Tag Archives: favourites

On restaurants loved and lost: Harvey’s on Bloor Street in Toronto

Can you be abandoned by a restaurant? If it is me, it’s the Harvey’s that was on Bloor in the 1980s.  I used to go there and get my favourite, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with mayo and pickle on the side. (Still my favourite thing to get at Harvey’s). I loved sitting in the front window and look over U of T’s Varsity Field.  When I was in my 20s I used to joke with my gf that when I was in my 60s I would still be coming here and eating the same sandwich and sitting in the same spot.

Times change and streets change, especially in Toronto. That area is now filled with condos. It’s nice and I still like the area, but I miss that Harvey’s. I’m much closer to my 60s than my 20s and I would love to be able to fulfill the need. Guess I will have to go to Okonomi House instead. 🙂

(Image via a link to this good piece on the History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet (also in the image above, from the blog Historic Toronto)

P.S. Okonomi House is the same as it was in the 1980s. I hope it never closes. Click on the link and order from it if you can.

On restaurants loved and lost: Brothers

Brothers Restaurant Toronto

It’s Valentine’s Day, a good day to write a love letter to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Brothers.

Brothers is a restaurant that should not have worked. Crowded between the entrance of the Bay Street subway and a downtown mall, there was barely room for anyone. One table in the window, a midsized bar, and a few tables in the back. Amongst all that a kitchen the size of a big closet nestled in a corner. It should not have worked, but in the short time it was around, it worked wonderfully.

You realized it was special when you first walked in, and I walked in often. I worked nearby, and whenever I needed a treat, I would wander over and sit at the bar and have lunch. I went so often that Chris who ran the front of place would warmly greet me after a time. (Later, as the place became extremely popular, Chris would sadly greet me after a time to tell me there was no room. It got so bad — for me, not them —  that I ended up scheduling lunch at 2ish just in the hopes of  getting a spot.)

While the service, atmosphere, and location were all great, what had me come back again and again was the food. The food was superb. I would take the hearty bread they offered and wipe down the plate to get every bit of it. The cooking was precise, simple and stellar. I loved to get something like sausage served with beans or vegetables and accompanied by a well chosen sauce. I’d take my time to slowly eat it, trying to appreciate and understand why it was so good. It was as much a cerebral as it was a sensory experience.

I would ask Chris about their tomato sauce or their green sauce, and he would tell me how they experimented with the amount of dairy or herb or whatever ingredient was in it to make the dish just right. And just right it was.

Most of the time I would get their sausage dish. The meat would change in the sausage, but it was always expertly balanced with seasoning. At first they may have been traditionally shaped, but later they were puck shaped. I loved that, and I loved them.

Sausage was not the only thing they excelled at. Pastas were always handmade, cooked to just the right texture, then served with a sauce better than any pasta sauce I ever had. Carpaccio was thin slices of whatever was appropriate for the season and accompanied with a light, lively dressing. The beef carpaccio was one of my favorite. They once said they could teach anyone to make it, but I doubt that. Fish, salad, dessert: whatever they made, they made well, listed it on their minimal menus, and I was happy and lucky to have it.

Brothers wasn’t around long, and in the time it was around, it lived three lives. The first was before the New York Times wrote about it, the second was after that article, and the third was the pandemic. Before the Times article, it was not too hard to get a seat there. They didn’t even take reservations. After the Times article, it was very hard to get in. There were weeks when I could not get a spot at the bar.  It got so busy they went with a reservation system. It slowed down a bit, but it was always popular.

Until the pandemic occurred. That was their last life. They tried to pivot to take out, and I did a curbside pickup of a wonderful meal from them. In the end they decided they didn’t want to be that kind of place and closed it down.

Lots of places have gone due to the pandemic. Some of them would have gone regardless. Not Brothers. If there was no pandemic, I am sure it would still be running, still sliding plates of that chewy soft bread and warm mixed olives and perfectly cooked food for me and you to delight in. I am going to miss many places because of the pandemic, but I think I will miss Brothers most of all.

(From more on it, see the New York Times article, or this blogTO piece. Images from the blogTO piece.

Check out their old web site. It’s simple but smart, just the way it used to be.

Finally this Google link will show you a wealth of photos for the place.)

 

From the ridiculous to the sublime, musically, and places in between

Checking out music on the Transbuddha web site the other night, I came across this!

Yes, not only is Jesus your friend, apparently he is also a Mountie. Okie-dokie, then. That’s the ridiculous. (And likely a comedy sketch, but still….)

As I was listening to it, I thought, hmmm…that sounds like Ranking Full Stop from the English Beat. Of course it’s also on YouTube.

While there are some differences, it is very similar! So, first song, very bad. But it got me listening to something better. And checking out that, I started thinking of their good cover of the classic Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song, Tears of a Clown. So I looked it up, and I came across this:

So, from the ridiculous to the sublime in a few minutes.

As a aside, I thought: man, the Miracles were a pretty subdued group of dancers. I did a check on the Pips, the Temptations and even the Jackson 5, and while all those groups were looser than Smokey’s backups, they were still more focused on singing and not so much on (lipsynching and) dancing.

I also think Justin Timberlake stole this look for his “Lovestoned/I think she knows” video. You can see it here:

Feminism and Aliens

I remember when I first watched Aliens, I was taken by how the movie flew by, even at 2+ hours. It was thrilling.
I thought about it later and how well it was made. We had already seen the Alien in the first movie, which was a great cross of the genres of science-fiction and horror films. James Cameron made a different movie by crossing the genres of war film and horror film with Aliens. This was interesting in itself. But he also did another interresting thing: he explored the notions of feminism within the film, or at least, the bonds between mother and daughter. (Just like he explored the notion of Father and Son in Terminator 2.) Cameron is not Renoir or Bergman, but Arnold might not have been joking when during the “Titantic” Oscar he joked about starring in Cameron’s “art films”.

The other interesting thing is the juxaposition between maternalism and the action film genre. The contrast gives the films punch. I am sure Camille Paglia would approve. 🙂 See:

As Andrew Sullivan said, one of the best movie lines ever.

Where Karl Lagerfeld Lives

When I first saw this article in the New Yorker, I thought it was going to be about his apartment in Paris! And in a way, it was. But the subtitle, “In the Now”, describes where Lagerfeld really lives.

I used to have a poor opinion of KL, but after reading the article, I was impressed by his energy, drive and imagination.

See the article here: Profiles: In the Now: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

It’s a sad and beautiful world, indeed

The next time you are in a (good) video store, try and rent “Down by Law”. It is smart and funny and very cool. It’s been ages since I have seen it, but it still has stayed with me all this time. It has great lines , great scenes and great music. Check out the trailer for a taste:

YouTube – Down By Law – Theatrical Trailer

Such Great Heights or The Genius of the Postal Service

I have been impressed by this song and the video that goes with it (there is a yearning in the woman’s eyes, and a symbolic Victorian suppressed sexuality to it, I think): YouTube – the postal service – such great height

How great is the video? Well, Apple, who has known to make pretty good commercials, thought it was good enough to steal. The proof is here:

YouTube – Apple – Intel vs. Postal Service

While the video is great, the song is superb too. Here are too very different versions, showing the potential of the song:

Iron and Wine’s Version

Ben Fold’s Version