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Solid; genuine; authentic

It’s not often that we find ourselves on St. Clair West, but last night we were moving with purpose: trying out Pukka for the first time. The reviews said it was Indian fusion, with solid wine pairings. So yeah, we went to that.

First, though, we had a drink at their sister location down the street: Concession Road. Again, solid wine selection (Nellie had a glass of rosé; I had a Closson Chase Pinot Gris) and the menu looked interesting enough that we decided to come back soon.

But the main event was Pukka (which was packed!) and it didn’t disappoint. We started with a trio of sharing plates: “gunpowder” king prawns with moong bean salad + pineapple chutney; tandoori calamari with coconut chutney + citrus salad; and chicken 65: south Indian fried chicken with chili + tamarind curry leaves. Nellie stuck to her rosé and I had a Viognier, before we moved on to a Vermentino and Riesling respectively. The wines were clearly hand-picked for this food, which was just nicely spiced (not hot).

We had glasses of Pinot Noir and Tempranillo with our next order: the garam masala duck breast with blueberry +chilli-lime curry, along with rice and naan. By this time we were totally full, and took most of the duck & rice to go. It’s in our fridge and I am going to eat the hell out of it tomorrow.

Of course there was no room for dessert, but since we were that far west we decided to swing by Midfield on our way home and continue the wine adventure. Nellie kept drinking rosé (!) while I let Giuseppe guide me wherever he wanted. That turned out to be a Trebbiolo, a Sancerre Rouge (which claimed to be 100% Pinot, but tasted to everyone as if it must contain some Cab Franc), and a German Pinot Noir.

Wineventure: complete!


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The big barese

This past Friday, to the detriment of both our waistlines and wallets (but utter joy of our taste buds) we revisited the previous Friday’s theatre of operations: Dundas West / Brockton Village / whatever. It was even better this week.

It started out in the very same way: leave work late and head straight to Midfield Wine Bar. I’ll be honest, we made dinner reservations in the area that Tuesday when we decided we wanted an excuse to go back to Midfield. Anyway, we sat at the bar and were greeted by Chris as warmly as if we were regulars and not just second-timers. Peckish, we ordered a board (much the same as last week’s, but with Serrano ham and an excellent clothbound Red Leicester cheese this time) and let him start picking wines. I had a white from Vouvray that I don’t quite remember, the Santagostino Nero d’Avola/Syrah I’d enjoyed so much the previous week, the Castello di Verduno Basadone (I’d never had a wine like that before) and an 04 Chateau Lescalle from Bordeaux. All excellent, especially the reds. Nellie had a Stratus Tollgate white, a Sauvignon Blanc of some kind and two more reds which have since slipped her mind.

Midway through our drinks & eats, our friend Duarte showed up. Socialite that he is, he knew all three couples sitting at the bar, even though none of us knew the other. I think it’d been a few years since we’d seen him face-to-face so it was good to catch up with him while he waited for his friend.

We had dinner reservations for 10:00 just down the street at Enoteca Sociale, erstwhile (just) hotspot and still darling of the Toronto dining scene. We usually try to wait until some of the scene-buzz has worn off a place before trying it out, so the time seemed right. I don’t know if the food is better or worse than when it first opened (note: if it were much better I don’t think I could have stood it) but I think the vibe was more to our liking now than it would have been then. It was charming and efficient, and classy and tousled, and just the right level of noisy. All of which to say, it was completely unlike our experience at Salt the previous weekend.

Now then, down to the important stuff: ze food. I’m copying and pasting straight off the menu*:

  • Starter: Spicy barese sausage, grilled artichokes & shishito peppers, pecorino fresco
    • Dan: Aglianico del Vulture “Liscone” 2008 DOC, Cantine Madonna delle Grazie, Basilicata
    • Nellie: Frascati Superiore 2010 DOC, Casale Marchese, Lazio
  • Dan’s main: trecce, pork sausage, charred broccoli & tomato peperonata
    • Gutturnio “Fermo” 2010 DOC, Roberto Manara, Emilia Romagna
  • Nellie’s main: lobster spaghetti, tomato, chili, basil
    • NV Franciacorta Brut DOCG, Majolini, Lombardia
  • Dessert: sticky toffee pudding, cardamom syrup & vanilla bean ice cream

My trecce (braided pasta) was really good. So was Nellie’s spaghetti, though there was so much lobster she couldn’t finish it. But my god…my god, that barese sausage. It might have been the most flavourful meat I’ve ever tasted. And if you took a bite with some of the shishito pepper? Goddamn! Unreal. I wanted to run back into the kitchen and steal the rest. I composed an ode to barese sausage on the spot. I considered nominating that sausage to be named to the order of Canada. So yeah, I liked the barese sausage.

Sigh…clearly, with Midfield and Enoteca being three blocks apart, this wallet & waistline problem isn’t going away.

* Seriously, restaurants who publish their entire menu, with wine pairings, on the website (not in a PDF) are a blogger’s best friend.


Salt: mediocre, like the Angelina Jolie film. Midfield: anything but middlin'.

Since by Friday my sickness was gone — meaning I could once again breathe through my nose and taste things — we finished the week with a bit of a double-hit, deciding to try out a couple of wine bars in a part of town that we just never get to. I mean, literally…we have never walked around this neighbourhood. Shocking.

Midfield Wine Bar is a new spot on Dundas West that we liked immediately. The decor feels a bit rugged and minimalist at first, but it’s not an oversight — it’s by design. Everything here is dead simple. Small tables, simple chairs, cash only, a healthy bar, a brief menu (charcuterie, oysters, terrines, bread) and a well-curated wine list. I’m trying to remember everything I had…I remember the Stratus Charlie Baker Riesling, some Sangiovese or another, and a fantastic Santagostino Nero D’Avola/Syrah. Our charcuterie board was fantastic too…smearing some honeycomb on the spicy sopressata was the smartest thing I did all day. It’s not the place to go if you’re looking for a ginormous meal, but if you love interesting wine (and maybe fancy a snack) then make your way to Midfield. And let them pick the glasses for you; it’s just more fun that way.

Alas, it was time to leave Midfield. We had a dinner reservation down the street at Salt Wine Bar (sense a theme?) at 9:30. In retrospect we should have just stayed at Midfield and ordered a second board. It’s not that Salt was bad…it was just a rather soul-jerking shift to decamp a truly authentic place like Midfield for a minor outpost of Ossington hipster-douchery. It was the usual loud/cramped scenario in there. Our server was nice, but she couldn’t tell me a thing about the wine list; I don’t remember what bottle we ended up with or how it tasted. Food: the lamb tacos and lobster risotto were just okay, but the scallops and pork belly were both pretty good. So considering we got a pretty modest amount of food and wine, the bill felt outsized. It’s not a strict avoid in my books — that is, I wouldn’t warn somebody away from there if they wanted to try it — but I don’t see us making a return trip anytime soon.


Thankfully, after all that wine we had a beer respite (note to self: copyright the term beerespite) on Saturday. We met up with CBGB at Beerbistro for our friend Lisa’s birthday, in an attempt to turn her — an avowed disliker of beer — into a fan of the suds. Thankfully Beerbistro offers flights of three small glasses, and groups their menu by type of beer (and orders it roughly from lightest-to-strongest), so I did the picking and began the indoctrination.

  • Flight 1:Blanche de Chambly, Bitburger Pils, De Koninck. the Blanche was a hit. The Pils and De Koninck weren’t quite as well received, but they weren’t rejected either.
  • Flight 2:Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss, Innis & Gunn Oak Aged, Muskoka Mad Tom IPA. The Weihenstephaner was also well received, though not quite as well as the Chambly. The Innis & Gunn went over better than I thought too, probably because of the sweetness. The Mad Tom, however, produced a response best summarized as “Ewwwww!!!” and was quickly given away. We had hit on it: the enemy, then, was hops.
  • Flight 3:Affligem Blonde, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Paulaner Salvator. The Affligem sits in the same category as my beloved Maudite, which I happened to be drinking just prior to this round. Since the birthday girl had tried a sip and not liked it, I opted for the other ‘spicy’ beer; luckily the Affligem fared better than La Maudite would have. The Young’s was a gamble, since serving stout to a professed non-beer-drinker seems antithetical, but the chocolate might have just salvaged it. I believe the Salvator was the least popular of this flight, but still wasn’t met with the venom shown to the Mad Tom.

So, if nothing else we showed our friend last night that she doesn’t have to resort to drinking the bad house wine at a pub if they have a weissbeer on tap. Mission tastily accomplished!