Category Archives: food

Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty!

birthdaybeerIt’s my birthday today. The Big Four-Oh. I guess I’m supposed to be starting my mid-life crisis now – or does that start at 50 nowadays?

Like most big events in the Clow-Kirby household, it’s being celebrated fairly quietly. Friday night, we got together with Joann and Rodger, a lovely older couple who we’ve gotten to know over the last couple of years at Harvest Wednesdays, a series of dinners and tastings at the Gladstone Hotel where they and we are regulars. They both work at the Royal Ontario Museum, so they gave us a quick tour of a couple of current exhibits featuring diamonds and gemstones (oooh, sparkly!), and then we went for dinner at Dynasty, a nearby Chinese restaurant. The food was good, albeit about twice as expensive as a similar meal would be over on Spadina, but that’s Yorkville for ya.

Last night, it was dinner at beerbistro which is always a treat, birthday or not. We started with duck confit corn dogs and blonde ale veggie pakoras, followed by an astoundingly huge serving of rabbit & bacon fettucine for Sheryl, and the succulent applewood-smoked suckling pig special for the birthday boy, washed down with the always enjoyable Durham Hop Addict IPA. Manager Dayna somehow found out that it was my birthday (oh, alright, I bragged about it on the way in…) and sent over a bomber of Lagunitas Imperial Stout for us to enjoy with our dessert of flourless chocolate cake – but wait, before the cake arrived, chef Brian stopped by to see if we’d like to try something he’d been “playing around with”: foie gras cured in Rochefort 6 served with a banana-cherry chutney. Well, twist our rubber arms, and ohmifrickingod, best foie gras EVAR!!!

Today, it was brunch at The Beaver, one of our favourite little brunch spots in the ‘hood, and tonight, dinner and drinks with my usual beer drinkin’ posse at The Rhino, the best beer bar within staggering distance of our apartment.

Yeah, I guess 40 is turning out to be pretty OK so far…


Don’t Put That In Your Mouth, You Don’t Know Where It’s Been!

Catching up on some blog reading recently, I came across posts from Jay Brooks and Stephen Beaumont regarding The Omnivore’s 100, a list of 100 food items – some really weird, some not so much – that bloggers are supposed to post their blogs, bolding items that they’ve eaten and crossing out items that they’d never consider eating.

Since I ate bull testicles (which are notably missing from this list, I might add) for the first time last week, I thought it would be fun to find out my results:

Homer has eaten #46 on the list, but I have not.

Homer has eaten #46 on the list, but I have not.

  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile *
  6. Black pudding
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho
  13. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses
  17. Black truffle
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Steamed pork buns
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Foie gras
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
  33. Salted lassi
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float
  36. Cognac with a fat cigar **
  37. Clotted cream tea
  38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
  39. Gumbo
  40. Oxtail
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects
  43. Phaal
  44. Goat’s milk
  45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $60/$120 or more
  46. Fugu
  47. Chicken tikka masala
  48. Eel
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer
  55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
  56. Spaetzle
  57. Dirty gin martini
  58. Beer above 8% ABV
  59. Poutine
  60. Carob chips
  61. S’mores
  62. Sweetbreads
  63. Kaolin ***
  64. Currywurst
  65. Durian
  66. Frogs’ legs
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  68. Haggis
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. Louche absinthe
  74. Gjetost, or brunost
  75. Roadkill
  76. Baijiu
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie ****
  78. Snail
  79. Lapsang souchong
  80. Bellini
  81. Tom yum
  82. Eggs Benedict
  83. Pocky
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
  85. Kobe beef
  86. Hare
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shell crab
  93. Rose harissa
  94. Catfish
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
  100. Snake

* It was actually alligator. But close enough.

** Never been much of a congac drinker, but back when I occasionally smoked cigars, I’d often pair one with a nice bourbon or big, peaty single malt scotch. So again, close enough.

*** I had to look this one up. According to Wikipedia, Kaolin is a mineral which was “the active substance of anti-diarrhea medicine Kaopectate” until the early 1990s. I can’t remember if I used Kaopectate before that point or not, so I’ll count it as half.

**** I don’t think Hostess Fruit Pies were ever available in Canada, as we had a different Hostess company up here that made potato chips. But I ate plenty of Vachon snack pies and cakes as a kid, which was sort of the Canadian equivalent. I’ll take a half-point here as well.

So my total is 80 out of 100. Not bad! And none of the remainder that I’d absolutely never try. (Well, roadkill isn’t exactly at the top of my “must try” list, but as Stephen said in his post, “you just never know”…)

The Very Beery Month Of May

Wow, nearly a month since my last post. That’s a long time, even for an irregular and inconsistent blogger like myself. Lotsa things have been keeping me busy – in fact, looking back at my social calendar for the last month, you could say that I’ve just been too busy drinking good beer (+ other things) and eating great food to write about any of it…

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Beer Steps Up To The Gourmet Plate

Since starting Taste T.O. early last year, Sheryl and I have been going to a good number of gourmet food events, and as you’d expect, the vast majority of them feature wine as the beverage of choice, with the beer choices (if there even are any) often limited to one or two mainstream offerings. So I was pretty stoked a few weeks ago when I found out about the Brewers Plate, a gourmet tasting event pairing (mostly) local food from some of Toronto’s top chefs with beers from some of the area’s best craft breweries, all in support of Green Enterprise Toronto.

The event took place this past Friday, April 11th at the picturesque Berkeley Church, and was a success on pretty much all levels, from the quality of the food and drink, to the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. I’m going to be writing up a full report for the summer issue of TAPS, but in the meantime, here are links to a few write-ups that have been posted by others elsewhere:

Sheryl @ Taste T.O.
Joshua @ blogTO
Troy @ Great Canadian Pubs & Beer
Christine @ Canadian Living: The Foodie-File

Some photos (most taken by Sheryl, ’cause I’m a klutz with the camera) are available behind the cut.

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Beer & BBQ: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

As I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past, I was a pescetarian until a few months ago. I had been so for a number of years, not because I have a problem with animals dying for human consumption per se, but because I have a lot of issues with the factory farming industry that produces most of the meat consumed in North America. (OK, there was also the fact that my wife dropped meat from her diet before I did and stopped cooking it for us, and since I’m a lousy cook, it seemed easiest just to give it up as well.)

Earlier this year, however, I decided to start eating meat again for a number of reasons. I won’t go into all of them here, but I will admit that at least some of it was due to me quite simply having cravings for meat more and more often. I nearly caved a couple of times, and then finally fell off the wagon when I was given the opportunity to attend a Brooklyn Brewing dinner at beerbistro back in February where the menu featured many delicious meaty courses.

Since then, I’ve been eating meat on an occasional basis, most often at dinners or events that I’m invited to attend via Taste T.O. or Bar Towel. One of the most recent of these was a lunch earlier this week at Steam Whistle Brewery featuring the succulent creations of Canada’s reigning Grand BBQ Champions, Team Cedar Grilling. Consisting of Steve Adams, Daryl Maybanks and Mike Adams, the Team Cedar trio are a non-profit team who depend on sponsorship to defray their travel and equipment costs (although the $6500 they won a couple of weeks ago probably helps as well – congrats, guys!). Hence their partnership with Steam Whistle who not only hosted this little media get-together, but who also have their beer featured in several of the Team’s recipes.

Held on Steam Whistle’s sunny patio just south of the CN Tower, the lunch started with Cedar Planked Garlic Shrimp with Asiago Gratin served to us right off the planks. There were also an array of salads available, but as we started spooning them on to our plates, one of the guys shouted over that we’d better not eat too much as there was a lot more to come from the grill.

Like, for example, their award winning Parrot Sticks. These are chicken wings that are stretched to their full length and skewered, resulting in a sort of wing-meets-kebab thing that looks kinda funny but tastes damn good, especially when dipped in the accompanying Steam Whistle Chicken Sauce.

Of course, what we really wanted to try were the ribs, and when they finally made it off the grill, they didn’t disappoint. Prepared using the team’s Steam Whistle BBQ Sauce recipe, they were juicy and tender and bone-sucking good. So good, in fact, that they made the Pulled Pork Sandwiches that followed almost anti-climatic. Which is too bad, because the meat itself was possibly the best pulled pork I’ve ever had, it was just let down a bit by the doughy supermarket style bun it was served on and the odd inclusion of cole slaw on the sandwich. Still, I ended up finishing it even though my stomach was threatening to explode from the previous courses and the couple of beers I’d already put back.

Speaking of the beer – as you’d expect, Steam Whistle Pilsner was the only beer option. This beer/brewery gets a lot of flak from the beer geek community due to the fact that it’s a fairly simple, straight-forward, crowd-pleasing lager. But I’ve defended them in the past, and will continue to do so now. Sure, it’s a simple beer, but it’s also a very well-made and refreshing one, and if you drink it cool and fresh – such as the less-than-a-week-old bottles we were served to us at the brewery – it’s a perfect accompaniment to eating some killer BBQ on a warm patio.

For those in Toronto, Team Cedar Grilling will be appearing at the Fort York BBQ Championships on Sept. 14-16. If you’re a fan of the swine and the smoke, you should definitely plan to be there.

Book Review: Grilling With Beer by Lucy Saunders

Grilling With Beer
by Lucy Saunders
F&B Communications, 224 pp.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a manly man. I don’t care much for any sports besides hockey, I don’t own any power tools besides a simple drill set, and I don’t have any interest in cars (in fact, I don’t even have a driver’s license).

The one manly pursuit I do enjoy, however, is barbecuing. At our previous place, my wife and I had use of a large backyard with a great deck, and we invested in a decent quality gas grill. While my wife is a fabulous cook, she always let me man the grill (even though she actually did all the prep work), and even during our years of being almost-vegetarians, we still did up some great grilled fish and veggies once in a while. Last year, we moved into our current yard-less and balcony-less apartment, which meant leaving the BBQ behind. I sort of missed it last summer, and now that I’ve started eating meat again, I’m really missing it.

Rubbing salt in the wound was the recent unexpected arrival of a review copy of Grilling With Beer by American food and beer writer Lucy Saunders. If only this book existed 5 or 6 years ago when I was at the top of my grilling game and getting more and more interested in exploring different beers – I would’ve been in beer & BBQ heaven! Sigh.

Still, even as a member of the unfortunately grill-free set, this is a great book to own. Logically arrayed into 10 main chapters – 5 covering sauces, glazes, marinades, rubs and other basic BBQ condiments, and 5 covering various meats/seafood and sides – Grilling With Beer features well over 100 recipes to match everyone’s tastes (yes, even vegetarians – the recipes for Grilled Herbed Hazelnut Flatbread, Brined Grilled Eggplant, and Grilled Potato Salad all look delicious). And thankfully for kitchen klutzes like me, most of them are pretty simple as well, with clearly written ingredient lists and instructions.

Saunders has also brought a lot of her friends to the party, and features recipes from such beer cuisine luminaries as Brian Morin (beerbistro), Gary Marx (Pike Brewing), Mario Gongora (Marin Brewing) and Scott McGlinchey (Q Real American Food). Also pitching in are the Jason & Todd Alström of, who provide convincing argument for grilling with beer (in case you needed one) in their preface, and the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson, who explains why Saunders is pretty much the best person in the world to have written this book.

Making this book even more of a treat are the segments between the chapters. Written by Saunders and other beer scribes such as Anne Ausderau, Dan Rabin and Jay Brooks, these interludes provide profiles of festivals and events that feature craft beer and grilled/barbecued food, ranging from the New Mexico’s Rio Rancho Pork & Brew and a BBQ Oyster Fest in San Andreas, to events in such exotic locales as Hawai’i, Australia and New Zealand. And as if that weren’t enough, writer and brewer Stan Hieronymus gives some tips on pairing beers with the dishes that the book helps you prepare, and Saunders wraps things up with a list of mail order resources for all of your grilling needs, and a fantastic run down on the flavour profiles of various beer styles.

And it would be remiss not to mention how visually attractive the book is. The spot illustrations and font choices give it a slightly retro look (although not to the point of parody, like so many faux-retro cookbooks that are on the market), and the event profiles feature some nice photos, as do a number of the recipes. All in all, it’s a slick little package.

Like most self-published books, the best way to get your hands on a copy of Grilling With Beer is directly from the author. Mail order instructions can be found on the book’s website,, as well as at Saunders’ main site, If you prefer the in-person method and live in Toronto, there’s a good chance that she’ll have some copies for sale at beerbistro this coming Tuesday, July 10th when she’s there to present a special dinner as part of the restaurant’s month long American Beer & Barbecue Fest.

Sick in Seattle 2: The Nausea Continues

As previously reported, I was struck down by a bug of some sort during my trip to Seattle. It started on Saturday morning, when I woke up with what I thought was a mild hangover from my Friday night outing. It seemed unlikely since I really didn’t have that much to drink, but combined with a bit of jet lag, it was a possibility.

After some ibuprofen, coffee and a light breakfast, things weren’t getting any better, so I decided to get out to see if some air would help. It was grey, damp and cool outside, but the fresh air still helped somewhat, so I hopped on a bus downtown to do some exploring.

My destination was Pike Place Market, a massive complex of food stalls, shops and restaurants that makes Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market look like a corner store in comparison. I spent more than 2 hours wandering around, and I’m sure that I didn’t see everything. I saw them throw some fish around at the Pike Place Fish Market, took a good whiff at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, had a tasty snack at Piroshky Piroshky, and avoided the bad hippy buskers in front of the original Starbucks.

Feeling a bit better after my morning constitutional, I decided that I was up for lunch at The Pike Pub & Brewery, a spacious brewpub located a block or so from the Market. I ordered up a sampler flight of a half-dozen beers, and found them all to be pretty solid examples of their respective styles. Well, except for the Weisse – it was kinda bland. But I particularly liked the XXXXX Stout, which had a lot of great coffee and chicory character, and hints of molasses and smoke.

Unfortunately, halfway through my lunch, things started rumbling around again, and I decided that it might be a good idea to head back to my hotel room and take a bit of a break before heading uptown to check out a couple more beer spots. But when things didn’t get any better in the gastro-intestinal department, plans for further outings were scrapped in favour of – well, just laying around feeling generally shitty, really.

So, that was my trip to Seattle. Half great, half lousy. Meh.

Menu For Hope III

While BB&B is mainly a beer blog, I do dabble in a bit of food-related posting (as the “Bites” in the name suggests). I’ve also started reading a number of food blogs recently, and many of them have featured posts in the last couple of days about a fundraising event called Menu For Hope.

The purpose of this annual event, which is being held for the third time this year, is best described by campaign director Pim Techamuanvivit on her blog Chez Pim:

To us Food Bloggers, food is a joy. On our blogs, we celebrate food as a delight or even an indulgence. Unfortunately, for many others who share our world do not share that privilege. For them, food is a matter of survival. This “Menu for Hope” is our small way to help.

The campaign involves a mass raffle that features prizes donated by dozens of food bloggers around the world, often with the participation of other culinary luminaries like bad-boy chef Anthony Bourdain and Toronto’s own Susur Lee. The money raised will be donated to the UN World Food Programme, which provides hunger relief for needy people worldwide.

If you’re interesting in getting involved, a full list of available prizes can be found at Chez Pim, while my fellow Canucks may be interested in seeing the list of prizes from Canadian bloggers, which is available in both English and Français at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict.

My one complaint about this thing is the complete lack of beer blogs being involved in the project. As the list hosted at Vinography attests, there are plenty of wine blogs contributing prizes, but none of my beery brethren are represented. I think we’ll have to do something about this in 2007…

Gourmet Food and Wine Expo

This past weekend, the wife and I went down to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo at the Toronto Convention Centre. It was our first time attending this annual event – we’d considered it in past years, but because we’re cheapasses, we were scared off by the relatively high admission charge. This year, however, we were armed with a 2-for-1 coupon and decided to give it a shot.

All in all, we were pretty underwhelmed. Sheryl has given her impressions in a post to TorontoBits, and I’m pretty much in agreement with her assessment. As she notes, there was a lot about the event that wasn’t particularly “gourmet” in nature. For example, the wine-in-a-bag pictured to the right certainly doesn’t say “gourmet” to me. And I was especially offended to see Bright Pearl amongst the food vendors, as the food I was served at their booth at the Taste Of Toronto festival back in September was high on the lost of the worst things I’ve ever put into my mouth.

That being said, we did manage to find a few palatable food options, even for finicky pescetarians like ourselves. The grilled sardines and fish cakes from Cataplana weren’t bad, and it’s hard to go wrong with oysters from Rodney’s (although the ones we were served could’ve been cleaned a bit better – nothing ruins a nice oyster more than grit between your teeth). But the highlight was definitely the sushi from EDO which was fresh and tasty, and one of the few food items on offer than wasn’t sitting in a steam tray for hours. Speaking of which: The other item available at the EDO booth was a small Kobe beef burger, but Kobe beef or not, anyone willing to plunk down 7 bucks for a burger that was cooked hours before and kept warm in a steam tray is a frickin’ idiot.

As for the liquids – well, as I’ve stated before, I’m really not much of a wine guy, so I walked past most of the wine booths with a mixture of confusion and fear. We did try a couple of wines that I liked, including this year’s Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais nouveau and some other red wine that made Sheryl feel all melty and fluttery. I also had some fantastic scotch that I completely forgot to write down the name of, but I recall being told that it was a private label release of an 8 year old Lagavulin that sells for about half the price of the regular stuff. It had been a long time since I’d had a scotch, and this reminded me of how much I enjoy it.

On the beer side of things, I started with some Christoffel Blond, a favourite of mine that was being served up the Rubaiyat import agency. At the Embrujo Flamenco booth, I tried a sample of Ambar, a fairly standard pale lager from Spain. And at Black Oak, our pal Ken was serving up this year’s batch of his seasonal Nutcracker Porter which was in fine form – rich and spicey, just how we like it.

The final verdict: This event may be great for wine lovers, but for the occasional wine drinker going more for the food and beer, it’s a disappointment. Especially if you’re paying the full admission price of 15 dollars, plus buying a stack of sampling coupons for a buck each and dropping 2 or 3 of them for each sample. It’s definitely not a cheap way to spend an afternoon.

The Land Of Chocolate

As news editor at The Bar Towel, I occasionally receive invitations to press events and launch parties around town, but generally they have something to do with beer. So I was surprised a couple of weeks ago when I was emailed an invite to the 6th Annual “Chocs-O-Fun” event presented by Ganong, a New Brunswick based chocolate maker that is Canada’s oldest candy company and one of the oldest family owned businesses in the country.

I wasn’t sure if I should RSVP, as I couldn’t really do much in the way of promoting Ganong via The Bar Towel. But when I mentioned it to the wife, her eyes lit up, and she immediately pitched it to Gremolata as a story idea. Helped by the fact that the event was also serving as a launch for Ganong: A Sweet History Of Chocolate – a beautiful book that documents the history of the company in words and pictures – the story was approved, so we could attend without feeling like freeloaders.

The event was held this past Thursday at the very swank Dominion Club at King & Yonge in downtown Toronto. Smartly dressed waiters floated around the room with plates of hors d’oeuvres, soothing jazz played in the background, and a large marble table was piled high with boxes and boxes of chocolates and fruit candies. Each attendee also received a swag bag on departure containing three boxes of various tasty Ganong treats.

There was also an open bar, but the beer selection was limited to the terrible trio of Blue, Canadian and Corona. Too bad, as a rich and roasty stout would’ve provided a great pairing for the chocolate bon-bons. In retrospect, we should’ve headed a block east to beerbistro afterwards and cracked open our gift bags to try a couple of pairings of our own. Ah well, I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with some good ones here at home…