New Thing #207: O.Noir

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For our ninth wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to dine in the dark together. The pitch dark actually.

We went to O.Noir, a restaurant in Toronto where you eat without a single bit of light in the dining room. The waiters are blind and, if you order off the menu like I did, your meal is a complete surprise. 

We arrived quite early and had the pleasure of being the only diners for the better part of our meal. Victor, our waiter, was an adept server and the wall next to us was our best friend; what with helping us keep our bearings, and the position of our wine in check.

The food, although not exactly haute cuisine, was good and plenty. Tasting every bite and trying to identify it using everything but my vision was a treat. I nailed my first course (warm roasted vegetables over a spring mix with a balsamic vinegrette) but completely botched the chicken dish I had as my main.

To end the evening I errantly drove my hand through my half eaten choclate mousse after forgetting it was there. Of course there’s nothing saying I wouldn’t have done the same had the lights be on.

All in all it was a great meal, and an experience I’ve defintely never had before. 

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New Thing #192: Wvrst

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Ever since I found out about the German beer hall inspired Wvrst on King West I’ve been looking for an excuse to eat there. Since I was in the area for work today, I grabbed my friend Tom and we headed over for dinner. 

It’s like this place was made just for me. Gourmet sausages (I chose the duck and foie gras), duck fat French Fries, German wiessbier on tap and a beautifully designed open space made for making friends with your neighbour. It might not be run by Germans, but it sure made me feel my German heritage in every bite.

Wvrst is the best.

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 #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 #109: Kick Ass Comic

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I saw the movie version of Kick-Ass a while back and really enjoyed it. Especially all the fun Toronto location spotting that comes along with it. But I never got around to reading the comic until today.

I’m only half way through the run but so far I like it even more than the movie adaptation. That’s a little weird to me though, since it seems as though it was a fairly faithful retelling of the story. 

I think it probably has something to do with the artwork. It’s pretty damned amazing to look at.

New Thing #76: Flash Strip Club

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I’m not exactly a prude when it comes to strip clubs (I’ve been to my share of stags and my ex-roomate had a penchant for Remingtons) but I don’t find myself in them very often. To be honest I find them pretty boring since it never seems like anyone involved is interested in being there in the first place.

But my friend Andrew convinced me to go to the new “members only” club Flash tonight which was a bit of a mixed experience.

Firstly, we had a couple of suprisingly, reasonably priced pints while we chatted. And chatted, and chatted. Problem was, there weren’t any dancers. 

Now call me old fashioned, but if I go to a bar that’s biggest pull is the giant brass pole sticking out of the stage, then I expect someone to be on it.

As I was about to leave a suitably fit young man finally found his way on stage. I must reiterate that I normally find these things dull…having grown up with the illusion that strippers actually made a performance out things. That they titillate the audience rather than just go through the motions. But this guy, whoa, this guy but on a show!

He climbed, spun around and gripped the pole like his life depended on it. He did handstands, and splits and other gymnastic feats. He eventually got fleetingly naked, but at that point it was entirely unnecessary. He was just purely entertaining.

I didn’t stick around to see if the rest of the dancers were as talented, but it gives me some hope that Flash is more than just your average skin joint in Toronto.

New Thing #75: The Grid

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Eye Magazine relaunched itself as The Grid today and as far as free city papers go, it’s alright. Actually, it seems better than alright. 

The design is quite nice; minimalist layouts, great photography and a focus on local neighbourhoods makes it feel fresh. It seems less political as well, which is refreshing.

The only thing that bugs me is the name. The Grid just doesn’t have any link to the soul of the city that they’re trying to represent. It’s a cold and lifeless moniker. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it feels like a misstep.

That being said, I’ll be picking this one up over Now from now on.

New Thing #56: Guild Inn Gardens

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Since it was such a lovely day today (and my mother-in-law was looking after Audrey) my wife and I braved the wilds of Scarborough to visit Guild Inn Gardens.

It’s a beautiful public park in its own right on the Scarborough Bluffs. What sets it apart is that it houses some rather unique artistry: reclaimed pieces of Toronto architecture. It’s as if chunks of buildings fell from the sky and landed in a forest. 

It’s a reminder of the beauty that Toronto once so publicly displayed before trading it all in for glass and concrete decades ago. It’s also a beautiful walk in the woods that makes you forget that you’re in the city. 

And on a geekier note, it really felt like I was walking through Oblivion’s Cyrodiil in real life, just waiting for an ogre to come rushing out from behind a bush.

This is going to be an amazing place to visit on a warm summer day when the flowers are in bloom and the leaves rustle from the winds off the lake. It really is a treasure of a park.

 

New Thing #38: Jet Fuel Coffee

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Jet Fuel Coffee is one of those coffee shops I’ve known of since moving here but never gotten around to visiting. Honestly, I don’t find myself in down Parliament Street all that often and when I used to live in the area I wasn’t into espresso yet. Believe it or not I’ve only been drinking the stuff for a few years now.

I also remember being told that it’s the place where Toronto bike couriers hang out, which might account for all the biking paraphernalia.

I love how unpretentious the place is too. It’s just a place to stop and get a decent caffeine fix in the neighbourhood. And it kills me that the Starbucks across the street was doing more business than them tonight. A shame. 

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New Thing #35: International Pillow Fight Day

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Today is International Pillow Fight Day, don’t you know.

My friend Tom and I ventured down to Dundas Square where about a hundred of us engaged in all out pillow warfare.

Man that was fun and man am I ever winded.

Note: Video was my second, much shorter run.

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