As father to an infant, my expectations shot through the roof for my dining experience compared to where they were a year ago. Now that my evenings away from home have plummeted in frequency, I want every time I’m out to be an amazing one, and I pity the establishment who’s lacking in their skills.
But on those odd occasions where I’m out and someone gets it really right, the effect stays with me, seeing me rave about it to friends and family seeking a solid recommendation.
One of the good ones is G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar, run by Shant Behesnilian, a man whose dedication to customer service is readily evident in the dining experience his patrons receive in his restaurant.
I’ve come a long way since my culinary inclinations as a kid, where I’d come home from school to a Miracle Whip Sandwich, my snack of choice. A little older now, my palate’s developed with my various foodiesque life experiences, and for my next #DIYSandwich, I was long overdue in proving I could put something appetizing together without anyone holding my hand.
The Internet’s awash with a plethora of recipes, and without a clear idea of where to start for my next sandwich-making session, I went to my social network to see what they had in mind!
As a guy who rarely cooks, I’m guessing that God’s having none of that and making sure I can actually provide for my family.
Some time ago, I shared the story of my hatred for cooking, sure I’d avoid the kitchen for the rest of my earthbound years. But with daycare nipping hot at the heels of the East York Palmers, and with it the scheduling unpredictability that comes from a family with two working parents, I had to bite the bullet sometime!
So whaddya know — despite being loath for anything finding me in front of a stove, brands like Samuel Adams put their money where their mouth is (and product where mine is), challenging me to grab an apron and see what I can do to feed myself without calling the number for the local pizzeria — and yes, it is on my speed dial.
Everyone, for your viewing pleasure, I present — Cooking With Beer: Because it’s Not Just Good for Drinking!
This month’s Dempster’s sandwich gave me a little lesson in supply, demand, and the art of improvisation.
Originally, we wanted to rock some mean burgers. Sarah and I are part of a crew that does semi-regular Danforth Dinners, a dinner party for 8-10 where we take turns hosting to give everyone a taste of what the group has to offer. Though not everyone lives in East York anymore (rumours of a St. Clair Supper are in the air…), we still try to keep up, regardless of the newest — and likely most difficult — member sometimes wanting us to do otherwise.
So, knowing that time’s often limited for parents, our friends give us the easy job — “just bring the buns”. Well — everyone in town must’ve had the exact same idea now that our weather’s more promising than the horror we dealt with for 6 months, because no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find Dempster’s Deluxe Hamburger Bunsanywhere! We checked six stores, and everyone must’ve been out barbecuing in 10° weather, because they were out of stock like the hot toy at Christmas!
So that didn’t work out — I mean, obviously we still had burgers, we’d be stupid not to — but with some other bread we’d never heard of before to encase the deliciousness we knew we were to get.
With my delicious burger dream reduced to crumbs and the buns to hold them mysteriously absent wherever I looked, I needed a new sandwich idea and fast; a freelancer’s deadlines wait for no man! So it was off to Plan B — thinking back to my childhood and the stuff my Mom whipped up when she was in a hurry — SLOPPY JOES.
If one thing unifies my friends and I, it’s food. Sarah’s always said that I merely eat to live — I don’t salivate at the thought of delicious meals, but let’s get one thing straight — I know delicious food when I taste it!
Since becoming a parent, I don’t get out much. Save a birthday party, I spent March largely as a shut-in, wavering from my routine of work, home and church only for trips to the parents and the dentist. While the days of luxurious ice cream and dining at 350 metres are behind me for now, it doesn’t mean I can’t eat tasty food at home!
This year, Dempster’s challenged me to change my thinking on the sandwich, seeing whether I could eat them for dinner instead of lunch! Though it’s the last thing I’d expect on a plate to finish a long day, what is a sandwich really, but a stack of deliciousness between two slices of bread?
So with my limited culinary skills, there was only one place to find a recipe that would make for amazing sandwich fare — the Internet. More specifically, Epicurious, the one-stop shop for leaving your taste buds senseless! Without further ado, let’s drive into a pork sandwich that’ll knock your socks off!!!
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For the past 6 years, I’ve had a unique job that sees a site change every 6 months or so. Most recently, I was banishedexiled transferred to Yonge & Finch, where I quickly found the lunch options rather… limited*.
So to save money and keep me healthy, Sarah helped me fall in love with the sandwich all over again.
*From 2009 through 2011, with a work team that was 2/3 Asian, lunches mostly consisted of dim sum, sushi or Korean BBQ. Let’s just say we overdid it and I’ve yet to recover.
The Poor, Poor Tale of the Sandwich
The sandwich gets a poor rep among the foodies of the world, preferring to nosh on more delicate fare, like foie gras, canapés and salads with balsamic reductions.
But I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, returning to the same comfort food time and again, when I want something to eat.
More than once, Sarah’s worried that I’d get tired of spicy Italian sausage, old cheddar cheese, Miracle Whip and mustard on an Italian bun, but two months in and I still gnaw away on them merrily while working on spreadsheets!
As tasty as that is, though, it’s not nearly enough to make it Canada’s Most Epic Sandwich.
Once upon a time, drawing was all I’d ever do. I carried sketchbooks and supplies wherever I went, transforming my imagination into all sorts of pieces. I don’t know when I stopped, but if you’ve got a good thing going, never stop, because you never know when you’ll pick it up again.
Other than sketches in the margins of meeting notes done in ballpoint pen, my days of drawing had become a distant memory — a dream deferred, perhaps never getting the chance to see reality.
But that doesn’t mean I ever stopped thinking about it. When I daydream, it’s like an animated movie playing out in my head, all my characters playing their part in a grand sci-fi odyssey. But I never make the time to make the ideas in my cranium any more than that — mere thoughts.
Which is what made Buytopia’s invite to a Paint Nite so appealing.
Above all else, #BramptonTweetup taught me never to say never, ’cause you never know when you’ll be eating those words.
Maybe Brampton gets worse a reputation than it deserves. In addition to the fact that there’s all too many Torontonians who couldn’t point to Brampton on a map, people often say it’s too far, too hard to get to it, or too dangerous. And were you speaking to a younger Casey Palmer, I might’ve agreed with you.
The Far Side of the GTA
Brampton’s a long way from home, but sometimes you’ve gotta venture into unfamiliar territory to try something new.
In early September, my friend Lat reached out to invite me to a tweetup in her hometown on Brampton, ON. For those not in the know, I’ve a long and sordid history with that little place.
Born and raised in Mississauga, ON, Brampton was always the city just north of us that we’d never visit. I mean — being Mississaugan had its societal pressures — too good for Brampton to the north; not rich enough for Oakville to the west; and nowhere near cool enough to hang with the kids of downtown Toronto to the east. But we always knew Brampton was there, it just wasn’t somewhere we’d go after dark.
Funny what a couple of decades can do to change growing cities and negative perspectives, right?
After an unexpected (and unwanted) adventure on the east side of Toronto, Christine and I made the trek to the northwest to join Lat Leger and friends for the first-ever #BramptonTweetup at the Sul Irmaos Smoke House in the Downtown Brampton neighbourhood.
Who is Lat Leger?
I met Lat last year at either SaugaTweetup or After Work Drinks TO, and since then she’s become a solid friend. Living in Brampton, ON with her husband Garrett and their 3 kids, she’s more than just an award-winning mommy blogger: she’s a social media enthusiast and strategist; self-proclaimed foodie and really likes singing in the car with her windows rolled down. When you connect with her, you expect nothing but candor and authenticity, so it was no surprise to me when I walked into #BramptonTweetup to see a number of familiar and influential faces from the west side of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as Lat’s a mutual friend to many of us.
After all, I’m not going back to the ‘burbs for just anybody.
Welcome to Sul Irmaos!
Welcome to Sul Irmaos (English translation = Southern Brothers) Smoke House website. We’re glad you paid us a visit. We are known as the sandwich specialist and if you try one of our delicious sandwiches, you’ll discover that this name fits our restaurant like a glove. We will satisfy your appetite with an assortment of choices from our menu including Po’ Boy, traditional, Portuguese Churrasco and pulled pork sandwiches. Eat in or take-out at your convenience and we also offer first class catering services for special/corporate events and more. Give us a call or visit our restaurant today! We look forward to making your day!
If you’re in Brampton and looking for a good bite to eat, Sur Irmaos has some decent offerings. Dressed up as more of a lunchtime venue, it makes “slow food served fast”, which speaks to the daily effort that Jason and Jonathan Pereira put into assembling a menu that whets an appetite for smoked meats without investing the hours to do it yourself.
The Pereira brothers were nice enough to open up on a Monday evening for us (they normally close on Mondays for a well-deserved day off).
Many of their meats are seasoned, smoked for at least 8 hours and pulled, meant to infuse as much flavour as possible into their offerings. As a testament to their methods, after being rejected from joining Brampton’s annual Rotary Rib Fest, they decided to serve their own ribs, marinating their meat for 2 days and smoking it for 14 hours, with customers waiting up to 2 hours for a fresh batch when they ran out.
So the expectations were high going in to Sul Irmaos! Here’re some highlights from the experience!
Things That Were Great:
Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Mac n Cheese Bites
Pulled Pork and Beanasaurus Southern slow smoked pulled pork, kettle cooked baked beans, creamy slaw and fried mac and cheese bites. $8.75
ATB’s Bacon wrapped jalapeno loaded with Portuguese sausage (chorizo) and cream cheese. $6.50
Find out more about MacaronZ at http://www.macaronz.com/
Find out more about MacaronZ at http://www.macaronz.com/
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites
Pulled Pork and Beanasaurus (even several days later, reheated in the toaster oven — Jason made me promise that I wouldn’t wreck my leftovers by microwaving them)
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
ATBs (I don’t know why they’re called ATBs, but they’re jalapeño peppers wrapped in pancetta bacon smoked for 4 hours and stuffed with herb cream cheese, dates and chorizo sausage. Truly a great appetizer!)
Pulled Chicken with Sweet Chili Aioli
the Sumol (I tried both Pineapple and Passion Fruit, and can tell you I loved the Passion Fruit far more, but were it served in a glass, it would’ve been easier to stir when the sediment started settling to the bottom)
The Skinny on Sul Irmaos
We all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, but what was clear, however, was that this was Sul Irmaos’ first foray in the world of tweetups. Things to note:
the first course of food didn’t make it out ’til Christine and I arrived, and we were a half-hour late
the amount of food didn’t satisfy the number of guests, which may have been indirect incentive to buy meals, but you don’t invite people to your restaurants and tell the guests it’s BYOF when they get there, right?
I don’t know whether Sul Irmaos offers enough to get Torontonians jumping behind the wheel for the 40-minute trek for a Po’ Boy, however, for Brampton’s 500,000 and Mississauga’s 750,000 — if you want something filling, delicious and a mere stone’s throw away from your backyard, the Southern Brothers have you covered.
In the end, it looks like Brampton’s come up a bit over the years — perhaps enough to have a recurring #BramptonTweetup to rival the very popular #SaugaTweetup from its southern neighbours (ironically run in part by Rob Sarjoo, another Brampton resident!)? But to get to that point, Brampton’s going to need the support of its people — it can’t survive on the efforts of a few people alone.
Raj Kutty, who’s friends with the owners and made sure to give my bag a solid place to rest behind the counter
If it weren’t for Christine, who made sure I made it to BramptonTweetup, even when I was trying to avoid a major TTC delay
Davindra Ramnarine, who’s all about the food and put a review together of Sul Irmaos before it changed its name
And of course, thanks to Lat for a solid event and getting me to return to the ‘burbs. Not an easy feat by any measure, but it’s good to remember that you can only live in a box for so long before you start to lose sight of the bigger picture.
It’s a massive world out there — go explore it!
Adeus and get your nom on,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
Once upon a time, I kept my calendar booked solid with events around Toronto, revelling in everything that social media had to offer! But life doesn’t stand still, and we learn to choose where we show up as time grows more precious.
With a baby on the way and one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had yet, I’m well on my way to becoming an urban legend of the Toronto social media scene. But even though fatherhood’s hot on my heels, I look at someone like Yashy and feel a bit of hope. Pregnant with her second child, she can still find time to go out with her husband and daughter Akira to events and still balance all the parts of her life. That’s exactly what I’m going for with I’m Not Dead, I’m Just a Dad — just because you have kids, it doesn’t mean the rest of your life has to come to a screeching halt!
You just need to change the rules.
Yo Quiero TacoTweetup, Por Favor!
TacoTweetup made for a good night!
Held on the first Friday the 13th of 2013, TacoTweetup was a shout-out to Toronto’s Twitter community to come out and play, since we hadn’t had a group event for a bit. La Mexicana, found on the outskirts of Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood*, was the venue of choice, giving us a great place to celebrate Mexican Independence Day!
TacoTweetup was the brainchild of a few key characters:
Evelyn Wong, general manager of the family-owned La Mexicana
Viktor Kis, Evelyn’s beau and eCommerce Specialist
It was a solid time to try Mexican food, taste some top-shelf libations, and catch up on all the “industry gossip”. It was a cold Friday in The Big Smoke, but the patio heaters kept things surprisingly toasty.
The food and alcohol samples were plentiful, including:
Comida? ME GUSTA!!!
Here, you assemble your own tacos with a combination of cheese, veggies, a red bean sauce and hot sauce upon request. Pretty good!
Potato & Feta Taquitos
Chicken and Mole Croissants — easily one of my favourite nibbles of the night 🙂
Blame it on the…
Patrón XO Cafe Chilled — I’ve had my share of tequila in my time (with some sad consequences at my birthday parties), and I’m happy to report that this stuff goes down smooth. No wonder it’s $70 a bottle!
Patrón XO Cafe Chilled & Mount Gay Rum
3 carnitas tacos, a Dos Equis, a shot of Patrón, several appetizers, 100 photos and hours of conversation later, and I’d say Anum did a pretty good job! We left with gift cards, full bellies and high spirits, promising to see each other soon.
I’m not exactly sure where the sombrero came from or why James was wearing it, but there it was and there you have it.
TacoTweetup didn’t blow my mind, but that wasn’t the point of it. I’ve been to the parties. I’ve wined and dined the nights away. The last few years have been such a blur of activity that it’s nice to just hang out with friends and have a chat sometimes. We all need to grow up eventually, and whether it’s with shots of Patrón or over a plate of tacos, we start to learn the best ways we really want to spend our time.
Anum, thank you for TacoTweetup. It was just what I needed without knowing I needed it.
Hasta la vista from your favourite Toronto social media urban legend,
*I use “outskirts” loosely – Yorkville isn’t all that big.
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
I was originally invited to Viamede Resort as part of a zombie survival-themed weekend, but due to a pregnancy in the family (I do not know how Lori pulled it off in The Walking Dead), we thought it best that we sit that wilderness trek out.
Instead, we got to check out what a relaxing stay at the Viamede resort would be like, complete with a deluxe cottage to call home for a couple of nights.