The great Toronto Caesar challenge: the Irish Caesar
Today's entry into the Great Toronto Caesar Challenge begs to answer the age old question: Can you get a great Caesar in Leslieville? To my knowledge, this is a question that has gone unanswered - in a public forum at least - up until today.
Ceili Cottage (Pronounced kay-lee) is a quaint little everybody-knows-your-name type of irish pub where you might actually hear a few Irish accents. It's the product of oyster shucker extraordinaire, Patrick McMurray (who also owns Starfish on Adelaide) and has a real homey kind of feel to it. To the extent that I think I might have been the only one in the building who wasn't a regular. Nonetheless, what does an Irish Caesar look like? Lets see.
As Ceili Cottage also has an extensive oyster menu it's no surprise this one comes loaded with fresh horseradish - there's a big pile of it sitting on top when the drink arrives. I like the fresh stuff, the flavours are a little subtler than the prepared variety and as a result it combines much more seamlessly with the flavours of the drink creating a spicy, pungency that really works. There is also a sprinkle of dulse - a type of seaweed the Irish are known to snack on - which has salty-like-the-sea kind of flavour that pairs really well with the sweetness from the clam broth in the Clamato.
Although, "Shucker Paddy's Starfish Caesar" - as it's known - suffers from the same setbacks as so many of its brethren. I don't know where the fear of heavy Worcestershire comes from, but it's time to overcome it. But even without it, the horseradish creates enough depth of flavour that it's still a tasty drink.
I had heard from a number of sources that Starfish puts a fresh oyster on top of their Caesars and since Ceili Cottage has the same owner, I had hoped the same would apply here. Unfortunately I was mistaken, the Caesar at Ceili had but a lonely lime wedge and since I'd argue lime is so crucial to the overall flavour of a Ceasar, I'd just call that an ingredient.
The addition of dulse to the mix is both welcome and pretty unique. The glass was also rimmed with the stuff rather than the more traditional celery salt. Celery salt is the one element of a Caesar that I'd have to say I'm happy to do away with, not that a rim isn't necessary - it is - but celery salt really doesn't add anything. It's the perfect opportunity to put a distinctive stamp on a Caesar while improving it and that's just what Ceili Cottage has done.
The final price is $8.00 with tax for a 1 ¼ oz drink served in a pint glass. Ultimately, that doesn't really feel right. First of all, what is 1 ¼ oz? Lets leave the quarter ounces to the martinis. You can measure Worcestershire by the quarter ounce if you like, not vodka. Basically this means that the ratio is out of whack and with no garnish, you're paying $8.00 for something that should be maybe $5.50. Float that oyster on top and then we'll talk.
TOTAL SCORE: 15/25 (60%)
There are elements here I really like: the dulse is an inspired addition that really adds character, and the generous amount of fresh horseradish was delicious, but ultimately there was something lacking here. I know I've gushed about my love for horseradish before, but horseradish alone cannot carry a drink and filling a pint glass with Clamato when there's only enough vodka to warrant a highball doesn't mean you still get to charge more.