Wednesday, March 26, 2008

vintage maclean's ad of the day

Vintage Ad #471: Lions Like Molson Golden
John and Mary Haines often smiled at each other whenever Dr. Frank Jones and Professor Morris Goldie came over to play checkers. They knew that Frank tended to down one too many bottles of Molson Golden, causing him to visualize Morris's wild mane of hair, well-trimmed beard and dignified bearing as the features of a lion. Morris won 95% of the matches, but Frank didn't mind as long as the professor provided literary odes to their favourite beer.

Source: Maclean's, April 16, 1955. 

Monday, March 24, 2008

sign o' the times and tales of demolished pizza joints

High Collision Intersection
Lots of things happening here lately (night school, outings on the town, Easter with the family), hence the lack of entries over the past week. Luckily I've managed to avoid major collisions, though I may have served as an obstacle at a crowded gallery opening late last week (photos here).

I also avoided spinning into other vehicles during a sudden snow storm on the drive home for Easter - flurries started around Tecumseh, then the sky opened up a few kilometres from home on a road surrounded by deep ditches. Cue white knuckles on the driver's wheel.

Old Man Winter is starting to resemble the party guest who doesn't know when to leave.


Another part of my childhood is vanishing. A recent post on International Metropolis spotlights the demolition of a long-vacant Mother's Pizza in downtown Windsor.

We ate at Mother's regularly as kids, partly because it was family-friendly, partly because Mom loved the cinnamon ice cream served with apple pie. There were at least two locations in Windsor, though we usually went to the downtown location over the the east side branch on Tecumseh Road (it was out near Lauzon Parkway I think - can any readers verify where that one was?). While IM indicates Mother's was in operation until the early 90s, I don't recall. Perhaps the quality sank and we never bothered to go. Not that there was a shortage of places in Windsor to dine on pizza and Italian delights...

I don't recall the neighbouring building as a furniture store, but its Mac's phase coincided with the period when Dad and I regularly visited the main branch of the Windsor Public Library across the street. Dad browsed the book sale room while I hung out in the Arts and Sports sections, filling my insatiable need for knowledge about old movies and long-dead baseball players. Two things ended this: the implementation of user fees for borrowers who lived outside the city and a battle we lost with the library over the a book they claimed we damaged but had been in a warped state when I borrowed it. To this day, I avoid library books with any hint of water damage or excessive numbers of pages falling out.

Photo taken on Old Scugog Road, Hampton, February 16, 2008 - JB

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

revisiting the queen street fire site

Queen Street Fire Site, March 13, 2008 (1)
Following up on a story from a couple of weeks ago, the site of the fire on Queen Street east of Bathurst, as it looked last week. Slightly spooky effect from the snow that has accumulated on the emptied site.

Photo taken March 13, 2008 - JB

Friday, March 14, 2008

a seat at the kitchen table (1)

There are birthday dinners. And then there are birthday dinners.

A friend who I regularly dine out with decided that for her birthday this year, she wanted to have an evening that mixed good food and entertainment. Her choice was Colborne Lane, a downtown restaurant known for dabbling in molecular gastronomy. Anything with a term like that applied to it is enough to pique my curiousity, so I quickly accepted the invite. It may also have marked the first time I would ever eat at a spot reviewed by the New York Times.

We ordered the Kitchen Table tasting menu, a 15-course sampler of the kitchen's wizardry. Among the seating options is a small room in the basement next to the kitchen, which we reserved to be close to the action.

A Window to the Kitchen
A window allowed us to see into the prep area, with half-a-dozen or so chefs carefully constructing dishes. The dessert chef was directly in front of us and we occasionally made faces or mimed questions for her. The room itself consisted a table for six (there were four in our group) with a wall of spices in the back. We assured they were labelled, but we kept pulling out the wrong ones.

After finishing off our cocktails, the parade of courses began. Note that course descriptions are not 100% accurate, as we lost track of all of the ingredients placed in front of us.

Dish 1
Dish 1: At first glance, it looked like a cherry tomato with bubbles. We looked at each other in slight disbelief, our eyes asking "this is it?" Turned out to be the first curveball of the evening, a carrot gel with ginger foam. This played havoc with our minds, as our brains wanted to believe we were dealing with a tiny red salad garnish.

Dish 2, On Ice
Dish 2: Next came a block of ice with a small crater carved into the top. Inside was tuna sashimi, ginger caviar, frozen soy sauce powder, radish, yuzu, crispy garlic and shiso. We oohhhed, we ahhhed, we dug in. I found the frozen soy interesting in a sweet/salty vein. All the ingredients were delicate and extremely tasty.

Two dishes in and we knew it was going to be a fun meal.

Dish 3 Dish 4
Dish 3 (left): Cheddar soup with peeled grapes and seasoned pear was light and flavourful, managing to avoid going down like a heavy weight. Jokes ensued about the job description of anyone hired specifically to peel grapes.

Dish 4 (right): The first of the evening's seafood dishes, a tender, perfectly-cooked scallop accompanied by crunchy fried shallots (French's fried onions they weren't) and frozen pearls of creme fraiche.

Dish 5
Dish 5: Squid with 40 seasonings, accompanied by caramelized peanut, asian pear, chinese sausage and mango sauce. We all agreed it was the least rubbery squid we had ever tasted.

Dish 6
Dish 6: Beets, beets and more beets. I have never been a fan of beets and this plate, while elegantly constructed, did nothing to change my opinion. The beet sponge was universally regarded as the lowlight of the meal, a noble experiment that didn't quite work - think beet-flavoured Nerf tennis ball. For my tastebuds, the saving grace was a goat cheese fritter. The chef later explained it was an experiment that he didn't expect to be a smashing success but was fun to create. I will give marks for the presentation, especially the thin strip of beet cellophane (maybe other veggies would be more agreeable done Fruit Roll-Up style).

Dish 7
Dish 7: The next course made up for the beets. Back on track with each course tasting better than the one before it, this plate consisted of black cod with a miso glaze, crispy tapioca, greens and a sesame panna cotta.

We all took a bite of the cod. Orgasmic sounds followed.

To use the immortal words of Linda Richman, "it was like buttah." The fish quickly melted in my mouth, an extremely pleasurable experience. Comments like "best fish I've ever tasted" were not uncommon around the table.

Dish 8, Intermezzo
Dish 8: At the halfway point we were presented the intermezzo, a glass containing sorbet, lemon curd, vanilla pearls, pomelo (which we debated the proper pronunciation of) and a "surprise". We figured the latter referred to the pink flecks in the glasses, which we soon discovered fizzed in our mouths.

The waiter revealed the surprise was cherry and watermelon Pop Rocks.

We tested the urban legend about the result of combining Pop Rocks, fizzy drinks (champagne in our case) and human tissue. I am pleased to report than none of us exploded.

The remaining courses will be served in Part 2. - JB

Thursday, March 13, 2008

vintage national home monthly ad of the day

Vintage Ad #494: Prem - The Canned Meat with Tender Beef Added!
Instant meat loaves covered in tangy orange marmalade or alien pods waiting to be hatched (with the buttered almond-topped cauliflower hiding the central brain)?


Unlike other tinned meats previously featured on this site, I have eaten Prem. Growing up, it was the usual Spam knockoff found in the basement cupboard. I never was a great fan of the stuff, with my canned protein tastes running towards flakes of ham or Cordon Bleu/Paris Pate meat spreads.

Once I hit my teens, Prem vanished from the dinner table.

Source: National Home Monthly, July 1947 - JB

Monday, March 10, 2008

vintage rolling stone ad of the day

Vintage Ad #458: The Dual 1249
Wecolme to the sound of my childhood, or at least a related model. A Dual turntable was the core of our stereo system until the early 1990s, surviving nearly two decades worth of needles and skippy Russian classical albums. I wasn't allowed to use it for years, due to an occasional habit of scratching records on the Fisher-Price turntable in my bedroom.

I don't remember when we replaced it - it may have survived a short period after I moved in grade 9 before we gave into the march of technology and purchased a Technics system with turntable, dual tape deck and CD player. Parts of the old stereo system, including dusty beige speakers, may have made their way to Dad's newspaper-sorting room at the high school.

Source: Rolling Stone, May 20, 1976 - JB

Sunday, March 09, 2008

bank on bankette

Bankette (1)

Bankette was one of the earliest ATM-style machines to operate in Canada. It was launched following tests of bank machines in the US and UK during the late 1960s and the introduction of a twenty-four hour cash dispenser by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in 1969. This magazine insert explains the wonders of this latest form of modern technology. Readers are dared to see if the application form still works.

Bankette (2)

Bankette (3)

Bankette (4)

Bankette (5)

Source: Saturday Night, August 1972 - JB

Thursday, March 06, 2008

seventies snapshot of the ambassador bridge

Ambassador Bridge at Sunset, early 1970s
The sun is just a dot in the sky next to the Ambassador Bridge in today's selection. The dirt path on the Windsor side is now paved and part of the city's riverfront recreation path. This stretch of green space is also the present home of the Odette Sculpture Park.

Driving over the Ambassador Bridge may cause some confusion for the next year-and-a-half, thanks to a massive construction project that will allow direct access to its neighbouring freeways. I was in the area on the last day the surrounding stretch of I-75 was open and local radio stations were treating the upcoming closure in the same breathless tone as a severe winter storm ("HOW WILL YOU GET TO WORK ON MONDAY?"). Despite some tricky manoeuvring, unless massive backups result the bridge will remain my usual route to Motown for the time being. I'm more than willing to wait a few more minutes for goodies from Mexicantown.

The church steeples to the right belong to St. Anne Roman Catholic Church, now a part of the National Register of Historic Places. The parish is the second-oldest in the US, established in 1701 at the same time that French adventurer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac founded the settlement that evolved into Detroit. The current set of neo-gothic buildings date from 1886.

Picture taken by my father sometime in the early-to-mid 1970s - JB

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

i'm picking up 401 vibrations

While I've spent a good deal of time driving along 401, exploring its underside usually means waiting for a traffic light to change. I suspect the psychogeographers were overdue for a look underneath Toronto's busiest road, as we did during last week's trek along a northern stretch of the Don River.

The Loneliest Info To Go In The City?
One of the first stops was a lonely Info-to-Go pillar near Auberge du Pommier. Seems like an odd location, unless there was high demand from those walking through the valley, motorists whose broken-down vehicles barely made it off the 401 or smokers looking for reading material on a dinner break. From here we wandered down into the Don Valley Golf Course, which sees more pawprints than tees during the winter.

Official City of Toronto Conditions of Play for Golf
The official city rules on how to behave while playing golf. At least the shirt restriction isn't so narrow that only polo shirts are allowed, as has been the case on my few outings to the fairway.

Walking through the course wasn't a problem, as previous walkers compacted the snow enough to form unofficial trails that led us under Highway 401.

Planks By the Highway In Between Bridges
Four bridges carry 401 over the Don, the oldest dating from the late 1920s. The eastbound express lanes were originally the northern extension of Yonge Boulevard, which was designed to bypass periodic flooding on Yonge Street in Hogg's Hollow. We noticed a clearing in between the eastbound bridges that led up to the freeway and carefully walked up the slope. Bundles of planks leftover from last year's reconstruction of the Yonge Street exit came in handy in steep spots. At the top, we felt strong vibrations from passing trucks and wondered if we were visible enough to cause any head scratching.

To Matty B.
We then poked around the underside of the freeway and discovered a catwalk (lurking in the background of this picture). All of us hopped on and walked a short distance before discovering the railing only went so far. One brave/dashing/foolhardy soul didn't let this hinder him as he pressed forward, while the rest of us walked back down to the river.

The Booth Under the Bridge Drums Galore
Under the bridge, we found scattered remnants of the construction project. Our daring catwalker soon rejoined us from a successful trek across, though the vibrations from above had forced him to crawl along some sections.

A Monument to Doggy Poo
After a few moments of contemplation, we continued through the northern section of the golf course. We pitied the poor city employee who would need to clean the overflowing pile of plastic bags filled with doggie-doo. A fence separating the links from parklands to the north caused half the group to backtrack in search of an opening, rather than testing the limits of their clumsiness by falling into the Don.

Earl Bales Ski Run (1)
We left the valley via the freshly-groomed ski hill at Earl Bales Park. The hike back up proved steeper than expected - each step near the top felt as if I had walked up nine flights of stairs, complete with raw throat feeling. A bus ride back to Yonge Street and a drink at a nearby pub allowed time to recover.

All pictures taken February 28, 2008 - JB

Saturday, March 01, 2008

words of wisdom from a bookstore sign

Camus Will Do...
Washtenaw Avenue, Ypsilanti, Michigan. Photo taken while waiting for a traffic light to change, February 23, 2008 - JB