Category Archives: Food and Drink

Wheezing into Monday…

photoKitten updates have been few and far between lately, I know, because Kelly and I were scampering around to a variety of movies at TiFF, with my always delightful and thoroughly brilliant cousins, Alicia and Joe. What’s up with the kids is, basically, that they are cute. Supercute, even!

We experimented a little with leaving the bedroom open to them at night while we were en vacance, but they are still too rambunctious. No big surprise there. CinCin’s headed back to the vet in about ten days for spayage and shots. I’ve also rearranged the top of the cat tree known as Beetlejuice Station. This might, eventually, occasion a new video.

This past staycation has been the best vacation, for me, in quite a long stretch of time. It offered the perfect mix of tourism, intellectual stimulation, good company, downtime, and amazing foodie experiences. Among other things, we tried a huge number of new restaurants: Khao San Road, The Harbord Room, The Senator, Fusaro’s Kitchen, and Byblos. Each of these is as deserving of a review as all the incredible films we saw.

It was illuminating, and has made me consider what K and I require in a break where our entertainment isn’t curated by a savvy, film-loving family member. Next time we have a stretch of time off at home, this shall be the model, I think: buy lots of tickets to lots of things, make a list of restaurants, and lure out various lovely people to partake with us.

Sunshine, cheese, and a bit of whine on Sunday

It is a warm, rainy and potentially thundery Monday morning as I write this, rain-drenched and delicious. We spent Saturday bumbling around Prince Edward County, exploring wine country with our friend Linda. Relaxation was had, a good thing because a big chunk of Sunday went to itemizing receipts from our 2013 move from Vancouver. The government would like to verify that lunging across the nation required a bit of expense.

Exploring wine country was a delight and, naturally, I took many pictures. It’s really exciting to realize that you can go either east or west and be in a vineyard in around 90 minutes, traffic permitting. I didn’t taste much, but I did have a few sips at the County Cider Company in Picton. Mostly it was nice to have a short road trip and a chance to explore.

Here’s a little structure that made me think: DIY Ancient Ruin…

Exploring Wine Country

You Asked For It: Delicious Cheesy Goodness

I am pro cheese. If you were to ask me to articulate a political position on cheese, in all its full-fat, salty glory, I would definitely be hitting all the available Like buttons, possibly while shouting: “Up with cheese! Go NDP Go!” The two main purposes of wine, as far as I’m concerned, are first that it makes cheese tastier and then that it helps you chill out after a tough day of not reformatting your co-workers’ hard drives (or brain stems) with a crowbar. I tell you this because Badger, in response to my “Tell me what to write” plea, said this one thing: Cheese!

I know what you’re thinking. After “Yum,” how much more is there to be said?

In 2009, I volunteered at Cheesecamp, which was an offshoot of a delightfully nerdy wine event called Vinocamp. Volunteering meant emptying spit buckets of red wine, mostly. In exchange, I got to sit in on sessions designed to edumacate my cheese palate. Samples were provided. It was a fun day.

Ninety percent of what I remember learning, from the Benton Brothers presentation mostly, was the thing that put me off mass-produced cheese by the brick, of the sort that you’d get at your local Safeway, (a chain we don’t actually have in Ontario). Don’t get me wrong, the edible material of which I speak isn’t made of kitten toes or anything. You can read on without fearing regurgitation, unless you truly are a delicate flower. You will not have to march on any Hill or storm a dairy to liberate a big-eyed animal after I’ve shared this with you.

But! The gist was that for good public health reasons, the government forbids us to ship huge amounts of fresh milk–even if it’s pasteurized–any significant distance. In order to make the massive quantities of cheese-like product required by the big grocery chains, what producers do instead is acquire powdered skim milk and vegetable oil, mixing the two with water to reconstitute an allegedly milky substance. To this they add salt, bacteria, rennet and eventually packaging and a bar code.

The oil, which stands in for the fat that’s been removed from the milk flakes, is the reason why the cheese you find in the non-boutique part of the grocery–cheese which isn’t even all that cheap, I hasten to complain!–will express drops of oil if you leave it out at room temperature.

So! Not horribly gross, I know. Just a little. But I take this as my license to say: Hey, when I want to drink canola, I’ll swig from the bottle, in the time-honored fashion of my ancestors. (Or was it ketchup we drank that way?) In the meantime, my cheese when I lived in Vancouver came from La Grotta Del Formaggio, mostly, and sometimes Les Amis du Fromage. Here in Toronto, we surveyed our cheese options carefully. Kelly now makes a weekly run to the St. Lawrence Market to stock up on our house table cheese*, which is currently a honey goat gouda. We’ve also gotten a pretty tasty rougette there, recently. I do sometimes just gotta have the award-winning La Sauvagine, which one of the Marias at the Grotto described, famously, as “Jesus sliding down your throat in satin pants.”

I will close this entry by mentioning that:
One: I am still looking for topics from you all. If I can do cheese, I can do anything!
Two: If the above sounds like the smuggest thing to blaze across the Internet, it is almost certainly because I drafted it in my condominium hot tub.


*What? Of course we have a house table cheese. We’re terribly refined here at Dua Central.

Anniversary girl double-booking drama! Oh, the humanity! #alyxkelly25

wpid-Photo-2012-05-20-948-AM.jpgYesterday I went prowling through our tickets and realized that I had not, in fact, bought tickets to see London Road on Saturday. No! I had bought them for Friday, which is also the evening of Debra DiGiovanni’s Late Bloomer performance.

The horrors! I hyperventilated for about an hour before I remembered that probably if I just phoned Canadian Stage and asked to change the theater tickets, they’d say yes. (Because, OMG, alyx, calm down.)

And in fact that’s just what we did. They were supernice about it, of course. The Canadian Stage guys, in case you’re all wondering, seem to have excellent customer service. One gets off the phone feeling as if you could ask them to swing by with a juggler, a pony, a dance troupe, Ian McKellan and someone to wash your windows and they’d be all: “Sure! Can we do anything else for you?”

Drama over drama aside, the anniversary staycation is coming along nicely. We had a stunning meal out Wednesday night, and we’re going back to AGO this morning to take in the Guggenheim exhibit again. Tonight is the stand-up comedienne, tomorrow the matinee, and after that I’m doing a photo shoot at the aquarium with the Instagram crowd.

As for Sunday, we’re going to the Royal Ontario Museum with one of our oldest friends and then hanging out with her all day. To cherry that sundae, we’re going to book a spa thing for Monday: it’s a “taking the waters” type bath circuit at Body Blitz.

Toronto, day 138 – Macaron Madness

photo by Kelly Robson
photo by Kelly Robson
A new bakery has opened in the neighborhood, by which I mean across the street.””>Delysees is its name, and they have lovely-looking light french breads and wee little $4 sandwiches.

I have been questing after a Toronto macaron as good as the ones at The Bel Cafe in Vancouver, with no joy yet. They’re either too sugary or too stale-chewy or the flavor isn’t subtle enough. But Delysees has a promising entry in the dark chocolate category, velvety and rich, and not overly sweet. I have only failed to award the trophy because they don’t yet have a proper cooler for the things, so the meringue wasn’t crunchy on their opening day. And I’ve only tried the one flavor.

Toronto Day 94 – Eavesdropping in Burgertown

got the feverWhat I overheard: “Well, if we can’t find a Priest, we’ll have to go looking for a Hero.”

Sounds very Dungeons and Dragons, no? Real world adventurers, off to find a cleric to help them slay a dragon. And yet they didn’t look like the sort of people one should stalk with a camera, in case a mystic fight broke out.

What it means: Toronto seems very burger oriented. There are burger joints everydamnwhere, many of them the proud owners of patios–patio dining is huge here, too. There are burger chains upon burger chains, and I should note that I mean they’re pubs: they’re not selling rubber ninety-nine cent McNasties.

One such chain is The Burger’s Priest. And another is Hero Burgers.

Toronto Day 62

photo by Kelly Robson
photo by Kelly Robson
When we moved to Toronto I got more diligent about checking in using Yelp, using the app to track the various cafes and restaurants Kelly and I have been trying out. It’s less true now than it was, but in our first few weeks here I was often sitting in a perfectly nice joint with no real clue as to where I was.

And then, when I would get the I wanna go back to that place, where was that place? itch, I didn’t have to try to remember its address–which would be impossible. Or even its name–honestly, that’d be pretty unlikely. The incomparable Sense Appeal was, until I looked it up, “that place with the black and white bags that I posted on Instagram.” But I didn’t have to know! I just scrolled through my check-ins until the answer turned up, in red and white, complete with map. Turns out it was less than a kilometer from the house.

I am apparently the only Yelper currently active in the West Queen West area, though. Eight weeks of trying to track my own movements has netted me a handful of Dukedoms, on just about every place I’ve been more than twice. True, I’d been auditioning a lot of coffee houses, looking for the all important remote work site, but still!

Speaking of apps, the one that counts the number of days I’ve been here would also like you all to know it’s 160 days until December 25th.

Toronto seems to have more work-at-cafe culture than Vancouver. A lot of places are jammed with computer-using busy people by as early as ten, and there’s a very serious air about it.

Also, they seem to think you should be tall. One of the reason for all the auditioning was I kept finding perfectly nice places whose tabletops were too high for me to either write long hand or safely type.

Seriously! In the end, I had to go to MEC and buy an inflatable camping pillow. Which I now carry in my portable office along with all my other carp! How crazed is that?

Roasting the Muzak Chestnuts?

I write in the mornings at Cafe Calabria on Commercial Drive, where the coffee is strong and the decor is opulent. The proprietor, Frank Murdocco, has been passionate about music since he had a job, in the Sixties, at a big record store in Montreal. Here are some bizarre picks from his holiday mix to offset what you’re probably hearing, every day, in all the stores.