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LA Woman

I’ve wanted to go to Hollywood since, well, forever. As a little kid I’d sing songs from Annie, hoping to be discovered… in the privacy of my bedroom. If anyone came even close to my door I’d immediately clam up. Broadway, Hollywood – it was all the same in my 9-year old mind. When I finally got to Hollywood it was the Florida version. And even a 9-year old knew it was pas la meme chose.

And then, I wet my feet in Show Biz, where all roads lead to Hollywood. Except the one I was taking. It went directly to Toronto instead. Yeah, yeah, Hollywood North (or is that Vancouver?). Whatever. I wanted the real deal. And finally, this past weekend, I got just that. My Man took me away from all this and we headed West. To Los Angeles. Hollywood, California. Sun, Sand, Sea…

Stars!!!

Yes, kids, I went on my very own private Celebrity Safari!!!

Everyone who’s anyone knows that when you’re on safari it’s all about the accommodations, the food and of course, the animals. Wildebeest and giraffes are cool as hell, but it’s the Big Five that count. Lion. Leopard. Rhino. Elephant. Buffalo. And when you go to LA it’s no different. It’s about where you stayed, where you ate, and who you saw. With a side of where you shopped.

Off we went, eyes peeled, looking for stars and pretending not to. Which is, of course, the Canadian way. Except in the end we may have been a little too nonchalant. We came, we ate, we shopped. But the celeb sightings? Few and far between.

Our safari began almost immediately, with a sighting of Tanya Kim. I know, I know…. Who? OK, she’s not technically a star, but she is one of the hosts of an entertainment show and, as such, counts as a celeb. A local one, sure, but she was in business class. In full makeup. At 11AM. On the safari equivalency test, we’ll say vulture.

We landed at LAX, rented our love machine, and hit the road. First stop, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. A vision of loveliness by the Pacific, it would’ve been even more idyllic had we not arrived at the same time as June Gloom. Never heard of it? Neither had we when we booked our trip. And, apparently, neither had The Weather Network. But it’s the annual cold front that reaches LA at the beginning of June. Accompanied by grey clouds. Lots of ’em. And blustery winds. Especially by the beach. Still, it was perfect walking around weather. Except we were in LA, where everyone drives everywhere, and we’d rented a car. A convertible.

Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

But we wrapped ourselves up in our new scarves and jackets – that’s right – and hit the town. We were on a mission: to relax, eat well, see friends and shop (in no particular order). And of course we presumed we’d see stars on every corner. Because that’s what people do in LA right? Right?!

My Man decided it’d be fun to play a little game where he tells me about the various actors he’s spotted while my head was turned. Kind of like those annoying Euros on African Safaris who claim to have been chased down by rhinos, faced off with leopards etc. Only the Hollywood stars were far more elusive than the Big Five. And my husband was way funnier. Except he actually did see Silver (real name unknown, and unimportant) from 90210 while I tried on outfits. And he did work out with Dennis Leary in the hotel gym while I was sampling free chocolates at See’s Candies. Harumph. I saw Atom Agoyan at LAX. From behind. But my guy didn’t think that counted. And it probably didn’t. Too locally accessible. Raccoon.

Strange thing is, all the locals know that all the visitors are looking for the stars. They know where they hang out, what they do, and no one’s shy about telling you where to go to find them. The watering holes they like, the best season to find them. They’re starf&cking and we’re star-hunting. And everybody knows it. It’s weird.

So it became all about where we ate and who we saw. Ivy by the Shore – pas de. Apparently all about the one on Robertson. We shopped and idled a bit but no sightings. But food at the Shore was awesome. And massive. Seriously. Too big even for us. And for those in the know, that’s saying something!

Next day was a local spot to start- Cora’s. Perfect for breakfast. Not so much for movie stars. Followed by Robertson shopping a cruise down Sunset and lunch at Mel’s Diner. Because it’s funny. And it was en route. Mel’s Diner! Hilarious (tho’ the real one is in San Fran….But you make do with what you’ve got, right?) Out with friends for the food and the vibe at STK. Both very good.

But where were all the movie stars?

We headed to Joan’s on 3rd. A guaranteed celeb hangout. Just not while we were there. But incredible food, and hung out with an old friend who happens to be married to an actor who we actually recognize – by face. We imdb’d him on the spot and shared an “I love that guy” moment. So that was kinda neat! Especially since our pal invited us over to meet him in person if our celeb safari turned out to be less than fruitful. We never had to take her up on it – tho we would’ve loved to, had there been more time….Stopped in at that great Los Angeles equalizer, In ‘n Out Burger and went animal style. Bun for him, lettuce for me. Incredible. All they say it is – and less. No frills, no fuss, lots of muss (mess) and deeeeeelish.

It was Saturday night. That’s the equivalent of mid-day on safari. You see nothing. Still, Katsuya held some promise for us. Food was incredible, and the place was crawling with paparazzi – and loads of loser civilians with cam-corders at the ready. According to the bartender, some Lakers were coming. Whatever. Sports stars don’t count. For me. My Man was on the edge of his seat. But no luck. No shows. We were then befriended by a wacky makeup artist who, I was convinced, was looking to grift us in some way. Told us she was working the red carpet the MTV Movie awards the next night and could get us in to all the parties. Even offered to do my makeup. Thought she was just some freak (until we got home, checked out her website and learned she was totally legit. Ooops. Too late.) As we waited for our car, the gawkers whipped themselves into a frenzy….Over Zach Braff (not that any of them knew who they were looking at. The just knew he was “Someone”) . And yeah, he was. He is. But I don’t watch Scrubs. On the safari scale? Impala.

Where were the Lions? The Elephants?

There’s nothing remotely elephantine in LA, despite it being the land of good food. And also, presumably, the land of pukers, druggies, exercise fanatics. Or probably some sort of combo platter. Chateau Marmont showed us the most magnificent creatures we’d ever seen. Ever. One stunner after the next. Had no idea who they were, but it didn’t matter. They just were. Magnificent to behold, fun to watch in their natural habitat, and interesting to witness life behind The Bubble first hand. Breathtaking. Migration of the Wildebeest.

Sunday was the day of rest for us. No safari. Biking in Venice instead. Carney boardwalk. Drum circle that managed to walk that fine line between between cheesy and cool. Freakshows left, right and center. And the laid back hipster vibe of Abbott Kinney. Which I LOVED. Ate quite well at 3 Square Cafe and spotted what looked like Hank’s wife, Karen, from Californication. Which is kinda funny ‘cuz we were in Venice, it’s set in Venice…And it ended up being her! Natascha McElhone. At last! Someone we knew (not personally) from something we’d seen (and pvr’d!). How exciting! How thrilling! We even ooh-ed and aah-ed over a puppy together, cooe’d over her baby together, and acted like we were really cool and didn’t know she was a star of stage and screen (even tho we did) together. We had a moment. A brush with stardom. More a giraffe than a leopard, but still…

Ended our Celeb Safari in Malibu. At the impossibly romantic (yet borderline geriatric) Geoffrey’s. Which they pronounce “Joffrey’s”. Strange. But tasty. And host to two wedding receptions and many dates. Fun fun fun!

On the very last day I drove. By myself. In our car. It was a bit warmer, the sun poked its head out and I realized I’d fallen in like-a-lot. Despite the dearth of sun and stars, my Man and I had the best time. Amazing what 4 nights in a hotel sans kids can do. And who knew LA was such a perfect destination for a long weekend getaway? Definitely beats Buffalo.

As the good guv says, we’ll be back.

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

sounded great.. the best part.. YOU AND YOUR MAN

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June 2, 2009   No Comments

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Food: 10. Service:3.

I thought I discovered a new restaurant the other night. Surfing the web, looking for an answer to that all-important Saturday night question, “where should we go”, I thought I was stymied. Everywhere seemed to be booked. Post-snow-day-in-Feb-not-yet-winterlicious. And booked. Was everybody going out for dinner? More importantly, where were they going?

Anyhoo, found this spot, read a couple of announcement blurbs – as opposed to reviews. And booked ‘er down. And it was delicious. Flawed, but delicious. And as I sat down to share my so-called discovery, I received an email from the local daily listings thingy… Guess what they were writing about? MY discovery.

Granted, I didn’t open it, I don’t know the owners, and I have nothing to do with it in any way. But I didn’t know anybody else who’d been there and, aside from a couple of head scratches and that-sound-familiar’s it was mine to share. At least it would’ve been if it wasn’t for those damn kids.

So I read through their review, kept my opinion mostly to myself and then thought, f&ck it. I’ve seen the pictures of those staffers and they certainly didn’t look like foodies to me. Exercisers? Yep. Makeup experts? Maybe. But most of ’em looked like they could use a good meal.

So, if anyone out there is looking for a good meal – and you’re in Toronto (sorry internationales) (and locals too, have you seen it outside?) head on down to Eleven. Guy from Xacutti closed up shop on College (I didn’t know either. It’s winter. Who knows anything.) and he moved south. No, not south south, just Jarvis and Front. I don’t know why either, but he did. And, though there are some, ahem, service issues, the food is DIVINE. Most of it.

They call it Global Comfort Food, but really it’s just tasty plates. To share. Or not – go ahead and be piggish. Especially if you have the honey glazed chicken on sesame rice. I doubt I’d share that next time. Share the goat’s cheese and mango salad – or give it a miss entirely. Yam fries are good. A little thick and need to be double-dipped, but good. Mushroom rolls are good too. But it’s all about the chicken starter. And that sauce! You can dip the other apps in there too. Not that I did. Much.

We had the famous cinnamon-guava ribs – a little gristly. And they don’t hold a candle to the BBQ’d beef or the cod on coconut lentils. Spectacular. Also recommended were the duck and halibut, but on of our gang don’t do duck, and the table next to us ordered halibut and it smelled a little…high… for my liking.

HAVE DESSERT. You’ll want to anyway since you’ll be sharing so you never won’t really be that full. Ginger donuts are like fancy Tiny Tims. In a good way. We had some kind of chocolate cake – can’t remember if it was flourless of what -but it was ish. And then there was the carrot and toffee pudding?! I know, you’re thinking “carrot?!” but just think toffee. And get one. Or two. Lick-the-bowl tasty.

Unfortunately, the service was a little challenging. Cocktails arrived with McD-like speed. Wine was so slow you’d think they were stompin on the grapes in the back. Which would also explain why the food took so bloody long. At times. Things arrived in drips and drabs. One thing. Long pause. 3 things. Long pause. One thing. Longer pause. Well, you get the picture.

So go for the food, stay despite the service, and only share with those you love. Especially the bill. STEEP.

Better still – get someone else to pay, accidentally sneeze on the honey chicken, and grab that carrot-toffee-goodness before anyone else notices.

Or do take-out. They do that too.

Bon appetite.

February 26, 2008   No Comments

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It’s a Kind of Magic

My name is MOAM, and I’m an addict.

It’s the bullet. The Magic Bullet. I’ve been shot.

Huh? You don’t know from Bullet? Wha? Where have you been? Obviously not hanging out in flea markets or watching late-night shopping channels. Well, neither have I. So there.

Neither grinder nor blender, cuisinart nor mixer, it’s combo. A sit-on-the-counter, throw-in-your-dishwasher, who-knew combo.

My intro to the Bullet came through a friend. A friend with fantastic taste and an immaculate kitchen. She swears by the Bullet. Claims she uses it every day. Don’t ask how we got on to the subject. I haven’t a clue. I don’t know how I end up talking about half the crap I come up with. I just do. But back to the Bullet….So she swears by this thing and I humour her. Like I need another gadget.

And then I went trolling through my mom’s house looking for an extra hand held blender. Yes, she stocks small household items in her house. My job is not to ask why. But if she’s got an extra Braun, I’m all over it. Turns out, she didn’t. But what she did have, sitting on her counter in all it’s TV-endorsed packaging glory, was The Magic Bullet.

Again with the Magic Bullet!

Call it fate, call it curiosity, or call it shamelss consumerism, whatever. The Bullet came home with me. And then…and then it sat on my counter, in its box for a week or so. I didn’t get it. I didn’t buy it – literally or figuratively – so I was hardly impressed. Until one Saturday afternoon. It was freezing. It was snowing. I was home alone, and I opened it. And I made a Pina Colada. I did! And I was hooked – on cocktails, maybe. On the Bullet, for sure.

Sucker for smoothies? Now you can make ’em, in about 30 seconds. And you can customize them too in yur own Magic Bullet mugs. It come with four. Pop your ingredients in, screw on the blender bottom and, well, bottoms up. Salad dressing? Five seconds or less. Grating cheese? (I didn’t think I’d do it either, but I did). Done like, well, dinner. And it even comes with a shaker top, should you be so inclined. Throw in a garlic clove, a handful of brocolli and some chicken stock. Put on the steamer lid and pop it in the microwave for two minutes(carcinogens be damned). Then, press, presto – soup! Chopped herbs? Check. Salsa? Check. Hummous, fat-free hummous, bean dip and guac? Check, check, check and check. You can also grind coffee beans, nuts, and – god knows who would or why – meat. It’s incredible. It’s handy. Abracadabra!

It’s…..maaaaaagic.

I now call my friend, the original Bullet-head, for the daily Bullet report. And it’s not just me. My Man has also, erm, bitten the Bullet. He’s ready to go all Oprah and buy one for everyone. (Don’t get too excited. It’ll never happen. ) But we’ll stand proud and say it loud: we’re a Magic Bullet Family.

Look, I know you think I’ve become an infomercial. And I kind of have. Without the show. Or the daily make-up ‘n hair. Or the big pay day. But what can I tell you? I’m obsessed. And you will be too. For now, forever, or until the next great American gadget comes along….

3 comments:

Anonymous said…

I’m sold! What time is the infomercial???? I’ve got my credit card out and I’m ready to chop some brocolli. If all else fails, you’d make a mighty fine saleswoman.

10:21 AM

Anonymous said…

MAGIC BULLET? It ‘s changed our lives!!!!!!
Our whole family that is! We look for ways to bullet!
Who is the most original? who is the fastest? Those that keep it on the counter qualify! Those that keep it in a drawer don’t count!!!!!!
You know that neighbour friend of yours, the one who Bullets everything? Yup, she is our family winner!!!!
Keep Bulleting and we will let you in on our contests!
xxxxx j

5:32 PM

Anonymous said…

Thanks MOAM– now I’ll be singing “Choppin’ Brocolli” for days!

February 12, 2008   No Comments

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Montreal Mon Amour

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they look at their wonderful children, thank god (or whoever) for blessing them with such wonderful treasures, and wonder how to get the hell outta Dodge.

At least that’s what happens in our house. Regularly. Sure, my man and I love our babes to bits. But we also love each other, which is why we skipped town, hit the 401 and headed to Montreal.

Montreal, je t’aime. Stunning, accessible, and a helluva lot cheaper than Toronto, what’s not to love? Everyone’s got their fave places and spaces. And here are mine:

HOTEL: Montreal is home to Canada’s largest selection of boutique hotels. Or so it seems. We stayed at Hotel Gault, an award-winning, newish hotel in the self-described “Old Montreal’s bustling west end” neck of the woods. First off, it wasn’t bustling. But that’s OK. Because it was only on the cusp of Vieux Montreal, you felt closer to the city itself And we liked that. Then again, the whole town feels a lot more compact than Toronto. And we liked that too. Anyhoo, Hotel Gault is gorgeous. Loft-like. Exposed stone walls. Concrete floors (heated in the bathroom). Tres moderne. Tres cool. And with a special $99-for-the-second-night deal, tres resonable. Especially when you consider they also include breakfast. Not a loser continental one either. Full menu, full buffet, or full combo. Full being the operative word. Dee-lish. They threw in a dinner too, but who wants to hang in their hotel the whole time?

Actually, don’t answer that.

FOOD: Sit back, ‘cuz this could take a while….The weekend may have been a 5 pounder. But I’ll never tell. What I will tell you, tho’, is that we ate like piggies. Or kings. Whatever.

Our friend insisted we try his home-away-from-home bistro, Lemeac. We did. Superb. And it has a cheapy menu for the hotshots who come in after 10PM. Like my Man and me. Check us out: we get to Montreal and, suddenly, we’re all French and chic and late-night diners. But back to the food. We went prix fixe. There were a couple of translation issues, but it didn’t matter because the waitress was lovely and it was just good grub. Especially the enormouus pain perdu dessert. Basically a massive hunk of carmelized french toast. Was better than it sounds. Much much better. Lemeac also had an extensive, if somewhat intimidating, wine list. Or so it seemed to non-vintner types.

There’s a hot vegetarian resto on St Denis that also does a brusque take-out and casual lunch business. The mini version is called Chuch. Can’t remember the name of the papa place. Anyhoo, it’s cute to look at and has damn fine Thai foood – so good in fact, you wouldn’t even know it was veggie! (No offense.) Actually, you might know. But if you get the deep fried seaweed and spinach you won’t care.

Marathon Mike Schwartz. OK, that’s not really a restaurant. But all good all the same. We went to Marathon Souvlaki to relive a childhood dream. Not mine. And was it worth the drive to Laval? Absolutely. Or so my Man says. I’m not a major souvlaki person, but I know a good tzaziki when I find one. And this was good. Very very good. (maybe not as good as Arahova‘s, but this was somebody else’s memory lane, OK?) Mike’s Submarines – ditto. Not my thing, but apparently tasty enough to make someone very very happy.

Schwartz’s. Oooooh Schwartz’s. Does deli get any better than this? I don’t think so. Spectacular. Even cold and in the car. I’m telling you now, Montreal friends, I’ll be putting in take out orders when next you go home.

But people, I’ve saved the best, le meilleur, for last. Le Club Chasse et Peche. Apparently the hottest spot in town. According to our concierge, it’s worth moving to Montreal for. Well, we aren’t moving (yet) but if we did…. Unreal. Spectacular food, simple yet terrific menu, and sexy as hell. It’s the kind of place when someone says you have to go, you have to listen. So if you are planning a trip to Montreal, remember, You Have To Go. We had fois gras and beet salad and Tasmanian Char and Sweetbreads. No, not all together, morons. All fab. Even the veggies on the side were incredible. For dessert they had some kind of postmodern rice crispy square but, sadly, we never got to try it. We went for something else – some apple, caramel, pastry concoction. Who knows, it might’ve been awesome – but I was too full at this point to judge.

SHOPS: Aaaah shops… For many folks, Montreal equals shopping. For us, these are the handful that stood out:

Zone – pour la maison. Awesome homewares and gifty stuff. They have a few of these scattered round town (plus one in Ottawa). In fact, you could spit and hit a great home furnishing place. We’ve decided when (if) we move house, we’ll be taking a truck to Montreal and loading it up. They’ve got a great thing going on in the design department and, best of all, it’s kind of on the cheap side!

Factorie – for ladies and gents. Divide and conquer. And if you can get the oh-so-chic and helpful owner to help you, do. He knows gorgeous.

Lola et Emily – great ladies wear. Like a combo of my two beloved NYC stores, Anthropologie and Olive & Bette’s. If I need to say more, then just skip it. It’s pas pour vous.

Mortimer Snodgrass – kitschy and fun. Gifts for suckers of all ages.

And, and, and….The list could go on and on and on. But we only had two days and we were driving, so this is it. For now.

Sure, the days of long haul, far flung, exotic vacays may be on hold, but we’ll always have Montreal…

1 comments:

mortimer snodgrass said…

as the owner of Mortimer Snodgrass, I thank you! I was just playing Google the Store and found your post. Thanks again!

December 18, 2006   No Comments

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Gone Fishing

Saturday night. Every new restaurant you wanna try is booked. Every old fave is, well, old. So you (I) let down your (my) guard and let the friends take care of the venue. Some place they went to a while back and liked. A place we never heard of, and had no on-line reviews (that counted). A place at the wrong end of the right street. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

WRONG! Tho’ it did start out a bit iffy…

Ferillo. We’d booked a table, but there really was no need. ‘Cuz it was Saturday night and the joint was anything but jumping. In fact, it was Deadsville. I guess no one else had heard of Ferillo either. But what the hell! We’d bring our own atmo. We braved the subtle bleachy/worn mop smell and took our seats in the window.

And were we glad we did!

We started off with champagne. OK, it wasn’t really champagne. It was the Portuguese version. But at $130 for a bottle of Veuve vs. $32 for the cheap swill, do you blame us? Guess what? It was delicious!

Maybe it was the bubbly, but what followed was a feast that met – and surpassed – even the snootiest of gastrosnobs: a massive appetizer platter filled with grilled octopus and squid, fried calamari and shrimp, and their tasty (but somewhat mismatched) salsa. House salad for four was served family style, complete with feta cheese and chickpeas.

And then came the mains: the fish.

This was the kind of place that brought out various fishies and mollusks so we could pick ourselves a winner. We ordered, they told us they’d run out of some things, we thought was strange (considering no one, but no one, was there), and we re-ordered. The fish arrived, heads or tails in tact for those that wanted it; deboned and perfect for those who didn’t. The chef put together a platter of sides too – mushrooms, potatoes and a smattering of veg. But I didn’t pay attention because I was too busy ooh-ing and aah-ing over my porgy and sampling my man’s dorado.

In a word? Deeee-lish.

Homemade sugar crepes and frothy caps finished us off. We marvelled how such a yummy spot could be so, well, not hot. Why why why? They had a massive saltwater fishtank in the entrance, and even that was nearly empty!

You know how desperadoes are extra super nice? And how those who, erm, lack in physical perfection can compensate with sparkling personalities? That’s Ferillo. It’s a Meditteranean fish joint that, while having much in common menu-wise to that swanky hot spot at Ave and Dav, couldn’t be more different.

In other words, Ferillo may be the poor cousin, but so what? It’s tasty, the folks there are lovely, and food is great. All it needs – aside from some (any) customers, is a chance. The menu was nearly identical to That Other Fish ‘n Tits joint – but with lower prices. The food was on par – if not superior.

And the only tits in the place were ours.

Ferillo
924 College W.
Doubt you’ll need to book, but here’s the #: 416 840 1144

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

Could told you all that– it’s in me ‘hood. Thanks for stopping by to say ‘hi’! (ummm… not)

November 27, 2006   No Comments

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Afternoon Delight

I hate 4PM. 3:30 too. Hate ’em both. The day is winding down. It’s finish-up-and-get-ready-to-go-Time. Too-late-to-start-something-new-Time. Too-tired-to-care-Time. For some, it’s TV Time. For others, time to hit the gym. For me, it’s please-perk-me-up-before-I-empty-the-fridge-Time. In other words, it’s Coffee Time.

It used to be all about Grande Soy Lattes and low-fat, no-whip fraps. Then the unsweetened green tea lemonade took over, followed by my current fave, the non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte. Spending my children’s tuition at Starbucks? Uh, yeah…Who isn’t?

Well, as of today, I’m not. Because there’s a new drink in town. One you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home/office/personal space. And one that, while not all that cheap, is definitely cheerful and absolutely delicious. It’s not really winterized, but who cares?

It’s Pom Tea.

That’s right, Pom Tea. I am now a walking ad for the stuff, ‘cuz it’s incredible.

Y’all know Pom, right? Or, sorry, PomWonderful (but who in their right mind actually calls it that? Puh-lease). It’s that sexy bottle full of pomegranate juice. Some freakshows drink it straight, but it’s far more palatable diluted. Better still diluted with fizzy water to make Pom Pop. Yum.

And now, the sequel has arrived. Pom, the Tea. Blackberry Black, Passion Peach White and, my personal fave, Lichee Green. All with pomegranate o’ course. It’s not too sweet, doesn’t need to be diluted at all, and the packaging’s kinda fun too, if a little odd. All Pom Teas come in their own somewhat ceremonial glass. Yes, a glass. I dunno know why. It just comes that way. With a lid.

Shake, sip, enjoy. But wait! It gets better: You can convince yourself you’re actually drinking some sort of anti-aging elixir of the gods. A potent potion to ward off evil (lined) eyes. They call it PomRx but whatev. It just tastes good.

Will I be giving up my Starbucks fix forever? Of course not. What kind of gal do you take me for? I’m true blue loyal to their ripoff fancy coffees. But I’m also true blue loyal to all the friendlies, which is why I’m passing on the Pom.

Try it, you’ll like it. And if it ends up being as good for you as it claims, you can thank me later. When we’re all old, happy, healthy and hot.

Salute.

November 22, 2006   No Comments

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Halloween 101

Smash your pumpkins, ‘cuz everyone’s favourite pagan holiday has ended. Christmas Bargains have (already!) replaced Halloween Spooktaculars. I’d say it’s about time for….a Halloween post mortem! Just in case you weren’t sick and tired of all things black ‘n orange, here’s your last chance to sit back and reflect on Halloween’s gone by…Aaaah yes, the olde glance backwards to see what we can learn for – and forget about by – next Hallow’s Eve…

Grab some candy, then read on….

Things have definitely changed since I was a trick-or-treater. Where have all the caramels gone? And when did candy get so pricey? And so puny? Two Hershey’s kisses in a mini pack? That’s just rude. Even the-already tiny Rockets have shrunk into mini versions. It ain’t right.

We used to go with pillow cases and come back with them overflowing. Sure there were a few duds, the odd, ahem, bad apple, but on the whole, score galore. My own kids didn’t do nearly as well. I don’t know if it’s the new punes, the rising price, or if the competition. My kids don’t care, and I should be grateful – the less they get, the less I steal from them.

I also think in certain ‘hoods (ie, mine), the overcorwding becomes an issue. People spend hundreds on dollars on the candies and then dole ’em out in single servings. The only supersizing going on was at the new infill houses. If you made it up the stairs you were rewarded – big time.

Around the corner is one of THOSE houses – ghouls on the roof, ghosts on the trees, corpses in the garden. The line up goes down the street as people come from miles around to see That Crazy House – or maybe they just want to try to get on tv. Yup, even the cameras are there – I should know, I pimped out my kids to try and make ’em stars. But they were too busy wiping the noses on my shoulder to bother screaming on cue.

That kind of place is a real draw, it is. But we’ve discovered that by going destination shallouting around there, you simply don’t cash in come sorting-out time. It’s the regular streets that are the winners. Even the quieter sides of the traffic-y ones kick candy butt. Choices, reach-ins, multiples. It’s confection porn -and not in a creepy way.

‘Cuz let’s face it, Halloween is kinda creepy. Forget the fact that all the marketing crap has worked.

(aside: North Americans spent almost as much on Halloween as Christmas. I chalk it up, in part, to the fact that all non-Christians can finally get over their Christmas envy by decorating their houses. I know mine subsided a bit when I strung up the fairy lights…I mean, lit up spider web…on my front porch.)

But back to the creep factor. Let’s discuss. Hologram skeletons on doors? Creepy. Grown women dressing up as schoolgirls? Creepy, creepy, creepy. Bunnies, kittens, curves-ahead road costumes? Whatev. I get it. Not for me, but I get it. That’s not creepy. But the schoolgirl fetish stuff? Sorry, it’s creepy. Giver-outters getting a bit wasted? Not so creepy. Trying to include us in their revelry? A little toooo welcoming. Creepy.

And the creepiest of all? The mask factor. I get chills just picturing them. Those who know me know I have mask issues. Big time. But come on people, who doesn’t?! They’re revolting. Those rubberized ones are the worst! I took my son (also mask-phobic) for a test drive of masks. He found most of them creepy, but titillating – the gorilla, the zombie, the werewolf. The scariest? The rubberized blond woman. What happened to makeup? Or that fun face-painting pray? Down with mak! Up with people!

But what have we learned from it all? That candy and costumes go on sale the day before Halloween, but that prices are halved the day after. That crowded streets make for lousy end-of-night paydays. That every girl under 6 dresses up as a Princess. They just do. And every one over 6 goes witch or goes home. That no one makes their own costume anymore.

And, finally, we learned that sometimes the parents get to fish their wish. And not just by eating all the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and pretending it’s for their children’s health. No, they get lucky by wishing for a shot of something to keep their energy up and then – poof! Finding a house with a couple of blokes dressed as Russian Sailors and handing out, yep, shots of Vodka. Cuz it really happened! Now that makes for a Happy Halloween!

BOO!

4 comments:

Anonymous said…

For the record and on behalf of your huge male crowd – grown women in school girl outfits is sexy as hell.. love live halloween!

submitted by: husband-of-the-mother-of-all-mavens.

2:50 PM

Anonymous said…

Love you MOAM– and you’re right on the money regarding the halloweens of yesteryear. And I know you don’t have a “real” job– i.e. one in the “corporate” world– but if you want some frights, try spending the day of All Hallow’s Eve at “Dunder-Mifflin”. My company planned to bring in pizza and award prizes for scariest, silliest, and most elaborate costumes. What? No “highest concept”? Sorry, then I shall not partake. Sadly, the city announced they were shutting off the water so the party was canceled. I left early so I never saw the email. Imagine if I was suddenly moved by the corporate spirit and threw on my Captain Canada costume? Thankfully I went high concept– I wore jeans and went as “that guy who thinks it’s casual Friday”. Better than the poor soul in telesales who apparently also didn’t see the email– and came to work in full witch regalia. I hope they gave her all the prizes! The corporate world is scary enough. No extra Halloween frights required…please!

3:22 PM

Mother of all Mavens said…

Pedophiles? Creepy

November 3, 2006   No Comments

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The Happy Hookah

Doing dinner.

Sounds great, right? Except for the dreaded question: where to go. French? I don’t get the fuss – the fussy food or the big deal. Southeast Asian? Done done done. Tapas? Some slabs of piggy and olives? Can be tasty, but naah. Chinois? Soooo not Saturday night fare.

And the list goes on. And on. And on. The hipster spots are too busy. The neighbourhood spots too, well, neighbourhoody. You go through the city, street by street, trying to think of somewhere new and different and then it hits.

Banu.

Ba-who?

There’s a new kid in town. Our town. Sorry foreign readers, you may want to stop now. But locals, keep readng. It’s down on Queen Street. Past the throngs of Queen West, but not too far deep into the newly-minted trendoids of Queen West West West. Look closely and you’ll find it, Banu: an unpretentious, delicious and totally unique vodka-and-kebab experience.

That’s right, experience.

If you find it. Banu has no sign, only Farsi writing overtop a blue-tinged sepia photo on the glass door. Once inside, you may be a bit confused – the place feels more spa than supper. Actually, it feels like a Hammam. I know I’m mixing my cultures here, but it feels like whatever the Iranian equivalent of a Turkish bath is. But go with it.

Pick your vodka – you’ve got about 14 to choose from. Pretend you’re an afficianado and try try try. Or just go for one of their delicious martinis: sour cherry, pomegranate or (yawn) plain. Then open your menu. You’ll find 3 starters, 3 salads, 3 yoghurts. That’s right, yoghurts. And a whole slew of kebabs.

Aaaaah, the humble kebab. It’s not just a late-night drink absorber anymore. Banu takes these humble meat sticks and turns them into an art form. We skipped the lamb balls and heart (I swear!), opting for more traditional fare of ground beef, marinated beef tenderloin, lamb chops and saffron chicken. Yum, yum, and yum. (Note only 3 out of four ‘yums’. Skip the chicken.)

Food arrived family-style, on a plate lined with traditional bread – I haven’t a clue what it’s called. It’s thinner than pita but it could be just that. Also on the platter were green onions, radishes, and a handful of greens. Herbs, that is: mint, basil and tarragon leaves.

And that’s it. A lovely restaurant. Looked pretty. Tasty food. The end.

Or so we thought. Boy we were wrong. ‘Cuz with the dessert menu came something else. A little thing some people like to call a Hookah.

HOOKAH HOOKAH HOOKAH

Water pipe, bong, call it what you want. We had a choice of around 10 flavours and went for the blackberry. And for those of you who are thinking we sat around getting high – maybe we did. But it was on blackberry molasses.

Huh?

I know, I know. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. I’ma hookah virgin. All’s I know is we sat around the table, inside the restaurant, smoking! Yes, smoking. But nary an evil eye in sight. ‘Cuz with no nicotine, tar, or nasty bi-products, this was a totally natural, delicious way to lounge. And for those of you with an aversion to other people’s, erm, spit, fret not – every one is treated to their own hermetically sealed, totally non-gross plastic pipe.

The hookah went for an hour (insert porny jokes here). We smoked. We watched it bubble and burn. We marvelled. We smoked some more. Look at us! We’re so rad! Check us out! Tourists in our own town!

HOOKAH!

We topped it all off with Iranian desserts and tea and marvelled at how, well, different it was from your average night out for dinner. It was, as they say, an experience.

HOOKAH!

Are you experienced?

4 comments:

jojo said…

Now this I relate to!!!!!! Martini’s, tasty food and hangin’ out smokin’ !
I must admit it reminds me of us 40 years ago! You know who and you know who…… our Sat. nights[with gin martini’s though!]
We must try this place. Thank you for the review!
I wonder what Joann Kates would say? I’ll bet she has been keeping Banu a secret for a while!
Take Nanu to Banu; it will cheer her up!
Silly arn’t I?

6:50 PM

scribbit said…

That is some experience. Never knew you could get “virgin” hookahs. Too bad I’m 2000 miles away.

6:01 PM

Anonymous said…

So happy to hear that there is a Hookah cafe in Toronto. Went to one in Washington DC last summer and thought it was great. Chose the apple flavour. Yummy!

All I kept thinking was how great it would be to have a similar place in Toronto, but how tight-assed the city was and it would never be allowed.

Let’s keep Banu our little secret.

Oh yeah. Would love to join the 2 of you there one night when we have a baby sitter.

-Vooolfie and Vern.

October 2, 2006   No Comments

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World Cup of Coffee

World Cup fever has taken over the asylum. It’s everywhere. Me, I’m rooting for England – but only because I used to live there and fancy myself a bit of a Brit. I like Italy too – for obvious reasons (have you seen the Italian football team?! Stunners, the lot of ’em.) I also support Brazil. I kinda feel like they’re the real winners, so why not jump on the bandwagon early?

OK. Truth be told, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of it. Yep, that’s me – TOTAL non-sports fan – (except Leafer hockey. I’m a glutton for punishment.) But soccer/football? Uh, no thanks. Sure the little flags waving out of everyone’s window are sweet. That kind of patriotism is somewhat palatable. But to sit around and watch a game that really only gets going at the very end? Pass.

A few weeks ago I was the recipient of a Tassimo coffee machine. It’s actually less a machine than, well, a way of life. I have a friend who thinks she’s Oprah:when she falls in love with something, she gives it away on her show. Only she doesn’t have show. Nor does she have the resources for massive giveaways. Instead, she simply credits Ms O for the magnanimous gesture concept, chooses a (small) (very small) handful of fans and bestows the mystery gift on them. And I was one of the lucky ones.
What the f&ck does that have to do with football, you ask?

“Tassimo” – how Italiano. Made by Braun – German, right? Suchard hot choc – Francais, n’est ce pas? Coffees by Nabob and Maxwell House – the down home conglomerates serving up South American blends. The tea – English of course (well, probably more Indian but y’know what I mean. It’s tea. It tastes English.) Put ’em all together….The results? A World Cup…of coffee. Geddit?

I know it’s a stretch, but so what?

I was a skeptic at first. Sure, I feigned delight when I opened the box, but secretly I found the whole thing too car dealership-ish for my liking. In fact last time I had my oil changed I think I used a Tassimo – I just didn’t know it yet. The machine has these little discs with bar codes. It reads the codes and presto – perfect cuppa, every time. There’s also something of the office coffee pot about it. And yet, a flip of the switch and you’re done.
My man fell for it from the start. It was techy, it was easy, it was tasty. Sold! I, however, had to be convinced. I became a tourist, trying out every single disc in every single combo – name your Starbuckian term – I tried making it on my Tassimo. Before I knew it, I was a barista, and I was hooked. My house had become java central. Y’know how every house has its own particular small? Ours became roasted coffee beans.
I’ve since calmed down. And I’ve narrowed down the discs worth driving for (cappucino, espresso, and cafe crema). And I’m not as jittery or shaky as those early heady days… Just happily caffienated.
The Tassimo express is leaving the station. So hop on board ‘cuz if you think those discs are selling like hotcakes (‘n coffee) now, wait ’til Oprah hears about it….

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

I cannot be convinced. i am a purest and I know you LOVE my latees!

June 28, 2006   No Comments

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Soup’s On

Summertime, and the livin’ is…soupy….

That’s right. Hot ‘n bothered? Nothin’ like a steamy bowl of soup to cool you down. I’m serious, by the way. When I was travelling in Southeast Asia a million years ago it was crazy hot. And where were the locals? Not running for shade, but sipping soup. I tried to too. My bowl of pho soon became sweat soup. Not a pretty sight. Or taste. I’m a salt person but that was too much, even for a diehard like me. But I remembered the hot meal/hot weather thing and decided to try it again for the very first time.
We-e-e-e-ll. Not exactly. More like I was out food shopping and ab rav (that’s absolutely ravenous for those not in the know). I’m telling you – starving! And you know the old adage? Not the one about soup but the one about not shopping hungry? Well I’m glad I ignored it today because I discovered the most spectacular soup I have ever tasted. Ever.
I know soup. I make soup. And I rarely buy soup because I’m one of those who tends to sneer at store bought soup, convinced I can make bigger and better soup by myself. There is one exception: Covent Garden Soup Company in the UK. Now that’s fab f&ckin’ soup. But here? Tried ’em all. The best part about them is you end up with a mason jar for your own soups.
Besides, let’s face it, whether you eat soup in summer or not, making it in the summertime is a whole different kettle of fish soup. It’s just gross. And I don’t care how good your air con is. Smelling like soup? Gross in winter. Uber gross in summer. Hot ‘n soupy on the outside AND on the inside? Uh, no thanks.
But back to my discovery! It’s the Soup Man soup! Y’know… the soup nazi. The guy immortalized on Seinfeld? THAT soup. It’s incredible. It’s (ahem) super! I went for Al’s Garden Vegetable and I doubt I’ll ever make my own soup again. Why bother? With soup this good who needs homemade? Not me. On the bag it says it’s “world renown”. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m the last to try it. Doubtful, but maybe. It’s also billed as “what New Yorkers line up for”. They’ve always been a little ahead of we Canadians. And I’m telling you, judging from the veggie one, it’s worth the wait.
Only now you don’t have to. ‘Cuz it’s here. And it’s cheaper here in the Great White North than it is there (or at least on line) (Mind you, it’s worth every penny. But still, it’s nice to know). See? I was so crazy for this soup I even went on to the Soup Man’s website (www.originalsoupman.com) It’s kinda funny – funny-strange, not funny ha ha. This guy’s got a cultish following – or so he’d like us to believe. But cheesiness aside (the website, not the soup – tho’ I’m sure there are cheesy ones too) go and check out this soup. (hee hee…grocery humour…)
Once you’ve got it in your hot little hands, waste no time in getting it home. And don’t share it. This bag ain’t big enough for the both of us. Microwave users, be warned: don’t trust the bag. Despite the cooking instructions, you cannot stand it up and go for broke. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you’re not supposed to nuke in plastic. Gimme a break, I hadn’t eaten all day. But just when I thought it was safe to eat, I opened the door and saw the bag, lying on it’s side. And get this – the soup is so chock-a-block barely anything spilled out. OK, a couple of bits managed to escape and I was left spooning bits of veg from the mic into my mouth—I mean, bowl. So? I couldn’t let a drop go to waste.

Run, don’t walk and pick up some soup. I fear I’m not the only one who’s on to this liquid gem. The freezer was half empty. No, not half full. I’m not so positive when it comes to limited grocery shleves. It was half-empty. And by tomorrow it could be completely bare. Cuz I’m goin’ back to get me some soup!!!

Bon appetite!

3 comments:

Anonymous said…

I can’t believe you bought that soup! I keep seeing it and am ever so attracted to the display (logo, photo, etc) – but then it’s soup in a bag. It raunched me out. Of course I never stuck around long enough to figure out why they were showing the No soup for you episode. It’s all so chrystal clear. Thanks maven – I trust your soup taste. And I still think we could make it better – or at least my mom. Challenge?

7:45 PM

Mother of all Mavens said…

No one – or their mother – does it better. I’m telling you. This soup rocks the hooooose. Embrace the bag and give ‘er a whirl!

8:12 PM

Anonymous said…

The New Yorkers DO line up for it, but be warned– if you buy the bag and then decide you gotta get it from the source (i.e. – take a soup run to NYC) summer soupin’ = no soup for you. The Soupman is closed for the summer months! Nice racket. Apparently, nice packet, too.

June 19, 2006   No Comments

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