Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Magazine Review: dandyhorse

So, I am in a local magazine shop looking for the new Lucky Peach, and I see dandyhorse still on the racks.  That reminds me that I have not reviewed the food issue that I picked up this summer.  I am going to rectify this oversight right this minute.

dandyhorse is a magazine about bicycle culture in Toronto subtitled, Toronto on two wheels.  I have always been a secret wannabe cyclist wanting to recapture the joy of cycling down the hill like a kid.  I bought a bike two summers ago and have only ridden it about a dozen times but so badly I want to get to the point where I am at least riding weekly.  Finally, I had an excuse to pick it the magazine after noticing the covers for some time. They have always been interesting, and colourful like candy and youth.  This issue was about food and I could fool myself that I was buying it for the Bob Blumer guest editor thing, even though I was secretly trying on the whole bike culture thing.

I have followed Bob Blumer since his Surreal Gourmet days.  I was a little afraid that this issue would be overly spandexed and all hyper granola, embracing nutrition and the engagement of scientific foodism.   Of course, coffee and calories do factor in but there was more than I expected.

Sandwiched amongst those articles was an  article about food delivery around the world and in Toronto.  Tiffins and beer are being delivered here and the pictures of the delivery vehicles were cool.  But more importantly, the tone wasn't one of pedantic pedallers or eco-nuttiness but rather a worldly tone of how other places in the world do things and, gosh, wouldn't it be nice if we could too.

Most articles were short with just a few points to pique interest.  Sometimes it felt as if someone had taken a Powerpoint presentation and turned it into a magazine.  In this way, it reminded me of older 'zines that were edited by one person who wrote about stuff they liked to varying degrees of success.  Recipes from Cava and Parts and Labour were served with a side of fashion spreads and pictures of people and their bikes.  Sometimes the logic was loose and more about interest.

The marriage of food and bikes seemed a little fanciful and forced like when my five year old takes his favourite stuffy to school and describes all the things that his stuffy did that day.  Much like I enjoy the whimsy of my child in these moments, I kind of enjoyed this zine in the same way.  It doesn't hold enough attention for me as a non-cyclist but when I finally get on my dandyhorse and pretend that I am looking through the ears of a pretend stallion, then maybe I will give this magazine another chance.  If you like serious fancy then maybe you'll like this.  If you are right now baking your own granola and figuring out your calorie requirements for tomorrow while determining your optimal sleep patterns then give this a pass.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Menu: Church Supper Dinner Party Menu

Here is the working menu for an upcoming dinner party based on the church suppers of my youth.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Store Review: Sausage Partners

The new meat shop on the block opened a few weeks ago after a long spring and summer of a teasing coming soon sign.  The had created so much expectation that they had updated the sign several times with notes on what was going on.

It turns out that they ended up doing a whole renovation that required much design to meat the health codes. (I made a typo up there but I'm leaving it in.)  The problem, in my opinion, with the health codes is that they do not take into account the size of the business and sometimes this causes over design.  Even with all these codes, the big meat purveyors can get it wrong.  A small Mom and Pop shop cannot afford to get it wrong but someplace like Maple Leaf can take a six month hit and still find a way to survive.

Anyways, now that the digression has run its course, onto the review.  I live in a Marvelous Meat Triangle.  I am now as close to Royal Beef and Close to the Bone as this place.  Sure, there is Meat on the Beach and the Chopping Block but one isn't quite what I am looking for in a butcher and the other just falls out of that easy area for walking.

The Sausage Partners is open near Greenwood on Queen Street East. It is a small shop that has home canned goods on one side, local produce displayed in the middle with the meat counter at the back.  It reminds me of the old Farmer's Daughter on Kingston road was setup but Sausage Partners is focused on meat instead.

The are similar to the other places mentioned above in that they are butchers.  They get huge slabs of meat (hanging meat) and break it down.  This means that there is only so much in the counter but you are only limited by your imagination and knowledge in what you can get.  Also, sometimes you will not be able to get what you want.  This is where the second common thing happens.

These are butchers.  I know that sounds like the first thing but go with me.  This means that given the application that you are doing (grilling, braising, high and hot  or a particular recipe), they can give you suggestions or substitutions with out too much trouble.  Try that at a grocery store.

The last commonality is the bits they add.  Carmen at Royal has all sorts of gourmet goodies that she gets in because she wants to try it and is curious.  Often, they take off at other larger stores.  I got my first vanity salts there.  Mary's partner at Close to the Bone does smoking so you can see chips, rubs and other stuff there.  At the Sausage Partner's, I believe that it is Lorraine's preserves that will carry the day and set it out from the crowd.

I have had some of the sausages there and they are good but not the standout.  It is the bacon.  That is good bacon.  Real good bacon.  The package of chips says hickory but this don't taste like no hickory smoked bacon I have had.  It may be the freshness but it tastes like one of my best memories of bacon.

So, even though I have two go to butchers, I am looking at finding a way of adding a third.  It makes me feel like a sixteen year old boy again.  Maybe that's why the name sounds like a bad porn from the '80s.

Cafe Review: T-ShirtGuys/Plan B

I hesitate to write about this shop because I have set out a few rules when I do these reviews.  I try not to read what other reviewers have written so that I do not react to them and so that I can form my own opinions.  One of the other guidelines is not to know too much about the owners so that my relationship with them does not impact my writing.

So, I read a bunch of comments and blogs.  I also talked to the owners about their shop and what I liked and didn't like.  I don't think it makes a difference in my review but there it is.

This cafe is located at 401 Logan at the corner of Logan and Dundas.  It is situated in the old Woods building at the south side.  It is set in an old loading dock a with garage door opening on one side, a door to the road on the other and of course, you can get to it through the T-ShirtGuys retail front end.  There is an outdoor space that is converted to something like a patio.  It kind of reminds me of the front of a firehall on an open house day.

The inside has the feeling of a general store.  There place feels mismatched in a good way.  You are walking into a working environment with a cafe that serves Mountain View coffee for a reasonable price on one side.  One of the cheapest prices for a middle of the road coffee not found in a place with the name Tim's or Mac.  But it is much better.  There are other zones within the area.  You can browse their tshirts or buy flowers or penny candies.  It is just under the clutter mark and above the visually interesting.

When the development around the corner is finished, the working from home thirty somethings will have a comfortable location with people they can relate.  The cafe will be bringing in goods from Knead bakery and maybe even getting a store front set up.  I like this type of collaboration where different small businesses or business concepts get together and provide a joint space.  It makes sense so that if something does not work, then that space can be freed up without leaving a gaping hole in the place.  Walk down East Chinatown or stretches of Yonge Street to see what I am talking about.

I would normally end my review now but this is where reading other reviews has influenced me.  I can see where people feel as if they are being ignored or treated in a lackadaisical fashion but I am not sure if they are justified.  When I have gone in, there has rarely been someone at the cash of the cafe.  You are walking into a production environment and the cafe is Plan B.  Plan A is making tshirts.

The person responsible for serving has always been there but sometimes it appears as if they are customer as they are sitting down and working on their laptop or some other such thing.  This is where I wonder if it is a generational thing.  I recognized this casual approach to service from living in a rural area.  I meant when I said it is like a general store.  They get to know you quick, in both the good ways and the bad ways. This is not the way employees act but rather people who are running the business.  I think it is inconsiderate as a consumer to expect that someone is waiting to take your order in a mom and pop shop.  Especially when, as these people are, they are social enough to ask how your day is going and make appropriate inappropriate comments (I was called crazy for wanting raisins in my butter tart).

Would I recommend this as a great coffee shop?  No.  Would I recommend this for someone who wants a community vibe and have a place to do some work and hang out?  Yes.