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Friday, November 30, 2012

Open For Business

Our retail scene along Danforth East is heating up - just in time for a cold snap!

The first bit of news Pioneer wants to share is that our very own Silly Goose Kids toy store has been voted NUMERO UNO in the city by BlogTO! That's right. We're number one, we're number one....Check out the complete list here. 

If you missed the first two pop-up shops along Danforth, then you'll enjoy this bit of news:  DECA has coordinated nine more pop-up shops along the same stretch of Danforth for the entire month of December. The best part is that the shops are open during the week this time, not just on the weekends.

Shops include:
- Pop Goes the Easel: handmade cards, prints and drop-in workshops
- two art galleries
- custom dresses from Lemon Drop Clothing
- Mrs. Darling's Imaginarium
- Marina Rocks: funky duct tape accessories

This is an extremely important accomplishment for our neighbourhood, so please take a few minutes to do some local Christmas shopping at one of the shops this month!

For more detailed information, check out DECA Diaries.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pillow talk

When Pioneer was a junior Pioneer, we used to love that bouyant and elated feeling we would get whenever we opened the doors to Sugar Mountain and saw row upon row of rainbow coloured candy jars. Flash forward a few decades and there we were, running along Danforth Ave. one frosty evening when what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a colourful apparition: a store front full of bright lights and beautiful colours. Feeling like that excited 8-year old again, our hearts pounding and our mouth salivating, we opened the door and found ourselves in The Pillow Shoppe. That's right, it wasn't candy, but bright and colourful pillows of all shapes and sizes, calling their siren call to this design-challenged home owner.

As we manoeuvred through the newly opened space at 1434 Danforth, there was hardly a pillow we didn't want to take home. Owner and design diva Viive knows her audience, after designing and styling interiors around the GTA for two decades. 

"For a low price point, here is something small that you can take home and make your space feel new again. You don't need to buy new furniture for some low-cost, high impact changes," she explained. Her motto is 'enhancing your home d├ęcor with unique pillows that express your personal style'.

In this neighbourhood, that's music to many a new-homeowners ears! 

Almost all of the pillows are made in Canada, with a select few shipped in from abroad and containing some international fabric blends. The store is the first of what will potentially be a handful of shops across the GTA. 

The very best part of this story though is that the nabe has a new retail storefront with a tenant who cares about the neighbourhood. Viive is already mixing and mingling with her neighbours and was up-to-date on all the neighbourhood happenings (good and bad). It only takes one broken window to bring down a neighbourhood, but in this case, we hope it takes only one window full of pillows to bring this neighbourhood up another notch!

Monday, November 26, 2012

DECA Update

Pioneer loves DECA (Danforth East Community Association) because they were actually the very first pioneers in the Danforth East neighbourhood. DECA was formed seven years ago by a group of citizens who wanted to change our little pocket of the world into something safer and more vibrant. As their 2012 year rolls to a close, they've posted a reminder over on DECA Diaries about all the things that they've accomplished this past year to help our neighbourhood. Please read it and pay your $10 membership fee if you live within the boundaries. It's only $10 - seriously, and you can register and pay online. Yes, you can totally go to the Farmers' Market and read DECA Diaries or partake in other activities without being a "member" but why? Without the neighbourhood support, we wouldn't have things like ponies at the Harvest Festival (and no-one wants to mess with the ponies, right??).

Stay tuned tomorrow for a peak at Danforth's newest retail destination!

Friday, November 23, 2012


Are you sick of sandwiches yet? We promise, this is the final post about amazing east end sandwiches.

This last delicious lunch confection was something Pioneer stumbled on by accident and is by far, one of the best noon day ensembles east of the DVP. Many of you probably already know about Caketown (XXXX Danforth) because you have previously stuffed your face with their amazing, fresh baked scones that come in a multitude of delectable flavours often involving some variety of cheese.

It wasn't until we realized just how many calories a scone has that we started searching for another lunch option and discovered that Caketown makes A-mazing paninis. There are two on the menu that we think are absolutely excellent: roast beef and dijon mustard, and turkey and tomato.

The reason why these are great paninis? The bread is as fresh as it can get, and the sandwich press is probably as clean as a whistle since there are never any burn marks or clumpy bits stuck to the exterior. The interior of said panini is just perfect - there are no mushrooms, or soft goat cheese or sauteed onions. Turkey, tomato, lettuce (and cheese if you want) and something creamy that holds it all together.

Grab one of these sandwiches, a cup of coffee, flop down onto Caketown's cozy leather coaches and watch the neighbourhood stroll by. But save room for dessert.....(oh, that will have to wait until another post!) Bon appetit!

Stay tuned next week: a sneak peak (hopefully) at the new pub near Monarch Park and a new store opening!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sandwich Safari - Part 2

Pioneer is still on our sandwich safari, and this time our search takes us a little outside the boundaries of Danforth East (hey, we live here, but we sometimes like to leave too!). A windy, gusty day last week pushed us right into the path of The Works burger at the corner of Dewhurst and Danforth, just west of Donlands so we decided to give it a try.

For the record, Pioneer absolutely does not consider a hamburger a sandwich, but on a perusal of the menu we found just what we needed: the St. Lawrence Market Avacado BLT. You might think we are crazy, since there is no end to the hamburger options available here, but the thing that sold us was the fact that this BLT was on a croissant. This turned out to be the perfect combination, and the sandwich was absolutely delicious. The moist croissant (from St. Lawrence Market, obviously) did a pretty good job of holding in the avacado, crisp bacon and lettuce/tomato. 

The best part of the experience however was not the sandwich. Usually Pioneer takes a pass at coleslaw, but something about the weather lately has us craving cabbage, so we took a chance on a side of slaw and boy are we glad we did. This coleslaw is nothing like the creamy confection you find in a tub at Loblaws. Their secret sauce is made with jalapeno pepper sauce and white pepper, which gives the tangy slaw a nice kick. It's not too saucy and not too creamy....we'd say it's just right!

So, our vote? Once the patio here re-opens in the spring, this sandwich and slaw combo would be the perfect lunch for a warm, sunny afternoon. For winter though, stick to the burgers!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Which Sandwich?

Pioneer recently had lunch with an acquaintance who writes a blog about sandwiches, which inspired us to uncover some of the great sandwiches around Danforth East. We've talked a lot about coffee shops and dinner destinations, but we've never really focused on lunch in the neighbourhood.

Before we start though, let's put things in perspective It's almost the five-year anniversary of when Pioneer became an official east-ender, which got us thinking about the state of the neighbourhood when we first suffered the trauma of home ownership. Finding a lunch destination back then was not for the faint of heart (to be fair some gems we just hadn't discovered yet...). Since then Taps & Tales/Morgan's opened, Columbo's started making better rice balls, the Bus Terminal amped up their menu and many, many coffee shops and bakeries arrived to woo us with Cornish Pasties and delicious scones or paninis. 

Our first favourite lunch destination though is definitely Melanie's Bistro (1870 Danforth) if only for their totally amazing Chicken Tikka Wrap. Imagine Tandoori chicken, onion tomato and cucumber in a decadent curry yogurt sauce stuffed inside a perfectly moist chapati wrap. It's $11 which we think is a bit pricey for a sandwich, but it's worth it (we can't remember but it might come with a side salad!). 

Almost all of the lunch menu at Melanie's is wonderful. Head chef and co-owner Arul Chettiar has a culinary background in the kitchens of Mumbai (and New York and Toronto...), and with his wife Chef Melanie Ferreira, has perfected this bistro menu that always leaves us coming back for more. 

Stay tuned as we uncover more east end sandwiches to eat before you move!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The not-so-crazy tomato

The corner of O'Connor and St. Clair is not really Danforth East, but for some reason Pioneer seems to fly through there often enough to honestly say that it's part of "our" hood (if not yours!). The reason we bring this up, is because it's a little nook on the edge of the east side that is really starting to boom, with a few new eateries opening up there within the last few months.

One of the new hot spots is the oft talked about Crazy Tomato (which Pioneer has been dying to try, but was not keen to take the two Junior Pioneers there even though it says family trattoria - does that mean family 'style' or family as in 'we welcome your 1-year old who will definitely throw their baked ziti on the floor'? We decided to put it to the test. One rainy night (correction, one of the many rainy nights we've had recently) when the Pioneer clan was feeling a wee bit soggy and in no mood to cook, we headed out.

Our fear of a hurricane-like food tantrum aside, the outing was a success. The staff are great, starting with a peace offering to Junior Pioneer #1 of crayons and colouring pages and immediately whipping out a plate of bread which we hastily fed to the screaming bottomless pit (JP #2).

We know everyone wants to know about the decor. It's great. It's exactly what you want in a cozy, local trattoria. Warm and inviting, with a large harvest table in the middle that seats ten. That's right! Ten. Mental note for the next big birthday dinner we won't be hosting at our house.

As for the food - last but not least. This is definitely not fine dining, and they don't make any pretence to be. The food is actually really good, homestyle cooking. We know this, because we sat right next to the kitchen so the juniors could ogle the wood-burning pizza oven. The dishes coming out were piled high with pasta and stacks of juicy roasted meats. Daddy Pioneer's comment about his own chicken dish: "This is not how I make's way better!" Our pizza was perfect: we reached this verdict when two full pieces were actually consumed by someone under the age of 5.

What clinched it for The Crazy Tomato Trattoria, as one of our new go-to spots, was when a staff member posted Junior Pioneer's colouring pages up in the kitchen doorway. Any restaurant that can make a four year old that happy is definitely part of the Pioneer family. Salute!

The Crazy Tomato on Urbanspoon