Category Archives: food

Dogfish Head Dinner: Hot Damn!

Working at the same place for almost 20 years generally means you get some nice perks (assuming you work at the sort of place that provides perks, of course), which is why I am lucky enough to have five weeks of paid vacation a year. The problem, though, is that I’m really slack about taking that time off. I rarely travel, and I generally enjoy my job, so taking a big chunk of time off at once usually isn’t a priority for me.

So around this time every year, when I’ve only taken a handful of days off for short trips or appointments, I start to realise that I’d better start booking a few days here and there before I end up having to take the entire month of December off. Which is why I’m off work today (well, that and the fact that my wife, who works from home, it out of town today, so I needed to stay home to take care of our dogs who are a couple of spoiled brats that get a walk every 3-4 hours).

All of which is a long-winded explanation as to why I finally have some time to post something to this oft-neglected blog of mine. In fact, I might manage to get a few posts written today, although I’ll probably schedule them to post sporadically over the next week or two in order to fill what is bound to be another lengthy gap before I get around to writing something here again.

Today’s topic: The stupendous Dogfish Head beer dinner at beerbistro that I attended way back on Wednesday May 28th. As others have noted, this was possibly the best beer dinner Toronto has ever seen, and it was certainly the best I’ve ever attended. Even DFH’s Sam Calagione (pictured above right, along with Tom Peters from Monk’s Cafe in Philly who made a pit stop on his way to Mondiale in Montreal) was completely blown away, and said that it was in his top three DFH dinners ever.

The spectacular meal from beerbistro chef Brian Morin and his stellar kitchen staff featured nine courses, all of them playful takes on classic comfort foods, and each paired with a Dogfish Head beer, plus a bonus beer at the end. If you know anything about DFH, you’ll know that most of their beers are 6% and up, with some as high as 20%+, so it probably goes without saying that Thursday morning was a little blurry. But man, was it worth it.

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The Very Beery Month Of May

Wow, nearly a month since my last post. That’s a long time, even for an irregular and inconsistent blogger like myself. Lotsa things have been keeping me busy – in fact, looking back at my social calendar for the last month, you could say that I’ve just been too busy drinking good beer (+ other things) and eating great food to write about any of it…

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Southern Tier Beer Dinner

As usual, others have beat me to it, but I figure since I was a host and co-presenter of the Southern Tier beer dinner at the Academy of Spherical Arts last Friday, I should probably post a little write-up about it.

This was the first beer dinner presented by import agency Roland + Russell for one of their represented breweries, and while the turn-out was a bit lighter than they’d hoped (most likely due to the insane number of beer dinners that have taken place recently), it was still a great night. It definitely helped that the Academy is an absolutely gorgeous venue, and that the chef did a pretty fine job on the food and beer pairings. And having Phin DeMink and Paul Caine on hand from the brewery to speak and answer questions was a big plus as well.

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You'd Think We'd Never Seen An IPA Before

Those of you who don’t live in a jurisdiction with a nanny state style liquor board will probably find this hard to believe, but the fact that Southern Tier IPA is soon going to be available on the general stock list at the LCBO is a Really Big Deal to Ontario beer geeks. For the past couple of years, we’ve had a grand total of three American craft brews available in our retail liquor stores – Brooklyn Lager, Sam Adams Boston Lager and Anchor Liberty Ale – so the impending addition of another fine beer from south of the border has made us happy. (Even better: it will soon be joined by Dogfish Head 60 Minute and Rogue Dead Guy Ale!)

To celebrate the occasion, Southern Tier’s Ontario import agents Roland + Russell have arranged for brewery co-founder Phin DeMink and his brewmaster whose name escapes me at the moment to come up to Toronto for a couple of launch events this weekend.

The first is a dinner on Friday night at the Academy of Spherical Arts, featuring four Southern Tier beers paired with four food courses. Plus Phin and Mr. Brewmaster will be saying a few words, and there’ll be some tag team MC/host action from Cass Enright of The Bar Towel and yours truly. At 75 bucks (all taxes & tips included) for a gourmet meal, several beers, free pool on the Academy’s renowned tables, and the chance to see me make a complete ass of myself, it’s truly the bargain of the year.

And if you’re busy on Friday (or just a cheapass), there’s a free admission “meet & greet” at Volo on Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, where the Southern Tier duo will be hanging out to chat, and several ST beers will be available to purchase and enjoy. (Yes, I know that the Roland + Russell event page says that it costs $20. That was the original plan – a $20 ticket which included beer samples – but it changed.)

Hopefully, we’ll soon reach the point where a new American beer of quality coming to Ontario will be no big whoop. But for now, it’s a great excuse to get together and do it up right. Hope you can make it.

Bavaria/Koningshoeven Beer Dinner

This past Tuesday evening, the unofficial Month Of Beer Dinners continued with a dinner at the website-less Abbot On The Hill that featured three courses paired with beers from the Dutch breweries Bavaria and Koningshoeven.

I must admit that when I first heard about this dinner, I was a bit confused by the beer selections. Aside from the fact that both breweries are Dutch and are repped in Canada by Premier Brands, I couldn’t see much in common between a large (albeit family-run) brewery that specialises in mainstream lagers, and a small abbey brewery that produces Trappist ales. But as we learned during a talk by Daan Bastijn, president of Bavaria’s North American office in Atlanta, there is a connection between the two, as Bavaria took over the operations of the Koningshoeven brewery in 1999 in order to assist the aging monks in the production of the beer. This arrangement led to Koningshoeven losing the rights to use the official Trappist beer logo for several years, although when the contract was renewed in 2004, Bavaria stepped back into more of an arms-length role, and their official Trappist status was revived in 2005.

(Oh, and by the way, i forgot my camera and had to use my phone to take the photos in this post. Which explains why they’re even shittier than usual.)

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Beer Steps Up To The Gourmet Plate

Since starting Taste T.O. early last year, Sheryl and I have been going to a good number of gourmet food events, and as you’d expect, the vast majority of them feature wine as the beverage of choice, with the beer choices (if there even are any) often limited to one or two mainstream offerings. So I was pretty stoked a few weeks ago when I found out about the Brewers Plate, a gourmet tasting event pairing (mostly) local food from some of Toronto’s top chefs with beers from some of the area’s best craft breweries, all in support of Green Enterprise Toronto.

The event took place this past Friday, April 11th at the picturesque Berkeley Church, and was a success on pretty much all levels, from the quality of the food and drink, to the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. I’m going to be writing up a full report for the summer issue of TAPS, but in the meantime, here are links to a few write-ups that have been posted by others elsewhere:

Sheryl @ Taste T.O.
Joshua @ blogTO
Troy @ Great Canadian Pubs & Beer
Christine @ Canadian Living: The Foodie-File

Some photos (most taken by Sheryl, ’cause I’m a klutz with the camera) are available behind the cut.

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Beer Academy at Hart House


Last Thursday night, Hart House on the University of Toronto campus presented their first (and hopefully not last) Beer Academy event hosted by Mirella Amato, a woman who is a relatively new face in Toronto’s beer scene, but a very knowledgeable one.

Attended by roughly 40 people – most of them beer newbies – the evening started with Mirella leading a 90-minute tutored tasting session featuring nine different craft beers:

King Pilsner
St. Andre Vienna Lager
Neustadt 10W30
Mill St. Wit
Black Oak Pale Ale
Church-Key West Coast IPA
Scotch-Irish John By Imperial Stout
Unibroue Maudite
Granite Brewery Gin Lane Barley Wine


As each sample was served, Mirella spoke a bit about the style and the brewery, and also touched on more general beer-related topics (history, ingredients, etc.) between each sample.

All attendees were also given an info sheet with a bit of info about each beer, including availability (LCBO, Beer Store, brewery) and some suggested food pairings. To help with the latter, the second part of the night featured a casual buffet reception, with more of all of the beers and hors d’oeuvre sized servings of the following tasty treats:

Jerk Chicken Drumettes
Grilled Italian Sausage
Grilled Flat-Iron Steak
Panko Crusted Chicken Skewer
Cassava Chips
Mini Venison Burger
Medjool Date Filled With Stilton
Chai Spiced Panna Cotta


The food and drink events at Hart House are known for having a heavy focus on wine, with little or no attention paid to beer (I recall being offered two or three macrobrews as my only beer options at a holiday lunch there last year), so this event was a good step forward for them. Hopefully, it will spin off and improve their everyday beer offerings, as well as inspiring future beer-related events.

It’s also worth noting that Mirella has just launched the website for Beerology, the umbrella name for her various beer-related pursuits such as writing for various publications (including TAPS), presenting the beer programming on the streaming video website, and of course, hosting guided beer tastings. Keep an eye on the site to find out what she’ll be up to next.

The Session #8: Beer and Food

session-logo-med.jpgI’m sure my tens of readers will be happy to know that I’m still alive. I’ve just been even more busy and/or disorganised than ever these past few weeks. Hence the continuing lack of posts.

I couldn’t miss a Session, though. If I did, they might take away my membership in the sooper-seekrit beer bloggers cabal or something.

The theme of this month’s edition – as chosen by the poetically-inclined Captain Hops at Beer Haiku Daily – is Beer and Food, which gives me the incentive to finally get around to posting about an interesting tasting I hosted a couple of weeks ago in a somewhat unlikely location.

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Beer & BBQ: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

As I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past, I was a pescetarian until a few months ago. I had been so for a number of years, not because I have a problem with animals dying for human consumption per se, but because I have a lot of issues with the factory farming industry that produces most of the meat consumed in North America. (OK, there was also the fact that my wife dropped meat from her diet before I did and stopped cooking it for us, and since I’m a lousy cook, it seemed easiest just to give it up as well.)

Earlier this year, however, I decided to start eating meat again for a number of reasons. I won’t go into all of them here, but I will admit that at least some of it was due to me quite simply having cravings for meat more and more often. I nearly caved a couple of times, and then finally fell off the wagon when I was given the opportunity to attend a Brooklyn Brewing dinner at beerbistro back in February where the menu featured many delicious meaty courses.

Since then, I’ve been eating meat on an occasional basis, most often at dinners or events that I’m invited to attend via Taste T.O. or Bar Towel. One of the most recent of these was a lunch earlier this week at Steam Whistle Brewery featuring the succulent creations of Canada’s reigning Grand BBQ Champions, Team Cedar Grilling. Consisting of Steve Adams, Daryl Maybanks and Mike Adams, the Team Cedar trio are a non-profit team who depend on sponsorship to defray their travel and equipment costs (although the $6500 they won a couple of weeks ago probably helps as well – congrats, guys!). Hence their partnership with Steam Whistle who not only hosted this little media get-together, but who also have their beer featured in several of the Team’s recipes.

Held on Steam Whistle’s sunny patio just south of the CN Tower, the lunch started with Cedar Planked Garlic Shrimp with Asiago Gratin served to us right off the planks. There were also an array of salads available, but as we started spooning them on to our plates, one of the guys shouted over that we’d better not eat too much as there was a lot more to come from the grill.

Like, for example, their award winning Parrot Sticks. These are chicken wings that are stretched to their full length and skewered, resulting in a sort of wing-meets-kebab thing that looks kinda funny but tastes damn good, especially when dipped in the accompanying Steam Whistle Chicken Sauce.

Of course, what we really wanted to try were the ribs, and when they finally made it off the grill, they didn’t disappoint. Prepared using the team’s Steam Whistle BBQ Sauce recipe, they were juicy and tender and bone-sucking good. So good, in fact, that they made the Pulled Pork Sandwiches that followed almost anti-climatic. Which is too bad, because the meat itself was possibly the best pulled pork I’ve ever had, it was just let down a bit by the doughy supermarket style bun it was served on and the odd inclusion of cole slaw on the sandwich. Still, I ended up finishing it even though my stomach was threatening to explode from the previous courses and the couple of beers I’d already put back.

Speaking of the beer – as you’d expect, Steam Whistle Pilsner was the only beer option. This beer/brewery gets a lot of flak from the beer geek community due to the fact that it’s a fairly simple, straight-forward, crowd-pleasing lager. But I’ve defended them in the past, and will continue to do so now. Sure, it’s a simple beer, but it’s also a very well-made and refreshing one, and if you drink it cool and fresh – such as the less-than-a-week-old bottles we were served to us at the brewery – it’s a perfect accompaniment to eating some killer BBQ on a warm patio.

For those in Toronto, Team Cedar Grilling will be appearing at the Fort York BBQ Championships on Sept. 14-16. If you’re a fan of the swine and the smoke, you should definitely plan to be there.

Book Review: Grilling With Beer by Lucy Saunders

Grilling With Beer
by Lucy Saunders
F&B Communications, 224 pp.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a manly man. I don’t care much for any sports besides hockey, I don’t own any power tools besides a simple drill set, and I don’t have any interest in cars (in fact, I don’t even have a driver’s license).

The one manly pursuit I do enjoy, however, is barbecuing. At our previous place, my wife and I had use of a large backyard with a great deck, and we invested in a decent quality gas grill. While my wife is a fabulous cook, she always let me man the grill (even though she actually did all the prep work), and even during our years of being almost-vegetarians, we still did up some great grilled fish and veggies once in a while. Last year, we moved into our current yard-less and balcony-less apartment, which meant leaving the BBQ behind. I sort of missed it last summer, and now that I’ve started eating meat again, I’m really missing it.

Rubbing salt in the wound was the recent unexpected arrival of a review copy of Grilling With Beer by American food and beer writer Lucy Saunders. If only this book existed 5 or 6 years ago when I was at the top of my grilling game and getting more and more interested in exploring different beers – I would’ve been in beer & BBQ heaven! Sigh.

Still, even as a member of the unfortunately grill-free set, this is a great book to own. Logically arrayed into 10 main chapters – 5 covering sauces, glazes, marinades, rubs and other basic BBQ condiments, and 5 covering various meats/seafood and sides – Grilling With Beer features well over 100 recipes to match everyone’s tastes (yes, even vegetarians – the recipes for Grilled Herbed Hazelnut Flatbread, Brined Grilled Eggplant, and Grilled Potato Salad all look delicious). And thankfully for kitchen klutzes like me, most of them are pretty simple as well, with clearly written ingredient lists and instructions.

Saunders has also brought a lot of her friends to the party, and features recipes from such beer cuisine luminaries as Brian Morin (beerbistro), Gary Marx (Pike Brewing), Mario Gongora (Marin Brewing) and Scott McGlinchey (Q Real American Food). Also pitching in are the Jason & Todd Alström of, who provide convincing argument for grilling with beer (in case you needed one) in their preface, and the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson, who explains why Saunders is pretty much the best person in the world to have written this book.

Making this book even more of a treat are the segments between the chapters. Written by Saunders and other beer scribes such as Anne Ausderau, Dan Rabin and Jay Brooks, these interludes provide profiles of festivals and events that feature craft beer and grilled/barbecued food, ranging from the New Mexico’s Rio Rancho Pork & Brew and a BBQ Oyster Fest in San Andreas, to events in such exotic locales as Hawai’i, Australia and New Zealand. And as if that weren’t enough, writer and brewer Stan Hieronymus gives some tips on pairing beers with the dishes that the book helps you prepare, and Saunders wraps things up with a list of mail order resources for all of your grilling needs, and a fantastic run down on the flavour profiles of various beer styles.

And it would be remiss not to mention how visually attractive the book is. The spot illustrations and font choices give it a slightly retro look (although not to the point of parody, like so many faux-retro cookbooks that are on the market), and the event profiles feature some nice photos, as do a number of the recipes. All in all, it’s a slick little package.

Like most self-published books, the best way to get your hands on a copy of Grilling With Beer is directly from the author. Mail order instructions can be found on the book’s website,, as well as at Saunders’ main site, If you prefer the in-person method and live in Toronto, there’s a good chance that she’ll have some copies for sale at beerbistro this coming Tuesday, July 10th when she’s there to present a special dinner as part of the restaurant’s month long American Beer & Barbecue Fest.