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Monday, September 28, 2009

The Elusive Rice Ball

When I say "rice balls", I'm sure that for some of you readers out there it summons the image of Onigiri, the delicious Japanese rice and seaweed snack (which is also, incidentally, the definition that comes up if you wikipedia the phrase 'rice balls'). However, if you live on Danforth East or are familiar with Italian fast food, you know that the version of rice balls that I'm eluding to is that of the crispy, deep fried, artery clogging cheese ball type. If you live on Danforth East, you also know that these delicacies are basically similiar to an elusive unicorn - a creature of myth and legend.

A few weeks ago, I was ironically sitting next to two readers of East End Pioneer at a friends wedding, and the rice ball topic came up. They confirmed what I had been told by many: that North Pole Bakery, at Greenwood and Danforth, makes the best ones. The problem is, I have now made four trips to this semi-hidden mom and pop shop and still have not been able to get myself one tiny rice ball. They have been either closed for a long, long summer holiday or I've arrived too late in the day.

I came close the other day - it was 11:30 a.m. and I could see through the window that there were seven of them glinting in the sunlight. I clumsily pulled my huge jogging stroller into the store, only to see the woman behind the counter putting ALL of them in a takeout container. I point, and gape, in frustration - she just shrugs and says "prego, someone called and put them aside". Tears almost came to my eyes. So close, yet so far away.

An older Italian gentleman takes pity on me and once outside on the sidewalk gives me some "fatherly" advice. Go to Columbos, he says. They make 400 of them a week and you're sure to get one. "But these are the best," I sputter. "I know," he shrugs, and waves a retreat.

Moral of the story - you're guaranteed a rice ball at Columbos (1794 Danforth), but if you want "the best" you might as well get up at the crack of dawn and stand in line, because that might be the best strategy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coffee Time (again)...

Coffee is one of my little luxuries - I could make it at home, but I'd much rather head out and savour an Americano from one of our neighbourhood joints. I'm a regular at Last Drop and Three's Company Too where all the gals behind the counter know what I want.

I was headed out to a meeting just east of Woodbine today so I decided to grab a java enroute. While everyone knows that Seb's (1928 Danforth) makes the finest cappuccino around for only $2.25, I had never tried True Brew, the small coffee shop on the north side of Danforth just east of Woodbine, so off I went.

Although the decor was cozy and they have free wireless (yippee!) I was shocked to find out that my measly double shot Americano was $3.39, the most expensive in the area. I almost asked if they meant $2.39, but decided against it. Even Starbucks only charges around $2.50, so I don't quite understand this phenomenon. While regular coffee is priced competitively and they have sandwiches that also seem reasonable, their espresso based drinks are astronomically priced.

So, while the free wireless and the pungent and wholesome aroma of corn chowder simmering on the back burner were reasons to stay for lunch, I wouldn't go back for a coffee. I'll let you decide!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zoned Out

My other fave Danforth East blog DECA Diaries tipped me off last week that a sign has gone up at the vacant lot at 2055 Danforth (just west of Woodbine) indicating an application to amend the zoning by-law has been submitted. This site has had a fiery history so as a person unfamiliar with building codes and by-laws, I had questions. What does this mean and how will it affect us? I know that lots of people are eager to see this developed rather than sit empty, so I did some investigatin'.

After a bit of sleuthing, I tracked down Emily in the City Planners office. She said that the sign pretty much speaks for itself - formerly zoned only for commercial use, the developers have asked that this be rezoned as a mixed-use site including residential units, parking and retail. There has been a site plan submitted, but it is not for public viewing as of yet, as it is still making the rounds of the Planning office. The good news is that the city planner assigned to this case, Tine Major, is an east-ender. This is important because she will better empathize with east-end sentiments on redevelopment.

There has been lots of controversy over the years about 2055 Danforth, so Emily explained that there will be a preliminary report made to the city counciller (Sandra Bussin) who will then call a community meeting. I'll keep everyone posted when I hear more. In the meantime, I'd be interested in what people think should go into this space. Leave your comments below!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Sale

If you aren't going to make it to the first annual Danforth East Arts Fair, the least you can do is to stop off at St. Luke's Church at 904 Coxwell (at Cosburn) on Saturday.

They are having a giant book sale this Saturday, (Sept 19) from 9 until 2 p.m. They will be selling all types of books both new and used: collectibles, fiction, non fiction, mysteries, cooking, gardening, childrens, biographies, autobiographies, science fiction, travel and more. They've also indicated that they will have a selection of records, dvds, videos and some art prints.

I will personally be sleuthing out old paperback Agatha Christie's to add to my expanding collection, and you can never have enough kids books, right? Looks like this weekend will be all about shopping!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Calling all East York Shopaholics

A park is a park, but also a market, a playground, a community hub, a space where anything can happen - and this weekend, at long last, the first annual Danforth East Arts Fair is happening at East Lynn Park. Some 35+ artisans will be popping up tables and tents to sell their wares on the grassy slopes of our favourite neighbourhood hangout.

It has been a long year of planning to get this off the ground - DECA has been working hard to organize the permits and artisans and applications etc.

I got a sneak peak at some of the treasures that will be for sale and let me tell you, DH better hide his credit card because mama's got some spendin' to do! I have my eye on local artisan Fine Silver Girl's brilliant jewellry and Avani's totes and purses made from recycled burlap coffee bean sacks.

The Arts Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. A ribbon cutting with local VIPs happens at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. And for the moms with young kids out there: there will be porta-potties......

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Are What You Eat

They say you are what you eat, so after my post last week about the Toronto Star article and Ethiopian food, I realized that my husband and I aren't practicing what I have been preaching - in fact DH had eaten Ethiopian food a grand total of zero times - so when we had the chance to paint the town red this past Friday, it was time for the initiation. We decided to check out Lalibela, the new Ethiopian restaurant around Monarch Park that I posted about a few weeks ago (it was under construction then, but is now officially open).

Back then, my sneak peak of the restaurant held the promise of it being a cozy, stylish place to eat and they definitely did not disappoint. The space is a far cry from where it was as Tiny Thai Kitchen. They've updated the seating to comfortable and very spacious family sized banquettes and closed off the ugly, open concept kitchen area along with the requisite fresh paint and murals of what I surmise is Ethiopian scenery.

Once settled in with drinks, we decided to order the Lalibela Special for $24...... a food critic I am not, so to put it in plain language everyone can understand, it was a vast smorgasbord of deliciousness. The injera was perfect and the flavours were so intense that I have fallen in love with the place. The plate consisted of lamb, chicken and beef, along with some small salads of lentils and beets. A perfect cross-section of east African cuisine.

Usually when DH and I go out for dinner, there is never enough food in the world to satisfy his ravenous appetite, so it was shocking that we couldn't actually finish everything. Good food, cheap prices and a mediocre but long wine list, make this place my new favourite haunt - sorry Taps & Tales, the love affair could only last so long!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Word on the Street

Back in the spring, a bunch of folks signed up for the annual neighbourhood Jane's Walk - a historical tour of our 'hood led by reporter Joe Cooper and meandering along the Danforth between Greenwood and Coxwell, an area otherwise known as Upper Midway. All four of that weekend's walks were merrily packed with interested Danforth Easters and their kids and strollers.

Due to popular demand, Joe Cooper is back with another walk this Saturday. The two-hour tour, ”The Midway Meander,” will run THIS Sunday Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. starting at Greenwood Subway Station (front doors). But to keep the crowd manageable, they are asking interested folk to RSVP. Please email Catherine at "catherine_porter at rogers dot com" if you want to be added to the list, and put “The Midway Meander” in the subject line.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh the times, they are a changin'

A few months ago, I mentioned that the National Post had written an article about how the area of Danforth between Greenwood and Coxwell is cleaning up thanks to a huge influx of Ethiopian immigrants. Now we have not only one, but TWO feature articles about said block: Toronto Star wrote a great piece yesterday about the birth of a new Little Ethiopia in our neck of the woods.
What I liked about the piece, was the sidebar explaining how to eat Ethiopian - it's a cheat sheet for the next time you bring your Great Aunt Sadie down for a night out on the strip!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where in the World?

I opened up today, only to find a familiar sight staring me in the face.

Only East Yorkers will know where this photo was taken:

The Wait Is Over (D60 Remix)

Photo courtesy of Tsar Kasim from the BlogTO flickr pool.


Before I get started:

As a few people pointed out, I didn't clarify on Friday where exactly Toronto Honda is.....sorry!
The dealership is on Danforth, just east of Woodbine.

This week is a busy week for Danforth Easters. Not only do we have a neighbourhood historical walk coming up on the weekend (more on that later in the week), but we have the first inaugural edition of East Lynn Idol happening this Thursday evening during the Farmers' Market. If you were ever moved by the story of Paul Potts and his against-all-odds winning of Britain's Got Talent and thought that perhaps if given the chance you could win Canada's Got Talent, now is your chance. If you can sing, dance, juggle, throw basketballs through hoops of fire, do tricks with your hamster or whatever, the neighbourhood wants to see you! You can sign up at the DECA table at the market - weather permitting!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Best Deal Ever

My husband drives a 9 year old Honda Accord that is in relatively good condition solely because he is diligent about his oil changes and maintenance. This week, the odometer flagged us that it was time for another oil change so instead of heading to his backstreet mechanic in Markham, DH decided to give someone local a try (yay, he's finally getting into the spirit!).

He decided that the obvious choice would be to give Toronto Honda a chance. About half an hour in, I get an excited phone call: Because he is a first time customer, the oil change was FREE. Totally free, which is just about as close to heaven for the husband as he can get.

I emailed the owner Jordan Ison who clarified that this is true. First time customers to Toronto Honda who drive a Honda or Acura vehicle, will get a free oil change. With inclimate weather quickly approaching (I know, I know - don't remind us!), this is a great excuse to do your maintenance now before it's too late. Who can say no to a great deal like this?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Retail Detail

Inspired by my amazing street sale purchase (a full set of wicker lawn furniture for $75), I started thinking about other bargains that may abound on Danforth. Although it's not know to be the greatest shopping destination, there is much to discover outside of the world of perishable goods.

Here are two bargains I found, while walking the strip:

The dollar store beside TD Bank just east of Shoppers has the cutest Go Green shopping bags (pictured) for only $1.99. Way nicer looking than the PC shopping bags but much cheaper than other "designer" sacks from trendy shops in Greektown.

And for home decor style mavens: Don't let the name fool you. If you look below the eye-level window display at the nondescript store called Bonfanti Jewellry (1896 Danforth), you will see they have a gorgeous set of Royal Doulton china at 80% off (pictured). $211 for a 23 piece set is a ridiculous bargain. Mix this up with some colourful modern or vintage platters and serving bowls on a display shelf and you'll have a stunning vignette people will ogle over. I personally picked up a Bunnykins bowl and plate set for a very reasonable price.