Saturday, September 25, 2010

Notes from the Centre of the Universe

A month later, I'm back in a kitchen. For three years in Vancouver, the kitchen was a narrow, cramped galley space with scarcely enough room to accommodate two people, making cooking a decidedly solo activity. Today, our kitchen opens up into our garishly painted living-cum-dining area. Lots more elbow room here, but getting used to a new space is tough. Nothing is where I remember it. Pots and pans and mugs are in unfamiliar spots. I open cupboards, drawers and cabinets in turn until I find what I'm after. This domestic dislocation mirrors the overall sense of confusion that comes with moving to a strange new city.  In time, I'll get used to this kitchen and this new city with its unfamiliar sounds and smells and the tides of humanity that ebb and flow down its grubby streets. In time. Just not yet.

Through all this change, cooking and writing about cooking has been on the back burner. The fact that our oven didn't work when we moved in didn't help matters much at all. There have been a few successes and a couple of failures, but nothing to write home about. But I'm looking forward to getting going again, especially as we enter a new season. You see, almost immediately after we moved in, summer fled the city. Leaves are starting their fade to yellow, the days have grown blustery and the nights crisp. The season of hearty soups, stews and slow cooked one-pot meals is tantalizingly in reach. I have some ideas I can't wait to try and share.

Until then, here's a few of the new places I've discovered in my short time here in Toronto. It's a start and I'll continue to post about these things as I check them out.

Good Egg: Tucked down in bohemian Kenginston Market, Good Egg is a nifty little shop full of cookbooks and cookwares and various knicknacks, food-related and otherwise.

Sanagan's Meat Locker: Between the coating of sawdust on the floor, the hand cranked meat grinder in the corner and the Rhode Island Reds arranged in the display case, stepping into Sanagan's is like stepping into a bygone day when people not only knew their local butcher, but knew where their meat was coming from. But instead of being staffed by a crew of burly men with moustaches, Eastern European accents and blood-splattered aprons, Sanagan's is crewed by a bunch of young folks, led by Peter Sanagan, a former chef turned butcher whose eponymous shop is founded on a commitment to carrying products raised on small Ontario farms. I dig the look, feel and ethos of the place. And the product? Stay tuned.

Three Speed: My local is a faux-dive bar that attracts a crowd of mainly educated thirty-somethings with chic clothes and chunky glasses. My people, basically. One of the neat things about the place is the menu, or rather menus. One the one hand, there's the standard menu, which includes mussels, a sirloin burger, fish and a very tasty crispy fried chicken creation. On the other, there's a daily fresh sheet that features an ever-changing selection of dishes from a standard template: a sandwich, a burger, a pasta dish, a smattering of desserts. Surprisingly quality stuff and a bargain to boot, with the priciest dish clocking in at a paltry 12 bones.

Holy Oak Cafe: I've had better coffee (step right up Sam James) in Toronto, but given its location three doors down from our apartment and the welcoming family feel of the place, Holy Oak has become my home away from home. It's got a laid back, hippy vibe that extends to its eclectic selection of events (games nights, live music, poetry readings) if you're into that sort of thing. And if you're not, hey: its licensed.

Dufferin Grove Park Farmer's Market: It's not as big as some of the markets back in Vancouver (or even Edmonton), but this weekly market has a lot going for it. For one, it's close. For another, it's located in the beautiful surroundings of Dufferin Grove Park, a rare greenspace that has been taken into the hearts and care of the local community. And, most improbably given the climate, it runs year-round. I'm very excited to see what they have to offer in the fall and winter.

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