Earlier in the year I wanted to do something with a bottle of Mezcal Agua Santa which was recommended to me by a friend of mine over the often more expensive and celebrity endorsed options in the LCBO . What made the story even better is that the founder of this Mezcal, Carmen Marron, lives in Toronto and tells a great story of moving to Canada from Mexico and the perseverance needed to get such a difficult business off the ground. It’s a stellar example of a female immigrant’s passionate entrepreneur spirit and you can taste her Mexican pride with every sip. For a cocktail, my mind wandered to some take on a margarita. To me, Mezcal is the scotch of the white spirits, offering a unique smoky flare to a drink similar to what a peaty single malt might do in a something like a “penicillin”.
I’ll be honest on this one….I relied on google to try and find a Hip song what would complement my use of mezcal. Even worse is the fact that I did a search by simply typing Mexican and the Hip in the search engine. The top result was “The Completists” which is a rather short and mellow song in the middle of the Music @ Work album. Specifically, there’s a few lines in the song which reference Mexican pot and a desert so that worked for me.
Like scotch, with Mezcal a little goes a long way. Quite often a Mezcal margarita or sour will be paired with its cousin tequila to temper a bit of the smokiness. I also think a pinch of salt is a must for most mezcal cocktails..that smoky salt combination is incredible. I didn’t sway too much from a traditional margarita this time but used orange juice instead of simple/agave syrup and added some Angelica bitters for good measures.
1 oz tequila blanco
0.5 oz mezcal
0.5 oz triple sec
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz lime
2-3 drops of angelica or mole bitters (I used Dillon’s)
Dash of salt
Add everything except salt into a shaker and shake with ice. Poor into a rocks glass with ice and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Garnish with cucumber or lime.
I’ll admit that this is not my most creative concoction but things like a margarita don’t really need a lot of shake up (pardon the pun). That said, it goes well with my less than creative pairing with a Hip song…but I don’t want to sound defeated.
You lured me with your bad intentions You lured me with your Mexican pot You lured me with desert dimensions You lured me a lot.
The Completists- Music @ Work , The Tragically Hip
When thinking about Hallowe’een cocktails, a couple the songs from the Tragically Hip’s EP make for great names. Who doesn’t want to prowl the streets at night howling at the moon with I’m a Werewolf, Baby blasting through the headphones. Cemetery sideroad also provides an ideal inspiration for diabolical use of evil spirits. Both concepts are also congruent with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, so I was inspired in that sense as well.
For the I’m a Werewolf, Baby, I wanted to use Reposado tequila not only for Mexican flare but also for the gold/brown colour which seems in line with something one might associate with a hairy beast. In addition, I like the smoothness of this tequila and would argue it’s one of the few boozes where the darker version is a bit tamer than the light. Sticking with this hairy Hallowe’een hue, I mixed with Jarrito’s tamarind soda along with some Dillon’s Mole bitters and lime juice for balance. This was also an opportunity to use up a bit of my huge flask of my Dillon’s grenadine which added a seasonal sanguine touch.
I’m a Werewolf, Baby!
1.5-2 oz of Reposado tequila (I used Espolon)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
2-3 drops of Dillon’s Mole Bitters
Jarritos Tamarind Soda
Grenandine (I used Dillon’s)
Ideally, add tequila, lime and bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 10-15 sec. Add to a highball class with ice and top with the soda. Garnish with a lime wheel and bloody it up with grenadine. Alternatively, you can add the tequila, lime and bitters to the glass and stir then add the soda and garnish accordingly.
Public Service Announcement – Wash your damn hands!
I found this picture on a reddit feed as part of the washyourlyrics.com platform so make a drink, wash your hands and sing along.
For the cemetery sideroad, I wanted to stick with the Mexican theme put play on the sideroad so figured a spin on a traditional side car worked well. In the end, it might be explained as the love child of a sidecar and a margarita. I also liked the ability to use a little cognac to feel like a French foreign legion tramp. Since I had the Reposado out already, I used it as a base. I added the traditional sidecar ingredients, cognac and triple sec (which is also ideal in a margarita of course) along with some lime juice and a bit of maraschino juice for colour. Once again, grenadine is a great way to bloody things up, especially if you aren’t keen on eating somebody’s mother for dessert.
1 oz tequila (I used Reposado Espolon)
0.5 oz Triple Sec
0.5 oz Cognac
0.5 oz lime
2-3 drops mole bitters
splash of maraschino cherry juice (optional)
blood orange soda (optional)
Add all alcohol, lime, bitters and cherry juice to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 15-20 seconds. Pour into a coupe glass. Garnish with a dried lemon or orange wheel and bloody it up with grenadine. Top with a splash of blood orange soda if you want a less boozy taste.
I’m looking for a cemetery sideroad I’m screaming like a lighthouse lamp I’m chasing after what I think that I’m owed Like a French foreign legion tramp
I love honey and I think it goes great in a cocktail. I also wanted to take advantage of some fresh rosemary I had in the fridge so I boiled up an infused simple syrup. Using pear as the foundation (it also helped that I had some Dillon’s pear bitters kicking around), gin as my spirit and Fever Tree ginger beer as the mix, I dreamed up the “Honey, please”. This cocktail is a homage to the song from the 2009 “We are the Same” album. Gord Downie once described the song as being about somebody who makes you realize that everything you mean and feel is on the other side of this feeling. In other words, someone who can change your perspective and get you out of a rut when you need it. I guess you can say that booze does the same thing. It’s a particularly catchy Hip song partly because of Bobby Baker’s use of the mandolin which is reminiscent of an old Zeppelin tune mixed with Losing my Religion by R.E.M.
1.5-2 ounces gin (depending on strength preference)
0.5 ounce rosemary simple syrup
0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce pear nectar
Few dashes on Dillon’s Pear Bitters (optional)
0.25 ounces honey
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into a high-ball or collins glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
Honey, maybe everything you need Is on the other side of this feeling Honey, please
Almost every city, big or small, boasts a market and Napa is no different. Shortly after arriving in town, I headed down to the Oxbow Public Market to check it out and grab some lunch at the bib gourmand rated C Casa. Oxbow is a mid-sized indoor market with a combination of shops and restaurants. You can get anything from charcuterie to ice cream.
My biggest target at Oxbow was C Casa, a bib gourmand rated joint featuring unique tacos and other fusion Mexican fare. I was giddy in line in preparation for my $9 fresh crab taco. Sadly, the crustacean was not in stock and I had to resort to other options so I settled with the pork carnita tostada with white beans, corn relish, poblanos, micro greens, romaine, lime crema and cotija cheese ($5.75) and the rotisserie duck taco with spinach, red onion, goat cheese, oranges, cumin vinaigrette, avacado crema and cilantro ($8.00). These were expensive tacos so I was happy to see them arrive with a heaping pile of fillings. The pork tostada was a mess as there was no graceful way to eat it. The beans were such a smart addition and the crema was equally intelligent. The thought of duck and citrus was a little frightful but it worked reasonably well. It was less like a taco and more like a spinach salad on a tortilla. There is a good variety of local pints as well. Beer and tacos are a beautiful couple.
After barely finishing the Mexican monstrosities, I strolled around the rest of the market in complete awe. It was like an angel met me in my sleep and asked me “If you could build a market, what would be in it?”. My answer would be an oyster house, a spice shop, a kitchen gadget place, a butcher, charcuterie, ice cream and a fancy place where I could get bitters and shrubs to tinker with my own cocktails at home. Voila! That’s Oxbow Market. In particular, let me focus on the last place. I have gotten a little more experimental with my homemade potent potables and my struggle has been the inability to find bitters outside of the standard angostura. Many of the Toronto bars brag about walnut, green tea, cherry bourbon and other fancy additions to their old fashioneds and it pisses me off. The Napa Valley distillery has the largest variety of bitters I have ever seen. I was a kid in a candy store as I wandered around aimlessly thinking of the adultery I could commit but combining a number of these flavours with a bottle of Bulleit bourbon. Ironically, it was the first time I realized a significant number of the bitters were produced by Dillon’s, the Niagara distillery a mere 160 km away from my house.
Oh ya…they have a bunch of organic crap at Oxbow too.
If you go to Napa you most definitely should drink wine but you have to come here!!!!!! I have to admit knew nothing of the Oxbow market prior to my Napa visit. Once there, however, I entered this nirvana which contained all my vices under one roof. Although I didn’t indulge in every one, I got to sip pints, eat tacos, taste bitters, smell spices, stare at striploins and sleep well afterwards. C Casa was probably deserving of bib gourmand status but did not serve the best taco I ever had (and they didn’t have crab). They were busy and overfilled but had good flavour. For any foodie, I highly recommend a dreamy wander through Oxbow Public Market. Although C Casa made me a little crabby, I’ll save my bitterness for Dillon’s on Tufford road in good old Beamsville, Ontario.
A second visit to the Beverley Hotel was warranted since the first time I went it was quite early in the restaurant’s existence. Since then the menu has expanded but continues to mix modern food trends with some old style go-to dishes.
Last time I dropped by for a late lunch, sat in the front and did the burger and kale ceasar salad. Both are still available although slightly modified, likely based on seasonal availability (for example watermelon has diappeared from the burger likely since it is a little more palatable in later summer vs late autumn). This time I dropped by for dinner and a couple of cocktails and was seated in the back. I really like the Beverley’s ambiance. There is ample seating and table space within a classy yet trendy ambiance. I was quickly greeted by a pixie of a waitress; a friendly lass who buzzed around the room like a colourful hummingbird. As the night went on there were a few times I thought she flew away though because she was a bit absent. She offered a cocktail from a list ranging from $12-14. Since gin is usually my poison of choice and I can’t turn anything with any part of an egg in it, the “Jane Doe, I loved you so”seemed the obvious choice with gin, brûléed pear, honey-ginger num-num, fresh lemon juice,egg white and orange bitters. It sounded fancier than it tasted but still hit the spot.
Perhaps the waitress had put me in the mood to luau because I was partial to the seared ahi tuna poke. It was quite the Hawaiian adventure from the coconut cream to the pineapple to the taro chips. The only thing missing was a lei and a witty line from Scott Caan. For $12, it was a nice snack. The tuna had a good sear and the supporting ingredients provided a blend of heat and acid and an array of textures.
The week before I went here I was in Montreal indulging on Chuck Hughes’ iron chef winning lobster poutine so I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Beverley’s surf and turf offering. It violated the standard rules of poutine; hollandaise instead of gravy and the normally gooey cheese curd was fried to a crisp amongst the mound of potatoes. There was lots of surf and even more turf in the form of chunky lobster claw and tender beef short rib respectively. It was a mess…..a yummy, tasty mess. The fries, often overlooked in favour of the supporting ingredients may have been dug out of a magic garden (watered daily by my waitress no doubt) because they were golden delicious.
I love pork,I love beans,I love fried eggs and I love sausage so the pork and beans were an easy choice. Pork and beans are one of those dishes that can be so simple but so easy to screw up. The pork belly was terrific…check. The beans were tender…check. The egg, although a little crispy around the edges, had a soft, runny yolk which just makes magic. The sausage was decent although not really necessary. The sauce passed the test although it seemed a bit heavy on the cumin (a fact I don’t really mind).
The big pasta was…well…a big bowl of pasta. I’ll be the first to admit I would fail an aptitude test involving matching pasta shapes to their names and couldn’t get the image of a smurf hunting wizard out of my head when I read garganelle. So, I did what every other self-righteous blogger would do and googled it while pretending to check the weather forecast for the walk back to the hotel (hey..admitting it is the first step). Anyway, garganelle look like huge penne. Visually, the big pasta was a big mess. Taste wise, it was decent. The meatball was tasty and the Sunday gravy (an Italian chunky tomato sauce not to be mistaken with my British Isles understanding of Sunday gravy as being lumps of flour mixed with what little liquid is left after a horribly overcooked cut of roast) was a little sweet. The pasta flirted with being overdone but passed the test. In the end, it was tasty but just a little limp.
During the meal I had to succumb to rather dapper barkeep’s power of persuasion. Stout, cognac and egg white have no business being combined in the same drink. No wonder it’s called Weird Dreams. Although I can’t say it lived up to it’s promise, it was an oddly tasty concoction.
I finished the night doing something I rarely do…sip an ounce of gin. The waitress had asked if I’ve tried Dillon’s gin which is the product of a small distillery in the Niagara region. I hadn’t heard of it but was curious to see how it would stack up against the gin makers from the same country that scarred my love for Sunday gravy. It was an incredibly smooth gin. Last year there was a bottle of Bombay under the tree for me…this year I’m hoping for Dillon’s. Perhaps I can speak to my waitress because I’m pretty sure she works at Santa’s workshop on her day off.
The Beverley hotel promises to fill the void between the wild, wild Queen Street West and the stuffy confines of the Yonge Street strip and for the most part it succeeds. Like the decor, it has a menu that’s classy but trendy. I still remain fascinated by the staff who have all the attributes to star in a good sitcom. On this particular night, the Phoebe Buffay of the cast was more than happy to make sure my water glass was full. She was sweet but a bit scattered….kind of like the big pasta doused in Sunday gravy.