Nose to tail has become a popular dinning trend where restaurants serve, just as it suggests, everything from the nose to the tail and all that is edible in between. To me this trend is more like a return to humble roots where our ancestors HAD to eat everything in order to make the most of what they were able to have. An interesting cultural turn during an economic collapse where everyone feels the pinch and our personal mottos begin to morph into “waste not want not.”
Despite its simplicity and a sort of obviousness about this trend The Black Hoof in Toronto was my very first official nose to tail dinning experience.
So there I was in Toronto with my dad, aka boss, who had his hesitations about “allowing” me to chose our restaurant experience during my first east coast business trip together. Of all the places I could have taken him to I chose The Black Hoof, a rather adventurous selection for my father – I felt as though I was placing my life, and perhaps my career, into the hands of a cuisine I had yet to determine the enjoyability myself. A feather but a breath away from a crackling fire (it always feels a bit more dramatic when it’s your parent doesn’t it?).
“It’s recommended by Anthony Bourdain.” I assured.
“Yeah well he really screwed us over on Puka Dog in Hawaii, so who knows.” My dad smirked. Although I agreed I have a soft spot for Bourdain and have put the overrated Puka Dog (a hot dog in Hawaii with too sweet condiments and excessive bun use) experience behind me.
As the cab struggled to find The Black Hoof awning we decided to get out and find it by foot. It began to rain and we quickly gave up on our scavenger hunt retreating into a restaurant with a sliding door entrance and an awning that plainly stated “Charcuterie”. We took two seats at the bar and looked to the chalkboard menu on the wall revealing the name of the establishment…The Black Hoof.
We made it after all and quickly ordered some Ontario wine to warm up from the rain.
The inside is as unassuming and modest as the exterior. The narrow hallway of a restaurant revealed limited seating and a miniature kitchen where the four tattooed chefs impeccably operate without running into each other. One chef is hunched over a white four burner oven that looks like the spitting image of the one in my first apartment rental, if not a couple times in my childhood.
Luckily my dad found it quirky and after the $20 cab ride from our hotel we were looking to see this thing through.
Our waitress could tell it was our first time and so she guided us through explaining that their dishes were meant to be shared. Being a family that passes around forkfuls of each appetizer, entree and dessert we order, my dad and I were all in.
We began with the charcuterie, what the waitress and awning assured us they were famous for. Being charcuterie enthusiasts we dove.
“From right to left we have a terrine of beef heart….and at the end here we have salumi of horse.”
“Horse did you say?” My dad asked looking down at the red slices of what used to be a trotting horse. I think we both faded into our memories of when we once thought of getting a horse then quickly shrugged our shoulders still thanking our stars we didn’t.
“Better not let Aunty Steph know.” Our aunt the horse enthusiast.
I knew what I got myself into. I knew from the beginning that a house specialty was horse carpaccio. I just wasn’t going to order it.
But now that it was unexpectedly on my charcuterie I felt an obligation to try it. And it turns out that it was pretty tasty, especially with a glass of locally produced merlot. I felt a little guilty at first but time heals all – just don’t expect me to be making a regular habit.
We finished the charcuterie the best we could and moved on with optimistic stomachs. From there we ordered the bone marrow, oxtail and a deliciously sweet and savoury alternative to dessert, foie with waffles. I couldn’t help but watch as the chefs produced perfectly cooked five star meals presented before us out of such a tiny kitchen space.
Aside from amazing food the drink options are endless with playful cocktails served with alcohols infused in-house such as the gin infused earl grey tea which is the foundation for their Sympathy for Tea.
It’s one of those places where you either want to challenge yourself as a foodie or you already have and courses like bone marrow and horse carpaccio are go to menu items. I am not sure where I stand now as a food enthusiast but I am glad I went, so is my dad for that matter. It was an experience we could call our own and what could be a sweeter evening than good food and great conversation.
With all that rich food I think we even experienced some indigestion that night…
Have you tried any of the menu items mentioned above? Where?