Tag Archive: regulations


Woo boy, it’s been awhile since I posted some links but between all of the fun I’ve been having this summer and the inevitable procrastination that results from sleeping in, I’ve not been able to produce anything regularly.

So… new idea. Two biweekly links posts per month. This gives me time to gather material, try out recipes and otherwise enjoy myself.

I’ve also reorganized the format slightly. DRINKS will feature cocktail recipes to try when out out on the town and make at home. NEWS will be all about the science and the politics behind what we put in our mouths while FOOD will stick to recipes.

Let me know what you think.

DRINKS

An essential list of some favorite NYC cocktails of the summer of 2011. While there’s no direct connection, I can imagine any reason why anyone planning on visiting wouldn’t pair it with the food guide below. (Off The Presses)

Looking for a fantastic cocktail at Dram? Better stay away from July 20 to the 23rd as their all-star list of bartenders will be in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, the industry conference and booze-fest.

If, however, you’re looking for something a little more low-rent, come for 86′d, a pop-up, quintessential, dive bar experience. Depending on what sort of person you are, this is either a whole lot of fun or far too fucking precious. (The New York Times)

If you want add a silky texture to your cocktails and prevent crystallization, it’s time to start adding gum arabic to your simple syrups. (About.com)

Gum syrup will particularly benefit “tropical” cocktails. (Wired)

This Clementine Fizz sounds perfectly delicious except for one thing: they use vodka. Substitute a floral gin but keep the lovely cucumber-wrapped glass please! (Bakers Royale)

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toronto wine and spirit festival 2010

Thanks to the Attorney General of Ontario, the summer of 2011 will go down in provincial history as the first season where people can attend their favorite festivals and drink to their heart’s content without being crammed like cattle into beer tents. Scenes like the above from last year’s Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival are now a thing of the past.

While the Distillery District is quite pleasant to look at, the experience left a lot to be desired. Once a drink was purchased, it had to be consumed before one could move on to the next tent, which lead to traffic jams, overcrowding and rushed consumption.

While over 8,000 people attended (and I think most of us had an outstanding time), Scott Rondeau, the president of Power Juncture (the event company behind the festival) thought they could do better.

“[We saw] Polson Pier as one big open area with 215 feet of untapped waterfront and we liked it. You’re right on the water, watching the sun set and there are no more pavilions. You don’t have to finish your food or drink before moving on to the next vendor.

If you’re in a group and each one of you wants to try something different, you can do that and move along. No one’s stuck.”

When asked about the changes to the liquor laws, Scott is enthusiastic.

“While the onus will always be on the organizers to provide responsible service, it’s nice to see the public be treated in a more adult fashion.”

With 45 vendors bringing over  200 products for guests to sample, the new set-up should make it that much easier to get around and give everything a taste. According to Scott, most beer samples will cost $1; with wine costing up to $3 more and rarer spirits fetching no more than $8. The cigar lounge from last year will return although this time, the smokes will be paired with scotch instead of rum.

Tickets are available in advance for $25 or you can purchase them at the door for $30. As usual, your entrance fee starts you off with 5 tickets.

The Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival is open from 6pm until 11pm on both Thursday and Friday, June 16th and 17th, respectively. On Saturday, June 18th, the festival opens at 12pm and, except for a brief period from 5pm until 6pm, will remain open until 11pm that night.

(Photo taken from the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival blog.)

“Why do you have so many pictures of food on your Facebook?” a coworker recently asked me, more bemused than concerned.

“What do you love?”, I asked him. “My family,” he instantly replied. His albums are full of photos of them so I presume this to be true. I don’t know him well enough to understand why he wouldn’t make that connection but there it was. Having photos of your family publicly demonstrates your love and fidelity but having photos of the steak you cooked last week seems a bit proud, a little snobby and maybe even gluttonous.

Gluttony’s a really dirty word, the n-word for people who enjoy eating and it can sting a bit when tossed at someone considered guilty of it. While it has its roots in the Latin word gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow and is generally assigned to the overconsumption of food, Catholics went one better and really broke it down. St. Thomas Aquinas thought there were five components:

Laute – Eating food that is too luxurious, exotic or costly.

Nimis – eating food that is excessive in quantity.

Studiose – eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared.

Praepropere – eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time.

Ardenter – eating too eagerly.

Clearly not the kind of man who enjoys himself at the dinner table.

Many people, let alone gourmets, have been guilty of all of the above at one point in their lives. It doesn’t make them gluttons (well, maybe not all of them). While we’re a far cry from fifteenth century Europe, where the class you were born into determined what you were allowed to eat, when you could eat it and how much of it you could ingest, there still live among us those frown at taking too much pleasure in a meal.

B.R. Myers is one of those fellows. Last month he wrote a screed in The Atlantic aimed squarely at gourmets. Appropriately called a “crusade” and taking up the cause of Aquinas, he went on to lay a veritable host of sins at their feet, backed up by cherry-picked quotes from fellow writers and chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Michael Pollan, Jeffrey Steingarten and Gabrielle Hamilton.

If one were to take his article at face value, one might think we were facing the reemergence of Legion, with the epicenter of demonic activity being New York City. According to Myers, foodies are obsessive carnivores taking pleasure in the suffering of animals being butchered and enforcing elitist ideals when it comes to agriculture whilst flying around the world to blithely appropriate whatever local food customs and culture suit their agenda. They get off on the weird dishes they eat and view religious traditions, such as keeping kosher, as outmoded restrictions ripe for sabotage.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

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Is the idea of legalized public drinking inexorably linked for you to the sort of behavior in the video above? While the cynical boozehound in me views the proposed changes to our province’s liquor laws as an attempt by McGuinty and Co. to ward off PC leader Tim Hudak and Ford Nation, I can’t help but get a little excited.

No more beer tents! Whether you’re going to a music festival or the Ex, this is potentially huge. No lineups! No more missing bits of the show because you need another drink.

Anyone who claims we’ll have more drunk assholes like the fella above is missing the point. They’ll always be around. There’s no sense in punishing the vast majority of responsible adults because a few idiots can’t handle their liquor. If they get out of line? BAM, the hammer falls. Zero tolerance.

Of course, Hudak chimed in that he was all for “treating people like adults and not children”. While his point that the Liberal provincial government ignored similar recommendations made in a 2005 study is a good one, I fail to see how bringing back “buck-a-beer” is a grown-up idea.

Wet blanket and New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath stated that “when and where people drink beer is not a priority for most Ontarians”.

Andrea, last time I looked, you’ve never come close to winning an election and judging from the comments appended to this article, I’d say people do give a shit. Maybe you’re not as in-touch with the people as you think?

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Some brewery needs to hire David Cross to do a couple spots. It would make everyone’s day.

ALCOHOL IS LESS FATTENING THAN YOU THINK. Quote. Now stop buying Molson 67. |Toronto Sun|

Adam McDowell has some good ideas when it comes to bars stepping up their game for 2011. |National Post|

We will soon get to try sake the way the Japanese intended when Toronto’s first sake brewery opens in the Distillery District this spring. |Toronto Life|

And as if we really need another reason why NYC is better than us, they’ve gone and protected their front-of-the-house staff’s tips. Not sure if that’s really anywhere near Mayor Ford’s give-a-fuck list but it would be nice… I could always give him a call. |Toronto Life|

I have to say, I have to agree with Beppi when he posits that older whisky is not necessarily better. My favorite range is often the 12 to 18 year-olds. |The Globe And Mail|

Hmm, maybe where Toronto shines is our lack of pretension? A brilliant diatribe against arrogant bartenders. |Threepenny|

But then again, NYC has these three cocktails. Pretty tasty. |The New York Times|

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michael davidson - tequilaIn news that is sure to please college students and horrify parents everywhere, a study that’s currently making the rounds online suggests that boozers live longer than nondrinkers. Those who currently abstain but used to drink also suffered high mortality rates. Perhaps the best news is that moderate drinkers (one to three drinks per day and the category I fall into) live the longest. The most interesting thing about the study is the attention made to the sociable aspects of drinking and the impact this interaction has on mental and physical health.

So next time someone says you’re drinking too much, knock back the spirit pictured above (tequila) and tell ‘em you’re doing it to live better and longer. |Time|

For those of us already comfortable with our levels of alcoholic consumption comes Toronto Beer Week, from September 20th to the 26th. With a home-brewing contest and a series of talks and tastings at a variety of good, local bars (including Bar Volo and C’est What?), it should prove to be the latest in a series of successful events this year celebrating Ontario craft beer.

The week  culminates in a urban treasure hunt of sorts called Toronto Beer Quest. where teams will race around the city solving clues that teach them about the history of beer around them. While I think they’re missing a great opportunity by not involving any actual drinking during the game, it should be fun.

With beer and champagne being found at the bottom of the ocean and whisky being found in Antarctica, it’s only a matter of time before we see new products that are crafted from approximations of their recipes. Whether they’ll taste any good is another thing altogether.|Yahoo, CNN, The Daily Telegraph|

Pabst, in an effort to diversify from its iconic brand beloved by hipsters and other cheap beer-drinkers alike, has released a new beer imaginatively titled Blue Ribbon 1844 in China. No word on whether it’s ever going to be sold over here but I think it’s safe to say we’re probably not missing out on much. |The Baltimore Sun|

Ever wanted to own a pub (and who hasn’t)? One of the most out-of-the-way spots in Britain is being sold. Accessible only by boat or a lengthy hike, it’s strangely quite popular with everyone from the locals to travelers and would continue to be quite the draw I would imagine. It just goes to show you that if you serve good food and drink and have a great vibe, folks will quite literally make the trek to stop in. |Herald Scotland|

Speaking as someone who doesn’t generally order cocktails in an unfamiliar bar, this list of the top ten ways to screw up an Old Fashioned is dead-on. |Bogost|

Some may find it incredibly pretentious but I laughed at a couple of these “cocktails” on the Atlantic’s drinks list. Located at 159 Dundas West, it’s basically the successor to The Boat and follows the same idea of a seafood restaurant becoming a dance club at night… except with less room. Still, they do serve bottles of Duggan’s No. 9.

Toronto’s always been a bit stiff and the new bylaws prohibiting patios on quite a few streets in our fair city ram that rod just little further. |The Globe and Mail|

Predictably, the cocktails designed for the Toronto International Film Festival sound pretty shitty so Adam McDowell asks four local bartenders to come up with something better (not a difficult task). |National Post|

Whisky made from the piss of diabetics? Why not? |James Gilpin|

(Photo by Michael Davidson, courtesy of Time)

Nora Maynard asks a great question and since nothing is more appealing to me than being stuck in a tropical paradise with an unlimited supply of booze, I’ll answer it.

1. Pink Gin-and-Tonic

One of my favorite cocktails made so much better with the inclusion of Fever-Tree Tonic Water.

2. Dark-and-Stormy

Because I’ve been drinking ginger beer since I was little.

3. Mai Tai

It’s so hard to find a good one and we’re lucky to have three or four bars in Toronto who do it justice. The quinessential island drink.

4. Black Velvet

A bit of an oddball choice but I really enjoy ‘em.

5. Manhattan

Always a Manhattan, never a Martini. I can’t help which camp I fall in… What are your desert island cocktails? |The Kitchn|

James Chatto’s swan song for Toronto Life finds him celebrating the architects of the current renaissance our city’s cocktail culture is currently reaping the benefits of. Having finally gotten around to visiting Barchef, I think I need to make my way to both the Black Hoof and Ame. |Toronto Life|

Malcolm Gladwell wonders why we’re surprised when we treat drinkers like sex-and-violence-crazed ruffians and then they behave that way. His idea of using culture to constrain our expectations surrounding the consumption of alcohol has merit. |Toronto Life|

Speaking of ruffians, the City of Toronto has approved temporary changes to the serving hours for bars during the World Cup. You’ll be able to get your booze one, whole hour earlier! |blogTO|

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The provincial government’s new tax on cellared wines has proven divisive, with the big boys like Peller Ltd. and Vincor Canada crying foul and claiming that it will drive consumers further into the seductive charms of cheap reds from South America.

Whatever… It’s a good idea. Promoting wines grown and cellared in Ontario and protecting our greenbelt by making vineyards economically-viable productions sounds a whole lot better to me than adding to the coffers of the Canadian arm of a multinational corporation that buys wine in bulk overseas to blend with its local product.

The big boys do have a point though. Without a concerted effort to educate consumers on why they should be taking a second look at VQA, they may very well heed the call of the bottom line and buy foreign wine.

Also, this change needs to extend to the LCBO. Give VQA even more shelf space and extend the selection to include vineyards who were excluded before because of their smaller production runs. Only so many people will pay attention to ad campaigns; making a change at the end of the line could have a far greater impact.

(If you want a real laugh, read some of the comments left by readers of the article, howling with outrage over another tax… These people are truly and utterly without a clue.) |The Globe And Mail|

While I’m not a big fan of the trend towards noisy restaurants with minimal padding, the science behind why this makes people drink more certainly rings true. Apparently, people eat and drink faster when sonically assaulted because they want to get the hell out of there which results in bigger profits for the owner.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but doesn’t this seem like a bad idea? How does this create a pleasurable dining experience? I fucking hate the music at Jack Astor’s; if you’re right under a speaker it’s nearly impossible to converse with the person next to you. I’ll take an old-school bistro with small two-tops any day. |The Daily Beast|

It gives me quite a bit of pleasure to share a cocktail that not only comes from my family’s country but employs a whole lot of their bitters: The Queen’s Park Swizzle. |Rum Dood|

Another classic drink that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is the Blood and Sand. Like Paystyle says, bump up the Scotch and OJ to achieve nirvana. |Happy Hour|

If you love gin as much as I do, you’re gonna love this collection of gin cocktail recipes, freshly-conceived at a recent Thursday Drink Night. |The Mixosoleum|

I’ve broken my fair share of glassware while washing it so sponges that are shaped to clean ‘em perfectly seems like a good idea to me. |The Spoon Sisters|

Ready to move beyond buying your beer in bottles/cans but not into the idea of brewing your own (it’s not that hard but whatever)? Build a kegerator! |Kegerators.com|

Down in New Orleans, this museum turns into a bar at night. They even tie in the cocktails with the exhibits! This is much better (and a hell of a lot more egalitarian) than the AGO’s members-only wine-tastings.|NOLA.com|

Those of us who don’t have access to flying “Upper Class” on Virgin Atlantic have to make do with what we have around us when it comes to drinking on flights. |Jaunted|

And last but not least, impress your friends and pay off hefty bar tabs with this neat trick of opening a beer bottle with a bill. |Wonder How To|

So Christmas is tomorrow, New Years is around the corner and you still need to buy more booze. Obviously, you can’t get anything tomorrow or on New Years Day (for those of who like to extend the party a day or two) and The Beer Hunter’s not much help because of holiday hours.

With that in mind, I thought I’d find out whens and wheres of buying booze in TO for the next week and share it with y’all.

LCBO

No stores will be open on Boxing Day but Dec. 27th will see most stores open from noon till 5pm. Monday to Thursday will also see regular hours of operation but on Thursday, New Years Eve, all stores will close at 6pm. You’re best off hitting up your local store and avoiding the downtown core.

The Beer Store

They’re closed Boxing Day but all stores that normally open on Sundays will do so on Dec. 27th. Just be sure to get there before 5pm. Monday to Wednesday will also see regular hours of operation in effect but they will close on New Year’s Eve at 6pm so don’t leave the party-stocking till the last minute. Better yet, don’t shop at The Beer Store.

Mill St.

There were no holiday hours specified but the retail store is usually open from 11am till 9pm on Saturday. Sunday to Tuesday, it’s 11am till 6pm. Wednesday and Thursday, it’s open from 11am till 8pm. I’d phone ahead.

Steam Whistle

It’s business as usual except on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Boxing Day, they’ll be open from 11am till 6pm.  Sunday (the 27th) they close at 5pm and from Monday to Thursday (New Years Eve), they’re open from noon till 6pm.

Amsterdam

Their website says holiday hours are 11am till 9pm  so I’m going to assume they’ll be open Boxing Day, at least until 6pm. Monday through Thursday sees them at normal hours of operation which is 11am till 11pm. Call ahead just to be safe.

Wine Rack

Gotta love a store that stays open till 11pm! Despite the lack of decent selection beggars can’t be choosers and I’vewritten about some decent options before so if you’re stuck, hit one up and make do. They should be open from Boxing Day till New Year’s Eve and most of the downtown locations are open till 10pm or 11pm. Check before you head out though.

Vineyards Estate Wines

While there are no holiday hours posted anywhere, it’s a safe bet that if the Loblaws, Metro or Sobey’s they’re in is open, they will be too. They’re generally closed by 6pm.

I was quite surprised to read in The Globe and Mail that the Liberal government has hired two banks to look into selling the LCBO and other Crown assets to cover this year’s deficit.

After all, wasn’t this brought up before by Mike Harris et al. (and Ernie Eves before him?) and dismissed when the government realized that selling valuable assets to raise money may help cover their deficit now won’t do much for balancing the budget the next year?

But leaving aside whether it’s smart for the Liberals to divest themselves of one of their best and brightest cash cows, which is best for the citizens of Ontario; sale or no sale?

Judging from the comments on the G&M article, a lot of people are confused as to whether this would be a good thing and while I’m not an unabashed fan of the LCBO, I’m also not about to jump on the privatization bandwagon unless I’m sure that it would really benefit us.

So let’s look at the three of the biggest points being raised and see whether they have any merit or not.

Booze would be cheaper.

Really? That would be nice but most consumers don’t realize is that there In the US, each state has its own laws concerning the distribution and sale of alcohol. Some places are cheaper than others but I still have fond memories of brown-bagging tall-boys in NYC; I went to quite a few variety stores and prices ranged from $1.25 to$2.50 for a Coors Light which is not that radically different but you obviously pay more for the “convenience”. A case of mass-market, domestic beer that costs $36 in Ontario typically costs $22 in Quebec and about $18 in New Jersey.

The reason it’s generally cheaper down in the States has everything to do with taxes. Here in Canada, we pay a 26.5% tax on alcohol which includes a 5.75% liquor mark-up fee. In the US, the percentage of taxes applied to alcohol varies from state to state but they’re nowhere near as high.

I’d be the last person to suggest we get rid of the taxes that pay for our health care system (amongst other things) but I do think the mark-up is ridiculous. Still even if the LCBO were sold and the mark-up was removed, we wouldn’t be looking at the same price levels they have in the States; we would probably be a lot closer to Alberta or Quebec. (Strangely enough, spirits are cheaper in Alberta but wine and beer aren’t. Wine and beer are cheaper in Quebec thanks to provincial subsidies that favor local products.)

And there’s no guarantee the mark-up would disappear. If anything, it’s unlikely it would go anywhere since pricing is regulated by the government to ensure socially-responsible consumption of alcohol which, along with store hours, is one of the primary methods they employ to prevent us from degenerating into a bunch of booze-soaked rummies (so we’re told).

Worse yet, if the entire company was sold and allowed to continue as a monopoly except in private hands, we’d have yet another Beer Store on our hands and you only have to look at Hydro One and the telecom companies to see where that gets the consumer.

Looking at the graph above (snatched from the LCBO website) it’s clear that the LCBO controls too much of market to allow it operate as a second private monopoly, answerable to no one but its stockholders.

The selection would be greater.

Yes and no. While the opportunity for specialists to open shops catering to niche markets is greater, there’d be just as many people carrying the same mass-market swill we see everywhere. With the exception of the bigger stores, most LCBOs only stock what they know consumers in their area will be likely to buy. Most private operations wouldn’t be any different.

One big concern is that while the bigger cities in Ontario would probably have no worse selection than they do now, many smaller towns in outlying areas would see their stores close with no guarantee of any replacement.

The sale of alcohol needs to be controlled.

Deciding who buys booze and when they can buy it is an age-old concern. Some people say there’s no harm in having convenience stores sell beer and wine while others argue that public drunkenness and under-age drinking will become bigger problems.

I’ve always argued that kids should be exposed to alcohol sooner rather than later (presumably limiting all of that surreptitious, binge drinking) but as that’s generally an unpopular opinion to have, I’d also like to point out that those same stores seem to do a pretty good job of preventing kids from smoking too.

Fact is, people will do what they want to do and the best results have always come from education and integration, not prohibition. The laws we already have in place will take care of the egregious offenders; why persecute anyone else?

Despite my beefs with the LCBO, I’ve come to realize that the provincial government is responsible for nearly all of ‘em… the insane mark-up, lack of inter-provincial distribution (where the hell are my Quebec beers and my BC wines?) and inconvenient store hours.

Selling the LCBO doesn’t change any of that.

The powers that be will still regulate the fuck out of whomever’s selling us our booze and unless they decide private operators to cater to niche consumers, we’ll be looking at another monopoly. We don’t need another Beer Store.

What we do need is a reexamination of the liquor laws and regulations that have their background in Ontario’s Scottish-Protestant roots and adjusting them to fit a society that, over the past decade, has become a lot more conscious of when and how they drink, what they want to buy and where they buy it from.

(And a little store downtown selling me limited-release tequila, absinthe and bitters would be nice too.)