A few weeks ago Mill Street Brewery announced an extension to the Mill Street Brew Pub with the launch of a second location, dubbed The Beer Hall. The new location aims to take a sophisticated approach to the classic Bavarian beer hall and boasts not only an elaborate system that delivers beer directly from the nearby brewery but also an impressive still that will be used to distill biershnaps, a dry spirit that's not available anywhere else in Canada, meaning that for the first time in 70 years, spirits will again be distilled in the Distillery District.
I spoke recently via e-mail with Mill Street's brewmaster-cum-distiller, Joel Manning and Chef Elizabeth Rivasplata, who will be helming the new location's kitchen, about what Torontonians can expect at The Beer Hall and what exactly biershnaps is all about.
Can you tell me a little bit about biershnaps? Not only is no one in Toronto making it, I'm pretty sure you can't even buy it anywhere in the city (or maybe even the country?). What exactly is it and what does it taste like?
Joel: "Bierschnaps is not available in Canada — certainly not on a regular basis as far as we know anyways — and we are the only Bierschnaps distillery here. It's a spirit that is classically made in Germany by distilling beer into a clear, colourless spirit and adding a small amount of cane sugar. It is different from American schnapps which is a liqueur and very sweet — our Bierschnaps is quite dry and designed to show off the quality of the spirit, not mask it with sugar. It's made through a double distillation process that involves a beer still and a copper spirit still with a rectifying column that produces a very smooth, pure spirit. The distinctive malt and hop character of our beers are distilled with the alcohol and make our Bierschnaps a perfect accompaniment for a pint of your favourite Mill Street beer.
We'll have biershnaps brewed using a few of our beers and each will have unique characteristics. Our Tankhouse Bierschnaps will embody the bold flavours and smoothness of this beer, with Cascade hops on the nose and finish but with our signature five malts used in this beer providing a smooth maltiness reminiscent of an unaged single malt whisky. This biershnaps is 45% ABV.
Where did that gorgeous still come from?
Joel: "The still was built by Kothe Distilling Technologies in Germany. It is a pair of stills actually — the stainless steel beer still and then the copper spirit still that does the second distillation along with the copper rectifying column."
Who will serve as your master distiller? Are you doing double duty as brewmaster?
Joel: "I'll oversee the operation of the still and development of the Schnaps and other products that we develop, but the day to day operation of the still will be done by Kaitlin Vandenbosch. Kaitlin has an MSc in Brewing and Distilling from Heriott-Watt University in Edinburgh."
Will we eventually see biershnaps for sale in the bottle, or is this something that will be exclusive to The Beer Hall? Can we anticipate an eventual LCBO release?
Joel: "The Bierschnaps will be exclusive to the Beer Hall and our retail store at the Brewpub in the Distillery District. You will be able to order it at our bars to drink in the pub alongside your favourite Mill Street beer or buy bottles of it in our retail store to take home. We will likely release it to the LCBO at some point in the near future but we don't have a date for that yet."
Any plans to broaden distilling operations? I know that you need to age whisky three years before you can sell it in Canada. Any chance there's a secret cellar at The Beer Hall with something awesome aging in barrels? Or is there Mill Street vodka or gin on the horizon?
Joel: "We will only make Bierschnaps to begin with — we are brewers first and foremost and we are making the Schnaps because it is a directly derivative product of our beer and it is delicious. There are a lot of vodkas and gins out there and we're not interested in getting into that game, but we will make malt whisky in the near future and squirrel some barrels away to bring out when it is ready in several years.
We have been working on recipes for it and we are very confident that we can make extraordinary whisky on this still — the double distillation technique that we are using is classically what is used to make whisky. Being at the Distillery District where millions of gallons of whisky were made over the years, I think that the ghosts of distillers past would be angry with us if we didn't.
We'll are also getting into some oak aging with our Schnaps products and will be coming out with a "Hopfenschnaps" which is a stronger (55% ABV) version of our Bierschnaps but loaded up with a ton of varietal hops. It is the hoppiest thing you have ever tasted in your life but it has no bitterness at all since the bittering acids don't come forward when you distill hops."
Can you tell me a little bit about the draught delivery system? Is beer actually piped directly from the brewery to these taps and to the still?
Joel: "Yes! The draught lines run through copper pipes overhead from the brewery directly to the bars in the Beer Hall so the customers can see exactly where their beer is coming from. Four of these copper pipes bring beer from the brewery to the two bars in the Beer Hall and the fifth pipe brings beer from the brewery to the Bierschnaps distillery. Our beer is the raw material for the Bierschnaps."
Will the Beer Hall feature a different beer lineup than the brew pub? Or can we expect beer exclusive to the new location?
Joel: "There are three new beers being made for the opening of the Beer Hall that will be available permanently. They are:
1. Minimus Dubbel (8.5% ABV). This is a classical dark brown Belgian abbey-style beer made with a variety of malts and traditional Belgian candy sugar. It has a soured mash in order to give it a slight acidity to offset the sweetness of the malt and the sugar and has aged hops used in it which is traditional for this style of beer. The Minimus also has French oak infusion spirals in it to give it an oaky softness that is also typical of these beers. It is served unfiltered. The name is from the latin expression "minima maxima sunt" (The smallest things are most important — Ben)
2. Distillery Ale (6% ABV) This is a copper coloured English-style Old Ale made with English floor malted maris-otter pale malt and caramel and chocolate malt and a whole pile of English Fuggles and Goldings hops. Old Ales are similar to Barley Wines only smaller. This is a style of English Ale that would have been around back in the old days of the Distillery District and the founders would have been very familiar with.
3. Ampel Weiss (3.8% ABV) This is a Berliner-style Weissbier made with a lactic fermentation and a blend of wheat and barley malts. Pale straw coloured, this is a very dry beer with a profound sour tartness that makes it extremely refreshing. We will serve this in the traditional way giving drinkers the choice of drinking it straight or with a "Schuss" (a shot) of raspberry syrup or woodruff syrup (imported from Germany). The beer is pale amber, the raspberry syrup is crimson red and the woodruff syrup is bright green which creates a "traffic light" (Ampel in German) effect when you try a flight of all three versions together at the Beer Hall."
What about the food? Can we expect fancier fare, or will this be strictly bar food?
Elizabeth: "The menu is a sharing-style menu: seasonal, fun, and unpretentious. We'll be playing with some bar classics too and giving them our own twist."
I see that beer-infused items will be featured on the menu. Can you tell me what sort of food that will include? Will there be a variety of Mill Street beers incorporated?
Elizabeth: "We are trying to incorporate beer in most of the dishes from savoury to desserts. I would say 80% to 90% of the menu contains beer. We'll use Mill Street Organic to make flatbread dough fresh daily, we'll have Green Thai Curry mussels made with Mill Street Lemon Tea, braised short ribs with house-brewed beer glaze, Charcuterie boards with house-made cured meats like Tankhouse Ale bratwurst, and wild boar bratwurst. Additionally, all the menu items will feature a suggested beer pairing from Joel."
The Mill Street Beer Hall will officially open on Thursday, April 18th and the space's covered, 100-foot courtyard patio will likely open in mid-May in time for their grand opening party on Thursday May 23rd.
Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog.
New boutique Annie Aime opened its doors to the public this past week, offering up a selection of stylish garments, jewels, shoes and home décor straight from the streets of some of Europe's most stylish capitals, as well as a few Toronto favorites to keep the locals happy. Owner Annie Mesenge is a seasoned veteran of the Toronto high-end retail scene and with her latest venture, aims to bring a dose of French whimsy to Toronto's style set.
Check out my review of Annie Aime in the Fashion Stores section.
A Toronto casino could net the city, province, and federal government $392 million in extra tourism revenue if it includes convention space, a hotel, and other recreation facilities, according to a new staff report released today. In total, it estimates an extra 130,000 new visitors would come to Toronto if the venue is built to the city's spec rather than to OLG's plans.
The report, which is intended to inform future council decisions, was released just hours after Rob Ford wrote an open letter to the people of Toronto expressing his support for a major gaming facility in the downtown core. Ford says he expects $150 million in direct annual revenue for the city, calling the chance to develop one of the proposed sites - probably the CNE or Metro Toronto Convention Centre - a "golden opportunity."
City Manager Joe Pennachetti says a casino, if built on the city's terms, would net around $111 to $148 million in hosting fees from OLG. The amount increases based on the overall size of the gaming floor, therefore the city would get the most money if it allowed a larger complex with a greater area dedicated to gambling. There would also be $19 million a year due in property taxes.
The lower amount is connected to the 135,000 square feet of gambling space recommended for the downtown core by city planners. OLG would rather see closed to 175,000 square feet.
In terms of jobs, a casino could generate roughly 6,200 to 7,000 building jobs and 10,070 full-time positions within the finished facility. A report from the Toronto Board of Health in February found that despite new jobs the casino would be unlikely to change the overall unemployment rate and could syphon cash from other businesses and attractions.
This latest staff report, which will be received by the city's executive committee next Monday and later debated at city council, also found 71 per cent of respondents were opposed to a Toronto casino. The areas that expressed the most support were all outside the downtown core.
Are the numbers convincing enough? Is it worth building a casino in Toronto for a chance at $148 million a year and a bump in tourism revenue? How do you think council will vote?
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Don't argue with me, because it's a fact that a clear majority of people don't drink their coffee black - mostly because they're drinking poor quality coffee, but also because, let's be honest, straight black coffee, even from the best of beans, has more of the sour and bitter in it than the garden variety set of taste buds can handle. With that in mind, it's worth putting some thought into how to sweeten our daily coffee in ways that don't involve a packet or two of white sugar. Luckily, one Toronto coffee house has a solution.
Not for Jennifer Hedley and Michael Craig of Ella's Uncle the crude bludgeon of a double-double or promiscuous squirts of flavoured syrups. When it came time to open their small but popular Dundas West cafe, they needed to come up with a signature drink that was quick to make but distinct in taste. And thus was born the Ella.
There are a lot of alternatives to sugar as a sweetener; the Romans used lead acetate, with regrettable side effects like blue gums, kidney damage and death. Honey is a more altogether pleasant alternative, but for some reason its rich, floral taste is more suitable to tea than java. There was, thankfully, a more altogether Canadian option, a product of our national tree no less.
Hedley and Craig decided to use maple syrup in the Ella, inspired by Hedley's use of the popular pancake topping at home when she discovered that the sugar bowl was empty. Providentially, the slight smokiness and caramel quality of maple syrup is a beautiful fit with coffee, enhanced by the (slightly) healthier glycemic index of syrup compared to white sugar.
As coffee drinks go, the Ella isn't rocket science. A half ounce of maple syrup is poured into a steamer mug with milk, which infuses the foam with the syrup. Hedley says she isn't particular about the brand - any decent maple syrup will do.
Ella's Uncle has a policy of putting double shots of their Classic Gourmet and Dark City espresso into all of its milky coffee drinks - they think the taste cuts through the milk much more sharply, and with the Ella, it lets the syrup and the beans muscle their way to the front of the line, taste-wise.
What looks like your standard medium latte retails for $4.25 and can be had in an iced version when the weather gets warmer, with the maple syrup dissolved in the espresso and not the milk. Don't even think about sugar, as you'll just kill the very lively flavour of the maple syrup and espresso that fills every sip of this very addictive coffee drink.
TOTAL SCORE: 24/30
Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our coffee-fueled adventures.
See all posts in this series via our Toronto Coffee Drinks Challenge Pinterest board
Have a suggestion for a unique coffee drink that should be part of this challenge? Send your tips to editors [at] blogto [dotcom]
While the city waits on the Downtown Relief Line, the TTC is busily tunneling a six-stop extension of the Spadina line from Downsview station into York region. When it's finished, subway trains will travel outside the Toronto city limits for the first time.
Although the project isn't scheduled to wrap until the Fall 2016, the excavation work is close to 70% complete. Holey and Moley, the two boring machines, recently completed the parallel tunnels that will become the southern section of extension between Finch West and Downsview. Torkie and Yorkie, the machines working the northern stretch, are currently approaching Jane Street just north of the CN tracks.
Here's a closer look at Toronto's only active subway construction site.
Length of subway: 8.6 km
Tunnels bored: 6.2 km
Number of tunnel boring machines (TBMs): 4
Speed of tunnel boring machine: 15 metres a day
Time it would take a TBM to bore the length of the Gardiner: 3 years 2 months
Weight of one TBM: 430 tonnes
Number of GO locomotives needed to balance the weight of a TBM: 3.3
Length of cut and cover tunnels: 2.4 kms
Number of stations under construction: 6
Caisson Piling: 110 kms (length of drilled piles)
End-to-end length of caisson piling*: Union Station to Cobourg, Ontario (via DVP and 401)
Excavation: 1,400,000 m3
Concrete: 400,000 m3 (400,000,000 litres)
Spadina extensions required to fill the Rogers Centre with concrete: 3.9
Precast Tunnel Liners: 54,000 segments (9000 rings)
Precast tunnel rings per TTC vehicle: 3
* Caisson pilings are vertically drilled holes that shore up the walls of cut-and-cover parts of the subway so the surrounding earth doesn't collapse in on itself. The figure above is the total length, laid end-to-end, of all the pilings to be dug during construction.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Image: Tom Ryaboi
At first glance, Jordan Satok seems like the average Toronto high school graduate - except that he deferred a full scholarship to the University of Waterloo, started his own company, and raised a whopping $1.8 million dollars in VC capital that makes him one of Canada's youngest funded entrepreneurs.
Jordan's company, AppHero, is an intelligent recommendation platform for mobile apps. With a cutting edge team of developers and data scientists, AppHero will analyze your interests, preferences, and actions to recommend quality apps for your device. A combination of data science and common sense, its algorithm goes as far as analyzing your tweets to detect interests, while still keeping it as simple as just making sure it doesn't recommend too many paid apps to people who only use free ones.
As Jordan explains, with over 800,000 apps available in the app store, discovering new and quality apps has become increasingly difficult. With heuristics built around what defines a quality app (across a variety of verticals), the algorithm also analyzes app store reviews and developer comments for key phrases scoring apps by more than the most number of downloads or the most number of stars.
Admittedly, with competitors such as CrossWalk and Appsfire, the space is not new, however experiments show that AppHero users are "5 or 6 times more likely to download an app via AppHero than from another competing service", he says.
These increased download rates tie directly to their funding and revenue model. Already approached by carriers and OEMs who run their own stores, these companies have shown interest in licensing its recommendation algorithm hoping that the increased download rates will also result in increased sales. Beyond sales, these carriers also hope that providing a richer experience for consumers will help them to retain these users when contracts are up for renewal.
This carrier interest allowed AppHero's $1.8 million in funding to close in only 3 weeks from sources that include Toronto's own Omers Ventures and Golden Venture Partners, and a variety of angel investors - including Facebook executives. Satok says the funding lets them stay focused on building a great product allows them the flexibility to scale increase workforce and their office space and provide "app recommendations in 150ms or less".
Last Thursday the GUESS store at 364 Queen St. West played host to the launch of the new GUESS Music Festival Collection. What's this? A new concert series? A big summer music festival? Sadly, no. But for GUESS fans it was a chance to preview some summer looks the fashion brand wants you to rock out in.
The "pink palace," Ontario's fourth legislative building, has stood guard at the top of University Avenue for more than 120 years. Well, 120 years and 2 days, to be precise. The venerable edifice celebrated the end of another decade as Ontario's political heart on Thursday.
When it was built, the legislative building was by far the grandest of the structures built to house Ontario's politicians. The earlier legislatures were closer in appearance to regular homes. At times, when fire destroyed or damaged the buildings - something that happened surprisingly often - the politicians used a vacant room at the General Hospital and the ballroom of the York Hotel.
This is the story of Ontario's grandest seat of government.
The giant stone structure, nicknamed for the pink-purple hue of its sandstone facade, was finished 1893 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style popular in North America in the later part of the 19th century.
The look, typified by intricate stonework, arches, and columns, was named for renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson, it's pioneer, whose magnum opus is considered to be Boston's Trinity Church. Old City Hall was built to a similar aesthetic six years later.
Richard A. Waite, the architect of the main wing, trained in New York under John Ericsson, a Swedish-born inventor and mechanical engineer. Ericsson co-invented the first tank-engine train and designed the USS Monitor, low-slung ironclad warship used during the American Civil War. Waite was also notable for hiring Louise Blanchard Bethune as a draftsman, the first American woman known to have held such a position.
At the time, six buildings had housed the legislative assembly of Ontario it its various guises, several of them in Toronto. The first, on the southeast corner of today's Front and Berkeley, was burned during a skirmish in the War of 1812. The second also went up in flames, this time accidentally. The predecessor to the Queen's Park building - itself twice scorched by fire - was located on Front Street just west of Simcoe, and is now under the CBC headquarters.
The foundations for the current legislative building were laid in 1886 and the stone to build it was quarried in Port Credit and Orangeville and carved into ornate details in Toronto. The land, which is technically still owned by the University of Toronto as the original site of King's College, was leased for a peppercorn $1 a year until 2892 by the province.
The design was asymmetrical from the start, though the finished product does differ slightly from the plans: the western domed tower, just to the left of the main entrance, was meant to house a large clock. It was ditched when the funds required to build it never materialized. The round holes where it should have gone were filled with windows instead.
Eagle-eyed observers will also notice the west-wing is taller than the east. During construction of the north wing, workers repairing the roof of the west wing started a fire that destroyed the upper floor and the building's reference library, erasing its important reference collections. The Toronto Daily Star called it a "scene of ruin and desolation."
The wood-paneled room, stacked floor-to-ceiling with books, was a disaster waiting to happen. Ironically, the new north wing was to contain a fire-proof space for the collection, which was being routinely damaged by sunlight, leaking windows, and steam heating.
During the years-long rebuilding process led by E. J. Lennox, who was also responsible for Old City Hall, an additional two floors were added to the west wing. The north wing, designed by Toronto architect George Wallace Gouinlock, enclosed a previously open courtyard and added much-needed extra space.
The Whitney Block, the next expansion wing, was built on the east side of Queen's Park Circle using Niagara Escarpment limestone, mined at Queenston Quarries. It was once the tallest building in Toronto and is linked to the older part of the complex by a tunnel under the road and to Queen's Park subway station.
The exterior of that building includes details depicting justice, tolerance, wisdom and power, others show mining, farming, forestry, finance, law, education, and other activities. The tower, added several years after the first office opened, has been vacant since the 1960s. It only contains one staircase and no internal ventilation, making it a fire hazard.
The basement bowling alley is now long gone, as are the live animal pens used by the provincial veterinary service. The addition of the Ferguson, Hearst, Mowat, and Hepburn blocks in later decades expanded capacity further and extended the provincial lands east to Bay Street.
The centre block of the original structure contains the ornate Legislative Chamber with its intricate carved wood and plaster relief interior. Several Latin phrases, including the assembly's motto "hear the other side" (Audi Alteram Partem), are embedded in the woodwork. "Dare to be wise, by teaching we learn" (Sapere Aude, Docendo Discimus) and "peace in our time" (Pax Sit Tempus Nostrum) also appear.
One strange feature, a wonky plaster relief of a goofy-looking face is thought to be a caricature of Queen Victoria. Other faces are thought to be likenesses of the craftsmen who were forbidden to sign their work. The only person allowed to mark his work was William McCormack, the chief cratfsman and woodworker who carved out the coat of arms the backing to the Speaker's Dais.
The room is divided in half by two seating areas. The current government, the party with the most ridings, sits to the right of the speaker with the premier at the centre near the front. Outside, the east and west wings feature grand central atriums; the east lined in wood, the west in marble. Both were originally wood - E. J. Lennox added the marble to the west wing during its restoration.
The viceregal apartment is another notable part of the interior, located in the northwest corner. When the province sold its last dedicated government house at Chorley Park to the federal government in the 1930s, a group of room were formed into an official reception area for visiting dignitaries, complete with a covered carriage porch using fixtures salvaged from the old house. The Music Room in the apartment is used to swear-in cabinet ministers.
In its 120-year history the building has naturally been a focal point during important Ontario events. It was lavishly decorated for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In 1960, a sample air raid shelter was built on the front lawn near College Street at the height of fears over a nuclear attack. The main entrance appeared on the cover of Rush's 1981 album Moving Pictures.
The building was once again damaged by fire in 2009, this time suffering only minor damage when an air-conditioning unit caught fire. Apart from the occasional scorching, the Ontario Legislative Buildings have stood up to over a century of wear and tear. Who knows, with proper care they might even see out that lease.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Images: City of Toronto Archives, Ontario Archives
North Korea's sabre-rattling got ya down? Upset that Mousasi is going to crush a can instead of Gustafsson? Buck up! We've got everyone from Grammy nominees to trailblazing femme fatales to take your mind off judgment day. And besides...there is no fate but what we make.
TUES APR 9 / UNGA BUNGA, I LIKE YOUR BRAIN / THE OSSINGTON / 61 OSSINGTON / 9PM / FREE
At the very minimum, you'll get to see Chris Locke, Kathleen Phillips, and Tom Henry. Wowzers. I could go on and on about how Kathleen is one of the best character artists in the world, or about how Chris Locke looks like he's having the time of his life on stage, or even about how Tom is the perfect comedian to complement the aforementioned acts. They're just...just catch them for free before they blow up and get swept off their feet to L.A., L.A. big city of dreams. If the talent in the above clip doesn't make your jaw drop, we can't be friends anymore.
WED APR 7 - SUN APR 14 / DANA ALEXANDER / YUK YUK'S / 224 RICHMOND W / 8PM / $11-20
Quick: name me a black female comedian from Canada.
Weird, huh? I wrote the question and still can't think of one, other than Dana, of course. She's been on the scene for a minute, and was even voted, 'Best Discoveries' by Now Magazine in 2006. Can she kick it? Well, the Halifax Comedy Festival, CTV, and Much Music's Video on Trial think so. Skip past the rhetoric to 0:28 for the goods.
FRI APR 12 / DAVID SEDARIS / SONY CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS / 1 FRONT E / 730PM / $49-66
This dude's mad talented. Like Grammy-nominated talented. Never heard of him? That's odd, given that he's been touted as the, 'rock star of writers.' In all seriousness, David's lived life the way he's wanted to, whether it's been writing essays or recording comedy albums. And it's precisely because he's narrowed in on what he loves that he's been featured by everyone from BBC, The New Yorker, and Esquire. Now, he's not your typical stand-up comedy act, but the depth of his content is utterly compelling. His act proves that if your writing is good enough, people will pay to hear your read it.
SAT APR 13 / COMEDY UNCOVERED SHOWCASE / COMEDY BAR / 945 BLOOR W / 10PM / $10 ADV $12 DOOR
One of the best producers and comedy nerds in Toronto, Taylor Erwin, brings us another banger. Performances by Mark Little & Kyle Dooley of PicnicFace, Julia Hladkowicz, host Fraser Young and headliner Steph Tolev will come together like a Jiro meal, each act building upon the next. The shows are always great because Taylor knows the scene in and out, and understands how to keep an evening consistently interesting, which is no small feat. Anyone can put together a line-up of killers, but it takes a special kind of insight to compile a cast with a varied arsenal. Join me as I lick two shots in the air for yet another independent doing his thang.
About the Author: This is Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third-person. My blog, Diary of a Stand-up Comedian, walks you through the up's and down's (they're mostly down's, really) in my quest to become a killer comic in Toronto.
Lead photo of Kathleen Phillips
Weekend events in Toronto is our guide to events happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here's what's happening in Toronto this April 5-7, 2013.
k-os Plus Rich Aucoin
Rich Aucoin, Canada's golden boy of indie rock and recent Prism Prize winner, plays a show at the Danforth Music Hall with Toronto rap icon k-os. Though an opener in title, Rich Aucoin acts as a co-headliner for the 12-city Canadian tour in his own right, as he comes with a large fan base given the success of his 2011 LP We're All Dying To Live. k-os tours to support his fifth studio album, a double LP titled BLack on BLonde. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
The Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Avenue), April 5, 2013, 9PM $34
The Elwins at the Horseshoe
Indie pop jangle merchants The Elwins are headlining a show at the Horseshoe on Saturday night to celebrate the release of their new 7" single, "Forgetful Assistance." Also playing are Toronto mainstays Will Currie & The Country French and By Divine Right as well as Edmonton's Michael Rault.
The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St West) 9PM / $10
The Storefront Theatre does the Wild West with a day of PG family fun followed by a nighttime saloon that will be the exact opposite. Cheap whiskey, body painting and a performance by The Midnight Society will make this wholesome day turn into a sweaty night of dancing (just how we like it). The full day's events support The Playwright Project 2013 through silent auction prizes and the $10 all-day entrance fee. Be good, then turn bad, it's your choice in the Wild West.
The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West), April 6, 2013, 12PM $10
Hosted by MTV's Aliya-Jasmine Sovani and CP24's Gurdeep Ahluwalia, Ancient Prom is the luxurious answer to the gap left by Friday Night at the ROM. Gourmet food, dancing, music by DJ Rory Them Finest and more live entertainment and special activities will take place throughout the night as guests are allowed to roam through the museum. Proceeds from the event go toward exhibits, galleries and programs. Don't be the mess-opotamia at this prom. Party with class like ancient civilizations did.
Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park), April 6, 2013, 9PM $125 members, $150 non-members
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The good news here is that Big Picture Cinema is putting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back on the big screen. The better news is that this is a 420-friendly screening. Part of the continuing stoner event series at Big Picture, the theatre owners invite everyone to join them for the Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's acclaimed novel and is even advertising that you can bring your own bongs. One of the greatest road trip movies starring just about everyone (Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, Ellen Barkin, Lyle Lovett and even Flea from Chili Peppers), this sounds like an excellent Friday night at the movies to me.
Big Picture Cinema (1035 Gerrard Street East), April 5, 2013, 9PM $10
For more screenings, check out This Week in Film.
Good Food & Drink Festival
This one is going to be so good, it only needs a simple name: The Good Food & Drink Festival is a foodie's dream with a three day exhibition of the newest food trends, international cuisine samples and gourmet drinks. Celebrity appearances this year include The Food Network's Anna Olson and Eat St.'s James Cunningham (yep, that's right, there's going to be food trucks there). Walk the Direct Energy Centre tasting something new at each booth while watching cooking demos all weekend. The more you sample, the more you get your money's worth.
Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place (100 Princes' Boulevard), April 5, 2013, 12PM $11 online, $14 doors
Craft Beer & Cheese: A Love Story
Beer columnist and Prud'homme Beer Sommelier Crystal Luxmore is attempting to prove that beer is a better pairing for cheese than wine. While this isn't completely believable for those of us that don't like messing with a good thing, it sure would be enjoyable to test out. Craft Beer & Cheese: A Love Story is a Friday night taste test that will feature five combinations of craft beer and gourmet cheeses that may (or may not!) prove a point. Register on the Uniiverse website to reserve a space.
Uniiverse Headquarters (111 Jarvis Street), April 5, 2013, 7PM $35
For more Toronto food events, check out our weekly roundup.
25 works based on the theme of shelter will be displayed at Design of Hope, the 8th annual art auction in support of Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre and Edmond Place, a housing complex for people with mental issues. Local artists have contributed one-of-a-kind artworks to be auctioned by host Asha Tomlinson from CBC News Network and auctioneer Bill Kime of Waddington's at this Friday evening charity event. There will be drinks and dancing all night long with all proceeds going to the complex. Donations also welcomed.
St. John's Parish Hall (186 Cowan Avenue), April 5, 2013, 7PM $20 or PWYC
The Past Is Present
Vietnamese artist and winner of the 2012 Dogma Award, Vietnam's national portrait prize, Ngo Van Sac opens The Past Is Present at The East Gallery this Saturday afternoon. Van Sac examines the overlap of time in an attempt to portray Vietnam as a country quickly modernizing while still clinging to the past. Using a mix of textured collages, paintings, engravings and wood-burned surfaces, the artist captures a cultural struggle while capturing a past that has been re-contextualized by a government. The show runs until May 5th.
The East Gallery (334 Dundas Street West), April 6, 2013, 3PM Free
J. Sean Elliott Hashtag Tour 2013
J. Sean Elliott is the type of comedian who can make you laugh just looking at him. The character actor and musical comedian is joined by Blair Irwin and Donna Garner with maestro Konrad Pluta tonight at Winchester Kitchen to perform his original comedy songs mocking politics, pop culture and, probably, you. The Hashtag Tour (actually a two-evening performance schedule) runs until Sunday night with tickets available through the comedian's website, jsean.com.
Winchester Kitchen (51A Winchester Street), April 5-6, 2013, 8PM $12 advance, $15 door
For more comedy listings, check out This Week in Comedy.
Antiques & Vintages Show
Selected and invited vendors gather at a Bayview and Finch boutique this Sunday for the Antiques & Vintages Show, a sale featuring clothing, accessories, furniture and other antiques from the mid-century and earlier. Vendors have driven in from across Ontario and Quebec with estate pieces and market finds to sell to Torontonians willing to drive north of Bloor--and this will be worth it as the sale is just one day, only taking place every other month. Be feisty--there will be some vintage-shopping vultures at this show.
The Grand Luxe Event Boutique (3125 Bayview Avenue), April 7, 2013, 9:30AM $5
For more fashion events, check out This Week in Fashion.
The Bazaar of the Bizarre - Circus Sideshow
An alternative marketplace--fittingly named The Bazaar of the Bizarre--this circus sideshow-themed sale will feature stilt walkers, magicians, tarot card readers and mind readers running around the family-friendly venue. There will be arts & crafts, clothing, food, toys and accessories for sale from over 50 Toronto vendors, including Sci Feye Candy, charlotte & stewart, Plastik Wrap, Zombie Nogs and Peculiar Potions. Music will play and it is free to enter so swing by to see where weirdos play on Saturdays.
918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education (918 Bathurst Street), April 6, 2013, 11AM Free
Sea Change--A Night of New Performance
Sea Change's mission is to provide a platform for theatre artists to present their newest works, and those still in progress, with the hope of building community ties and developing new works. At this month's installment of the Theatre Caravel initiative, five entertainers will perform their plays, puppetry, music and comedy acts while artist Rob Faust will have his performance masks on display for sale. Come out to support community theatre and emerging performance artists by helping them workshop their newest pieces. The event takes place at Cinecycle with snacks included in the ticket price.
CineCycle (behind 129 Spadina Avenue), April 5, 2013, 8PM $7
For more show listings, check out This Week in Theatre.
Lead photo of the Elwins
The best late night sandwiches in Toronto can be the heros of a wild night out, providing fuel to keep the party going or the satisfying end after last call. Even in the off-hours, the breadth of flavours and varieties is hardly limited; grilled cheese, classic subs, slow-cooked pulled meats and Banh Mi are easily found on late night menus across the city; proving that Toronto's top notch take-out counters, diners and snackbars aren't just last resorts, but destinations in their own right.
Here is the list of best late night sandwiches in Toronto.
Want more late night eats? Download our Toronto bars, pubs & late night eats iPhone app.
The Best Late Night Burgers in Toronto
The Best Sandwiches in Toronto
The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in Toronto
The Best Veal Sandwich in Toronto
The Best Peameal Bacon Sandwiches in Toronto
The Best Panini in Toronto
Our latest Instagram photo challenge celebrates Toronto's built heritage. In the sea of anonymous cell phone pics, once in a while a truly beautiful structure really pops out, and they also tend to benefit from the vintage filter treatment that old-school types are always so quick to take a dump on. Come on, old timers — sometimes (read a lot of the time) a quick and easy filter is just the right thing for an iPhone photo or the like. We asked our followers to take shots of their favourite historical buildings around the city and pitched in with a few of our own to boot. Add yours to the pool by using the hashtag #heritageTO.
Union Station by soteeoh
Commerce Court by vacaseca
Royal York by vacaseca
Historical mashup by alad_one21
Yonge & Wellington by @alad_one21
MLG by mattamyathleticcentre
Honest Ed's by dflack
Osgoode Hall and Canada Life Building by blogTO
Ed Mirvish Theatre by blogTO
If there's any neighbourhood that's benefited from the influx of izakaya restaurants in Toronto over the past year it's definitely Cabbagetown. Once lacking places that could unequivocally be called dining destinations, the sleepy side streets off of Parliament now have two - with this authentic feeling Japanese pub at the top of the list and consistently drawing crowds from across the city since it opened in December.
Read my review of Zakkushi in the restaurants section.
Metrolinx and its subsidiary GO Transit is on the threshold of a major expansion, unprecedented in its 50-year history. With the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT under construction and the provincial government seeking ways to pay for $50 billion in new bus, light rail, and subway lines, we should be seeing much more green-and-white in the coming decades.
With that in mind - and the fact GO just took possession of the first in a fleet of new double-decker buses - I thought it was time to take look at the fact sheet on Toronto's other transit provider.
GO BUSESThanks to the new additions to their road fleet, GO now owns and operates 463 buses, 47 of them double-decker. The bulk of the agency's highway vehicles are run on diesel, but it does operate a pair of hybrid vehicles for use exclusively on highways. Here's the skinny on GO's biggest fleet:
Total vehicles: 463
Double-decker: 47 (including 24 vehicles on order)
Diesel-hybrid electric: 2
Single-decker capacity: 57 passengers
Old double-decker capacity: 78-80 seated passengers
New double-decker capacity: 81 passengers
New double-decker height: 4.15 metres
New double-decker length: 13.2 m
New double-deckers required to move a capacity Rogers Centre crowd: 666.6
Cities using the ADL Enviro 500: Vancouver, New York, Hong Kong, Washington D.C., Las Vegas
Safe operating range: 900 kms (Union Station to North Chicago, an outer suburb of Chicago)
GO TRAINSThe most famous GO vehicle, the double-decker, diesel-powered trains have been formed the core of the provincial transit agency's fleet for decades. In the early days the rolling stock was entirely single-level. Currently, GO trains serve 63 rail stations, on 450 kilometres of track, spread over 7 lines out of Union station.
The vehicles are maintained at the company's Willowbrook facility just north of Islington and Lake Shore. The site includes storage tracks for 21 trains and workshops for both locomotives and passenger cars.
Total trains in fleet: 65
Coaches in fleet: 560
Capacity: 162 people
Full 12-car trainsets required to move a capacity Rogers Centre crowd: 28
Length of locomotive: 20.73 metres
Height of locomotive: 4.97 m
Weight of locomotive: 129 tons
Coach weight: 49 tons (empty)
Toronto Rockets needed to balance a 12-car trainset on a (giant) set of scales: 2.6
Size of fuel tank: 8,410 litres
Medium Tim Hortons' cups required to empty fuel tank by hand: 28,425.8
Horsepower: 4000 (32.5 times the power of a H-6 subway train)
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Breakout Toronto Bands features local artists that we think you should give a listen to.
Who is she?
Lisa Conway's voice is both big and shy and thank goodness she brought it with her when she moved to Toronto from Quick, B.C. And since that time she's utilized it in so many projects it's unlikely you haven't heard it. As a music student, performer, writer and really, anything else one does with music, her output has been diverse and driven by experimentation and a lust for the new. It's also very good.
To put aside the flowery text a moment, I'll let her give you the rundown. "When I first moved to Toronto, I was in a band / girl duo called Miss Scarlet and a band called Mandibles (the project of Jordan Howard of the Skeletones Four). The Owle Bird was born out of an interest in combining songwriting with structured improvisations and writing on an instrument I did not know how to play (piano). Chrome and the Ice Queen is mostly a studio project and themed writing exercise (all of the songs are about Twin Peaks), but we play shows occasionally. I also co-write and sing with Del Bel. I've been performing in a variety of forms for a long time, but only recently decided to place these musical pursuits / experiments under the umbrella L CON."
The titular "solo" act of a collaborator by habit, Conway tackles an enormously ambitious idea with the Ballads Project, which is a six song album written, arranged, orchestrated and co-produced by Conway incorporating twenty musicians. Additionally, each song is accompanied by a music video. It's a refreshing testament to good old fashioned production value and musicianship in this time of the digital music revolution. But don't worry, it's still a DIY project at heart, just one by a very capable person incorporating a wealth of resources.
The only problem was how to fit the band in a car.
"I knew the album would never be possible to perform live, so I had to come up with a practical way to play the material," Conway explains. "I love experimenting with strings and voices, and 're-imagined' a set for an opening slot at the Horseshoe. The response was extremely positive, and Daps suggested recording and releasing these versions of the songs to accompany the original album."
And so we are given the Ballads Reimagined. Whereas the ballads gave the impression of a time past, the Ballads Reimagined places itself firmly in the future. Folk science fiction if you like. Essentially it's an experiment given a life of its own, like a professor gone nutty or a "flubber" type scenario. And like those two references, it's quite good.
She sounds like...
"I have always been a sucker for ballads, and was listening to an enormous amount of Scott Walker and Lee Hazlewood and Dionne Warwick. I liked the expressiveness and drama in the singing itself, but was also studying orchestration, and became really fascinated with the elaborate arrangements and instrumentation."
Conway has a very distinct style, drawing out words until they strain with a confident wavering. This subtle powerhouse of a throat box works wonderfully with the lush instrumentation of the Ballads Project and the sparse space doo-wop of the Ballads Reimagined.
These are both wonderful records to put on a sunday afternoon when you don't have much to do. There's a dreamy quality to them that makes the songs immersive to the point of distraction. I wouldn't recommend listening to it while driving or as background noise while working because whenever I get a few songs in I blink and realize I've been looking out the window for the last 10 minutes.
Hear her/ see her
For too long fatal dangers in the average Canadian home were left unchecked. Aside from the occasional in-school 16mm horror shows warning of poison and dangerous strangers, there was little effort to educate kids about the severe repercussions of messing around with unknown substances. So after the sweeping Hazardous Products Act of 1971 was authored by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau's ruling Liberal Party, it fell to the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (CCA) to educate and inform the public of the new Hazardous Product Symbols: four icons that were to appear on the labels of items which contained corrosive, flammable, poisonous, or explosive materials.
Renowned Toronto advertising agency Vickers and Benson, famous at the time for their breakthrough William Shatner fronted "More than the price is right" Loblaws TV spots, had established a close relationship with the Liberal Party of Canada in 1968 after Trudeau's rise to the office of Prime Minister. They were hired to devise the creative behind a new hazard awareness campaign, which would be directed at a young demo and assumed to be co-viewed by their parents and guardians. The simple yet highly effective modus operandi of outer space travellers named Binkley and Doinkel was sketched out - these two green aliens are visiting Earth, and need to learn about potential dangers that should be avoided.
Meanwhile, around the same time, puppeteer Noreen Young was making waves in Toronto at the Provincial broadcasting network of TVOntario (TVO). An Ottawa native who had built puppets from a young age and manipulated them into "incredible plots that would have rivalled Dallas", Young was busy working on the flagship TVO children's series entitled Read-A-Long, which was TVOntario's attempt to mould a Sesame Street styled educational potpourri of live action, animated and puppet vignettes. Impressed by her wonderful creations, scope and ambition, Young was approached to work on the Binkley and Doinkel project, to not only realize the characters in puppet form, but to help train the young players of "The Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show".
CCA's first wave plan was to barnstorm the country, coast to coast, with live puppet shows hosted by "The Mayor", and featuring Binkley and Doinkel and an evil snake named Slither. These Punch & Judy puppet shows were staged in schools, parks, gyms, and playgrounds during the summer months in the early 1970s, under the aegis of the Government's summer student employment program. While the puppets were built and repaired by Young, the operators were University students looking for a summer job, which allowed them to tour Canada and build up some live entertainment credibility.
Although there was a fair amount of freestyle ad lib, the scripts for these live shows were in fact written by a young Vickers and Benson employee by the name of Barbara Amiel, better known nowadays as Lady Conrad Black. This travelling Binkley and Doinkel roadshow proved so popular, that the National Film Board of Canada recorded a live performance, struck a 16mm film print and created video tapes allowing every School in Canada to screen the "The Binkley and Doinkel Safety Show".
To reinforce the messaging presented in the live show, a comic book was produced and handed out at events and in schools. It re-told the story of Binkley and Doinkel, with two major changes: The evil character of Slither was replaced with that of a more Vaudevillian villain, a top-hatted, monocle wearing Basil Rathbone type blagard named R. Pugsley De Pugh, owing to the fact that the CCA had heard objections about stereotyping snakes and did not want to be seen encouraging kids to fear and wish to destroy them (JK Rowling later missed that memo).
Also added to the mix was Binkley and Doinkel's Earth guide, a talking canine named Sniffer who dutifully served the exposition role vacated by the Mayor character in the live puppet show. The comic book included games and puzzles, and more detailed information on the new hazard symbols. Illustrated by legendary Canadian comic book artist Owen McCarron, and his company Comic Book World which also published titles such as Auntie Litter, Wayne & Shuster, Cap'n Bluenose and Colonel Sanders, "The Adventures of Binkly (sic) and Doinkel" was first published in 1974.
In 1978, a second comic book was published, however this edition was illustrated by noted Quebec erotic-artist Diane Desmarais, and bore little resemblance to the first edition. Although the messaging remained consistent, Binkley and Doinkel looked far more alien and less kid friendly. The comic was titled "Haunting Signs", and certainly struck a far more frightening and mature tone than its predecessor.
Also around this time, Binkley and Doinkel made the leap to broadcast television. The CCA collaborated with noted Television production company Glen Warren (famous for such Cancon classics as The Starlost, The Littlest Hobo, and The Waterville Gang)to create 4 Public Service Announcements, one for each of the Hazardous Product Symbols, which went on to air nationally on CTV for almost a decade.
For these PSAs Young created new Binkley, Doinkel, Sniffer and R. Pugsley De Pugh puppets, and for Canadians of a certain age, these remain the definitive renderings of the characters. Owing to the sheer number of times the PSAs were broadcast, Binkley and Doinkel became forever associated with the Hazardous Product Symbols, and the spots went on to become the stuff of playground legend, especially after they vanished in the early 1980s. However, the story of Binkley and Doinkel was far from over.
A third and final comic book was produced in 1981, returning to Young's original character design and drawn by Owen McCarron once again. Young was also contracted to create life-size Binkley, Doinkel and Sniffer costumes which went on to tour schools, malls and fairs, where the new comic (and stickers) were handed out to eager children. A new 12-minute live-action video was created by the National Film Board in 1982 to replace the aged "Adventures of Binkley and Doinkel" puppet show.
In 1984, Binkley and Doinkel were retired. It was felt that after more than a decade, the goal of educating young people and the populace at large about the hazard symbols had been achieved. Young continued to work with other Government agencies on puppet-led PSAs, most famously the travelling Geese used by Revenue Canada, Customs and Excise.
Although thirty years have passed since they last appeared on television, Binkley and Doinkel are still revered today, and remain an integral part of the fabric of uniquely Canadian safety characters such as Astar, Blinky and Elmer who helped kids at the time better understand the dangerous world in which they lived. Fans of the unforgettable green duo will be glad to know that they are still on Earth, living in harmony with their creator Noreen Young amongst her vast cadre of Canadian puppets, safe from the dangers of poison, explosive, corrosive and flammable materials.
Special thanks to JC Sulzenko and Noreen Young
Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com
Illustrator Darren Booth thinks that Joe Carter was the fucking man in the 1992 and 1993 World Series.
One of 30 local artists selected to execute the design of a handcrafted bat for Garrison Creek Batting Co.'s Season Opener on Wednesday night, Booth evoked Toronto's baseball glory days. In his commissioned piece "Joe F'n Carter," Booth honoured the home team and two-time World Series champions by painting his Garrison Creek bat that bright shade of "Toronto blue." The hand-lettering expert then declared his thoughts in the Jays official font directly on the bat:
"Joe F'n Carter."
Ranging from topical to clever to potentially lethal, bats just like Booth's became art pieces at this exhibition and charity auction, an annual event that combines baseball, beer and art to celebrate the anniversary of Toronto's only boutique bat company. The event, held at Steam Whistle Brewery, kicked off the start of the baseball season for the art world and served as a charity function, giving back to the community with the auctioning of a Garrison Creek wooden bat signed by the Toronto Blue Jays during their Florida spring training camp.
It has been a year since we spoke with Dave Murray, Ryan Christiani and C.R. Fieldhouse, the founders of the Garrison Creek Bat Company. Returning for a second season, they've stuck to what worked for them the first time around: they sourced design ideas and decorative concepts from local artist friends, giving them each a bat with one simple instruction: create. And what these artists created offer unconventional ways of looking at North America's favourite pastime.
Most, like Erin McPhee and Darryl Graham, threw an amusing spin on baseball terminology and folklore. McPhee's "Sweet Spot" circled that exact place where cracking a hardball always sounds best. Graham's "7th Inning Stretch" showed off the artist's typography skills with 18 different fonts rolling out the lyrics to "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." GCBC co-founder Dave Murray later told me that Graham's bat proved to be most popular of the evening. At $400, this was a steep price that many were willing to pay for a piece that lacks pragmatism. The delicacy of the artwork on most of these art pieces implied that their destiny was to end up on collectors' walls.
Other bats were clever — Dan Rocca's "untitled (humerus)" was a bone shaped like a bat (and not the other way around) while Lauren Reed's "Impractical Bat" held a circular lightbulb at the end — while some were downright dangerous or terrifying (these included a glass champagne flute bat with a bottle of bubbly on the end, Speakeasy Tattoo's "Flesh Horn," a flesh-coloured bat covered in eight sharp horns, and Jacqui Oakely's sculptural bird mask bat).
The artists were picked for their vision and range of meaning they attached to the baseball bats, Murray says. "They're people who are really excited about what Garrison Creek Bat Co. is doing," he assures, but "they were chosen because they had an interest in working on a non-traditional surface."
The event raised $1000 for Jays Care Foundation, the charitable organization that connects underprivileged children with their baseball idols while eliminating barriers to sports and education.
You can catch the exhibit at Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner Boulevard) until April 30th.
Photos by Denise McMullin
Toronto Food Events rounds up the most delicious events: festivals, pop-ups, winemaker dinners, supper clubs and other food related happenings in Toronto this week and next. You can find us here every Friday morning.
Photo from Dubon Chicken's Facebook Page