Swirl / Goods & Provisions

Last night we struck out to the east, just across the river a little into Leslieville in the hopes of trying a few new places.

Our first stop was Swirl Wine Bar. No store front except a single door leading up a flight of stairs, into what felt like…well, at the time I tweeted that it felt like a broke sommelier’s basement. Which I guess might’ve sounded insulting, but wasn’t meant to be. It was also inaccurate; given the climb and lack of mildew smell, it was decidedly more like an attic than a basement. An attic where some sommelier had stored a collection of old tables (ours: an old wooden door; next to us, an old Singer sewing machine table like my grandmother’s) and mismatched chairs and ancient board games and some of their favourite wines. You know, as sommeliers do. So the layout and decor were quirky, no question. But it wasn’t precious or cloying…it was struck me as one of the rare tiny, quiet, near-secret places in this city to really relax, and listen to music (Moby! Wyclef! Salt n’ Pepa! Beatles! Queens Of The Stone Age slow jam!) and drink amazing wine and eat tasty meat & cheese boards. Speaking of the wine, there were lots of interesting options by the glass. Nellie’s Viognier and Syrah were excellent; her caub sauv was just okay. And while I didn’t think through the order in which I…um, ordered, my Zweigelt, Malbec and Carmenere were all excellent.

After we  paid our bill (which came inside a spy-style hollowed-out book) we walked a few blocks further east to Goods and Provisions. I was going on gut feel alone about this place; without a website we didn’t even know what their menu was like, going only by what I had seen on Chowhound and various blogs. We had a five-minute wait for a table so we squeezed into the last available corner at the bar, enjoyed the 13th Floor Elevators coming from the speakers and took advantage of their excellent whisky and bourbon collection. I had an old favourite, the Balvenie Doublewood; Nellie ordered a glass of Yoichi. I had a sip of hers, and can now tick Yoichi off the list of the 101 whiskies to try before I die. 16 down, 85 to go. Yay.

Once we got to our table we got down to the business of picking out dinner. The menu is short, simple, and very heavy on the meat. One of the commenters in the links above described it as high-end comfort food; I’d heard the term used a lot before and usually scoff, but it really fit at Goods and Provisions. Our starter was a small plate of smoked pulled pork croquettes, which were amazingly rich but didn’t overpower our glasses of (dry white) wine. Nellie’s main was a flank steak with duck-fat frites; I had a meat pie absolutely loaded with venison and flaky pastry. We shared a bottle of Bordeaux. There was nothing fancy about it — it was simple, serious food done elegantly and skillfully.

Clearly we need to get to Leslieville more often.

I am surprisingly a) not sunburned, and b) not hung over

Yet another great weekend in ever-so-slowly-warming-up Toronto. After another long week at the office (hark: no weekend work! well, a couple of conference calls, but that was it…) we decided to celebrate our friend CBJ’s return to Toronto with a few brews at Smokeless Joe. Somehow that devolved into drinking a Tripel out of a football-sized glass, and from there it decayed further into hot wings and seeing an Asian kid puke outside of a Pizza Pizza. But overall, quite a good night.

Saturday morning we got up early in the hopes of scoring a table, sans lineup, at Lady Marmalade over in Leslieville. We succeeded, and just barely, since we got the very last table (at 9AM!) before the lineups began. And lining up would have sucked since it was pouring rain outside. Anyway, we were here because T-Bone wanted to try it, and because one of our co-workers said it was good. And it was: my brunch/breakfast was quite tasty (apple chai french toast + sausage) and everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs, though Nellie’s left something to be desired. And by that I mean that her plate looked like more an accidental spill site than breakfast. However.

The rest of Saturday was quite lazy indeed — Nellie had a nap while I shot XBox Nazis. We could do little else as the thunderstorm outside kept us hemmed in. Eventually we snuck out for groceries in order to supplement the goodies Nellie had obtained super-early that morning, in preparation for a meal that night to continue the celebration of the return of the CBJness. We had lemon/asparagus/shrimp pasta with a bottle of NOVA7 (which didn’t really work…we just really wanted to try the NOVA7) and then grilled sausages along with a bottle of 2008 Ravine Cab Franc, followed by a bottle of 2006 Little Yering Cab/Shiraz to go with some salted chocolate. Nom. Nom hard.

Fortunately the weather was significantly better on Sunday, because we had plans for a 3-hour cruise around Toronto harbour with friends. We did something similar last year…same guy, same boat, roughly same group of friends. We laid our asses down in the sun and drank beer and enjoyed the alternate view of Toronto and chatted happily in perfect early summer weather. No one wanted to get off at the end of the three hours.

Of course, this view — taken from our balcony when we got home — isn’t so bad either.