The County General

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Top Five: Toronto’s best rum cocktails

Five innovative takes on the classic pirate’s grog

Top Five: Toronto's best rum cocktails
1. Dr. Painkiller (pictured above)

At the County General, bartender Jeff Carroll creates a tart, fruity punch with cucumber-infused white rum, house-made grenadine, cranberry bitters and lime juice. He tops it off with a splash of ginger beer. $12. 936 Queen St. W., 416-531-4447.

2. Fresco

Our favourite cocktail at Rhum Corner, the new Haitian café from Black Hoof owner Jen Agg, is a spicymix of Havana rum, pomegranate syrup and falernum—a traditional Caribbean clove-lime-ginger syrup—poured over crushed ice in a chilled copper mini-mug. $10. 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356.

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Restaurants

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McPretenders: seven Toronto takes on the mighty Big Mac

Toronto’s obsession with fancy fast food isn’t new, but it’s growing. As the city’s snack bars multiply, so too do the options for sloppy, greasy, delightfully trashy food—including multiple homages to the McDonald’s Big Mac. (Maybe they all got inspired back in 2011?) Once we started looking, they were everywhere: fancy faux Macs in burger, bao and even pizza form. Here, seven Toronto takes on the king of fast-food burgers.

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Drinks

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Six ways with rum, from The County General’s Jeff Carroll

The pirate’s grog is making a comeback. Here, County General bartender Jeff Carroll concocts his favourite rum cocktails, with fun new twists

Six ways with rum

1 | Dr. Painkiller (pictured)
Shake 2 oz El Dorado Deluxe Silver rum, 1 oz fresh lime juice, ¾ oz grenadine, 3 drops Fee Brothers cranberry bitters, 2 slices muddled cucumber and a handful of cranberries with ice. Pour into a 16-oz Mason jar. Top with ginger beer and garnish with shaved ginger.

2 | Wake-Up Call
Shake 1 ¼ oz El Dorado Deluxe Silver rum, 1 oz chilled espresso and 1 oz Kahlua with ice. Double-strain into a coupe. Garnish with three espresso beans.

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Trend Watch

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The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Late-Night Dining

We’re dining around the clock and the options for a midnight feast are suddenly excellent

The Top Food Trends and Who Does Them Best: Late-Night Dining

Drake One Fifty serves lofty comfort food and smart cocktails well past midnight

At some point over the past year, around the time Rob Ford was smoking crack in a drunken stupor, we became a city that eats at all hours. It now takes weeks of planning to get a table at 10 p.m. at the hotter spots. And if you want a meal after midnight, there are finally options other than greasy all-night diners and those Chinatown backrooms where the only thing anyone orders is “cold tea.” After a three-hour Scorsese opus at the Revue, I’ll go to La Cubana, Corrina Mozo’s new restaurant on Roncesvalles, where the cooks make a mean medianoche, the traditional Havana sandwich stacked with roasted pork, ham and gruyère—they also have versions with chorizo, or guava-glazed short rib, or avocado and queso fresco. The kitchen at the County General, the Queen West gastropub, officially closes at 11, but the place is usually full until last call, patrons scarfing down pork buns and devilled eggs while sipping bourbon cocktails. (They’ve expanded to Riverdale and Bloorcourt.) Even the owners of the prim Nota Bene wanted in on the fun, opening Carbon Bar on Queen East. They serve perfectly smoked southern-style barbecue, fried chicken skin, and intricate cocktails with citrus oils and rare tinctures until late-late-late.

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Trend Watch: Is Toronto seeing the slow death of the destination restaurant?

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

When Scott and Lindsay Selland announced that they were turning Acadia, their lowcountry kitchen on Clinton Street, into a family-friendly snack bar called Red Sauce, Toronto food lovers were flummoxed. Throughout its run, Acadia had been revered as one of the city’s most exciting kitchens. Why take something so special and transform it into something relatively run-of-the-mill?

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Openings

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Introducing: The County Cocktail, the Queen West diner’s new Riverdale café and snack bar

Introducing: County Cocktail

Name: The County Cocktail and Snack Bar
Contact Info: 798 Queen St. E., 416-781-4743, thecountygeneral.ca/cocktail, @countycocktail
Neighbourhood: South Riverdale
Owner: County General owner and former Splendido partner Carlo Catallo
Chef: The County General’s Danai Hongwanishkul, formerly the sous-chef at Canoe

The Place: The County General’s new east-end spin-off is a café, snack shop and cocktail bar in one. (It opens its doors at 7 a.m. on weekdays, in time for morning commuters to get their caffeine fix, and stays open until 11 p.m.—or later on weekends.) The space is bigger and sleeker than the original, but it conveys the same country-style spirit with bright red bar stools and discrete touches of gingham.

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Restaurants

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New Year’s Eve Dinners: eight delicious ways to ring in 2014

(Image: Momofuku)

$120 at Momofuko Daishō buys an eight-course, family-style feast (Image: Momofuku)

The key to a successful New Year’s Eve: making a firm plan and sticking to it. Scoring a great reservation ensures that part of your night will be warm, celebratory and delicious—even if the other part involves shivering on street corners trying to flag down cabs. Here, eight completely different ways to eat your way into 2014.

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The County General is expanding to both Riverdale and Bloorcourt

(Image: Laurent Hilaire)

(Image: Laurent Hilaire)

Last week, we reported that Victor Barry and Carlo Catallo, the power-duo behind Harbord restaurant Splendido and its casual Queen West sister restaurant, The County General, were splitting up. Catallo, we learned, was getting sole custody of The County, and had big plans for expansion. And he wasn’t just stargazing. In fact, Catallo has properties lined up to house two future spin-offs of the Southern-style diner, both slated to open in 2014 and both launching in partnership with former Canoe sous-chef (and new head of culinary ops) Danai Hongwanishkul. The first new outpost is a snacky cocktail bar at Queen and Boulton, a strip of South Riverdale that finally seems to be getting some civilized adult entertainment venues (nearby snacky cocktail bar Hi-Lo, for instance). The second spin-off, opening later in the year, will occupy the former Beirut Palace space at Bloor and Dovercourt. Details on both places are currently scarce. If the original restaurant is an indication, diners can expect steep cocktails, divinely trashy bar snacks, and lots and lots of pork. [BlogTO]

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Splendido owners Victor Barry and Carlo Catallo are breaking up

(Image: Splendido)

Splendido and The County General owners Victor Barry (left) and Carlo Catallo (Image: Splendido)

While other Toronto restaurateurs are forging new partnerships, Victor Barry and Carlo Catallo, co-owners of Splendido and Queen West restaurant The County General, are doing the opposite: they’re breaking up. Unlike most splits, this one is genuinely amicable, and based on the pair’s diverging interests and priorities. The custody arrangements are pretty clear-cut: Catallo will be going solo with The County, which was his gingham-clad brainchild, and is scheming up an expansion plan that would see County spin-offs in several Toronto neighbourhoods. Meanwhile, Barry will focus his energies on fatherhood (he and wife Nikki Leigh McKean are expecting their first child), as well as a still-under-wraps television series. And, of course, Splendido. He is determined to amp up the longstanding Harbord destination restaurant to Michelin-star heights. “I want to surpass everyone’s expectations,” he said, “so they have no doubt in their mind that [Splendido] is the best place to dine in Toronto.” The pair’s final service at Splendido will take place on New Year’s Eve, when Barry will serve a 10-course menu made up of all Catallo’s favourite dishes. Awwww.

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Must-Try

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Must-Try: The County General’s flash-frozen ice cream sundae for two

Must-Try: The County General's ice cream sundae for two

(Images: Nikki Leigh McKean)

Part dessert, part chem-lab demonstration, The County General’s Kitchen Sink sundae captures the drama of retro flambéed bananas and cherries jubilee using modern molecular techniques. Salted-caramel cream gets frozen table-side with a hit of liquid nitrogen, unleashing a vaporous cloud. The instant ice cream is then folded with texture-boosting additions like chocolate-almond bark, meringue shards and rum-spiked raisins, and topped with caramel sauce. The result is gooey, crunchy and delicious, like Rocky Road on steroids. The sweet bonus: it comes with an extra half-pint to take home. $25. 936 Queen St. W., 416-531-4447.

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Restaurants

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The Binge List: top 20 Toronto sandwiches

Toronto’s top 20 sandwiches

Not so long ago, Toronto was a white-bread city. That was before chefs started baking Danish rye, sous-viding bacon and otherwise messing with the old bread-meat-bread formula. Today’s sandwiches are unconventional, artisanal and, we can confirm after extensive testing, utterly delicious. Here, our picks for the top 20 Toronto sandwiches.

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Restaurants

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County General chef Garth Legree decamps for Little Anthony’s

Legree at County General (Image: Laurent Hilaire)

Garth Legree, the Splendido alum who helped open The County General in 2011, has been hired as head chef at Little Anthony’s. Owner Andreas Antoniou says that with Legree at the helm, he’s hoping to replicate the success of sister restaurant Estiatorio Volos across the street, serving straightforward Italian-American dishes that are nevertheless prepared at a high level (for example: all pastas will be made from scratch). Legree starts on Monday, replacing Aaron Foster, who was in charge of the kitchen during the restaurant’s big revamp last year.

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Trend Watch

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Trend We Love: wait list–only restaurants that are now taking reservations

The County General now takes lunch reservations (Image: Laurent Hilaire)

No one likes spending hours in the cold waiting for a table at a hot new restaurant. But ever since The Black Hoof opened in 2008, it’s become de rigueur for new spots to spurn reservations in favour of buzz-building lineups out the door. Thankfully, there are signs of change, and some of those very restaurants have now recanted from their earlier ways. We’ve rounded up the most recent places to make the switch below:

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Restaurants

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The Momofuku Effect: How David Chang took over the city’s menus long before Momofuku even opened its Toronto doors

The Momofuku Effect

(Photographs courtesy Momofuku)

The New York mastermind behind Momofuku is one of the most copied chefs of the last decade. His brand of fusion—Asian street food elevated to fine dining—has been inspiring Toronto chefs for years. In fact, if you’ve eaten at the restaurants below, chances are you’ve already tasted Chang’s influence. Here, eight Momofuku signatures and their Toronto counterparts.

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Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the just-greasy-enough fried chicken thigh sandwich at The County General

(Image: Renée Suen)

Greasy southern comfort food has been surging in popularity for a few years now, but it’s always difficult contemplating a return to the office after a helping of chili, say, or fried chicken. The County General, Splendido’s cooler younger sibling on Queen West, has a solution, in the form of its perfectly lunch-sized fried chicken thigh sandwich ($14). 

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