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Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Us!

Six years ago today, a small community minded blog was launched into the world and never looked back! Our first month of blogging covered the opening of Legacy Spinning, the 'new' Starbucks at Jones and a mysterious coffee shop called Double Shots. Take a spin through our archives and read some of the gems from the past - we hunted down the best arancini, tried out Moroccan restaurants, went on some walking adventures and watched 800 people line up for Carter's opening day.

Thank you so much to the readers who have stuck with us over the last six years, watching this neighbourhood change for the better through our eyes and words. It's been a great experience to be part of. And you're all part of it too - the ground swell of change happening along east Danforth. There is no better place to live in Toronto if you ask us, and even our 50 things list doesn't do this neighbourhood justice.

To celebrate the milestone, and to say thanks to all our readers, we're throwing another East End Pioneer party (anyone remember Run/Walk/Pubcrawlin'???) so stay tuned for the details.

Here's to hoping that the next six years are as exciting as the ones that just passed!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#RunTO: Danforth Represents at Boston

It’s 5am on the Danforth, with a balmy mid-March temperature of -15.  You’re probably still deep in slumber, snuggled up in bed listening to the wind howl and glad to be indoors. There is no rest for the weary though when you're training for the Boston Marathon, like Danforth resident Emily Kettel who was most likely lacing up her runners while the rest of us were deep in REM sleep.

Only 2,300 Canadians will toe the line tomorrow on Marathon Monday, to get one of the most sought after race medallions in the history of recreational running. Running the Boston Marathon is EPIC for Pioneer and most of the running community, so we were thrilled to chat with Emily about finally qualifying for the big race.

She’s been training for her first Boston since December, which means that during most of the frigid winter she was outside doing fartleks, speed work and running long on weekend mornings. Emily’s new to the Danforth area (welcome!) so luckily there were a whole bunch of brand new routes around the east end to discover. So far, her favourite local path is running down Logan past the peaceful Withrow Park as the sun is rising.

Favourite place for a post-run refuel? Newly established Goat Coffee on Pape where she reloads with their super-food salads or robust breakfast menu accompanied by a steaming hot espresso.

Tonight as we’re sitting down to Sunday dinner, Emily and Black Toe Running mates will be carbo loading (or eating Swiss Chalet if she can find one!) and hitting the hay to make the trek to the start line tomorrow.  On how she’s going to handle the infamous Heartbreak Hill, she says slow and steady.

Good lucky Emily! East York is rooting you on. For other Toronto runners going to Boston, you can check out this video and following #runTO on Twitter tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zen Kitchen Ninja: Our Chopped Canada Chef

Working in a restaurant kitchen isn’t necessarily a battleground but for Morgan’s executive chef and Chopped Canada champion Anne Sorrenti, going to battle on the infamous Food Network show meant being a little bit of a warrior even if she didn’t know it. If you, like Pioneer, tuned in to the show this past Saturday you will have seen one of our favourite neighbourhood chefs up against some tough competition in the kitchen arena. We weren’t worried for a minute though, since we’ve always had a love affair with many many dishes on the Morgan's menu – most recently the mouthwatering brisket tacos.  So. Much. Yum. But we digress…..

True to character, Anne moved through all the challenges in the Chopped Canada kitchen with the determination of a ninja but the steady head (and hand!) of a zen master. No ruffled feathers on her end, even after being challenged to make an entree using sour gummy worms and leftover butter chicken. In her own words, Anne says that she didn't go on the show to be someone else and wanted to remain focused and thoughtful just as she would in her own kitchen.

"On the show, you can tell the other contestants didn't think I would make it past the first round, but as I said, I knew they would underestimate me because I didn't have culinary training and am industry trained," she told Pioneer over a table at Morgan's. "But I love cooking, I've been working in kitchens since I was 15. I brought that experience to the show and to the competition."

In the end, her practical approach – and three pretty stellar dishes - won her $10,000 and won Morgan’s the bragging rights of a Chopped Canada champion. And about keeping it a secret from everyone? 

"I'm so happy to be able to talk about if finally! I've been holding this inside for almost a year!" she told us with a huge smile. 

In all honesty, Pioneer believes that although this is great for Anne and Morgan’s, we didn’t need the Food Network to tell the world what we already knew! Anne is an amazing executive chef who plans menus that are fresh, exciting and gastronomically superior to a lot of other restaurants. Most importantly, the quality of the ingredients and the quality of the meal are of the utmost importance to Anne and it shows at the table time and time again. 

If you didn't see the dramatic kitchen showdown, you can watch it online at Food Network Canada or you can just head over to Morgan's and see our real-life celebrity chef in action in her own kitchen!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bring It: East End Breweries Get Real, Part 1

According to notable historian Jordan St John, it was beer that built this city from the doors of dozens of local Toronto breweries that slowly disappeared as the 20th century marched forward. Everything old is new again, as craft beer sales are on a meteoric rise and Torontonians are fervently embracing the small batch breweries that make them.

While everyone is eager to discuss the beer monopoly and the how craft beer sales will work in Ontario, Pioneer wanted to learn more about the people behind the beer, in particular the guys and dolls that run our shiny new east end breweries.

Our first stop was Muddy York, one of the three new kids on the brewery block bringing their cool factor to the east end.  Although the small batch brewery is located in a secret hideaway across the O’Connor bridge, Pioneer was thrilled to discover that Brewmaster and founder Jeff Manol lives a stone’s throw from Pioneer HQ and is a solid Danforth East-er.

Although Muddy York has only been on tap since this past January, Manol has already established a strong following among beer lovers and his first two brews – a Porter and an Amber – can be found all over the city. Even with years of expertise in brewing, Manol found out the hard way that opening a brewery is really hard work. His plans to open in 2014 were delayed, primarily in order to get the brews exactly right (our intensive research has confirmed this is true!) which has certainly paid off.

On the Danforth one of Manol’s favourite haunts is The Wren, which was also ironically the very first place to offer the Muddy York porter on tap and where it has stayed a regular up on the daily tap board, attesting to it’s popularity.

What we love about Manol is that he lives a double life, like a lot of us around here: working a regular day job while simultaneously chasing a passion. He plans to switch that up in the future, with dreams of one day brewing full time. He has a store front planned for his current location but is positive that in time he will expand and be running Muddy York from a larger, more central location (and hopefully on the Danforth!). 

For now, if you're looking for a pint and The Wren is packed, you can also find the good stuff at The Borough!

Next up, Pioneer is visiting with the next new kid in the east Left Field Brewery and their shiny new digs. Plus, stay tuned for more about the mystery Danforth Brewery!