How We Eat - A Canadian Wonderland: Day 3.5
Saturday, August 31st (again)
I'm obviously writing this well after our journey to Canada. For whatever reason, I couldn't get behind a trip report on the road. It happens. I've made peace with it. So someone asked me the other day, "Do you consider yourself a Foodie??" I paused for a second. Does "Foodie" have a negative connotation?? I hope not. My response was yes, I figure I could call myself one. "Well, so and so is a Foodie, but he also stops at Jack in the Box when we go to California."
And that's the thing. I am going to walk through our meal in Toronto. A pretty epic meal. And while I rarely make a McDonald's or Chick-Fil-A run (not cause of the one reason for Chick-Fil-A, but because of a mold issue and the lack of remorse from the location in which the mold issue occurred, but I digress...), I think there is totally a place for fast food joints. I may eat pork belly occasionally, but I'm not above eating "normal stuff." So "Foodie" hopefully doesn't just mean someone that eats high-end food. "Foodie" hopefully just means someone who eats well, no matter what the occasion. And hopefully "Foodie" also means "someone who eats oatmeal for dinner because they are too lazy to make an actual meal". Cause if that is the case...Foodie!!
We finalized our dinner for tonight almost before we decided on the trip. Bourdain went here. Every guide to Toronto we saw referenced this place. When we mentioned our plans to our sommelier the other night, she made a fist pump. Now sure, Old John Ritter gave a "meh" noise, but...I don't think he was really this restaurant's target demo. We were excited about this place since the beginning of the planning process. Where were we going?? The Black Hoof.
The restaurant itself was unmarked. We took a trolley from our hotel (a few blocks away from our hotel) to basically the front of the restaurant. But it wasn't easy to see. Look for the awning that says "Charcuterie." This is what you're looking for. The restaurant itself is not large. But we always knew we would have to wait. So we added our names to the list (45 minute wait. Not bad. Not bad at all.) and walked across the street to the Cocktail Bar.
The thing is, these restaurants are basically in a residential area. Which makes you pause. Are you really supposed to be here?? Um...yeah. You want to be here. So you walk into the building that says Cocktails. This is the Black Hoof Cocktail Bar.
It's like walking into a home. A cute home. With tin ceiling tiles and old timey cabinets. We found two seats at the bar and got a little bit giddy. So cute. So fun. Behind the cabinets were liquors infused with items. The bartenders were artists. I may not drink hard alcohol/drinks anymore, but I respect the process. And the process here was perfect. Adele said it best, "Maybe we should come back here after dinner." Very likely.
We were close to the 45 minute timing for our seats, so we pushed back from the bar (Boo!!) and jaywalked across the street). After a few minutes, we bellied up to another bar and began our food adventure.
Our waiter was good from the start. But there are no handheld menus. Two menus were written in chalk. One at the front. One at the back of the restaurant. Adele took a picture of the menu and we began pouring over the menu. Most of the options were ones we had already decided on before we even showed up here tonight. And they were all...just...come on...
Yep. We started out strong. Neither one of us had ever eaten horse. And before I get the "I can't believe you ate horse!!" whining, please table that complaint. I go through times where I toy with the idea of vegetarianism. Meat sometimes skeeves me out. But...if I'm going to eat cow, why shouldn't I eat horse?? So...just...let's continue.
Tartare is a finely chopped, raw meat dish. This one had a few sauces over the top. With a radish or two for good measure. I'm not entirely sure how to describe horse meat, honestly. As we took a bite, Adele and I chewed and looked at each other. It tasted...well...horsey?? Is that a word I can use?? It was not beef or chicken-like. It was gamey. It literally tasted like you'd think a horse would taste like. It was good. Don't get me wrong. But it was probably the best first dish. Cause while it was good, every dish after was exponentially better.
Bone marrow was listed as MP on the menu. Market Price. Usually MP is the kiss of death. You see that and stay away. Far away. But the waiter said in his opening spiel that Bone Marrow was $8. Adele was hesitant. Me, not so much. Bone Marrow. For only $8?? Wy are we hesitating?? And oh Jesus. Thank god we didn't hesitate.
At The Purple Pig in Chicago, we get Bone Marrow, but it's a few inches long. And a bone that is small, but tasty. This was something a little bit epic. No one told us what bone we were eating, but my assumption was a leg bone. It covered the entire plate. And it was all marrow. We had toasts and spread the marrow over the toasts. Sea salt was added like normal, but the new flavor was chimchurri. The chimchurri (parsley based sauce) was a nice enough addition, but I think I'm a Bone Marrow purist. Marrow, salt, toast. Perfection. Well worth $8. We considered getting another one.
If we were going to go weird, we were going to go balls-out, weird. So why not go with Blood Pudding?? This Blood Pudding is not like any I'd had before. Normally you see blood pudding in a casing with rice in a sausage-like form. This was a soft consistency in a square form. Like...well...pudding. No rice. Nothing more. But it did include homemade mustard seeds and homemade ketchup chips. The pudding was good. Great with the chips and seeds. And very much will melt in your mouth. It was a nice change of pace from the last two dishes.
Beef Tongue with Brioche
Neither of us entirely knew what to think of this one. But I remember reading about this. And oooooohhhhh...when it came. The brioche was almost like the bread from a lobster roll. It stood upright with the beef tongue shredded and placed inside of the roll. A creamy sauce was on top and cornichons were on the side.
The biggest surprise was how silky the meat actually was. We obviously split this in half and it just kept eating off of the dish. I vaguely remember Mom feeding us tongue as kids. "Nooooooo!!!!! Not tongue!!!" But apparently, if you cook tongue well, you can make some dang good tongue. Ummm...sorry, Mom.
We were pretty happy at this point. I had been drinking some cider. Adele had a drink of wine and the cider. We were happy. We were content. We were mentally adding the bill to see if we could add more to our dinner. The Black Hoof was cash only, or Canadian debit cards. And then, we had our Grand Finale.
Foie Gras Strawberry Shortcake
This shouldn't work. There's no reason this should work. The menu I saw online before we came showed a Foie and Nutella dish. I love both of these things. But Foie and Strawberry?? Even better. As we sat down, the guys seating next to us as we sat down said this dish would change our life. And I'm pretty sure it did.
Picture this...a sugary biscuit on the bottom layer. Cover that in strawberries (macerated, naturally). Cover that with foie gras. Cover that with nuts and arugula. So you have the soft and oily with the sweet and fruity and the biscuity goodness. And it was glorious. I turned to Adele and said, "This makes me want to cry." And I was not being snarky. I was 100% truthful. This just made me supremely happy. And I knew I would not really have this again. Unless something odd happens in my life. Which...
|Cause it doesn't hurt to have another shot of the glory...|
Would we recommend The Back Hoof to everyone?? Yes. Would you have to go in with an open mind?? Oh, yeah. But if you want to eat like you rarely do and you're already in Toronto...go here. There are no regrets.