Looks like the Bovine Sex Club doesn’t have Queen West’s tiki bar scene all to itself anymore: Miss Thing’s, a Pan Asian restaurant and cocktail bar under the same ownership as next-door neighbour Wrongbar, has opened in Parkdale. There, chefs Jasper Wu (from Bent) and Paul Hadian (from Momofuku) are turning out their take on Polynesian dishes—raw conch with mango and jicama, Spam pintxos, steak with coconut rice and lobster ramen—to go with bar manager Reed Pettit‘s (from Miller Tavern) tropical cocktails, like the Toucan Sam Shake made with rummy Froot Loop milk. As for the space itself, it’s Hawaii meets mid-century hotel lobby. Currently, the bar is open for dinner and drinks from 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Wednesday to Sunday.
Every good Canadian worth his or her celery salt knows that the sodium-packed caesar is our national cocktail, and this year the Bloody Mary’s clammy cousin turns 46. While it may have been born in Calgary, the drink is being perfected right here in Hogtown: Tabasco is swapped out for homemade hot sauces, and crushed tortillas, powdered seaweed and candied bacon rim our mugs. Maybe the caesar is having its mid-life crisis, but if that means topping one with fried chicken or an entire Peking duck, then it’s something we can definitely get behind. Here, 15 of the city’s caesars, ranked from traditional to over-the-top.
There have never been more ways to enjoy Ontario craft beer, in every corner of the city. Here are our favourites
1 TROPIC THUNDER
Wag the Wolf Hopfenweisse
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
This hop-heavy, organic Bavarian-style wheat beer has characteristic banana and citrus notes, hazy golden colour, and a dry, slightly bitter finish. Perfect for cottage barbecues or post-portage knackwurst roasts. $7.95. LCBO 385377
2 LIGHT BRIGHT
Kichesippi Beer Company
A subtle beer that, with its relatively low alcohol content, you could sip all afternoon. A Munich helles lager, it’s light and clean, with an approachable malt flavour and a slightly grassy aftertaste. Fill up a poolside cooler. $2.75. LCBO 414441
3 RHUBARB FOOL
Mojo Citra Rhubarb Wheat Ale
Forked River Brewing Company
While some fruit wheat beers can be too sweet, this one goes in the opposite direction. The rhubarb flavour is subdued but bracingly tart, and citra hops lend a musky kick. Tuck a few in the picnic basket when you next head to the Island. $3.95. LCBO 424184
4 HERBAL ESSENCE
Bush Pilot Brewing Company
This saison is brewed with wild arctic herbs like crowberry and Labrador tea. It’s floral and spicy, with a slightly piney aftertaste. The name’s a reference to Johnny May, the first Inuk bush pilot to serve the eastern Arctic (“pengo pally” means “I miss you” in Inuktitut). Recommended for long fishing trips. $9.95. LCBO 426734
5 FRUIT LOOPY
Fruitstand Watermelon Wheat
Kensington Brewing Company
A light, refreshing ale (not strictly a wheat beer, despite the name) brewed in homage to Kensington Market’s many fruit and veggie stands. Fresh watermelon juice lends a slight Jolly Rancher flavour, tempered by a good bite. Great for boozy baby showers. $2.95. LCBO 422873
Last year, Dave Crum, a chatty 29-year-old, quit his job in finance and opened a bespoke shop for home brewers. He sells the needed equipment, which easily fits on a stovetop and stores in a closet, plus 60 different yeasts, and 75 hops and specialty malts to brew just about any custom beer recipe you can dream up. (His latest favourite: strawberry hefeweizen made with floral German hallertaun hops and a kilo of frozen berries.) Crum has also created one-gallon (that’s nine-beer) kits to make blonde ales, English special bitters, IPAs, and more. On Sundays he opens up the shop’s backyard for the Summer Brew series, where you can lob questions while he brews. Starter kits from $45. Heavy beard not required.
1567 Dundas St. W., 647-227-4555
Now’s the time to experiment with fragrant, refreshing, lesser-known whites
As the weather starts to warm I turn to crisp, high-acid white wines to rouse my palate out of winter hibernation. There are plenty of unsung white grape varieties that offer the same brace and quench as the more familiar rieslings, sauvignon blancs and pinot grigios—and most are great bargains precisely because they are unfamiliar.
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Good news for those of you who think the 60-plus crowd gets all the best sports: you no longer have to wait until your golden years to take up shuffleboard. That’s because Toronto’s getting its very own indoor lawn games bar, and it opens April 17. Track & Field Bar, owned by the folks behind Montauk, has taken over the space on College near Ossington formerly occupied by The Cave nightclub, and will cater to those who want to do something while drinking but are nervous about that something involving an axe. The 5,000-square-foot space features two bocce ball lanes and two shuffleboard decks, one of each saved for walk-ins and all available to play free of charge. And for those waiting for a lane to free up: crokinole boards will be available for a little sit-down play. And, as Adam Vaughan and Gord Perks know, lawn games are best enjoyed with a bit of booze, so there’s that too. Following in Montauk’s steps, there will be classic and signature cocktails on tap, as well as bottled, canned and draught beer.
Track & Field Bar. 860 College St. W., @trackfieldbar
The Christie Pits café and cocktail bar Northwood has opened a second location on Dundas West. With its pour-over coffees and much stronger drinks, Northern Belle isn’t all too different from its sister location, save for a sophisticated aperitif menu with a selection of vermouths and amaros (soon to be offered as flights). Guests can expect classic drinks with twists and clever names like the No Suspenders, a recipe from the 1900s that uses Guerra vermouth ($12), or the Guns & Roses (pictured above), made with rose-infused Dillon’s gin ($14). Without a kitchen—the space was previously the café-turned-hummuseria, S. Lefkowitz—the menu is teeny, but sandwiches, cheese plates, salads and baked goods are available all day, and a weekend brunch buffet of light eats is in the works.
The definition of a Toronto wine bar has morphed dramatically over the past few years. Classic wine-only bars are increasingly scarce, while restaurants with excellent by-the-glass lists and accompanying small plates are proliferating madly. My favourites all offer the wine bar experience, which to me means you can walk in without a reservation, sit at the bar or a nearby table and explore interesting wine guided by smart staff, then move on to the next place in the neighbourhood—or hunker down if you really like what you find.
Grenache, or garnacha, is like the white T-shirt of the wine world: low-priced, beloved, and it goes with everything
Garnacha is one of the world’s most undervalued and prolific grapes. The low-acid, high-sugar, fruity variety can suffer from over-sweetness and brash mocha flavours in the hands of producers looking to maximize its commercial appeal. Not so with these bottles from Spain, which are sourced from 40-, 60-, 80-, even 100-year-old vines. Pair them with almost anything: ribs, wings, pulled pork, mac and cheese, meatloaf—or no food at all. At these prices, you might consider buying a case to take you through the winter.
These nightspots nail the trendy Boardwalk Empire vibe
1 At the Parkdale gin mill Geraldine, pictured above, the retro cocktails are a safe choice, but the absinthe fountain is more fun: the emerald elixir is available straight or in a slushie with fig syrup, crushed ice, bitters and fresh mint. 1564 Queen St. W., 647-352-8815.
There’s nothing like French bubbly for swank luxury, but for everyday enjoyment, these international labels deliver great fizz
A midnight coupe on New Year’s Eve is champagne’s shining moment. But bubbles can bring levity and refreshment to more mundane occasions, like toasting the end of a bad day at the office. There’s no need to spend wildly. The quality of sparkling wine from regions around the world—Italy’s fast-rising prosecco, Spain’s staunch cava and Canada’s new generation of cool-climate sparklers—is dramatically improving. Here are my favourites, and they’re all under 50 bucks.
Buena Vista 2011 Pinot Noir | $24.95 | 91 points
The riot of scents and flavours in a traditional holiday meal can drown out complicated and refined wines. A tart, full-flavoured pinot noir is the answer. Buena Vista has enough edge to slake, plus the flavour wattage and textural weight to drink with turkey, duck, pork tenderloin, rare roasts and even baked salmon.
This party season, skip the show-offy bottles for reds with a little more nuance (and a lot less sticker shock)
As the holidays loom, Vintages stocks pricier wines to give and (hopefully) receive. It’s easy to impress with a $100-plus cult label from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany or the Napa Valley, and the wine will likely be excellent. But I can guarantee it will also be overpriced. Instead, opt for small-production wines from lesser-known regions. These five reds top out at $60 and will still demonstrate your discerning largesse.
The legendary wormwood liquor of green fairies, severed ears and global bans is in the midst of a revival. Here, three excellent places to sip the strong stuff.
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564 Queen St. W., 647-352-8815
Stepping into the 20s-themed Parkdale parlour is a like taking Owen Wilson’s Midnight in Paris taxi to the belle époque. The pomaded and mustachioed barkeeps shake the most serious absinthe cocktails in the city, like The Lew Field, which muddles Le Clandestine (a blue-hued, Swiss-distilled brand born in 2000), fig syrup and fresh mint with crushed ice in a frosty copper cup. The anise-powered slushy makes a bracing contrast to a plate of briny oysters. $18.
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