Charlies Burgers. The theme of this month was horse... more accurately the "Charlie Horse". Saddle up ladies and gents and get ready for a night full of rambunctious and playful food, drink and merriment.
The guest chef this month was Matt Demille who is known as the "Night Chef" and has a little obsession with bringing horse back to the hearts and dining tables of Toronto. He has worked in many of my favourite establishments, notably La Palette, Le Select Bistro and Local Kitchen and Wine Bar and currently works as the sous chef for the new artsy resto in Parkdale Parts and Labour which I hope to be blogging about very soon. He is so passionate about his movement that he created a documentary about his ethos where "we need to think outside the box, collapse the box, and then cut it into little pieces". Having tried horse before, I didn't think it was such a shock to have it as the focus of the menu but talking to friends and colleagues made me realize that horse is a rather controversial item to talk about eating. People equate it to eating the likes of the cute and friendly Mr. Ed or Black Beauty and even go as far to say it should be illegal which in certain parts of the world, eating horse is.
Now on to the culninary adventure- as with the other Charlies Burger experience- My friend Pete and I were given instructions via email with coordinates and a time. At approximately 6:07pm, look for a guy on a wine barrel and you will receive further instructions. A few of us were a bit early and there was no wine barrel ... but as the clock stuck 6:07, out of thin air - the wine barrel appeared and a man was waiting there on top. Poof! We were led to OMG bakery on Dundas just west of Dufferin and this was the venue where the event was going down. As we walked in- we were each greeted with a nice refreshing 'giddy up' cocktail to get us in the mood - it was a bourbon sour. Let me just say the alcohol was free flowing for the entire night and we were all nice and toasty.
So we all mixed, mingled and took our seats. Around me was a great group of creative and intriguing individuals who as the evening went on got more lucid and entertaining. We were served our first course which was "lardo di cavallo" served on a crostini. We collectively found this dish very tough to eat although it looked like raw sashimi. The texture was very similar to that of squid or octopus or I daresay even tripe. It was quite rubbery and chewy and was not very palatable. We later found out it was the mane of the horse yeeks! We did get to wash it down with Cheval blanc beer and down it went into our bellies.
By this time of the night, our gang of troublemakers were well on our way with our inebriation and horsing around! The drinks were free flowing and coming from a business trip from Vegas - I felt like I was burning the candle from both ends and I was beginning to get woozy! Our next course was the "Choucrote" which is a dish that should always be served with sauerkraut and meats. Our plate consisted of a giant horse sausage, and horse tongue and let me just say it made for some hilarious dinner conversation. The sausage was HUGE and very tender and flavourful. The tongue was not as tough as it looked in texture and everything was a very good compliment to the pickly taste of the sauerkraut.
This is where things start to get a big foggy for me and my stomach started to battle me back a little. Every time I eat a menu with a high fat content and am drinking, my stomach hates me a little. I will report only what I remember from this point forward as I don't have pictures of the dishes.. I was struggling a bit as I couldn't believe we had 3 more dishes and it was a school night!
Our next dish that came out was a Chinese hot pot with horse in it called "Xiao Ma Huo Guo" (Ma means horse in both Cantonese and Mandarin and yes I speak both!). The plate was served and then the hot and delicious broth was poured over the dish that had bean sprouts, mint, basil, lime and of course, horse. Even though I was well on my way to drunkendum, this was a dish that was very comforting, flavourful and delicate. I could come home on a cold day to look forward to this. However it did have some chili and those who dared to bite into them and there were many bold individuals at this point of the evening were paying for it with steam coming out of their ears! Yes, Dwayne is drinking milk out of a champagne glass because he was a smart boy and ate the entire chili!
We finally are served the piece de resistance from our chef - his "Night chef special" which is the horse tenderloin that has been stuffed with sage and apple with carrot spatzle, tender mushroom ragout and melt in your mouth brown butter spinach. The horse was cooked to perfection at medium rare and was this beautiful site to be seen and was just so juicy and yum! However at this point between the wine, bourbon, beer and beer in the bathroom .. yes the unisexed bathrooms had bottles of Steamwhistle waiting for us to lead us down paths to more trouble as there was more opportunity to socialize and drink even in the bathrooms!! What happens at Charlies Burgers, stays there!
Finally it was dessert time and on the menu was "Mom's Apple Tart" which was delicious and the pie crust had horse fat in it just to keep in theme. It was buttery and rich served with creme fraiche, mint and wild strawberries.
With a very full and angry stomach and a night full of good laughs and good company - shout outs to all my new friends Wild Bill, Michelle, Dwayne Mr. V/O himself and Kristin, Max & Ruby, Lamonde and Chris, my friends from Prince Edward County and Assoc Dean - hoping to see you all soon to enjoy many more laughs.
As we left the building a bit more sloppy, we were all treated with a box of decadent baked goods from OMG bakery including a horseshoe butter cookie in keeping with the theme as well as a mason jar of take home horse jam for breakfast!
JOKE: How do you say hi to a gay horse?? A: HAAAAAYYYY!!! (This was by no means meant to offend, I embrace everyone xoxo.. just supposed to make you laugh!)