Dundas Dining: Crema Coffee Co.

May 30, 2009

The Junction is getting a reputation for being an artsy hot-spot of hip, happening hotness. This is pretty much due entirely to Crema Coffee Co. and its bevy of bespectacled baristas. Which has also won some kind of coffee award and feels it has the right to charge more for its coffee after three o’clock or some nonsense. I haven’t purchased coffee there after three so this might be merely a rumour. Part of me thinks it must be because that would be the worst policy ever.

Another poor policy choice might be putting mud in your muffins. We don’t think it’s actually their policy to do so and the lump of mud in Mandi’s muffin was probably attached to one of the blueberries. It was otherwise a good muffin. My own blueberry crumble muffin was delicious. Far more delicious than the, perhaps, worst americano I’ve had in months. It would actually have been improved with a  dollop of mud since that would have added some flavour. Mandi has just informed me the mud wasn’t flavourful at all, just gritty. This would be the perfect metaphor for Crema Coffee Co. except they lack grit as well as flavour.

I will say, however, it’s the most stylish coffee joint on the strip. If I wanted to be seen drinking coffee somewhere, that’s where I’d want to be seen drinking it. Like-minded people seem to agree since the place was full of stylish hipster nerds. We didn’t stay inside though because it was roughly 47 degrees celsius. We, instead, sat in the fenced in patio paddock which lacked tables but had a few (not many) plastic lawn loungers to sit on. A pigeon feather fell on Mandi. Mandi does not care much for the filthy vermin known as pigeons. If the paddock is turned into an actual patio, it should be quite a nice spot to been seen.

2 muddins out of 5.


Dundas Dining: The Troubadour

May 24, 2009

We’d been to the Troubadour once before. It was in a more wintry time where the atmosphere was warmer and cozier. It also wasn’t entirely empty. If we hadn’t intended to sit out on the much advertised patio, it would have been an awkward and dark meal.

The patio was, however, a little odd. Situated in the canyon between two buildings, it was a little like a cross between a front garden, a rec room and a cave. It wasn’t bad. But a little surreal since we were the only people sitting out there. There was a note asking us to not be too loud for the neighbours. One hipster nerd came out briefly for a smoke. Later some oldies came out for pints of lager just before we left. I suspect it’s quite full now.

Mandi had a grilled veggie wrap which did not make her puke. It only would have because she suffered food poisoning the last time she ate one. It was a good veggie wrap, but she’s not ready to have others. She’s grossed-out by the mere thought. She concedes, not the fault of the Troubadour wrap.

My chicken quesadilla was good, though a little onion-heavy. Depending on your opinion of onions this could go either way. I’m not a great lover of onions which have not been sauteed. These were not sauteed. Still, for a pub quesadilla, it was pretty good.

The service was good. The pints were good.

3.5 lutes out of 5


Decon, garden of delights + nerd love

May 20, 2009

» There’s a hand-sanitizer dispenser in the 19th floor bathroom now.  Sure you can sanitize your hands after turning off the tap but you still need to touch two sets of door handles to exit. I wonder if eventually the doors will be automated or a decontamination chamber will be installed. I wonder if the decontamination chamber will cause cancer.

» Yesterday I picked up two excellent books on the art of Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch. I’ve been seeking a few good volumes on these guys, ones that print both details of their most famous paintings as well as the entire work, for years. It seems publishers have often opted for one or the other. Which is frustrating since a detail is worthless without its context. I’m in total disturbing Northern Renaissance heaven (or hell).

» Mandi is away for a few days at teachers’ union summer camp. In the days before I hooked-up with a  nerd, I’d use these times to watch a stack of sci-fi movies. Now it’s the reverse. I feel like I have to purposely not-watch any sci-fi movies lest she might have wanted to watch them as well. I should say this really only applies to the Star Trek The Next Generation  box set that was staring at me all last evening. Not a problem, instead I read Prisoner of Azkaban for Project Potter which is being chronicled on Nerd Hurdles and the Hurdled Nerd  blog.


Dundas Dining: The Concourse Restaurant

May 18, 2009

Mandi said to me, “We don’t have to go to the Concourse tonight if you don’t want.” Confused at her note of concern, I said, “Well, it’s on the list.” She agreed with an air of resignation, “We do have to go eventually.”

The Concourse Restaurant has been an object of curiosity for us since we decided upon this project. I viewed it as an old school family restaurant in need of a new coat of paint. Mandi had no such illusions, but didn’t realize I was labouring under such naive assumptions.

We entered through the grimy glass door with a note reading “Closed 10/09” taped to it. In the second it took my eyes to adjust to the dim interior, my blood chilled about 10 degrees. Staring at us were a half dozen urban hillbillies. Obi Wan’s voice resonated in my head, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Behind me Mandi brightly said, “Do you want to sit over here?”

I nodded and became aware of another, more gruff, yet friendly voice saying, “Hey, it’s new people! Stop staring at them! Get out of their way. You’re making them nervous!”

I went into shut-down mode. Somehow Mandi sat me down at the table furthest away and most removed from the knot of human misery. A very small Asian lady came by with some laminated menus which she’d placed on the brown Formica table before we even sat on the orange cracked vinyl chairs. The windows were so dirty there was an illusion of smoke in the air.

The guy who announced our arrival stopped by our table on his way out the door to smoke and told us to get the hamburgers. Just underneath his eyebrow were three fresh stitches. I’d hate to see the other guy. So we took his advice and ordered the burgers. I got mine with fries, Mandi got a salad.

The best way to describe the burgers would be “old school.” They tasted exactly like the BC Ferries burgers before White Spot got the contract and ruined the ferry experience. Mandi described them as McKeller Confectionery (Thunder Bay) burgers without the Coney sauce. The fries were crispy. Mandi’s salad was covered in white vinegar. Mandi liked it but said she suspected most other people would be shocked. She also got what she called “the vinegar sweats.” Which she used finger motions under her eyes to demonstrate.

The service was amazingly fast. We weren’t sure how we got our food so quickly. It was like the woman knew we needed to get out of there as quickly as possible. While we were waiting and eating we overheard such snippets as.

“You don’t see Dentyne anymore.”
“What?”
“Dentyne. In the little packets.”
“I know what the fuck Dentyne is.”
“It’s supposed to be good for your teeth.”
“Yeah, but it tastes like shit.”
“You can’t find it anymore.”
“She told me to get somebody to get Mike in here.”
“Why should we?”
“She’s going to smash him one.”
“Why she saying that?”
“He just don’t know when he’s being disrespect–”
“Well I was in there for two years”
“He’s being disresp–”
“How you do that?” (Buddy was performing a trick with his cigarette.)
“–disrespectful.”
“I was in for like two years. Coulda been eight but–”
“What’s the one with the salt shaker?”
“I seen him at the liquor store today.”
“That’s the liquor store that Bobby and Mike robbed and then the cops showed up.”
“What’s the one with the salt shaker? The one with the pen is good.”
“The pen? Yeah, in grade school.”
“I was in for like two years.”

The Asian woman came up to us just as Mandi was swallowing her last bite and said, “You pay now? Mmmmhmmm?”

“Yes,” we said in unison.

 Buddy said to her as she went to get our bill, “Did they have the burgers?” And then to us, “They’re pretty good aren’t they? Better than McDonald’s.”

“They were great. We took your advice,” Mandi said. I was still in panic mode, my eyes locked on the door. We exited into the bright evening sunshine. I said, “Well, that was more awesome than I expected.”

Food: 4 greasy spoons out of 5
Atmosphere: 6 out of 5 dirtbags


Dundas Dining: Malta Bake Shop

May 16, 2009

We woke up tired and a bodum of coffee wasn’t enough to nudge us towards consciousness. So it was an excellent opportunity to try out the Malta Bake Shop at the east end of Malta Village (or west end of The Junction, depending on which way you’re walking).

Things this bake shop have in its favour would be a) being open all the damn time b) being open on Sundays and c) being open on holidays. With these qualities in its favour, we were hoping the Malta Bake Shop would turn out to be the best damn bake shop in Toronto. Somewhere delicious to go when everything else is closed. It’s always packed, so it must be? Or its popularity could be due to it simply being open or the nostalgic feelings it gives its patrons. The walls are covered in Maltese decoration and memorabilia including photos of all the Maltese celebrities who’ve graced the bake shop with their presence. These include archbishops and jockeys.

Approaching the bakery case, you immediately notice all the tidbits have an exotic (to non-Maltese) appearance. I hadn’t seen a trizzi before nor had I a molasses ring. The other items I couldn’t guess at, so we had the two aforementioned treats. We purchased these, plus two coffees, from a girl who appeared to not want to be there. Fair enough, the atmosphere was vaguely oppressive and dimly lit.

Though interesting, the baking wasn’t particularly good. Or it might have been perfect, not being familiar with Maltese baking. The main ingredient in Maltese baking seems to be almond paste. The trizzi, basically a date square, tasted more or less identical to the molasses ring, a bread ring stuffed with the same dark almondy paste. I found the ring too chewy, Mandi liked that about it. The coffee was adequate.

Like many ethnic joints, this place seems to be a hang-out for the Maltese community. Especially after church. The old couple at the only other occupied  table were watching football (soccer) on the TV and greeting everyone who walked past to the church (there was a wedding). A sense of community can make a mediocre restaurant a lot better. We, of course, could not benefit from this communal feeling. But it was interesting to watch.

Two weird almond pastries out of five.


Spring, fall + commute

May 15, 2009

» It was worth coming to work this morning if only for the beautiful walk to the subway station. After months of skeletal trees, there is an emerald green canopy glowing with morning sun over the sidewalks once again. The sky was warm with blues and mottled greens, but the air was crisp and cool.

» The other day I saw a woman trip on a streetcar track and faceplant in the middle of the sidewalk. 

» Last year I felt Radiohead was the perfect music for commuting. I now believe Neu! is the ideal music for bustling to and from work. Especially since it’s both kinetic and peaceful with a nearly antiseptic quality without being sterile. It purrs like a perfectly engineered and maintained machine as opposed to the rumbling juggernaut of what most would think was ideal “driving” music. Neu! are, in some ways, the anti-Kyuss.


Folks

May 11, 2009

» This weekend Mandi and I visted our entirely non-imaginary friend, Kennedy (You can hear more about the “imaginary friends” concept on his podcast Weather Station 3). Though seeing Kennedy is always a treat, it was interesting to finally see Peterborough, where he lives, which has always been a place of mystery in my mind. It’s merely the borough my parents moved to when they first got married but, because it was the only place in their married life they have lived that I haven’t, I’ve been curious my whole life about this town. In the back of my mind, I think I’ve always felt it’s a pilgrimage I must make. Which is vaguely odd since it’s not exactly a hotbed of family history. Perhaps it was only because it was Mother’s Day weekend I was feeling especially sentimental about it. Peterborough turns out to be a nice little town. And that’s all there is to say about it. I didn’t think to get the address of their old place from my folks so I didn’t see the house where they lived on the 2nd storey. Perhaps next time we visit Kennedy I’ll come prepared.

» It’s strange the way memory can be triggered. I downloaded a ROM of the Sega Genesis game Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine the other day and immediately was transported to the attic bedroom of my parents’ house where I’d play that game and listen to Icky Mettle, in the dark, moping for most of 1997-98. Hearing the first few tones of the game’s theme filled me with a feeling of confusion as to why I wasn’t actually hearing Archers of Loaf or Sebadoh (which I’d have on at the same time) and I could even taste diet Coke and Pizza Pockets and smell the off-gassing of my Star Wars figures. Not entirely good memories, but an interesting nostalgic experience if only for the brute force of it.


Dundas Dining: Axis Bar and Grill

May 10, 2009

The Axis Bar and Grill is pretty much a bar and grill as advertised. Though it has nothing to do with Hitler and Mussolini and has a tad more upscale atmosphere than a bunker or Archie Bunker’s Place for that matter.  The ceiling is painted a lovely shade of blue which looks purple above the red lights hanging over the bar. There were nice curtains. The tables were like tables in any bar. It’s a 50/50 nice kind of place. It’s a date/business meeting pub, not a brawling pub. But the kind of date or business meeting where you want to look like you’ve got your thumb on the pulse of the street’s artery of artiness yet not too arty. There’s a patio which seems to get a lot of action.

We sat down on Mother’s Day during brunch hours which accounted for the extremely long wait for our fruit plate and french toast. Mandi’s fruit plate was “good” and my french toast was almost excellent. It had a cinnamon batter which was very tasty, but the bread used was of the Wonderbread Texas Toast variety. If it had been made with an actual bakery bread, it would have been the best french toast I’ve ever had. Instead, it wasn’t. It was okay. Generous portions of bacon and sausage make up for the discrepancy about 13.7%. Mandi’s fruit plate came with the most bizarre “pre-cored” pineapple which was worth the price in amusement. The coffee was of strangely high-quality. We had three cups each. Pricing was standard.

When we seated ourselves, we didn’t realize we were sitting on the “stage” and as we ate, the boogie-woogie piano jazz band set up around us. It was a strange experience but not as awkward as Mandi expected it to be. Especially since she sort of knew the drummer whom she described as a “douchebag” and I observed, was. He wore loafers and ankle socks. WTF? I got to observe his ankle close-up since they were about six inches from my own, beating the time. There was also some kind of shaker stuffed in the loafer. As I said, Mandi called it correctly.

Being brunch on Mother’s Day it’s difficult to say if the atmosphere would be different on an average Thursday or Friday night. We suspect it’s quite different and may return for a contrasting view. We expect it to be darker with more beer and less coffee, but an equally as middle-of-the-road pub experience.

3 mehs out of 5.


Project Dundas Dining: Rebas Café

May 3, 2009

As a new feature here in Mr. Dapper’s Splendid Online Diary, Mandi and I will be eating at every eatery in The Junction along Dundas Street West , Toronto, between Runnymede Ave and Dupont. We begin with Rebas Café.

The punctuationally challenged Rebas is named after the owners’ dog, Reba. She apparently gets walked in the morning as we passed her and “Helen” earlier in the day. I remarked, “That woman is wearing a dog-walking apron.”  We learned later it was a panini and, supposedly, coffee making apron. But at the time, she was only walking a dog. Reba.

Rebas (which I still want to pronounce “reh-bess”) is a cute little hippie coffee shop providing two tables and two reading chairs as well as a small bar. Apparently also a patio and art gallery (and Reba) in the back, but we didn’t venture down the narrow hallway.

The menu features soups and sandwiches (panini and regular) and beverages (teas and, supposedly, coffee). We ordered paninis and americanos. We didn’t receive our coffees. Which is kind of a problem at what is, supposedly, a coffee shop. Perhaps I sound bitter. I would agree and say I am being as bitter as the rich, dark americano, except I have no idea if their americanos are bitter. Supposedly, they are organic and fair-trade and quite tasty.

My panini was a simple, but quite delicious roast chicken and pesto where Mandi’s was a “pretty good” grilled vegetable version of the same. The goodly long wait for our (not unfairly priced) food and, supposedly, coffee allowed us to spot the book exchange shelf, which is always a good idea. There were also boxes of Trivial Pursuit  questions to help while the time away but, as Mandi pointed out, no Scrabble. The place could use a Scrabble  board.

When we paid, there was no mention of the americanos. As if we’d never ordered them. Which was, at least, less awkward than if she’d asked if we’d wanted them to go. Instead it was clear she had entirely no recollection of our supposed coffee order. We decided, though not an unpleasant luncheon experience, probably not one we’d repeat. Except perhaps to grab a coffee on the go, which supposedly they serve.

2 1/2 out of 5 coffee cups (to be reevaluated upon actually drinking the coffee).


Swineless

May 1, 2009

» I’ve been trying to come up with a clever comment on Human Swine Influenza, or H1N1 in text-speak, for a few days. It hasn’t come to me. All I’ve noticed a slight heaviness in my lung area and a vague fevery spaceyness to my head area. But I think this is merely due to smog and the fact the office AC hasn’t kicked in for the season. I also blame the stagnant heat on the 19th floor for the lack of ideas. I do wish, however, that Human Swine Influenza turned infected people into porcine zombies. But then, I gues McDonald’s and Starbucks already have that covered.


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