Saturday, June 8, 2013

A trip up to Toronto for our anniversary

My wife and I always try to get away from home for our anniversary and this year was no exception. After shopping around and being offered a great deal from the Grand Hotel, we settled on Toronto. Here's some food focused highlights from our trip.

We headed up to Toronto after I was done work on a Wednesday so by the time we got into town and checked into our Hotel, which was truly amazing by the way, it was late. So we headed to one of our favourite places to spend an evening: C'est What. We found C'est What the last time we were up in Toronto and fell in love. This is my kind of place. All local and as Canadian as possible. They have 39 Ontario Craft beers on tap at all times. In addition they have a multi-page drink menu that only includes wines and beers from Ontario. Added to that they are a true brew pub and feature a large selection of brews made right there. Plus the food is fantastic.

We spent the morning of our second day recovering and then headed out to find some breakfast and do some shopping. I discovered that the built in Apple map app linked to Yelp and would show us restaurants in our area. So what I did was put in where we wanted to end up and find somewhere along the way to stop in and eat.

The map app and Yelp is how I found the Sunset Grill. I've since learned this is a chain, though you wouldn't have guessed that from their downtown location. The place just looked like a good place to get breakfast. That whole old school dinner kind of look. Things like fresh squeezed orange juice and down to earth really homey food has turned this into a Toronto breakfast spot I plan to hit up any time I'm in town. Oh and the coffee was really good and went great with that fresh squeezed juice.

The main reason we picked Toronto for our trip was to attend the North American Craft Beer Experience. This rather cool event was held at the Berkeley Church which turned out to be an awesome venue. I would love to have this venue for a gaming event. We got to the event early and snagged a seat upstairs on the balcony across from the Warsteiner booth. We spent the night trying a ton of new beers. I think by the end of the night I got to try over 40 new brews which is pretty amazing. The entire event cost $20 to get in and then you bought samples for $1. The place was packed, the beer was great and this made the entire trip well worth it.

I learned that night that I really dig Spearhead Brewery. Their new Belgian Stout was one of the best beers I had that night. Actually Spearhead was premiering this new beer at the event. What was really interesting about this event, well before it got so packed that you could barely move, was that all of the brewers were there to talk about their beer. They didn't just pour you a drink they told you a story about what you were about to drink. Hearing this behind the scenes stuff was extremely interesting.

One of the only problems with the North American Craft Beer Experience was that the event started at 5pm and went until 11pm and there wasn't really any food. There were a few small appetizers you could buy but they were way too expensive. A slider cost five times more than a beer! Seriously. So we didn't really eat at the event and left very hungry. This led us to another Toronto favourite of mine.

Vapeur Cochonne one of the rare
beers at Beer Bistro
Years ago I discovered through a good friend and fellow beer fan. At some point I discovered that this great site also did restaurant and beer pub reviews. Since then Ratebeer has been one of the sites that is a big part of our vacation planning. It's through Ratebeer that we first found Beer Bistro more than five years ago. I think we've stopped in there every trip to Toronto since. Beer Bistro is a high end restaurant that also happens to have one of the best, if not the best brew selection in the city. Not only that but the menu it beer themed with pairing suggestions right there on the menu. They are also known to get in some rather rare stuff that isn't available anywhere else. I highlighted my meal, stuffed chicken breast, in the latest #FoodPornFriday post.

One of things my wife and I really enjoy doing when on vacation is picking up a new, good, two player board game. Most of the time we game with other locals at Windsor Gaming Resource events but it's nice to be able to play something just the two of us. So we stopped in at The Hairy Tarantula. It's an odd place that has a great selection. Their prices aren't usually the best but every month they have rotating sales and if you get there at the right time you can get some great deals. It just so happened that when we were there boardgames were 30% off. Score! We picked up a copy of Le Havre The Inland Port and played a few rounds while killing time between shopping and dinner time.

Sadly out last full day in Toronto was a very rainy one. We spent the day with a really blah breakfast and headed to the Kensington Market. This is right in the heart of Chinatown and really cool to see. Unfortunately the crappy weather combined with the exhaustion of a longer than expected walk from our hotel had both the my wife and I a bit less excited about the whole thing than we should have been.  It was cool but our hearts just weren't in it.  It's somewhere I would really like to check out some other trip though as the variety of unique shops combined with farmer's market goods was rather cool.

As the day wore on the weather got worse and worse. We checked out the rest of the Hotel. We chickened out on the roof top hot tubs and instead tried out the swimming pool. We played a few more games of Le Havre and generally just enjoyed not being at home. Eventually we grabbed dinner at the closest place possible that wasn't in the hotel. A rather empty Thai Place called Pi-Tom's. We each ordered a dish and some rice. The place was completely empty though, no one there but us and the service was horrible. You would figure that if you only had one set of customers you would at least pay attention to them. Oh well. The food made up for this though being well above average. For somewhere we just happened to go to because it was pouring rain and it was the nearest port in the storm we were pretty happy with it. I don't think I would go out of my way to go back but if we are ever at The Grand again and it's raining, I could see going back to Pi-Tom's.

The final day we checked out the buffet at the hotel for breakfast. It was very solid. I've had better but never anything this good as an included meal. You can't beat the Sunday brunch at the Delta Armouries in London but you also pay for what you get. This meal was included with the room but was impressive enough that I wouldn't have minded paying regular brunch prices.

We took a round about way back to Windsor stopping at a variety of game and comic shops we've never been to in the Toronto 'burbs. Most of them were cool enough but not worth really writing home (or here) about. We did find one hidden gem though: If you are into miniature gaming you should really check out Heavy Support Games in Etobicoke. Great little place with support for a huge variety of miniature games. They had support for games I've never even seen in real life. Stuff like Dystopian Wars and Infinity. But yeah, this is a food blog, moving along.

We did have one last stop before getting home and that was P-Za-Pie in London. I talked about this place before, and noted that this is one of our must stops on any trip home to Windsor from up north. The place is always amazing and this stop in was no exception. This time around I decided to try to make my own pizza instead of ordering off the menu. It was good but not great. I think next time I will leave the topping selection to the experts.

So yeah, we went to Toronto for our anniversary and had a great time. The weather kind of sucked but that didn't really dampen our mood. We got to check out the North American Craft Beer Experience which was awesome. We got to eat at some of our favourite places. I got to try a crap ton of new beers. We got a great new two player board game. All in all I don't think I could have asked for much more.

So when you head out of town do you have favourite spots you return to time and time again, or do you like to mix it up every time, trying somewhere new?

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