West Coaster Wandering the YYZ – Day 1&2

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I am truly a West Coast girl. It’s ingrained in my very being to look down my nose at everything Toronto. And although I’ve been able to weasel my way into every trip imaginable over the years, Toronto hasn’t been somewhere I’ve run to come to. In fact, even though Ben comes to Toronto at least once a year, the last time I was here was 10 years ago. But I’ve been in an adventurous type of mood lately and when the opportunity came up to visit the “center of the universe” I decided to take it.

So busy at work lately this distraction couldn’t have come at a better time. But so busy at work lately, I didn’t have a lot of time to research this trip. I reached out to a few friends for suggestions on where to eat. Knowing that Ben would be busy working most of the time, I didn’t do a lot of advance planning for the trip.  I also knew I’d be hanging out with some food loving friends, so I was hopeful that good food would find me.

On our first night, we ended up at the Beer Bistro recommended by a brew master friend.  The beer list was absolutely amazing and puts Stellas in YVR to shame.  Unfortunately, the food was  just ok.

Excited to see corn dogs on the menu, these were such a disappointment. Filled with duck confit and pineapple mustard and cherry beer ketchup for dipping, these sounded a whole lot better than they tasted.

Horse tartare. I thought they were joking about the "horse" part, (they weren't), but seeing as it's on my "no go" food list, I thought we should give it a try. While I wouldn't say it was disgusting, I wouldn't go out of my way to order it again.

A pizza with pork 3 ways - pulled, cured and bacon-ed. How can you go wrong with all that swine?

We ordered 2 kinds of mussels. These were the New England style with beer bacon, leeks, potatoes and Vienna lager. I liked the mussels and each of the beer broth's were very delicious. I wished the actual mussels were bigger though.
The absolute star of the night, (aside from the amazing beer menu) were the Belgian Frites, fried in beef and duck fat. Perfectly crispy, I think there was some silent aggressiveness around the table over who'd get the last fries.

The next day, I was still struggling with feeling so unenthusiastic about  Toronto, so a friend did his best to change my mind, on a night he dubbed “the Toronto sampler”.

We started by wandering through the Distillery District which was funky with all its brick buildings.

We stopped at the Mill Street Brew Pub to sample the Lemon Tea beer which was light and refreshing and perfect for a hot afternoon.

I was pleasantly surprised with how light and fluffy the Brewers flatbread was and the toppings were fresh and delicious.

Next stop was Black Hoof for what was one of the highlights of my TO adventure.  Black Hoof is a gem, you can’t make reservations though and it’s small.  With that in mind, we were there by 6:30 and were able to snag some seats at the bar.

A wonderfully fruity, (but not sweet) Gala Apple Collins.
I have high standards for charcuterie, but this selection was very impressive. Blueberry bison sausage, horse mortadella, wild boar spicy sausage, creamy duck liver. All house- made, all delicious!
Fatty and oh so rich, this generous portion of bone marrow slathered on bread with a sprinkling of course salt showcased the chef's confidence in serving simple perfection.

I got a bit caught up in the conversation at this point and didn’t take photos of the two other dishes I delighted in. One was the fluke crudo, which was light and a nice contrast to all the meat we were eating.  The other was the horse sammy, (there was a lot of horse being served in Toronto).  This raw horse was way better than the raw horse from the night before and I started to appreciate how tender and flavourful Mr Ed can be.

I loved everything about Black Hoof and wished I could have sampled more of the menu. There are some amazing dishes coming out of this tiny kitchen.

If my night ended at Black Hoof, I would have been happy but my dining companions wanted me to experience a true Sampler so off we went.  Our next stop at Starfish Oysterbed & Grill was more for their benefit than mine.  They know I love oysters though and knew I’d be in to sample a dozen.

Starfish seemed to be a great hangout for the WAY-over 40 crowd, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my Oyster stout and dozen assorted East Coast oysters.

The highlight was that my oysters were shucked by World Oyster Shucking Champion, Patrick McMurray, which in it of itself made for an impressive experience.

The last stop on my Sampler was at the best damn sports bar I’ve ever been to, (and recently voted the best sports bar in North America by ESPN).  Real Sports Bar and Grill located outside the Air Canada Centre.  Monday Night Football was on the screens and the crowd was definitely in to the game which made for a fun end to the night.

A fantastic spicy Cesar with a full celery stalk and a pepperette as a garnish. The crowds I spoke of were all in the area of the BIG screen, the largest indoor HDTV screen in North America in fact.

Beer Bistro – 18 King Street East

Mill Street Brewery – 55 Mill Street, Building 63

Black Hoof – 928 Dundas Street West

Starfish Oysterbed and Grill – 100 Adelaide Street East

Real Sports Bar and Grill – Maple Leaf Square, 15 York Street

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