Cover photo by Dick Jensen, used under Creative Commons license

Lily Peasant Butcher Ball

I met my friend Sue for brunch yesterday. Luckily the middle ground for us is my new neighbourhood, so I had an opportunity to check out some new places before I move.

We wanted to try the White Lily Diner for brunch, but there was a 40-minute wait. Instead we went to Peasant Table, which was actually fantastic. I had the Farmers Breakfast: scrambled eggs, lamb sausage, grilled pork belly, roasted tomato, smashed potatoes.

As we walked back to our streetcar stop we popped into Butchers of Distinction, which looked very good indeed. After saying goodbye I dropped into The Cannonball, a coffee/beer joint just west of Broadview. Cozy little place. I believe I’ll spend some time there.


Cover photo by Dick Jensen, used under Creative Commons license



I just got home from Montreal. I am very full, and slightly sleepy, after this past weekend. So much fun. I flew in Thursday night, very much in need of relaxation and a few days with Lindsay. I had a nice easy ride from the airport, then we ordered pizza and put our damn feet up.


I needed a lazy, lie-about, do-nothing day. I got it on Friday. Man, it was nice. We grabbed some groceries, made a nice little breakfast of scrambled eggs with basil and tomato, sausage, fried potatoes, Belgian bread, and mimosas. After that we just hung out, watched TV, drank beer, played chess, ate leftover pizza, and tried to stay warm. Somehow we killed a whole day like this before going to dinner at Maison Publique. We’ve had a number of killer meals there, but this one was near the top of the charts. We had cocktails, house-made capocollo, pork belly salad with kimchi, garganelli grenoble, and a chicken pot pie the size of a chef’s hat. We had all this with a bottle of Domaine Queylus 2013 Signature Pinot Noir. We finished things off with a pot de creme and a pair of whiskies (Lagavulin 8, Glengoyne 10) before the staff surprised us with housemade ice cream. Helpful, since the rich food and whisky had given us a bit of heartburn.


Our heads hurt a little after that dinner, frankly, but we still got up early and had another lazy-ish morning. We had a bit more on the agenda this day though, the centerpiece being Péché Day at Dieu Du Ciel, where DDC offers a dozen or so one-off variants of the world famous Péché Mortel. First we wanted another Montreal staple: a smoked meat sandwich. We uber’d against the cold to St. Laurent, but skipped Schwartz’s and instead hit Main Deli across the street, which had no lineup, no cramped tables, and (arguably) better smoked meat sandwiches.

We felt a little full-sleepy from lunch so we stopped in at Dispatch Coffee, where both the decor and espresso were top-notch. We ducked back outside into deep freeze to catch another Uber, arriving at Dieu du Ciel. There was a huge lineup inside, extending another dozen or so outside, and the line was moving much less quickly than our hands and feet were freezing in the -35° cold, so we bailed. So did my battery: it was so cold that my battery suddenly drained from ~80% to 0% in seconds. We got ourselves home with a plan to warm ourselves before heading back out to dinner.

Unfortunately some sudden illness came over Lindsay; luckily she has a remarkable ability to know in advance when she’s gonna vom. And she did. So our planned dinner at Le Filet was out. Luckily Lindsay’s roommate was cooking chicken and vegetables, and offered to share. To round out the meal I girded myself for a quick excursion to the nearby Metro to pick up some white wine. While there I noticed a special 4-pack of Péché Mortel, including some of the variants they would have served at the brewpub…so I bought one and had myself a little mini-Péché day. The peach one was decent, as was the special edition (made with a lighter coffee), but the bourbon barrel-aged variant was tops. Meanwhile we had a lovely meal and fantastic conversation and listened to loads of good music which, several drinks in, turned into a bit of a dance party. Until 2am.


Between the late night and losing an hour to daylight savings chicanery, we woke up a little later than planned. We pulled on some clothes and went straight to The Sparrow, once again back on The Main, for some brunch. We’d timed it perfectly too, taking the last available table; a long line formed shortly after we sat down. Brunch was excellent: Lindsay had a hot toddy(!) and house-smoked trout with spinach & green onion pancake, soft boiled egg, beet salad, and whipped crème fraiche. I had shakshuka: two poached eggs in a Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce, with merguez sausage and sourdough toast. We ended with three fresh, tiny donuts: lemon curd, nutella, and pb+j. Then: back out into the cold.

We bought some Fairmount bagels, withdrew some cash, grabbed espressos and a churro at Barros Luco, and did a little shopping before getting to Dieu Du Ciel just as it opened. We’d hit on a nice little compromise: most of the one-offs were gone, sure, but the one I’d really wanted — the Péché Latte imperial coffee milk stout — was still there. It was beautiful, sweet and creamy like a dessert. Lindsay had a Rosée d’Hibiscus.

We split a sample of a few more, and finished with a final glass (a Paris Thé saison with green tea for me; a Nativitor Weizen Bock for Lindsay) before ducking back out into the Arctic. We knew we’d need a little more food, so we got burgers from Burger de Ville and Ubered home. I showered and packed; we ate and watched a few minutes of TV. Then it was off to the airport and home.


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.



Going left

For various work reasons I found myself in Vancouver for three days this week. Never a bad thing, I says. In between meetings I found a few opportunities to entertain my taste buds.


I used my last AC upgrade to get myself into business class, so I was well-fed on the flight from Toronto to Vancouver. A little spicy chicken, a little basmati rice, a little white whine. Actually, a lot of white wine, and terribly oak-ridden at that. I struggled through though, whilst watching Jason Bourne (meh), Ghostbusters (fun), and The Wrath Of Khan (which was under the Classics section, naturally).

I landed at YVR, checked into my modest little hotel (the St. Regis), grabbed a capp from Caffè Artigiano, did some work, and had a killer steak dinner at Gotham:

  • dungeness crab cake w/ lemon dill mayonnaise, paired with Pascal Bouchard ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Chardonnay 2014
  • New York strip steak w/ steamed broccoli, paired with Casa Silva ‘Quinta Generacion’ Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2011
  • 16-year-old Lagavulin

Not surprisingly I fell asleep on my hotel bed, trying to watch Netflix.


Giant breakfast downstairs, a coffee meeting with my work friend William, lunch at the spectacular Hawksworth restaurant (a burger and glass of Freemark Abbey Cab Sauv), an espresso at a different Artigiano, a meeting at our Vancouver office, and then more work and more coffee back in my hotel room.

That evening I had drinks at Chambar with my old friend Amy. At first we tried the Reflections pop-up at the top of the Hotel Georgia, but it was about seven different kinds of awful. Luckily I know and love Chambar (or the previous incarnation, at least); I had a Timmermans gueuze and a Grimsbergen dubbel and we shared some charcuterie and over-truffle-oiled bison carpaccio, and got caught up on…I don’t know, seven years?


All-day meeting. Flight was delayed; I killed at time at Vino Volo wine bar in YVR and then got home in the middle of the night.

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


We’ve just had a bit of a whirlwind visit from brother #2 and his better half. They arrived Thursday; that night we had dinner at Batch and attacked our wine inventory.

On Saturday we armed ourselves with umbrellas and coffee and drove around the lake to hit some wineries:

  • First: lunch and a tasting at Redstone, and wow what a burger. Can’t wait to go back there when their patio is open.
  • A tasting appointment at Pearl Morissette with the lovely Melissa. It was just the four of us and one other couple, who ended up with the patented Dan’s Shortlist Of Wineries To Visit Whilst In The Okanagan.
  • A quick stop at 13th Street.
  • An even quicker stop at Tawse, which was much too crowded. Pretty sure I’m done with that place for a while.
  • A much more in-depth visit to Back 10 Cellars, a first for all of us. We sat and tasted their entire lineup, and Nellie and I left with 4 bottles. I’ll be curious to see if the second taste justifies the enthusiasm we had on the spot.
  • A big haul from Hidden Bench: a dozen made up mostly of 2012 Terroir Caché and La Brunante. After the buying was done and the wine was shlepped to the car, we sat outside on their patio and enjoyed a glass in the shade.

We arrived back in Toronto, dropped the car, relaxed for a bit, and then went to dinner at Patria. We were a little slow getting into it (it’d been a long day already) but quickly picked up the pace. And what a feed it ended up being:

  • Pan Con Tomate (bread + tomato)
  • Aceitunas (house marinated olives)
  • Pimientos de padrón (blistered peppers + sea salt)
  • Sátiles (dates + ibérico bacon + manchego + guindillas)
  • Selección De Embutidos (ibérico lomo + ibérico chorizo + jamón serrano + salchichón)
  • Pulpo (octopus + olive oil + paprika)
  • Bombas con salsa brava (chorizo + aioli + spicy piquillo sauce)
  • Albondigas (wagyu meatballs + spicy tomato piperade + onion + manchego)
  • Brussales Bravas (brussels sprouts + spicy tomato + aioli + chorizo)
  • Paella De Bogavante (lobster + gulf shrimp + chorizo + peas)
  • Desserts (churros, chocolate pudding, mousse, etc.)

We struggled home, barely able to walk. I was still full the next morning when we woke up. After a while we did head off to Hank’s for brunch while Nellie slept in, then to the market, then back to Fahrenheit, and then off to Wvrst. Unfortunately Wvrst was already rammed in preparation for the Germany/Italy game and we couldn’t find a decent table. We left there and walked to the new(ish) Bar Hop, finding a spot on their fantastic rooftop patio. Well, three spots: we gingers had to keep moving out of the sun. We drank excellent beer and cider and had a very decent lunch — I’d heard troubling things about the food at the new Brewco, but my pork belly steamed buns were fantastic.

We swung back to Spadina to get some Quantum coffee and Soma chocolate, then trundled home. It was still beautiful outside so we drank gin + tonics on the balcony and enjoyed the day. Eventually Nellie started cooking, and over the next 5 (?) hours we ate seared Yellowfin tuna (with a Five Rows Pinot Gris), a small rack of lamb (with a Pearl Morissette Cuvée Métis Cabernet Franc), and two ribeyes  (with a Church & State Quintessential Bordeaux blend from the Okanagan). At that point we were done all around…too full, too tired, too richly-fed over the past 48 hours. We all kind of threw in the towel.

They left this morning, and hopefully their flights home went smoothly. As for us, we took advantage of the sunshine in our last few hours of long weekend, having beers and lunch on the near-empty Bier Markt patio.

Come back anytime, guys.








Last night I got back after a 5-day excursion to Calgary, ostensibly for work but with an extra 36 hours or so thrown in for a city visit. Little did I know I’d develop a sinus infection while there. Anyway, here’s the extracurricular summary:

Beer sampled: the rooftop at the National on 8th with my now-Cowtowner friend Andrea. I had a flight of 6 locals. Beer Revolution, where I tried two local pints while having an excellent (pizza) lunch with a colleague. I also had a coffee at Kawa which, once the sun’s over the yard arm, serves a very solid beer selection; alas, I was there too early.



Coffee drunk: I had a nice little espresso at Cucina, another at Kawa, a cappuccino at Phil & Sebastian‘s Simmons Building location, a latte to go from P&S which I drank sitting by the Bow River, and…like, 8 coffees over 3 days from Monogram, which happened to be right next door to my conference hotel.






Food scarfed: The Catch’s Oyster Bar for some crab cakes and oysters when I landed. CharCUT for dinner my first night, since it was in my first hotel. Small world confirmation: the bartender had also gone to Dal, and her boyfriend used to work at Bishop’s Cellar and, as such, has probably sold me booze at some point. My last night there I went to Modern Steak in Kensington, which was outstanding and had a nice Irish bartender. I walked home, along the Bow for a while and then across the Peace Bridge.





Movies watched: Sicario and Eye In The Sky on the flight there. Hyena Road and most of Stories We Tell on the flight back. I had to take my headphones out for the last twenty minutes of the flight because my ears weren’t popping (never did) and I was in such severe pain.

Random thoughts thunk:

  • The Le Germain is a much better hotel than the Westin.
  • Downtown Calgary is pretty compact, but the walkability is marred by highways and rail lines bisecting the core.
  • I skipped the private rodeo organized by the conference, partly for health and partly because I despise rodeos, and don’t regret it one bit.
  • While I generally prefer an aisle seat when flying, when flying into Calgary I will always try for a window seat so I can see the mountains when I land. We did this time, and I also happened to get a smashing picture of Winnipeg from the air halfway through the flight.
Cover photo from Quantum Coffee's site

A day off (sort of)

On Friday I took a vacation day from work. Of course, I still had to work; I just did it from home, and a few other spots.

After making myself an espresso at home I had a meeting at Dineen Coffee. I took the streetcar across King and had lunch (and some tasty beers) at Wvrst. Then more coffee at Quantum, where I tried their cappuccino and espresso and got a couple hours of work done — that place is quickly becoming one of my new favourite places in the city.

Side note: four strong coffees before 4:00 leaves one fairly jumpy.

Last night Nellie and I ordered Indian, drank Two Sisters Riesling, and finished season 1 of Jessica Jones.


Cover photo from Quantum Coffee’s site

Cover photo from the Roselle website

“Squirrel! Where’d you hide your nuts?”

In the week or so that we’ve been back from Berlin we’ve eaten out a lot, due in large part to our near-complete lack of groceries. New-found patio weather’s had something to do with it too. Needless to say, coming hot on the heels of the meat-and-beer frenzy that was Berlin, this has been a problem.

On Wednesday I met friends at Caren’s. I don’t remember eating much; it was all about the wine. Too much of it, probably. And it was too cold to sit on the back patio. More’s the pity.

On Friday Nellie and I met near my work to try out the new new-and-improved Jester On Yonge. Rumour had it they’d replaced many of their beer taps with local craft, and they did…but with more or less the most pedestrian offerings from each. I mean, I’d drink the Collective Arts Rhyme & Reason, Black Oak Nut Brown Ale, Side Launch Wheat, or Oast House Barnraiser all day long, but after that it’s a collection of middling beers like the Double Trouble Brewing Prison Break Pilsner, Flying Monkey Hoptical Illusion, Cameron’s Cream Ale, Steam Whistle, 5 different Amsterdams, 4 different Mill Streets, and so on. Not bad beers by any stretch…but if you’re going to carry 24 craft taps, pick a few adventurous ones. Plus, our server literally forgot my beer for 10 minutes until the chef (!) reminded her. Not so improved after all.

After the Jester we needed a comeback, so we turned to an old standby: Wine Bar. Great food (especially the duck slider) and outstanding wine. It never disappoints.

On Saturday I tried one of the new coffee additions to our neighbourhood: Sam James. I’ve visited the location in the PATH many times and very much enjoy their coffee. I can’t see myself switching from Fahrenheit — they taught me to appreciate coffee, after all — but it’s nice to have another great option so close.

Later that day, when I realized just how nice it was outside, we took a break from work and cooking to share a flight of wheat beers on the Bier Markt patio, then walk to G for Gelato for some…uh, gelato. Nellie had blueberry lavender; I had salted caramel peanut butter. We sat in St. James Park and ate it on a perfect spring day.

On our way between beer and gelato we walked past all the new restaurants on Market Street, and decided to try one of them for lunch on Sunday. We ended up trying Pastizza, which apart from a nice patio was pretty disappointing. Making up for it, though, were the pastries we picked up at Roselle for dessert. Nellie got a lemon tart and I got something called a Turtle tart, which was spectacular.

Oh, and we watched American Sniper (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Pretty good. Not great though.


Cover photo from the Roselle website

Heluva Good dip weekend

Last week our friends Kaylea & Matt offered to have us up to the cottage. We accepted; I needed a weekend off, and Nellie really needed a weekend off.

We dashed out of work and caught a Go Train to Barrie, where Kaylea picked us up and brought us to their place. We celebrated by breaking out some sparkling:

We had reservations at the Local Gastropub and, after some taxi qualms, took our seats in a booth by the bar. I had the battered cod n’ chips; Nellie had the triple smoked ontario bacon mac n’ cheese. We were in the mood for apostrophes apparently. I drank a Wellington brown ale and a Side Launch dark lager. We cabbed home and all fell asleep in front of the TV. It had been a long day.

The next day Kaylea had to work so Matt, Nellie, and I went for breakfast at the Midway Diner, which is exactly as authentic as it sounds. Nellie and I had full-on greasy breakfast: sausage (bacon for her), eggs, hash browns, toast, OJ, coffee/tea. It was goddamn delicious, and it more or less held us over until dinner.

Once Kaylea got back we loaded up the car, made a stop at Barnstormer for some beer, and drove to the cottage. We relaxed for a bit with some Barnstormers and then two amazing bottles of sparkling — a Benjamin Bridge 2008 Estate Brut which had just arrived in our mailbox that day, and a Two Sisters “Lush” sparkling rosé — until it was nearly dinner time, and Matt began prepping the meal.



And quel meal it was:

  • roasted red pepper soup with shrimp and cumin (Creekside 2012 Reserve Viognier)
  • salmon in beurre blanc (Pentage 2012 Sauv Blanc / Semillon)
  • pappardelle with sausage and tomato (Niagara Teaching College 2011 “Dean’s List Desicatto” Cabernet Franc)
  • grilled ribeye (Black Hills 2013 Nota Bené bordeaux blend)
  • Pilliteri 2008 merlot icewine

We did our best to absorb all that, and eventually all fell asleep from the effort.


The next morning we all slept in, except for when Kaylea’s phone alarm went off and it sounded like a jaunty police chase. Once we finally woke up Matt and Nellie prepared another big greasy breakfast (plenty of bacon, eggs, toast, Caesars, etc.) and we generally lay about for the whole day. Well, Matt and Nellie went for a walk, and I did some work, and we all watched many hours of news, but other than that: layabouts.

Finally we had to pack up the car, load up on Tim Horton’s, drop Matt off back in Barrie, and drive down to Toronto. The remaining trio of us ordered pizza, settled in to watch The Walking Dead, and went directly into pyjama mode.

Good weekend. Great weekend. But I’m going to pay for it this week.