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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Well That Worked Out Splendidly

Best gay bar in the city was recently revoted. Now it was Woody’s over on Church St. Our schedules this week were not forgiving, so we opted for a few night caps instead of going out for dinner. As has now become tradition, we started the night out at Bar Volo. Only our world had changed (for the better). Pokemon Go was finally in Canada!!! The whole walk there were hunted and we collected. Bar Volo just so happens to sit on a corner, within range of two pokestops. They both happened to have lures on them while we were there. Brent had finished his drink and said he’d be getting another, I looked at him confused. I thought we were only having one drink? Turns out I was so immersed in Pokemon Go that I had (shocker!) forgotten all about my Revel Cider with hibiscus. At this point I have plowed through all of Bar Volo’s ciders, hibiscus beers and the one sour beer I would have gotten (lime and cucumber, so good) was gone. How can I complain though, the hibiscus cider is amazing.

Woody’s was also conveniently between two pokestops, which were also lured. I was starting to think that it was a thing in Toronto, to go to a bar near a pokestop or two, set a lure and collect items every 5 minutes. Woody’s was great. It is a huge space with five bars throughout the venue. The bartender also had a great sense of humour, warning me that the rum in my diet rum & coke was not diet. It made me laugh and it made my night. The bar was pretty quiet, it was a Tuesday night after all. Which makes it my kind of bar, if you remember my review of Two Cats Lounge, I loved the fact that we were the only ones in there. It was also not even 11pm yet.

On the way home we stopped at McDonald’s and what do you know, there was a lured pokestop nearby! We had been to that one the night before. All it attracted were Drowzees, I got so many Drowzees from that McDonald’s.

 

Roll Over, We’ve Got A New Winner!

Lobster roll recently got updated, the best lobster roll in the city is now apparently found at Rodney’s Oyster House. Last time we went there dinner was amazing, heck yes I wanted to go back! The lobster roll is a tough dish to pull off. Most of the time there is too much mayonnaise and occasionally too much lobster meat. Rodney’s had been good in the past, I was curious to see if they could pull it off. Migawd did they ever, it was amazing! It was served on a brioche bun (actually it may have been a folded slice of bread) that had been buttered and lightly toasted. It came with a slice of bacon and all atop a leaf of lettuce that actually was quite good, adding some crunch and lightness and oddly making it more satisfying and somehow refreshing. Best I have ever had? That is a tough call, as the one we had in Maine at Mabel’s Lobster Claw was also pretty damn good. Best one in the city? Of course. The crispy calamari was OK, nothing outstanding and I was left with a bowl of breading that had fallen off.

Even though it is a summer month (so much easier to remember than “months that have R in them”) we ordered oysters, we were after all at an oyster house. We got two each, one from the west coast and one from the east coast. The McInstosh oyster from Nova Scotia was far better than the Kusshi oyster from British Columbia. Our dinner was made all the better when I saw on the menu that they had West Ave’s Cherriosity cherry cider!!! I am very quickly falling in love with West Ave. brewery (cidery?) and I hope there’s more of it in my future. Adding to the awesomeness, the creme brulee was on the menu! Finally I would get to try the creme brulee that 3.5 years ago I did not get to try! Except when we ordered it we were told it’s actually not available. What gives guys?!

We went back to Plan A for dessert which was to walk up to Kensington Market to get some nitro ice cream from Eative. Apparently, I am told, that this is the latest food trend to hit Toronto. And with the current heat wave I am all for extra cold ice cream. Except when we got there it had literally just closed. It was just after 8pm! What kind of ice cream serving establishment closes at 8pm, especially during the summer. Even moreso during a heatwave! Hello special business hours?! Extenuating circumstances anyone?! I was very sad. Even moreso when I saw two girls standing outside eating their ice cream, meanwhile I was dessert-less.

Once again I was drowning my sorrows at Bar Volo. You can tell they are shutting down soon. The board only featured one cask, whereas it used to be six. The bitter cider was gone, and the only ones they had on the board I had tried all of them. I decided to risk it and order a beer. A raspberry beer. Turns out that Burdock Brewery makes a wicked good raspberry saison. I downed it no problem, it was delicious. Either that, or I am starting to develop a taste for beer??? We stayed for a second round, I could not pass up some more Revel cardinal cider, it was so damn good and I know that the other two (West Ave heritage cider and the cherry one) I can get elsewhere.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2016 in Adventures of Pinka!, Fooding

 

Breakfast For Dinner

Once again, a week later we found ourselves walking through Little Portugal as everyone celebrated another EuroCup win. I was still hurting from the previous week’s loss.We were on our way to The Lakeview, recently voted best late night breakfast. I was looking forward to having a good breakfast meal for dinner. Along the way however we made a pit stop at Bitondo’s, which at some point had been best pizza. Nostalgia washed over us and before I knew it I was watching Brent devour a slice of pizza the size of his head… this on our way to dinner at a place that has huge portion sizes.

I could not for the life of me find a mimosa on the menu, but what I got was way better. Heritage Cider by West Ave, with a tall glass of ice was just what I needed after that long walk in the heat. They had changed their menu since we last went. Brunch was now available all the time. Brent ordered a giant stack of pancakes but nothing on the mains list caught my eye. I ordered off the sides menu: a waffle and some maple sausages. Even still the portions were quite generous. The waffles hit the spot and were better than Starving Artist, alas they did not (nor will any ever?) hold a candle to the beauts I was eating in Belgium. I half-regretted getting the maple sausages, they were only ok. However that regret did not set int until later. As we were walking along College and reminiscing some more, I noticed Menchie’s. It was over 30C outside, hell yeah I was getting some frozen yogurt. About halfway through my dessert-topped dessert I was feeling regret. I was so full. Why did I get those sausages?! We still had a ways to go, as we were being rerouted at Bathurst and College due to construction, we had to walk half a block to get around it. Our night was not over.

Since we heard that Bar Volo would be closing we have made an effort to finish the night there every time we go out fooding. Staring at the giant chalkboard of beers and ciders it dawned on me: West Ave. brewery (cidery?) based in Hamilton is one of my new favourites. On the board was the Heritage cider I had at dinner. Turns out West Ave. made the cherry cider (cherriosity) I liked so much last time, or two times ago, who can remember? I was torn between the West Ave cider from a cask and the Revel Cardinal cider with citra hops and hibiscus. I went with the latter both because I was intrigued and because the West Ave cask was described as bittersweet. And I was way (way!) too full for a second round. Besides, I will no doubt be returning within a few days as the farewell tour continues.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Adventures of Pinka!, Fooding

 

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Drowning Our Sorrows in Pigeons

Poland had reached a new record, making it into the semi-finals for the first time in the EuroCup soccer series. So of course we had to go watch them play versus Portugal at Real Sports Bar. As soon as they had won the previous game I was booking the table for the next match. The plan was to go have dinner on Roncesvalles afterwards, whether Poland won or lost.

The atmosphere was amazing, we were surrounded by Polish fans with a few Portuguese fans interspersed here and there for drama. We spent the whole time eating perogies and drinking. For my third drink I had ordered a Fruli, but the waitress suggested I try a surprise recommendation. I was all for it, and it was worth it. She presented me with a tall glass of beer, garnished with a strawberry. It was half Fruli strawberry beer, half Erdinger wheat beer. This has since becomem a go-to amazing drink for me.

Alas, Poland lost in penalty kicks.

As it turned out, the best produce store in Toronto was a few doors down from Cafe Polonez, voted best cabbage rolls in Toronto. And given it was strawberry season I was all for going to a produce store. Even though I was already carrying a bag of strawberries from a  farmer’s market I had chanced upon during my walk down to Real Sports Bar.

The cabbage roll was tasty- but nowhere near as good as I used to at home. This might be my preference for barley instead of rice in the stuffing. The perogies were delicious as usual. On auto-pilot, I ended up ordering the meat ones. I had meant to get the cheese and potato ones, but we had been eating cheese and potato ones at Real Sports Bar. I was way too full after dinner to go to Ed’s Real Scoop. Drowning my sorrows for Poland’s loss in ice cream would have to wait.

Walking home through Little Portugal, along College hurt. It hurt a lot. Everyone was out celebrating and honking, flags waving everywhere. I started feeling better once we were past Ossington. I caved and went in to The Big Chill. Unfortunately they were sold out of donuts, my dreams of having a Krispy Kreme donut sundae were dashed. Instead I had to settle for a waffle cone stuffed with birthday cake ice cream. As I was paying, a guy leaned in and asked me if I had gotten the children’s surprise ice cream flavour. Bewildered, and unsure what to answer, he corrected himself, noting that it was the birthday cake flavour. He asked me if it was any good. I stared at him and said no. I had not even tasted it yet. How could I know?

We finished off the night at Bar Volo with a nightcap, drowning our now-double-sorrows, as Bar Volo would be closing in a few months. At the bar Brent overheard that the owner’s new bar on College, dedicated to sour beers, would be opening in 4 weeks.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Fooding

 

What A Meal!

Alo had been voted best new restaurant of 2015. The address said it was located at Queen & Spadina, and I could not fathom where this place possibly was. Now I know why, it used to be a hair salon. We had made reservations back in April and it was finally time for our fancy French dinner. The restaurant does a 5 course tasting menu. For each dish there is a choice between two, therefore it made logical sense for one of us to order option 1 for all, and the other to get option 2. The server recommended a vodka drink and I figured, heck, why not. It was delicious, tasted like lemonade and garnished with fresh berries. It was also a tad girlie, especially compared with the whisky based cocktail that Brent had ordered/been suggested. The meal was outstanding, easily one of the best if not the best we have ever had in the city. My like of rhubarb was further confirmed with dessert. It was funny because on the walk over I had been talking about my recent conversion to liking rhubarb. I had never liked it before simply because it had a terrible name and I assumed it tasted terrible, so veggie-like. An A+ all around.

For dessert (well, second dessert) we decided to go to Red Bench, voted best frozen yogurt. I had tried it before but still, any excuse for more dessert and the chance of cookies is fine by me. Their frozen yogurt does not taste like flavoured ice. It is creamier and more delicious. I made a mistake however, I was intrigued by the pink velvet cookie, surely it had to be good? It was mildly berry-flavoured and I was not having it. Partly because I had just devoured half a smores cookie and half an Oreo cookies and creme cookie.

Before we had gone to Red Bench we stopped in at Bar Volo for a pint (our trip to England, and the nightly pub stop has changed us). At first I only saw one cider on the board, Spirit Tree smoked hop. It was only as I was sipping it that I noticed two more, thankfully they were not nearly as intriguing, citra hop < smoked hop. It tasted like there was a tiny little hint of bacon in my cider, in a good way.

 

Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 18

Sun. May 29, 2016:
London to Toronto

I woke up and my joints were sore, I was starting to get old. On the plus side I did not have a hangover. I had to pack, and everything was a mess. The plan was to leave our bags with the hotel concierge and get in a half day of activities as our flight was not until the late afternoon.

We transited to the Tower of London. We got off at Bank Station, where you really do have to “mind the gap” as there was about two feet between the subway door and the platform. It is amazing that they have not fixed that, how has no one fallen in?! We got to the Tower of London via the empty financial district. As it turned out everyone was visiting that museum. There was a huge line-up to buy tickets and then above the ticket booth on the marquee sign it said that it was an approximately 40 minute wait to see the Crown Jewels, the main attraction. Forget that! Having to wait in line and then wait to see stuff, all for £25?! Not worth it.

Instead we walked down to the Tate Modern, on the way we passed the ugly bridge again and this time I saw that it was labelled underneath: London Bridge. The Tate Modern was still super busy but much more manageable. We could actually get inside and move freely. My purse was uncomfortably heavy as I had brought my iPad with me, not wanting to leave it with the concierge. I did not want to risk checking it at the museum, and I did not have £2 anyway. For the map I only had 10p, so that was what I threw in. Turns out it was not even worth that. The map was all wrong because the museum was undergoing major renovations. This also helped us with the time crunch. There were only two floors of exhibitions open to the public. We finished it in under two hours. In amongst the head-scratchers and weird stuff were some gems: Picasso, Braque, Dali, and Magritte. Rothko just made me mad.

It would have taken us too long to walk to Westminster Abbey so instead we just headed back to the hotel. On the subway there were drunken soccer hooligans, it was not even 2pm yet. We grabbed our bags and started walking towards Paddington Station, we needed to be on the Piccadilly Line to get to the airport. We stopped at The Victoria Pub for lunch. I had one last Sunday roast dinner. This time it was pork loin with some crackling, it was incredible. I developed a love affair with the dough crunch side, the so-called Yorkshire pudding. It was a brilliant idea for a dinner: meat and a pastry puff and potatoes. No room for veggies though, that makes it too much food. The only cider they had on draught was the Stowford Press which I had already had before. I had a bottle of Cornish Orchards pear cider instead. The subway to the airport slowly rocked me to sleep, all around me people were people with luggage falling asleep.

It was a struggle, but I had to stay awake as we would be landing in Toronto at 9pm. we breezed through security. The London-themed bottle opener key chain that we bought on our first night in London did not cause any trouble thankfully. The info board said that the gate info would not be posted until 5pm, for the time being we had no idea which end of the airport to hang out. I wandered around and did a lap of the top floor. I was tempted to buy a rooster mug but it was £10 which seemed really expensive for a mug. I bought some Haribo starmix gummies and one last Double-decker and Irn Bru. We found out our gate number 20 minutes before boarding but the sign said it takes 15 minutes to get there from our spot. Why would they do that? We barely had to wait to board the plane. It was a long wait once we got on the plane though. Making matters worse, the entertainment system was not working and had to be rebooted. Things turned around once we were up in the air and the TVs were working. I watched Hateful Eight, Sisters and Zoolander 2 and then a few episodes of New Girl. The icing on the cake was that the bar service was free, we weren’t even flying Porter, this was Air Canada! I briefly considered having a third serving of wine but thought better of it. The vacation was amazing, but I arrived home exhausted and with dead legs and a newfound appreciation of cider and love affair with Yorkshire puddings and Sunday roasts.

 

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Cats, Cathedrals and Ciders: The South of England: Day 17

Sat. May 28, 2016:
London

Brent had to wake me up, it was time to get ready to head back out. We transited to Oxford Circus. Our first stop was Crosstown Donuts. I had seen it on Buzzfeed and now I needed to eat one of their fancy donuts. The crème brulee was pretty good and the Lambington chocolate donut with coconut glaze and jam was only ok. Neither donut was outstanding though. That was ok, we were headed to breakfast at Sketch anyways. This one I had seen on Instagram, I knew that the interior was wacky and fantastical and that the bathrooms were a must-see apparently. We walked in and found ourselves in a forest full of flowers, it had been decorated for the Chelsea Flower show I guessed. The menus on the table were partly underneath books. It was nice to drink a cappuccino out of a fancy porcelain cup while gawking at all the wacky décor around us. I had ordered the scrambled eggs with chorizo and peppers. The chorizo and peppers were amazing, the eggs were good but after a while it was too much. I can only eat so many eggs! We did not trade halfway, as the pancakes Brent had ordered were topped with grapefruit jelly. I did try a bite, but I just hate grapefruit so much. When I asked where the bathroom was, I was first directed to the basement, then she corrected herself and told me to go up one floor. I climbed the red velvet stairs, lit in black light. I was looking for a red door. The bathroom did not disappoint. The toilet paper hung on a crystal trapeze, Alice in Wonderland style music was playing, and everything was glittery and reflecting in the dimly lit room. Every surface was mirrored or sparkly.

Now that we had eaten donuts and a full breakfast we were ready for the big one: the British Museum. It killed my legs, but we saw all the free exhibits. All of them. We started out in the room that showed what the museum would have looked like when it was first founded, with everything in cabinets. It reminded me of a library. Apparently I had walked right by the Elgin Marbles, looked at them, and not even recognized them. Why was there no sign explaining the significance? Is the British Museum still so embarrassed? The mummies were pretty cool but way too popular, it was hard to get a good look. The one unwrapped mummy chilled me to my core. I had always wondered what it looked like under there, thinking it’d be cool to see one. Turns out I was very wrong. By far the coolest was the Syrian relief sculptures. The amount of detail and craftsmanship was incredible. There were more than a few irritating moments, watching people touch stuff as if they had no idea how to behave in a museum. It was great to see one kid get yelled at by his mom. The collection was great, but it was also plunder. The only part that aggravated me was the porcelain, I am so sick of looking at porcelain. Towards the end I needed a break. We sat down at the upstairs café for 5 minutes and I recharged with a lemonade. We got it all done in about four and a half hours.

Now it was on to the National Gallery. First we stopped at a convenience store. I was getting hangry and in need of snacks fast. It was a 30 minute walk to the gallery, therefore I needed Jelly Babies, a cherry Coke and a strawberry Cornetto (this time it was fresh). We sat outside the gallery on the steps, looking onto the crowded plaza and drinking the Coke and eating Jelly Babies. Our peace was short-lived, an annoying busker behind us ruined it all by trying to draw a crowd. The National Gallery was amazing. They had an incredible collection ranging from Reubens and Michelangelo to Monet, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec. We saw the famous painting The Ambassadors. I had expected the perspective-shifted skull effect to be much more pronounced but it was still cool to see the actual painting. We only missed seeing the early Renaissance room because we ran out of time. My love of Impressionism was only further solidified.

I could not find the email that confirmed our reservation at The Lamb Pub but we decided to walk there anyways. If it was too busy we could go elsewhere. On the way we stopped in at Craft Beer Co., a pub Brent had looked up. It was super busy and we were about to leave but we found two stools by the wall. Thankfully I stayed back and held the chairs while Brent went and ordered. I just knew I would screw up ordering a half pint of the Pheasant Plucker and would mix up the name. It was delicious. As we drank we looked at the menu and saw that they also sold bottles to go. And they had our beloved Cantillon! We would be fools not to get a bottle of Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus! Only when Brent ordered it, she did not hear him say to go and she opened it. It was a big bottle, of course I had to help by drinking half of it.

The Lamb Pub was not busy at all so it did not matter if I had a reservation or not. We ordered the “banger’s plate” to split, we had three sausages each and fries. It was the perfect dinner. The half pint of Henry Weston’s Still Country pear cider tasted like juice and I downed it in no time. Brent was still working on his pint, so I ordered a half pint of Flat Tyre, which was a cloudy rhubarb cider, further confirming how wrong I had been about rhubarb. We had just eaten a greasy meal, we were already at pub number 2 and there were plenty more pubs from my list nearby- so began the “last night in England pub crawl.”

We got to the Cittie of York pub and found out that it was owned by the Samuel Smith brewing company and that it was on the list of heritage pubs. It had a nice interior and we sat in a secluded booth. Everything on tap was brewed by the company, lucky for me this was not limited to beer. They had Cider Reserve on tap, a nice refreshing cider. I had to try a sip of the beer Brent had ordered. The S.S. Bitter was brewed using oak casks and water from a well that had been tapped in 1758. It tasted a little nutty.

Walking to The Ship Tavern we passed Bar Polski. I made a note of it, as we would be passing it on the way to the subway if we were still up for it. Alas, The Ship Tavern did not appear to have any ciders on tap. Instead I tried a third flavour of Old Mout, apple and passionfruit. There was an adorable mutt of a dog in the bar, he was so well behaved. It was here that Brent had switched to half pints, which worked out great because we were able to make it to Bar Polski as the final stop of the night. Brent had a half pint of Żywiec meanwhile I had switched to doing shots of cherry liqueur (Soplica Wisniowka). The bar tender was Polish and very nice. As I was trying to decide on my second shot, he gave me a list of everything he had available. The list was huge, I had never seen that many different Polish liquors and liqueurs. I settled on the UV Siedlice Raspberry vodka just because it was bright blue. Migawd it was smooth and went down easily. We were in a Polish bar, with so many Polish alcohols available, on our last night of vacation… why not have one last shot I thought? I had the Valentine honey and berry liqueur on its own not over ice this time, partly because this one was only 29% whereas the others were 40%.

We had a great night of barhopping but we had killed Brent’s phone battery. Thankfully I knew the way back to the subway and to the nearby McDonald’s (it was the same one from two nights ago) and so I led the way. There were some drunk people across the street clapping, so Brent clapped back and they all cheered. We were complaining about how expensive England was and a guy ahead of us chimed in and said we were right. He then told us that Coquitlam in British Columbia is gorgeous and we should go see the forests there. We walked in and it was the same manager, except as soon as he saw us he went on break. Odd, I thought. The Crunchie McFlurry was just what I needed, it had little bite-sized pieces of chocolate covered toffee. Inside the station we stopped to grab a bag of sour Haribo gummies. At the hotel I realized I had been given a chicken bacon wrap, not the chicken snack wrap. Brent went downstairs to the bar to get a corkscrew, the Cantillon he had bought a few days ago had a pop off bottle cap and a cork underneath. On the way back he reported that it sounded like our hotel neighbours were watching a dirty movie. I stuck my head out into the hallway, indeed it did seem so.

It was tough to catch up writing in my notebook after being out at museums all day and then doing an evening of barhopping. We had been way too tired to visit the Tate Modern after dinner at The Lamb Pub. My only regret was not ordering the custard dessert at the Lamb. I had assumed another bar on our hop would also be serving a custard dessert.

 

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