Service announcement: I'm going to be visiting family for the next week, and wont be able to paint! Drawn and Devoured will return in the new year..to celebrate its first anniversary! Yay! Happy New Year everyone!
I like that I work downtown now. Everything is so much closer when you're right on the subway and tram lines. Just walking anywhere is so easy. Compared to my commute of a month ago, walking anywhere is FAST, too! In a way I feel like I've rejoined civilization, with all the luxuries that that entails- like having a restaurant as lovely as The Gabardine (372 Bay St) in spitting distance. I could go there for every lunch if only I wasn't the kind of workaholic who doesn't break for lunch! Over their polished glass window is a glowing emblem of a pigeon who has stared at me with a playful mockery for the last few weeks, as I've adjusted to the new pace of this new life, knowing that a good dinner must be right around the corner.
Could I get used to the Bay Street life of cocktails at 5, after a hard days work? Could I become used to pickles and devilled eggs and hot olives as a matter of course? Dangerously, yes. My friends, a new chapter may be starting here.
On a Friday a reservation is a must- while I know that, I usually neglect to take care of the basic practice. So we sat at the bar, which is deep and white and marble. Raw tungsten zigzags under odd shapes bulbs illuminated the white walled room dimly. I thought maybe I would run into Nucky Thompson or one of his cronies. Was it the wide bar or the beach white that made me feel like a sneak on a 20's set? I like it here. They have good cocktails (though I opted for beer), and the servers are friendly, jovial. I don't know if the dress code is plaid, but all but two of the staff wore it. Molly, Pietro (also wearing plaid) and I shared the bar with a few ladies who were clearly friends of staff, ladies who were slyly served dishes not offered on the menu. I would have ordered a tamale if it had been an option! The menu items we are given to choose from are super enticing, fortunately.
I twisted Molly's arm into sharing some devilled eggs with me, and she twisted back so that we also got warm olives (you can imagine just how hard we had to wring, ie: not at all). I love bar snacks. They're the perfect size, and excellent for sharing. Devilled eggs are by far turning into a small obsession, a late-night craving which is now easily met at a couple places in Toronto. These devilled eggs ($4) are briny soft, very creamy without tasting heavily of mayo, a touch of dry mustard, four halves to a serving. They're classic, nothing ventured, and they please even if they don't astound. The warm olives ($5) are in the same boat. Warm, succulent, perfectly salted. No fancy tricks, just enjoyable fruit...for the most part. There were two stand out olives in the bowl of assorted sizes and colours. Two green buttons stuffed with lemon rind. An amazing kick in the teeth! It's so good it makes me wish I had a martini in my hand, even now.
In tandem with beginning a new job, with the upcoming new year, I am attempting to turn over some sort of new leaf. It's tough when you love food like I do, but I'm trying to be...well...healthier. Knowing that I would have a salad as an entree, I revisited my cruel arm-twisting-technique I connived to share some rabbit rillettes ($9) with M&P. I'm not sure which blogger I'm reading who keeps raving about rillettes, but someone is out there tainting my mind with desires. These were a first for me, so for those of you for whom it will also be a first, let me explain: rillette is a pate made without liver, to put it crudely. It's a fat-cooked tenderized meat paste, and it is delicious. The rabbit keeps a bit of game to it, but is mostly tamed by smooth fat. The paste is served with fresh, flaky crostini, which are salted with clear and sharp flakes of sea salt, or rock salt. There is something noticeably potent about the salting in all the dishes. It isn't heavy, I mean - it's just that the salt has a palpably high quality. The crostini are airy, and the rabbit rillette happily stuffs the pockets of air. Add puckering sweet-sour cherry preserve, and we have a winning dish.
So, a salad. The Gabardine has a pleasingly imaginative approach to their herbivorous selections, which is great to see. Garden, Greek and Ceasar salads just don't turn me on. I love sweet peas like a kid loves cake, so I let out an internal cheer for the salad of crushed sweet peas on bread with bufala mozzarella ($12), which combines some of my favourite things- bufala mozzarella is a big love of mine. They're all different though, aren't they? This mozzarella had a way stronger personality than what I'm used to. Even with a strong minty lemon garnish, with fresh baby pea shoots, this mozzarella was running wild. I think it mated with a blue cheese somewhere down the line. Oh, on the outside it looked like a cloud of sweetness, like a proper mozzarella, but that FLAVOUR! Yes, a little musky. A little unexpected. The rest of the salad was also surprising. The bread was not very big, and I think this should be moved into the appetizer section of the menu. The crushed peas were piled high, and were freshly cooked, not from can, freezer or dehydrator. Delicious- but light. Lightly oiled, sparked with the same perfect salt. There was not much greens under the bread display, so it was less of a salad than an open face sandwich on a baguette spear, which itself was artfully charred, char which penetrated each mouthful.
I did not try the club house sandwich ($12) which Molly had, but it looked inviting. Two slabs of pancake-fluffy Texas toasts were lightly golden, kissed by a frying pan, holding everything together. The chicken was generous, the bacon visible in fine strips. I'm told it was rather lemony. With fingerling potatoes and a heap of juicy greens, it made a lovely sight, and all was eaten but the crusts.
Pietro was also going to have the club, but these two are wonderful and obliging friends who have come on enough blog dates to know I thrive on variety. He opted instead for a big ol' skirt steak ($23), grilled medium. There's a twist on this steak which is something I appreciate seeing, especially since I spent a good deal of time at backyard barbecue's eating grilled peppers with chimichurri sauce this past summer. A chimichurri thick as chutney was lumpen atop the fat and proud steak. It was grainy and grassy, full of herbs. I love chimichurri and think it goes great with fresh red meat. The steak was robust, with loose marbling. I don't know if it was parsley of cilantro in this home variation of chimichurri, but Pietro doesn't like cilantro (one of those soap tasters) and pushed the sauce aside. A tragic waste! I like the zing and lime of it seeping into the meat. Their fries are good, too! Shoestring with the skin on (need I again mention that yummy salt? Well, once more won't hurt).
We'll see if the Gabardine keeps me coming back for dinner or lunch. I think they're likely catch me for breakfast (seriously they open at 8am, right before I start!) and after work drinks. The area holds many unexplored gems, and city, I'm ready.