New Thing+ #4: Brooklyn Alley Pizza

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Being a bit of a foodie, I’ve always wanted to get into the underground food scene. Maybe score some unpasteurized cheese or an invite to a one night only pop-up restaurant. So it’s pretty cool that a friend of mine decided to start selling pizzas out of his backyard, wood-fire pizza oven.

Every Friday, Craig (unemployed Account Director and gourmand), fashions a different set of ingredients into a gourmet pizza experience for a mere $15. Using his Account Director skills or good, rather than evil, Brooklyn Alley Pizza was formed.

I am not exaggerating to say that our sausage, caramelized onion, mushroom and mozzarella creation was one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. Even my kid loved her pepperoni version; especially the giant dough bubble that had formed at the edge of hers.

Watching Craig deftly position the food, heat check with his infrared thermometer, and reposition the dough makes you think he’s been doing this for years rather than weeks.

If you live in the east end you owe it to yourself to start try Brooklyn Alley Pizza. Follow them on Facebook and become one of the lucky 20 people each week that get take home one of these splendid pies.

And, in just about the whitest way possible, stick it to the man in the process.

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New Thing+ #2: CN Tower EdgeWalk

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I desperately wanted to try the CN Tower EdgeWalk from the moment it was announced. However, the $175 price tag was a little rich for my blood at the time.

Luckily, my mother-in-law surprised me with tickets on my birthday earlier this year. So today I finally walked around the observation deck of the CN Tower, 356 meters above Toronto. In the rain, no less.

It is one of the most fantastic things I have ever done. And for a kid who used to always think twice about jumping off the diving board, I didn’t have a single problem up there.

I was a little trepidatious about the weather, but it was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t expect that I’d be at the same height of the rain clouds themselves. Watching them roll towards us and ultimately envelop us was an amazing feeling. Leaning out over the city I love and picking out each landmark with only a rope keeping me from plunging over the side was also pretty exhilarating to say the least.

Our guide, Allister was charming, funny and quite knowledgeable. He showed us the sights, got us hanging off the edge of the rails and recorded and photographed the entire event for posterity.

What a lucky son-of-a-bitch that guy is to get to go up there eight times a day.

New Thing #360: Choir! Choir! Choir!

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When I was a kid I was in choir. Scratch that, I was in many choirs. The school choir. The church choir. The scout choir. Before my voice broke in 7th grade I was a pretty damned good singer. Now: not so much. 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love to sing, I just usually keep it confined to the shower, car and occasional drunken stumble home. 

But then my friend Lynne (with an E) put me on to Choir! Choir! Choir!; an ad hoc group of Torontonians who meet weekly at a downtown pub and belt out a couple of classic pop songs. 

My adult voice is all about range, or lack there of, so this was the perfect opportunity to just take a part within my capabilities.  

Sure there were notes I couldn’t hit but all I had to do was lower my voice and the group took over. Plus, I had a beer with me which makes any singing event better.

My only gripe is that I didn’t know the Crowded House lyrics by rote, so I was a little more focused on the words than the arrangement. The warm up number though was Losing My Religion, and I knew in that instant that i would be coming back. 

And best of all everyone there was super cool with no pretensions. As an added bonus I was surrounded by about a hundred cute women for an hour, so that’s something to sing about too.

 

New Thing #358: Eat Durian

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The last time I tried to procure a durian I couldn’t find a single one on the streets of Toronto. The notoriously stinky South Asian fruit, is pretty much confined to the stalls of Chinatown, or the T&T Supermarket. Unlike the summer, I had not trouble finding scores of them downtown today.

And I had no idea that they were so damned expensive. After having a few bites, I don’t understand why anyone would pay $3.00 for one, let alone ten times that. And I even haggled my way down to thirty dollars!

What was most surprising about eating durian, apart from it not being as odorous as I thought, is that I still can’t pin down what it tastes like. It’s certainly not akin to any fruit I’ve had before and it reminded me more of something meaty than anything else; I just can’t put my finger on it. 

That being said, it’s pretty damn gross, and I don’t think I’ll be trying it again. The man who first managed to open up one of these monstrosities must have been pretty damned desperate to do so.

I’m also pretty sure that old Chinese man who emphatically sold me on its sweetness is laughing his ass off right now.

 

New Thing #325: Glow In The Dark Ping Pong

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I attended a client party tonight at Spin, a ping pong social club in Toronto. Yes, there actually is such a thing.

Aside from having some fun playing table tennis throughout the night, it turns out that everything goes under the black light at 10:00pm. 

We didn’t get to play for long since out time on the tables had techincally run out an hour earlier, but the bit we did play was pretty damned fun. If you’ve ever bowled under black light you know the feeling. Everything becomes disembodied, and all you can focus on are the relevant pieces. 

It makes it both easier (being able to focus on the ball) and harder (not being able to judge the table) at the same time. 

If it weren’t so expensive, I’d love to get a bunch of people together and run a tournament some time.

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New Thing #310: Bake Bread From Scratch

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For a short while I owned a bread maker and life was good.

I loved that whole process of throwing shit into a machine and something hot and delicious coming out the other side. But like most uni-taskers, it soon found itself gathering dust under the sink. So I found a home for it where it would get the proper attention it deserved and was done with bread making on the whole. 

I live in Toronto and there are so many fantastic places to get fresh baked bread on a moment’s notice. And more importantly, fresh baked bread made by people who know what they hell they’re doing.

But, much like my pie making experiment, I figured everyone should bake a loaf from scratch for themselves at least once. So I gathered up some bread mix, read, re-read and re-re-read the instructions on the side of the bag…and still managed to miss an important instruction. So my bread turned out pretty dense because I used all the flour, instead of stopping when it started coming off the side of the mixing bowl. It was supposed to rise to double it’s size, but only marginally grew before I threw it in the oven. 

Bread making is whole lot of work for not a lot of return, in my opinion. I’ll leave it to the professionals from now on.

At yeast I made it through this entire post without making a bread pun. Oh, damn.

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New Thing #286: Soma Mayan Hot Chocolate

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What better way to warm up on a cold winter night than with a cup of Mayan Hot Chocolate form Soma chocolatiers?

Firstly, I’ve never had a proper Mayan style hot chocolate that incorporates chilies into the mix. Secondly, I’ve been told repeatedly that Soma makes the best hot chocolate in Toronto from multiple sources over the years.

And as luck would have it, we strolled right past Soma tonight after a rather enjoyable dinner at Wvrst. We quickly ducked inside and grabbed a couple of drinks to go that wound up keeping us nice and warm on our way to the subway. 

And it was absolutely delicious.

I don’t know how I can have hot chocolate without chilies ever again. Their slight bite was the perfect complement to the sweet, rich chocolate they accompanied. The liquid was smooth and velvety all the way down and the foam on top just gave it that little extra bit of silkiness that it needed.

I think I’ll skip the espresso shops nearby next time I go on a cold day and head straight in for another cup of this sweet hot chocolate instead.

New Thing #267: Toronto Santa Claus Parade

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I’ve been living in Toronto for going on 14 years and this is the first time I’ve ever made it to the annual Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

It helps that I have a little girl bursting with Christmas cheer to get me out into the cold November air on a Sunday afternoon. It also helps that it was extrememly warm by November standards this year, hitting 14??C while we were out.

Armed with a latte (boosted by some concealed Kahlua that was magically revealed from inside a friend’s bag) I was ready for the three hour parade.

It was spectacular. Marching bands, floats, costumed children, clowns, clowns and more clowns made their way through the street. There was a dinosaur float featuring my favourite dinosaur (the parasaurolophus pictured above) AND a video game float with Ratchet and Clank. It’s like they knew I was coming.

Santa finally made his appearance preceded by the good old Mounties and then we made our way back up the street home. And any chance I get to walk on a street usually teaming with cars and trucks just makes my day.

I can’t wait until next year.

New Thing #247: Trick Or Treat With My Daughter

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Spoiler alert: there were no tricks tonight, but there sure were a heck of a lot of treats. 

You’d think by now that I would have taken my daughter out on Hallowe’en, but I’ve always been the one to stay home and man the front door. My wife always wanders the neighbourhood with my little one and since it’s usually pretty cold out, I don’t really mind.

But I love Hallowe’en, and some of my best memories of being a kid are walking half way across Grimsby filling up a pillowcase full of candy with my friends. But in Toronto there’s about four houses for every one there was in my home town. And they’re set back about a quarter of the distance from the curb. 

Within an hour we’d amassed about as much candy as I’d have gotten in an entire night back home. Plus our street is full of people happilly partaking in a bottle of wine on their porch while they catch up with all their friends that go by. 

It’s funny that our neighbourhood comes the most alive the night we celebrate the dead. And I’m happy to say that the knife jutting out of my head didn’t traumatize any of the little ones this year. Well, not many at least.

New Thing #223: Goodnight Bar

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After a fantastic dinner at Le Select tonight I surprised my wife by taking her to Goodnight Bar.

Well, more like eventually finding the alleyway by which you access Goodnight The throwback to the speak easy that is Goodnight is not easily found.

Once we finally located the door and the reservation was confirmed, we went inside.

I’d heard that this was the place to go in Toronto that took cocktails seriously. That they relished the idea of the perfectly crafted drink using only the best and freshest ingredients. But I also feared the hipster quotient. Was I just going to end up surrounded by twenty-something douchebags?

Thankfully no DB’s were to be found, the bar staff were delightful and they knew their shit. Plus, I had the best whiskey sour of my life.

The reservations only policy might turn some people off, but it does its job. There’s no drunken idiots picking fights, no college kids screaming at each other and, well, you feel like a bit of a badass when you give your name and they let you in the door.

And yes, the drinks are pricey, but worth every penny.

Before tonight The Roof was my favourite bar in Toronto. That’s changed

PS. Photography is not allowed inside the bar so I’m afraid the above pic is the only one you’re going to get.