More like this, please

Uh, that was a ridiculously great long weekend.

Friday: we saw an amazing Japandroids concert (seriously, one of the best value-for-money shows I’ve ever seen) and had a late dinner at The Auld Spot.

Saturday: we drove to Beamsville in the beautiful sunny weather to sample wine and eat raclette at Hidden Bench, then do more tastings at Foreign Affair and Megalomaniac before heading home and getting fancy for dinner at The Chase. We had Perrier-Jouet Champagne and buratta, and scallops + pork belly with Chardonnay and Nebbiolo, and duck (me) and lobster cavatelli (Lindsay) with a fantastic bottle of Sangiovese. Dessert was a slightly disappointing (for me, anyway) honey pastry, but I came home and had some 1986 Don P.X. to make up for it.

Sunday: we were a little slow-moving, honestly, so not much happened until we had a halfway-decent-for-us lunch at b.good and a pint at Beerbistro before going home to watch Going Clear (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Unfortunately we ended the day with a somewhat gross AYCE sushi dinner that night at Fushimi.

Monday: we hung out in my (almost) new hood, hitting Boxcar Social for beers, L’il Baci for brunch (spicy pork balls, turducken balls, cocktails), Ed’s Real Scoop for ice cream, and Mercury for cortados. That night we made pasta we’d picked up at the market, and it was freaking delicious.

Whadda weekend.



Busy week

I mean, they’re pretty much ALL busy at this point because of work, but this one was busy because of extra-curriculars.

On Sunday Nellie and I joined a bunch of people in a private suite at the Rogers Cup women’s tennis finals. I had really hoped to watch Serena Williams dismantle someone, but she had lost a day earlier in an upset to Belinda Bencic. Still, we weren’t going to turn down the chance to sit in a suite and watch world-class tennis, so we took an extravagantly-priced uberSelect up to York University and drank cold Pilsner Urquell in the shade. In the end, Bencic won the tournament while I was in the bathroom; her opponent, Simona Halep, conceded due to injury while I was peeing some Urquell. Boo-urns.

On Monday I met some vendors for a late dinner at The Chase, since they seemed particularly interested in seafood. I have no great love for fish myself, but it was about the visitors to Toronto, not to me. I’d underestimated the place though — the food was outstanding, and our server was terrific. I had a few glasses of Vouvray, an octopus + chorizo starter, one half of the parmesan-crusted halibut for two, part of our bottle of Norm Hardie chardonnay, and a forkful of each of the three desserts our server brought: chocolate, lime, and strawberry/rhubarb.

The next night I had a meeting at Beerbistro (hey, I didn’t pick it…it’s next to this guy’s office) where I bumped into the same gentlemen from the previous evening. I’d mentioned it to them, and they decided to conduct all their meetings that day from the bar. I stayed for two, then walked around the corner for an impromptu drink meeting back at The Chase. Well…the Fish & Oyster bar downstairs.

On Thursday, after a quick dinner at Monk’s Table we walked to Boxcar Social for — and I swear I didn’t just dream this — a bourbon and chocolate tasting. Arranged by Tipsy Teachers, with bourbon selected by @BourbonThing and chocolate made by Chocosol, we tried (after a little chilled drinking chocolate) four squares of chocolate paired with four bourbons:

  • 75% cacao “Darkness” chocolate + Basil Hayden’s
  • 82% chocolate with raw vanilla + Elijah Craig 12
  • 5-chili bullet chocolate + Maker’s Mark 46
  • Raw-coffee bean chocolate + Four Roses single barrel

I learned last night why I like bourbons such as Four Roses (even this one, a 100-proof) and Basil Hayden’s: they have a much higher percentage of rye. So there you go: delicious, AND I learned something.

Nellie went camping on Friday, and so I, mercifully, did absolutely nothing.

All they needed was a retired shooting guard

Another pretty good weekend: the Murphy girls were once again in town. But first I got to see the Raptors game Friday night which, despite the loss to Cleveland, was a pretty momentous game marking the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death. Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutombo, and Tracy McGrady were all there.

On Saturday I ran some errands and hit the last couple of days of the Union Station Holiday Market. That night, after the Murphy girls got home we drank some Blue Mountain sparkling and a bottle of Gueuze Tilquin, hit Beerbistro and Triple A and then came home to knock off a few special bottles. This morning we loaded up on breakfast at the Jason George before the ladies left; since then it’s just been a Game Of Thrones marathon. Not a bad weekend.


Époisse: French for "Your hands will smell like a marathoner's feet for the next several hours"

Last Wednesday, as part of Toronto Beer Week, one of our favourite beer places in the city hosted a special dinner. Beerbistro was pairing ten courses with Rogue beer, brought to Ontario on draft for the first time. For serious North American craft beers fans, this was not to be missed.

Good: the Dead Guy ale paired with bacon & eggs; the Yellow Snow IPA paired with duck salad; the Hazelnut Brown Nectar paired with quail; the Double Dead Guy ale paired with bacon-glazed pork tenderloin; the single malt whiskey paired with crême brulée

Not so good: the Brutal IPA paired with the mini wild boar burger (the stinky Époisse cheese ruined it); the Dirtoir Black Lager paired with seafood boil (the seafood was very unpleasant)

Anyway, with all the talk amongst tables of how Rogue draft compared to in-bottle, and of how it stacked up to Dogfish Head and Allagash and the like, by the end of the night I (and everyone around us) probably deserved one of these:

(via Kaylea McCarron, who probably wanted to say this to me many times)


Shouldn't the second Session99 be called Session100? No? Okay then.

“What better way,” we thought, “to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon than drinking Ontario craft beer?”

We couldn’t agree with ourselves more.

We returned to 99 Sudbury for the second annual Session99 Craft Beer Festival, and immediately found it to be far more busy than last year’s. Certainly it was easier to understand: last year there was a confusing — and, I think, fairly ripoff-ish — method of advanced tickets + per-beer tickets, whereas this year a single charge got you entry, lots of food, and unlimited beer samples.

Here’s what we tried, round by round:

  1. Two Augusta Ales from Kensington Brewing
  2. A Blueberry Wheat and an Ambre de la Chaudiere from Mill Street
  3. F&M’s Pepperazzi (made with jalapeno) and a Kensington Watermelon Wheat (Nellie seemed intent on trying the fruity wheat beers)
  4. From the new Bellwoods Brewery, the Picket Fence Wheat for me and the Sharkwitch IIPA for her
  5. My first of two Spearheads, the Moroccan brown ale, and the first of Nellie’s two collaboration brews, the Black Oak Daily Bread (w/ Sawdust City and Cheshire Valley)
  6. I had the second of my two Spearheads, the Belgian Stout, while Nellie hit the head
  7. Our first stop at Sawdust City yielded two fantastic beers: a very hoppy Golden Beach Pale Wheat for me, and a mixture of the Cockpuncher (seriously, cockpuncher!) IPA + Belgian witbier for Nellie
  8. I had a Hogsback Brewing traditional Scottish ale, but was annoyed with myself ex post facto for having visited a booth manned mainly by hoochies…I just didn’t notice until after they’d poured the sample. I have a general no-hoochie-booth rule at beer events…it’s a good indication that their beer will suck. I’m looking at you, True North Brewing. Meanwhile, Nellie had her second collaboration beer, but for the life of us we can’t remember what it was. Something from Amsterdam maybe?
  9. Perennial favourite Great Lakes gave us two new ones to try: the Lake Effect IPA for Nellie (even though I thought she should have tried the Armadildo) and some kind of porter for me…I forget which, but it definitely wasn’t the 25th anniversary Robust (which I have in my fridge, just waiting for me)
  10. Still ahead of Nellie, I had a Wellington Iron Duke, mainly because I can now officially say I got to 49/50 of my Project FiftyBrew beers
  11. Flying Monkey’s sample list had something called the Raped By Grapes, which was too sweet for Nellie (and also about which I suspect they received a few complaints) while I had the scotch ale, which was decent but not great
  12. Back to Sawdust City for the straight up Cockpuncher IPA (me) while Nellie had the Belgian Dubbel IPA (which I think was made in conjunction with Black Oak and Microbrasserie Charlevoix)

At this point it was nearly 4PM — the end of our session — and it was only then that we really figured out the food situation. We managed to squeeze in a few tiny cupcakes from The Sassy Lamb, including the peanut butter + maple buttercream icing + bacon “Canadian Mancake” which I so loved last year, and a pineapple-y one made with Spearhead’s IPA. We didn’t get burgers from Burger Bar, or gourmet corndogs from Cowbell, mainly because we’d stuffed ourselves before heading to the festival. Lesson learned for next year.

Highlights: Bellwoods, the two new Spearhead beers (for me), and the two collaboration beers (for Nellie), but most especially Sawdust City. I loved everything I tried from these guys. And to my earlier point about the relationship between beer quality and booth personnel hotness? Sawdust City was manned by a guy sporting a handlebar mustache and a giant dude with a mullet. That drew me like a magnet, and now we will never not order their beer if we see it on a menu.

By the time we walked down to King, I needed two things: a little more food in my belly, and a urinal. Beerbistro fit the bill on both counts (bonus: at Beerbistro you can watch vintage beer ads on screens above the urinals, and marvel at just how racist advertising used to be!) and we turned out to be hungrier than we’d thought. Then we walked home, drank a Muskoka Summer Weisse on the patio. Not long after that we nodded off and slept for ten hours. Summer!

Salt: mediocre, like the Angelina Jolie film. Midfield: anything but middlin'.

Since by Friday my sickness was gone — meaning I could once again breathe through my nose and taste things — we finished the week with a bit of a double-hit, deciding to try out a couple of wine bars in a part of town that we just never get to. I mean, literally…we have never walked around this neighbourhood. Shocking.

Midfield Wine Bar is a new spot on Dundas West that we liked immediately. The decor feels a bit rugged and minimalist at first, but it’s not an oversight — it’s by design. Everything here is dead simple. Small tables, simple chairs, cash only, a healthy bar, a brief menu (charcuterie, oysters, terrines, bread) and a well-curated wine list. I’m trying to remember everything I had…I remember the Stratus Charlie Baker Riesling, some Sangiovese or another, and a fantastic Santagostino Nero D’Avola/Syrah. Our charcuterie board was fantastic too…smearing some honeycomb on the spicy sopressata was the smartest thing I did all day. It’s not the place to go if you’re looking for a ginormous meal, but if you love interesting wine (and maybe fancy a snack) then make your way to Midfield. And let them pick the glasses for you; it’s just more fun that way.

Alas, it was time to leave Midfield. We had a dinner reservation down the street at Salt Wine Bar (sense a theme?) at 9:30. In retrospect we should have just stayed at Midfield and ordered a second board. It’s not that Salt was bad…it was just a rather soul-jerking shift to decamp a truly authentic place like Midfield for a minor outpost of Ossington hipster-douchery. It was the usual loud/cramped scenario in there. Our server was nice, but she couldn’t tell me a thing about the wine list; I don’t remember what bottle we ended up with or how it tasted. Food: the lamb tacos and lobster risotto were just okay, but the scallops and pork belly were both pretty good. So considering we got a pretty modest amount of food and wine, the bill felt outsized. It’s not a strict avoid in my books — that is, I wouldn’t warn somebody away from there if they wanted to try it — but I don’t see us making a return trip anytime soon.


Thankfully, after all that wine we had a beer respite (note to self: copyright the term beerespite) on Saturday. We met up with CBGB at Beerbistro for our friend Lisa’s birthday, in an attempt to turn her — an avowed disliker of beer — into a fan of the suds. Thankfully Beerbistro offers flights of three small glasses, and groups their menu by type of beer (and orders it roughly from lightest-to-strongest), so I did the picking and began the indoctrination.

  • Flight 1:Blanche de Chambly, Bitburger Pils, De Koninck. the Blanche was a hit. The Pils and De Koninck weren’t quite as well received, but they weren’t rejected either.
  • Flight 2:Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss, Innis & Gunn Oak Aged, Muskoka Mad Tom IPA. The Weihenstephaner was also well received, though not quite as well as the Chambly. The Innis & Gunn went over better than I thought too, probably because of the sweetness. The Mad Tom, however, produced a response best summarized as “Ewwwww!!!” and was quickly given away. We had hit on it: the enemy, then, was hops.
  • Flight 3:Affligem Blonde, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Paulaner Salvator. The Affligem sits in the same category as my beloved Maudite, which I happened to be drinking just prior to this round. Since the birthday girl had tried a sip and not liked it, I opted for the other ‘spicy’ beer; luckily the Affligem fared better than La Maudite would have. The Young’s was a gamble, since serving stout to a professed non-beer-drinker seems antithetical, but the chocolate might have just salvaged it. I believe the Salvator was the least popular of this flight, but still wasn’t met with the venom shown to the Mad Tom.

So, if nothing else we showed our friend last night that she doesn’t have to resort to drinking the bad house wine at a pub if they have a weissbeer on tap. Mission tastily accomplished!

In Soviet Russia, XBox plays you

Seriously, somebody stop us. This has been our past five days:

Wednesday: after a long day in the office we met for tasty deliciousness at Beerbistro. I introduced Nellie to Dieu du Ciel’s Dernière Volonté.

Thursday: I took some co-workers to Fieramosca. It was, as usual, delicious. At some point (probably after the fifth shot of Limoncello) I was a little worried about how I was going to feel the next morning. Especially since I had an 8AM meeting. Also, this was my second visit to Fieramosca in less than a week; the previous Saturday Nellie and I took our friends Kaylea and Matt there to celebrate their engagement.

Friday: Nellie had after-work drinks with co-workers, which meant I had a night to myself. “Solo Dan eve” involved shooting a lot of XBox Russians (<– not a euphemism, by the way, dirty!), eating pizza and blasting The Dandy Warhols.

Saturday: errands, errands and more errands, followed by a few hours in the office, but it took a decidedly more positive turn when Nellie and her fancy new haircut met me on the way to visit our friends CBJ+M. We picked up barbeque from The Stockyards, watched basketball and did some New Orleans trip strategizing.

Sunday: it was too gorgeous to do anything but get outside, so we walked to Gilead Cafe, checked out some new furniture in the Distillery District, ogled a Montauk sofa, did some clothes shopping (!) and had a few glasses of wine and a prosciutto pizza at Paese. We came home and opened our windows for the first time in months, got the smell of spring in the place, and eventually picked out two bottles of wine with which to finish the day: a 2008 Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay from Niagara, and a 2008 Pirramimma Petit Verdot from McLaren Vale to pair with our Cumbrae’s steak. Both were fantastic.

So as fun as that all sounds, I would just like…I don’t know, a salad or some quinoa or something.

Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque / Mill Street Coffee Porter

Yesterday, on our way to TIFF10 film #2, we stopped in at Beerbistro. They had two Project FiftyBrew beers on their list: Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque and Mill Street Coffee Porter.

The coffee porter was okay…what can I say? It tasted like coffee, and I don’t really like coffee. I was also very full from lunch and my previous beer. I should probably give it another go some other time, but…meh.

The Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque, on the other hand, was fan-freaking-tastic. As in, one of the best stouts I’ve ever tried. It somehow tasted like chocolate AND vanilla simultaneously. It wasn’t heavy or chalky, it was just…tasty. This will not be the last time I drink this beer.

St-Ambroise Pale Ale

Last night, after dinner at REDS, we popped over to Smokeless Joe for a beer. Or four. Happily I was able to knock off another Project FiftyBrew entry: McAuslan Brewing’s St-Ambroise Pale Ale. I was hoping to do more than that, but they were all out of Hockley Valley Dark, Mill Street Coffee Porter and Scotch Irish Sgt Major’s IPA.

No matter. Kaylea suggested a Traquair Jacobite Ale (which happens to be rated #10 among UK/Irish beers) and it was so good I had a second bottle. I circled back to Canada for my final drink, a Unibroue Fin du Monde. Which is on the list, but lord knows I’ve had it before.

Time to speed this up. I think brunch at Beerbistro is in order.

Project FiftyBrew

About a month ago Troy Burtch — author of the Great Canadian Beer Blog — reposted a speech by Steve Beauchesne, the co-founder of Beau’s Brewery entitled “What If Ontario Had A Beer Revolution?“.

What if Ontario had a beer revolution?

What do I mean by a beer revolution? Well revolutions usually involve overthrowing tyrants, and instituting a new form of governance, but my revolution is maybe a little less violent than that, although by no means is it less radical.

Right now in Ontario, 1 out of every 20 beers drank came from an independent, Ontario brewery. By beer revolution, I mean, what would happen if Ontarians chose to drink an Ontario-made independent beer 1 out of every 2 times they drank beer?

Mr. Beauchesne goes on to make an economic argument for Ontario craft beer which doesn’t actually work all that well, but no matter: there are benefits to supporting local — if not necessarily independently owned — brewers. Besides, no living human should be made to drink the likes of MolsonCoors CanadianLight or its ilk. I felt, after reading the transcript of his speech, that I should try to drink primarily local beers. But it was the summer, and it was boiling hot, and goddammit I love me some German weissbier.

Then, this past Thursday, Nellie and I ducked into Smokeless Joe on our way home from the TIFF box office. There we met the charming and gracious Kaylea from WineNotOntario who recommended the Dieu du Ciel foursome on feature. I was no stranger to DdC, having enjoyed their Rosée D’hibiscus and struggled through their Péché Mortel (seriously, man…it tasted like a peach fucking ashtray) but I wouldn’t have noticed them all tucked away down there on Joe’s chalkboard had she not pointed them out. So I tried. I liked. And I decided: I should do with beer what we’ve been trying to do with wine: drink Canadian whenever possible. Uh, this October trip to SanFran/Napa/Sonoma notwithstanding…vacations don’t count. Aaaaaaaaanyloophole, I needed a plan. It wouldn’t do to swear off all non-Canadian beer, that’s just too drastic. But I figured I should make an effort to at least try the best local stuff, especially those I might not normally try. Hence: Project FiftyBrew.

Here’s the project plan:

  1. Go to and download the list of what, according to their users, constitute the top 50 Canadian beers (DONE!);
  2. Mark off the ones I’ve already tried (DONE!);
  3. Vow to try the remaining 33 (subject to availability) over the next…oh, I don’t know. Whenever. No rush, right?

I’m looking forward to scouring the LCBO, Volo, Smokeless Joe, Beerbistro and C’est What for the unconquered bottles. I’m sure we’ll also plan a trip to Quebec ’cause, uh, they’re nearly all from there…Unibroue, Dieu du Ciel and McAuslan alone make  up more than half the list.

Also, by the time I finish these fifty I’m sure the list will have changed, but I look forward to trying the new entrants too. I may be coming at this from a somewhat different angle than Mr. Beauchesne, but I do hope one of his bottles of Beau’s climbs into the top tier.

Wish me luck.