Meat. Sports. Good.

Last Saturday I went to my first hockey game since the pre-Omicron home opener. The game was, just like said opener, Leafs against Habs. I’d managed to get my hands on some tickets, so I brought a former colleague who’s a big Leafs fan. We had dinner before at the Hot Stove Club, where we indulged in huge steaks and a 2001 Rioja, which might have been a tiny bit past its peak (no tannin or acid left, just fruit — dried fruit, given the age — and relatively subtle oak, but it hadn’t tipped over into a vegetal note. In retrospect I might have ordered a more delicate cut than my ribeye to match it properly, but we’re niggling now. It was a lovely meal, and chance to catch up. I also got to see Auston Matthews hit fifty goals in his last fifty games, even if it did come at the expense of my team. Nonetheless, a good night all around.

The first rule of flight club

Earlier this week we joined a handful of other patrons at Chez Nous Wine Bar’s inaugural Flight Club. It involved samples of 11 different Ontario wines (see below) some of which were the acknowledged stars of Niagara, while others snuck up on us.

It was terrific fun, to where Lindsay had to restrain me from excitedly blabbing too much. If this is a monthly event, we’ll happily keep signing up. Though, given how we felt Tuesday morning, we probably won’t share a bottle of wine before we go to the next one. That wasn’t our best call.

The wines:

  • Meldville Muscat Bubble 2020
  • 2027 Cellars Pinot Gris 2020
  • Leaning Post Riesling 2018
  • Flat Rock Gewuztraminer 2020
  • 13th Street Maximum Intervention 2020 (Riesling; orange wine)
  • Big Head Rosé 2020 (Malbec)
  • Westcott Temperance 2020 (Pinot Noir / Gamay)
  • Bachelder “Les Villages” Gamay 2019
  • Malivoire Analog 2020 (Cabernet Franc / Gamay)
  • Ravine “Sand & Gravel” Cabernet Franc 2019
  • Black Bank Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Staycanndore

Since I had some Hyatt loyalty points expiring on Dec 31, I used them to book us a little staycation in the city. In fact, back in my old neighbourhood of Yonge & Bloor: a room at the Anndore House. The points bought us a loft for the night, though between a long work day yesterday and an early-ish checkout this morning we didn’t get to spend much time there. We spent most of our time there downstairs, having dinner at Constantine with a friend.

Said dinner was pretty damn good too:

  • Food
    • Lucky Limes oysters
    • Muhammara w/ za’atar, walnut, wood-fired pita
    • ‘Nduja Flatbread w/ ricotta, honey, oregano
    • Burratini w/ coronation grape puree, pickled grape, marinated cherry tomato, pine nut dukkah, focaccia
    • Ricotta Gnocchi w/ Kendall Hills oyster mushroom, chantrelle, Shogun maitake, swiss chard, focaccia crumble, grana padano
    • Lamb Cavatelli w/ broccolini, pepper soffritto, mint pesto, pecorino
  • Wine
    • glasses of Monmarthe ‘Secret de Famille’ Champagne
    • glasses of Pinot Gris and Langhe red
    • a bottle of Chateau Musar 2014
    • glasses of late harvest Riesling

So many half-magnums

Last night Lindsay and I, and three other couples, had dinner in the beautiful private dining room in the cellar at Barberian’s steakhouse. We’d won the dinner in last fall’s Grapes for Climate Change charity auction; after not being sure what would happen throughout the Omicron lockdown we found out last week it was going ahead, and we re-mobilized.

Dinner wasn’t just dinner either — there were special guests. Beverly Crandon, one of the founders of Vinequity, and Thomas Bachelder, Niagara winemaking royalty. Thomas was pouring several of his wines to go with the meal, and we got to compare, contrast, and learn about the wines as we went. Some were the very last magnums and bottles (sorry — half-magnums) of his 2014s. At one point Arron Barberian came down and talked about the barrels of wine Thomas had made of blended wine from dozens of Niagara producers, and which he had put into more magnums, which Barberian had signed by Geddy Lee. Proceeds from the sale of those bottles also went to GfH, so…we bought six.

It was a great night, our first since this latest lockdown began. And the best part is, the winnings included a tasting at the Bachelder bat cave in the spring. Can’t effing wait.

Somm

A few years ago, on a flight to London (which seems as exotic as a rocket ride to the moon now) I watched the third installment in a documentary series, called Somm 3 (imdb | rotten tomatoes). It didn’t seem to matter much that it was out of order.

Earlier this week I finally got around to watching the first installment, Somm (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Some of the faces were familiar as they appear in the third documentary, but other than that it was an interesting, and nerve-wracking, journey on the obsessive torture tour that is the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Good god. I’m hoping the second one, Somm: Into The Bottle (imdb | rotten tomatoes), is a little less harrowing.

Also: while I’m fascinated by the wine subject matter, it’s been rather difficult to watch — many allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape have been levelled at members of the court since the documentaries came out, and several characters featured in one or more of the docs were expelled. One looms very large over the whole series: Fred Dame, who the candidates revered as some sort of god and who sat at a place of honour with Jancis Robinson and the late Stephen Spurrier in the third episode. Judging by the filmmakers’ instagram account another installment in the series is coming; I hope it addresses the toxicity in which these compelling stories were unfolding.

Cover photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

It’s the most gluttonous time of the year

As Toronto has become more and more double-vaxxed, work dinners are starting to become a thing. Especially during the holidays. I was out twice this week: once at Harbour 60 (good steak; absolutely monstrous portions of calamari and chocolate cheesecake) and once at Carisma (gorgeous food and great service all around). Both places were absolutely rammed. It felt weird, but it felt good to see people in person and break bread again.

Actually, in the alternating evenings, we did more socializing: friends over one night, dinner at nearby friends’ house another. It was four late nights of much-needed interaction with bottles and bottles of amazing wine, but I confess I need a bit of a rest.

.:.

Cover photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

Wynona

Last night we went back to Wynona for the first time in quite a while. We forgot how loud buzzy restaurants are inside.

Anyway, the food was really pretty tasty:

  • Grilled house focaccia
  • Burrata, smoked capocollo ham, figs, almond, fennel pollen, smoked Rosewood honey
  • Little gem salad, green goddess, 8-minute egg, feta, crispy quinoa
  • Lumache pasta, duck confit, maitake mushrooms, pecorino, stracciatella, arugula
  • Branzino, brown butter, cerignola olives, capers, oregano
  • bottle of grenache/cab sauv/cinsault

Four years gone

It’s been four years since our last visit to Prince Edward County. That time was in the summer, and the whole area was far more overrun with tourists. This time, later in the season — this was a birthday present for Lindsay, actually — we hoped it would be more chill.

First up: find a place to stay. To be honest, seeing pictures of Mirazule in a friend’s Instagram feed is what triggered the idea for this gift. It absolutely did not disappoint: architecturally stunning, filled with beautiful and personal art pieces, serenely overlooking South Bay, and home to two wonderful humans (Ian and Miguel) and an adorable dog. We absolutely loved our time there — drinks each evening, cozy hours reading by the fireplace, unbelievable breakfasts prepared by Miguel, superb sleep-ins, and on and on.

In fact, we only left for about 6 hours the whole weekend. Our first outing was dinner at Bocado, a new restaurant in Picton. It’s a Spanish place from some of the same folks behind Patria and Byblos, two of our favourites in Toronto. Even a few weeks out the only table we could get was at 9pm, so we snapped it up. I’m glad we did too — it was an excellent meal.

  • cocktails
    • Bocado Martini: gin, Spanish dry vermouth, olive oil, citrus oils, sweet drop pepper, olive
    • Pineapple Tonic: pineapple, fever tree tonic, citus (I was driving)
  • appetizers
    • Dates w/ Iberico pancetta, Lighthall manchego, guindilla peppers and honey gastrique
    • Croquette jamon w/ house pickle and aioli
    • Ontario lamb ribs w/ ajo verde, honey, and mint
  • main
    • 16oz Enright ribeye w/ onion agrodolce and chimichurri
    • Patatas Bravas
    • bottle of Mencia

For our second excursion, on Saturday afternoon, we drove up to Wellington, had beers outdoor at Gillingham Brewing (and left with some of their ESB and Porter), and drove up to Domaine Darius (who happened to be releasing some wine that hasn’t been picked up through the year, so we really lucked out) before driving back South.

After an aborted attempt to visit Lighthall — which was just too packed — we drove down the road to Exultet. It’s been nine years since my last visit, and it’s only slightly less rustic. The prices are gold-plated, but good lord…the quality. We left with a lot. Next up was Long Dog, where we met the owners Victoria and James, tasted through their lineup, and just had a nice long chat.

After that it was back to Mirazule for some relaxing, some drinks, and an absolutely outstanding meal prepared by Miguel — quail & cheese croquette salad; roast pork loin, potatoes, clove & Armagnac ice cream, apple tart. It was all tremendous.

We drove back Sunday, wishing we’d had more time in the county, but grateful for the weekend we had.

It was one of the moms from Bend It Like Beckham

It’s been a busy ten days. Last week I got to go to the Leafs home opener against the Canadiens. It was my first sporting event in a crowd since…I have no idea when. The Canadiens lost — they’ve only lost so far this season — and after the game I saw a drunk Leafs fan get hit by a car. So there was that.

Earlier this week Lindsay’s mom was in town. On Tuesday we had a tremendous birthday dinner at Ascari Enoteca:

  • cocktails
  • bread
  • olive oil poached tuna w/ apple, fennel, cashew, and chili emulsion
  • Wisconsin burrata w/ heirloom tomatoes, romesco, pine nuts, and focaccia crisps
  • arancini w/ nduja sugo, basil, and grana padano
  • glasses of La Rondinina Lambrusco
  • linguine w/ octopus, nduja, tomatoes, red pepper, and caper bread crumbs
  • spaghetti alla carbonara w/ house made guanciale, grana padano, pecorino, egg yolk, and black pepper
  • ricotta gnocchi w/ hen of the woods mushrooms, sunchoke, chives
  • bottle of 2017 Palmento Costanzo ‘Mofete’

On Wednesday we went to see Blindness, my first play, or something resembling it, since…I really have no idea when. It was a very intense sound & light experience, to the point where I was worried I might pass out or be sick. But still really interesting and good.

La Paella

Last night we met up with friends K & E at La Paella, a Spanish restaurant just down the street which none of us had ever been to. We sat on their covered patio on a warm, rainy evening, and ate & drank…uh, a lot.

We shared four tapas plates — grilled lamb chops; sweet pimientos del piquillo stuffed with beef cheeks; sauteed garlic shrimp in Spanish olive oil; and Oyster mushrooms, garlic & olive oil, pan seared in Andalucia sherry wine — before digging into a paella of rabbit, wild boar, Spanish chorizo, Jamon Serrano, green peas and piquillo peppers. It was all washed down with several bottles of Rioja and Duero. Dessert was everything on offer: almond cake, manchego cheesecake, house-made chocolate, and some kind of flan? Anyway, the star was the 1968 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Seleccion.

It was a long, lovely dinner, the likes of which we haven’t had in over a year.