Saturday, October 22, 2011

toronto underground market II

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose... 20 years ago you may have found us lining up outside a warehouse on a cold night with tickets that we had bought weeks in advance, the air of anticipation tangible. Last Saturday night, despite leaving the Vicks Vapor Rub & glow sticks at home, we took it back to the old skool at the Toronto Underground Market II.

We had a plan going in, but hunger got the better of us & we deviated from our beeline for La Carnita to grab a trio of Mama Nashi's delightful samosas first. Easily the best samosas we have ever tasted, fried to perfection & bursting with freshly sliced chicken & pork. Even the vegetable ones were thrillingly full blooded. Magnificent as they were, they proved costly as we hung around the stall to keep stealing squirts of lemon juice to douse each bite, & by the time we had licked the crumbs from our lips & pulled ourselves together the line for La Carnita was already enormous.

Our immediate hunger pangs sated, J headed off on a few daring sorties while L dutifully took up his station & waited for the line at La Carnita to do its unfathomably slow thing. First J came back with a couple of treats from Elle Cuisine: balanced in one hand, braised beef perogies with truffle & rosemary sour cream & port caramelized onions; in the other, lobster churros with lemon aioli & lime salt. Far be it from us as to be so crass as to complain about value for money, but $4 a pop was pretty steep for three churros barely bigger than matchsticks. The solitary perogie at least had the good grace to be lip smackingly sumptuous, the sour cream & onions atop complimenting it better than the most toadying of lickspittles.

By the time J came back with the next morsel, L had already been in line for roughly 25 minutes & had probably moved at least 2 feet, so if the pace continued there was a real danger that by the time we reached the head of the line, inflation would have rendered our Canadian dollars worthless. J had selected this particular stall solely as it had the shortest line; a bunch of high school chefs were cooking up rice balls & a couple of pasta dishes using ingredients they had grown themselves whilst their teacher worked the crowd into a frenzy with his MC skills, exhorting us to feel the rush of their butternut squash agnolotti. Said agnolotti in a brown butter & sage sauce was perfectly serviceable, but both of us always seem to have a tiny bit of a problem with sage & butter sauce no matter where we try it, & yet we keep plugging away gamely determined to develop a taste for it in the hope it will make us somehow more sophisticated, like teenagers struggling to stomach the taste of beer & cigarettes. 

Both of us were new to rice balls but after trying them, we were deeply regretting having waited so long before popping our collective arancini cherry. J could definitely taste the truffle oil they were drizzled in, & despite this sometimes not being her favourite of flavours, she had to agree it was a thoroughly enjoyable dish. L dearly loved the flavours, the texture, the whole kit & caboodle. Despite beginning the night as a rice ball virgin he is now considers himself a proud rice ball slut. Apparently there is an asteroid the size of aircraft carrier scheduled to pass between the earth & the moon just after sundown on Tuesday. If the scientists are wrong & rather than passing by about 200,000 miles from the earth it crashes into us & destroys all life in an instant, L would be perfectly fine with that, just as long as this asteroid was stuffed with wild mushrooms & mozarella & coated in panko before being fried to perfection.

By this point the line had sped up from a barely perceptible crawl to a stately creep & we passed the time with a few more samosas. Sorry. We really should have tried something different but in that moment we were thinking only of ourselves. Before we knew it, the crowd in front of us dispersed & we found ourselves face to face with our taco overlords. We ordered two each, then scuttled to one of the communal tables that ran down the centre of the building to stuff our faces in triumph & pour scorn on those worthless wretches still waiting in line.

One would think it would be easy to sit here & gush about La Carnita, but mysteries abound. We don't know why their tacos are so amazing. We're not entirely sure what some of the ingredients are. We're bewildered as to how they are able to blow all their taco making competitors out of the water when their competitors are professionals & La Carnita just seem to be doing this off the cuff, like some sort of prank. Is it possible that this is purely a marketing triumph, that it is the mere scarcity & the delayed gratification of the product that makes it so incredible? Could the whole set up be an elaborate front for some sort of shadowy mass mind control cult? Are there subliminal messages contained in that swirly skull picture & all they have to do is set up somewhere & watch us all assemble like lemmings & await our turn (how is it that so many people in line have no idea what they are lining up for, yet still they come? why is it we all share that same thousand yard stare as we walk back down the length of the line, tacos in hand?) Mark our words, we don't know exactly when, but it's only a matter a of time before that La Canita skull appears in the sky like the bat signal & Toronto's cognoscenti find their feet involuntarily carrying them out to a pre-arranged place they had no idea they were even aware of, to finally discover their true purpose, their very own taco rapture. 

It was at about this point when we had the realization that all those tiny bites of tiny portions we had indulged in added up to quite a lot of food so our thoughts turned to coffee & desert. L indulged in a coffee stout which seemed to go straight to his head. J tried out a couple of cup cakes, the oreo & the red velvet.

The cupcakes were outrageously cute; moist chocolatey goodness topped with the type of frosting that you happen upon much too rarely, where you can taste the cream, not just the sugar.

We weren't about to leave without grabbing some macarons, having developed something of a habit during 2011 & an almost religious zeal to uncover Toronto's best, which we think we may now have found with 3 Macarons. 

We suppose that for some people there may have been slightly too much meringue & not enough filling, but we say the hell with those people. Who made them the macaron police? All six were heavenly, but special mention must go to the audacious maple bacon & to the lemon which was sink-to-your-knees-holy-mary-mother-of-god delicious.  

It's all happening again on November 19 with further events to come in 2012 by which time presumably, the underground will be thoroughly overground & we will all be standing in line at La Carnita bitching about how the scene isn't want is used to be.

1 comment:

  1. i didn't know toronto had an underground market! hopefully i'll hear about the next one in time! x