Tag: Queen West

Sexy Queen

The Valentine’s Day sillies are upon us once more. As a singleton who’s never really experienced the “romantic” connotations of the Hallmark Holiday, I take the whole thing in stride and tend to draw associations instead with the sticky-sweet days of childhood. Heart-shaped cookies and finger-staining candies, along with cut-outs and tacky cards -that’s Valentine’s Day to me.

There’s a tremendous pressure on female singletons, particularly in North America, where V-Day is taken quite seriously. (That, incidentally, is culturally interesting; I don’t recall the same kind of pressure when I lived in Dublin and London, but then, back then I romanticized everything, turning every day into a kind of maudlin V-Day fest, complete with sappy poetry, long dresses, and plenty of chest-heaving for so-close-so-far Byronic, tortured-artist-lovers. Oh, youth…) Year-round Valentine pressure is everywhere in popular culture: witness the phenomenons of Bridget Jones, Sex And the City, and any number of treacly pop hits.

Lastnight’s episode of 30 Rock featured a defensive Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) trying to find someone to give her a ride post an impending dental surgery. The snag? The surgery fell on Valentine’s Day. In the great tradition of ladies who doth protest too much, the indefatigable Liz huffed and puffed about in hilarious, if equally sad, fashion, loudly proclaiming her independence. Only later, deep in the throes of whirling post-surgery hallucinations, did she acknowledge that she wanted to be loved. It got me thinking: do women need Valentine’s Day to assert their desire for love and acceptance? Following that, do men need the pressure of what V-Day represents to show these things? It all feels deeply unfair -and stupid.

The Toronto-based Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair blends like childlike whimsy with a decidedly adult ethos. As its name implies, the fair is a celebration of sex, but not in that tawdry, vulgar way as paraded around so many so-called “professional” conferences. The fair, on since 2007 and founded by members of the excellent Come As You Are, is Canada’s only craft fair dedicated to romantic, sexual, and erotic expression, and features a variety of crafts -not just rude knitwear and dildos (though they’re presented too, if you’re interested). Books, buttons, jewellery, corsets, slippers and one cleverly-named change-purse feature as well.

Along with being a fun way of celebrating sexuality, the fair also serves as a great way of connecting people -including many single women, who come in nervous and sometimes shy, and leave, laughing. There’s no pressure for coupledom, and the whimsical, fun feel of the fair imbues a kind of fun, carnival-esque atmosphere. Also, the event nicely builds community through the sharing of artistic ability, something vitally important in the Queen Street West area (which is rapidly becoming a bourgeois hipster haven, eeek). If you’re in the neighbourhood tomorrow (February 13th), pop in the Gladstone Hotel anytime between 12 and 8pm. Single or coupled, I guarantee you’ll walk out with a smile.

Yummy Humpday

No sooner had I posted a blog mentioning the Gladstone Hotel’s Harvest Wednesdays’ Tasting Evenings than I received an invite for one of their HW prix fixe meals. Aww! May the wonders of the web never cease! (Note to publicists who think the web isn’t legit media: think again.)

Set in the hotel’s casually-grandiose left-side bar & dining area, the meal was what I’d consider a culmination of the tasting evening I’d experienced a few weeks back. That is to say that it was full-service, full-size meals, instead of little tidbits on trays, with everything inspired by locally-grown ingredients and seasonal availability. the Gladstone Hotel is actively involved with Chick-a-Biddy Acres, an organization devoted to community-shared agriculture, as well as a number of other local, sustainable, organically-minded businesses.

Now, I’d had a very long day, and had recently come from a tiring dance class. Frankly -and I know this will be shocking for some of you to read -I’d been too busy yesterday (and indeed most of this week) to sit down to a proper, adult meal. For me, that’s tantamount to sacrilege. I love eating, and I love cooking, and I’ve not made time for either much of late. So I was really craving a good, balanced, decent adult meal -the sorts of life-giving qualities only such an experience can provide. Greater than merely satisfying a physical need, but providing nourishment to a spiritual one as well. I’m happy to report that is exactly what Chef Marc Breton and his team gave me. Mmmm.

The meal kicked off with two starts -the first, a yummy vegetarian wrap with tofu, veggies, and mint. Its combination of crunch and soft was sensuously satisfying, and the cider-maple and mustard dip that accompanied it wasn’t too overpowering but provided a sweet zing that complemented the bland smoothness of the tofu (organic and non-GMO, provided by Ying Ying Soy Foods, the menu tells me). It was the lightest, most fresh kind of appetizer, the perfect palette-prep for the heavier qualities of the second appetizer, a delicious zuccini salad. Its gorgeous feathery courgettes -green and yellow -were sliced paper-thin and ribboned like feathery jewels against buttery pieces of Niagara prosciutto (yum) and the lot was lightly dressed with a chive-yogurt concoction that wound its way around the tongue slowly, counterbalancing rich and light simultaneously.

For the main course, there was a choice of Eggplant and Mozzarella Croquettes with new potatoes and ramps, or Arctic Char with potato/chard gallettes. I don’t get enough fish in my diet, so I opted for the latter, but was a bit shocked when it was brought, head and all, to the table. I know, I know, the head attached is a sign of freshness, blahblahblah. But fishhead-whilst-dining-at-the-end-of-a-long-day is where my squeamish girlie-hood becomes obvious. I demurely sliced said head onto a sideplate and turned it round, allowing my dinner companion to be given the char-stare through her own meal. Lucky her.

The fish, sustainably farmed by Jim Giggie in Tottenham, Ontario (again, the menu tells me so), was utterly gorgeous: moist, flaky, succulent and sweet. It sat in a wonderfully unctuous sorrel beurre blanc that proved the perfect swampy pool in which to soak, sop and greedily devour the accompanying crispy galettes. But carby flights of fancy aside, the char was the real star. If I could find fish like this anywhere, at any given time, I might eat more of it. Sides were shared -a heaping plate of lemon-glazed steamed veg, including broccoli, carrots, green beans and baby beets -all luscious in their colourful freshness and delicate shapes (though I confess to wishing for more of the latter). The song I heard upon consuming said piece of Arctic char was my happy, previously-very-hungry tummy singing.

Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, dessert glasses filled with moist Blackforest Trifle were presented, complete with sour cherries on top and luscious layers of real whipped cream. Gorgeous, if very rich, especially after the fish. The prior dishes -two appetizers, plus amuse bouches beforehand -were well-stacked so as to be just satisfying enough for the healthy indulgence of the main course; our appetites sated, serving such a sweet, Fredericks-Of-Hollywood-style piece at the finish seemed a bit askew. But what do I know? I’m not a dessert person. It was a tasty little treat, and went nicely with my pinot gris, part of the flight of wines I ordered to pair with each course. Starting off was a Pellar Estates Rose Private Reserve VQA, then Flatrock Chardonnay (again VQA) to match the fish, and finally the Flat Rock Pinot Noir (VQA) to finish. Each was a really well-chosen match that provided me with another avenue in my ever-growing mental city of foodie-ism, even if I’m not sure it’ll make me a fan of Niagara wines in the longrun.

The Gladstone is holding their yummy Harvest Wednesday prix fixe dinners nearly every Wednesday through to October. They’re $35 -which is super-cheap considering a/ it’s Queen West; b/ it’s all ethical, so you can feel good about yourself for eating it, & c/ you get a whacking heap of beautifully-prepared, lovingly-grown/raised food. Oh, and it’s a really lovely atmosphere too -no loud blaring music or bustling atmosphere, but rather, a calm, soothing room with warm wooden flourishes and flickering tealights. Chef Marc Breton even comes around later to chat. Aww. Talk about the perfect way to end a frenzied hump-day.

Playing On The Patio

Here’s a collection of photos from a recent visit I made to one of my favourite patios in Toronto, The Drake Hotel‘s Sky Yard Patio.

Situated on the second floor overlooking the buzzy Queen Street West strip, the patio is taking on a ‘camp’ theme this year (camp as in cabins, not drag queens). I love the Drake generally because it’s gotten over being the “hipster” place (at least during the week -weekends it’s still invaded by wannabe-hipsters from the ‘burbs) and the service is really friendly. So, going with the Camp Drake theme, there’s a bear at the downstairs cafe (not real, duh) and they’ve hung up an old canoe for Sky Yarders sans cottages (like me) to gaze at. Servers wear neat-o “Camp Drake” stylized tees.

While it all sounds hokey, it isn’t. And the food -and wine selection -makes it a perfect place to wile away a late Friday afternoon, fooling with the camera, chatting with friends, celebrating wonderful new connections, and… playing. 🙂 Enjoy.

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