With less than 10 days before Christmas those of us who aren't Toronto natives have begun to plan our yearly exodus from the city back to our hometowns. A lot of my friends and I go all the way back to high school, and there are a couple ladies I've known since we were little kids. Most of us have now ended up in here the big city, and despite some months or years living apart, we're just as close as ever. But when we all head back home for the holidays we somehow never manage to get together. All that wonderful family time is pretty all-encompasing and our festive schedules never seem to line up. So before we get on that megabus we had to fit in a girls-night-out here in the Toronto to toast the Christmas spirit.
And nothing says Christmas like Bar-B-Que.
Barque Smokehouse on Roncesvalles has quickly become one of Toronto's go-to places for all things smoked, basted, and grilled. Their menu is famous for family-style dining that allows you to sample all kinds of BBQ fixings. You can chose any combination of brisket, chicken, beef ribs, pork ribs, or sausages and mix-and-match them with your choice of sides.
Every table comes set with a bucket of popcorn for you to munch on while perusing the menu. The popcorn is lightly dusted with some smokey seasoning and served alongside two BBQ flavoured sauces for dipping. I'm also a big fan of any restaurant that hooks you up with a basting brush so you can make sure every inch of your meal in covered in saucy flavour.
Caesars just scream BBQ in my mind and when the server mentioned them as one of Barque's signature cocktails I was sold. There's something about the savoury-spice that makes me want to dig in to a big plate of ribs, and a candied-bacon rim made for a great amuse-bouche.
The sampler menus at Barque get you a lot of food and we quickly realized it would be too much food for our little group. Since we were all craving traditional baby back ribs, we decided to order a couple racks and side dishes a la carte.
These traditional ribs are cooked to perfection in a classic sauce and are exactly the right balance of sweet and spicy. The meet is caramelized and crispy on the outside but tender and juicy next to the bone. These babies were so soft that you could cut right through them with a butter knife. If you're looking for classic BBQ flavour, these are the ribs for you.
If you like your ribs a little less saucy then go for the dry-rub. This herb-crusted version will keep your hands a little cleaner without missing out on any of that deliciously tender meat.
For the sides we chose brussels sprouts with tahini, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds; and creamy mashed potatoes garnished with sweet potato hickory sticks. Both were super tasty and I'm hankering to try a version of each at home. The mashed potatoes were silky smooth and richly flavoured with herbs, and the brussels sprouts were lightly charred and rocking a tangy twist with the pomegranate. A note for anyone with dairy allergies: this tahini does contain yogurt, but you can always order the sprouts without it.
BBQ may not be traditional Christmas food but it's much too good to eat only in the summer months. After all, everything always tastes better with fire. So if you find yourself pining for a grill in the middle of winter, head on down to Barque and get your BBQ fix!
One thing I love about big cities is that you can satisfy almost any craving at any time of year. I love living in Toronto, but I am very much looking forward to being back in my little picture-book town for the holidays. Just one week left until I get a break from the big city, but whatever will I blog about while I'm away? I guess you'll have to stay tuned to find out...