Friday, February 2, 2007

My faith in Winterlicious is restored. Beerbistro was great.

After Thuet Bistro on Wednesday night, I was contemplating boycotting Winterlicious forever, but Beerbistro has renewed my faith. Lunch today was everything that dinner at Thuet was not. We were attentively served at a relaxed pace and the food was both delicious and generous.

I went with Amanda, Tanya, David, and Marcelo from work and we were joined by our former co-worker and friend Todd Van Allen who is also a very talented stand-up comedian. Our reservation was for 11:45AM (they said they were all booked up for noon) and they had called me yesterday to confirm, so I was nervous that it would be super-hectic and rushy like at Thuet. But, the place was nearly empty when we arrived and although it eventually filled up, it never got so loud we had to shout.

Beerbistro is known for both its selection of imported beers and the use of beer in its cuisine. Every dish on the menu has beer in it with the exception of some desserts. Before we ordered, I started with a $6 beer sampler, which is three small brandy snifters (2-3 oz each) of different draughts. I hate deciding, so the waiter picked three for me, which were: Affligem Blond (Belgium; 6.8% alc.), King Brewery Pilsner (Ontario; 4.8% alc.), and Stiegl Pils (Austria; 5% alc.). My favourite was the Stiegl.

What is great about going to lunch with other people who love food is that they tolerate my relentless picture-taking and coordinate with me so that we've ordered at least one of everything on the prix fixe menu. We also got two cones of fries because, well, do you need a reason?

I started with wild mushroom soup with shallots, thyme, and smoked porter (smoked porter is a kind of beer). I was immediately astounded by how generous the portion was. The soup serving was larger than the entire three-course meal at Thuet. Not that I condone huge portions; all I'm saying is that this portion was reasonable while the ones at Thuet were dollhouse sized. The soup was lovely -- smooth, earthy, and spicy.

For my main, I ordered the grilled flat iron steak (rare -- you get a better piece of meat if you order rare) with caramelized beer onions, herb butter, and redskin smashed potato. It wasn't the rarest rare, but it was tasty and tender. The potatoes and onions were yummy, especially all mixed together like they were.

Amanda had mac and cheese with Berkshire beer-braised ham, bratwurst sausage, veggie chips, and smoked tomato ketchup. I stole little tastes of both the sausage and the mac and cheese and they were to die for. And so generous. Tanya and Todd had 'Quebec Duck & Ale Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip Potato Crust', which sounds much more poetic than its description on the bill, which was: Duck Pie. I snuck a little bit from Tanya's. It was hearty and savoury, and it retained heat like you wouldn't believe. Marcelo and David had the ' Braised Veal Cheek with Belgian Ale Mushroom Jus and Carrot and Turnip Purée' which I admired from afar since they were at the other end of the table. Poo.

The cones of fries were sublime. They came with both mayo and 'smoked tomato ketchup'. The ketchup was really smokey. I had hoped that it was made from scratch from roasted tomatoes and chipotle, but I suspect it's Heinz with liquid smoke mixed in. Still, it was good. And the fries couldn't have been better. Never come to Beerbistro without ordering fries.

For dessert, I had the 'Apple Cranberry Crumble with Cherry Beer, Almond Crust, and Honey Whipped Cream'. Actually, the honey whipped cream was missing, but nevertheless it was delicious -- nicely crumbly with a tart berry sauce on the side. I grabbed a bit of Tanya's 'Belgian Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Früli Beer and Fresh Fruit" and it was perfect -- smooth and not too sweet. I could have had a bucket of it.

That entire three-course lunch (excluding drinks and fries) was only $15 per person and it was amazing. Winterlicious at Beerbistro is such a great deal because normally lunch would cost at least twice as much. That dinner at Thuet was $35/person and not nearly as tasty or generous. Next year, make sure to go to Beerbistro; not Thuet.

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