (rice balls / pecorino cheese / pepper / fonduta) and broccolini fritti (lightly battered broccolini / pecorino cheese / lemon zest), along with glasses of 2016 Heidi Schrock Welschriesling/Furmint and 2015 Podere Il Saliceto ‘Falistra’ Lambrusco.

For our mains we had spaghetti alla carbonara (guanciale / roast squash / pecorino cheese / egg yolk / cracked black pepper) and risotto (braised lamb / roasted tomatoes / wild mustard purée / grilled wild onions) with a bottle of 2014 Le Boncie ‘Le Trame’ Sangiovese. Dessert was their cannoli (stewed apples / mascarpone / caramel / crumble) and a top off of espresso.