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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interesting People: Kevin Macdonald

Disclaimer! This post is about someone who is not a Danforth East resident....

Oh hush. We can hear your collective *gasp*! Don't fret, Pioneer's interesting person is award-winning Toronto comedian Kevin Macdonald (no, not the one from Kids In The Hall) and he promises us that he loves the Danforth just as much as we do. Macdonald is one of the heavyweights behind this coming Friday's Hirut Hoot, an evening of comedy that he promises will leave your bellies full of Ethiopian food and possibly some laughs. Here are his non-comedic answers to some serious, hard-hitting questions:

Q. How did Hirut Hoot get started?
A. Ron Sparks, Carolyn Bennett and I worked on a video together for the 24-hour video challenge (and are nominated for Canadian Comedy Awards!) and we thought it would be fun to do a show together. The owner of Hirut is a gentleman who does many things: runs a restaurant, does financial advising (ie. keeps Carolyn in the money) and when he is not organizing open mic nights for wacky comedians, he also plays a guitar. He offered his cozy space for our show and the rest was history.

Q. How long have you lived in the area?
A. I moved to Greenwood and Dundas about six years ago, and really started discovering the Danforth East area while I was recovering from a leg injury. Once I began walking the Danforth regularly, it really started to grow on me. I used to organize another comedy night at TKO's, at the corner of Coxwell and Danforth, but their second floor space was shut down last July so that was the end of that!

Q. What do you love about this strip of the Danforth?
A. Am I allowed to use the world 'colour'? On Friday nights, when I used to walk along the Danforth to my show at TKO's, what I really loved was seeing the eclectic mix of both people and shops. You get it all here - low income, high income, families. The little ethnic coffee shops and mom and pop shops. It's a good thing the area is not gentrifying too fast. It will lose its charm otherwise.

Q. What's so special about Hirut Hoot?
A. Well, it could be the only comedy night east of the Don, but maybe not. We have Gilson Lubin. He's been on MTV. Did I mention that it's at an Ethiopian restaurant? No seriously, it's going to be funny. A wide variety of comedy and videos. And it's $5.

By day, Macdonald masquerades as a video editor but once upon a time, spent many years as a chef. His claim to fame: he was born in Brantford, Ontario - also the birthplace of comedian Phil Hartman. Funny? He says for him yes, for Phil, not so much.

This is the third Hirut Hoot he has produced....and he promises it won't be the last.

The show starts at 9 p.m. at Hirut Restaurant (2050 Danforth, west of Woodbine).

Monday, June 25, 2012

East-Urban Spoon

Although we have been quietly lamenting the lack of good sushi restaurants along Danforth between Woodbine and Jones,  Pioneer was enthused to note the advertisement in this past week's East York Mirror announcing the opening of a brand new Thai restaurant on Danforth called Thai Room (2063 Danforth at Woodbine). It's in the space that was once upon a time called Western Country restaurant and more recently what I think was an Indian restaurant called Emerald. Thai Room opens this Wednesday (June 27) and it's 25% off your order whether you dine in or take out.

Pioneer was curious about other Thai options in the neighbourhood, and there are more than you might think. Everyone knows about the well established Thai on Danforth, but in our humble (non-restaurant reviewer) opinion, it's not the best we've ever had. It has been a few years since we tried it though, so maybe it's time for Junior Pioneer #1 to learn about cuisine that does not start with a 'p' and have cheese in it or on it ( name a few). 

We received a great tip from a fellow Pioneer (thanks SH!), pointing us towards Little Coxwell Restaurant (986 Danforth). The online reviews say this place is more Vietnamese than Thai, but our tipster says that their Thai mango chicken rolls are amazing.

There's also Red Chilli Thai (1266 Danforth), which we've eaten at and enjoyed.

Pioneer has to say though that Basil Thai Kitchen (2326 Danforth) is definitely the hidden gem of this bunch. The portions are huge, and every dish is delicious. The family environment (read that as easy to clean tables and chairs) also means this is a good place for your own Junior Pioneers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Circus, Circus

If you've ever visited Circus Books and Music on Danforth, just west of Jones, you'll know why Pioneer was extremely excited to find out about Circus Coffee, the new cafe that opened up next door to Carter's Ice Cream. The above mentioned bookstore is one of our "go to" destinations for any type of reading quest, so we were sure that the same brand of "cool kid without trying" would be found at its Danforth East outpost.

After procrastinating for a number of months (they opened in October!), Pioneer finally made the trek and it definitely did not disappoint.

The small cafe/coffee house is an unpretentious, laid back space - it's kind of like walking into that first post-grad bachelor apartment in the Annex (with just enough room for a futon and a hot plate!). Bookshelves with interesting reads line one of the walls, and a communal table that seats eight to ten stands front and centre.

The inside-out kitchen was a conscious design decision by Circus impresario Ron Duffy.

"This space is small, and we didn't want to be 'behind' a counter so we created a sort of unconventional floor plan, " explained Duffy. "There's a larger prep-kitchen downstairs, the only downside being that we have to run downstairs to the rice cooker for every rice bowl order - and there are a lot at lunch time!"

Speaking of rice bowls, this was the thing that will keep Pioneer coming back. The combo of guacamole, hummous, julienne carrots and beets, with some other veggies on top of brown rice was just what the doctor ordered after one of Pioneer's famous junk food binges. Duffy also serves up a vegetarian dairy free soup every day, plus a crock pot of chili is often bubbling away.

Lunch was even more enjoyable with a vinyl of ambient tropicalia playing on the record player in the corner. Screeeeech.....wait a minute, did you say record player?? Yep, we sure did. You won't find an iPod docking station at this joint. They're kicking it old school!

Regardless, old school or new school, it's worth a try even if it's just for a cup of joe (organic and fair-trade mind you) on your way to work. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are you 1, are you 2....

East Lynn Farmers' Market turns five today and they're having a big ol' birthday bash to celebrate. Pioneer's list for a great birthday party involves a few key ingredients:

A sunny day - check (if Anthony Farnell's forecast is correct!), music and clowns - check, birthday cake - check and giant Scrabble??? Yes, ma'am!

New for the 2012 season, the market gang is unveiling a giant Scrabble board for those word buffs in the 'hood. The nine by nine board will become a permanent feature at each week's market, so get your dictionary on east enders! The gauntlet is down to see who will be the market Scrabble champ.

One other thing to look forward to today is a piece of delicious birthday cake from Melanie's Bistro. Everyone knows Melanie's prowess with an oven and mixing bowls, so the cake is sure to be divine.

Here is today's schedule of market events:

3:00 - Drumming with Linda Chamberlain
4:00 - Cake Cutting, Scrabble board unveiling
4:30 - A stilt walking, juggling clown
4:30 - Crafts at the DECA craft tent
5:30 - Special Activity with Silly Goose Activity

Happy Birthday East Lynn Farmers' Market!

Follow the market on Twitter here: @EastLynnMarket.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


When Pioneer was a kid we loved playing the "Guess what this is..." game in magazines, where kids are asked to identify an object such as, say, a Cheerio, a wagon wheel or a key lime pie based on a tiny, micro closeup of said object. So on that theme, let's play a Pioneer version of this game. Look at the picture below and try and guess what Danforth East object this is:

Okay, have you guessed it?

Pioneer is so bad at keeping secrets so we'll just have to tell you.

If you guessed a piece of a fibreglass water slide, you would be right. If you guessed a piece of a water slide being installed at Monarch Park pool, you would also be right AND you would be an honorary Pioneer sleuth. Here is the completed picture!

The Parks staff have taken down the old, unusable slide and are working on installing a new, improved model over the next few weeks and we have it on good faith from an inside source that it will be ready for opening day on June 23.

This is just one of the many planned improvements to Monarch Park rolling out over the next few years. As mentioned in my blog post here, there are some neighbourhood residents working together to form a Friends of Monarch Park group which will spearhead the community effort to tweak this already great park into the ultimate outdoor space. The next meeting is Tuesday night (June 12) at 7:00 p.m. in the Monarch Park Collegiate library.  If you're interested in volunteering with this group, and/or have great ideas about how the park could be even better, don't miss this important event.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mural Gazing

The twitter mural at the corner of Monarch Park & Danforth has been completed (or is almost complete...) and it looks pretty cool! Pioneer perused the twitter suggestions via @rideoutmural to see what kind of ideas our neighbours had for this mural and some of them were pretty interesting.

The finished product is great, simply because it reflects our past, present and future. An alphabet at the bottom points to the baby boom in the neighbourhood, giving kids an eye-level opportunity to learn their letters. The Jack Layton image is bittersweet - it represents both the history of this ward as an NDP stronghold as well as the remembrance of a man that was integral to urban life in Toronto (and the fact that it's on a corner is not lost on us - how often have we run into Layton busking at a street corner??).

Pioneer's favourite part is the Midway banner at the top, a tongue in cheek blast from the past when this area of the city was called Upper Midway - the midway "grey area" between Toronto and Scarborough.

The only disappointment is that this tweet by @adconnell was not incpororated: "how about a scene of happy robots at monarch park? My 3 year old suggests it every morning we come by!" Now that would have been something!

Monday, June 4, 2012

DIY on Danforth

Pioneer tried and tried to come up with a zippy way to introduce this post, but to tell you the truth, the subject of *foam* is just not that exciting. What IS exciting, is that we have a great interior design resource right in our midst and it's called Foamite (1494 Danforth).

Our love affair with foam started way back in 2008, when Pioneer decided to set her "wannabe DIY interior designer" gaze towards an empty window seat in our half-empty, newly purchased semi. It needed a custom seat cushion and luckily, we had strolled past Foamite often enough to notice they do "custom cut foam". Once the template was dropped off at the store, it only took a matter of days for the store to complete my order and voila! After only a few sleepless nights of struggling with the sewing machine (a Martha Stewart we are not!), our front entrance had a nice window seat.

We loved Foamite so much, that when it came time to DIY our front porch furniture, Pioneer was back with not one, but two, requests for odd shaped patio furniture cushions. Once again, Foamite was a rockstar and Pioneer's front porch has never been lovelier.

Just recently, a Pioneer neighbour and friend casually mentioned she wanted to make a window seat for her new, gorgeous designer kitchen. Of course, we mentioned Foamite and were surprised to find out that she didn't know about it. Our verdict is that this is truly one of those hidden neighbourhood gems, and a valuable resource for all east end pioneers out there working on beautifying their first homes!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A little birdie told me...

Best urban art idea I've seen lately (other than the 10 Minute Paint Fight, that is!): tweet your ideas to create a public mural as part of Art of the Danforth!

(SW corner of Monarch Park and Danforth)