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.

"Someone's ear is in danger of having hair brushed over it…"

I learned something this weekend: that there are three indispensable ingredients of a great weekend. These are, in no particular order: beautiful weather, ample time and people with which to share it.

On Friday I did have to go to the office, but it was nice enough outside that I could walk there, and I didn’t stay long. By noon I was home, fed and ready to enjoy the unseasonably warm day. Nellie and I strolled down to the Bier Markt patio for sunshine and beer (me: Erdinger weiss, Weihenstephan weiss, Spaten lager and Delirium Tremens; she: KLB Raspberry Wheat, Big Rock Grasshopper, Okanagan Spring pale and Koningshoeven Tripel) on a lazy Friday afternoon. Nellie had an urge for an Urthel Hop-It so we wandered up to the Beerbistro in search of one; alas, they had none. So we availed ourselves of the rest of their collection (me: Maudite and Trois Pistoles; she: Durham Hop Addict and Koningshoeven Quadrupel) while making dinner reservations at nearby Harlem. We’d been there once last year and liked it and it felt like the right fit on a lazy Good Friday. One ill-advised cocktail later and were into the starter (catfish Lafayette…yum!) and then our mains. My pork hocks were okay, but Nellie wisely got the fried chicken. I didn’t mind that I missed on some of the flavour. The relaxation was tasting delicious enough.

Saturday was the first day in about two months that I haven’t had to go to work, so I celebrated by sleeping in. Despite it being another beautiful day we didn’t really get out and about that much as we were prepping for dinner with T-Bone and The Sof. Well…Nellie did the prepping, I just cleaned up and provided moral support. Anyway, after a great meal (baguette w/ honey, balsamic and goat cheese; sausage-stuffed pasta with pancetta and sage; steak from Cumbrae’s and three kinds of cheese) this is what our table looked like:

Just for the record, that’s:

  • Marie Stuart champagne (which we brought back from France last fall)
  • Nino Franco prosecco
  • Stratus Icewine
  • Z52 Zinfandel
  • Hidden Bench Fume Blanc
  • L’Acadie Alchemy
  • Noval 2001 Port
  • Blanche de Chambly
  • Christofel Nobel
  • Doppel-Hirsch Doppelbock

And yes, in case you’re wondering, Nellie does like to drink her beer from a wine glass toward the end of the evening.

Sunday was, blessedly, another lazy day. A good lie-in, brunch at the Jason George, a nice long talk with my mom who turned 60 (!) today and Zombieland (imdb | rotten tomatoes), which was excellent. Tomorrow it’s back to work, in spite of my best efforts to take a day off, but for the first time this year I feel like I really got my money’s worth out of a weekend.

Oh, and the other ingredient for a perfect weekend? Consecutive shutouts.

"Jesus Christ, Powell, he could be a f*cking bartender for all we know!"

Chrtistmas feels different this year. Maybe it’s because there’s not been any snow in Toronto (until today, but apparently it’ll be gone by tomorrow afternoon), or maybe it’s because all I’ve been able to think about lately is work, or maybe it’s because I’ve not been on a flight to NS and then relaxing on the family farm.

But today after I got home from work, it started to feel a little more like Christmas. Different Christmas. We have our own little traditions, like watching Die Hard (for me) and Love Actually (for her), eating loads of delicious food from Cumbrae’s and About Cheese and Moroco and drinking the bottle of wine I got Nellie last year. It doesn’t replace all the other things that feel like Christmas…it just adds to them.

In that, I suppose I’m lucky. There are a lot of people who have bad memories of Christmas, or no memories of it at all. That surplus of good fortune, not to mention the fact that we’re both happy, healthy and gainfully employed, prompted and allowed me to try to do a little bit to help some of the people who aren’t so lucky. And I figure that should be a Christmas tradition too.

Whatever you might be celebrating, wherever you’re celebrating it, I hope it’s a happy one. And I hope the peanut butter balls there are as good as the one I’m eating right now. Cheers, everybody.

Things I learned this weekend

  • Nellie’s vacations are always bittersweet for me. As an introvert I love the alone time, but I always miss her too.
  • Two years after I saw Once for the first time, I watched it again. Still just as amazing. The scene in the music store where he teaches her “Falling Slowly” gave me chills, just like it did the first time.
  • The city of Toronto is holding a design contest for a revamped north building at St. Lawrence Market. Good. I love the farmer’s market on Saturdays, but that building is both hideous and a logistical nightmare.
  • Eighteen pound cats do not enjoy falling into bathtubs full of water. They enjoy it even less when their owner takes too long drying them off because he’s nearly strained a rib muscle from laughing.
  • The Santa Claus parade seems ridiculously out of place when it’s foggy and 14 degrees. Oh, and fucking November.
  • That said, I’m excited that Swiss Chalet has the festive special up and running already.
  • There are few three-word sentences in moviedom as cool as “Gregor fucked us.”
  • If I ever own a house I’m going to make my living room into a replica of Cumbrae’s, complete with butchers and bags — bags, people — of pulled pork.
  • My team was teh suck last night (except for Carey Price) and hasn’t been very good at all this year.

Seasonal beer and '60s nostalgia, just like the pilgrims

It’s been three weeks since I blogged about anything but the France trip. Ahem. Sorry about that.

Not that I could have managed much original thought in the past week anyway. We’ve been scrambling since we got back, trying to catch up, and Nellie’s been sick at the end of the last week. So this weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s been a relaxing one, this Thanksgiving holiday, filled with nothing but massive amounts of turkey and Mad Men.

Yes, Mad Men. For years we’ve been hearing how good it is, so we loaded the first season onto my laptop and took it with us to France. We’d watch an episode here or there while waiting for something or before going to bed, and eventually knocked off the entire season. We watched the entire second season this weekend, and now have to catch up on season three. It goes without saying that I want both the suits and the in-office bars of business men in the 60s.

As for turkey, we had ours last night: a small organic local one from Cumbrae’s. It was a little shocking to have one with actual taste, as opposed to the store-bought ones I’m used to which just taste like…uh, like steroids, I guess. Nellie made all the usual Thanksgiving suspects too, and we made a point of sampling some Canadian wine while doing so: a bottle of Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry white during the prep, a bottle of Moulin Rouge from Grand Pre with the turkey and Muir Murray’s Solstice Vidal ice wine with the pumpkin pie. Oh, and a Great Lakes pumpkin ale thrown in there somewhere as well.

So, on top of all the other things I have to be thankful for: premium Canadian booze. Cheers!

The first single from Born To Rind

Somebody needs to stop us from going shopping around Church and Wellesley. Between the meat we bought at Cumbrae’s this morning and the cheese we bought at About Cheese (Le Mont-Jacob pasteurised cow milk from Quebec, Parmigianno Regianno raw cow milk from Italy, Thunder Oak gouda) we’ll be well-fed, but much poorer. We also got some tasty bread at About Cheese, as well as some spruce beer and maple beer. Very interesting indeed.

Vacation = us

Storm clouds acomin
Storm clouds a'comin

It was easy not to become part of yesterday’s mass hysteria, as “Snowmageddon” didn’t really affect me at all. It started snowing pretty much after I got to work, and ended before I left so I didn’t get snowed on. My commute home on the subway was the same as it always is, if a little more crowded. We spent our night indoors, eating filet mignon from Cumbrae’s, drinking a bottle of of 2003 Paolo Conterno Barolo and having chocolate from three different shops (Teuscher, Eitelbach andMoRoCo) for dessert.

Today we got up late and ran a couple of errands outside. It’s really quite nice out…bright, and pretty with all the snow, but a little windy. It was -23 with the windchill earlier but didn’t really feel it.

The only question now is how bad tonight’s snowstorm will be, and whether it’ll cancel our flight. We can see it coming up across the lake right now (see picture above) and it looks ugly. We’re not too fussed either way…if we have to wait until Monday to fly home it’s no big deal, we have lots of time and nothin’ to do.

Fail.

Huh…I don’t know if I’ve ever taken that long a break from the blog, apart from when I’ve been traveling. It’s been a busy couple of days…a conference, Nellie’s holiday party, catching up on the ever-growing pile of stuff I/we need to do, visiting friends, trying unsuccessfully to see a movie last night, etc.

Probably the only thing really worth mentioning right now is a decision we made yesterday: that we’ll start eating meat again. Well…I guess we were still eating seafood so it’s not as if we were really vegetarians, but we decided to work other meat back into our diet.

While I think we’ve done pretty well to go off most meat for two full years, and off red meat for two and a half, I still view this decision as something of a failure. The main reason we’re adding more meat to our diet is because we’ve done a piss-poor job at ensuring protein is part of our diet. We’ve also sucked at expanding our usual meal choices over the past couple of years, such that I feel very limited in what I can eat now. I’m not saying that’s a valid reason to eat animals, I’m just saying it’s another way in which I failed at this. A big factor has been time constraints; both of us have been working a lot of hours lately, and when we do that we tend to sacrifice good eating habits. By reintroducing chicken to my diet — and I think that’s all I’ll take back for now — I hope to at least have more quick, healthy options to go to.

Certainly we’ll eat less meat than we did before we started this little experiment. I’ve had six meals since we made this decision and I have yet to eat any meat, so it’s not as if I feel a ravenous hunger for it. I feel guilt even thinking about eating meat (weird, since I’ve been eating fish for two years), as I should…if my rationale for going off meat was to spare animals, then I should keep in mind at all times the consequences of going back to it.

We’ve also decided not to buy meat in grocery stores, opting instead for places like Cumbrae’s and The Healthy Butcher. Their meat isn’t really any more humane — they still kill the animals — but if we’re going to do something as environmentally irresponsible as eat meat, we’ll try to do the least amount of damage possible.

Anyway, a few minutes after making the decision, Nellie had ordered her first bacon in over two years and seemed to enjoy it an awful lot. She’s gone to and from vegetarianism before, so maybe it’s a little easier for her. I’m just not sure when I’ll be able to bring myself to try chicken, or pork, or especially beef. I suspect the latter will happen in February…Nellie’s already decided she wants steak for her birthday.