I have been a long time non-lover of pinot grigio. (See here). I’ve tried a lot, even Alto Adiges, and I am still not keen. I’d rather drink something made from another grape.
That said, I was somewhat reconsidering my opinion after going over this list from Food and Wine: world’s best pinot gris and pinot grigio. Most of the wines on the list are pinot gris and not pinot grigio. It made me think that the problem may not be the grape but what Italians do with it. I have often enjoyed what the Alsatians do when they make their pinot gris wines. Those wines are flavorful and great either with food or by themselves.
So if you are a fan of pinot grigio, I recommend you consider trying some pinot gris and expand your taste buds with that. And if you are not a fan of pinot grigio, do the same! You may find you like what the Alsatians (and Americans) can do with it.
Posted onMarch 8, 2023|Comments Off on On restaurants now, and then
I like that Josh Barro stepped in (on?) the pseudo-controversy that arose when Joe and Jill Biden ordered the same meal by saying, yes, it’s fine to order the same dish as your spouse. I mean, of course it is, but that didn’t stop people from arguing otherwise.
Once he was on the topic, he had a number of other recommendations such as “Consider the restaurant’s specialty” and “Try to be ready to order by the time your server asks if you know what you want.” So much of it is common sense, but as we all know, so much common sense like this is ignored by people. Maybe even you. I recommend you go read that and adopt those recommendations.
Speaking of restaurants, this is a very interesting walk down memory lane or history, depending how old you are: The 40 Most (American) Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years. Some of them are well known: Chez Panisse, Spago, The French Laundry. Others are more obscure. Regardless, it’s a great article. (I slipped in American, because it is only American restaurants.)
Finally, the New York Times / Wirecuttter has a piece on Costco’s champagne of all things and why you should get some. I agree, good value champagne is a good thing indeed. But don’t limit yourself to wine from the champagne region when it comes to bubbly. French cremant is still my favorite thing to drink and it delivers much of the benefits of champagne at a fraction of the cost. If you live in Ontario, the LCBO has a wide selection of the stuff. Go here to see what I mean.
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Posted onDecember 22, 2022|Comments Off on It’s the holidays. Your fridge is full. You need help.
Specifically, you need more room in your fridge. So go through this list: Foods Chefs Never Refrigerate in Food & Wine and remove anything you currently have in there that you don’t need in there. Hey, every little bit counts!
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I’d add one tip. If you are going to cook it from frozen — or even thawed — have tin/aluminum foil handy. If it is golden brown but undercooked, cover it with foil and continue cooking. The skin will not burn and the meat temperature will continue to come up to the temperature you want.
Good luck! Happy feasting!
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Posted onDecember 17, 2022|Comments Off on On restaurants loved and lost of my youth (Woolworth’s in Glace Bay and Midtown in Halifax)
It doesn’t look like much in this black and white photo: just another store with an awning in downtown Glace Bay. For me though, it was the first place I got to go that was a restaurant. Inside was a food counter, and my mom (Ma) would take me there as a kid and she might get a club sandwich and I would likely get a coke float. The idea of going someplace to eat felt special to me and I learned to love that feeling from going there.
It may seem underwhelming to you as an adult, but as a kid, pulling up in one of those seats, being given a menu to choose what you want, and then having one of the ladies (it was always women) get it for you was amazing. Plus I never got to have coke floats outside of there, at least not for a long time, so that made it a special treat.
The Woolworth’s of Glace Bay is long gone. Later when I moved to Toronto there was one on Bloor near Bathurst and I used to go and get taken back home for a spell. Just like having a coke float takes me back to when I was a kid, sitting at that counter, sipping my drink with a straw, being happy.
This string of posts on restaurants loved and lost will be ending soon for me. But before I do, I wanted to mention another place of my youth: the Midtown Tavern in Halifax. It still exists, but the version I loved and lost was in downtown Halifax (see below). When I was in university, I would go there the few times I had some cash and get some draught beer and steak. The meat was thin and well done, but it was cheap, and the combo of the beef and the beer made me feel wealthy. It was unlike any other place in Halifax for students drinking beer. You could be a fool in other establishments, but act that way in the Midtown and their no nonsense waiters would toss you out on your ear. We were well behaved in the Midtown. In some ways it was a rite of passage where we learned to behave as much as anything else.
I loved both those places when I was young, just like I loved Mike’s Lunch in Glace Bay. They may have seemed like everyday places to some, but they left an indelible mark on me and think of them often, and with great affection.
P.S. I wanted to write about one other restaurant loved and lost from my youth: Fat Frank’s. When I was going to university I never had much money. I would constantly see the same ad for Fat Frank’s restaurant, and each time I saw it I thought: when I have money, I am going to eat there. It was my dream. For Fat Frank’s was one of the finest places to eat in all of the Maritimes.
Posted onDecember 2, 2022|Comments Off on Friday Night Cocktail: a fancy martini (or three)
Here on the old blog, we like a good martini. Indeed, we have written often about that drink, as you can see. Many of those have been either classic or – dare I say – basic. Which is fine. Basic and classic are good. Fancy and new are also good. If you have a preference or are in the mood for that, I have three appealing martini offerings for you:
Posted onNovember 25, 2022|Comments Off on How to pick a good bottle of wine from your local LCBO with Decanter and one simple trick
I have a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine for the first time: any wine highly rated by Decanter is good. If you are unsure what to get, look for bottles with a round Decanter sticker on them and you can be confident in your purchase. And good news: most LCBO stores will have quite a few such bottles.
Alas, not all such wines rated by Decanter bear their sticker. And yes it can be a lot of work trying to find them at all. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily find them in the store near you?
Well there is a way you can do that: with your browser. To do this, first go to the LCBO website (lcbo.com) and pick your local store (or a store you plan to go to).
Once you do that, enter the following URL in your browser (from https all the way to [true]):
What you will get back are wines in your local LCBO store rated highly by Decanter magazine. With bigger stores like the one at Yonge and Summerhill in Toronto I got over 30 results back, with many around the $20 price point.
If you are cost conscious, enter this version in your browser:
It will return the same list but sorted with the lower cost ones listed first.
There are lots of ratings and plenty of ways to find a good wine at the LCBO. I find this way works great for me. Perhaps you find the same thing for you.
P.S. You can play around with other rating groups. For example, Wine Enthusiast is also associated with wine in the LCBO and many of them are at an attractive lower price point. To see what I mean, enter this:
Ok, technically it’s not called the QEII. But what you see is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite drink: a Dubonnet and Gin. It’s a rather straightforward concoction, but still, if you want the recipe, head over to Food and Wine and they will not only tell you how to make it, but they’ll fill you in on the details.
Posted onNovember 10, 2022|Comments Off on On starter wines, or how to go about learning about wine (if that’s what you want to do)
Wine is like art or food or fashion: you can devote a lot of your time and attention to it and you will get a lot from it. Like many topics, though, not everyone wants to do that. Some people just want to know the basics and leave it there. Both approaches are valid.
If you do want to learn more about wine, one thing to do is pick a starter wine. A starter wine should be one that you can afford and that’s easy to drink and ideally goes well with the food you like to eat. Of course it should also be fairly well made and worth drinking for more than just the fact it contains alcohol. 🙂
Both the wine list and the book will get you get started on the path to drinking better wine. For example, let’s say you try some of the listed cabernet sauvignons and you prefer the first one: the Beringer. That’s a good start. From there you might try more expensive Cabernets from Beringer to see if you can determine what distinguishes them from each other. Maybe you find you prefer one more expensive (or maybe you can’t tell the difference in taste). Or you can compare it to other cab sauvs on the list, like the Penfolds. Perhaps the Californian wine goes better with the food you like and has a taste that you like. While you are considering the wines you try, dip into the book. The book will give you more insight into the wines you are drinking and why you might like it and what types of wine you want to try next.
Wine is something enjoyable, and something you can learn much about. That said, you should enjoy it at the level you want. Just like some people just want to wear jeans and T shirts all the time, other people just want to drink the same thing all the time. And that’s ok. But if you want to learn more about wine, pick a starter wine you are comfortable with and enjoy them and then go from there.
P.S. One thing I like about the list of 50 wines is that they are very easy to find. Most of them can be found all across Canada and certainly in the LCBO.
P.S.S. I’ve been meaning to write this after reading this critique of starter wines that I read some time now: The Myth of So-Called “Starter Wine”. It’s written by someone knowledgeable and passionate about wine. I respect that. I don’t agree with it, but I respect it. I recommend you read it and think for yourself.
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One of the ideas that I really like, from one of my favorite blogs, are the posts they have every Friday. Posts like this: Have a Lovely Weekend. It’s a great idea. Who doesn’t like a nice positive and update piece to read on before you start your weekend?
On that note, here are some links that I think are positive and upbeat and perfect to read on a Friday:
Posted onOctober 30, 2022|Comments Off on Some thoughts on the genre of food writing, after reading about Chantal Braganza’s cake
Good genre writing tends to make us forget it belongs to a genre. Atwood and Kafka and Borges all can write in the genres of SF and fantasy, but we don’t think of them as genre writers. They are good writers who happen to (sometimes) write genre fiction.
I thought of that when I read this piece by Chantal Braganza in Maisonneuve: An Ugly Sweet Thing. Food writing is also a genre, and while Braganza is a food writer here, she is first a good writer who in this case is writing about food. It’s a really fine piece and I encourage you to read it. It’s about food, of course, but it’s about so much more. That’s what good food writing does.
Food writing gets knocked about these days, and that’s too bad. So many food writers that include a recipe in their writing have a button at the top that allows people to skip just to the recipe. People who click on that button are missing out. The writing is important too, not just the recipe. If you just want a recipe, go to AllRecipes.com. If you want to learn more about food and what the author thinks about this particular dish and why it is important to them and perhaps you, too, read the writing. You’ll be glad you did.
More and more I buy food books not for the recipes, but to get inspired to cook and to create in the kitchen. Preparing food is work, and some times that work gets us down. (Ok, it gets me down.) We need things to lift us up. One of those things is good food writing. Here’s to more of it.
Now go get some cake.
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Posted onOctober 28, 2022|Comments Off on Friday Night Cocktail: the freezer martini
On my Instagram feed I am seeing lots of reels on how to make fridge cocktails. Essentially you have a bottle of liquor in your fridge but instead of it being simply vodka or gin, it is a full on cocktail, premixed and ready to drink. Why not?
In the same vein, I propose you consider making the freezer martini. Like the fridge cocktail, the freezer martini sits in your…well, you know. So when you need a martini this weekend, just pull this out and pour a splash in your martini glass. All you need to add is some olives or a lemon twist and you are set.
For more on this and how to best make them, see Imbibe Magazine or Eater. It’s slightly different than you typical martini.
Speaking of olives, you can freeze them too! I mean who wants a warm martini? No one of good taste.
Posted onOctober 10, 2022|Comments Off on Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! Here’s a really good guide to roasting a turkey, planning the meal, and keeping it simple
Happy Thanksgiving, Canada! Last year I shared with you what I was making for the celebration here. Our meal was delicious, and all made from scratch, thanks to the fact I had help! (Thanks, Lisa!) So if you have help, I recommend what I did last year.
However if you don’t have help and you are doing it all by yourself, let me suggest you get some stuff off the shelf. I always make the turkey, some form of veg, and mashed potatoes from scratch. Always. But if it’s just me cooking, I will get Stove Top stuffing, packaged gravy, baked rolls, and canned cranberries. Hey, even doing all that is a lot of work with 4 burners going, not to mention the oven and the microwave. My foodie friends may disown me, but I learned this lesson from Anthony Bourdain years ago: simplify simplify simplify your prep even if the food isn’t the level you want. Trust me. My main goal is to get a pretty good dinner on the table reasonably, not show off I can make everything from scratch by myself. However, YMMV.
Speaking of trusting me, I would also recommend going with the simplest form of turkey roasting possible. Here’s my approach. I tend to get a 12-16 pound turkey and I roast it unstuffed at 325F at 15 minutes / pound. I write out the time I put it in, how long it should roast based on that formula, and when I believe I should take it out. I put it in the oven uncovered, and when it gets to the golden brown you see below, I cover it simply with aluminum foil but keep on cooking it until it is done. I check on it more towards the end, basting it every time I do.
How do you know it is done? If you use a meat thermometer, many current guides will say the turkey is done when the meat is 165F. Back in the 1980s the meat was said to be done at 185F. 165F will leave you with a moister turkey, and 185F will mean everything is well done. If you are nervous, go with 185F. In the worst case, at 185F some of the breast meat may be a bit dry: that’s fixed with some gravy. 🙂
Oh, and while meat thermometers are great, a simple plastic pop up pin put in the breast works good too. If you don’t have a meat thermometer or a pop up pin, cook to the time calculation you did above….you’ll be fine.
If you want more guidance on turkey roasting, go here. I generally get unfrozen turkeys: it makes life simpler. If you have a frozen one, you want to read this.
Enjoy your dinner, whatever form it comes in. Cheers!
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Posted onOctober 7, 2022|Comments Off on On Fred Franzia, the creator of Two Buck Chuck wines
Fred Franzia, the creator of two-buck Chuck, has died. He was quite the maverick in the wine industry. Heck, his company was called Bronco Wines. While he did much to strengthen the idea that wine should be more affordable and accessible, I tend to agree with Eric Asimov in his assessment of his product. I think there is a better middle ground, and his Charles Shaw wine did not occupy it. But like all things, taste is subjective.
Posted onSeptember 30, 2022|Comments Off on From Michelin to Peter Oliver: thinking about how Toronto has changed in the last 40 years
Two noteworthy events in Toronto dining happened this month: one was the start of an era and one was an end. The start was Michelin came to town and tossed out stars and Bibs and otherwise paid attention to Hogtown dining. The end was the death of restaurateur Peter Oliver.
Decades ago if Michelin had come in and gave out stars, it would have been incredible. Not now. What I loved about the Michelin event this month was how many people could not give a hoot. Toronto’s food scene is excellent, and we don’t really need Michelin to come in and tell us. That can be seen in critiques like this the Star . Sure the places highlighted are great, but there is more to good food in Toronto than the places starred. Many great restaurants were passed over, as this piece showed, because we are a city wealthy in good places to go.
To be fair to Michelin, they did highlight quite a number of restaurants in Toronto, even ones that did not get an award. One of those was Canoe. Canoe is just one of the many restaurants that are part of the Oliver and Bonacini (O&B) Hospitality group. The Oliver in the name belongs to Peter Oliver.
I have been eating in Peter Oliver’s restaurants since the 80s. Back then he had a cozy place on Yonge north of Eglinton that was a great place to meet up for brunch with friends. From that place he went on to open and close many places, some of which were truly great.
While he has a career of four decades, this piece from 2000 in the Globe really shows his career as he was becoming ascendent. He had a knack at making restaurants, even though some of them (Bofinger/Paramount on Yonge near St. Clair) were too ambitious. While the buildings themselves seem to spare no expense, the food was sometimes lacking, and leading critics at the time like Joanne Kates dismissed some of it as “tourist all the way.”
What really made a difference for Oliver was when he hooked up with Michael Bonacini in 1993 to open Jump, Then Canoe. And many more. The combined talents of the two of them lead to an entire string of successful restaurants in Toronto and elsewhere.
Over the next few years I expect Michelin will be handing out more stars in Toronto. I expect the some of them will go to O&B restaurants.
The food scene has evolved significantly since the 1980s. Peter Oliver and O&B has been a big part of that evolution. Over at their web site they have a warm Tribute to Peter Oliver. It’s worthy of consideration, just like the man himself. RIP, and thanks.
Moka pots (like this one) are very old but still very good. If you agree, then head over to Bon Appetit for their idea of the the best moka pots. They have a really good range of options for you espresso lovers.
If you love espresso, but like something more futuristic, why not this?
Posted onSeptember 17, 2022|Comments Off on What is good food? What is fine dining? These are things I considered while thinking about Michelin stars and eating pasta in Montreal
I’ve been thinking a lot about food since Michelin recently announced the awards given to restaurants in Toronto. When they announced the winners, I thought: how is it that I eat so much good food in Toronto and yet I have not gone to these places? Maybe I don’t know good food at all?
I thought about it more as I travelled to Montreal and ate on my trip. Two things I ate on my travels were pasta. This dish of pasta was part of a tasting menu at Cabaret L’Enfer on St. Denis.
And this was a dish of pasta I had while on the train from Toronto to Montreal:
The first pasta was good, as was the second. The first pasta was carefully handmade, precisely cooked, smartly accompanied with intensely flavoured sauces and extras and wine and finally presented artfully and with a detailed explanation. The second pasta was factory made, warmed up, accompanied with not bad wine and presented politely without much explanation. Given these differences, how can I say both were good?
While the first pasta was excellent and superior to the second in many ways, the second pasta was still good. The second pasta’s temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, it had mild but pleasant flavours, and it fit in with a nice variety of other food. Eating it, I was reminded of all the meals I’ve enjoyed while travelling on planes and trains, and that made me think of all the joy I’ve had while travelling. I was hungry when it arrived, and afterwards I was pleasantly full. While it was not exquisite like the first pasta, it was far better than any of the other food I could have picked up at a train station. In this context, it was good — very good — and I was glad I had it.
While the first pasta was excellent, it was in no way filling. When combined with the overall meal I was no longer hungry, but it was not sufficient on its own to satisfy my hunger, nor was it meant to be. It did not remind me of other joys, though I enjoyed it. And while the overall meal was excellent, it was also very expensive.
Perhaps food is very important to you, and any food that doesn’t approach Michelin level is not considered good by you. But to me, good food is dependent on context. A rich cheese is no good to someone who is lactose intolerant. A fine steak is undesirable to a vegan. Likewise, if you are famished, fast food you can have right now may be better than a rich stew that takes you hours to prepare. On a bitter cold day, a simple hot chocolate may taste better than the finest champagne. Or you may desire a chocolate chip cookie that reminds you of your mom’s cooking over a slice of gourmet cake. We eat with all of ourselves, and the more we bring of ourselves to the food we eat, the more good food becomes a matter of the individual who is eating it.
Good food is also dependent on qualities. The next time you are eating, think of all the textures and the tastes you are experiencing. Think of the temperature and the toughness, the sourness and the saltiness and the softness. How does it look in front of you? What are the colours? How hard is it to make? How easy is it to eat? What do you think when you are eating it? How do you feel right after you swallow it? Or an hour later? All those thoughts and feelings that you have will help you to better appreciate your food and its qualities. It will help you realize what is good food — to you — and what is not. It will make you appreciate fine dining, whether it is in a beautiful restaurant or eating at a cafe counter or on a picnic blanket.
Michelin stars do not solely define good food or fine dining. Only you, the individual, can do that. Bon appetit.
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Posted onSeptember 2, 2022|Comments Off on Friday (French) Food for You in September 2022
I love French food, both cooking it and eating it. If you feel the same and you want to get into doing more French cooking, why not start with these recipes from Chatelaine? I recommend them. Especially, I am a big fan of their coq au vin blanc, shown above. I’ve made it a few times and each time it comes out well.
If you find the idea of making French food daunting, fear not. Here are some easy French Bistro Recipes to start with. That said, the ones in Chatelaine are not hard. Either way, you have no excuse not to start due to difficulty.
Posted onAugust 19, 2022|Comments Off on On the great Billy Munnelly and what he can still teach us about buying wine at the LCBO in 2022
Since the 1980s I’ve been getting expert advice from Billy on how to buy wine at the LCBO. So I was shocked to see he had moved away and he won’t be offering LCBO wine buying tips anymore. It’s great for him, but not so great for folks looking to know what to buy and what to avoid at the LCBO.
But here’s a tip. Go to his blog Billy’s Best Bottles, and with a pen and paper take notes on what wines he likes and what he likes about them. Do you feel like a good summer wine? He has posts on them. Do you feel like a good bistro red to go with your steak frites? He has a wine for that! It doesn’t matter too much about the year (most of the time). Go and seek out those wines he recommends. The prices will have gone up, but most times the quality will be consistent year over year.
There are wines from the 80s he recommended that are still good and recommended today. (I know because I’ve been drinking them all this time.) There are many newer and better ones since then: the LCBO has improved considerably in the last few decades. There is still lots of not so great wine, though, and Billy can help you avoid those.
There are a great many people writing about wine at the LCBO these days. But back in the 1980s such info was rare. Billy had put out a small comic book back then on how to buy wine at the LCBO, and it was my mainstay for many years whenever I needed something for dinner or a special occasion. He eventually moved to the web like the rest of us, but the spirit of that little comic book lives on at Billy’s Best Bottles, Go check it out, then go get some wine.
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Posted onJuly 29, 2022|Comments Off on Friday Night Cocktail: forget (Dirty) Shirley, go with Tom (Collins)
Sure sure, the Dirty Shirley is the cocktail du jour, and everyone seems to have dumped their espresso martinis and gone on to chug these instead. My attitude is the same as The Washington Post…so here’s their recipe for a Dirty Shirley cocktail — if you just have to try one.
That out of the way, let’s go with a classic. As the Manual says,
For a drink that has its own glass, you’d think the Tom Collins would be even more popular. It’s a classic, without a shadow of a doubt, but many imbibers don’t exactly know how to whip one up, let alone perfect it.
Posted onJuly 23, 2022|Comments Off on On restaurants loved and lost: Mike’s Lunch in Glace Bay
It doesn’t look like much. Only that Teem sign on the right tells you that this is the location of the famous Mike’s Lunch of Glace Bay. It had a good run of 109 years in various locations in my hometown before closing in 2019. It was one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world, and it was the first place I went and dined by myself as a young man.
Back when I was young, it was located on Commercial Street in a little galley type restaurant. It had a counter in the middle where you ate, while pinball machines lined the walls behind you and the cooking was done in front of you. In the summer I would sit next to the open door and look out at the beautiful house across the street (the only house left on Commercial Street). I can remember the sunshine and the warmth and the joy of sitting there while I waited for my food. While many diners had the famous fish and chips, my meal of choice was the Club Sandwich. Toasty bread and toothpicks held together chunks of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce and mayo. Mine was completed with hot french fries coated with gravy and ketchup and accompanied by an ice cold Coca-Cola. To this day it is still one of the best meals I ever had.
Years later Mike’s Lunch moved to a nicer space in the Sterling. The pinball machines never made the transition, but it still had a counter. It also had nice tables and booths and friendly waitresses. I never failed to go any time I visited Glace Bay, often more than once a visit. I don’t know how, but no matter how long I had been away, when I returned they always remembered me. And the club sandwiches were as good when I was 50 as they were when I was 15. No wonder we all loved it.
I miss Glace Bay for many reasons: the Chip Wagon, Venice Pizzeria, and Colette’s, to name a few great places. But of all the places I miss, I miss Mike’s Lunch the most. Thank you Mike’s Lunch for all the great meals and great times I’ve had there. I have been to many great restaurants over the years, but if I could walk through the doors of any one of them one last time, it would be yours.
Bonus: footage of Commercial St in 1988. The town changed over time, but this is how I remember it growing up. By this point Mike’s Lunch had already moved to the Sterling. Teddy’s (or as this video called it, The Greasy Spoon, and a similar restaurant to Mike’s) was still there.
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Posted onJuly 22, 2022|Comments Off on Friday Night Cocktail: the Paloma
Why the paloma? Well, as Food52 explains, it’s a great drink to welcome the weekend with, especially their version, which is a
… fresh ‘n’ fruity riff on the classic Paloma: fragrant basil syrup, watermelon and lime juice, and Patrón Reposado (it’s sponsored -b :)). Finish the cocktail with a pour of grapefruit soda, and don’t forget the fresh basil garnish (an optional, but delightful detail).
Sound good? If you want the traditional version, here’s Bon Appétit’s take on that: Paloma.
Posted onMay 20, 2022|Comments Off on Friday night cocktail: a formula to make your own
Tonight you can be your own mixologist by heading over to the Food & Wine web site and reading this article: How to Make Classic Cocktails Without Looking Up a Recipe. Think about what you want: bitter, boozy, bubbly, tart, or fizzy. Then use their ratios to make something new! If it’s good, name it after yourself and make one for your friends.
Worse case, you toss it out and head over to Liquor.com and make something they recommend (they have everything).
P.S. Hat tip to Dana McCauley who tweeted this.
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If you want to buy cheap wine at the LCBO, here’s some things to consider:
the wines that appear on these lists often tend to be the same year after year. The price changes, but the wines listed more or less are the same. The wines themselves are consistent too. Hey, these are not handcrafted wine! So a cheap wine list published in 2015 will likely have a list of wines you can still buy now, just with a different price and a different date.
Once these wine lists used to be “best wines under $10”, but that price ceiling is outdated now. Most cheap wines are over $10. There are still a few good ones, as the Toronto Star argues, but not many.
Once you get up into the $14-15 price point, head over to the Vintages section instead. Wines there generally are good at any price point, and you’ll get something better than the general section, imho.
These wine lists will hype up these cheap wines. Note: most of them are limited in quality. Not too much wine in the LCBO is Bad anymore. None of these will be Great either. Most cheap wine is pleasant and drinkable. Something to have at dinner or on an outing. They are not sophisticated. If you can’t taste all the notes of “peaches, nectarines, pears” mentioned in the lists, there’s a reason for that.
The “cheap” wines I’ve been drinking lately (under $15) have been Ontario Riesling. They go great with so many foods and are good value, I believe. If you want red, consider a Baco Noir. Many of them are fine and under $15.
If you have to go closer to $10, the best bets tend to still be Portugal, Italian and South African.
(Image linked to LCBO.com of a Californian Chard that just slips under $10)
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Posted onApril 22, 2022|Comments Off on Friday night cocktail: the negroni. A classic
I’ve become enamored with negronis these days! The 5 pound negronis at Brutto sealed the deal. The crimson cocktail has pushed aside a martini as my go to cocktail (though I still love a good martini, and a sazerac, and a G&T on hot days, and French 75s let’s not forget them).
Posted onApril 16, 2022|Comments Off on Coffee tourism: why coffee lovers should visit Toronto (and Torontonians should go to College St.)
For many years I’ve actually visited places partially because of my love of coffee. Really! I went to Vienna where the coffee was amazing and Costa Rica where it was less so*. I am sure there are many people like me who make good coffee a reason to visit a place.
If you are one of those coffee lovers, I recommend you visit Toronto. Just one street alone, College Street, has a wealth of diverse coffee shops to make you happy.
Posted onApril 8, 2022|Comments Off on Friday night cocktail: the white negroni (with thoughts on Brutto’s £5 negronis)
I’ve been enjoying negronis lately. If you have a chance to dine at Brutto’s in London like I did this month, you can even enjoy one of their £5 negronis at the start of your meal.
A classic negroni is a fine drink. If you want something unique, why not make this version? Like the classic, this one is also simple but delicious. See uncrate for the recipe.
P.S. New restaurants, if you want to get people into your place, be like Brutto and offer a small and low cost cocktail as a starter. You’ll get people talking about your place. “Did you hear X has a cheap Y cocktail?!” And you’ll get people who may never order a cocktail getting one because it is small. And small cocktails are good because people finish them fast and don’t feel rushed when the food comes out. Win win.
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Posted onApril 6, 2022|Comments Off on In praise of non-fancy French restaurants
When I used to think of French restaurants, I used to think “fancy”. Restaurants with nice table cloths, great lighting, complex dishes, and high prices. Places like Le Bernardin, Bouillon Bilk, Place Carmen, Maison (S.C.) and more. All fancy, all great and I love them.
While fancy French restaurants are good, I am here to praise non-fancy French restaurants. Restaurants with basic settings, everyday lighting, simple dishes (often bistro style), and relatively low prices. Sure, the cooking might not be as fancy, but it is still good and it satisfies the need I have for steak frites, moules, pate, croque monsieur, duck confit and inexpensive French wines.
I’ve been fortunate to go to many such places and have loved them. In London last week, I had charcuterie (shown above) at Le Beaujolais. A few weeks earlier I devoured a fine lunch at Fast and French in Charleston. Whenever I am in Montreal I try and dine at the justifiably famous L’Express. Closer to home, I’m a decade long diner of Le Paradis and for good reason. Finally, one of my all time favorite places to dine in Toronto is Cote du Boeuf. I was delighted this weekend to savour their oysters, pate, steak frites and duck confit. Fantastic.
There are lots of inexpensive restaurants that serve great Italian and Indian and Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. I love them. I wish there were as many places as those serving everyday French cooking. That would be heaven for me.
Let me know your favorite non-fancy French restaurants. I will add them to my list.
P.S. If you go to Le Beaujolais, get that charcuterie. You will need at least 3 hungry diners. At Fast and French, get the soup and sandwich and wine combo: it’s incredible value. L’express has too many good dishes to mention, but I love the ravioli, though many are big fans of the bone marrow. Le Paradis has great shellfish. Also cheap cocktails: I love their sazerac. The meat at Cote du Boeuf is incredibly good. I try to order many things there, but the steak frites is irresistable.
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Salt and Lavender: S&L is not a recipe, but a web site. I have been enjoying cooking many of the recipes there. One thing I love about their recipes is how much they embrace cream! Give the web site a visit. So many good rich dinners, perfect for winter. Here’s two recipes from it to give you a sense of what it’s like: Mushroom Stroganoff and Easy Smothered Pork Chops and Gravy. Break out the heavy cream and enjoy!
Chicken: I have been making a ton of chicken recently. More than what is represented here. These are some I wanted to try:
Beef: unlike chicken, I have been making less beef lately. Which is weird because I tend to make it more in the winter. I still love beef, and I’d love to try some of these. Some are fancy, some are basic:
What could be a more appropriate cocktail for a pandemic than the penicillin? Medicinal it may not be, but it’s a perfect mix to get you through a wintry Friday. Uncrate has the prescription, here: Penicillin Cocktail Recipe | Uncrate
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Posted onDecember 24, 2021|Comments Off on Some thoughts on wine in Ontario after shopping for it in the US
Recently I have spent some time in Charleston, S.C. and enjoying many things about that city, including their wine options. These options have given me some insight into wine options in Ontario and has reshaped my thinking of what I am getting.
Before the pandemic, the way I bought wine was through the LCBO. If I wanted something special, I’d buy it from LCBO’s Vintages section vs the general section. When the pandemic hit, I could buy wine from nearby restaurants as well as other local distributors. I was glad to have wines options that were varied and weren’t too expensive.
However, as restaurants have been allowed to open, I’ve noticed their bottle prices outside the LCBO have increased. During the pandemic, I could find such wines for 20-40 dollars easily. Now the prices have all shot back up to what you pay in a restaurant. That may be good for the restaurants, but it’s disappointing for me.
That’s Ontario. Really, Toronto. In contrast, when in Charleston I could visit a number of wine shops that had lots of great wine around $20. Even with exchange rates, that was good. And these shops were as common as LCBOs in Toronto.
The other thing I noticed was that much of the US wine in the Vintages section of the LCBO is “supermarket” wine. I was under the impression that American wine in the LCBO was hard to find wine, but really it is stuff you can find in any store.
That got me thinking: is most of the wine in Vintages simply basic wine made everywhere in the world? Perhaps it is. That doesn’t make it bad: it just makes it everyday.
I think the LCBO still has a great selection in many ways. But I also wish there was another retail option like those in Charleston where I could get small scale wine that is good and affordable.
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Posted onDecember 23, 2021|Comments Off on How to easily buy wine as a gift at the LCBO
You want to buy wine for a gift at the LCBO. Maybe you know nothing about wine. Maybe you only know a little bit. Unless you know a lot, here’s what I recommend. It’s simple.
Go into your local LCBO. Ask for where the Wines of the Month are. Buy as many of those as your budget allows. That’s it.
You can also go to the web site and look for Vintages New Releases. Once on that page, look for Explore our featured products and click on it. Then look for Wines of the Month. Easy peasy.
What’s great about this is you can be sure those wines are very good and carefully selected by staff at the LCBO. Not only that, but most of the time they are around twenty bucks. Want to spent $40? Buy two bottles. If you want to spend over a $100, you can consider getting a half case or more. Or mix in a bottle of champagne: you can’t go wrong with that.
If you know what the person likes, then you can buy that. If you know wine, then you should pick what you think is best. Otherwise, follow this and you won’t go wrong.
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Posted onDecember 17, 2021|Comments Off on Friday night (festive) cocktails: the negroni*
You might exclaim: Bernie, a negroni is not a festive cocktail! True, by itself it’s a classic cocktail, good year round. But if you riff on it, like Food52 has done here, Winter Negroni Recipes for the Holidays, then it becomes a drink to have at this time of year. A perfect sip while wrapping presents or watching holiday specials.
For more on their apple negroni and mulled wine negroni, click on that link.
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For the last month I’ve been drinking coffee prepared in a French press and I’m enjoying it immensely. Based on this, I am not the only one: The Best Ways To Make Coffee, According To Our Editors in Chatelaine. While there are a few ways they like to make their coffee, the French press came up a number of times. I’m not surprised. While I love drip coffee makers, the press makes a satisfyingly strong brew and may convince me to make it my main way to intake caffeine in the morning.
If you want to get one but not sure how to go about using it, Illy has good advice here.
During the pandemic there was a number of great pop-up restaurants that appeared in my neighborhood. Perhaps yours too. It was one of the few good things during all the lockdowns. I was especially glad to wander down to the Dai-lo popup on Yonge near Davisville that served a small menu (4-6 items) of delicious Asian food in a coffee shop that was available for them in the evenings. Sadly, it’s gone now, but it was great while it lasted.
Well worth reading, especially if you love pop-ups or thought of running your own. My naive self thinks: oh, it would be fun to have such a place. I have just enough sense to know it might be fun, but it would not be a lark and it would definitely be a lot of hard work to be successful.