Market finds – beer edition

4 Jun

Twice a month, a good friend of mine does the 5 hour drive from Toronto to Michigan. Before you snicker, please realize that Michigan has a few things that we in Ontario do not have – one of which is a great beer selection.  There’s been a fair amount of coverage about Ontario government’s monopoly and our lack of freedom to choice, and, without getting into the argument, the bottom line is this: a beer lover like me can’t try  many world-class beer or discover some of the award-winning beer our US neighbours are producing.  So average Joe’s like me are reduced to finding a sherpa friend to bring back beer and re-fill my beer cellar.

This is how things usually transpire:  my friend David tells me he’s going to Michigan for a few days. I get over-excited and send him a list of beer to look out for. He calls me at work and I get increasingly excited and end up mumbling “JUST BUY IT ALL!” repeatedly.

David’s cross-border trips have eliminated all of my LCBO and Beer Store purchases. Other than buying directly from breweries like Great Lakes Brewery, I have no need to choose the narrow selection you find at the LCBO.  I have also been reunited with my true beer love: funky/sour beer. *beerswoon!*

De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva,La Trap Oak-aged Quad & Dr Fritz Breim Berliner Weiss

You’re looking at my dream beer. My beer Xanadu, if you will. I present: De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva.  I tried this 11 months ago in Antwerp on my birthday. It was a mouthful of barrel-aged heaven. Imagine an oaky Cherry Coke, but in the form of a slightly sour and delicious beer.  I’ve spent the past 11 months trying to find a way to buy it in Ontario, New York or Michigan.  Its an incredibly hard-to-find Belgian beer that supposedly wasn’t shipped to North America last year.  My heart was broken…until I randomly asked David to see if the supermarket (yes, Ontario, civilized countries sell beer in supermarkets) had it. “They have four bottles and the beer manager just gave me a smile and the ‘thumbs up,'” he said.  I now have a birthday present for the next four years. Thanks, David!

La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged – Batch 6 is a blend of beer aged in New Oak Medium Toast (20%) and White Wine used Oak (80%).  The non-oak aged version of this is available in the LCBO once a year, but apparently, the flavours do not compare.

1809 Berliner Style Weiss was a beer suggested to us by the beer manager. Berliner weisse beer are the sourdough breads of the beer world. This was made with a traditional recipe and it should make a nice summer drink.

Jolly Pumpkin beer

Jolly Pumpkin is one of my favourite US breweries. They use brettanomyces, which is a slow-fermenting wild yeast that results in a funky/sour/tart beer. Think of something between white wine, beer and lemonade. Some people don’t get it, but these are incredibly flavourful and complex beer. Coors Lite, it ain’t.  Not only are these beer delicious, but I use the dregs to inoculate some of my home brews. It works amazingly well.  Some of Jolly Pumpkin beer are aged in oak barrels, giving that delicious toasted, dark, woody flavour.  As you can see from the above selection, Jolly Pumpkin with funk up any style, including stouts and ales (with cacao!!).

Jolly Pumpkin beer

Jolly Pumpkin beer

My panic email to David was about the beer on your left; its a sour, plum ale.  How delicious does that sound! It was released at one grocery chain and limited to 3 bottles per person. Hot damn!  He also found a bottle of their saison, which looks like it will taste and smell delicious.

Mikkeler and Jolly Pumpkin

Mikkeller Monk’s Elixir is a dark Belgian strong ale. I’m going to save this for the winter, since the 10% ABV might be too punchy for a hot summer day.

Leelanau Good Harbour Golden Ale

Leelanau is a Michigan brewery that ages their beer in – you guessed it – oak barrels. The Good Harbor Golden Ale is supposed to be deliciously sour, which makes sense, since oak barrels are a great source for souring yeast. The Whaleback White is supposed to be less tart, but funky nonetheless.  Man, these are sexy looking bottles.

My beer cellar’s full yet again and the pack rat in me has to try to not squirrel all of these delicious beer away.  While sour beer are almost impossible to find in Ontario (you can get Cantillon at Beer Bistro, but be warned about the price), they are part of the new wave of US beer. Sours and funky beer will eventually be brewed in Ontario. Until then, if you find yourself in Michigan, find yourself some Jolly Pumpkin. Chill the hell out of it before opening (or else you’ll need a mop for your floor), poor the beer into a wide-mouthed chalice, let it breathe and warm up and enjoy.


Photos and text by Richard


Colorado Beer Tour Giveaway

28 May

As you know, we love beer. Some of the best beer beer in the world is made by our neighbours to the south.  Long gone are the days where we Canadians made fun of American watered-down, low-alcohol beer. It started around 15 years ago, with the west coast states leading the charge with a new wave of IPAs that were more aromatic and bitter than anything beer drinkers were used to. The latest trend, which, sadly, has yet to hit most of Canada, is mouth-puckering sours and funky-tasting brettanomyces-fermented beer. Breweries like Russian River, New Belgium and Jolly Pumpkin are brands that you may see during your trips to California, Colorado or Michigan, but have yet to arrive in Toronto.

Thanks to the people at Zephyr Adventure, Draft Magazine, New Belgium Brewing, Untappd and World Class Beer, you have a chance to visit Colorado – one of the US beer hot spots! – to see the countryside and see the barleyside.

This contest was open only to US residents, but I’ve been told that Torontonians will be allowed to enter. Fear not, brethren! A beer adventure is only a click away.

The contest closes on June 1 2012, so enter today. Enter here and if you win, think of us! Good luck!

Holy Chuck – “Go Chuck Yourself”

12 May

Oh, the power of Twitter. You jokingly put an idea out there and, the next thing you know, the joke becomes a reality.  In my case, I suggested to Stella (@foodieyu and writer of Food Junkie Chronicles) that we go to Holy Chuck and try their epic “Go Chuck Yourself” burger.  Two weeks later, we had dinner plans booked and there was no backing out.

We reviewed Holy Chuck a while back and opined that they are one of the best burger restaurants in the city. Today, we were going to tackle two of the crazier burgers they make.

The Holy Duck fois gras burger at Holy Chuck

The Holy Duck burger is a single beef patty covered with double smoked bacon and a slab of fois gras, then drizzles with truffle oil and maple syrup. This is one serious umami blast! Robin will eat fois gras if given the opportunity, so this burger was hers. Combine the nice meaty flavour of Holy Chuck’s patties with the buttery goodness of fois gras, the smoky bacon flavour and the flavour kick from the truffle oil and maple syrup and you get one hell of a special burger.  I rubbed some of the fries in the truffle oil that dripped from the burger. Wow.

 Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck

I present to you the show stopper: the Go Chuck Yourself burger.  They pile up 6 burgers with 6 slices of cheese, toss on a bunch of bacon and caramelized onions and sandwich it with three grilled cheese sandwiches. Yeah, not for the faint or weak of heart.

 Two Go Chuck Yourself burgers at Holy Chuck

As I brought the burgers to the table, I thought “how will Stella be able to eat one of these?” Stella’s roughly half the size of me and the burger is approximately the size of her head. I wondered: what would Darwin say about what we were about to eat?

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

I could barely hold it in my hands.

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

If my parents ever read this blog, they’d probably disown me.  With Robin’s help, I managed to handily eat the burger. Flavour-wise, the burger is excellent. The patties are juicy and full of flavour.  I really didn’t have a problem eating such a ridiculous quantity of food. It was incredibly tasty from start to finish. I find that most burgers are over-salted or overcooked – not at Holy Chuck. Even through this tangled mess of bacon and bun, I could still taste the ground steak that’s used to make the patties.  I was drinking a Nutella and salted caramel milkshake (probably the best shake in Toronto) to help wash the food down.  It goes without saying that, the following morning, I had to skip breakfast.


Holy Chuck Burgers
1450 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M4T 1Y7


Photos by Robin, text by Richard

De Struise Brewery, Oosvleteren, Belgium

6 May

When I planned our Belgium itinerary, it included one West Flanders brewery tour day. Due to brewery logistics, we had one day where we could arrive in Poperinge, rent bikes and head up to Abbey Saint Sixtus in Westvleteren and De Struise Brewery in neighbouring Oosvleteren. The logistics appeared to be quite simple; as long as the weather held up (which is never a guarantee when in Belgium), we would have a few kilometers of biking to take us from one brewery to another.  Logistics, of course, don’t account for drinking a few chalices of strong beer, buying eight bottles of beer and glassware and storing it on the back of your bicycle.  The one thing working in our favour? Belgium is, for the most part, flat as hell.

Biking through Belgian countryside near Westvleteren

Using a hand-drawn tourist board map from the Poperigne tourism office and a series of street signs, we tipsily made our way down seven kilometers of back roads and hop fields to the sleepy town of Oostvleteren.  With some difficulty, we finally found a subtly-marked doorway that lead us to the promise land: De Struise Brewery.

De Struise Brewery, Oostvleteren, Belgium

Located down an alley and in a former school house, De Struise is a subtle brewery that makes not-so-subtle beer. They’ve quickly gained a cult following and have been named one of the world’s top brewers.  Being from Ontario, we never had the chance to try Struise’s beer before going to Oostvleteren and based our visit solely on adventure and reputation. Before we arrived, I emailed Carlo Grootaert, one of the brewers, to see if we can get a tour.

"The classroom" at De Struise Brewery

Before our tasting began, I had to make a bathroom pit stop.  The bathrooms are a (semi)converted old stable!

With my mind and my bladder liberated, I was ready to taste De Struise’s beer.

Carlo Grootaert pouring a beer at De Struise Brewery

Carlo met us upon our arrival and brought us to the classroom.  This wasn’t your typical tour; Carlo talked to us about his beer, gently opening bottle after bottle for us to taste, carefully eying, smelling and tasting his wares.  Behind him was a blackboard that explained (kind of) the brewing process. It was like an alcohol-inspired version of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

blackboard at De Struise Brewery, Oostvleteren, Belgium

The best part about our visit was how casual it was. Here we were, a brewmaster and two Canadian visitors, sitting in an empty classroom, sipping world-class beer and talking about beer.  Two locals popped into the room and, knowing Carlo, told him about a French Trappist brewery they just drove to across the border. Out came a bottle for all of us to taste, and our party of three briefly became a party of five.

Mont-Des-Cats trappist beer (from France)

They brought a bottle of a new trappist beer, Mont des Cats. We split it among the room and, while it wasn’t earth shattering, it was a nice, clean drink.

It was at this tasting that Robin was introduced to one of her favourite beer in the world; Pannepot.  Named after a traditional fishing boat from the De Panne area,  Pannepot was a beer made based on what the brewmaster imagined that his family had brewed in generations past. Its a Belgian strong ale that has the characteristics of a stout without any stouty bitterness.

Pannepot beer being poured

This beer is a real winner. It has nice, chocolately and fig flavours but is incredibly gentle and light on the palate. It has delicious herbal notes of cinnamon and coriander. Its smooth and not overly sweet, but is overly delicious.  If it was available in Toronto, it would be our go-to beer. Its best served slightly below room temperature so the flavours can pop in your mouth.

Pannepeut beer by De Struise Brewery

Next we tried Pannepeut and Roste Jean. Pannepeut is slightly higher in alcohol than Pannepot and is a traditional old monk’s ale. This was a 2007 vintage (yes, you can age some beer very well) and it was interesting to do a horizontal tasting versus Pannepot. Roste Jean (“Red Haired Jean”) is brewed with Westvleteren yeast, so the yeast is what represents the beer.  It has a delicious candy sugar taste to it and was another interesting offering from De Struise.

Roste Jean beer by De Struise brewery

Part of appreciating De Struise’s beer is looking at its beautiful appearance.  Hot damn…this picture’s making me thirsty.

Tasting table at De Struise Brewery

We ended our tasting session before our legs were too wobbly. After all, we still had a 15 km bike ride back to Poperinge and had to protect our backpack full of delicious beer. We weren’t sure what to expect when we arranged to visit De Struise. We ended up leaving there with a great appreciation for their beer and for their bathrooms.  Besides the excellent hospitality, we discovered that De Struise is one of our favourite breweries and look forward to the day when their beer will (somehow) make it into Ontario.

Carlo and the braintrusts at De Struise

Photos by Robin

Text by Richard

The Fuzz Box

4 May

My donair experience is can be describes as being hazy, at best – once as a post-bar drunken snack in Halifax and once as a post-bar drunken snack in Antwerp. When The Fuzz Box opened up a few weeks ago, I finally had my opportunity to taste a donair while sober! Strike that off my bucket list!

Either there are a lot of ex-pats from the east coast or Toronto’s been lacking good donairs, because The Fuzz Box is selling out of its donairs nightly.  The best way to avoid disappointment? Head there for lunch, like I did. There were tables available and the wait was short. The owner, Neil Dominey, greeted me when I entered and his politeness confirmed that, yes, this is a real east coast restaurant. I ordered the Nova Scotian donair (small $4.99/regular $5.99/super 1/4 lb donair $8.99) and seriously contemplated ordering the fried pepperoni ($4.99).

Fried pepperoni at The Fuzz Box in Toronto

Neil brought me the pepperoni to sample while I waited for my donair.  I was too hungry to grab my camera, so I took a picture of the fried pepperoni with my phone. Sorry. 😦

Fried pepperoni is a Lipitor-sponsored hot crack for the soul. As its name implies, you are eating bites of pepperoni that are fried to a medium crisp that you can then dunk into home-made honey mustard sauce. Need I say more? For the record: they disappeared within a minute.

When the donair arrived, I graciously thanked the chef and sped back home (I was starving and the fried pepperoni only made me hungrier).  To keep my donair experiences consistent, I poured myself a beer.

Nova Scotian Donair from The Fuzz Box in Toronto

The soft pita was filled with ample slices of seasoned beef and some sliced onions and tomatoes.  Drizzled on top of the meat is the famous east coast donair sauce, which is made from garlic and condensed milk.  Its a great balance to the zesty, spicy meat, Think of this as being shawarma’s spicy, beefy cousin.  Sweet and sticky and spicy and lovely, the donair wasn’t long for this world. My only regret? Not ordering the super sized donair.

Photos and text by Richard

The Fuzz Box
1246 Danforth Ave (near Greenwood subway station)
Toronto, Ontario

Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II

3 Apr

Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II

Our communal table was decorated with figurines of a moose, bear, zebra and tiger. If I was betting that at least one of those animals will be appearing on my dinner plate, I would have made some solid money.  Welcome to Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II.


Much like Secret Pickle and Charlies Burger, Death Row Meals is behind some of Toronto’s more innovative dining experiences.  Hunters Feast was a carryover of sorts from last year’s event, taking the leg from last year’s wild boar, curing it for a year and incorporating the wild boar prosciutto into the various courses. Each course was paired with some of Ontario’s tastier wine offerings.

Duck egg, fois granola, wild boar prosciutto from Death Row Meals

Duck egg, fois granola, wild boar prosciutto from Death Row Meals

 Course 1: “Hunting Trip Gone Wrong” – chef Nick Benninger. Slow poached duck egg, trail mix, boarscuitto, fois granola, crab apple verjus, forest edibles.

There’s a certain child-like giddiness I get when I cut my knife through a perfectly poached egg and see its golden yolky goodness ebb and flow across my plate.  The richness of the duck egg combined with the pickled ramps, granola and prosciutto made a great start to our four hours of feasting and drinking. Rich and savoury with a nice, sweet tartness from the ramps and verjus, this would make a perfect late-start Sunday breakfast.

Confit of Acadian sturgeon belly, boar prosciutto brodo, wild leeks, dumpling - chef Scott Vivian.


Course 2: Confit of Acadian sturgeon belly, boar prosciutto brodo, wild leeks, dumpling – chef Scott Vivian.

For some of us who are trying to overcome our piscophobia, sturgeon is a difficult choice for a gateway fish. Seeing that we had many courses to go, I politely passed on this dish so I could focus on (mostly) land mammals. I sat, envious of other diners as they ate away at their sturgeon and finished off by picking up their bowls to drink the proscuitto-flavoured broth.


Course 3: prosciutto Spamstrammi with smoked bean puree, Canadian Club infused kimmel crumbs & sage oil – chef Tom Davis.

I admit that I raised a Spockian eyebrow at Chef Davis when he described how he made his own Spam pastrami from the boar proscuitto. With one bite, the eyebrow was lowered and I was a believer.  Slightly smoky and perfectly spiced, my little loaf of luncheonmeat disappeared within 2 minutes.

Duo of green and yellow French Canadian split pea soups with boar proscuitto, pheasant sausage & duck spledini - chef Steve Wilson

Course 4: Duo of green and yellow French Canadian split pea soups with boar proscuitto, pheasant sausage & duck spledini – chef Steve Wilson

Chef Wilson told us that this dish was a tribute to his French Canadian and First Nations background.  Our bowls were beautifully divided in half, with the green split pea soup side having tender pieces of sausage.  I made sure to alternate between the soup and the duck kebab, grilled in a savoury Italian style.

Gator, duck liver and boar prosciutto boudin balls with sweet corn pudding, cracklin', sofritto criollo, ramp coulis - chef Rossy Earle

Course 5: Gator, duck liver and boar prosciutto boudin balls with sweet corn pudding, cracklin’, sofritto criollo, ramp coulis – chef Rossy Earle

When this course arrived, I had mixed feelings.  Part of me wanted to stare at the beautiful presentation, while the carnivore in me wanted to tear that boudin ball apart and have my first crack at gator. The carnivore always wins and it wasn’t disappointed.  Rich and moist and full of flavour, Chef Earle’s take on boudin was deliciously executed.  The creamed corn and the tiny moat of Earle’s Diablo Fuego hot sauce were excellent accompaniments. This dish was intense in all the right ways.

wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits - chef Jason Bangerter

wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits - chef Jason Bangerter

Course 6: wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits – chef Jason Bangerter

When Chef Bangeter said that it was wild game, he meant it. The ragout was a mix of venison, moose and beaver (!!) sitting on top of a pillowy ring of seminola. The ragout had the warm and hearty flavour that I’d expect from game meat, with a rich and slow-cooked goodness that screams both “comfort food” and “sophistication”.

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Course 7: Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee & booze – chef Jason Bangerter

Let’s be honest: can you really go wrong when you combine home-made marshmallow, mini beaver tails and Kaluha in a large mason jar?  It was a booze, coffee jar of goodness. I desperately struggled to eat every last bite of the dessert, fighting off the pain of overindulging.  This was a killer ending or an amazing night.

Find out about future Death Row Meals events by following them on Facebook.

Photos by Robin

Text by Richard

Model Milk

1 Apr

Model Milk restaurant exterior, Calgary

We have a rule of thumb: when your hostess offers you a seat with a view of the open kitchen, you take it.  We definitely took it on our Thursday night visit to Model Milk, one of the new jewels in Calgary’s fashion and culinary crown, 17 Avenue SW.

Model Milk restaurant interior, Calgary

Interior of Model Milk, Calgary

Menu, Model Milk restaurant

Everything about Model Milk is neat, for lack of a better description.  Its a spacious, open and fun space, with minimal decor but maximum vibe.  The frequently-updated menu is presented on a clipboard.  I could hear Robin squeeing at Model Milk’s attention to style detail.

We ordered our dinner based on the server’s recommendations and on what we saw the kitchen preparing.  After watching the sous chef pile a giant heap of fries into a small casserole bowl and top it with a ridiculous portion of freshly-shred manchengo cheese, we unanimously declared “and we’ll have one of those!”

Fries with manchego cheese, Model Milk restaurant, Calgary

The menu is very protein focused. Herbivores, be damned. Carnivores, be delighted.

Oysters and mignonette, Model Milk restaurant  Calgary

Chicken and dumplings, Model Milk restaurant Calgary

Pork entree, Model Milk restaurant Calgary

Our only regret was not having room to try one of their desserts. High end comfort food that left us comfortably full, Model Milk is on our must-repeat list for our next Calgary visit.

Model Milk
308 17 Ave SW
Calgary, Alberta
403 265-7343

Model Milk on Urbanspoon


Photos by Robin

Words by Richard

Folia Grill

31 Mar

When people hear that we live near the Danforth, they usually remark, “You’re so lucky! You’re within walking distance to a bunch of great Greek restaurants!”  They’re kind of right, since we can walk to Danforth East to grab amazing Ethiopian (Dukem) or great beer (The Only). As far as Greek fare goes, most Greektown restaurants are pretty pedestrian.  You know; flaming cheese and generic Greek salad for appetizers, souvlaki and lemon potatoes for your main, and an anise candy that comes with your bill.  In our eight years of living near the Danforth, we haven’t really met a Greek restaurant that’s been opa!-worthy.

Folia Grill in Greektown

Chicken gyro at Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

Then one summer day, as we were driving down Pape Avenue, we noticed a large, inflatable pig perched above a newly renovated storefront. The sign had a happy, reclining pig holding a skewer of what was likely one of his cousins or next-door neighbours. Harmless enough, so we figured that we might as well try one of the only clean looking restaurants on the street.

Fast forward two years and you can count us as regulars at one of the East end’s hidden gems.  Their chicken gyro is one of the most flavourful, juiciest and tender chicken dishes you’ll find.  Size-wise, it challenges the hefty portions you get at Burrito Boys, so be sure to go to Folia Grill when you’re hungry.

The menu at Folia Grill in Greektown

I’ll admit that, until recently, I was guilty of not straying far from my regular chicken gyros.  While Folia Grill offers grilled items like chicken breast, pork chops and NY strip loin, my love for their chicken gyros made me a believer in food monogamy. That is, until the owner asked me to try a sample of their new pork gyros.

Today, we ambitiously ordered one chicken and one pork gyro with a side of zucchini fries.  Robin claimed the never-disappointing chicken, while I tackled the pork gyro.

Chicken gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Robin’s chicken gyro was stuffed full with sliced white and dark meat, fresh tomatoes, onions and house-made tzatziki. Give Folia bonus points for stuffing their pitas with french fries, which is what you’ll find at most Mediterranean falafel and gyro restaurants.  The starch from the fries pairs well with the tzatziki. The real star of the show is the chicken. Perfectly seasoned with olive oil, paprika and lord knows what other spices, the chicken is cooked slowly and tenderly, leaving you with bite after bite of seasoned goodness.  The pictures speak for themselves.

Pork gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Close-up on the pork gyro from Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

I had the other white meat; the pork gyros is accompanied by the same pita stuffings as the chicken gyros, but is filled with large, moist chunks of pork. Charred on the outside, juicy on the inside, the pork has an amazing lemon and thyme marinade that ranks this dish as one of my top pork dishes I’ve had. No lie.

Zucchini fries at Folia Grill in Greektown

Dipping zucchini fries at Folia Grill in Greektown, Toronto

We were stuffed after we gobbled down our gyros (and a word to the wise: go to Folia Grill with someone you feel comfortable with, since the tzatziki somehow ends up on your cheeks, nose and lips), but still had to tackle the zucchini fries. The “fries” are freshly-sliced zucchini spears that are lightly breaded and seasoned and then fried to perfection.  The outside was crisp and the inside was juicy, perfectly cooked and marvellously tender. Fries come with aioli, which makes for a perfect dipping companion.  We tried to share the size order between the two of us, but would have gladly welcomed a third (or fourth) person to help us finish the plate.

Enjoying at chicken gyro pita at Folia Grill in Greektown

Each pita is $5.25, which is a dangerously good deal. Be sure to try Folia Grill before one of the East end’s best kept secrets is out.

Folia Grill
1031 Pape Ave
Toronto, Ontario
(Closed Sundays)

Folia Grill on Urbanspoon


Photos by Robin & Richard

Words by Richard

CHARCUT Roast House, Calgary.

11 Mar

CHARCUT Roast House

Last week we visited Richard’s sister and her family in Calgary. Most of our trip was dedicated to spending time with the family, but we still managed to make some foodie excursions. One of those excursions was a lunch at CHARCUT Roast House.

Inside CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

We arrived just as the office lunch crowd was leaving carrying little brown bags filled with warm cookies, a favourite dessert. We settled in and marveled at the beer fridge. They had a fantastic selection of international and local brews in bottle, and they had some great local microbrew options on draft as well.

Duck Poutine with Truffle Oil at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

Duck Poutine with Truffle Oil at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

My sister-in-law had been to CHARCUT before and was disappointed to discover that the lunch menu didn’t feature the duck poutine, which she said was a must. We asked our server and he returned shortly after with a dish that I could smell before I saw it. It definitely had truffle oil in it. Not just a stingy amount, either. There was a potent smell and flavour of it in the gravy. As always I would have liked to have a bit more gravy and cheese curds (can you ever really have too much?) but there was a fairly generous amount of both, and the crispiness of the fries held up to the gravy well. This is probably one of the best poutines I’ve ever had. Definitely ask for this even if it’s not on the menu. You won’t regret it.

Prime Rib Sandwich at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

My lunch was the Spit-Roasted Spring Creek Prime Rib sandwich. It had Quebec cheese and grainy mustard on it, and it came with a bowl of jus for dipping. I absolutely loved this sandwich. I normally wouldn’t order a beef sandwich because I tend to find them dry and boring, but we were in Calgary and in Calgary you eat beef.  I was very pleasantly surprised. The beef was flavourful and moist, with just the right amount of smokiness and saltiness. I also love that they grate cheese over their fries.

Country sausage at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

Richard ordered the Country Sausage, which had slow-roasted caramelized onions and peppers on a comically tiny bun. Before we ordered, our server explained that this was CHARCUT’s take on a German sausage, where the sausage sticks out from both ends and the bun is really just so that you don’t have to hold the sausage in your bare  hands. We were both imagining something like a hot dog bun with a few inches of sausage sticking out from either end, but this is what we got. The sausage was expertly crafted and I kind of liked the cheeky presentation. Richard admitted after lunch that he wished that he’d ordered my dish, since he liked it more.

I can’t talk about CHARCUT without mentioning that the co-owner and co-executive chef is Connie DeSousa from the first season of Top Chef Canada. She was my favourite and I rooted for her the whole way through. I loved that she was a strong, creative woman who could hold her own in the boy’s club of the service industry. We didn’t go to CHARCUT exclusively because of Connie, but it was definitely an added draw.

In addition to their restaurant, CHARCUT also has a food truck: Alley Burger. We didn’t get a chance to try it while we were in Calgary this time around, but I’ve heard rave reviews. You can catch Alley Burger on Twitter @AlleyBurger.

CHARCUT Roast House
101, 899 Centre Street SW
Calgary, Alberta

Alley Burger Food Truck on Urbanspoon


Photos and Words by Robin

The Miss Piggy and The Rhino Buster

4 Feb

Michelle from The Sweet Escape with our decadent donut-sandwich.

This afternoon we made a trip to The Sweet Escape in the Distillery to try something that could be featured on This Is Why You’re Fat. These two beautiful sandwiches are a marriage of The Sweet Escape’s maple bacon donut and Buster Rhino BBQ‘s pulled pork and beef brisket.

Pulled pork between two maple bacon donuts, from The Sweet Escape and Buster Rhino's.

This was the pulled pork sandwich, which we called “The Miss Piggy.” Our friend Mike ordered this one and he said that it was good but he couldn’t finish it on his own.

Smoked beef brisket between two maple bacon donuts from The Sweet Escape and Buster Rhino's.

Beef brisket with barbecue sauce between two maple bacon donuts from The Sweet Escape and Buster Rhino's.

And this was ours: Beef brisket and barbecue sauce between two maple bacon donuts. We called it “The Rhino Buster.” It was actually really good. I was expecting to be slightly disgusted by it, but it was just the right amount of sweet, balanced nicely with the saucy smokey brisket and crunchy bacon. We cleaned our plate.

The Sweet Escape made these two sandwiches exclusively for our curious stomachs, but they say that they’re thinking of putting it on the menu. If they did, would you try one?

The Sweet Escape
55 Mill Street Toronto, ON
(416) 214-2253


Photos and Words by Robin