It’s been a busy 7 days.
Last Monday (November 7) I attended the 2011 Canadian Culinary Book Awards gala ceremony with Christine Cushing as MC. Eighty-two entries in six categories in two languages were entered this year. Each category awarded a silver and a gold. Prior to the event I interviewed nominee, and subsequent winner, Sarah Elton for a feature piece that I’m writing for Bamboo Magazine. I read Locavore shortly after it was published and my copy is well bookmarked and annotated with sticky notes. Congratulations to Sarah and all the other gold and silver winners.
Full list of winners here.
After the event my editor offered dropped me off near a convenient bus route. Convenient bus stop was also conveniently two blocks from The Drake, so I stopped into the regular Monday night 86’d event for a drink and a visit. I mention this only because I left my phone there, and if I hadn’t left my phone there my Tuesday evening wouldn’t have unfolded as it did, and it was sort of life changing.
When I got home I tweeted about my phone to alert my friends there. Scott, owner of Toronto’s best food tour The Culinary Adventure Company, took it with him. We planned to meet up at The Fuel House, a new bar in Little Italy that had opened the day prior, right after work so that I could get it back. Finding the Fuel House closed on Tuesday, Scott decided that he was going to take me to Toronto Temperance Society. He’s a member. Like other “members-only” bars (“speakeasy”, if you prefer), it’s behind an unmarked door, above a restaurant. Unless you know it’s there, you wouldn’t. The website has no address (though Yelp does, which I fear affects the mystique). If you know New York, you might know Milk & Honey. Same idea. There is a list of cocktails, a list of rules (my favourites: “No one under 25 is permitted unless accompanied by an adult.”, “Do not ever attempt to order a cosmopolitan. You will be asked, politely, to leave.”) and knowledgeable bartender who likes to experiment. Oliver took good care of us. I’d forgotten that months ago, after a visit to The Harbord Room, I decided that I need to get into cocktails. By “get into”, I mean “develop appreciation for, learn about, drink”.
There are times you want to get drunk and times you want to enjoy a cocktail. I don’t think that cocktails are meant for the former. If you want drunk, drink cheap beer, shots, wine, whatever. Cocktails tend to be pricier and strong and meant to be sipped and savoured. As a friend once put it regarding Bar Chef‘s cocktails: They’re not cheap (I’ve seen $13 and I’ve seen $45) but you take your time with it, so it’s (relatively) not expensive at all. In the time it takes to drink two or three beers you can have one cocktail and the price will be the same or cheaper, then you’re done. Personally, I think it’s disrespectful to the bartender – some of whom are artists who utilize drink ingredients as their medium – and the cocktail to drink it quickly rather than savoring it. There’s a whole other blog post right there.
After one I was buzzed. After two I told Oliver that I was done. He wasn’t letting me get off so easy. When I mentioned that there’s only one Manhattan in the city I’ve ever liked (I’ve tried two, but the other one was made by one who’s rumoured to be one of the best bartenders in the city) he insisted on mixing me a half size. “Challenge accepted!”, as Barney Stinson would say. I did enjoy it. Oliver does good work.
On to L.A.B, and Salt Wine Bar, both places at which I declined drinks because I neither wanted to become sloppily drunk nor hungover, then home and in bed by 11. I’ve been a legal drinker for over a dozen years (legal age in Ontario is 19). Somehow it’s taken me this long to realize that a good night’s sleep, 9 hours in this case, prevents hangovers. Instead I got the non-alcohol related headache and nausea the next day as soon as the rain began. I’m one of those people.
On Wednesday evening I attended farmer/author Joel Salatin’s talk and book signing at Evergreen Brick Works. He recently published a new book, Folks, this ain’t normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World and at the event he discussed his mission to bring normalcy back our lives and food followed by a Q & A. Some of the farmers that I buy from were there, as well as an array of food activists, food writers and food producers. Cafe Belong supplied ginger cookies, Merchants of Green Coffee supplied coffee, Monforte Dairy supplied cheese. Humourous, astute (though with a bit of “kids these days!” ranting that may seem cantankerous to some) and inspiring with action items for change at the end of each chapter, I’m working through the book now.
Thursday morning, it was off to New York. Some of my new friends are anxiously awaiting (likely not) to see if I’ve mentioned them in my blog. You, my friends, will have to come back.
And now I go seek brunch in New York…