The meandering epicurist

Trattoria Milano | Eataly

In a quiet corner of the usually bustling hot spot on Bloor Street, I discover an artful homage to the food and wine of Northern Italy. The chiaroscuro of pools of light on marble tabletops, the rich browns and gold accents, a central bar, glass-fronted wine cellar and shelving with object d’art (including an iconic Olivetti typewriter) create a comfortable eclectic atmosphere.

Beverage director, Mathew Oranski, tells me the intention was to create a cultural experience in the space as he gets me off to a good start with a glass of Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige bubbly. Made by the traditional method from Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco, its wonderfully fresh well-balanced and crisp.

Reflecting the Lombardy region, the menu hews towards rice, meat and dairy. I start with a Roman Salad which incorporated dandelion, endive, pecorino cheese and to my everlasting delight, Chef Luca Lussoso has allowed his zippy anchovy dressing to shine through. No timorousness here!

I follow with the Wild Boar Sausage Risotto with Amarone. It’s wonderfully smoky and rich, with added zing from the Amarone. Paired with a lovely Valpolicella, I could eat just this as a meal in itself. But wait, there’s Veal Shank Ossobuco. The portion is huge and arrives on bed of almost Technicolor yellow risotto. The veal is indulgent, fall-off-the-bone succulent and the saffron lemony flavours of the risotto are a perfect accompaniment. It’s richness is perfectly balanced by the earthi-ness and fine tannins of a 2015 Barolo. Perfect.

Should you still have room, or the inclination, there are two very worthy desserts: an indulgent
dark and brooding Chocolate Torte with hazelnut, olive oil and sea salt and a lighter fresher Cannoli with lemon ricotta and pistachio. Matthew Oranski suggests Recioto dell Valpolicella Luigi Righetti, a rich red dessert wine with restrained sweetness. It’s a perfect match.

Gourmet isolating

Happy to see one of my favorites, Miku, is part of isoish, a newborn culinary program that is brining together a few of Toronto’s most beloved restaurants, including Il Covo, Drake One Fifty, Lake Inez, BBsDiner and Barque. The program will host a revolving selection of four-course Prix Fixe meals for “isolators” to feast on.

The concept is delightfully simple. Diners select the featured meal they want along with an Empress Gin kit, and the participating restaurant delivers the meal to their door. And, to top it off, the daily bread food bank gets a portion of each sale. Sure beats door dash!

Trinidad’s 2000 Caroni Rum

The legendary Caroni Distillery, famous for supplying a heavy rum to the British navy in days gone by, was shuttered in the early two-thousands due to the closing of its local sugar refinery. Now, thanks to a group who distilled and aged the remaining 7 casks of this iconic rum for 17 patient years, Caroni lives on with the release of 2700 limited edition bottles. A remarkably powerful, complex rum with a finish that’s full, rich and fabulous.

Everyday Gourmet Coffee

Maintaining a grip on reality during COVID-19 lockdown for me, is dependent on fine wine, good food and, dare I say it, great coffee.

Fortunately, most retailers at St. Lawrence Market are still operating, including Saralee Spector’s, Everyday Gourmet. A bijou store that somehow manages to squish in a coffee roasting machine, 36 stacked self-serve containers of freshly roasted coffees, coffee paraphernalia, teas, chocolate and even a small coffee counter.

They maintain a wide range of coffees from around the world including some occasional rare and difficult to find coffees. And particularly appealing, they do not over-roast their beans. Each coffee has tasting notes and details of its drying process. They also have delivery service for those who don’t want to venture out.

CHEMEX Coffee Maker

Good coffee beans freshly roasted are one thing. How to make a great cup of coffee is another. Over the years, I have tinkered with all manner of coffee makers, from fancy machines emitting nimbuses of hissing and swirling steam to simple drip funnels with paper cones. So it was that I stumbled on the CHEMEX® system.

The CHEMEX® coffeemaker was invented in 1941 by chemist Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. He applied his understanding of the chemistry behind the extraction of flavour and caffeine from coffee beans to brew the perfect cup of coffee. His solution, an hourglass shaped glass brewer with a wooden collar inspired by the Bauhaus school of design. Into the brewer goes a special cone-shaped double bonded paper filter.

Not only is the brewer featured in various museum collections including one at the MOMA, but it made an appearance in James Bond’s breakfast in From Russia with Love.

But my acid test, of course, is how it makes coffee. After fiddling around to get the right amount and grind of coffee into the filter and following the detailed instructions, I was bowled over. I discovered subtleties of flavour that previously eluded me. This is now my go-to coffee maker.

Sparks fly

Made from 100% Pinot Noir from the Quarry Road Vineyard, we tried Tawse’s first Spark Rose since 2009 and the first to be made from this vineyard. Crafted in the Traditional Method, this wine spent 12 months on the lees. The first thing you will notice is the beautiful salmon colour, soon followed by the fruit forward, fresh and bright aromas of strawberry, pink grapefruit and hints of toasted almond. The strawberry notes carry through to the palate. The finish is tart, dry and refreshing. This sparkling wine can be served as an aperitif on the patio paired alongside honey, lime shrimp skewers, salmon tartare or a spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries. Of course, a delightful wine like this is also perfect all on its own.

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