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tdot love…take this waltz

Photo by Mongrel Media for Take this Waltz.

This lovely film was at TIFF this past year and while it was on my must-see list, I knew tickets were going to be harder to get than The Descendants.

Pour quoi pas?  Well, it’s all about love and pride for the city.  Torontonians are known for their self-love (which the rest of Canada seems to hate), and it’s this pride that might actually trump George Clooney.

Sarah Polley totally knows how to show off that love and pride for our shared hometown of Toronto in her new film Take This Waltz (US June 29).  Yes – there’s Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman….but check out this trailer and it is truly an ode to my favourite city and the neighbourhoods I practically spent my formative years in.  Clafouti! The Annex! Book City! The Ex! Trinity Bellwoods! Hipster heaven. Sigh –  stuff like this makes me miss home! My heart will always lie in The Big Smoke.  Check out the trailer for Take This Waltz, below!


Oh and isn’t that song amazing?  It’s Parachutes by Jenn Grant!


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canada…an appetizer…

Chowing down at Schwartz's in Montreal!

And let me first begin….this is only the appetizer.  Canada is a massive country…10 provinces, 3 territories, 5514 kilometers from sea to shining sea, and 202 080 km of unending coastline.  So…this is just a tasting menu of my province (Ontario) and it’s neighbour…Quebec!

Poutini's House of Poutine...winner by far! (Photo by Bardia)

Smoke's Poutinerie....well, I guess it works if you're drunk?

First of all…I would like to end the war of the poutineries.  Hands down, Poutini’s House of Poutine takes the cake!  While we were staying in Toronto, we managed to land ourselves an amazing apartment on uber trendy and hip Queen Street West (many thanks to my amazing friend, Mojan!).  And lucky for us, we were sandwiched (less than 10 minutes of walking distance) by our two competing poutineries – Poutini’s House of Poutine and Smoke’s Poutinerie.  This was definitely not a randomized control trial…but despite the lack of robustness…the clear favourite was Poutini’s hand cut fries, home made gravy, daily fresh cheese curds.  The fries soaked in the gravy oh so well!  And the huge chunks of melty cheese curds carried so much body and flavour that you didn’t even need the pulled pork or bacon or the other works to make it better.  On the other hand, our late-night hunger pangs, one night, were definitely not satiated by Smoke’s Poutinerie.  One word can only define it – disappointment!  The taste…not a happy mix of cheese, potatoes and a slosh of something that teetered on the definition of gravy.  It didn’t even look appealing!  The poutine from my university’s fry trucks on a cold winter’s night look gourmet compared to Smoke’s, who funnily enough think of themselves as the best poutine this world has seen. So all in all…if you’re on Queen Street West on a night or day and feel that need for grease, cheese, frites, and meat…check out Poutini’s House of Poutine.  Simply worth it and there will most definitely be a smile on your face afterwards.

How much more Canada can you get?!?!

Beavertails are amazing and can only be found in Ottawa (in Byward Market), Mont Tremblant and various other ice-skating and ski-related locations in Canada.  And what are they? Don’t worry…it’s just a name.  These beavertails only look like the real thing.  Quite simply, they are slabs of fried flattened dough, which can be topped with various sweet accompaniements.  My favourite is like the minimalist beavertail..the Killaloe Sunrise, which only has cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice.  My more chocolate loving friends get the pimped out version, called the Avalanche, which has got cream cheese frosting, chunks of Skor bar and chocolate sauce!

It will always be about Schwartz's in Montreal!

Schwartz’s is THE Hebrew deli of Montreal.  I couldn’t think of a better place to bring my meat-loving D to when we finally made it to Montreal (especially after our car broke down in the middle of nowhere, Ontario).  Schwartz’s is best known for their smoked meat sandwich and they will be packed to the brim, with a long line up outside, of fans wanting a smoked meat sandwich or a plate of smoked meat with gherkins, bread and mustard!  They’ve been doing this for over 80 years in Montreal and Schwartz’s has definitely perfected the art of smoking their meat. And…they made a musical about it!

Pizzeria Libretto! Good enough for Italy!

Next up is Pizzeria Libretto, Canada’s only pizzeria that serves real Neapolitan pizza, certified by the Italian government and VPN!  I was first introduced to this place on a 2010 visit to Canada when my friend Emily said…”you’re back! You MUST have the Pizzeria Libretto experience!”.  Located in the heart of cool downtown Toronto, in the Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood that we stayed in, you can find pizza that will even make an Italian say mamma mia!  At first I was a bit nervous about taking D here.  He’s been to Italy tons of times and knows good pizza.  But I thought to myself…if this is the best pizza in Toronto and quite possibly Canada, then it’s gotta impress him…and it did!  Our favourite was the Ontario Proscuitto & Arugala…all made with local Ontario-grown ingredients and served by a staff who definitely know their pizza.  This place is definitely worth the line up…get there early and be prepared for a 30-45 minute wait for a seat!

And finally…brunch…

We were led to Delux, on Ossington near Queen St. West, by our amazing Airbnb hostess Meg.  She had left us an amazing list of restos and bars in the area to guide us through our stay, and it definitely helped me, the itinerant Torontonian, to get myself re-established.  But more importantly, the Cuban-French brunch at Delux was simply to die for.  We had big smiles on our faces through out the entire meal.  Unable to decide what our hearts truly wanted, we wound up sharing the Dulce de Leche French Toast with Bananas and Cuban Breakfast with roast pork and poached eggs.  The French toast melted in your mouth…as did the roast pork. And the tostones (fried plantains) were the perfect finish!  I still can’t believe how amazing this brunch was!

And finally…the place we didn’t get to try…

(Photo by Epiglutton)

My best friend and fellow foodie Anj wanted to meet on a late Saturday night at the Black Hoof…also in the Trinity Bellwoods ‘hood.  But sadly, they don’t take bookings…and it was packed with nary a sight of seat for another hour.  Hungry…we had a happy and amazing reunion at a mediocre Indian resto on Queen Street, but the dream of Black Hoof and it’s offal glory still loomed.  I have their Tongue on Brioch on my mind still.  Next time, Black Hoof…next time…

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on the road…with big fruit

This post is all about big stuff...

I’m finally settled in Germany, and back to blogging!  The past few days of travel, birthdays, freaking out about birthdays and unemployment are now gone and I’m back to writing about random stuff!

I’m a big fan of road trips, and while we were in Canada, driving from Toronto to Ottawa along the Apple Route of Highway 401, we just had to make this one stop…at the Big Apple of Cramahe, Ontario!

It seemed a lot bigger when I was a kid...

So inspired by this random roadside attraction which seemed so much bigger when i was 5 years old…I found myself looking through their gallery of BIG roadside attractions.  Canada’s got a random motley crue of them.

Like the massive Canadian Goose of Wawa, Ontario

...or the massive nickel of Sudbury, Ontario!

But I found that it’s Australia, who is definitely dominates the random roadside attractions which solely involve BIG fruit! Like…

The big pineapple of Nambour, Queensland!

It's the big banana of Coff's Harbour, New South Wales!

And of course...the Big Mandarin of Mundubbera, NSW

So if you ever find yourself on those stretches of highway in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the US…look out of these guys. the big kiwi

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azari & iii….i think i like?

I’ve been a bit disappointed by music lately.  The new Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, was a bit of a disappointment for me, a devoted fan.  And scans of stereogum et al have been to no avail…but then I stumbled upon this Toronto gem on Pitchfork…Azari & III.

They’re cool, they’re stylish and they totally harken to that 80s vibe that I’m currently rocking to, apparently.  I can see that they won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea…but check them out!  Maybe you’ll grow to like them like I did?

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drive me wild…

So, I decided to go shopping instead of going off to find last minute tickets for Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope.  Instead…our last TIFF film in Canada was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive…which was simply amazing.  Words can’t describe it.  And I can really see why this year’s Cannes audience and committee loved it so much.  Ryan Gosling is perfect, including his awkwardly high-pitched and slightly nasal voice in his 2nd of 2 TIFF films this year.  Carey Mulligan can indeed act American pretty well.  And Ron Perelman and Bryan Cranston are brilliant as usual.

But what’s even better is a brilliant soundtrack.  They capture that 80s vibe of LA that’s both sublimely innocent and slightly seedy in the most perfect way.  Here are a couple of my favourite tunes from the film. They just make me want to get my license and drive into the California sunset!
College (ft. Electric Youth) – Real Hero

Desire – Under Your Spell

Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx – Nightcall

And if you want to relive the good ol’ days of classic cinema, please check out the trailer and see it! Just to warn you….some unrelenting violence though….there’s a limit to head stomping for me!


the descendants…more than decent

The Venue - Elgin Visa Screening Room at TIFF - best venue ever!

The film!

The Cast - that's Cameron Bailey (my favourite TIFF programmer and co-director), Alexander Payne, George Clooney, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Shailene Woodley and a producer

I couldn’t have thought of a better film to start D’s first TIFF experience with…The Descendants’ world premiere at the historic and beautiful Elgin Theatre, complete with a Q&A with director Alexander Payne (of Sideways, Election, and About Schmidt fame) and the cast which featured George Clooney and a stellar trio of talented young actors like Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause.  Oh and plus…while we were waiting in line to get into the film…George actually came over and said hello….with his entourage of security and Toronto police officers.

The film, like many of Payne’s, is about a man with problems; but then again what film isn’t about this?  But this one is just a little less angry, a little more sweet and all about family.  Instead of Pinot Noir, it’s got Hawaii and as usual, a core of characters who may not be what they seem.  George, as usual, is stellar, but even better supported by the two young actresses who play his daughters.

And Hawaii? Absolutely beautiful and pulled at my heart strings to go back to Southeast Asia.  Now all I need is the perfect job.  But anyways, to read more about the Descendants, check out the Guardian’s review of it, straight from TIFF!

Some more picks…

Shame – directed by Steve McQueen and starring the impeccable Michael Fassbender…the buzz on this is that it just got picked up for US-distribution at TIFF and Michael Fassbender just won the Best Actor Award for it at the Venice Film Festival.  Too bad there isn’t a trailer yet that I can share with you!

Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope– directed by Morgan Spurlock, whom we “bumped into” in Yorkville on Friday night.  By bumped into, I mean, he was standing 2 feet away from us being interviewed and I thought to myself – wow that guy looks really familiar – at which point, his face full of french fries for the Super Size Poster flashed at me.  So then we thought “what’s he doing in town?” Turns out he’s got a film and it sounds like a pretty awesome take on the fanboy culture too!  We’re checking this one out next weekend!

The city is teeming with celebs and film-peeps...just over there - Morgan Spurlock!

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café…la troisième vague

care of Dark Horse @ Queen x Spadina, tdot

When you’ve got a visitor with you, there are things that all of a sudden pop about your hometown that you never quite noticed before…like how I’m now convinced that Toronto has the highest number of Starbucks per capita in the world…which brings me to the subject of coffee in the tdot.  I simply forgot how plentiful it is here, and how there’s all these new words for it….cold brew and 3rd wave coffee in particular.  Fine – we had lots of cold brew in London, but I just thought it was a passing fab and continued to order my Americanos and flat whites.  But over dinner with my always-in-the-know sis, she kept going on about 3rd wave coffee!  Read all about it here and here, but basically, all you need to know about 3rd wave coffee is that it’s here to stay.  First wave coffee was all about making the coffee, second wave coffee was all about getting it to everyone via the corporate machinery of Starbucks and family.  And Third Wave Coffee?  It’s all about improving coffee – whether its improving the flavour of the bean, the roasting and distilling methods…think of it as artisanal coffee!

And more importantly – good coffee is a staple ingredient to survive TIFF with.  So before I left London, my amazing foodie buddy Sofia sent me Serious Eat’s Guide to Coffee in Toronto…and all of these places definitely specialize in the 3rd Wave.

Time to get caffeinated!