Category Archives: Toronto

Sun Flares Galore

Before I left for Poland, I got an opportunity to shoot some really fun photos in Ashbridges Bay.

Phill asked me to get some shots for his upcoming solo album and he had one unique request — to include sun flares. We also had the opportunity to play with a vintage T-bird.

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How Not to Ask for Help

Part of my job as a freelance digital marketer is to scour the internet looking for work. Hustlas gotta hustle.

And basically that amounts to me being on Craiglist several times an hour/day/week/month. It can be a bit undignified at times. There’s no shortage of shitty job postings. You have to wade through the scores of ads looking for adult models, actors and private massages. Plus all of the commission-based sales gigs. You get pretty good at reading between the lines to determine whether something is legitimate or complete bullshit.

And sometimes, occasionally, you get to see real gems too.

This week I, and the majority of Toronto’s literary scene, came across this post and had a good LOLZ about it:

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I’m not sure what’s worse — the fact that this poster wants someone else to think of an idea for him, or that he gets angry towards the end of the post at the very people who he’s seeking to get help from.

It’s no secret that being a writer pays you peanuts. If you’re going on pure royalties alone, and your book happens to defy the odds to become a bestseller, you’re likely to make around $6k, according to one source. So yeah, even if you’re a bestselling author, chances are you’re still going to look for extra work.

So why you gotta hate, hater? One individual on Facebook posted it with this in mind:

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Whether it’s true or not, you have to wonder what kind of an individual has the balls to post such an offending affront to anyone struggling to be creative and original in a world that is rife with cultural misappropriation, hodge-podge homages and blatant plagiarism.

On the plus side, it’s given Canada a little boost of Internet popularity. Yay?

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Chuck Wendig is highly influential on the Internet writing scene. I relish the response this post will get now that it’s hit viral status.

What do you think? Is this blatant trolling or a genuine request? I almost wonder if it was created by someone we all know testing out the lit scene’s ability to handle “humour”.

Weird Poutines of Toronto

There’s poutine and then there’s poutine. We’ve all caved to the glory of cheese curds, gravy and piping hot french fries at some point, whether it’s a two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon or on the wrong side of 4 a.m. I’m so Canadian I have fond memories of some of my favourite times eating poutine — not because I’m eating poutine. Okay, partly because I’m eating poutine, but also because of the occasion. Most of those memories are on the wrong side of 4 a.m. But some aren’t. Technically not poutine, but the first time I ever had fries, dressing and gravy? Heaven. Walking home with a fresh, perfectly assembled poutine, while the world sleeps and the last of the Annex’s rabble-rousers find taxis to take them back to their own corners of the city. Pure bliss. Heck, even the first time I elbowed my way into a Smoke’s Poutinerie, arm in arm with the bride-to-be and the rest of the wedding party after her bachelorette party. We devoured those suckers like we meant it.

So I’m a lover of poutine. I’m craving one right now and I just had supper. Damn you, poutine.

That said, I have to admit there are some poutines that are just out there. After Canada decided yes, that we love poutine enough to make it a national dish, it seems the country’s chefs and cooks took it upon themselves to out-do one another in crazy toppings. I regularly walk by my neighborhood Smoke’s and cringe because they’ve got something outlandish on special. Most recently? Buffalo wings. Why do you want Buffalo wings on your poutine? That’s too much gluttony!

And today BlogTO posted another one that made me cringe. Italiano poutine. Yep, take the inside of a lasagna and stick it on top of your curds and fries and you’ve got yourself this:

Photo courtesy BlogTO

Photo courtesy BlogTO

It got me to think about some of the more outrageous types of ‘tine I’ve seen and so, in the interest of sharing, I present you a short, annotated list of weird poutines in Toronto.

1. Poutine Pizza (Mike’s Pizza and Bannock)

Again, the decadence and child-like combination of two already fatty and salty comfort foods boggles my mind. The fact that you can get it both in a fine-dining establishment and a strip mall in Scarborough is testament to this poutine’s nobrow culture.

2. Marrow bone poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)

I’ll be honest here — I had this poutine. It was way too much. It was delicious. And decadent. It had a marrow bone on top of it. It also cost me an arm and a leg. Only available during last year’s La Poutine week for a good reason. Check out the review of it on Nothing Found for pics. I inhaled mine before I ever thought to capture the memory of it outside my mind’s eye.

3. Italiano poutine (San Francesco Foods)

I’m not surprised that the kings of veal sandwiches decided they need to enter the poutine game with a pound of meat and tomato sauce. It’s not very inventive in my opinion but I’m sure it’ll be a crowd pleaser. They’ve definitely branched out since they were bought out (?) and franchised a few years ago. The tiny walk-in on Clinton St., across from my favourite panzerotti joint Bitondo’s, has been renovated and rebranded. Luckily they continue to make their cacciatorre, which Phill loves. He calls it meat candy.

4. Foie gras poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)

Maybe I should take out the marrow bone poutine and substitute it for this one because this is constantly on the menu at Holly Chuck? You know what, no. I’m not gonna cause I think everyone should know about that behemoth. This too is also something that I need to highlight because it’s foie gras on french fries. This is another example of the highbrow meeting the lowbrow to create nobrow, a cultural mish-mash of weirdness that creates what? Indigestion in this particular case.

Not to be outdone by poutine, La Societie, the black-is-the-new-black drinks and nosh spot a stone’s throw away from Holts on Bloor came out with the foie gras pain au lait hot dog. That’s right folks, foie gras on a hot dog.

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Good lord.

5. Anything from the Lakeview

Let’s face it. The Lakeview diner has had the poutine beat down pat for years and years already. Whatever you get off their menu is going to be over-the-top and exactly what you need in the moment to kill the hangover.

This is my list. Have you seen anything that can top these poutines? There one more I’d like to make an honourable mention of for sheer creativity — and because it was featured during Montreal’s La Poutine week. That would be the Poutine au Phoque from Au Cinquième Péché — poutine with seal meat. The review from Vice.com piqued my interest. Having tried seal meat for the first time last year and knowing the political “viewpoints” I know it’s a controversial dish, but damn it, it looks so good — and it probably tasted good too.

Spring is coming!

We’ve had a long and hard winter this year in Canada. I don’t think any part of the country can actually say it survived unscathed from the cold arm of Mother Nature. Even as I write this Newfoundland is up to its ears in the white stuff. Poor things.

Here in Toronto things are getting a little warmer, if not greener yet. I’ve begun jogging again outside as the temps climb above zero. As per usual, I’ve found interesting things along my routes. Take for instance this uprooted tree in my neighborhood. It’s probably well over a hundred years old and it’s just gone now. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

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Speaking of weird things, I came across this sign tossed in a pile of trash and couldn’t resist taking a picture of it.

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There’s something poignant about the message scrawled on an item about to get thrown into a dump, isn’t it?

And, as many Torontonians know, the venerable institution Honest Ed’s, a discount warehouse emporium with labyrinthine stairways and unusual decor is going to shut down permanently to make way for a new batch of condos in the Annex, my neighborhood. I noticed this hand-painted sign gracing one of the corners this week.

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The end is nigh, folks. Honest Ed’s will close on December 31, 2016.

Finally, because it’s spring, or maybe because I’m feeling particularly verdant this year, I’ve been into horticulture a lot more. My orchid has been blooming since December and just recently I successfully transplanted a spider plant baby from my mom’s place into a little pot of soil in my home. It’s thriving like a bean. Alas, my green thumb isn’t perfect, though. My mom also bought me a bonsai tree recently and sadly I left it in a car trunk overnight, forgetting that it’s a delicate, tropical plant and it was still way too cold for it to be outside. Now it looks like this:

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Actually it looks worse than that now because it’s been relegated to the balcony where it’s exposed to the elements. Poor thing. I tried to resurrect it with water and tender words of hope, but it just didn’t want to spring back. I even joined a gardening forum to ask for advice and was not given much hope from them either. Oh well. I think I’m not ready for a bonsai just yet, although I do think they’re absolutely beautiful.

On the other hand, my tulips are looking very nice still. 🙂 This is what they looked like when I just bought them:

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They’re almost ready to go, but I’m keeping them for just a few more days. I’m loving the fresh colours and healthy greens. They inspire me and I hope they give you hope for the new season that approaches!

Rob Ford Doesn’t Like Homosexuals

Well, if he didn’t make it clear when he said he doesn’t want to attend the Gay Pride Parade–the World Gay Pride Parade, which is being held in Toronto this year, he certainly did when he decided he didn’t want the gay flay to fly in Toronto’s city hall.

Perhaps he is that insensitive and he doesn’t really think a gay flag–the international symbol for inclusivity–belongs in Toronto. Perhaps he thinks it’s not Toronto’s business. Obviously a lot of people disagree with him, but that’s neither the point.

These hilarious images resulted out of the outrage that came from some Torontonians.

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Source: Patrick Weir

Source: Patrick Weir

These two gems were derived from this particular piece of pastiche:

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Source: Queerty.com

Which, in turn, was created from Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe:

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I love how one begets the next, especially the final images, which are just perfect examples of how one can mock an authority figure with style and panache. They may be crude, but they are spot on.

Look What We’ve Become

It’s hard to imagine Toronto as anything but a food city, but as food critic Joanna Kates writes in her farewell essay in the Globe and Mail this week, it’s clear that this wasn’t always the case.

To be fair, 38 years reviewing restaurants in the city is long enough to gain some perspective of the culinary landscape to say the very least. From the days when Swiss Chalet was the regular go-to for the working class folk to today’s offal (awful) offerings, she’s seen it all and she gives us a good understanding of just how things have changed over the years–and lucky we are that it has.

Can you imagine, other foodies of the city, if there were no Chinese, no Thai, no Italian in this city? How bland would our tastes be? Sure, we’d still have poutine (I’m confident that this would have still migrated down into the city eventually), but certainly not duck confit poutine. And even if we did, would we be able to truly convince anyone of its culinary merits? It’s hard enough to do so these days. Just think of the last time you suggested your out-of-town visitors to hit a poutenerie, that look of mild consternation and disbelief over the thought of fries, gravy and cheese (what did you say? Curds? No thanks.) What if there were nothing else in this city to support our taste?

Kates describes the new type of restaurant owner in the city as being one who hasn’t necessarily grown up in the industry, but is confident enough in his or her ability to trust their palettes to serve others. That’s an incredible thing. We have grown in such a way as eaters in this city that we’re sophisticated enough to serve each other. We no longer need the experts like Suser Lee and Jamie Kennedy who have toiled in the world’s finest kitchens to satisfy our own stomachs (although I would argue that we still appreciate that they still do.) To paraphrase the feminists, we’re “doing it for ourselves”, baby.

She even goes so far as to compare us to that other great city that we’ve strived to be for so long: New York.

For some time now I’ve felt the hum of this city getting louder. The construction, the food trucks, the pop-up shops; they’re all indicative of a change in the air. We’re growing, baby. And yes, there are growing pains. We’re not sure how to adequately transport all these people. Our idea of how to build neighborhoods is in question. Our mayor is a boob. But, regardless of that, there is a change in the air and we can actually taste it.

That’s a wonderful thing. Am I the only who’s noticed this change? What’s been the indicator for you that things are changing in this city?

The Trouble with Gourmet Food Trucks in Toronto

Photo Source: Toronto Food Trucks

There’s a wonderful thing happening to the food culture in Toronto—it’s evolving rapidly. Over the past year or so, there has been a steady increase in the number of food trucks in the city, and not just your average chip wagon, either. These are gourmet food trucks and there’s an enthusiasm in the city that’s demanding more of them.

Now instead of a Polish sausage or a cardboard box of poutine swimming in gravy and shame, you can purchase a portion of Maine-style lobster rolls, smoked meat on rye, or even decadent cupcakes.

That’s awesome. I love trying new food. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m a foodie—I love to explore and discuss the taste and texture of food. In fact, I’ll stay up half the night debating the merits of a good pizza slice with Phill if the topic comes up (and it has, much to the chagrin of my sleep-deprived body).

However, there’s one thing that I think should be stated about food trucks and it’s this: why the fuck are you charging so goddamn much for so little?

Case in point, several months ago, I was perusing the latest news on BlogTO on a regular weekday morning. The writers and editors of that fine blog are enthusiastic foodies and are quick to share the news of new and exciting food events in the city. So I was pleased to find out that a new food truck was going to make a “pop-up” impromptu appearance within walking distance of my office.

Sidenote: the term “pop-up” is redundant in reference to a food truck; it’s a truck—of course they pop up unexpectedly. Unless they have that old familiar ice cream truck jingle preceding them…

I coerced a friend from the office to hunt down the truck with me at lunch. We arrived halfway through the hour and waited a not-so-short amount of time to experience the offerings of guest chef Francisco Alejandri and El Gastrónomo Vagabundo. I love Latin American food, and I love to seek it out and make it. One of my favourite Latin American dishes is ceviche. It’s the combination of fresh seafood and lime juice, cilantro and salty tortilla chips that makes my mouth water every time I think of it. And lo and behold, the Vagabundo truck offered it that day.

Photo Source: Toronto Food Trucks

I paid $16.50 for a small cup of ceviche equivalent to the Styrofoam coffee cups you’d use at an AA meeting, an ice tea that could have used more sweetness and a pair of fried chicken balls (that’s not a euphemism, there were really only two in the portion). You can read the full menu of that day here.

The food was delicious—fresh and well thought-out. But the portions we received were such that I was finished and still hungry. And I’d already spent nearly $20! If I had to tip the truck, I would have certainly put the whole deuce down. Thank goodness it was only a food truck then.

I love the fact that there are new and exciting food trucks out there competing for our stomachs and money. I love it. However, a successful food truck in my humble bloggy opinion (which is to say, not very humble at all) needs to have one other added factor to it: quantity. By all means, go gourmet. But if you want to succeed in this business, don’t leave your customers feeling hungry after you take their money. They’ll just go grab a poutine the next time.

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Photo source: Benson Kua

Remember, your competition at Nathan Phillips Square is not hard to beat. They might not even be aware that there’s a food truck revolution happening underneath their noses. Maybe you’re trying just a little too hard to out-do them when all you really need to do is change your fry oil more frequently.