good things to drink in Toronto: Bar Raval



Tuesday, early evening errands. Returning a Madhur Jaffrey and Hanya Yanigihara’s The People in the Trees, which has made me want to obsessively speak about her books with anyone who’s read them, and Saeed Jones’s Prelude to Bruise, the first poetry anthology I’ve worked through this year, and about which I’m still gathering my thoughts. Then a trip to the grocery store, for bread and salami and cheese and kale for this kale-coconut-quinoa salad, for this week’s lunches, and eggs and dark chocolate for a big batch of brownies I promised my students to celebrate the end of classes for the year, on Thursday. This point in the term seems like a whirlpool of grading and grant applications and preparations for research trips, the minutiae that makes up so much of academic life, and I’ve been treading water amidst the pounds of flesh exacted from all directions.

In weeks like these, when we’re both working long hours, we sometimes treat ourselves to a drink in town, as entertainment that does not require a screen, and if you sit at the bar, as we like to do, that does not require you coming up with interesting points of conversation, because you can just spend an hour looking at how the bar man goes about his job, and listening to what other people talk about. (I am sure there are people who get home in the evening and have wonderfully stimulating conversations with their partners. I am not one of those people. If I have spent the day reading critical theory, like I do most days, or reading the work of students, like I do some others, I am so tired by the time night comes that I am only capable of having very basic conversations.)

Anyway. There are many amazing places to drink in Toronto, but this is one of our favourites, where we go for a drink to celebrate a special occasion. Long before we ever thought of Toronto as a place to live, we started curing meat (me in Arcadia, where I made guests share a bedroom with a pancetta having been hung to dry, and J in Southampton, with a washing line above his bed from which he suspended duck breast prosciutto), and in our research we happened upon a man named Grant van Gameren. Van Gameren was at that point writing a blog about his curing experiments at a bar that had just opened, named The Black Hoof. Anyway. We cured meat, eventually moved to Toronto, and by the time we arrived The Black Hoof was Toronto restaurant royalty, and since we’ve been in the city Van Gameren has opened two new restaurants, Bar Isabel, and our favourite, Bar Raval. A Basque pinxtos bar, Bar Raval looks like something designed by Gaud√≠ if Gaud√≠ worked in wood and hadn’t been hit by a tram. The menu constantly changes, so I can’t recommend a particular drink, but you’ll be good with whatever. The last time we were there Johannes had a Ten Lost Years, which was a combination of Lot 40 whiskey, Lustau Oloroso, Amaro Sibilla and Benedictine. I had The Walk Off, a combination of Bulleit bourbon, apricot liqueur, Cynar, peppercorn cordial, lime, grapefruit and absinthe. How is that not the best thing you’ve heard all day?

They also have good coffee in the mornings and delicious food throughout the day, but that’s for a later post. For now, I leave you with this delightful photograph of one of my old Arcadia pancettas, during a time where I spent the days thinking about Haneke and the evenings curing meat.