Yum, yum: Toronto Beer Fest

We had the pleasure of attending Toronto Beer Fest a few weeks back.
It was so good we went twice in one weekend, in fact. For a great price (about $38), you
can sample hundreds of beers from around the world and experience some great
food offerings. Plus, what’s better than an outdoor festival in the sun, with tasty local and international suds?

We tasted beers from all over the place, and there are so many that we enjoyed. It was tough, but we narrowed it down to our three favourite breweries.

Based out of Barrie Ontario, this brewery’s motto is “normal is weird.”
The style of this booth (and the beer) was exceptionally colourful and fruity.
Not into their very berry flavours? Grab a bottle of Hoptical Illusion, a
flavourful hoppy beer. You can often find us downing a pint of this at 416 Snack Bar for some post-work stress relief.

“Do one thing and do it well”, is the motto of this brewery. Not only is the beer refreshing, we had fun wearing the Steam Whistle box hats around the park, which have been a part of the experience at Toronto’s Festival of Beer since the brewery’s inception. Evidence below.

Normal is weird…
Based out of Tokyo, their rice lagers are very dry and extremely drinkable. Not only good for a visit to your fave sushi restaurant, the beer is perfect for a trip the cottage. Plus, for our wheat intolerant friends, this is one gluten free beer that doesn’t taste like a compromise.

While drinking pints, it’s necessary to have something great to
nosh on, lest we get out of control. Our favourite food vendors from the weekend were some local favourites

We loved the Gorgeous George, which includes a heavenly combination of
peanut butter, bacon and pulled pork. Sounds odd, tastes, well…. gorgeous.

The line up for this booth was absolutely the longest. But we could see
why after sampling their rolls, that consisted of chunky lobster, a light mayo
and crispy buttered bun. Drool.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the http://www.beerfestival.ca for regular updates about next year’s fest. You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there again! 

Yum, yum: 416 Snack Bar

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you would know by now that we like to eat. So when 416 Snack Bar (181 Bathurst Street) opened up just a hop, skip and a snack away from the fourth floor, we were one of the first to check it out.

The transformation from Johny Banana is pretty complete – it’s tough to recognize it as the same space. Owners Adrian Ravinsky and Dave Stewart have done an amazing job making it a cool local bar. They even chronicled the transformation on their site (check it out here).  
 Very cool photo installation on the ceiling.

Longtime friends, Ravinsky and Stewart both grew up working in the restaurant industry (most recently at Buca), and basically held every job in the business – from bus boy to server – except in the kitchen. 

The concept for a snack bar versus a regular restaurant was inspired by a trip Ravinsky took to San Sebastian in Spain. Small local restaurants served communal platters of snacks called centros (shared platters of ham, squid and other treats), which was exactly what he wanted when he was enjoying beverages, rather than a full meal. They figured that everyone wanted savoury, delicious snacks while drinking, and not many bars in Toronto did that. They were pretty bang on. 
The 416 menu.

It’s a great idea, and all of the items on the menu are delicious. The hot dog is house-made from beef short ribs and a bit of pork back fat for flavour, as is the tangy sauerkraut that tops it. The Napolitano pizza pocket is similarly made at the restaurant, including the dough, and is stuffed with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce. Both were a perfect size to accompany a freshly poured pint of Hoptical Illusion.

Ravinsky and Stewart try to make as much as they can themselves, and you can taste the difference (clichéd, but true). They plan on switching up the menu regularly to take advantage of seasonal produce. There was talk of a grilled asparagus dish and their version of a Caprese salad. Yum. 
The cozy bar

Another fun fact that sets them apart? A no-cutlery rule. Every snack has to be able to be eaten by hand, which will be an interesting challenge for the Caprese salad (maybe it will be skewered?). But we’re definitely hooked enough to come back and find out just how that works. 

This little spot is casual-cool, unpretentious and tasty. Just the way we like our snacks and our local watering hole.