Smörgåsbord – Mamakas Tavern

mamakas_mule

I am terrible these days for going out to try new restaurants and either just not taking photos or taking a pile and never uploading the things. So hurrah that it’s only taken me about a month to remember that we had a fantastic meal at Mamakas Tavern.

Mamakas is a fresh take on Greek cuisine, and it’s being touted as the best Greek restaurant in Toronto. It’s certainly a few steps up from the tired pile o’ dips and sad souvlaki typically found on the Danforth, and it’s scored fantastic reviews from both The Star and The Globe in the past few months. Which is why the place was packed on a Tuesday night.

Chef Chris Kalisperas and owner Thanos Tripi keep the menu innovative and fresh, based on what is good that week – many things we had (below) or that were on the menu during our visit have since been replaced with other dishes.

Enjoyed it very much, stoked to go back.

Above: A Mataxa Mule cocktail with Metaxa 7, ginger beer, lemon and lime, and cardamom bitters.

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Got Game?

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Crispy Masala Quail from The Queen & Beaver. Photo by Q&B chef Andrew Berry-Ashpole.

Hey y’all! A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to write a feature on local game meat for Toronto’s weekly indie NOW Magazine. Just adding some linkage here to prove it actually happened. 🙂

Got Game – why more Toronto shops and restaurants don’t offer wild-caught meat.

Top 5 places to buy game meat in Toronto.

Top 5 game dishes from Toronto restaurants.

 

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Where To Eat in Toronto on Christmas Day – 2014 Edition

turkeydinner

You crazy kids have been hitting the 2012 edition of this post so much (there wasn’t one last year), my site stats are going to be pitiful come December 26th. But it seems that there are an awful lot of you out there who have no intention of sitting around with the family wearing those silly hats that come in the Christmas crackers, and who instead want to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning for you on the big day.

I have concentrated on downtown Toronto, but if you’re in the burbs, I think David Ort of Post City is planning a list with a wider range. Even though my list is cross-referenced and confirmed, I’d still recommend calling to book a reservation at anything other than the most casual places, and reservations are required for any of the hotel restaurants.

Enjoy!

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Fixing the Vote – or Why Toronto Needs to Find a Better Way to Choose Its Politicians

vote-ballot-boxIt’s the day after election day, and like most people, you’re probably exhausted and feeling full of ennui. After a 10 month campaign, Toronto finally got rid of Rob Ford (sort of, but not really) and chose that other guy, solely because he is not a Ford.

The problem is less about our actual politicians, however, and more about how we got here in the first place. This election has been full of chaos, drama, racism, misogyny, and assorted other clusterfuckedness that made the whole process horrific.

So here are my humble suggestions…

Make It Shorter
A shorter campaign duration would be beneficial to everyone; candidates and voters. A 10 -month campaign just drags out the worst parts of the process (debates, mud-slinging) and by election day everyone is just frustrated.

There would need to be a way to allow candidates to raise funds, so we could begin registration in July, but prohibit debates, etc. until after Labour Day.

Speaking of fund-raising, we should also look at tightening campaign financing rules. The City of Toronto will be writing large tax receipts to residents of Mississauga who donated to Rob Ford’s campaign. This really shouldn’t happen and there needs to be a rule that candidates can only accept donations from Toronto residents.

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First and Foremost – For the Greater Good

Like so many people who watched and took part in the proceedings at Toronto City Hall yesterday, I was enthralled by the sense of coming together to support the city. People from disparate groups and organizations all took the time, despite Mayor Ford and the committee making it more and more difficult for them to do so, to stand up and tell the committee, and the people of the city, what they believe in. As a city, as a community, I think this will make us stronger. I think that it will provoke more and more people to become engaged in municipal politics, which is a very good thing – that lack of involvement is what got us into this mess in the first place.

But I’m not sure I believe it’s going to do much good.

The hand-picked executive committee went into these sessions having clearly stated that they were not going to be swayed by the deputations. Councillor Mammoliti made it clear that he was there because it was his job but that he wasn’t interested in opposing points of view, something that he continually made clear through the 22 hours of deputations with his attitude and condescending questions. In the end, the committee voted unanimously to take the advice of the KPMG report and look at making cuts, essentially telling every deputant that their time and effort didn’t matter.

The hope now is that the deputations DID sway all of those other, middle of the road councillors so that when it comes time for the full council to vote on the recommendations, decisions will be made with consideration for issues other than budget line items.

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Why Cyndi Lauper Looks an Awful Lot Like Macy Gray

As a teenager, I was a huge Cyndi Lauper fan. I loved her music, wanted to look like her, and for a year or so in high school, modelled my wardrobe after the outfits from the videos for her album She’s so Unusual.

By the late 80s though, I had moved on to other types of music and didn’t keep up on everything Cyndi. One night in the summer of ’88, when I was living in Kensington Market, we came home fairly late to find that the streets were blocked off for a film set. This was the summer of that bad vampire detective show Forever Night, which seemed to be filming everywhere in Toronto at the time, so we assumed that’s what it was, and went a few blocks out of our way to get home.

In the middle of the night we woke up to the same Cyndi Lauper song playing over and over again. It was a song I didn’t recognize but as it was a hot night my roommate Amanda and I left the door to our little attic balcony open to catch a breeze. Restlessly we fell asleep to the sound of Cyndi singing. The next morning, the whole market was abuzz about the Cyndi Lauper video shoot that had taken place the night before. Yep, Cyndi Lauper has been right there, on my street, and I had missed her.

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The Window at Rhino

My neighbourhood is an interesting place. Run down rooming houses full of run down people sit side-by-side beautifully renovated Victorian and Edwardian homes with $15,000 stoves in the kitchen. We have a high end toy/gift shop but the swankest coffee chain is Coffee Time – we don’t even rate a Tim’s. A seasonal, local, nose-to-tail restaurant looks out across Queen West at a community drop-in centre and soup kitchen. Rich ladies with sweaters over their shoulders emerge from vintage Jaguars to cruise the junque shops while trying to avoid used condoms and syringes on the sidewalk.

Sitting in the front window of Rhino, our local watering hole, it’s interesting to watch this diversity wander by.

Across the street at Public Butter, a vintage clothing shop, a rack of plaid jackets sits on the sidewalk. Priced as much as a new one from somewhere like Mark’s Work Wearhouse, they’re meant for the hipsters putting together outfits featuring the latest flavour of ironic. They’re less ironic when a pair of rocker guys, complete with mullets, walk past the rack, wearing those same jackets with utter seriousness.

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Signs of Spring

Out and about today, I saw a number of signs that winter is done and we’re moving on.

Birds – cardinals in the morning twilight as we walked the dogs, calling back and forth to one another. Mourning doves sitting on a hydro line, cooing softly. And while I was waiting for a bus, a whole swarm of chickadees (a group of chickadees is actually called a “banditry”, which is awesome, but these ones were almost swarming) were all over the pine trees in front of my building.

Flowers – no crocuses yet, but there are tiny white fritillaries in many of the yards nearby.

Spring cleaning – people are out raking leaves, picking up litter and cleaning windows. They’re also blasting the spring cleaning music – on my walk this afternoon I heard Lady Gaga, some funky jazz and Guns and Roses, all playing on radios while people worked nearby.

Drunk guys in the park by the medical centre. Here’s to a summer without setting anything on fire.

I also saw my first pair of sandals, to complement the many shorts that people were wearing.

It wasn’t an awful winter really – not a lot of snow, not especially cold. But spring sure is nicer.

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Old Punk Rockers Never Die

Okay, well, technically they do, eventually.

Last night, Greg and I attended a photo exhibit called Toronto Calling, of photos of concerts that took place in the early 80s in Toronto featuring bands like the Clash and the Ramones. We didn’t actually stick around to see the photos, though, as the gallery space was packed solid with old punk rockers, so much so that we couldn’t get in to see the photos.

The era in question took place before my time in Toronto, with most of the gigs featured taking place between 1979 -1981. I arrived in Toronto in late ’87, so this was not my scene per se, although I was listening to all of these bands back home in Halifax, a no-man’s land when it came to international tours. Hats off to Billy Idol for not forgetting about us in 1984.

But the remarkable thing was that here was a group of people in their late 40s – early 50s… and there was a still a solid punk vibe going on. Piercings, tattoos, oddly-coloured hair. These folks were still flying the freak flag.

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