Big Lew devours Canada
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 15, 2006
(Last week, we followed Cold, Hard Football Facts sud stud Lew Bryson as he cut the barbed wire, overcame the land mines and tank traps and forced his away into a strange land called Canada. After breaching this heavily fortified international border, Lew proceeded to devour the entire city of Toronto, which he describes in great detail in today's contribution.)
By Cold, Hard Football Facts sud stud Lew Bryson
After our night at beerbistro, I got up late the next morning, did some e-mail and writing, then met up with John Hansell, my pal from Malt Advocate, around 11 a.m. Energized by last night's little appetizer, the feast was on.
We walked out into the bitter wind and headed toward Lake Ontario. After a look at one of the city's better liquor stores, we walked back to the St. Lawrence Market, where our beer buddy Steve Beaumont had recommended a peameal sandwich at Carousel Bakery. "It's the iconic peameal," he said, referring to the sandwich's status in Toronto: it's like hot dogs in New York, or beef on weck in Buffalo, or a Chicago Italian beef.
But what the hell's a peameal? Well, for weeks I'd been wondering: what do they call Canadian bacon in Canada? I've been eating a lot of Canadian bacon lately, and this little linguistic condundrum has been bugging me. Bug no more: it's called peameal, because they roll it in cornmeal up there (that's a display of peameal pictured there). We ordered up two peameals, which came in big, fresh kaiser rolls, and four steaming slices of cured loin about five inches across. Wish I coulda got a beer! They were delicious – sweet-cured, hot, chewy, and explosively pork-flavored.
Hunger satisfied for the moment, we toured the market's great variety of fish, meat and specialty stores. We bought stanky raw milk cheese (successfully smuggled back into the U.S., thanks very much). Then we were bushwhacked by Kozlik's Mustards. Along with its many great contributions to hockey, curling and the defense of North America, Canada grows more than 90 percent of the world's mustard seed, and Anton Kozlik has been using them to make fantastic mustards since 1948. I got Hot Russian, German, Sweet and Smoky, and Green Peppercorn, and I've been just about delirious since I got home, eating them with the home-made sausage I just made (more on that later). You really ought to get some, and if you're the type to make your own sausage, Kozlik's sells the seeds and vinegars you need to make your own mustards.
We got ambushed again downstairs, by a very friendly Ukrainian woman at Unique Fine Foods. "You want to try meatballs? All roasted in oven, mushroom gravy, very good!"
No, how about this smoked sausage?
"No, I sell you that, okay, but we don't make here. We make this sausage, garlic sausage, you try, is roasted in oven!" It was damned good, so I got a piece about 5 inches long ... um, at this point, I was locked in munch mode and I was getting this for eating while we walked. I guess.
"You like that, yes? You should try this smoked sausage, lightly smoked with cherry wood, we make here. All sausage we make is roasted in oven, very good sausage, you try." This was even better, and I got a 7-inch piece that never even made it back to the hotel.
We walked on (but not before trying the meatballs, roasted in oven, which were painfully good; painful because I had no way to take any along). John got some jellies, I got trinkets for my women, and we both tried "Indian candy" – salmon cured in maple syrup: damn, is that stuff ever good!
In a vain attempt to walk some of it off, we trundled down to the Distillery District, to the old Gooderham and Worts distillery, which has been converted into shops and apartments. We stopped for a restorative cup of the ballzy Balzac's Blend coffee at Balzac's, tried to visit the Mill Street Brewery – closed on Tuesdays! those Commies! – and then dropped anchor at the Pure Spirit oyster bar for a couple Mill Street Tankhouse Ales and a dozen fresh-shucked Malpeques, which were absolutely perfect, the best shellfish I've had in a long time. John had a Sleeman Cream Ale, a beer you don't see so often in the States, and it was bread-fresh, a light drinkable jewel.
We were running out of time, so we grabbed a cab to the Granite brewpub, a Toronto landmark and a place I'd been to before back when the kids were tiny. Granite's known for their cask-conditioned ale, and that's what we went for: two imperial pints of IPA off the handpump, and God, wasn't it glorious! Crystal clear and aromatic with hops, it was a 5-percent beauty that could teach American brewers a thing or two about IPAs. I liked it so much I had another. Then we jumped into a cab, hauling our jars and sausages and cheeses and trinkets, and whipped back to the hotel.
I changed pants and shoes quickly, then joined everyone else on the 19th floor for the tasting. Our host Brown-Forman's very happy cocktail guy, Tim Laird, served us some straight Canadian Mist first: smooth, sweetish, mild. No surprises, that's Canadian whisky: Mr. Smooth. What these folks seemed to be about was the idea that, okay, people call Canadian whisky "brown vodka"? Why not run with that? So they started making some cocktails that just had a mild whisky flavor.
All the cocktails were simple: two or three ingredients. But some of them worked very well, like the Misty Mapleleaf, a mixture of Canadian Mist and maple syrup, served up in a martini glass garnished with hazelnuts in maple syrup candy. We were all dubious about that one, but the sweetness of the maple syrup blended quite nicely with the sweetness of the whisky.
That also worked with the Cherry Bounce, a fun, red drink with ice and cherry syrup. I told Tim that there was a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of cherry "baunz," which mixed rye whiskey, brown sugar and mashed cherries in a jug and let it sit for a while: powerfully good stuff.
The sweetness cut the tang of a Misty Sour, a classic whisky sour made with Canadian Mist instead of bourbon. It would have been even better with classic ingredients. Tim apologized profusely for using sour mix, saying he had to work with what the hotel gave him (which included a jug of noxious-looking green liquid that we advised him to pour down the nearest sink).
After the tasting, Beaumont acted as our native guide and led us through the tunnels of Toronto's underground mall, the PATH system, to the Dominion Tower, where we had a fabulous dinner at Canoe. He and I started with a portable raw bar that was a marvel of presentation and freshness, and finished up with the cheese plate and a glass of marc, an apple-based spirit similar to grappa, and a perfect end to a long, long day of eating and drinking. We had had our beer fun, and next we'd be going to work: learning about making Canadian whisky, in the first press tour of a Canadian distillery most of us could remember.
See you here next time for that.
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