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March, 2013:

The Underappreciated Macelleria Atlas

One of St. Clair West's three traditional butcher shops.

This winter I have been walking more along the stretches of St. Clair West that I’m pretty sure want to be called Wychwood Heights and Hillcrest Village. Or at least that’s what the street signs claim. It’s getting to a be a cliche to describe a section of Toronto as diverse, but you really can walk past quite the variety of restaurants and other food businesses from Bathurst to Oakwood.

Fillipino from Manila Food is the eastern anchor for a list that runs through two of the city’s most popular Jamaican spots (Albert’s and Gerry’s), that are across the tracks from El Fogon, one of Toronto’s only Peruvian restaurants. And that’s just the first two blocks. Further west there are stops for churrasco (the now slightly less dingy Churrasco of St. Clair) and tapas at the fun and affordable Mezzetta. The Stockyards and Catch Restaurant both made that list of Canada’s 50 Best Restaurants that Macleans published and the Wychwood outpost of Pizza e Pazzi has been warmly reviewed and covers the all-important “casual Italian fare” base. In between there is the usual mix of brunch-esque bakeries and Asian spots that each cover the cuisine from at least two countries. (more…)

Second Draught: Rodenbach Classic, an easy-drinking introduction to sour beer

A tolerance for bitterness is probably what everyone means when they speak of beer being an “acquired taste”. When you get past that, drink through everything IPAs have to offer, sour beer is the next frontier. We innately associate bitter flavours with dangerous poisons and sourness with spoiled beer (though the latter connection probably isn’t as hard-coded by evolution).  It’s worth developing an appreciation for the style of sour ales (that are that way by design and not because of spoilage) not just for the notoriety but also because they are delicious and pair excellently with food.

If beer-writing gods were really on my side I would have been able to write about the Rodenbach first and the Panil second. They are both in the same Flemish sour ale style (though Panil is made in Italy), but the Rodenbach is lightly tart and makes  a better introduction for newcomers to the style than the funkier, more complex Panil. (more…)

Taste of Iceland Festival

The first course seafood buffet.

I’m entirely willing to admit that I don’t know very much about Iceland. Or at least I didn’t before I attended the media preview dinner for the Taste of Iceland Festival that Iceland Naturally is putting on this weekend in Toronto. Those of you who (like me) think with your stomachs first, will be happy to read that the centerpiece of the four-day event is a four-course  $45 tasting menu meal. Judging from the preview chef Hákon Már Örvarsson has thoughtfully designed the menu and that is a very good price.

I have more information in my full story on Rickshaw—including information on the non-food events—but if you’re still unconvinced here are the photos from the delicious meal.  (more…)

Second Draught: Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru

Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru

My “workflow”* process for writing the First Draught posts is pretty simple: drink the beer, take notes, shoot a photo, do some quick background reading and write it up. This time out, that fourth step ballooned into a bit of a paranoid obsession. I was bothered by the feeling that I had missed something while searching for a unified definition of “Grand Cru” beer. But, from a living room covered in beer books (not to mention a computer screen covered in browser tabs) I can report that there really isn’t a single meaning. It sometimes means “this beer has spent time in oak barrels” and more often “this is the best beer we make.”

The St. Feuillien Grand Cru (also in the LCBO’s Spring release) is an exception on both counts. It isn’t aged and they also brew a Grande Cuvee and a Grand Cru Reserve. Bottom-ish line: regardless of what the name really means the Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru is an excellent beer and a great deal for $3.10.

*obligatory quotations for referring to work that involves drinking alcohol, sometimes before noon even. (more…)

Second Draught: an Italian craft beer that brings on the funk

Panil Barriquee Sour

When I’m looking for a beer to write about for my Post City blog I take into account availability and seasonal timing, but mainly it’s a balance between what I think readers will enjoy and what I like to drink. I’m regularly impressed by how well-received some of my recommended beers are. In a lot of cases, I would found some of them too challenging five years ago. That’s especially true of the delicious but bitter hop-bombs that are in vogue.

This Panil is the first sour beer I’ve written about, so I’m wondering what the reaction will be like. Sours are remarkably different than all other beers. I think this one is excellent and look forward to reading your feedback. (more…)