Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lineup at the Don Jail

Yesterday, ace Torontoist photographer Michael Chrisman and I were so lucky to be able to get a preview of the Don Jail before the poor crowds who waited for hours in the sun. We arrived at 9 a.m. and by the time I left at 11, the line-up looked like this:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blustery Brunch at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

What is up with this 5 °C on the May long weekend? I braved the wind and cold this morning and finally went back to Mildred's Temple Kitchen for brunch today with friends I don't get to see nearly enough. And we solved the problem of how to have the blueberry pancakes and try something new at the same time: order one plate for the table and share. It worked like a charm (as long as you have four people). Note that the pancakes now come pre-dressed with the sweet and delicious Lanark County maple syrup.

Fans of the old Mildred's have dished out a lot of criticism on their new modern decor, but it's a fresh, clean, and airy space with very comfortable chairs, and the waitstaff don't pressure you to hurry up and leave (apologies to everyone waiting for a table this morning; we had too much fun catching up). And the food is flawless, as usual.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cluck, Grunt, and Lowdown

The information around the closure of Cluck, Grunt & Low is pretty sketchy at best, and it looks like they took off in a hurry (i.e. without paying their staff).

I went to this place a few times, but not recently. Their beef ribs were amazing (and enormous). I also liked the fried green tomatoes. Torontonians love barbecue and aside from Phil's Original, there really isn't anywhere to go. If any southerner came up here and started an authentic Carolina, Kansas, or Texas joint, they'd make a killing.

The Howling Fantods

After poor little Zoe the chihuahua was abducted by a coyote in the Beaches in late February, media both near and far covered the story and solicited reams of passionate comments. In addition to local residents concerned with the safety of their pets and children, rural folks also weighed in reminding us that we’re not the only ones with a problem.

In the frenzied days immediately following the Zoe incident, the initial response was to euthanize the animal (dubbed “Neville” by local residents), but this tactic proved to be wildly unpopular, so they changed tack and decided to trap and relocate it humanely. Normally, the Ministry of Natural Resources advises that animals be moved no further than one kilometre from their origin because of the possibility of spreading disease (e.g. rabies) and the fact that beasties don’t do well when introduced into unfamiliar territory. For this particular case, Toronto Animal Services got special permission to move the coyote further away in order to get him outside city limits. (As of today, Neville still remains at large.)

The problem, as outlined by Owen Roberts in The Guelph Mercury and by some commenters, is that the country already has their fair share of coyotes that not only interfere with pets, but also with livestock (i.e. their livelihoods). Unwanted wildlife dumped in the countryside, especially urbanized animals that rely on humans for their food, most likely will either perish or seek out new hosts.

The end result is a quandary where wildlife is first being unintentionally domesticated, and then pushed into the narrowing spaces between all of us humans, city and country dwellers alike.

And coyotes aren’t even close to being the most populous wild species in the city. Kathleen Quinn, a supervisor at Toronto Animal Services, tells me that the top five (according to their numbers) are raccoons, squirrels, skunks, opossums, and groundhogs. The difference is that these animals are generally easier to live with and have not made off with anyone’s pets (yet).

When I asked Jolanta Kowalski, Senior Media Relations Officer at the Ministry of Natural Resources, if there is a province-wide plan for dealing with problematic species like coyotes, she told me “the best way to avoid problems with any wildlife is to remove any food attractants...and never feed them. Learning to peacefully co-exist with wildlife is always the preferred option.” So it seems all we can do is try to make our dumpsters and backyards less of a buffet, and hope these critters prefer the wild...or what's left of it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Best of Home for a Short Holiday

Last week after an insanely exhausting and unhealthy month of working far too much, Darcy and I popped home to Nova Scotia for a quick holiday that involved lots of fresh sea air, walks along the coast looking at all the stuff that washed up, visiting family, and eating amazing food. If you're planning on visiting Nova Scotia, Halifax or otherwise, the best food really can only be eaten at someone's house. My advice would be to rent a place with kitchen facilities and a car and go out to buy your own lobster, crab, mussels, and smoked fish. Here is some of the best stuff we ate, in chronological order:

  1. Dim sum at Zen Chinese Cuisine in Clayton Park, Halifax. Awesome dim sum in a relaxed, sunny restaurant with menus only—no carts. My parents go every week.

  2. Lobster from Fisherman's Market. These were 1.5 pound hard shell; very tough to crack and full of meat. They were also selling jumbo lobsters that were two feet long. You could cook one and serve it like a turkey.

  3. Lobster roll made from leftover lobster tails, celery, mayo,and the whitest white hotdog buns.

  4. Prime rib roast with asparagus, Yorkshire pudding, and mushroom gravy. This is one my favourite mom foods that we haven't had in years. And we cooked it at Mom and Dad's new seaside house, which made it even more fun.

  5. Soba noodle soup made from 80% buckwheat noodles bought at Sanko Trading Co. in Toronto. One of my favourite things in the world.

  6. Japanese barbecue dinner: wakame salad, onigiri, and yakitori (I grilled the yakitori myself!)

  7. Smoked fish from Willy Krauch's in Tangier. We went to the actual smoking facility and it's a tiny little place with just a small stock available for sale in store, but they do a huge mail order business. They use wood and brick ovens with hardwood smoke and they made smoked trout, mackerel, eel, and two kinds of salmon: hot and cold. The cold is the raw type and the hot is chunks of smokey cooked salmon.

  8. Seafood Platter at Harbour Fish 'n' Fries in Musquodoboit Harbour. It's the best place for fish and chips in the world. They opened about 15-20 years ago as a chip truck that turned into a shack that they added onto and now they seat about 40 total (indoors and out), which is good because they're packed at lunchtime. They're open from April to November.

  9. Scallop pasta chez Mom and Dad. Only at home can you get as many scallops as you want. Yum.

  10. Dad's ramen. Made with egg white noodles and homemade pork stock and char siu.

  11. Mom's gyoza. Made with chopped pork (not ground), garlic chives, shiitake mushrooms, and napa cabbage.