Category: Local

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of myself at the local coffee shop, working and scrolling through social feeds — wall to wall Ghomeshi verdict reactions — while We Are The Champions plays over the stereo, followed by Losing My Religion.

Indeed.

Unphotographable

Here is a picture I did not take of a kid deciding to do some impromptu sledding by taking a running leap down the hill behind the tuck shop at the park. Lacking a sledding device was of no concern, as the front of his nylon snowsuit was sufficiently slippery to get him most of the way down the hill. And when he stopped, which was fortuitous, since there was no barrier between him and the boardwalk next to the lake, he finished off the distance by turning 90 degrees and rolling the rest of the way.

Well played, young sir.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take, looking in on Perimeter Institute on a Friday evening while walking my dog, when their Christmas party was in full swing. Bright colours, music, groups socializing, and pockets of awkward dancing downstairs, while here and there on the otherwise dark upper levels, a few offices were illuminated, and backlit physicists poked away at the great mysteries of the universe instead of rockin’ around the Christmas tree.

Peach muffins

I had some late rhubarb to use up, so found this and made the recipe. They were wonderful. But then peaches came ripe, and I wondered…

Wonder no more. These are amazing.

Specifics:

  • Make it with 1.5 cups of peaches cut up small, instead of rhubarb.
  • If you pour boiling water over ripe peaches, leave them submerged for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water, the skins will come right off, often in one piece. Makes them a snap to slice up.
  • Be generous with the cinnamon and vanilla.
  • I use yogurt instead of sour cream, just because it’s on hand.
  • Don’t bother with the topping. (The recipe can use it for rhubarb since it’s not real sweet, but peaches don’t need it.)
  • If you make them big with shoulders, you’ll get a dozen from this.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take while standing in a field at the dog park, the breeze redolent of honeysuckle and lifting the damp hair off my neck. And watching the local osprey casually soar past on the hunt for a meal for its chicks.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take while Sherry and I were on our way to a Hip concert. Stopped at a light, I noticed loud music after a moment, unexpected music: the Hallelujah chorus from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Blasting out the open windows of the big, red 4×4 pickup truck in front of us, while the driver rocked out/hand-conducted out the driver’s side window.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of a woman wearing a parka, pink pyjama pants, and slippers, sitting on a dining room chair with her feet up, and sipping coffee in zero-degree weather on the balcony of her new condo.

The Sex Dialogues with Sue Johanson

This week Sherry and I headed down to THEMUSEUM (I picked up a new friend along the way) to see Sue Johanson speak as park of The Sex Dialogues, the speaker series that’s part of the new Science of Sex exhibit.

Most of the folks I know were first introduced to Sue back in high school; either she came to speak or you heard her radio show or saw her on Degrassi or what have you. In my case she came to my high school, and as I vaguely recall (it was 20 years ago…) she was more cringe-inducing than knowing chuckle-inducing back then. No wooden dolls this time, either, which, coincidentally, she could have used when someone asked what scissoring was.

She’s definitely aged – she’ll be 84 next month – but still looks mostly the same, and the personality is still there. A bit less energetic, perhaps, but that’s more than fair. Apparently she keeps trying to retire and they keep asking her to come to places and speak. Lordy, people, let the woman rest. We have other sex educators out there now. And you’re sending a senior citizen out in the snow in the dead of winter. Sheesh.

The presentation went on for around two hours, and was all Q&A, with questions submitted on chits of paper before things got started. She had said she was going to talk a bit about the Science of Sex exhibit, but that didn’t happen. She did laud KW for having it, and being progressive, as Toronto wasn’t hosting the exhibit anywhere.

The Q&A went on a bit long, and I got the impression there was a lot of redundancy in the questions, since she skipped a bunch. Overall, people seem to be pretty vanilla and the myths busted were the same ol’, same ol’, far as I was concerned.

What I did notice was that things felt distinctly… dated. As someone on Facebook mentioned, Sue was pretty damned progressive back in the 70s and 80s. But the information in the Q&A seemed really heteronormative, monogamy-centric, and technophobic. (She did say straight out that she’s a technophobe.) Someone asked about keeping the spark in a long-distance relationship, and pretty much all she recommended was talking dirty on the phone. Really? No smutty texts or Snapchats? No Skype or Hangouts? No remote-controlled fun? Oh, Sue.

I think she’s a great resource and introduction to sexuality and being smart about it for young people who are coming from a place of cluelessness (really, schools, we need to do much better). But after a certain point, I think it’s time for Violet Blue (warning: NSFW pictures) and her ilk.

There were even a handful of questions asked that Sue had to ask the audience about. Which made it fairly obvious that she doesn’t do a lot of research these days or spend much time online. That said, I don’t know how much of the average populace is using coconut oil as a lube or contemplating giving a “blumpkin”…

Re. the former: don’t. Like Vaseline or baby oil, etc., it’ll wreck condoms, plus there are bacterial risks and other issues. Hit up Come As You Are or whatever’s local to you and get some decent lube. Re. the latter: why??? Actually, don’t answer that…

Overall, it was great to see Sue, but yeah, let her retire. Let the next generation take over. Coincidentally, I found the exhibit itself to be similar to the presentation – very heteronormative and whatnot. That said, I chatted briefly with David Marskell, THEMUSEUM’s CEO, shortly before we left, and he said they’d approached a number of people in the local LGBT community, and no one had wanted to participate, which was too bad. I don’t know who was approached or what was offered, but the result was the poorer for it. Oh well.

All in all, A good initiative, and important for young people. There’s a lot of ignorance and misinformation out there, and it’s dangerous. As for us old folks who’ve spent way too much time in the past couple decades online… our kids are more the target audience than we are. Though really, being reminded of the basics, or what the baseline of knowledge really is for a lot of people, wasn’t a bad thing. Stay safe out there.

Uptown 21 Takeover Dinner with Beast Restaurant

Last evening the food creators and food lovers gathered at Uptown 21 for the second in their 21 Takeover dinner series (hashtag: #21takeover). This time the host was Scott Vivian from Beast in Toronto, and his wife/partner/pastry chef Rachelle.

The lovely Paula and I were invited to join in the festivities, and so we arrived with bells on, tummies empty, and smartphones at the ready. (Many thanks to her for most of the photos, which were quite superior with her camera vs. my iPhone.)

So, what were we in for? A sneak peak…

Dinner menu - Beast 21 Takeover

And what is a lovely dinner without wine?

Beast wine pairings - 21 Takeover

As it turned out, Paula and I were seated with Krystina from Rosewood Estates Winery and her guest, Amela, who were charming and knowledgeable company. (Krystina arranged the evening’s pairings.)

After some intros and welcomes and such, we were off to the races, beginning with the Tawse Riesling Spark paired with a tangy and crunchy morsel of scrumptiousness that was the amuse.

The amuse bouche was pickled onions and Brussels sprouts with crema on Taco Farm tortilla tostadas. It was a snap, crackle and pop of a starter, and the plate (we were served family style) was quickly bare.

the amuse bouche

Next up were some of Rachelle’s breads, and I could have eaten either of them alone… or just the butter, too. So soft, so rich.

IMG_1676

In his opening remarks, amid less important business, Nick addressed the elephant in the room: all of the terrible moustaches. (His, of course, was very manly and could only increase his chefly powers.) 🙂

After the breads, Krystina introduced the evenings wineries: Rosewood Estates, Tawse, and Lailey, and the wines we’d be enjoying (for those who chose pairings). For the first of the courses on the menu, we’d be enjoying 2010 Rosewood Pinot Noir.

First up of the courses was the cauliflower and croutons with a gorgeously bright salsa verde. The warm “brown” roasty flavours and all the bright green flavours were good friends, and the Pinot was just the right weight and complexity.

cauliflower and croutons with salsa verde - 21 Takeover

Next up was one of my favourite salad ingredients: smoked trout, with Greek yogurt, beetroot, and quail egg. I could have eaten the whole plate by myself, easily.

smoked trout Greek yogurt beet root quail egg - 21 Takeover

Whew, one course under our belts, and our appetites thoroughly whet for what was to come. To prepare us for the next round, the Tawse 2011 Chardonnay arrived. Might I note, I’m not a big Chardonnay fan, but this was lovely, subtle stuff.

Then things got serious as the “poutine” arrived: fried gnocchi with wild boar and cheese curds. Epic. (The gnocchi was described as tasting like “the best Tater Tots ever”.) 🙂 The Chardonnay had just enough body and brightness for the richness of the poutine. An oakier variety would have been “funny”, as my Dad would say.

poutine - gnocchi wild boar cheese curds

After pillaging that plate with vigor, things got a bit more ethnically inspired. (Is something Quebecois-inspired ethnic for us? I guess…) It was time for the battered and fried squid with fish sauce vinaigrette, Thai basil, and pomelo. And might I note here that I am not generally a big squid eater, but this was fantastic, and I happily ate tentacles — even for the camera. The Chardonnay was lovely with the tangy, Thai-inspired flavours at work.

squid fish sauce vinaigrette Thai basil pomelo - 21 Takeover

Next up was the special wine, the Lailey 2011 Syrah. Glad I got to try it, because Krystina finagled the last of it from Derek. Amazing stuff. Rich, well rounded, and not a hint of that overbearing “green pepper” I worry about with big Ontario reds.

So naturally the next course got its meat on in a big way. Venison with mushrooms on a bed of pine nut grits. And again, not a venison fan, but this was perfectly cooked and so flavourful. I ate my share and some of Amela’s this time. Yum! Even more crazy was that I happily wrapped each bite in mushroom, and anyone who knows me knows my utter abhorrence of the things. I don’t even know who I am anymore, and I don’t care. 🙂

venison with mushrooms and pine nuts - 21 Takeover

Next up we went back to the veggies and sweetened things up a bit with squash, pepitas, and feta with a wonderfully complex maple glaze. The smell of it was intoxicating. So perfectly “fall”. (We argued over what was all in the glaze. It was almost… Moroccan.)

squash pepitas feta maple glaze - 21 Takeover

And with that, my friends, we’d completed the main menu. What remained was the announced sticky toffee pudding (I have not words for how much I love that stuff) and a mystery dessert made with chocolate that had been delivered by Ambrosia Pastry that afternoon. (If you have not tried their many varieties of bean to bar chocolate, you are SO missing out.)

Another first arrived next: mead! Not that I’ve never had it, just that I’ve never liked it, typically because I find it cloyingly sweet. (Same issue with ice wine.) But this was a dry mead (yes, it exists!) and was a whole ‘nother ballgame. This was a 2011 Rosewood Estates Harvest Gold Mead. And the honey it’s made from is from Krystina’s family’s own bees.

And lo, with coffee and tea and such served if mead wasn’t enough, the desserts arrived. The announced sticky toffee pudding positively SWIMMING in toffee sauce, and a beautifully simple chocolate tart. People… it was a miracle that every table did not come to fisticuffs over these desserts. Rachelle is made of magic.

The tart let the chocolate shine. It was rich and complex and just sweet enough. Even the pears garnishing it could have been their own dessert. I hurt me to my core to cut it in half for Paula to have her share. 🙂

chocolate tart with pears - 21 Takeover

And the pudding… moist and festive and the sauce… well, people did shooters of the sauce. ‘Nuf said. (Seriously, I ate sticky toffee puddings across the UK and could have stayed right here for the finest.)

sticky toffee pudding - 21 Takeover

And with that, the meal came to an end. But not a belly was left unstuffed nor a taste bud untantalized. Huge thanks to Nick and Nat for the invitation, and to Scott and Rachelle for the meal, as well as all the kitchen and front of house staff who made the evening run flawlessly.

Next up in the 21 Takeover series is the gents from The Bauer Butcher. It’s gonna be a meat-tastic (and magnificent!) menu. Take a look. (And Nick wasn’t even kidding about the bacon fat baklava…) That one’s December 11th and it’s selling out FAST.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of a gaggle of skinny Asian teenagers standing just up from a downtown street corner, huddled against the wall of a restaurant and sharing a pair of iPod earbuds. At random intervals they would burst into multi-part R&B harmonies in English, with all the overwrought drama of a Boyz II Men reunion. They’d sing a few lines, then stop, usually burst out laughing, and converse in rapid-fire Chinese. Rinse and repeat until I crossed when the light changed.