We’re all snackers now….
Snack is the dirty word in nutrition signifying a completely undisciplined way of eating. Too bad. Snacking is how the majority eats today – food at any time anywhere, a snack is 7/24, breakfast is lunch, dinner is breakfast and supper can be 2 am. How else can a person who’s running a blog, playing video games, doing Pilates, taking tennis lessons, maintaining a relationship, looking for a job, find time for a formal meal?
For the past decade, snack creep has been rubbishing the trad three course meal, ravaging prix fixe and omikase, chef’s choice. Snackers at Terroni objected when told they couldn’t alter the ingredients of a dish. To hell with authenticity. They want food just the way they want it regardless of how the chef prepares it.
Don’t think this means snackers go low end, dips and chips. On the contrary, they’re transforming the snack from grilled cheese and coke to luminous jelly bean cocktails, bin ends of wine, and unusual tastes. In a word the snack has gone posh, and never more so than at The Black Hoof, the small intense hang in the hip West End, Dundas and Bellwoods.
The Black Hoof opened last year to immediate acclaim. Chef Grant Van Gameran and Jen Agg, former co-owner of Cobalt bar, have captured the food moment. Charcuterie! Gameran has opened a fresh seam of flavour by making his own sausages, hams, pates, and by using all kinds of animal from bison to horse. Agg is the demon cocktail shaker. The Hoof’s snack schedule is 6 to 12 Sunday, Monday, and to 2 am Thursday, Friday, Saturday. This is the where you can order hot food at 1 am.
The only bad buzz is that The Hoof’s refusal to take reservations has meant long lineups.
Surprise! We arrive before 6 on this balmy Friday evening and find ourselves alone. Better still, The Hoof is opening its deck tonight. Surely one of the most original in town. A roof with skylights has been suspended like a canopy several feet over the wood walls of the deck. The result is a bright and airy space seating twenty.
The daily menu is posted on a blackboard and so are the cocktail and beer specials. We sample Sir Perry’s Pear cider, fizzy, faintly pear, and order the $16 charcuterie plate. After the ever helpful waiter has told us what’s available, we make our choices. The bison and blueberry salami is just excellent but the horse braesola (air dried) is on the arid side. Horse is lean anyway, and then there’s the question of what kind of horse? The Japanese connoissieurs prefer race horse, but I don’t think Ontario horse processors have started selling specifics.
The rabbit rillettes are delightfully pinguid but once again, the tame peter rabbit is bland. Fat is taste- which is why pork is king of charcuterie- and the head to tail pork terrine slips down so smoothly. The duck prosciutto glistens with barnyard tincture.
And what’s this – a big marrow bone for a mere five bucks. Marrow bone is all but vanished from the MOR menu. It’s tops as a snack. I spoon out marrow as softly seductive as foie gras, served with toasted bread and flaky seasalt, and a cornichon comes in a dish of garnishes. Quebec duck foiegras, which has a deep brown unctuousness, is served on a buttersoaked Thuet brioche.
I dither over having tongue in brioche $13 but decide on scallop ceviche and crispy pig ears $13, a long plate of slightly citrus disks of scallop adorned with deep fried pig ear curlicues. We share a couple of simply cooked sweetbreads, paradoxically soft but firm, accompanied by chanterelles and peas. $18. Around us we see the most popular dish is the duck confit sandwich, the duck pressed between slices of brioche.
The wine list starts at $7 for a glass of house white or you can have dry Tio Pepe for the same price. We had a pleasant 06 Hollick Pinot Noir from Australia $10 – if you drink five glasses, management will give you a break and charge you the bottle price of $45.
The Hoof even does a great dessert snack – bread pudding with bacon chips and caramel sauce. $7 Good yums for bucks.
** 1/2 The Black Hoof 928 Dundas We 416-551-8854
No Wheelchair access. Not noisy on deck. Food plus tax for two: $96