Brassaii

Last night I had a fun work thing at a restaurant I’ve walked by a hundred times but never stepped into: Brassaii. The work event was fun (especially the drinks in their great outdoor space) but the dinner (Caesar salad / salmon / pavlova / mediocre Italian wine) was meh. Not bad, just…meh. I’ll definitely go back to the event again, but won’t exactly go out of my way to revisit Brassaii.

.:.

Cover image from Brassaii’s website

Snozberries

Last week I was back in San Francisco for the first time in about five years, this time for a conference which would take up the better part of a work week.

Monday

My flight was around noon, so I worked from home and then had a nice easy commute to the airport. Almost too easy, really — my Uber driver and I were both freaked out by how smooth a trip it was.

My flight was similarly simple, and with a little extra leg room in the exit row. I watched The Post and Red Sparrow and landed at SFO in no time. The night before the conference began I spent a night at the Inn at Union Square, which was fine, if a little noisy. It was well-placed, though, to try a good place for lunch: Hogwash, where I had a dirty sausage sandwich and a Little Creatures Juicy Pale Ale.

It was also convenient for that night’s dinner with other conference attendees, at Scala’s Bistro, just a few seconds around the corner. Dinner was fine. Too loud. Too cramped. But gift horses and all that. Afterward I walked up the hill to check out another beer joint, Hopwater Distribution. I unwound from the forced interaction and closed the place down.

 

Tuesday

The next day I switched to my home base for the remainder of the conference, and spent the day attending session. That night some of us got to attend an event at the SFMOMA, which was showing an interesting Magritte exhibit (and has lots of Cy Twomly pieces that I really liked). There were rare whisky tasting and dessert art stations set up outside, so I…had a good time.

 

Wednesday

On Wednesday, after the conference day ended, I skipped the planned social event for the 20,000+ (!) attendees and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, Luce. My meal was outstanding, and I got to try Keenan Cab Sauv for my first time since visiting the winery eight years ago.

  • Pacific blue prawn, roasted with espelette chili + lemon, pistachio & brown butter (+ Château de Brézé Chenin, “Clos du Midi,” Saumur 2016)
  • New York strip steak w/ , rosemary + garlic Yukon potato “Anna”, Trumpet Royale mushrooms & date marmalade (+ Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014)
  • Chateau Laribotte 2011 Sauternes

 

Thursday

Before the conference started I made my way to the nearest Blue Bottle Coffee for a cappuccino. It was a long wait. It was not worth it.

After the conference ended Thursday I made my way to the Mikkeller Bar SF to have some lunch and do some work. I’d heard good things. I’d read better things. I was immediately overwhelmed. There were at least a dozen beers I wanted to try, most of them stupidly strong.

In the end, in addition to another tasty sausage, I had:

  • Mikkeller “Blue Hour” gose-style ale brewed w/ pineapple, tart cherry & yerba buena
  • Mikkeller “Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter?” American porter brewed w/ yuzu
  • Barrel Brothers “The Snozberries Taste Like Snozberries” blonde sour ale with w/ wild berries
  • Jackie O’s “Oil of Aphrodite” imperial stout brewed w/ black walnuts
  • Prairie Artisan Ales “Bomb!” imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla & chilies

I walked (slowly, carefully; those last few beers were 10% and 14% ABV respectively) back to my hotel and chilled for a bit. I was in the mood for more steak, and made dinner reservations (solo) for Alexander’s. It was a killer meal, and one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. And because I was sitting at the chef’s bar they kept sending over little tastes and treats , and the Sommelier led me down a very lovely path indeed.

  • Hon hamachi w/ avocado, serrano, cilantro, yuzu-soy, garlic & radish
  • Scallop crudo w/ avocado, fresno chile, honey vinegar, apple & mint (+ their customer Riesling from the Mosel, which had been aged just long enough to be outstandingly petrol-y)
  • 20oz Nebraska-raised prime black Angus ribeye chop w/ yuzu kosho chimichurri, baby corn, Blue Lake green beans, charred lemon miso & crispy shallot  (+ Corison 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Dream Weaver goat cheese from Paso Robles (+ 1968 D’Oliveiras Bual Madeira)
  • Lime cotton candy (!)

 

Friday

Nothing to do Friday but more work in the morning, and then fly back to Toronto. In the crap bar at the airport I happened upon one last killer beer: the Ballast Point grapefruit “Sculpin” IPA.

The flight home went super-quickly: I was somehow upgraded to premium economy, and watched two movies (Avengers: Infinity War and Detroit) and suddenly I was back in Toronto. Body tired, brain full.

“Almost reckless, really.”

Zoinks, kids. WHAT a week in Dublin. We went because I had a work reason to be there, but — like Lisbon last year — we ended up having a whale of a time.

MONDAY

My bid for a business class upgrade worked perfectly, so we had a pretty posh flight to Dublin. I finished watching Darkest Hour and a few episodes of Game of Thrones and got a few hours of sleep.

TUESDAY

We arrived in Dublin and got a cab to the Spencer Hotel, after a brief ATM hiccup. We slept a few hours, and then decided to walk around Dublin. We checked out the #1-rated beer place in Dublin — Brew Dock — for some lunch and very tasty brews.

We enjoyed the shockingly warm weather and walked back through the CHQ (Customs House Quay) building before crossing the Liffey and strolled along that side. So many big corporations, startups, and cafes have moved into old dock buildings. I loved it. We got back to the hotel before a visit to Bear Market coffee and then Lindsay and I met a few colleagues for drinks at Ely wine bar.

I had a bit of work stuff to deal with, including a trip to the Guinness Storehouse and the Gravity Bar, which was at least a little bit cool.

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After that took a cab back across the Liffey where Lindsay had walked to meet me, and we had dinner at Bar Italia. It was in kind of a touristy part of town (Temple Bar, with which we’d become very familiar) but it felt pretty legit. We shared Burren cold-smoked organic Irish salmon marinated with orange and pink peppercorn, and a killer burrata. For mains I had chargrilled lamb rack in a crust of pistachio-nut on a bed of roasted rosemary potatoes; Lindsay had fresh Gran tortellini filled with wild mushrooms in a porcini and parmigiano DOP fonduta cream, finished with white truffle oil. We walked home, overly full and pretty sleepy, but enjoying the lovely views. So we had the traditional Dublin Italian meal under our belts, I guess? 😐

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

WEDNESDAY

I spent the day at a work thing; Lindsay made her way around the city finding writing venues. That evening we took our first true foray into the Temple Bar neighbourhood for a drink at Fallon & Byrne, which is this really cool grocer with a cozy wine bar in the basement. We didn’t stay long — we had reservations elsewhere — but we loved our quick visit. We decided we’d come back.

We walked down the street a few metres for our reservation at Taste At Rustic. I don’t quite know how it ended up on my map — a Japanese fusion place wouldn’t normally be at the top of my list — but I’m glad it did. We had a SERIOUS meal:

  • Open maki dish of tuna & salmon (kyoto-style) with sushi rice, radish, turnip, fried egg, roasted nori & avocado
  • Broccoli tempura with kimchi mayonnaise, aged parmesan & roasted turnip stock
  • Tuna akami marinated in soya sauce with a touch of wasabi
  • Chicken karage with burnt lemon and miso mayonnaise
  • Grade 9 wagyu beef brushed with sweet miso and sesame powder served with rice chips
  • Glazed sticky pork brushed with japanese tare, fresh lime, japanese yuzu and kimchi
  • Mango and passion fruit mochi (japanese-style served with the aromas of their flesh and juice)
  • Green tea brûlée with pistachio, yogurt mousse, white chocolate and yuzu ice cream
  • A mixture of delicious wines and cocktails, including something called a Three Beauties, which I ordered twice

THURSDAY

Day two of the conference had me running around and introvert-exhausted, so I took off immediately after. We had plans that night and wanted to get a bite beforehand, but Dublin rush hour traffic worked against us — what should have taken 15 minutes took closer to 45, and we had to eat in a rush. We tucked in at Piglet wine bar, and they turned us around faaaast. We ate jumbo prawns and beef tartare and orecchiette w/ pork ragú, smoked paprika and parmesan, and took off for our play.

The play, at the Project Arts Centre, was called My Son My Son. I won’t try to write a proper summary, but seeing a play written by a woman featuring an all-female cast and dealing with so many feminist issues, on the eve of the Irish referendum to decide whether to repeal the ban on abortion, was pretty powerful. The result is now known, but the night before we saw many ‘YES’ or ‘REPEAL’ shirts in the audience, just as we’d seen around the city all week, and as of that night the outcome was far from certain.

After dinner we made our way back to Fallon & Byrne for a bit more wine, and some charcuterie, including some cheese called Durrus (made near Cork) which Lindsay declared to be her all-time favourite. We ended with a few glasses off the Coravin list, which had a little more cork in it than we would have liked. Afterward we had a final nip in the hotel bar. I chose a lovely 21 year old Redbreast Irish whiskey.

FRIDAY

With the conference now done, we had the days to ourselves. We used the day to do what we do best: eat, and visit museums.

First up was the EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum, just down the street from us in the CHQ building. Pretty new, it seems, and with a great use of technology (HD projectors, motion/gesture detection, etc.), sound, sculpture, and other visuals, it helped weave a compelling story of Ireland as told by the people who’ve left it.

After that we hopped in a cab and traveled north to see the Dublin City Gallery / Hugh Lane. But first: lunch at Chapter One. It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant in the basement of a writer’s museum. We took a chance that they’d have a table for lunch Friday, and we lucked out. We took our seats and proceeded to have one of the best meals of our lives. I’ll describe the food below, but the service was just…impeccable. Perfectly attentive, utterly charming, and at times hilarious. In the throes of feeling oh-so-decadent, like “who are we kidding, eating like this?!” about this meal, one of the staff joked along with us, saying “It’s almost reckless, really!” and it was perfect. Maybe you had to be there? Anyway, the food:

  • Champagne:
    • Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne NV x2
  • Starters:
    • Lindsay: beef cheek, wild garlic, mushroom ravioli, parmesan (Givry 1er Cru ‘Champ Nalot’ Domaine Parize 2016)
    • Dan: jumbo green asparagus, guanciale, sheep’s cheese, pickled red dulse (Heinz W ‘Joseph’ Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal 2016)
  • Mains:
    • Lindsay: braised neck fillet of Spring lamb, herb potato and lamb kromeski, violet artichoke, caper flower (Bodegas Rodero, Carmelo Reserva, Ribera del Duero 2012)
    • Dan: salt marsh duck, tart of braeburn apple, smoked bacon, fennel pollen, pickled walnuts (Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru ‘Champs Perdrix’ Domaine Alain Michelot 2009)
  • Dessert:
    • Lindsay: flavours and textures of Irish milk and honey (Chateau Laville Sauternes, 2013)
    • Dan: warm 68% chocolate mousse with flavours of Guinness (Fonseca, Guimareans 1996)

I mean…

After that we stumbled outside and enjoyed the sunshine — did I mention it was brilliantly warm & sunny our whole week in Dublin, and didn’t really rain until the moment we left? — for a few minutes before heading into The Hugh Lane. We saw the main collection and the Amanda Dunsmore exhibition “Keeper” and the recreated Francis Bacon studio. After that we took a quick stroll the Garden of Remembrance, then cabbed back to our hotel. We grabbed our bags and switched to our home for the back third of our trip: Stauntons On The Green. Our room was a little disappointing — cute and all, but being on the ground floor the view was entirely blocked by the hoarding outside the hotel, so we couldn’t see St. Stephen’s Green at all. They promised to move us to another room the next night, and we passed out on our temporary bed.

Somehow, that night, we had another grand meal planned. Dax was billed as maybe the best non-Michelin-starred restaurant in Dublin. We were worried the near-miraculous lunch we’d been fed would ruin all meals to come, and certainly all to come THAT DAY, but Dax held up just fine, thank you very much. To wit, the tasting menu (as best I can remember it):

  • Salmon amuse bouche
  • Roast Dinish Island scallops, sweet pea sauce
  • Roast Atlantic cod fillet, Cévenne onion, heirloom carrots, fresh peas, lobster sauce
  • Salt cured foie gras, preserved and fresh spring vegetables, chardonnay vinegar
  • Homemade brioche
  • Fillet of Kildare beef, braised short-rib, celeriac, diane sauce
  • Whipped natural buttermilk, popcorn, pineapple, madagascar vanilla
  • Sheridan’s cheese selection with condiments (with Durrus!)

Luckily our walk home was a short one, because we could barely move. We got back to the hotel, saw the news that exit polls were predicting a landslide for the ‘Yes’ vote, and passed out.

SATURDAY

We decided to have breakfast at the hotel, both of us opting for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. That was the fuel for our walk around the Irish Museum of Modern Art, or IMMA. It was an outstanding visit in an old military hospital, introducing me to Brian O’Doherty, feeding Lindsay new relevant-to-school material, and treating us to a wonderful Lucian Freud exhibit. There was a gorgeous garden and, somewhat randomly, an informal singing to sick children. It was all a bit much, really.

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We had an absolutely smashing Uber driver from the IMMA to our lunch spot. He pulled up to the curb and yelled “Dan, how the hell are ya?” as we got in. Brilliant. We talked beer, tourist sites, Dublin and Irish history, viking timelines, and a host of other topics in our short time together, but he made us want to revisit Dublin. Like, RIGHT NOW. I would’ve gladly spent more time with him, but he dropped us at Against The Grain and we were thirsty.

Owned by the same people as Brew Dock, Against The Grain enticed us right away. Chill vibe, top beer, good food. I had a Wild Beer Trepache sour, a Boyne raspberry sour, a Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland chocolate coffee porter, and a tshirt. All supoib.

After lunch we slid over to the afore-mentioned St. Stephen’s Green, and strolled through a bit of bucolic loveliness in the middle of Dublin. We lay in the grass and kissed and laughed at kids and dogs and it was pretty alright. After a spell we walked out of the park to our hotel, where we found our lovely new room with a view of the very park we’d just enjoyed.

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We napped an showered and changed and set out for Temple Bar. Mind you, this was our first foray into Temple Bar on a weekend, and…oof. What a busy mess. We had to dodge through there to visit Jam Art Factory, where we bought some prints, and to have a glass of wine at La Caverna before dinner. Unfortunately they were packed, so we went around the corner to Port House instead. We got a glass of wine and an espresso in us before an unbearable crowd formed and we beat a hasty retreat across the Liffey.

Our final dinner in Dublin was at a classic: The Winding Stair. It’s a cozy room atop a bookstore, with an open kitchen and a view (if you’re lucky) of the river and the Ha’penny Bridge. We ate and drank very well, to the point where we had to tell the server to take’er easy after our starters, lest our mains cause a wafer-thin-mint moment. We ate:

  • Starters:
    • Toons Bridge Dairy stracciatella with ruby and golden beets, capers, sorrel, and beetroot crisps
    • Burren smokery, Terry Butterly and Stephen Kavanagh’s smoked fish plate with our Dillisk bread, crème fraîche, pickled cucumbers and caper-berries
  • Mains:
    • Lindsay: Niall Sabongi grey mullet with Connemara clams, Gubbeen chorizo, asparagus and wild garlic champ
    • Dan: Skeaghanore cider-braised duck leg with grilled baby gem, crispy bacon, pickled walnut, apple, smoked duck fat roasties and cider gravy
  • Dessert:
    • Chateau Partarrieu Sauternes

We enjoyed the whole meal with an outstanding bottle of Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er ‘Aux Vergelesses’ Simon Bize 2011 Chardonnay. Later I realized that I recognized the name — we had a bottle of their Pinot last fall in Paris, at Fish La Boissonerie. For dessert we just ordered glasses of Sauternes, but our server (pressed into bartending duty at the end of the night) didn’t understand a typcial Sauternes pour and ended up pouring us a normal 5oz glass. So we got right lit up, we did.

SUNDAY

Not much left to do on our final morning but eat some breakfast, so we made it a good one, walking a few minutes to Meet Me In The Morning. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the most delicious breakfasts EVER.

I had the hash (McNally potato and beet, a poached egg, beet sour cream, greens and Toonsbridge halloumi with Gubbeen chorizo) while Lindsay had the eggs & greens (McNally kales, garlic yoghurt, paprika oil, curly parsley, two poached eggs, rustic loaf, and halloumi). After finishing we were patient (not really) and waited for the homemade doughnuts to come out, one rhubarb cheesecake and the other vanilla creme. Oh, and some dude came in carrying the cutest puppy either of us had ever seen and we all (us, the server, the other patrons) melted. Puppies and doughnuts. Jaysus. What a send off, Dublin.

After a hasty re-pack back in the room we checked out. The rain started just as we left, which left me convinced that the Irish don’t really have bad weather, they just tell us they do to keep us away. Our Uber driver, Sean, was an utter treat. He dropped us at DUB, we checked in, we hung out in the lounge, we debated buying the last piece of Durrus cheese in the Dublin airport, and we boarded to come home. The flight was easy-peasy; arriving at Terminal 3 was a goddamn gong-show. But we made it.

AFTERWORD

We need to go back to Dublin, and to see the rest of Ireland. That is all.

Temporary displacement

We’re having renos done on the loft right now. The bathroom already looks great, but the big change is the kitchen, which started Thursday. Everything’s been ripped out. Custom kitchen’s coming in next week, along with all-new appliances. The ones that were here when I bought are ugly and half-busted, and they gotta go. Not to mention the counter. Ugh.

Before:

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Midway:

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“After” pictures to come, I guess. Pray for us.

Meanwhile, we had to get out of the place during the worst of it, so we checked into the Broadview Hotel for a couple of nights. It’s nice, but the rooms are small. And expensive. And (in some cases) overlooking an alley. But also a dog park, so there’s that. I enjoyed the room, the turntable, and the view Friday while I waited for Lindsay to get home after work.

When she got home we were looking for someplace really tasty, but also really laid back. Eastbound was rammed, but we played a hunch and checked out The White Lily Diner, where we’d only ever eaten brunch. After a short wait for a table we sat ourselves down, took advantage of half-price-wine-on-Friday (Closson Chase Chardonnay, as it turns out) and ordered SO much food. Beet salad to start, then a hot turkey sandwich for Lindsay and the special for me, which was basically a giant bone-in piece of pork belly. And enough slaw to seed a lawn. Christ.

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We somehow split a vanilla pudding covered in chocolate sauce and crumbled peanut butter cookie (!) for dessert, and then dragged our asses home where we promptly fell asleep watching The Office. Wild Friday nights r us.

After getting up and doing work this morning we dashed downstairs for breakfast in their cafe, getting steak + eggs (Linds) and buckwheat pancakes covered in peanut butter mousse (me) plus fancy juices. After checking out we walked home to check out the damage — not bad, but not a place we’d be able to effectively work, so we buggered off to Boxcar Social, and then Chez Nous, for coffee –> beer –> wine –> snacks.

I was going to say that we’d need to stop eating like this, but as long as our kitchen is strictly theoretical, I guess there’s a risk we keep this up. OH WELL.

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.

 

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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

Capital Tabule Blood

I really thought things would slow down as November turned into December. I was incorrect.

Last Monday I had a work gala thing at the Carlu, which was pretty unpleasant. Wednesday morning I flew to Ottawa and, between meetings, managed to get in some good coffee at Morning Owl and some excellent beer at Brothers. Cool hotel too.

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When I flew back to Toronto on Thursday night (I sat right behind Chrystia Freeland on the plane) we had a quick dinner at Aft. On Friday, after I made it through the work day, we had a drink at Chez Nous, a fantastic dinner at Tabule, and a final drink back at Chez Nous.

Saturday was all full of errands, but then involved seeing the lovely The More I Look at These Images at 8eleven, then drinking at Blood Brothers. The change in weather has me wanting naught but brown ales, porters, and stouts, and Blood Brothers had plenty: a white chocolate white stout which knocked me out, a variant of the same with raspberries added, and a stout with coffee and cinnamon. We took a few bottles to go to drink elsewhere, and then somehow ended up at the Fox & Fiddle on Bloor for karaoke. Don’t ask; it was for a friend’s birthday. It pierced my soul with fiery pain, but some dude totally nailed “Zombie” by The Cranberries so it balanced out. We cabbed home, threw pizza down our necks, and crashed. I’m too old for that now. To be clear, I’ve always been too old for that.

Sunday was a slow morning, obviously, but we managed to get ourselves to Eastbound for some brunch before settling into weekend work.

Get here soon, Christmas vacation. SOON.

I did *NOT* run up the Rocky steps

For the past three days I’ve been in Philadelphia at a work conference. It was a really interesting one, put on (in part) by Wharton business school. Refreshingly, instead of trapping us in a great hideous ballroom for the whole time, they conducted four sessions in stunning, mostly historic, venues: the Franklin Institute, the College of Physicians, the brand new Museum of the American Revolution, and the Wharton school itself.

Because of my flight timing, and the prime location of our hotel (the stunning Ritz-Carlton) I managed to squeeze in some great spots.

Zavino, a casual pizza (and pasta) and wine bar, fed me a terrific gnudi special, an enormous beet salad, and some Sangiovese.

After caffeine-ing up at La Colombe and doing a little work I decided to try out Monk’s Cafe. The front bar was busy but I snuck into the back bar, and had a great time. It was quiet back there so the bartender (John, I think?) and I got to chatting, and he pulled some killer beers for me: a Russian River Consecration sour and an Almanac blackberry gose.

Since I was now on my way to the conference I decided I’d better get some more coffee in me, and stopped at Elixr on the way back to the hotel. Straight up one of the best espresso shots I’ve ever had.

During the evening’s sessions, where they fed us dinner, I had an obligatory Yuengling. After, once the evening had wrapped up, I tried Brü, a craft beer + wurst place I’d walked by earlier in the day. It was…super-loud and full of drunk dickbags, but I found a seat at the bar where I could watch hockey (WPG vs. PHI) and drink beer. I fended off bros while drinking an Avery Raspberry sour, a Rodenbach Alexander, and Half Acre Chub Step coffee porter.

On Friday we were in sessions from 7:30 to 9:30, so I did exactly nothing fun.

This morning I got up extra-early so I could return to Elixr before the conference re-started, and the cappuccino lived up to the standard the espresso had set earlier in the week. Absolutely top-notch.

Today, when my session ended I had a bit of time before my flight, so I grabbed lunch at a classic (kind of touristy, but still classic) local spot: McGillin’s. It’s an old tavern dating back to 1860 which is found down an alley. Sweet. I had a philly cheese steak and cole slaw and a pickle and a bag of chips, and a Lancaster milk stout, and it cost me $12 with tax.

Despite a bit of schlepping around back streets due to the marathon today, I got to the airport in pretty good time. Then I saved even more time because I have PreCheck, so I had two hours to kill before my flight. Luckily as soon as I walked through security I saw a Vino Volo. I had a Mencia and a Sangiovese, and I’m drinking a California Cab as I finish writing this.

Pretty solid trip, all in all, and it made me REALLY want to come back to Philly some day.

[UPDATE: I left Vino Volo as soon as I saw my plane pull in. As soon as I got to the gate I got called to the desk, and found out I’d been upgraded. Wasn’t expecting that. Smooth, comfy flight, followed by probably my all-time fastest exit from Pearson. Travel score!]

Rouge de Mékinac

Somehow, between drinks and dinners and work and whatever, I forgot to blog about a quick two-day trip to Montreal for work. Between meetings I managed to try a few new coffee places (Tommy, Crew Collective & Café) and a new beer bar (Pub BreWskey), and grab a whisky at a familiar old hotel (Le Place d’Armes).

From one French-speaking city to another: we’ve off to France tomorrow!

Work work work work EAT work work DRINK work work work EAT work work etc.

In amongst all the work we ploughed through this weekend, we’ve eaten pretty well too. Surprising, right?

Friday we were too tired to do anything but order pizza from Queen Margherita and drink a BUNCH of wine.

 

Saturday we tried to have brunch at White Lily but the line was daunting, so we backtracked to Eastbound. We had Bench sour beer and mussels and fries and an octopus tostada, so not brunch really, but there you go. We swung past Saulter Street Brewing on our way (not really) home.

 

We had dinner plans at Carisma late on Saturday, but first we stopped in at DW Alexander. In all the years I lived in that neighbourhood I’d never managed to get a drink there. Turns out they were opening for the evening just as we walked up, which felt like fate. We enjoyed the music as the place filled up, and drank killer cocktails:

  • Old Fascist: Bulleit bourbon stirred with vecchio amaro del capo, house-made bitters & turbinado sugar
  • The Vixen: Bulleit bourbon, chambord, dry vermouth, vanilla syrup, chocolate bitters
  • Prickly Bush: gin, green chartreuse, lemon, ginger anise syrup, rosemary cucumber syrup
  • The Dutchess: Bombay Sapphire gin shaken with St Germain elder flower liqueur, sauvignon blanc, lemon & vanilla

Then, the main event: a typically amazing dinner at Carisma. We shared the burrata (still the best in the city) and scallops and prosecco. Lindsay had a truffle pasta; I had the half-chicken. We shared a bottle of Morellino which I learned is essentially Sangiovese. We shared cheesecake. SO GOOD.

 

Sunday we were moving a little slow, so we just grabbed brunch from Skin + Bones, and groceries for the week so we could get back to normal. Sheesh.

 

Lisbon

Saturday

When your job requires you to spend a few days in Lisbon, you book-end that with a few days for yourself. And you ask your Lindsay to join you. We left on Saturday the 22nd.

After a little Uber hiccup we sailed to, and then through, Pearson. We ordered a bite at the wine bar near our gate (some of which went missing; RIP lox plate) and I had my last sip of Canadian wine — Southbrook Chardonnay — for a while.

We had to book economy class, so we knew it was going to be a cramped 7+ hours. We didn’t know quite the adventure we were in for through. Just before we took off the flight attendants switched someone into the window seat next to us, who’d originally been at the back of the plane. We crammed our legs into the seats and tried to watch movies to pass the time and ignore the German family behind us who kept bashing our seats. I managed to finish Hacksaw Ridge and we were trying to watch Office Christmas Party at the same time when the lady in the window seat had to puke. And puke she did, including in our row a little bit before she got to the washroom. The flight attendants cleaned it up before she came back and took her seat…and then puked again later. It made for a disruptive movie-watching experience, but hey…at least we weren’t puking. Or covered in puke. Still…not the best transatlantic flight I’ve ever had.

Sunday

We landed in Frankfurt pretty early, cleared customs, and then hung out in that shitty airport for three hours waiting for our connection to Lisbon. It was too early to even get a decent currywurst. The less said about FRA, the better.

Our flight to Lisbon was MUCH better — no one sat next to us, so we could spread out a bit, and even got an hour or so of sleep. We arrived a few hours later in sunny, warm Lisbon. I’d arranged for a driver to pick us up, and he drove us to our AirBnB near Belem. We settled in, showered, made a plan for the day, and set out.

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We walked to Enoteca de Belem to have lunch, but they were full up so we made a dinner reservation instead and kept walking. We walked past the Jardim de Belem, past the bustling Pasteis de Belem, past the huge & beautiful Jeronimos monastery, and along the waterfront past the impressive Padrao dos Descobrimentos. We finally stopped and had a drink and lunch at A Margem, in the shade because it was so sunny and warm. (Suck it, Canada.) After a while we walked back, wishing we had cash for the vendors who sell wine and and craft beer by the river.

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We took a short nap, then got ready for dinner. We couldn’t have picked a better place for our first Lisbon meal either: Enoteca de Belem was amazing.

  • Tiger prawn
    • Sparkling wine
  • Grouper w/ clams rice, pato sauce
    • Uh…white?
  • Lamb
    • Red? Yes…red. Pretty sure it was red. (Surely.)
  • Creme brulee + coffee ice cream
    • Late harvest Moscatel
    • Some other dessert wine

That grouper will absolutely end up on my list of best things I ate in 2017. Anyway, we decided we needed more dessert. We were too late to buy any Pasteis de Belem, but got some other custard tarts nearby. We walked home, ate tarts on our little balcony, and looked up at the stars. Not a bad first day in Lisbon.

Monday

We needed a work day, so we got up pretty early and moved on to our second hotel: the Corinthia Lisbon in Campolide. We ordered a little room service, admired the place, and did a bit of work. Eventually we got hungry and went round the corner to a real, legit Lisbon feedbag: A Carvoaria where we ordered way too much food (veal short ribs with chickpeas and french fries, cod with boiled potatoes and boiled egg, aka bacalau, and so on) and a beer (our choices: “Beer, dark beer, or imported beer.”) before crawling back to the hotel and attempting more work. At least we were working outside where it was beautiful.

We decided to have dinner in Chiado, so we caught an Uber — which are incredibly cheap in Lisbon, by the way — to Sommelier Lisbon. It started out a little weird, with a slightly awkward server, but it picked up as the evening went on and a second host took over and taught us a lot about Portuguese wine. Besides, any place with a wall of 9 Enomatic machines has to be pretty good, right? I’ve captured our meal below; regrettably I didn’t capture our wines exactly, and their menu isn’t online to jog my memory.

  • Bread w/ served with carbonara, red peppers and olive oil mousses
  • Beetroot cream soup w/ orange and a coconut yogurt iceberg
    • Sparkling
  • Croquettes w/ slow-cooked oxtail and veal
    • Pinot Noir from Douro
  • Octopus tentacles w/ olive oil and garlic, garnished with brussel cabbage, baby carrots, pea sauce
  • New York Steak aged 23 days
    • Quinta Red Blend
  • Papo De Anjo w/ Moscatel reduction, goat cheese ice cream, and caramelized peanuts
    • Late harvest Moscatel

Another cheap Uber back to the hotel and we were more than done for the night.

Tuesday

Big time sleep-in. Big time room service breakfast order. Big time work catch-up following. Once again we worked at the hotel until mid-afternoon or so. Our plan was to Uber back to Belem, to see the Museu Arte Arquitetura Tecnologia we’d not had time to see our first time in Belem. First, though, we got some pizza and sushi (!) with a view at Este/Oeste in the lovely Centro Cultural de Belém.

We walked back toward the MAAT along the main Belem drag, past the hordes at Pasteis de Belem, and finally arrived at MAAT — which was closed. It was a national holiday (Dia da Liberdade) but we’d thought the MAAT would remain open. We did sit and enjoy the view from the riverbank outside, and climbed on the roof for lovely views of the city, but left a little sad. This had been the one museum we’d both really wanted to see.

Sightly dejected, we got a taxi to Cerveteca, the oldest and highest-rated beer place in Lisbon. It was this amazing little room with a solid 12-beer draft selection, and a huge number of cans and bottles for sale, both drink-in or take-away. Apart from a really weird single mixer thing happening all around us, we had an amazing time. We had a tasting flight and three shared bottles, buying three more to enjoy over the rest of the week:

  • Flight
    1. Sahtipaja “Ich bin ein Berliner Passionista” Berliner w/ passion fruit
    2. Bax Kon Minder American Pale Ale
    3. Barona + Aroeira “Vila Morena” India Brown Ale
    4. Bersalis “Sourblend” sour ale
    5. Kompaan 39 “Bloedbroeder” smoked imperial stout
  • Moriau Oude Gueuze Vieille
  • To 0l Sur Yule sour
  • Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze

 

 

 

 

After that we needed some serious food, and a quick app-look suggested a walk uphill to A Cevicheria. There’s almost always a line; we only had a ten minute wait, during which we were served an enormous gin + tonic from the takeout window and chatted with another couple from Toronto. Soon we were seated at the bar, ordering the tasting menu. I only remember bits and pieces of what we ate, but I do remember that it was GODDAMNED OUTSTANDING.

Wednesday

I spent my Wednesday at the conference; Lindsay spent hers working. We met back at MAAT after, since my conference was nearby. Once again, luck was against us: it was open, but only one exhibit was on. Still, it was a good one: Utopia/Dystopia. After that we took a LONG walk to dinner, but that length paid off in a few ways: first, we finally walked past Pasteis de Belem when there was no crowd, so we were able to experience them fresh and warm and holy shit are they ever amazing when they’re fresh and warm; second, we walked past the beautiful Torre de Belem and Monumento Combatentes Ultramar.

Just past that was Darwin’s Café, a slightly odd and slightly stuffy (at first, anyway) restaurant. We ate SO much though: grouper wrapped in puff pastry with coriander, dried tomato pesto and salad; veal carpaccio with rocket and parmesan; black spaghetti with stewed squid, bacon, mushrooms and parsley; and Portuguese garlic sausage risotto with fried egg. There was no room for dessert. Just an Uber home.

Thursday

Day two at the conference for me, and more work for Lindsay. Once the conference wrapped and I got back to the hotel we grabbed our bags and took off to our third and final hotel of the trip, the Santiago de Alfama in the oldest part of town. What a stunning little hotel: a beautiful room, cute little courtyards and a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view, even a glass floor looking down at old Roman stairs discovered during construction.

 

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We thought we’d look around a little before dinner, and walked toward the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Along the way we stopped in at Winebar do Castelo and, well…we never made it to the Castle. This place was great: a handful of tables in a triangular room, with an extremely helpful owner who used samples to narrow in on what we liked and what we didn’t, and fed us glasses from there. We had a couple each, and left for dinner, promising to return the next day.

Dinner was at Restaurante Bastardo, a recommendation from Lindsay’s friend. It took a while to find, and then it took the service a while to find itself, but the food was good. We shared the “street food” (bao, pork confit, radish spaghetti, yogurt sauce) and ceviche (shrimp, octopus, coconut milk, corn cream). Lindsay got the catch of the day (which was a river fish I can’t remember) with clam risotto and coriander sauce; I had the “Mr. Piggy 2.0” (slow-cooked pork cheek, parsnip, garden cress, Port). We split the crumble (almond quindim, apple, strawberry, crème anglaise) for dessert.

Friday

Our last full day in Lisbon. It felt like we’d been there for a month, and also like we’d just arrived. We started slow: breakfast in the hotel, working in the room for a while, and drinking a bottle of sour ale in the hotel’s courtyard during a break.

Finally we went out to see the city a bit more. We were hungry, so we headed out for lunch. All the places marked on my map were closed, though, so we ended up at a place called Maria Catita. It was definitely touristy, but still worked out pretty well: our shrimp starter was tasty, and then we shared this enormous seafood feast cooked in a copper pot called a cataplana. We split an order for one person; it ended up being too big for us to even finish. Our server gave us some ginja and sent us on our way.

We walked to the Praça do Comércio, hid in the shade for a bit, got some gelato, and then hired a tuk-tuk to take us up the hill(s) to the castle. There, or more accurately at the shops just below, we bought a few things to bring home, and then returned to the Winebar do Castelo. We intended to bring wine home with us, and thought it better to buy it from a place where we could taste everything first. We spent a long time working through tasting flights; even knowing what wine we’d like the day before he still brought us nine samples, of which we decided to buy five. He thanked us with a glass (okay, two glasses) of Taylor Fladgate 40 year old port. My god. What a beauty.

We continued the pre-dinner drinking on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, finishing off one of the bottles we’d brought from Cerveteca, before getting ready for dinner at Tágide. God, what a lovely restaurant, what excellent service, what a beautiful view, and what a final meal in Lisbon:

  • Amuse Bouche (veal terrine)
  • Couvert (bread, butter, extra virgin olive oil, salmon and dill paste)
  • Foie-gras terrine with chocolate, rhubarb textures and honey sand
  • Quail lollipop, papaya and furikake
    • 2003 sparkling rose
  • Veal sirloin matured for 40 days, potato and morel (Lindsay)
  • Duck Magret, carrot and more carrot (Dan)
    • Douro old vines red blend
  • Chocolate trio, caramel and pear

I really wish I could remember the wines we had, or would stop trusting restaurant websites to carry them. They were both spectacular. Anyway, back at the hotel we finished off the night back on the rooftop terrace, drinking the final Cerveteca beer.

Saturday

Somehow I mis-set the alarms (both of them) so nothing woke us up. Luckily I woke up around 7:15, and we scrambled to get ready. I checked out; Lindsay grabbed croissants and a turnover from the restaurant. We met our driver who dropped up at the airport. Not long after we were checked in and on our way home. A stop in London, a much-needed visit to the Park Plaza lounge at Heathrow, and then the long flight home. No puking this time, mercifully. We watched Miss Sloane, I watched Silence while Lindsay worked, and then we watched the brilliant first scene of Inglourious Basterds as we landed in Toronto. Customs, luggage, taxi, yada yada, and we were home. The wine, thankfully, made the trip unscathed.

All in all, it was an incredible trip. Honestly, I didn’t have terribly high hopes for Lisbon, but it was amazing. I’d place it in my five favourite international cities.

Boa noite Lisboa. Nos veremos novamente.