Being avid admirers of modern visual culture (ie. addicted to the telly), we were delighted to see that No Reservations‘s Anthony Bourdain had a new programme and that it was visiting Toronto. The premise of The Layover is simple and perfect for two out-of-towners like us: 1) take a city; 2) imagine you’re trapped there for 24 hours of so on a layover; 3) get the locals to show you the best places to eat and drink.
Local knowledge – for free and without any more conversations about football v soccer. (By the way, we invented the modern game so we can call it any damn name we want. Especially when we use the right name.)
So I’d like to say that that is how we ended up at St Lawrence Market. But then I’d be lying. You see, we were on one of those “We’re not lost but we’re not quite sure the best route to get to where we want to be” walks when we stumbled on it. Unlike Kensington (see https://canadianwry.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/and-trying-to-be-hip/), this is a proper, covered food market with two sites: the north, which opens for a weekly famers’ market – with some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen – and the south , which is open throughout the week to offer fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meat and fish as well as a worldwide selection of bakeries, delis and places to eat. Last year, it was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic. We didn’t go in for that. We went in because we were cold and I was tired and after a sit-down and a coffee (bit of a theme going on here).
The answer of which of these wondrous places to eat was provided by Mr Bourdain – it had to be the world-famous Carousel Bakery (above), the home of the peameal bacon sandwich as drooled over by the celebrity chef himself, amongst many, many other prestigious publications and TV shows.
We ordered. We ate. We looked at each other.
“It’s a bacon sandwich,” Ged said.
It was the truth. This wondrous feast that so tingled Mr Bourdain’s discerning tastebuds was a bacon sandwich so dry that I – I’m ashamed of myself but in the spirit of full disclosure I have to say it – I added tomato sauce. Yeah, you got lots of bacon – for almost $7, I’d expect so too – and a crunchyish roll, but back in our early courting days, Ged and I went for breakfast at a greasy-spoon in Leith and also got a bacon sandwich. It was dripping with brown sauce, was half the price, and by God, was it good. Sadly, it never featured on AB’s trip to Scotland…
Undeterred, we weren’t put off when another of our hikes – this time to see the home of Toronto FC – ended up on King St West outside Wvrst (below), a sausage joint so hip it could provide replacements for 15 old grannies and still be able to balance a baby on one side while searching for the front-door keys. Anthony had loved it. Wvrst contains long, communal tables and benches to sit at and offers beer, chips and, of course, sausages in the style of a Bavarian beer hall. It was lunchtime and while there was a fair number of office workers in, the place was far from full. Perhaps those in skirts were put off the idea of hoisting their legs up and over the benches in order to sit down…
We ordered a couple of beers – asking for something hoppy, only to be told they didn’t do any, and wincing at the prices (see below, this was still early days. We’re used to it now) – and our food: a kranjska (pork and garlic) for me and a bratwrst (veal, pork and wine) for Ged. We decided to share a small fries, which are dipped in duck fat and sprinkled with salt and come with a dipping sauce.
At $6 each, you certainly cannot complain about price here. The meals (that’s ours, below) are enormous and we had to double-check that we’d received small fries, such was the quantity. They were delicious, too, although the dipping sauce was a little superfluous. To be honest, the fries themselves were not necessary, such was the size of the sausage. However, the main attraction itself sadly failed to live up to expectations. While the flavour was nice – note, just “nice” – the skin was tough and after a while, my jaw ached from the force of chewing. By the end, I half expected Adam Richman to come bounding out and present me with a T-shirt and put my photo on a Man vs Food wall of fame.
Would we go back? We haven’t yet and we have no plans of doing so. I’ve eaten wvrst sausages in my time (sorry, you knew that pun had to appear somewhere) but I’ll tell you where I haven’t – the hot dog stalls on the streets of Toronto. For a couple of bucks, you’ll get a juicy, tender dog with a choice of condiments. Just follow the queues. In fact, I think we’ll make that our policy for all our future choice of eateries and we’ll leave Mr Bourdain to look cute…
So, Torontonians – and those of you who’ve visited – where would you recommend we eat?
Disclaimer: Anthony Bourdain is a god in the Carr/Ellis households and comes a close second in the list of chefs I’d most like to scramble my eggs in the morning. (All innuendo intended)