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Nov 14, 2009 10:18 AM

Goldin's at Free Time Cafe...

I don't know if I should post this right now as I am sure it has the potential to overwhelm the kitchen.... But, I just got an e-mail from Goldin's about some exciting news! They are serving Goldin's Smoked Meat at Free Times Cafe starting today!

The Free Times is at 320 College St. at Major.
Two blocks west of Spadina PH: 416 967 1078.

I am not going to post up on the whole e-mail right now since I am not sure if it was meant to be posted online, but he said the website will be updated in the next 2 weeks. I wish I didn't already have plans for dinner tonight otherwise I would try it out before the word got out!

Free Times Cafe
320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

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  1. I got the same e mail. I would be interested in knowing the price of the Free Times sandwich. My guess is more expensive than Caplansky's.
    Goldin is selling pre-cured, rubbed, and smoked meat over the internet at $12/lb, and I expect Free Times will add a reasonable mark up when they price the sandwich.
    Caplansky is hand curing, rubbing and smoking brisket on site, so that is $4/lb plus mark up, which comes in at $16/lb.
    Whatever the cost, competition is good, especially so close to each other.

    For myself, I'm happy with a fatty Dunn's slab at home, at $5/lb.

    Free Times Cafe
    320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

    27 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      Goldin's is pre-cured? Alex has said that it's all homemade, and he hand cures and smokes the meat himself. Based on my observations, that seems to be the case.

      Where did you get that information? And if you're speculating, don't you think it would be important to mention that?

      1. re: acd123

        An e mail from Alex says he starts with raw brisket. Mea culpa.
        I have a 2.75 lb deckle ($27.50) in hot water right now, and will have my first taste of Goldin's in an hour or so.

        1. re: jayt90

          Looking forward to your report.

          1. re: jayt90

            You got the deckle... Hell yes.

            Waiting to hear your opinion as well.

            1. re: duckdown

              Initial impression was good, but the deckle was unfinished after three hours in water. The few slices I tried were thin and gristly, but very good flavor and spicing.
              I'm going to finish it in foil later today, and report in the other thread, Goldin's vs Caplansky.

              1. re: jayt90

                Do you think that maybe the cooking temperature was a bit too low? I've only had one that was a bit tough and that was quite sone time ago.

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  That could be. I didn't use a thermometer, but I did a Dunn's on the next burner and it came out perfect. I'm going to put hem up against each other tonight.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    I always cook it for three hours, at a slow slimmer. I've cooked two others from the same batch as yours and they were perfect.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      I am ever more satisfied with the "put on a rack over water, seal tightly with HD foil, and hold at 200 F for hours" method that I've been using lately. I haven't tried this yet with Goldin's, but it has worked brilliantly with my own pastrami and BBQ this summer.

                  2. re: jayt90

                    I've made 6 Goldin's deckles over the past many months and after 3 hours immersed in boiling water, it has always come out perfectly.

                    I don't think it's a fair comparion to put an industrial product like Dunn's up agains a hand-made, artisinal product like Goldin's. But your right, it come down to flavour. If you try them side by side and Dunn's wins in your mind, than so be it :-)

                    1. re: acd123

                      Although there is no limit to crappiness resulting from expediency, let's get real. This is corned beef, ( for which the recipe calls for the brisket or either tough cut to sit in a brine bath for three weeks and then to be boiled for a few hours) not an exquisite gateau pithivier. Goldins' hand job I am sure is great, bit doesn't get him home.

                      1. re: acd123

                        acd 123 I don't know why it is unfair to put a Montreal smoked meat product, from Montreal, made from a 1929 recipe, selling for $5/lb cooked and sealed, available in 4 local Costco's, against a new wannabe product, selling for $10/lb, and hard to get, yet available sporadically and uncooked. What else would Goldin's consider as competition? Caplansky's is sold finished in sandwiches, and fetches a realistic $16/lb., excellent for a restaurant setting.

                        In any case, I will put together the comparison later tonight, after giving the tough piece of Goldin's a second chance with further cooking. The Dunn's is good already.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          I just reread your post, jayt90. I hadn't read it carefully the first time. I'll tell you why it's not fair to put a Goldin's up against Dunn's. It's not even in the same league. DUNN'S IS AN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCT, made in a factory, industrially injected with cured and industrially smoked, cooked in industrial vats, then package on an asembly line.

                          Made from a 1929 recipe? That's sounds like "supermarket pastoral" to me. That's the term that Michael Polan uses to describe the pictures on milk cartons in supermarkets, the pictures that try to elicit emotions of days past. Cows ranging on sun-drenched, bucolic pastures with birds parked on their butts. In other words, nothing like the reality of the vile conditions that industrial dairy herds actually live in. I'm sure that back in 1929, Dunn's did it like Alex Goldin does is now, but those days are long gone.

                          Some people like shopping for massed produced items in a supermarket and some people would rather go the extra mile (both literally and figuratively) to get products that are superior.

                          And can you explain why you think Goldin's is a wannabe? For those of us who think that Goldin's product is fantastic, your characterization makes no sense at all.

                          1. re: acd123

                            I suppose I disagree with both of you on this one.

                            Dunn's smoked meat is certainly an industrial product, and seems to fall somewhere between the extremes represented by Goldin's/Caplansky's at one end and Lester's/Maple Leaf at the other.

                            It may or may not be made from an "original 1929" recipe, but it is apparently "traditionally dry cured" and, therefore, not comparable to the products from Lester's and most other big producers.

                            Going by the information included in a Costco recall notice in 2008, I tracked down the very low profile producer at

                            The information is kind of interesting to me. I don't know whether the current Dunn's front man, Elliot Kligman, who claims to be the grandson of the "original" Dunn's founder, sold a recipe to Desco and/or has a stake in Desco, or whether Desco actually developed the recipe for Dunn's.

                            I'd guess that the product is actually Desco's. I base this on my visits to the original Dunn's location on Ste Catharine in the mid sixties. Their "legendary" smoked meat was my second experience with crappy chemically cured pumped meat. (My first experience was at the even more legendary Ben's.


                            Whatever recipe Myer Dunn may have had in 1929 had been lost at some time before 1966. It would seem that today's product is far superior to the Dunn's smoked meat sold 45 year's ago. It is also clear that you can sell the same product packaged as "acd123 smoked meat" should you so desire.

                            So you are right, in that Goldin's is hardly a "wannabee" and is a much superior product. However, Dunn's does cost less than half as much on the plate. I wish it was available more widely than just from Costco.

                            I had a Costco smoked meat sandwich once. It was made directly from a pouch and served on unsuitable bread with an inappropriate style of pickle. Nevertheless, it was much better than I expected, albeit not worth a special trip.

                            I'd like to have the option of the unsliced brisket, which I still haven't tasted. I've never been able to justify a Costco membership, given that we're a two person household with minimal food storage space, they have no convenient locations, and the closest ones don't even carry the product. I'm surprised that Metro doesn't bring it in.

                            I don't know what the story is between this Dunn's and the Dunn's franchises operating in the Toronto area. The smoked meat served at the Toronto Dunn's restaurants is not the stuff in the packages sold at Costco.

                            1. re: embee

                              I eat a Dunn's pouch on rye on the way to work, as a time saver. While it makes for an interesting commute, and the flavor is the same as the slab meat, it is not usually fatty or even medium fatty, and it has been overcooked to point of stringiness. The slabs are in a different category, especially since I can choose the best one out of 20 available.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                Hey Embee, I also live in Leslieville and go to Costco all the time. In the interests of the board which needs your opinion on all things deli, I will absolutely pick you up a slab of Dunn's from Costco. Let me know!

                                1. re: childofthestorm

                                  In another thread it was determined that Dunn's is available in slab form at Ajax, Etobicoke, Peterborough, and others out of town. Ajax is convenient for me, if that is far for you, childofthestorm.

                                  1. re: jayt90

                                    My local Costco in Etobicoke had some there two days ago. Very easy to sort this out and move towards an ultimate smoked meat ranking for Toronto! And seriously, how awesome is it that we are at this point? A few years ago the constant complaint was that you couldn't get decent smoked meat here. Now we have two artisanal products with Caplansky's and Goldin's, the availability of Dunn's slabs at Costco, not to mention the more BBQ-centric brisket offerings of Stockyards and Buster Rhino's amongst others. No matter where you stand in this debate, we live in great times for brisket lovers.

                                  2. re: childofthestorm

                                    Sure - write me offline at the address on my profile when you are going to a suitable Costco :-)

                                2. re: embee

                                  Doesn't read like you disagree with me. I agreed that Goldin's is more expenive. I'm perfectly okay with that. The hamurger at Allen's is more expensive tham the one at McDonald's. But you're right, I stated that the Dunn's product is industrially injected with cure. I shouldn't have written that because I don't know that's the case. But there is no question that it is mass produced in a factory using less than traditional methods.

                                  Funny. This is what I just read on the Desco website:

                                  "House brand manufacturers are one of the industry's best kept secrets. With the dozens of products processed in our plants, Desco is one of the select partners of North America's most widespread and respected banners. Our seasoned R&D experts can work with you to find innovative, streamlined, hygienic mass-production techniques to save you time, effort and money. Products created to your specifications... proven R&D expertise... a firm grasp of the retail environment... awareness of the latest trends... state-of-the-art technology. Desco puts it all together so your products are a success and your brand becomes a benchmark."

                                  Doesn't sound much like the real deal to me. McDonalds produced a tasty hamburger. But I would rather eat one at Allen's. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a McDonalds hamburger from time to time :-)

                                  1. re: acd123

                                    My point is that the Desco product, while industrial, seems to be well above average for industrial production and can't really be called crap. If they've perfected dry curing for industrial production, they've accomplished. something good.

                                    The injection process itself isn't really the villain. Katz's on Dufferin injects their brine cure, but the resulting meat isn't denatured rubber. I find their pastrami too dry, and it must be machine sliced paper thin, but it isn't actually "bad", especially when fresh. (Katz's smoked meat doesn't merit discussion.) The villain is "what" the processor injects. Whatever they ARE doing, Desco isn't creating rubberized meat.

                                    In short, there's plenty of room for decent deli in the vast space between artisanal and inedible.

                                    1. re: acd123

                                      A Big Mac is a Gestalt experience, but a McDonald's all beef patty is not a hamburger ;-)

                                  2. re: acd123

                                    acd, Dunn's claims to be true to the original recipe, and it comes from a small operation named Desco ( courtesy embee's research), it's apparently hand rubbed (you can see this in the slabs), and provides the true Montreal flavor when steamed to their directions.
                                    Goldin's comes from a similar small operation (Corsetti) and is value enhanced by A.Goldin at the Free Times Cafe. If they achieve the Montreal smoked meat flavor, fine, but it is from Toronto.
                                    I can get the Montreal flavor and texture from Dunn's at $12/kg precooked, no shrinkage, while Goldin's was $27.50/lb, unyielding
                                    and low yielding. Nicely spiced, though.
                                    I am not very demanding, and Dunn's provides more of what I want than Goldin's, at an attractive price.

                                    1. re: jayt90

                                      It may or may not be hand rubbed. There's no reason why they couldn't have high speed machinery to apply a dry cure.

                                      Similarly, I sometimes inject curing agents and/or flavourings into meat with a small syringe. This procedure, for example, ensures that enough brine gets into the centre of a thick brisket when I'm "barrel curing" a corned beef, or that a turkey will be flavoured to the bone.

                                      So injection can also be artisanal. Some Industrial machinery stabs meat moving at high speed with hundreds of needles at once.

                      2. re: jayt90

                        The sandwich combo at Free Times is $10.95. A few of us did an impromptu Goldin's vs. Caplansky taste off this afternoon:


                        Free Times Cafe
                        320 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1S3, CA

                      3. The original comment has been removed
                        1. hot damn!
                          we actually have dinner reservations there for tomorrow. its a set menu, but perhaps we can get some smoked meat so i can see what the fuss is all about.

                          1. Beat me to it, was coming here to post the same thing.

                            Looking forward to seeing Caplansky's fans who haven't tried Goldin's to see what I've been hyping up all this time.. I know that will DEFINITELY be my takeout stop anytime I'm downtown.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: duckdown

                              Caplansky's fan weighing in here. I had the smoked meat at Free Times today and loved it. On basis of sides alone (latkes, toasted bread, beet salad, cuke salad, cabbage salad) I will be back. Even though the latkes were served with sour cream, on the same plate as the meat (my aesthetic side was more offended than my religious side, which is nil anyway), I still call this little platter a winner. Everything was super tasty.

                              The meat is delicious. Smoky, melty, salty, fatty, all those things. I'll be returning, and kudos to your hype-job. Spot on.

                              1. re: Everythingtarian

                                As you say your religious objections are nil but just to be clear, Caplansky's meat is treife (Zane has a personal axe to grind with kosher butchers) and I think one would assume that Goldin's is as well.

                                1. re: bytepusher

                                  Yeah I would assume so. The point I was trying to make was that as jewish as smoked brisket and latkes n sour cream are, having them on the same plate is not very jewish- culturally, traditionally, or kosherly. I dont prefer Caplansky's on this basis.

                                  1. re: bytepusher

                                    The only kosher deli in Toronto is Marky's (to which I don't advise a visit), and there are a couple of kosher family restaurants (e.g., Miami Grill) in Thornhill. Caplansky's and Goldin's meats, and Caplansky's and Judy Perly's restaurants, are not kosher.

                                    My understanding is that Zane's issue, described months ago in his blog, is with the organization that dominates kosher supervision in Ontario (not with kosher butchers). He does actually serve kosher hot dogs, though not a brand I particularly like.

                                    To operate a kosher restaurant in Toronto goes way beyond serving kosher food, and encompasses Sabbath and holiday closings, an onsite inspector, and an investigation into your personal religious life. The restrictions are not necessarily as extreme in other places.

                                    If the kosher supervision rules were similar to those in effect in New York, I suspect Zane might have given it some thought. For example, New York's Second Ave Deli is deemed kosher (the ownership is transferred to non-Jews every Sabbath). A Jew can't do this in Ontario, and the Second Ave Deli would be denied kosher certification here. At least Zane refrains from serving pork, which is not part of the real Jewish deli experience.

                                    In the end, though, Zane's customer base is not concerned with kosher supervision (Free Times was never really a "Jewish restaurant"). It would push things such as poutine and cheesecake off the menu and at least double the cost of a sandwich.

                                    Those who do care about kosher supervision would likely consider it "not kosher enough" (a topic forbidden even on the kosher board) and refrain from eating there anyway.