cait +tiff


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T / go away / my toronto (now)

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Gaudi-esque at Bar Raval

So Anthony Bourdain came to Toronto last year and throughout the entire episode, he didn’t sound very impressed. Such lack of enthusiasm! Naturally, I was a little offended. Now I get it, Toronto’s not a very good looking city.  Our neighbours to the south burnt us down in 1813, and we burnt ourselves down in 1849 (oops).  So a lack of historical architecture combined with a post-industrial aesthetic and the lot of ugly condominium high rises that have penetrated the city make for a not so pleasant facade.

Thank goodness for its neighbourhoods.  Tiny enclaves built on the backs of early 20th century immigrants from Scotland, Portugual, Italy, Korea, China, India and beyond that have now become the gentrified centers of delicious for the current generations. My trips back to Toronto have always involved discovering whatever neighbourhood has become the next big thing.  On this one, I had to get the advice from cadre of local authorities who made sure that I was going to spend my short time here well. As a result, I’ve been equal parts stuffed and hungry all week by just being surrounded by all this gastronomic glory. Let’s begin shall we?

Brunch

Farmhouse-TavernThe wedding post-mortem is a tradition among our friends that didn’t exactly work out this time considering the hangover.  So while my pals slumbered, I needed to soothe a grumbling stomach and lumbered my way over to the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto where my pal Mojan had ordered me to brunch at the Farmhouse Tavern (1588 Dupont Street near Dundas Street West). Sadly they were out of their signature Mother and Child reunion which consists of breaded and two  deep fried duck eggs paired with fine slices of duck prosciutto. I had to bear with their Eggs Benny, probably more appropriate prescription for a hangover, with smoked trout gravlax served on cheddar and chive biscuits that made me melt into a messy but satisfied puddle.

Saving GraceIn the Dundas West neighbourhood there is a huge selection of possible brunches.  From the classic Federal (1438 Dundas Street West near Ossington), to the white walled and light filled Saving Grace (907 Dundas Street West at Bellwoods Avenue).  If you’re more akin to a weekend brunch later in the morning and have a craving for the brightest waffles topped with the freshest of berries, you’ll find Saving Grace packed to the brim. Thankfully, you can put your name down for a table and mosey across the street for a coffee at Ella’s Uncle.

Coffee

ManicIt’s only natural that Little Italy offers a very saturated market for quality java, right?  I like heading to Manic Coffee & Gelato (426 College Street West, near Bathurst).  Not only do they offer some cold creative treats (there’s miso caramel if you’re adventurous, however black sesame is a personal fave), but their baristas are great conversation.  One of my faves is Mikhail who hails from Costa Rica and has the coffee trade in his blood.

Academy-of-LionsAnd I couldn’t write this post without mentioning one of the inspirations for the Kettlebell Café in Phnom Penh.  Academy of Lions not only has a beautiful post-industrial space and the friendliest of staff in an old kitchen supply store for its work outs, but they also serve some great post-workout coffee. If you’re a Crossfitter looking for a friendly gym, go west and do a hundred burpees here!

Aperitifs

Bar-RavalTo call Bar Raval only a location for libations would be a misnomer.  I wound up spending three hours here catching up with one of my oldest friends, and we just kept ordering tapas upon pintxos upon planchas upon queso and beyond.  And highly curated absinthe-based (apparently now legal in Canada) beverages of course.  If you find standing space inside, you’ll be surrounded in Gaudi-esque structures from top to bottom which match its Barcelona-inspired menu so well.

Rock-LobsterOne should also not miss a new institution just welcomed to the world last year. The Bloody Lobster Caesar is just perfect for a warm day on the patio at Rock Lobster (3 locations across downtown Toronto).  And if you’re feeling indulgent, and we know you won’t be able to help yourself: go for the lobster poutine.

Dinner

Bar-IsabelIn the weeks leading up to my trip back home, I posted about a profound desire to feast at the Black Hoof.  Very shortly after, my new friend Julia (also a Toronto-to-Phnom Penh transplant) intervened and implored that I go to Bar Isabel, Grant van Gameren’s new outpost instead.  And I am so happy that Julia stepped in. Reunited with a dear old friend, we spent the three hours at Bar Isabel feasting on roasted bone marrow, smoked sweetbreads atop raw albacore tuna, a whole seabream ceviche, patatas bravas that were truly imperial with house-made blood sausage and boquerones layered on top and finished off with a sour cream ice cream with rosemary and candied orange.  Oh right, and cocktails.  And yes I was stuffed and tipsy. 

So that’s it for my Toronto.  I hope you enjoy my hometown if you ever make it above the 44th parallel! 


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.

 


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T / go away / my toronto (then)

headerWhen it comes to Toronto, I feel a little stunted. I left when I was 22 and never really came back.  Yeah, there were the annual visits that lasted three weeks at most.  But I never really matured with the city like my friends did.  I didn’t necessarily engage with its post-graduate dating scene and the places one takes with it, or discover a taste for coffee there (goodbye double doubles from Tim Hortons).  That all happened abroad, in Phnom Penh.  So my hometown, like those hometowns for people who jumped ship, will always be trapped in the years between 15 and 22 and a 3km radius, when I actively engaged with the greatest city on earth, discovering only a fraction of its nooks and crannies, and doing the sort of growing up one does between those years.

This means that while my friends have discovered their own new favourite haunts in neighbourhoods that we had only paid lip service to, I’m a bit stuck.  My must visits when I head back home are the same ones I’ve been going to since I was just a toddler.  But thankfully some of them hold up and deserve a return visit at 30 while some others definitely don’t. So on this trip back home, I wanted to share those places with you.  The places that make me feel home, like a big warm hug back. And maybe you’ll consider a visit to these places too if you ever drop by.

kensington-clothesKensington Market

toronto-then--Courage-My-LoveEvery week during my teenage years, my friends and I would take the subway downtown.  The millennium had just been survived and we’d traipse along Queen Street West, as if we belonged among its counter culture shops, the goths, Bovine Sex Club, and a Vice Magazine outpost (fifteen years later, you can find an American Eagle Outfitters there), and eventually make our way up to Kensington Market, one of Toronto’s most distinct, cultured and community-driven neighbourhoods.  We spent most of our time there looking for the ways to further to separate ourselves from the gen pop of high school, which meant a lot of vintage and second hand clothing.  Of all these places, Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave.) still has it going strong and has essentially withstood the test of time.  Everything from the pile of cowboy boots, to the star shaped colour-changing beads that adorned our wrists, and the big basket of $2 scarves is still breathing with the store.  I don’t come here just for the nostalgia.

Kensington-Food-1Later on, I moved into Kensington Market as a college student.  I lived in a house with five of my girlfriends, as one did at age 19. I am now happy to report that the Chinese restaurant that announced “Now Serve Dim Sum” for a decade now reads “We Serve Dim Sum.” These years are the ones that I really came into my own and I discovered a love for eating and preparing food.  I blame Kensington’s little food shops for my need to have ancho chilis and perfect avocados, or fresh sausages and quality cured meats on hand.  Oh, and pupusas and the cute boys wearing skinny jeans at Cheese Magic (which I still call Magic Cheese).

Cheese-and-CofeeOn this visit back, I found myself speaking with Jennifer, the daughter of the folks who run the little vegetable store at corner of Baldwin Street and Kensington Avenue. We lamented the changing character of the neighbourhood as one does.  Like how the Portuguese butcher shop where I bought all my meat and sold my 19 year old self quality burgers for $1.35 has now gone locavore and cosmopolitan with bespoke burgers that sell for $9 (though they do sell maple syrup infused mustard). But also the things that stayed the same. And that’s what counts, right? Like how nothing can beat spending a rainy afternoon catching up with close friends over hot chai or a sunny one people-watching with cold brew in hand at Moonbean Coffee.

Aunties-and-UnclesAunties & Uncles

Finally, there’s the place where I discovered that pear chutney and brie on challah was the best combination, ever.  And an hour’s line up would be worth it (even in the winter).  Aunties & Uncles (74 Lipincott Ave.) has been serving delicious quality breakfasts and lunches (they’re only open from 9am-3pm) to hungry University of Toronto students and staff for 17 years.  There is most definitely always a line up during peak hours.  There will always be good classic rock coming out of its speakers while the waiting staff wax poetic on the benefits of pre-1979 Aerosmith.   And yes, that’s really awesome vintage wall paper you see there.

So that’s one tiny bit of Toronto.  Check back next Thursday when I share a fraction of the good stuff that’s been brewing in the city since I left. 


All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use (and don’t blame her for wanting to move to Toronto and facing skyrocketing real estate values).


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T / happy monday / hometown hungry

Photo Credit: Greg Bolton

Photo Credit: Greg Bolton

I make my annual hometown visit in just under three weeks!  And like everyone else who was born and raised in the Big Smoke, I think the city is the centre of the universe, the best place on earth and has some of the best food around. Which is what this post is about.  But as a Canadian, I really shouldn’t make a big deal about that.  Also, Cait used to work in the culinary industry and has already been to a heck ton of the world’s tasty places; but has never been to Toronto. So naturally, I need to show her what it’s all about.

With all this excitement swirling around, I wanted to share this little ditty form Vice Magazine’s MUNCHIES.  My man and I stumbled upon the words “foie gras + Nutella = best friends,” last night and couldn’t let go of it.  (Sidenote: Are Cait and I foie gras and Nutella? If so, which one is which?) We tried to get a table at the Black Hoof back in 2011 but my time away from Toronto meant that I no longer knew the city had gone into full gastronomical combat mode and the place was sadly full with no signs of abatement.  This time, I’m making The Black Hoof a mission and I cannot wait.  Charcuterie board, horse heart salami, bone marrow and tongue tongue tongue, you are all mine (can you tell I like my offal?). Also I’ve heard a lot about this “amazing tacos” at Grand Electric business and I should probably check it out for myself (and bring Cait and our friend Carlos with me).

Unfortunately, none of my friends work in the culinary industry (they are, however, eaters and foodies). There are distant friends of friends though. So let’s see if we can make an interview happen with some cool cats in Toronto’s culinary industry while I’m home. So as they say, “watch this space.”


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humpjump

Photo Credit: via The American Edit

Photo Credit: via The American Edit

This is a good week. It’s a week of good change, good friends and mosquito bites.  And those critters are clearly leaving us with some ideas. We have been working on our improvements to the blog, which you will start seeing sometime soon. We are both working on things that we want to be great at. Cait is deep into fashion drawing and stalking future professors at Central St Martins. She’s such a creep. Tiff is working hard on the blog re-design and sucking inspiration from cool rags like Cherry Bomb, Lucky Peach and Kinfolk. In the new design, you will still have our voices and content, but it will be prettier. More on that soon.

We hope you guys are having a great week. Here are things that are keeping us off task. Good thing we have awesome bosses.

Making the best of blizzards in Japan.

Holy cow.  SNL turned 40 and I wish so bad we could’ve been at that after party.

Lovely little piece on confidence.

Design Sponge featured a city guide for Toronto and hit all the right notes!

New goal: be in this story.

Speaking of notes, loving this DJ and cracking him open for get togethers of all sorts from now on.

Good advice.

I’m excited to make this for breakfast.

A company devoted to women drinking whiskey? Sounds amazing. Wishing we were on the guest list for this party.

And I want to have my friends over for dinner and feed them Ignacio’s meal.