Archive for the ‘Montreal’ Category

To Boldly Ring, Where No Cellie Has Rung Before

2008 December 5

Guess what?  Soon you’ll be able to talk on your cell phone, continuously, nearly everywhere you go!  CityNews reports on the TTC’s confirmation that it is working on a plan to bring cell phone service to the subway.

Kind of funny, considering that this service is already commonplace in major centres around the world, including Montreal and Boston.  Service in Toronto is proposed to begin sometime in 2010.

Was Harper Speaking About Torontonians?

2008 November 20

Our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently claimed that ordinary Canadians don’t care about the arts or their funding.

Interestingly enough, the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario re-opened for business this past weekend, and I rode my bike by there yesterday around 5:30 pm only to witness an incredibly long line-up to get into the gallery.  I’m talking like around-the-block-long.

On a related note, I read this article this morning in the NY Times.  It basically talks about how, even though many of the museums in Los Angeles are facing budget crunches right now, there is still talk of bringing yet another public art museum to the City of Bevery Hills (financed by philanthropist Eli Broad.)

These two stories caused me to revisit thoughts I’ve had for a while about the state of the cultural institutions of Toronto.  We basically have two major museums: the Royal Ontario Museum and the AGO.  Yeah, we have a few other minor ones like the Gardiner Museum (ceramic art), the Bata Shoe Museum (footwear), and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.  I guess the Ontario Science Centre is kind of a museum, too.  However, given the fact that Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America (after Mexico City, NYC, LA, and Chicago) it’s a pretty sad state of affairs.  New York City is home to top-notch museums in art, architecture, photography, natural history, television, radio and technology.  Chicago has more than 40 museums open to the public, including three popular museums on the lakefront linked by a large park area known as the Museum Campus.  Even Montréal, which is half the size of Toronto, has like 4 or 5 major institutions.  What’s up with our cultural infrastructure?

One proposal that has been in the works for more than 5 years is the the Toronto Museum Project.  This would see a “signature piece on the waterfront [showcasing] Toronto’s cultural story and intercultural understanding.”  Current plans identify the Canada Malting Silos site at the foot of Bathurst Street as the proposed site for this new Toronto Museum.  Only time will tell whether this project will actually go forward, but I’m not placing any bets.  Two other contemporary museum projects went unrealized – Metronome: Canada’s Music City was shelved years ago and a more ambitious Toronto city museum, called Humanitas, was rejected half a decade ago.  There’s actually a current exhibit at the ROM entitled Unbuilt Toronto: The City That Could Have Been, that showcases unbuilt projects and unrealized building proposals over the last 150 years.

As for our city’s current cultural landscape, go out and support the arts – even if Stephen Harper thinks you don’t care about them.  I’m going to the AGO this weekend (although I’ll be prepared to line up.)

Let’s All Move to Burlington

2008 April 29

Money Sense Magazine just came out with its 3rd annual ranking of the best places to live in Canada.  154 communities were compared on 16 factors including climate, salaries, real estate, and (supposedly an indicator of quality of health care) doctors per capita.

Those conducting this ranking claim it to be “the fairest, most unbiased guide you can find to Canadian communities.”  Interestingly (and ironically), they also tout the fact that their rankings “aren’t about who has the best scenery, or the best restaurants, or the best beaches.”  In fact, there are absolutely no cultural indicators contributing to their rankings whatsoever.

So, that being said, here’s the list.  Obviously, I would much rather live in Burlington (No. 8 ) than, say, Montréal (No. 82).  Toronto came in at No. 51, down significantly from last year.  Ottawa-Gatineau was tops at No. 1.  And the worst place to live in Canada (according to these people)?  Port Alberni, BC.

Breakfast Crawl: Le Petit Dejeuner

2007 October 1

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This morning, following rowing, one of the other coaches and I visited this great little diner Le Petit Dejeuner.  My companion had been here before and highly recommended it, so I was pretty pumped for my breakfast.  The atmosphere of this place really sets you up for an excellent experience:  most of the seats are booths made out of sparkly green naugahyde, and some smooth Aretha Franklin-type soul was playing from the sound system.  The waitress/proprietor (Corrie) approched us to take a coffee order and to inform us that she had not been able to visit the market today and thus fruit was running low.  The crêpes were also apparently not ready yet.  I always kind of like restaurants that are running low on, or out of, some menu items because it indicates (for the most part) freshness of food as well as the lack of mass-production.

LPD’s menu was interesting for having many exceptional items: potato latke instead of hashbrowns, apple coleslaw as a side dish, and the option of fish cakes as a non-traditional alternative to the regular sausage/bacon/ham breakfast meat options.  My friend had an omlette, which looked absolutely delicious.  I had the Hungry Gal Breakfast (which, I was told, was just fine for a hungry guy): a couple of poached eggs, brown toast, the potato pancake + apple coleslaw, and (I couldn’t resist trying out) the fish-for-breakfast.  The cakes – a mixture of salmon & haddock – were fried up nice and crispy and were actually quite tasty.  However, later in the day, I was repeatedly treated to a slightly unwelcome reminder of the the taste; perhaps a reason these have not hit the breakfast menus at Denny’s or The Golden Griddle yet.  I had a regular coffee under the false assumption that it might be included in the price of the (kind of expensive) meal.  I was wrong – it actually cost an additional $1.75.  It was organic and it was good, but I probably would have gone with an espresso or one of the many loose leaf teas had I known.

All in all, this was really a choice place for breakfast in Toronto.  I will surely go back as I’m eager to try some of the other stuff on the menu, especially the delicious-looking eggs benedict that the person in the next booth over was eating, and the Belgian-style waffles that one reviewer claims are “almost too sinful to eat.” 

Le Petit Dejeuner is located at 191 King Street East, just east of Jarvis.  It’s open from 8 am on weekdays, from 9 on Saturdays and from 10 on Sundays (again, affirming how much a non-breakfast city Toronto is; if this place was in Montreal, it would be open from 7 am every day!)

Breakfast Crawl: Mimi’s

2007 July 28

I’ve been away from the city this week (hense the lack of posts) and upon my return, was hankering for some good breakfast eats.  Like I’ve said before, it’s becoming apparent that TO is more of a weekend  brunch kinda town.  However, there are also many places to grab a great breakfast on a weekday, it just takes some looking.  I heard of this place Mimi’s – which is pretty close to where I live – a little while ago, and have been eager to give it a try.

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This place is pretty inconspicuous: housed under the banner for oak leaf Steam Baths (men only), you might miss this place if you weren’t looking for it specifically.  In fact, even if you were looking, it might be hard to find.  The window is filled with a lot of junk memorabilia and knickknacks, and the neon sign is unlit even when it’s open.

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Upon entering this joint, I was immediately enamored.  Its close quarters remind me of one of my favourite breakfast places in Montréal: Chez José.  With 3 booths and a handful of stools at the bar, the place seats less than 20 patrons at its most packed.  Mimi’s is certainly filled with character though.  The walls are almost littered with tons of amazing stuff that could entertain you for a while if you happen to be eating there alone and forgot your newspaper.  Examples of some of Mimi’s great collection include the Star Trek ® Ken & Barbie (still in box), autographed glossies of a bunch of musicians I’ve never heard of, and a bumper sticker that read “This car stops at all big-ass yard sales – and so-and-so’s concerts” (I can’t remember the musician’s name).

Another plus of this place is the staff.  It’s manned (or womanned, I guess) by 2 ladies that unabashedly sang along to most of the songs that played on the stereo.  I’m pretty sure they might be the only people that work there, considering Mimi’s isn’t open very often.  The one who served me was content to leave me be when I was eating and reading my paper, but as soon as I appeared ready to chat, she was there with a coffee refill and some pleasant banter. 

Now for the food . . . the menu is amazing.  Lots of choice and cheap enough, especially considering what you get.  I had eggs and peameal bacon and was not disappointed.  The menu said 2 eggs, but I actually received 3 – poached to perfection.  I also got about 6 slices of toast (they have 7 kinds of bread to choose from, none of which are white), a giant pile of hashbrowns, and 3 thick, delicious pieces of Canadian bacon.  My coffee was served in a one-of-a-kind mug that I’m sure was picked up at a yard sale or came from Mimi’s personal collection.  It said Superstar or something, and boy did I feel like one.  My total bill was about 9 bucks, and well worth every cent.

All in all, this was an excellent place to eat and has probably grabbed top spot in my list of choice places to breakfast in Toronto.  Not everybody likes this kind of bohemian joint, but it’s right up my alley.

Mimi’s Breakfast is located at 218 Bathurst Street, just north of Queen.  It’s open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am – 3 pm.  (416) 703-6464

Breakfast Crawl: Mars Restaurant

2007 July 18

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Going out for breakfast is really one of my passions.  I love the general consistancy of the breakfast meal – I can go pretty much anywhere to get my eggs and breakfast meat, and it’s the minor details that make the experience range from lackluster to superfantastic.  Having lived in Montréal (in my opinion, the world’s best breakfast destination) for 4 years, I have high expectations.  I also lived in Kingston for a year, a city which claims to have more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in North America. I went out for breakfast a lot while I was there last year, and I was pretty sad to leave after compiling a list of great places to recover from a hangover. That being said, after living here for only a couple of months, I’ve found Toronto to be more of a weekend brunch type of place than a breakfast city. I have had some good morning meals so far, but it’s hard to find places to go, as a lot of restaurants aren’t even open in the a.m.  This morning I went for a walk, not really intending on going out to eat. Before I knew it though, I found myself in front of Mars Restaurant – a place I’d passed many a time. Located just to the East of College/Bathurst, Mars claims to have “out of this world” food, and all-day breakfast. Today I just couldn’t resist. The “greasy spoon” is really a sub-genre of breakfast establishments. Some people who love going out for breakfast hate greasy spoons. I happen to love them. They usually have delicious food, pleasant (or pleasantly snarky) staff, and, most importantly, cheap prices.  Mars measured up in all of these catergories.  The decor was classic diner-style, and since alone, I opted to sit at the bar.  I loved watching the waitress take my order, and then yell it to the cook, who was standing about 3 feet away.  In this case, I had a pleasant server, and the only snarkiness was from the chef when I tried to start up a conversation with him while he was cooking.  I settled for the complementary newspaper instead of conversation.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could have my eggs poached as well as choose rye toast.  Often those options are too “specialty” for some low-budg places.  The food turned out to be great, and my bill (including a bottomless cup of coffee) rang in at $5.77.  Not bad at all.  I’ll definitely keep this place in my rotation.  It’s not one of those places that you rave to people about, but it’s a great local staple (having been established sometime in the early ’50s) that will always be there when you it need to greet the weary-morning-you any day of the week.

Mars Restaurant is located at 432 College Street, and is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m.