New Thing #175: Hartwood Restaurant, Tulum

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Well, today was my first day in Tulum, and after a few grueling* production meetings we all went out for dinner. Instead of just hitting the buffet at the resort, our production team brought us to a hidden gem down the road: Hartwood.

I don’t know the specifics, but the story goes that a talented young chef from New York packed it all in to open a restaurant of his own down here in Mexico. Thank goodness he did.

Not only is the food wonderful but the restaurant the most unique I’ve eaten at. It’s entirely outdoors; the kitchen is covered, but that’s about it. I don’t think that the traditional wood burning stove would enjoy a torrential downpour but the spattering of rain couldn’t deter us from eating there. The menu changes up daily, offering fresh, local ingredients served up rustically but full of love and flavour.

My dinner consisted of: Beet salad. Pam fried grouper. Mushroom tart. Chocolate pudding for dessert. Oh, and a Habernero Pineapple Margarita.

Yeah, this place is alllllllright.

*as grueling as meeting at the hotel bar can be

[Update] I know know the specifics, via Bon Appetit

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New Thing #174: Planters Punch

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I’m busy getting ready for a work trip to Mexico tomorrow and was stressing out a bit about it since I hadn’t done a thing to prepare until today. Relief came in the form of two fabulous gay men bearing gifts. Gifts of rum.

My friends Trent and Marcus dropped off a bottle of 8 year old Angostura 1919 dark rum as a thank you for a card I made up a couple of months ago. Of course they needn’t have given me anything for it, but it’s booze and I’ll gladly take it when offered. Anyone at my bachelor party can attest to that fact.

Since I’ve had this wonderful spirit before I thought I’d look into what I could make with it as a new thing today. Then I realized that I’ve never had a Planters Punch before. All these years I thought the punch refered to the mixture of fruit juices and alcohol. Nope. It’s definitely referring to the wallop you get from drinking one. 

It’s sweet, bold and very full of that rich dark rum flavour. This is a treat on a humid summer night. Thanks guys!

 

Planters Punch

2 oz Angostura dark rum
2 oz orange juice
3/4 shot lime juice
1 teaspoon caster sugar
4 dashes Angostura® aromatic bitters

Method: shake & Strain over cubed ice and add Angostura® aromatic bitters

Glass: Tumbler 

Garish: Lime wedge squeezed into drink

 

New Thing #173: Sam James Coffee

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Excuse my language, but fuck that was a good cup of coffee. The macchiato at Sam James Coffee just might be the best I’ve ever had. Ok, who am I kidding, it is the best.

A great producer at Keen Music, Kai Koschmider told me about Sam James months ago, maybe nearly a year ago now. We quickly picked up on each other’s coffee snobbery when we worked on a project a while back and he’s been bugging me to go there ever since. It’s pretty out of my way for me, but work related activities put me enough in the vacinity to check it out after work. Plus my friend Tom was up for a little catching up, so he tested out the Americano. Also with great results.

I honestly don’t know what it is they did, but that cup of espresso was silkier, richer and bolder than anything I’ve ever had in Toronto. I could have licked the entire cup clean of the excess crema if no one had been around to see me to do it. And I would have. Oh, yes I would have.

Now, if they’d only open up an east end location next.

New Thing #172: Trauma Video Game

I saw the game Trauma reviewed on The Totally Rad Show this week and, totally on a fluke I noticed that it was availale for the Mac on Steam today. So I picked it up; it’s cheap. Like less than a couple lattes cheap, so I figured why not.

It’s basically a cross between Myst and those hidden object style games that my Grandmother is totally addicted to.

I’m not sure where it was developed, but it sure seems to be eastern European in tone, style and the voice acting is definitely English as a second language. 

But it’s weird, and I think it’s weird in a good way. All the gameplay is done through gestures which works great with the Magic Trackpad. The puzzles aren’t exactly difficult or long, but the exploration of the world and the narration of the main character really make for an oddly compelling experience. 

It seems to be broken up into four sections, three of which I finished in about an hour. And did I mention you’re playing as a woman who’s in a coma, trying to piece her life back together? At least that’s what I gather from the story so far at least.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one yet, but it’s definitely a very unique game. I can’t say I’ve ever played anything quite like it before.

New Thing #171: The Magic Building

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I used to work in the east end of Toronto and quite often I’d notice a strange building just off of Queen on Sumach Street. It’s hard to miss with its distinctive exterior covered in blue paint and yellow stars. The rather barbaric heads that double as colums to the doorway and “The Magic Building” moniker atop them obviously upped the intrigue factor. I had no idea what the building housed and never thought to go in to see for myself. But today I had to work out of there.

A marathon casting session for a spot I’m shooting soon was set up at Jigsaw Casting. They just so happen to run out of the second floor of 60 Sumach Street. I was thrilled to finally get inside the joint, especially since it was a nice surprise to start the day.

As far as the inside goes though, it’s just another converted warehouse. The casting house did have a entire room that used to be a subway car, comple with poles, seats and windows, so maybe it isn’t just like any other converted warehouse after all. Plus the casting agent was just lovely, so it has that going for it too.

New Thing #170: HP TouchPad

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Believe it or not, I was really excited when the HP TouchPad was announced. I never got around to using one of the Palm Pre phones that ran WebOS, but I’d heard good things about the operating system (if not the phone itself). But after the tablet’s lackluster debut, most of that excitement went away. 

When I saw one begging to be played with in The Source this afternoon I figured it was high-time I gave it a test run.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Tab, this actually felt like a cohesive user experience from the hardware up to the software. I love the simplicity of scrolling through active app windows to switch between tasks and although it’s not quite a snappy as the iPad it still felt perfectly capable. Unfortunately it wasn’t connected to WiFi so I couldn’t check out web browsing on it. Otherwise the apps all seemed well thought out and had a rather Apple-esque design to them. And tha’ts not a bad thing.

I’d love to test one out for a few weeks, but with the price sitting around that of an iPad, and the app selection being what it is for WebOS I can’t say I’d ever buy one. It’s not so much the iPad Killer they were probably hoping, but more a case of iPad Jock Itch.

New Thing #169: Steamed Clams

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Believe it or not, this foodie has never eaten steamed clams before. I have a fondness for mussels when it comes to that sort of thing.

So yesterday, on a whim, I picked some up at Hooked; the chic Leslieville fishmonger.

They were as dead nuts simple to make as their black shelled cousins and I even convinced Shauna to eat them. So yeah, they were pretty good.

I went simple with some garlic, tomatoes, sage, thyme and a bit of lemon zest. 7 minutes later I had a pound of perfectly cooked clams to accompany our Sunday feast.

Plus, I can boil the shells for Audrey to add to her collection. Everybody wins!(Except for the clams, of course).

New Thing #168: Ruby Eats

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If you’ve watched much of Food Network Canada, you probaby know who Lynn Crawford is. She used to be the executive chef at two Four Season’s restaurants until opening up her own place in Toronto’s east end. Ruby Watchco is a fantastic dining experience, focussing on local and sustainable ingredients. Plus, one of the chefs is sort of a friend of the family, so it has that going for it.

Recently they’ve opened up a food store just a few doors down called Ruby Eats. We sauntered in near the end of the day today and were stunned by the beauty of the store. I worked in the neighbourhood for years at a previous job and I’m amazed at what they’ve done with the old stereo store space.

It’s full of hand-picked packaged goods, local produce, cheeses, cookware and prepared foods. There’s even a cooktop where Lynn gives occasional demonstrations apparently. And surprisingly things are reasonably priced. Sure, it’s no Pricechopper but it wouldn’t break the bank either.

I couldn’t leave empty handed so I picked up some very reasonably priced pickled zucchini. Which is the reason I’m ending this post now since I can’t wait any longer to dig into them.

New Thing #167: Watch My Drunk Kitchen

My friend Steve turned me on to this one: My Drunk Kitchen. It’s a podcast where a precocious young lady drinks and does something resembilng cooking in her kitchen for all of the internetz to see. And I love it.

Sure, it’s basically five minutes of what amounts to laughing at your drunk friend trying to do get bread into the toaster, but she sure seems to have a genuinely good time doing it.

As someone who stood at their stove staring at a can of beefaroni one too many times in my early twenties I can relate. Mmmmm, beefaroni.

I gotta go.

New Thing #166: Bonzai DVD Board Game

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Like the show it’s based off of, this game is just plain weird. But in a fun sort of way.

Around the time that Shauna and I first moved in together we’d spend Sunday nights watching the absurd Japanese inspired betting game show Bonzai together. Every week we’d bet on things like how far a chicken would float in the air attached to a balloon or who was going to get hit in the face with an umbrella in a crazy take on Russian Roulette. In short, it was bizzare fun.

So when I found this game unopened at Value Village for $5 I had to pick it up.

Firstly, it’s a really well crafted game. All the pieces are well designed, the materials well art directed and the rules around betting are rather clever. Oh, and it comes with headbands. You can’t beat free headbands.

After watching a challenge introduciton you have to race to put tiny plastic sushi pieces in a tray using chopsticks. The person who gets the most controls the betting. Everyone else has to ante up and whoever gets it right takes the pot. But with two people it sort of drags so we didn’t quite finish the game. Ok, I accintally hit the wrong button and ended the game that way. My bad.

Still, I think this one would be great fun to pull out when a few people are over, especially once the wine has been flowing for a little while. Bonzai!

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