Another prime

Last year my birthday was an epic spin through Quebec, with friends and beer and Relaxios and adventure aplenty. This year we went in a different direction: we’ve both been working a lot, and just wanted to relax and prep for our upcoming trip. So we went to the market, bought a bunch of travel shit at MEC, had coffee at Quantum, and ate lunch at Wvrst. While Nellie continued shopping I skyped with some family, talked to other family on the phone, watched the nephew and nieces sing happy birthday to me on video, and had a bit of nap. (Birthdays!)

Nellie grilled some killer ribeyes for dinner, which we paired with a 2007 Fielding Cabernet Sauvignon, and we had a few bites from Soma for dessert. It could not have been more unlike last year’s extravaganza, but it was just as fine a birthday.

.:.

Cover photo by Stephen Mackenzie, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by James Marvin Phelps, used under Creative Commons license

Where it lands…

Right now I am packing for a trip. I do not know where I am going. Nellie has long been planning something for my birthday, and has managed not to accidentally tell me where we’re going or what we’re doing. I’ve just been told what I need to bring, half of which may be misdirection.

So, this time tomorrow I’ll be…somewhere. Doing…something.

See you Monday?

.:.

Cover photo by James Marvin Phelps, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Trixt, used under Creative Commons license

Hold on loosely

Yeah, I have too much to clean up after that party to spend time describing it. I’ll just cover what was consumed and let you extrapolate from that.

WINE

  • Hidden Bench 2008 Terroir Cache Meritage
  • Kew 2013 Fume Blanc
  • Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay
  • Megalomaniac 2011 Bubblehead Sparkling Pinot Noir
  • Norman Hardie 2008 Cuvée L Chardonnay
  • Piper Heidsieck Champagne
  • Tawse White 2011 Members Select Chardonnay
  • Tawse 2011 Spark
  • La Vielle Ferme 2013 Recolte
  • Chateau Prieure Canteloup 2009 Cotes De Bordeaux
  • Wolftrap 2013 White
  • Rosewood 2012 Sussreserve Riesling
  • Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial
  • Henry Of Pelham 2012 Sibling Rivalry Red
  • Gustave Lorentz 2011 Riesling

BEER

  • 6 bottles of Duggan’s Sorachi Lager
  • Gulden Draak 9000
  • Affligem
  • Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA
  • 1 growler of Beer Academy Kolsch
  • Beer Academy Oatmeal Brown
  • Beer Academy Black Lager
  • Goose Island Matilda
  • 9 pints of Nellie’s Hoppy Birthday Brew (our first self-brew effort)
  • 3 bottles of Chimay Blue
  • 2 more bottles of Affligem

SPIRITS

  • 1 bottle of Patron Silver tequila
  • nearly an entire bottle of El Dorado 12 year old rum
  • half a bottle of Basil Hayden’s bourbon
  • a mickey of Ballantine’s whisky
  • the .38 Special: a signature cocktail concocted by our good friend CBJ, to celebrate Nellie’s 38th birthday

FOOD

  • Jesus, I can’t even.

Between what was brought for a gift or what was left behind, we made out pretty well:

  • Bouchard Pere Et Fils 2012 Petit Chablis
  • Desiderio Jeio Cuvee Rosé
  • Gardet Chigny-Les-Roses Brut Tradition Champagne
  • Angels Gate 2010 Mountainview Chardonnay
  • Blu Giovello Prosecco
  • Marc Kreydenweiss Barbarelle 2007
  • Coastline Paso Robles 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Il Sestante Amarone Classico 2008 Tommasi
  • Flying Monkeys Chocolate Manifesto Triple Milk Stout
  • St. Bernardus ABT 12
  • Citadelle gin
  • Bowmore 12 year old scotch
  • Macallan Gold scotch
  • 2 bottles (!) of Grey Goose vodka

Of course, this was also left behind:

.:.

Cover photo by Trixt, used under Creative Commons license

Is it spelled Thirphy? Or Thurphy?

Well, that was quite a weekend.

(Again.)

For Nellie’s birthday weekend I had decided to surprise her by flying two of her best friends — the Murphy girls — in from Halifax.  My plan was well-thought-out and probably would have come off cleanly but for two things: a massive snowstorm wreaked havoc with flights into Toronto on Friday, and Nellie started drinking at Bryden’s with co-workers at noon. So now I was dealing with two forces of nature messing with the plan.

Fortunately I steered Nellie (along with half a dozen of her co-workers) to AAA and enlisted their help with the surprise. It wasn’t easy, but we kept her under control and oblivious while, after an epic travel ordeal, the girls arrived. There was an long, amusing moment when Nellie didn’t recognize one lifelong friend but did recognize the older sister, but that was soon overcome. And then the crying started. And lasted for about ten minutes. We finally got ourselves out of there and trudged through the snow back to our place, where we opened wine and listened to music and watched Nellie run and up and down the hallway yelling “Best! Birthday! Ever!” (vraiment?) The co-workers retired shortly after 1AM and we finally let the weary travellers get some sleep.

We dragged our asses up the next morning, not feeling our best but determined to maximize our day together. Some Fahrenheit coffee helped wake us up, and peameal bacon sandwiches from Carousel settled our tummies. We spent the afternoon catching up, napping, watching The Hunger Games, and scratching cat bellies. Eventually Nellie needed a little more nap action, so the Murphy girls and I walked through the quiet downtown to one of their favourites: Chipotle. After eating one of their near-football-sized burritos we were all worried about our ability to take on our big dinner planned for that night at Richmond Station.

We’d been meaning to try this place since it opened — it’s so close to us, and had been getting great reviews. The four of us met up with two more friends, MLK, and decided on the chef’s menu + wine pairings for the table. And manomanoman, were we glad we did. In retrospect it would have been a grand idea to write down the courses, but I was too busy eating. I skipped the oysters but loved the lobster puffs, paired with an Organized Crime Fumé Blanc. There was a great honking pile of a few different salads, replete with fried head cheese, paired with a fantastic Chablis. Then the main course: an enormous platter of pork…pork in all various forms, including kielbasa flowers (which is what I’m naming my band someday) and wild boar loin…it was epic. It was also paired with a truly stellar Rosewood Riesling. We were all about to pop, so luckily the next course was a small but tasty sampling of cheeses, paired with a Gamay. Finally, dessert: and while we didn’t let the kitchen know it was Nellie’s birthday, it was as if they’d customized it to her. De-constructed carrot cake, de-constructed apple pie, and a lemon mousse-ish thing with a crispy camomile foam. We each ordered a glass of Lailey late harvest Vidal. And then we were well and truly done. It was an outstanding meal, and I see us going back a lot from now on.

This morning was a little easier to face, but we were still full from the night before. Finally, around 10:30, hunger drove us down to Hank’s for breakfast. Then it was time for the Murphy girls to return home, thankfully with clearer skies than those which welcomed them here. We were said to see them go, but the whole weekend’s effort might have been worth it just for this moment.

Thurphy girls

Happy birthday, Nellie.

Jewellery, meat & companionship

Since Nellie’s birthday last year was a (pretty kick-ass) trip to New York, this year we decided to do our celebrating closer to home. The festivities took three parts:

Diamonds. Diamond earrings, to be exact. She was more than a little bit happy about that.

Steak. Three years ago, shortly after our escape from vegetarianism, we went with friends to Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse for Nellie’s birthday. We had such a great meal that we always planned to go back. And go back we did, last summer, but it was an ill-advised visit as we’d had far too much to drink before we arrived, making it a wasted and wasteful visit. However, another birthday seemed just the occasion for a proper return, and so we booked our spot for her birthday Thursday. We had a drink first at Crush, then skipped just around the corner to Jacobs and strapped in. We each had a drink to start (bubbles for Nellie, naturally) and then got into things with the lobster bisque and a chard that I just don’t remember. For our mains we decided to go big, each ordering a different 10 oz Wagyu to share. We paired it with a 2009 Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which tasted like chocolate with the steak and like vanilla on its own. Maybe one of the best flavour combinations I’ve ever had in my mouth. Neither of us had room for dessert but our server did talk us into a glass of port, and sent us on our way with muffins for Friday’s breakfast. None too soon either; Jersey Shore-lite sat down at the booth next to ours just as we were sipping our port, and we wanted out of there. But even their cheesiness couldn’t tarnish a delicious (triumphant, maybe?) return to Jacobs.

Friends. Nellie wanted to do something with friends, so we invited everyone over to ours for a Saturday evening. No agenda other than just to drink some drinks, eat some eats, and laugh some laughs. We braved the shite weather to pick up a bunch of little snacks and beer (Beau’s Lugtread, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Garrison Porter) and Prairie Girl cupcakes and Cumbrae’s pulled pork with slider buns, and we spent a little time coming up with an Ontario-focused wine list, ’cause that’s what we like to do.

  • To start: 13th Street 07 Cuvee Rose, Appleby Lane 10 Sauv Blanc (the “house white”), Dowie Doole 09 Shiraz (the “house red”)
  • Whites: Five Rows 09 Riesling, Lailey 08 Old Vines Chardonnay, Norman Hardie 09 Pinot Gris, Thirty Bench 10 Riesling
  • Reds: Colaneri 08 Cab Sauv, Le Clos Jordanne 08 Petite Colline Pinot Noir, Southbrook 09 Triomphe Syrah, Staff 09 Cab Merlot

I think the last couple wandered out some time after 2AM, and we got to bed around 3. We spent Sunday lazing on the couch and finishing off the pulled pork, I think the pulled pork put us over the top, as Nellie declared this the best birthday ever.

"I enjoy being around cookies. I like their energy. Did I steal your cookies? No."

Our friends MLK asked us last week if we’d like to join them for M’s birthday celebration. “Of course,” we said. “Where?” Turns out the birthday boy wanted wings, so we suggested the Crown & Dragon, a pub in our old neighbourhood famous for their wings. We met there last night, along with CBGB and some friends of MLK’s.

We knew they’d have generic beer and great wings, and that we’d have lots of laughs. What we (or, at least, I) didn’t know was that Saturdays at the Crown & Dragon are standup comedy night. And the mic was directly next to our table, in a…um, storage nook. Auspicious!

So we did wolf down many, many wings (14 pounds all told, I believe) and a bunch of meh beer, and we did have some laughs…though it looked shaky at first. No disrespect to the first couple of comics, but it was a little painful. But then it got better, and the host (who was quite funny) kept things moving and kept our party’s heckler in line. Some of the comics who came on later were very strong, especially Arthur Simeon and K. Trevor Wilson, who did a longer set to close out the evening. Wilson delivered what was, to me, one of the two funniest lines of the night: “It will be a thrust-kick of respect.” That won’t make a lot of sense out of context but it was damned funny. The other top line for me was delivered by Ryan Horwood, one of the pub’s very over-tired waiters who did a set but didn’t get too many laughs…and the awkward silences after his jokes led him to describe himself as “like, a big condor of weird.” That got a spit-take out of me.

Since one of the other comics (Becky Bays) was celebrating her birthday that night, at the end of the show they called Becky, Matt and some other comic whose name escapes me up to the mic where we sang Happy Birthday to them, and then all shared birthday cake. It was a nice little night. It was like serendipity, but with frosting. Four of our group left shortly after that, but MLK joined Nellie and I for one last pint so that we could introduce them to the Rebel House. We sat at the bar; M and I chatted about business strategy and east-coast life (as we often do), and who the hell knows what Nellie and L carried on about. We finished our pints and walked into the snow, wishing M the happiest of birthdays.

Cheers, buddy.

How to clear out a room after a pefectly good meal

Last night we had friends over for dinner, mainly to celebrate CB’s birthday, but also just to get caught up and have a few laughs. We covered a trajillion topics, as is our custom, and ate a great meal courtesy of Nellie:

.:.

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7

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Charcuterie (Niagara prosciutto, salami, hot csabai)

Cheese

Olives

Hidden Bench 2008 Terroir Cache Meritage

Hidden Bench 2009 Nuit Blanche

.:.

Roasted red pepper, fennel, garlic and corn with grilled scallops on arugula

Stratus White 2006

Stratus White 2007

.:.

Apple cider beef short ribs

Garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed greens and roasted beets

Southbrook 2008 Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon

Southbrook 2009 Triomphe Syrah

Marietta Old Vines Lot 56

.:.

Hazelnut birthday cake

Veuve Clicquot champagne

.:.

Dessert and champagne were courtesy of GB, but everything else was prepared by Nellie, and nearly everything was from Ontario.

The evening ended on a high note. And by high note, I mean it got hilariously inappropriate.

TOCA

Last Friday CBGB joined Nellie and I at TOCA for dinner out, in honor of my birthday. But really, in honor of being out for dinner.

We chose to try the new Tom Brodi restaurant TOCA, in the Ritz Carlton. We met first in the TOCA bar, where we were greeted by a particularly awesome bar snack: candied bacon. I’ll say that again in case you were unclear about the awesomeness: candied fucking bacon. The bartender also kept us well supplied with some excellent wine (and cocktails for GB, because he’s like that) and pushed the Ontario selections, which made us happy.

Dinner was quite good, I thought. I had the TOCA Caesar with the B.C. spot prawns (and bacon tuile) and 50-day-aged Angus Beef ribeye. GB had the Dungeness crab marrow (which everyone raved about) and venison loin. Nellie and CB split the “fancy fish & chips” (beer-battered Yarmouth lobster) and then split the east coast scallops and Wellington County petit mignon for their mains. Somewhere in there was some awesome Yukon pomme puree and some asparagus. And all our wine (except the Amarone Nellie had for dessert) was from Ontario.

Speaking of dessert, it came in two stages. First was the cheese plate, and this is where TOCA has a very cool feature: a glassed-in cheese cave right in the middle of the dining room. We were able to take a quick tour and ask some questions in between courses, and get to know the cheese that came before our dessert: warm sticky toffee pudding. Delicious, even if there wasn’t quite enough of it. Nellie had another glass of Amarone, whilst GB and I had some Stratus dessert wine.

It was a very, very tasty night in a beautiful spot. Happy birthday to me.

Salut!

No blogging for the next few days as I’m off for a weekend. If you’re looking for me I’ll be with Nellie, T-Bone and The Sof, seeing Beamsville and Niagara from their lovely tasting rooms, celebrating the end of my 35th year as a human.

Cheers, everyone.

In which I enter my mid-30s

Well that was a pretty good 34th birthday, considering it was in the middle of the week and I was at work for most of it. Nellie surprised me with two presents in the morning (Wii Sports Resort, which I can tell is going to be hours of swordfighting & wakeboarding fun, and a fancy new Hugo Boss jacket). At the office some folks took T-Bone and I out for lunch, and other co-workers had a cake in the afternoon. I got some good news at work (which I shall keep to myself) then came home and played the Wii for a while while Nellie cooked us up a ginormous Cumbrae’s steak. We paired it with the bottle of Eclipse we got at L’Acadie earlier this month and ate while we caught up on Durham County. After some happy birthdays phone calls (how quaint) we had a quick video chat with my brothers and sisters-in-law since they’re all in one place right now.

Back to work tomorrow morning, which sucks, but that’s the price I pay for using up all my vacation on France and Nova Scotia. Happy non-birthday, rest of world!