Cover photo by Thiophene_Guy, used under Creative Commons license

Boxcar & Bellwoods & balcony

I will admit that I enjoy my team at work thinking that I have some kind of superpower for finding cool places. I introduced them all to 9 Bars and Monk’s Table, and have taken them to places like Dineen Coffee and Wvrst and Bar Hop, so they think I have some kind of talent. Truth: it’s just an internet connection and mild obsession. But when I brought them all to Boxcar Social yesterday after work, they really thought I had magical powers. Great coffee by day, good beer/wine/whisky selection by night, and relaxed backyard-feeling space all day.

My team drank cider and Muskoka. I, and others, drank Bellwoods: the Wizard Wolf, the Monogamy (Summit), the Omerta. The Omerta actually showed up while I was drinking the other two — nothing like just-in-time delivery.

More just-in-time: Nellie and I coordinated a pick-up order of some pizzas at Mercatto, which showed up just as I walked in the door, and which we enjoyed during a quiet night at home. We ate, and drank wine on the balcony, and started the kind of quiet weekend we’ve craved for a while now.



Cover photo by Thiophene_Guy, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by Peter Kudlacz, used under Creative Commons license

“Mmmm. Gueuzy.”

Well, that was a beer-y weekend. It actually started Thursday night when Nellie and I found ourselves near Volo and stopped in for some Great Lakes drinks (Chill Winston for me, Audrey Hopburn for her) before some dinner at Mercatto. At that point we’d momentarily switched to wine, and decided to watch Red Obsession (imdb | rotten tomatoes) while we drank a bottle of the Tawse wine club T-Blend Red.

My Friday afternoon was spent on a boat cruising around Toronto harbour for a work event, during which I consumed quite a few bottles of Steam Whistle. We were dropped off a few minutes away from the Amsterdam Brewhouse, so a few of us secured a table until Nellie and our friends MLK arrived. The food was pretty decent and I kept to the lighter beers (until the one-off Boxer (10 Count) farmhouse ale with Brett) so I could remain more or less coherent. After dinner we retired back to ours where we shared a (spectacular) bottle of Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc.

We took it easy on Saturday, just lying about and running a few errands, before meeting our friends JP + Sue at Triple A for some barbecue. We ate our ribs and steak and brisket and sausage and drank Camerons California Sunshine APA (mostly), then made a quick stop at our place to share a bottle of St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition on our balcony before heading to C’est What for a few more. I’m glad I picked up a bottle of that gueuze before the LCBO ran dry.

And now…I need a nap.



Photo by Peter Kudlacz, used under Creative Commons license


Happy birthday, country

Twenty-four hours into my mini-vacation and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I’m off work. I think it’ll occur to me tomorrow morning when I don’t have to get up and stumble in to the office.

So yes, I decided to take a five-day weekend. No big plans (as we’ll be taking off to Nova Scotia soon enough), just down-home relaxation. It kicked off last night with a nice little dinner on the patio at Mercatto. Today, to celebrate Canada Day we took in a Jays game (they beat Tampa Bay handily, 5-0, and we finally got to see some home runs) in the beautiful sunshine with the dome open…no rain in sight, despite the forecast.

We kept the sunshine-loving going by camping out on the Bier Markt patio after the game. Neither of us had been there in nine (!) years, even though we live just minutes away. Either the beer selection has improved over the years, or my tastes have developed to the point where I appreciate having half a dozen frosty cold weissbiers from which to choose on a warm summer day. I went Erdinger-Denison’s (in a fit of patriotism)-Weihenstephan. Nellie started with a KLB Raspberry Wheat and then got into the Koningshoeven Tripel. Did I mention it was frosty cold? It was.

Right now I’m listening to A.C. Newman and Elliot Brood and watching Canada Day fireworks bubble and scrape across the city skyline, thanking fate and random circumstance for plopping me down in the greatest country on earth.

Glorious? Check.

Free? Check.

Happy birthday, Canada.

Turns out I own clothes that I've never even worn

Each weekend starts with the intention of seeing The Wrestler. Each weekend ends with us having failed.

Friday night would have been an ideal candidate but, well, being tired and wanting to watch BSG won out. Put another way: we are old. Yesterday Nellie and I were both busy, and we went to Mercatto for dinner on a lark…very tasty. I can see that becoming our regular Italian place. Anyway, long story short: it was cold as balls outside so we didn’t stray far from home. Plus, we don’t relish the idea of the Scotiabank theatre on a Saturday night, chock full of middling teenagers ambling into screenings of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Today the timing just didn’t work, especially after Nellie undertook her ideal Sunday pastime of sleeping until noon. I used this alone time to destroy her best time in Wii Fit Advanced Snowboard and other similar accomplishments. Then we had breakfast, got groceries and went on a badass cleaning binge. I’m talking an almighty purge, people…stuff getting thrown out, recycled, put on Craigslist*…there’s a Goodwill pile here the size of a Shetland pony.

Time for the weekend summary. Pluses: relaxing, tasty, productive. Minuses: boring, lame. 3-2, w00t!!

* speaking of: anybody want a slightly used Roomba? Two wooden Ikea folding chairs? A crystal punch bowl?

Right in our own backyard

For over a year we’ve lived around the corner from a restaurant called Mercatto (literally: it’s 200m away, on Toronto Street) but haven’t tried it. Last night, after leaving an overstuffed beerbistro where the wait was 45 minutes, we decided to try Mercatto instead. It’s actually a pretty decent little spot: nice, not flashy, friendly servers and very good food.

I had a grilled gamberi (shrimp) appetizer with chickpeas, lemon and some kind of fiery demon excrement called peperoncino. It wasn’t that hot, except that I wasn’t expecting it, and just shoveled the appetizer in my mouth, not knowing some or all of it had been soaked in this hell-broth, and so my mouth caught fire. Nellie had the calamari: very tasty, equally spicy. Then the mains arrived: Nellie’s was a spaghetti semplici with mushrooms thrown in; mine was an orecchiette pugliesi with rapini & olive oil, but no sausage, alas. The pasta seemed homemade and more doughy than I’m used to, but still very tasty. For dessert we split a pumpkin creme brulee…very tasty, if a little runnier than normal creme brulee. All this was, of course, accompanied by several glasses of wine. Nellie showed her usual flair for inadvertently picking the most expensive by-the-glass wine on the list, something called a Super Tuscan. At least we didn’t order by the bottle…there’s a $500 bottle of Amarone on there.

Pretty good spot, all in all. Nice to know it’s there.