SalivAte – Toronto Beer Week Edition

By all accounts Toronto Beer Week was a resounding success. Many beers were consumed, and there were some outstanding beer dinners and other food pairing events that took place at restaurants across the city. Greg made it out to more of them than I did (stupid allergies), so many of the photos here are his (which explains why they might get a touch out of focus as we go through each course, as pretty much every one of these dishes came with an accompanying beer pairing.)

Even before it officially started, there were a few pre-Beer Week activities and events, as Montreal-based brewers Dieu de Ciel were in town for a few days to launch their products in Ontario. On Friday the 17th, Caplansky’s (356 College Street) tapped a keg of DDC’s Route des Épices  – an ale made with rye and pepper – and Greg took the opportunity to enjoy it with a smoked meat sandwich on rye bread.

The official un-official launch of the Week also featured beers by DDC, paired up with a 6 course brunch at beerbistro (18 King Street East) on Sunday the 20th. Above is a late harvest corn pancake filled with housemade goat cream cheese and Ontario peaches. The second course was the item at the top of this post – a potato skin with smoked salmon, poached quail egg and chive beurre blanc. This was like a mini salmon and rosti and was really good.

A wee soup and sandwich course featuring toasted brioche with ham and brie and an amazing wild mushroom soup.

Main course: a waffle with duck confit, banana raisin compote, foie gras and chocolate veal jus. I wonder, if I paid him enough, if Chef Brian Morin would just give me a bowl of the chocolate veal jus. SO GOOD!

This dish was called “coffee and donuts” – the “coffee” being DDC Péché Mortel (“Mortal Sin”), which is an Imperial stout made with a whole load of coffee; and the “donuts” being the above beignets, dusted with cinnamon and served with ice cream made with Péché Mortel.

But wait, there’s more – chocolate lollipops made with DDC Aphrodite, a stout made with vanilla and cocoa.

On the Monday night, Greg headed off without me (~sob!~) to Starfish (100 Adelaide Street East) where owner Patrick McMurray and beer expert Stephen Beaumont were hosting an event called Malt and Molluscs, featuring oysters paired with beers and other malt beverages. Above are Lambertini oysters from British Columbia, paired with Dieu du Ciel Blanche du Paradis.

Blue point oysters from Connecticut, paired with Cannery Blackberry Porter.

And Jersey Rock oysters from the UK. (Greg has the full line up of oyster pairing on his own blog.)

On Tuesday the 21st, Greg was back at beerbistro for the Brew Dog Dinner. For those not in the know, Brew Dog is a brewery run by a couple of Scottish punks who have become infamous for pushing the envelope on the alcohol levels in their product, to the point where there’s some question if they can even be considered beer anymore. (They’re also the guys who recently did a super-limited release of a product that came in bottles that were packaged inside taxidermied squirrels and stoats.) Anyway, above is another version of the waffle foie chocolate veal jus combo, this time topped with a sea scallop instead of the duck.

Soup and sandwich again, this time a butternut squash soup paired with grilled cheese and bacon on brioche.

Chimichanga filled with cumin coriander rabbit and house-made feta and topped with gueuze sour cream and a fried pork rind.

Greg didn’t take a photo of the main course which was braised horse with potato truffle tortellini and heirloom root vegetables.

Chocolate mousse cake with pear and whipped cream.

Two desserts! A vanilla bean white coffee ice cream in a waffle cup with a bacon tuille.

By the 23rd, I was feeling well enough to head outside, so we check out the Muskoka Cottage Brewery dinner at Cowbell (1564 Queen Street West). The meal started with a charcuterie plate featuring headcheese, duck pate and a pig’s trotter croquette.

Next up was a course of beer-battered smelts (I love smelts!) and housemade tartar sauce.

This dish is not a hot mess, it’s actually two different items – first a 50-day dry aged red angus beef, and a deconstructed reuben sandwich with rye bread sauce, pastrami and sauerkraut. While both were really good, it was a lot of food – I’d have preferred this as two separate courses.

Dessert was a brioche bread pudding with peanut brittle and vanilla ice cream.

Finally on Saturday the 25th, Greg and I headed to Trevor Kitchen and Bar (38 Wellington Street East). This event kind of got lost in the shuffle. It was at the end of the week and many people were beered out, and while Greg and I know and love Chef Jesse Vallins’ food, and knew it would be a great meal, only one other couple booked reservations for the dinner that was supposed to be paired with beers from Duggan’s Brewery. Rather than cancelling the event entire, the folks at Trevor offered it with pairings from beers they had in house.

Above is bbq octopus with pickled watermelon and avocado ranch. This was followed by a shot of clear chilled tomato consommé.

Best beet salad ever!  This was a roasted beet salad with clothbound cheddar, cashew butter and crispy shallots. The beets were red, golden and candy cane varieties. Other garnishes included a pickled beet puree, a dill and hempseed pesto, crushed cashews and peashoots.

Trevor’s club sandwich (this baby is on the regular menu… go… try it!) replaces the chicken with salt cured foie gras. The bacon is brined in dill pickle juice and it’s served with wee little house-made dill pickle chips.

Fennel crusted black cod with sautéed wild prawn and ricotta gnocchi in a lovage broth.

Chef Vallins loves cooking with pork, and we could tell he loved putting this dish together. The “porc en fete” with smoked hollandaise included roasted rib, crispy belly, braised tail and trotter croquette with Autumn vegetables of squash, kale and mushrooms. I’m still astounded that I ended up eating not one but two trotter croquettes in one week.

For a moment when the kitchen got backed up, we thought this little amuse was meant to be dessert. Instead it was a nice little break from the heavy stuff while we waited for the sweet stuff. On the plate is a quenelle of chicken liver mousse, with Thunder Oak gouda, pickled celery and lavender flower honey, garnished with fried chicken skin and apple preserve.

I knew there had to be dessert coming. And man, this beer and pretzel sundae is definitely dessert. The bowl is deceptive – there had to have been at least 5 scoops of pretzel ice cream, on top of a chocolate stout brownie, drizzled with stout hot fudge sauce, and topped with peanut brittle, caramel, chantilly cream… and a cherry.

Oh no, wait… we’re not done. Because no dinner is complete without a bowl of blueberry-flavoured cotton candy. Yes, we squealed with delight.

There were more dinners that took place over Toronto Beer Week, but we think we got the best of them. Certainly the meal at Trevor was one of the best we’ve had in a long time. We’re trying to work some of that off now – remember, every one of those came with beer! – and Greg is on a pork-free diet until further notice, having eaten what probably amounts to a whole pig over the course of the week. For its inaugural run, Toronto Beer Week was a fine time indeed. We’re already looking forward to next year.