Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pints and Po'Boys plus my general overview of the dining establishments in my neighbourhood


  Today I am going to blog about something totally different from all my other posts up until now, thus making this my first entry that is not directly about beer (I guess this falls under the “things” category in my blogs title). I am going to talk about a number of the places to eat in my neighbourhood.

  The Annex is a pretty safe bet when it comes to finding something to eat. There is a great selection of various cuisines on Bloor street between Spadina and Bathurst. Another thing to note is that there is no McDonnalds, KFC, Wendy’s or any other large fast food chain here (sorry Justen). Pizza Pizza is here but who doesn’t like a greasy slice of pizza every now and then.

  I want to start with the place that sparked my idea for this entry. Southern Accent is located on Markham St. in Mirvish village just west of Bathurst. They serve up some of the finest Cajun/Creole/Soul food in the city and have done so since 1984. The atmosphere is all New Orleans from the pictures on the wall to the mardi gras masks hung around the dining room. Aside from the d├ęcor the small things they offer accentuate the whole southern vibe. The cocktails they make, the music they play and things like bourbon tastings really make this place feel like a little piece of Louisiana.

  Aside form the charming aesthetics, the food can hold its own. The first time I went there was with my girlfriend and I had the prix fixe menu. It was superb with corn bread to start, their famous voodoo pasta as my main with a scoop of homemade ice cream for dessert. I decided then that I would be back. That last statement is a bit of an understatement. Since that day I have been there almost every Tuesday throughout the summer. Why Tuesday? Well, on Tuesday they serve what in my opinion is the best deal in the entire city.

   I present to you the Pint and a Po’boy. Every Tuesday they serve up Po’boy sandwiches a la carte with a pint of either Hoptical Illusion, Creemore or Dennisons Dunkel. These things are seriously addictive and come in shrimp, blackened chicken or tofu served on a fresh bun with lettuce, tomato and their Po’boy sauce. The best part about this is that its only $10. If you go with a couple friends get the calamari as an appetizer – it’s fantastic as well. For $15 including tip you can get a complete meal with a pint of beer. I don’t that this can be topped anywhere. Also, my neighbors and I have developed what you can call “regular” status and the staff are super nice and know exactly what we’re ordering as soon as they see us. Don’t worry though; if you’re not a regular they are still really nice.

  As for the rest of the Annex there are some gems here. Tonight I went to Jerk King for some spicy jerk chicken and rice and the chicken was cooked perfectly with tons of spice – I couldn’t be happier that we finally have a spot for jerk chicken here. If you like sushi you are in luck. There are more sushi places on Bloor between Sapdina and Bathurst then there are bars. It’s actually ridiculous sometimes. Sushi on Bloor is excellent, fast and priced very well – the only downside is that it is always super busy and you may have to wait a while for a table. Kayla and I opt for take out because we live so close and we don’t have to wait for a table that way. Wok In Wok Out has become another local favorite of ours. You pick out any rice or noodle, beef, chicken, pork or shrimp and whatever veggies you like and any of their homemade sauces and then they cook it up in front of you. It also comes in one of those Chinese food take out containers that look cool. Rounding out my list of favorites is Burrito Banditos. If the name isn’t a dead giveaway they make burritos and they make them well. It’s your standard burrito place – small, warm and loud but they make best burrito I have ever had.

  So that’s it if you have the chance to go to any of these places do it and tell them Pino sent you…..they will be confused but you will be fed well. Also stay away form Yummy B-B-Q because it is just awful. Also, I hope you are all enjoying Toronto Beer Week!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An evening with Dieu du Ciel! at Bar Volo


 While Toronto Beer Week is looming just around the corner, Bar Volo got things started a little early this past week. The brewers and founders of Dieu du Ciel! were in Toronto this week to officially celebrate the release of Dieu du Ciel! into the LCBO as part of their brewery feature. The Dieu du Ciel! crew were at various establishments in Toronto with fresh kegs of beer which include everything that is part of the release plus a bunch of other stuff. So, there were a bunch of meet and greets, a pub crawl and a brunch this afternoon at Beerbistro but last night was the main event - 10 kegs of Dieu du Ciel! alongside 2 Bar Volo/Biergotter collaboration casks.

  I got to Volo around 6 pm and things were running just a touch late so I mingled with the other beer geeks outside a little bit and met a bunch of people who I had only talked to on Bar Towel and Beer Advocate. Its nice to be able to put some faces to names (or online nicknames anyway).

  So we got in and got our sample tickets and programs and headed to the bar to sample some of the offerings. The first thing that I tried was Rigor Mortis, a Belgian style quad. It poured a deep caramel colour that was similar to a barley wine with a half-inch of tan head that started to leave lacing on the glass right away. It smelled similar to any Belgian quad with a forward presence of citrus and belgian yeast that left a lingering scent of alcohol in the back. It had a sweet malty taste up front with a little caramel present that was followed by a bitter yeast that complimented the sweet characters of this brew quite nicely. The mouthfeel was quite creamy with a medium to full body leaning more towards medium. This was very nice fresh and I feel that it could improve a great deal with some age on it. Another thing to note about this is that once it starts to warm the complexity really opens up here. Its going to be nice to see this on LCBO shelves in the coming months.

  After Rigor Mortis I decided that I wanted to try something hoppy and seeing that the fine people at Dieu du Ciel! brought an Imperial India Pale Ale this was a no brainer. Chaman looks very similar to Corne Du Diable, their regular IPA, from the colour to the head they were indentical on looks alone. They even smelled similar although Chaman has a little more of a pine scent to it. It tastes very, very malty up front and the hops don't reveal themselves until the finish. It is drinkable and in many ways very good but to me, personally, the ABV of 9.1% was very noticeable and overall fell short of my expectations.

  Now even though I was slightly let down by Chaman the next two offerings that I tried were fantastic. Aphrodite - this is the beer that due to label issues has not made it to LCBO shelves yet even though it was to be released as part of the feature. This cocoa vanilla stout pours a nearly jet black colour with a tan and white head on top. It smells strongly of vanilla bean and chocolate with coffee hanging around the back. The taste of this beer was unreal...I'm not kidding either. At first its all smoked vanilla, then chocolate and coffee and then vanilla again - and that is just in a single sip. It has a light body that is very milky and drinks like a dream. This stout is outstanding and will not last long once it makes its way into the LCBO.

  I also tried Grand Noirceur, a russian imperial stout that was described to me as Peche Mortel without all the coffee. Now let me just say that if you describe any beer to me  as similar to Peche Mortel I am going to be interested. It's jet black with a tan brownish head and smells of chocolate and coffee. The taste is all earthy chocolate with notes of coffee that come across in its finish. It is unbelievably balanced and very drinkable and the alcohol is hidden very well here. Overall a great imperial stout.

  This was a great night overall and anyone who was there will tell you the same. The beer was fantastic the atmosphere was great and the smoked meat sandwiches catered by Caplansky's were to die for. This is the kind of event you know is going to be amazing before you even get there. The best brewery in Montreal comes together with the best bar in Toronto - it doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wychwood-Wychcraft

  Alright now, slowly but surely the LCBO autumn ales are starting to surface at stores. Wychcraft is the second I have come across so far - the first did not warrant a review. I was moderately interested in trying this because I like Hobgoblin and Black Wych, both of which are made by Wychwood. That being said, Wychcraft is a blonde ale with an ABV of 4.5%, lets do this.

  Wychcraft pours a deep golden colour that is quite pale with a slight head that retained only for a short period of time. A sweet caramel scent is present right away followed by a bitter hop presence at the end. The taste is very straight forward for the style. There is a sweet malt flavour that is at the forefront of the profile followed by hints of corn and a slight bitterness that does not overwhelm the refreshing qualities of this ale. It has a thin to medium body and mouthfeel that leaves a little to be desired. It drinks fairly easy though.

  Overall its good but not great. It reminded me of Budweiser or any other similar lager with the noticeable corn taste to it. To be honest I would not buy this again - for $3.45 you can get something far better than this. I would still say this is worth trying though, but do it soon because it would be most enjoyable while the weather is still kind of warm because of its light and refreshing qualities.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Derniere Volonte

  So, this is the first beer that I am going to review from the Dieu du Ciel! LCBO release. This is made in the Belgian abbey pale ale style which is similar to Leffe or Affligem. This is one of my favorite beer styles so to say that I was happy when I saw that this was going to be available in Ontario is an understatement.
  It pours a hazy orange colour with a decent head that pancakes on top of the beer for the entire time. The nose has a lot going on here. Green apple, citrus and a floral scent are front and center here followed by the familiar aroma of Belgian yeast. The taste is a little hoppier than most beers of this style - not a bad thing though. The citrus comes through again here followed by a clean grassy finish. Lots of carbonation in this one but still very smooth.
  Overall I was quite happy with this one and I will most certainly have it again. Like most of the offerings from Dieu du Ciel! it is very unique in its take on the style. A very solid Belgian pale ale that you should pick up while they are still available.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chimay Triple

  Ok, so, its been a while. But the important thing is that I'm back on track here. Now I'm going to use this post to review a beer that I have only tried once before and it was a while ago, so, this time I'm going to do it properly. Chimay is brewed by trappist monks in Belgium and their beers are regarded as world class and are among the most sought out beers in the world.
  This golden Triple is a prime example as to why Chimay has earned their reputation. It pours a pale gold colour leaving a cloud of head on top that is so white that it almost looks too perfect. It smells of yeast up front followed by strong notes of banana and citrus fruit. A very aggressive nose on this beer, very inviting. The taste is phenomenal -the yeast comes through immediately followed by all those sweet notes that are present in the nose with a hint of warming alcohol in the finish.
  The complexity of this beer is nothing short of mind blowing. At 8% ABV the alcohol is very well hidden here, this could be dangerous over time. Great mouthfeel, medium bodied and quite creamy.
  Overall this is near perfect, very little room for improvement here. Chimay Grand Cru (blue) is still my favorite from them but I will keep this in steady rotation. Highly recommended.