CA+DA Day

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover photo by Chris Connolly, used under Creative Commons license

Cava

Apart from a brief visit for a drink about two years ago, it’s been nearly ten years since my last dinner at Cava. Which is strange, because a) it’s two minutes from my office, and b) it gets consistently stellar reviews. We’d planned a small work outing there on Thursday, meant to be a couple of drinks and some snacks, and it turned into…more.

Everything — the wine, the food, the dessert — was absolutely outstanding. I need to go back. Soon.

The plates we shared:

  • pincho of valdeon with sherry-roasted figs
  • manchego
  • shishito peppers
  • pincho of gamay-poached foie gras
  • ceviche of argentine shrimp, cassava, rocotto chili, and cucumber
  • roasted broccoli with blood orange, dill, and whipped jamon fat
  • jamon iberico
  • grilled king oyster mushrooms, pipian, chayote, and queso cotija
  • eggplant with queso fresco, bonito, & tomatillo sauce (twice!)
  • roasted sablefish with black rice, and collard greens (twice!)
  • venison anticucho with warm red cabbage salad
  • bavette steak with artichoke, campo real olives, and charred ramp mojo
  • bitter orange cake with saffron and labneh
  • churros con chocolate (twice!)

The bottles we shared:

  • 2011 Losada Vinos de Finca Mencia (Bierzo)
  • 2009 Bodegas Pittacum Mencia (Bierzo)
  • 2011 Bodega Rejadorada Novellum (Duero)
  • 1962 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva (Montilla-Moriles)

 

.:.

Cover photo by Chris Connolly, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo from pukka.ca

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!

.:.

Cover photo from pukka.ca

Posting this at Mockingbird:Robin am

Uh…so, we went up to our friends Kaylea + Matt’s Bat Lake cottage last weekend, but I’ve waited so long to write this that I’ve forgotten all the clever things (or, all the things I thought clever at the time) I’d planned to use for the title, or interesting color for the weekend. I just remember that we ate well (obviously) and drank even better (still obviously) and relaxed and played some Cards Against Humanity and did a Pinot Noir blind tasting and ranked the Canada Heritage Minutes and spotted birds and visited Boshkung Brewery and I made everyone watch basketball and Nellie barely made it home.

Batch

Back in 2006, before we even moved downtown to this neighbourhood, we tried out a new restaurant at Victoria and Lombard called The Strand. It had been born into the space left behind by Growler’s brewpub and the Denison’s brewpub. The Strand didn’t have their liquor license set up yet so it was a quirky (and empty) first visit. I’m not sure they ever recovered; they closed before we moved down here in 2007.

Since then the space had a decent run as Duggan’s (which we really liked) and Beer Academy (which was just okay, but made a weird use of the space). Beer Academy had been an offshoot of Creemore (itself owned by Molson), so when they announced they’d be shutting down and re-opening as a new Creemore brewpub named Batch, that kind of made sense. It opened last weekend, and we finally tried it last night.

Gotta say, I’m excited to have it there. The beer they brew on premise was solid, especially the Pale and the Porter. They have guest bottles as well. They also sell Creemore and Granville products on tap, and sell everything in bottles from their fridge. So that’s a good option on our way home.

The food was good too, maybe a little better. We split a dense, tasty pretzel to start. My fried chicken was delicious, if a little sticky/saucy. Nellie’s pierogies were just okay. Luckily there are about a dozen other things on the menu we want to try, and we’ll have plenty of opportunity.

Maybe most surprising was the wine list. 12 by the glass (or bottle) and all Canadian: 11 from Ontario, 1 from BC. Good wineries, too: Creekside, Pearl-Morissette, Tawse, Keint-He, Hinterland, 13th Street, and so on.

I’d say this place has a serious shot at becoming our new local. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Batch.

Cover photo by sersen, used under Creative Commons license

Blackball: blackballed!

A while ago we joined the new wine club for one of our favourite wineries: Pearl Morissette. It’s called the Black Ball Wine Society, named after their Riesling, so named because of a story involving the VQA. We got early access to some new wines (which I bought) and will certainly take advantage of more early ordering in years to come.

A couple of days ago I got an email telling me that Pearl Morissette had “paired with 11 phenomenal Toronto restaurants to offer you a preview of our just released 2012 Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline”. All you had to do was show your society card and they’d give you a glass. Now, I have six bottles of that Cab Franc at home, but I still thought this was a cool idea. One of the restaurants on the list was Richmond Station, which I love, so I hit it on the way home. Sat at the bar. Got some food. And laid out the card.

My server looked totally confused, but she handled it well. “Okay,” she said, and disappeared upstairs to find someone who knew what this card was. The wine director (I think her name is Julia? Can’t quite remember.) came down and explained to me that, uh, unfortunately Pearl Morissette hasn’t dropped off any Cuvée Madeline yet. So no perk for me. Alas.

Fortunately, it didn’t hurt my meal at all. I started with an exceptional glass of 2013 Sohler Pinot Gris Grand Cru, and layered in the smoked chicken bratwurst w/ fingerling potato salad, cucumber relish, onion ring, grainy mustard, and dill. Then I had the special, a seriously delicate and delicious duck breast, paired not with Pearl Morissette Cab Franc, but with Pearce-Predhomme Pinot Noir.

While proposing the Pinot, Probably-Julia had also opened a Pearl Morissette Cuvée Métis Pinot/Franc blend for comparison. I went with the P-P Pinot, but wanted some dessert, so I ordered a glass of that Métis which had so kindly been opened earlier. That, paired with a little coconut chocolate fudge, made for a brilliant end.

.:.

Cover photo by sersen, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Thomas Hawk, used under Creative Commons license

Meat loop

Through weird circumstance we found ourselves eating at NAO again last week. And then again last night. Not that we mind, of course. But we’re starting to dig a rut.

Last night the sommelier continued his usual record of outstanding wine selections…a 2003 Roche de Bellène to start, a fantastic Montepulciano to bridge us through to the steak, and then a phenomenal cab sauv from Banshee with the meat itself.

Last week the sommelier wasn’t there so BC and I did our best to pair (and held our own, I think) before coming further downtown for some cocktails. Unfortunately D.W. Alexander was packed, and CC Lounge was fucking awful, so we came home and drank some wine instead.

.:.

Cover photo by Thomas Hawk, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Sandy Noble, used under Creative Commons license

Low-key, high-falutin’

This was a big week for me at work. After more than two years of long hours, constant challenges, and blah blah whatever, this week we had reason to celebrate. Unfortunately I had no energy left to celebrate properly (and it’s not like the work is stopping), so we decided to do something low-key. We’re also in austerity measures (fiscal, caloric, etc.) following the holidays so Nellie decided to make dinner for us at home.

We started with some sushi-grade yellowfin tuna in citrus/yuzu/kosho. It was meant to be paired with a 2011 Pearl Morissette Black Ball Riesling, but this bottle appeared to have refermented. Luckily we had a cold bottle of Weihenstephaner, and the citrus-y beer went just fine.

Then we shared a 20 oz ribeye with heirloom tomatoes and a variety of mushrooms.

We opened a special bottle of wine to go with it: a 2008 Kerrigan + Berry Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River region. We bought it from the winery when visiting Australia over four years ago, and have been very patient in waiting this long, if I do say so myself.

The steak? Fantastic. The wine? OutSTANDing. Seriously, worth the four-year wait.

For dessert Nellie picked up a lemon tart, and we had a bit of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye to wrap things up.

Ace meal. Thanks baby!

.:.

Cover photo by Sandy Noble, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Rob, used under Creative Commons license

Happy 12

Whereas in the past we’ve used our anniversary as an excuse to try the tasting menu at restaurants like Canoe, Scaramouche, and George, this year neither of us had it in us. On the flight back from Halifax yesterday we both agreed a) that we’d eaten entirely too much rich food in the past week, and b) that we didn’t have the energy to sit through a four-hour meal. Plus, Nellie thinks she broke her toe, so getting her into fancy heels was a non-starter.

Instead, we cobbled together a rather ingenious little plan: comfort food + killer wine. And so it was that we drank a bottle of Benjamin Bridge 2003 Brut with a bowl of plain potato chips, walked to Triple A where we ordered food and drank Koval bourbon and Steam Whistle and did whiskey shots with Chuck & Jeremy, and came home to eat pork ribs and chicken+waffles with a bottle of Le Vieux Pin 2013 Equinox Chardonnay. It was all delicious, and it was exactly what we needed.

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Cover photo by Rob, used under Creative Commons license

A man’s gotta eat

My whole life for the past few months has been about work: Go to work, come home, eat dinner, open the laptop, do more work, sleep (not enough), wake up still thinking about work. Repeat.

I’ve still managed to get some pretty good meals into me though, and with good friends too.

A few weeks ago Nellie and I went to Rodney’s for the first time with a bunch of colleagues. It was a fun night, but a funny thing happened too: our server and I slowly came to the realization that we went to Dalhousie at the same time, lived in the same residence, and played intramural basketball against one another. Small world.

Not long after I met up with my buddy Pat, in town from Milwaukee, at the Monk’s Table.

Earlier this week Nellie and I went to an Ontario Wine Society event at Barque Butcher Bar. We tasted several Pinots from a single vineyard (the Lowrey vineyard in St. David’s ON) but made by four different wineries: Bachelder, Leaning Post, Adamo, and Five Rows (who own the vineyard). Barbecue isn’t what you’d normally think of as a wine pairing, but it was damned tasty. If I find myself out around Roncy again I’ll definitely find my way back there.

Last night we reprised our recent meal at NAO, this time with T-Bone and The Sof. It was even more epic than the first one: a ton of great starters, three delicious steaks (order of deliciousness: the swinging rib Canadian prime; the David Blackmore wagyu rump; the bone-in US prime) and sides, and some outstanding wine. The sommelier (who remembered us from last time) picked a couple of bottles that weren’t on the list, and both were tremendous: a Babosa Negra from the Canary Islands, and a Forefront Cab Sauv from California.

.:.

Cover photo from the Barque site