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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Eephus: East End Breweries Get Real, Part 2

Eephus. Pronounced Ee-Fus. It certainly had a ring to it, so when Pioneer first heard the name of this craft beer, we had to find out what it meant and why. Our ‘research’ led us to a brewery that mixes two good ol’ fashioned past times: beer & baseball. Left Field Brewery is taking Toronto by storm and they’re laying down roots here in the east end.

Pioneer was lucky enough to stop by the brand new Left Field brewery on a brew day when the heady scent of yeast was in the air. Co-owner Mandie Murphy was busy putting the finishing touches on the retail shop, which has been open as a pop-up (or in baseball terms, a fly ball) for the past few weeks. For her and her husband Mark, owning their own brewery is a dream come true after spending years building the Left Field empire outside of the GTA.

When the couple accidentally discovered an old brick factory tucked into a spot on Wagstaff Drive, they made the big move. It’s taken over a year of renovations, including tearing down pink walls, digging up floors for drainage and replacing windows and doors but the new space is a showstopper.

Mandie and Mark live along the Danforth and according to them, picking a spot in the east end was a no brainer.

“There’s a strong sense of community here and we knew there was support for local businesses – and no craft brewery yet!” She also pointed out that East York has always represented when it comes to craft beer. After all, The Only has been specializing in it for over a decade.

As the province continues to debate about retailing craft beer and the opportunities for growth in that sector, Left Field is a good example of why this is such a relevant conversation. By the numbers, they’ve already made an impact to the community by creating five full time jobs and four part time spots. The brewery has been built to expand in the future to triple its current capacity, which means even more jobs.

But we’re forgetting about the most important part of this story. Their beer is good! Actually, it’s great. Left Field brews beers with a focus on quality and flavor, using traditional methods and the best ingredients. Their starting line-up includes five or six regulars plus a star pitcher every so often, including an upcoming collaboration with Pilot Coffee next door.

And what about Eephus? We know at least one of our readers is a huge baseball fan and will most likely get this reference, but if your name doesn’t start with a C and end with a Y, you won’t know that it’s the name of a very rare baseball pitch. Thrown only a few times a year, an Eephus catches the batter off guard. Kind of like this Left Field easy drinking brown ale, minus the fat sweaty ump behind the plate.

Left Field opens for business at some point in the very near future, but you can catch their fly balls in the meantime so stay tuned to their social media feeds (@LFBrewery & leftfieldbrewery).




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!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Everyone Knows This Local

Pioneer and the juniors, plus a whole gaggle of other tiny friends, finally made it out to @EveryonesLocal - otherwise known as Local 1794, the restaurant we broke the news about way back last summer when it was just a sign and some craft paper. We're sorry we took so long!

We don't want to write too much, since it's already been covered by The Star over here and by BlogTO here. What we do want to do though is highlight how user friendly this local gem is. The Junior Pioneers were in fine form as usual, throwing cutlery and making a good old mess at the table. Our server took it all in stride, even going so far as to hunt down some steamed broccoli for us. We didn't exactly love our veggie burger, but that's probably because we shouldn't have ordered a veggie burger. The pizza, exquisite! Wine list pretty solid. Lots of taps for beer lovers.

Although the restaurant was empty when we arrived, it was packed solid when we left. As Pioneer and our menagerie of children and strollers blew a storm path to the front door we noticed that almost every table had a small child at it. This is not an accident. Parents with young children hunt down family-friendly places like prey, soaking in the opportunity to have someone else wait on you hand and foot, drink in hand, while the tiny minions ruin the place. We are all thankful for establishments like Local 1794 that have patience and a good menu. Cheers to many more happy hours on the Danforth!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's All Greek To Me

Here at Pioneer HQ, it's a fact of life that we have a weakness for chocolate and pastry. So it's no surprise that at Easter, and pretty much any other occasion, we hop skip and jump up to Select Bakery on Donlands for a fix of chocolate baklava or Melomakarona. 

Select Bakery is the worst kept best local secret ever. It's not only an amazing local bakery, but also the penultimate Greek bakery in Toronto. The Katsamakis family has been running Select in East York for over 40 years and according to son-in-law Angelo, around this time of year they can't keep their Easter goodies on the shelf. 


Pioneer fully believes we don't have to be Greek to enjoy the traditional Greek Easter bread called Tsoureki ($9), which in it's standard form is a rich yeast bread flavored with orange and cherry. We here at Pioneer HQ go big or go home, upgrading to the version filled with Nutella and covered in chocolate. It's $25 but will impress even the pickiest foodie at your Easter table. 

Select sells almost 100 loaves of Tsoureki every day around Greek Easter, which happens on April 12. If you don't make it in time to grab one, fill up a box (priced per gram) with mini baklava or almond cookies as a host gift. Or just for yourself! 

P.S. Check out their Instagram feed for even more deliciousness!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Errors & Omissions

We have a lot on our minds these days, over here at Pioneer! So many new things are going on around Danforth East it's sometimes hard to keep up. Our Top 50 list was pruned and polished before we unveiled it to the world, however, there arose such a hue and cry over some accidental inclusions and deliberate exclusions that we wanted to clear the air. 

The East York Civic Centre Farmers' Market has been on the list for years, but accidentally slipped off this year much to their chagrin. A lovely gentleman named Peter emailed us to say they would love a shout out. So here you are Peter: East York Farmer's Market starts Tuesday May 12. Don't miss their baked goods and cured meats alongside all the great produce. We're looking forward to spring fresh asparagus! 

And you all yelled: what about Relish???? Well, we needed to give some love to new restos in the hood, plus we think the food is a little pricey. We still love their live music though so they are unofficially the 51st addendum! 

Sadly the news about the death of Robert Charpentier, the owner of Comics & More, did not reach us at Pioneer HQ so we included it on the list. However, even though the store is now closed we aren't taking it off. Within the communal social narrative of this neighbourhood, Robert will live on as the comic book guy in many many people's memories (which you can see here on Reddit) so we're leaving it on as a tribute to his years of dedication bringing joy to people through comics and illustration. 

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