Yes, I am quoting Nicki Minaj. That’s when you know I’m all excited.
So after three glorious months, I’ve left Toronto. Our first and hopefully not last season of the television show that still doesn’t have a damn title has come to a wrap, and I’ve had to bid my beloved Toronto a heartfelt good-bye. But crazy-lucky for me, just before I left I had the sound mind to give The Black Hoof a try to see what in tarnation all the fuss was about. (Best part of being your own editor? Freely using the word “tarnation” whenever you flippin’ feel like it.)
The Black Hoof has quite the rep among Torontonians as one of the best places, if not THE best, for charcuterie in all of Canada. What’s charcuterie, you ask? Why, cured meats and lovely bits of animal in all their smoky juicy delicious glory, that’s what! So I think it goes without saying that The Black Hoof is most definitely not for vegetarians. Or the faint of heart. It’s a place you go to worship at the alter of every part of the animal, including tongues, livers, hearts, sweetbreads and bellies. But don’t worry, little lambs (they’ve got that too, by the way): it isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds!
One of my best and most adventurous pals by the name of Martin Gero and I decided to slip into the Hoof at the rather unfashionable hour of 6 o’clock on a Saturday night, because since there’s a no reservation policy, there’s almost always a wait (it’s cash only too, so bring some cheddar). But that’s because they don’t really agree with the whole idea of reservations at the Black Hoof, encouraging instead the philosophy of first-come first-serve, which, if you’ve got a fully stocked bar, I don’t have much problem with. Especially if at the end of the wait I get to eat pork. But lo and behold, two seats at the bar opened up just for us right away, and within minutes we were poured a stiff glass of champagne to get the meat party started.
The thing you notice right away at the Black Hoof is the service. Every single person there, from bartender to dishwasher, is proud to work there, and it shows. They know their stuff, and if you’re okay with surrendering all control (I don’t do that for just anyone), then go ahead and let them order for you. They’ll even whip up some fabulous cocktails to pair with your meal or, better yet, they’ll open a bottle of “wild card” wine of their choosing (they promise it’ll be under $65) that’ll send you swooning off your barstool. There’s nothing better than being taken care of when someone knows their stuff. Am I right? Always.
We started off with an in-house made pigs head mortadella. Now listen, darlings: mortadella is kind of like an Italian bologna, and it’s my most favorite little cold cut out there. Try it on a sandwich with a fried egg and a little arugula and mayonnaise, and life’ll never be the same again. But this mortadella was out of this world sweet and tender, served with little bits of pickled shallots to cut the fat and a few dollops of spicy mustard.
Our next course was roasted bone marrow, served still in the bone and straight out of the oven with some coarse sea salt to sprinkle on top as you see fit. Glorious! On we went with a lovely and refreshing little “salad” of baby heirloom tomatoes and roasted speck ham sitting in a creamy pool of some magical sauce I felt like bathing in and a pungent smear of red pepper vinaigrette.
Next came the most bad-ass dish of the night: the tongue on brioche. Very few things last for long on the Black Hoof menu, but this one they’ve managed to keep, probably for fear of public revolt if they ever took it away. Thinly sliced roasted beef tongue piled on the softest brioche roll imaginable and doused in tarragon mayo, served with a little homemade pickled relish on the side. Now, I know tongue doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, but please oh please trust me: this is one of the best sandwiches on planet earth. Seriously. Even a cow would taste this and be like, “Holy shit, guys, we taste awesome!”
Our server decided, smartly, that we’d had enough meat and brought us a simple plate of astoundingly good cheeses complete with succulent accoutrements like blueberry jam and more pickled relishes, just in case we weren’t pickled enough (we were– thank you, mystery wine!).
And then we capped it all off with a beautiful little jar of a nutmeg-y creamy custard topped with granola still warm from the oven and diced pear, which was just sweet enough to leave us wanting oh so much more.
Have I convinced you?
Of course I have. Now go eat tongue.