A whole lot o' nothing. And then some….
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State of the Union

Word of mouth is huge in the restaurant world. Well in all worlds, but especially for foodies. Buzz+hype+critical mass = big business for chowhounds.

We’ve all heard about places that are spectacular. We stalk the site, try to book, and somehow make our way. Some live up to the hype, and some do not. What I’ve noticed recently, however, is that there’s much ado about a whole lot o’ nuthin’. Nuthin’ appealing, that is.

I blame the Locavore revolution. If I lived in California or in the Mediterranean I could get excited. Even some far-off tropical island would work for me. In these places I’d probably be so used to eating locally grown food that I wouldn’t have to label it. But I live in Canada. Practically-but-not-quite Midwestern Canada. Even tho’ we lean to the East, we’re smack dab in the middle. The only coast is Lake. And it’s a long cold winter. Eating locally grown food at the beginning of April is a challenge. Big time. Especially when said locally grown food seems to be too meat-y (only root veggies here!), adventurous (tongue, brains, innards) and silly (granola foam?!)…

Challenging.

Another challenge is trying to get a table on a busy Saturday night. On Ossington, Toronto’s latest It street. We were four hungry souls, out of the prowl, looking for dinner. We were wingin’ it old sckool….No bookings, no rezzies, no clue…

We split off and tried the olde walk-in approach. Without much luck….

Until we hit Union. Like it’s neighbours, it too was filled to the gills but they agreed to let us loiter at the bar until the small window table/bench/bar was free. I’d read about it the place. I’d studied the very small menu. Union prides itself on having sowed, hoed, and growed their food. It says so on their website. It wasn’t for me. And yet…here we were. Blood sugar lowered, getting desperate, and cranky, it was Go Union or Go Home.

So we Unionized.

And it was, in a word, awesome.

Being forced to order something you wouldn’t normally go for was a locavoric eye opener! Nervously, we perused the menu. Pasta special was ravioli with cheese, beurre blanc and….rabbit. Next, the fish special: grilled Spotted Lake Trout, or Splake. Geddit? Splake = SPotted LAKE trout. May as well have called it Splat. Pass. Luckily, there were no face parts on this menu (one of our group got suckered into veal cheeks the week before. We were over facial food before we sat down).

We looked for stuff we could share while standing. Started with a plate of Elk Sliders. Insanely good. Tempted-to-order-another-round (not to share) kind of good. Then we tucked into a tiny cheese plate. Laughably small. And yet….packed quite a punch. We could’ve used more than a sliver of bread each but we got past it.

And then we sat down at the bar. Somewhat uncomfortable with a persnickity waitress/bartender, the odds continued to be stacked again this place. But the Union salad, with it’s fat slabs of bacon, creamy goat’s cheese and mini rosti was a winner, ditto the sticky ribs. Polenta – yeah, two of us actually ordered polenta! I know – crazy!!) was crispy and cheesy with a side of braised greens that went down a treat. Didn’t leave a drop! Apparently the real winner was the Plat du Jour: the Union Steak Frites that our pal swore was the best he’d had. Ev-ah. The piece de resistance? The massive side of smashed potatoes that came with the mains. A total surprise, they were laced with some kind of sour cream ‘n chive-ish concoction and set alongside a slew of fries. With mayo. Yep, the steak frites came with frites AND a side of fries! Who knew? It definitely made up for the puny cheese platter.

We finished off with a communal molten chocolate cake. There was some debate over dessert. My man wanted the apple parfait but claimed he was full, and I secretly hoped the bread pudding would be ordered by someone…ok me…but the chocolate cake won out. Like the rest of the meal, it was damn fine.

And it wasn’t even that pricey! Which just goes to show you…erm…. you can’t judge a restaurant by its menu. Sheesh….who knew? Proud Canadian hockey fan, and now, food patriot? Viva la Revolucion!

3 comments:

Anonymous said…

your true calling!

9:19 AM

Anonymous said…

American Idol, please!

5:20 PM

Anonymous said…

I’ve passed by the Union, but now I won’t be passing it up. Thanks for slumming it in my ‘hood! Though I recently got a non-wait, non-rezzie table at Foxley– when Libretto was gonna be too long. An off night for the renowned F? You should have hit the noodle shop on the other side of the street. Don’t judge that book by its cover. Delicieux!

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