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Nuit Blanche 2013, Bathurst and Bloor charette, Eden Smith’s own house, the Bathurst bendy bus, and more this week in the neighbourhood | October 4, 2013

In Arrivals & Departures, Coming events, Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, The West Annex, This week in the neighbourhood on October 4, 2013 at 12:05 AM
The Four Corners of Bathurst and Bloor charette will be hosted by Councillors Layton and Vaughan on October 5th

The Four Corners of Bathurst and Bloor community charette, hosted by Councillors Layton and Vaughan, October 5, 2013, 1 to 4PM at Central Technical School. | Image credit bottom left photo: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, item 1043, April 3, 1911; all others West Annex News.

By West Annex News | Here’s what’s happening this week in and around the neighbourhood.

The Four Corner of Bathurst and Bloor Community Charette, Saturday, October 5, 2013, 1PM, Central Technical School, 725 Bathurst Street. From the public notice:Now that the future of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village are up for debate, it is even more important to set out a vision for the four corners of Bathurst and Bloor. There are many sites at this corner that may become development sites in the next decade and we need to be prepared as a community to define how we want our neighbourhoods to grow.”

Prepare for the charette by reading Putting the CON in Consultation“. This indispensable guide tells you the tricks and techniques developers and city planners use when they want to mute your voice in working groups, visioning studies and other so-called community consultations. [Dooney’s Cafe]

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011

Nuit Blanche Toronto starts Saturday, October 5 at 6:51PM

Nuit Blanche 2013, from sunset (6:51PM) Saturday, October 5 to sunrise the next morning. It’s the big one: Nuit Blanche 2013, Toronto’s annual free, city-wide sunset-to-sunrise celebration of contemporary art. All the major city blogs–[blogTO] [Now] [The Grid] [Torontoist]–have good guides to the most highly touted events. But here are some local events that deserve some love:

  • Convergence North at Spadina House, 285 Spadina Road. An array of interactive light sculpture installations along a path created through the five-acre grounds of the Spadina Museum.
  • Nothing is Better at the Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor Street West. Synchronized multi-screen video, music, sound, live performance. A thought-provoking and amusing science musical documentary and allegorical journey from the city’s outskirts to its heart of darkness.
  • Art meets Chess at Wychwood Barns, Chess pieces created by artist Blandford Gates out of recycled metal will be re used to recreate the Game of the Century, game 5 in the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972.  See video below to learn more.

The Pottery and Glass Show at Artscape Wychwood BarnsSaturday and Sunday, October 5 & 6, 2013, 8AM to 5PM: This juried show and sale showcases the best of Ontario’s glass and clay artists. Admission is free.

Eden Smith's home at 267 Indian Road | Image credit Google Street View

Eden Smith’s home at 267 Indian Road | Image credit Google Street View

For the architourist, Eden Smith’s own house is for sale for $1,169,000. The Century 21 listing says the c. 1896 home at 267 Indian Road home was the prototype for Smith’s Art & Crafts/English Cottage style. [Built Heritage News].

Harbord Village is being lauded for its laneway-naming project which has reminded the community of its history. [YongeStreet]

The TTC’s new Bombardier bendy bus was in Bathurst station today for a test run from the TTC’s Hillcrest complex. While the buses are generally receiving favourable reviews, the routes they serve will see a cut in the frequency of bus service to offset the new bus’ increased rider capacity. [Torontoist]

Kops Records’ Annex location opened last weekend at 592 Bloor West  (formerly Markus Fashion). This continues a trend: interesting new shops are bypassing the West Annex stretch of Bloor east of Bathurst in favour of Koreatown. [BlogTO]

"Before the last supper . . . they at brunch" says Big Crow's Anthony Rose | Image credit Rose and Sons Big Crow

“Before the last supper . . . they ate brunch” says Big Crow’s Anthony Rose | Image credit Rose and Sons Big Crow

Anthony Rose’s Big Crow (in the back of 176 Dupont Street, the former People’s Foods) is opening for brunch on weekends starting October 5th. Brunch hours are 11AM to 3PM, Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu is here.

Theh west field of Sibelius Square is closed yet again for soil decompacting and re-sodding.

The west field of Sibelius Square is closed yet again for soil de-compacting and re-sodding.

The playing field at Sibelius Square is out of commission. Again. The $1 million plus park renovation in 2012 made the field’s drainage problem worse, not better. Councillor Vaughan’s constituency assistant Areej Hasso reports that city staff is blaming soil compaction, not a design flaw. Staff says they de-compacted the soil before laying new sod on October 3rd. No word on when play can resume on the field.

And oh yeah, there was that rat article. They’re on the rise in the Annex. Your green lifestyle may be partly to blame. [thestar.com]

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Related posts:

Last week in the neighbourhood

Nuit Blanche 2012: West Annex News presents Fortifications for Small Worlds

Jean Sibelius Square Park official re-opening

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The wrap for June 9, 2012 | Goodbye People’s Foods, hello Famoso Pizzeria and Barton Snacks . . .

In Arrivals & Departures, Coming events, Eating & Drinking, The West Annex, This week in the neighbourhood on June 9, 2012 at 9:05 AM

The charming Barton Snacks at the south east corner of Bathurst and Barton, one block north of Bloor. Finally, somewhere to get indie coffee after 6PM in the Annex.

By West Annex News | Here’s what’s  been happening lately in and around the neighbourhood and on the Web:

New additions to the deadpool: After 50 years, Annex diner People’s Food is folding due to a rent increase [blogTO], while Kromer Radio is closing after 55 years in business. While Kromer told The Grid they’re closing just because they’re tired, an application for a height and usage variance by the new land-owners RioCan suggests that development pressures were the real culprit. Openfile reports that RioCan’s application was turned down by the Committee of Adjustments, but the developer is expected to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Green sprouts: The tiny but charming Barton Snacks  is cheering up the south-east corner of Bathurst and Barton with espresso-based coffee drinks and premium products like ice cream from Maypole Dairy and healthy(-ish) potato chips prepared with avocado oil and reduced sodium. Manager Chris Sherwood tells us that he’ll also be serving hotdogs. The Snack is open 8AM to 10PM Monday to Friday, and 11AM to 10PM Saturday and Sunday. Finally, a place to get indie coffee after 6PM in the Annex.

And genuine Neapolitan pizza is coming to the Bloor-West Annex strip, albeit in the form of an Edmonton-based chain Famoso Pizzeria. The owners expect to have the 386 Bloor Street location open by June 21, 2012. The previous tenant was the James Joyce Irish Pub.

Busy weekend: We hope the rain holds off for the Portugal Day Parade and Picnic today. The parade starts at 11AM on Landsdowne at Bloor and then heads down to Dundas Street West for the live music and picnic in Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

If it rains, the wonderful Ring Around the City reminds us that the Raw/Vegan Festival is going on all weekend indoors at 918 Bathurst Street, just north of Barton.

918 Bathurst Street, where the Raw/Vegan Food Festival is being held this weekend

The inaugural Junction Flea market is this Sunday June 10, starting at 9AM, on Dundas Street West, one block east of Keele. If this preview of  The Vintage Cabin’s wares is in any way typical of the quality and prices of the offerings, this is a not-to-be missed event.

Then from 11AM to 6PM Sunday it’s the Annex Festival on Bloor. We’re sad this festival seems less Annex, more the same old travelling road show of vendors that you see over and over again at every Toronto street festivals. But we love the chance to walk on a car-free Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst once a year and enjoy the live music.

Then at 3:30PM Sunday, don’t forget to head over to the Jean Sibelius Square Park official re-opening.

The renewed Jean Sibelius Square Park, 50 Kendal Avenue in the Annex.

Good reads: YongeStreet proposes how Toronto can further densify without more condos in Right up your alley: Can laneway housing provide an antidote to our high-rise growth spurt

Toronto Life has a story about that 83 story condo, the tallest in Canada, that could be coming to the Holt Renfrew Centre on Bloor. Closer to home, the massive condo development including a 40-storey glass condominium planned by the United Church for the Bloor Street United Church at Huron and Bloor has local residents and Councillor Vaughan concerned [The Varsity].

The Dupont Street cycle lanes are probably safe for now despite the plotting of  Ward 17 Councilor and Rob Ford ally Cesar Palacio to get rid of them [openfile].

Ring Around the City is passing on a warning from 14 Division about a hot water scam in the neighbourhood. Two men already face charges.

And the always interesting Atlantic Cities’ website has two recent  articles we enjoyed: Why We Pay More for Walkable Neighbourhoods  and The Evolution of Bike Lanes (cycle tracks anyone?)

Neapolitan pizza in the Annex via Edmonton: Famoso Pizzeria’s big pizza oven has already arrived, readying for the opening at 386 Bloor Street West June 21, 2012

Introducing Guu SakaBar, Guu Izakaya’s new West Annex location

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on February 20, 2011 at 11:16 PM

The unfinished but already jewel box-like tatami room at the front of Guu SakaBar | 559 Bloor Street West.

20 March 2011, 5:20PM update from our Twitter feed: Walked by @GuuSakabar 15 minutes ago and they are indeed finally open, and for probably the only time in their history, there isn’t a line-up–yet.

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By West Annex NewsChowhound first voiced the rumours in July of 2010. By the fall several media outlets confirmed them: Guu Izakaya, the insanely successful Japanese-style pub at 398 Church Street in Toronto is opening a second location at 559 Bloor Street West, in what is now the most eagerly anticipated debut on the Bloor-West Annex strip.

The space, just east of Bathurst, was previously occupied by Burger King, and before that, CFNY Radio’s street-front studio.

559 Bloor Street West's previous incarnation was a Burger King | Screen capture from Google street view

Construction has been ongoing on for many months now, during which time various sites have speculated on the date the Annex Guu will open its doors.

We contacted Hyunsoo Kim, the general manager at Guu Izakaya, who generously invited us in to see the state of the renovations on February 17, 2011.

Although still very much a construction site, the restaurant interior is taking shape.

The sushi bar to the left and the tatami room up front.

Entering the restaurant from the back kitchen entrance, we were immediately attracted to the beautiful tatami room up front, which although only partially finished, already glows like an exquisite jewel box. The many small square port hole-style windows, familiar from the Church Street location, allow twinkling light into the raw quartz-tiled room, and offer glimpses out to Bloor Street. The hardwood floors and textured wooden ceiling tiles give the room a warm glow.

The entranceway off Bloor is a long hall that runs adjacent to the east wall of the tatami room. It has been thoughtfully laid out to provide a large area where patrons can wait in line, sheltered from the outdoors, but separated by a wall from those already seated in the restaurant. Given Guu’s no-reservation policy, admittedly designed to try to keep out demographic undersirables like aging boomers, one suspects that the line-up will continue right out the door and down the laneway that lies to the immediate east of Guu’s building.

The sushi bar, located mid-restaurant on the west wall. The open kitchen is to the left

Right behind the tatami room on the west wall is the sushi bar, finished in rough grey barn-board.

Taking delivery of appliances in Guu SakaBar's gleaming all-stainless open kitchen

Behind the bar in the south-west corner of the building is an open kitchen, already gleaming with its stainless steel walls, and appliances that were just being delivered during out visit.

The main dining room is directly opposite the open kitchen, occupying the south-east corner of the building. It’s now barely roughed-in, and is packed with construction materials and machinery.

We drew this rough, not-to-scale floor plan based on our visit to Guu SakaBar on February 17, 2011

We prepared the sketch, left, of the basic layout of Guu SakaBar after our visit.

Although extremely busy supervising construction and taking delivery of appliances and materials, both General Manager Hyunsoo Kim and manager of the Annex location Natsuhiko Sugimoto were generous with their time answering our questions during the visit. They said the opening is now expected in mid early March 2011. Asked about the menu, Kim said some of the dishes from Church Street will be available in the Annex location, but that they planned “many surprises”, details of which Kim told us, with a smile, that he is saving for the opening.

It was only after we left the premise and inspected the business card that Sugimoto gave us that we noticed that the Annex location is not described as an izakaya restaurant–which in Japan means a cheap and cheerful after-work pub for drinking and snacking while waiting out the worst of rush-hour traffic–but a saka bar. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, in Tokyo at least, saka bars are often a step up in sophistication; more cocktails-and-tapas than pub.

The first Toronto location of this popular Vancouver franchise has polarized Toronto diners. The Church Street spot ranks number 3 on Joanne Kates’ current top ten restaurants in Toronto and number 2 on NOW’s most overrated restaurants.  But a careful review of the comments section of most on-line reviews generally shows raves for the imaginative and well-executed food, but loathing for line-ups for seats of up to two hours.

Maguro tataki: lighly seared BC albacore tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce and garlic chips ($6.80) from Guu Izakaya's Church Street location | photo credit Sifu Renka

This second location should alleviate the line ups somewhat. And line-ups are nothing for habitués of the Bloor-West Annex strip, long-practiced in the art of the line thanks to venues like Lee’s Palace, the Brunswick House, New Generation Sushi and Sushi on Bloor. Guu SakaBar should be a perfect fit for a neighbourhood already obsessed with Japanese food and willing to put in some time to get it.

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See Sifu Renka’s photoset of the food and decor of Guu Izakaya’s Church Street location on Flickr.

In Arrivals & Departures we document the changes in the commercial/retails strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets, and think about these changes in the context of Jane Jacobs’ observation that popularity on retail strips can lead to commercial monocultures, and of Max Fawcett’s thesis that the Annex is un-gentrifying.

See the Arrivals & Departures archive for other articles like this one.

Fanny Chadwick’s is now open at 268 Howland Avenue

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on February 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

By West Annex News | Finally! The wait is over. Fanny Chadwick’s at Howland and Dupont opened its doors the evening of Wednesday, February 16, 2011.

We were given a look inside on Thursday, February 17th, just after the restaurant’s soft opening the night before. The transformation from the space’s last incarnation–AAA Chinese–is remarkable. There are large windows on the north, east and west sides of the restaurant, which allow natural light to flood into the space.  Inside is spacious, comfortable, and contemporary. The medium-brown wooden floors gleam. Comfy booths upholstered with bright, modern, geometric fabric line the walls, and vintage bar stools, upholstered in red leather–restored originals dating back from the days the space was Angelo’s Diner– provide seating around the L-shaped bar.

“The scene tonight @Fanny Chadwick’s” by @foodie411/Joel Solish

Sadly, we can’t show you the photographs we took during of our look inside the restaurant; part-owner Sarah Baxter wanted prior approval before we posted them, approval which she ultimately would not give. So we can only show you this mobile phone photo that @foodie411 (aka Joel Solish) apparently snapped off on opening night and shared on twitpic.

Baxter wouldn’t show us her menu either (although we found it later, also posted by Solish) as she said it was still evolving based on the feedback received during this week’s soft opening. She did share that the menu’s focus will be on seasonal comfort food, sourced locally where possible.  The meat will be from Rowe Farms, the beers from Ontario and Quebec, and the wine international.

An enthusiastic review of the food served the night of the soft opening night can be found on Solish’s Community Foodist website, together with more photographs of various dishes served that night.

111 Howland, where the original Fanny Chadwick lived from 1884 to 1898

As we understand it, Fanny’s will be open for dinner this week, brunch on the weekend, and then open full hours sometime next week. The Fanny Chadwick’s website is still under construction but gives this phone number–416.944.1606–and an email address for information: info@fannychadwicks.com. Regular updates are appearing on Fanny’s Twitter account, @FannyChadwicks.

The restaurant is named after Fanny Chadwick, an illustrious former resident of 111 Howland Avenue. According to Jack Batten in The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, Fanny was born on January 10, 1873, and moved to 111 Howland Avenue at age 11 when her father, a successful senior partner with a prestigious 19th century Toronto law firm, built the enormous home opposite the See House beside St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral.The Chadwicks were Anglicans and committed supporters of the then partially constructed Cathedral.

Memorial window in St. Alban the Martyr Cathedral, 100 Howland Avenue

A gifted writer and actress, Fanny prolifically wrote, produced, and starred in plays which she presented in the living room of the spacious family home, to rave reviews from audiences that included members of Toronto’s working press. Fanny’s output dropped off after her marriage in 1898 and the birth of her son in 1900.  She died in 1905 at the age of 32.  A stained-glass window in the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr at 100 Howland Avenue–across the street from the Chadwick home–commemorates her, donated by her heart-broken father.

Detail of memorial window dedicated to Fanny by her father

Fanny Chadwick’s restaurant is yet another sign that the upper West Annex is transforming itself, and far outpacing the Bloor Street strip to the south for the number of interesting shops, cafes, galleries and restaurant that are opening.


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Also see:

Bert Archer, Venerable Dupont diner gets $250,000 overhaul, transforms into Fanny Chadwick’s”, YongeStreet.

Jack Batten,The Annex: The Story of a Toronto Neighbourhood, 2004, Erin, Boston Mills Press.

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10 March 2011 update (from our Twitter feed):

West Annex News
WestAnnexNews As we have a chef & restaurant owner in our family, we know it’s not fair to review restaurants until they’ve had a few months to sort out.  So we had no intention of mentioning our meal @FannyChadwicks tonight before the Tarragon Theatre. But it was superb – food & service. The seared rainbow trout @FannyChadwicks is incredibly moist & flavourful & the portion size was generous (for the fish and the slice of apple pie).

*20 February 2011: edited this post to add Fanny Chadwick’s phone number, now posted on their website along with the restaurant hours.

*19 February 2011: this post was edited to add the photograph by @foodie411/Joel Solish.  Visit his Community Foodist website.

Arrivals & Departures | Rowe Farms at 468 Bloor Street West: meat for the elite

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on January 28, 2011 at 11:59 PM

Rowe Farms retail store opened at 468 Bloor Street West on January 28, 2011

By West Annex News | After waiting almost a month for their hydro hookup, the Rowe Farms retail store at 468 Bloor Street West finally opened its doors in the West Annex today. Rowe Farms takes over the space vacated by Organics on Bloor in the first half of 2010.

Many in the neighbourhood will be familiar with Rowe Farms meat products from Fiesta Farms and from the Rowe Farms outlet in the north building of St. Lawerence Market. Many do not know however that founder John Rowe sold his operation a few years back. The new ownership is expanding the brand with a string of retail outlets in various family-friendly, upper middle-class neighbourhoods in Toronto, including the Beach, Roncesvalles, Leslieville, and Bloor West Village.

The frozen and refrigerated packaged meat cases, with butcher counter at the rear

While waiting for the opening of the store on the West Annex Bloor strip, we visited the Roncesvalles store, which has a similar floor plan to that of the West Annex shop. It’s an attractive, well-organized space, offering the full selection of Rowe Farms meat, poultry, and prepared meat products like sausages and meat balls.

The outside sign is green, the walls inside are green, and even the shades on the light fixtures are green. Yes, the theme is local and sustainable with an emphasis on animal welfare. Rowe Farms’ slogan is “Quality with a Conscience” and the website recites a farming philosophy of “locally-grown, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, conscientiously-farmed, nitrite-cured (100% nitrate-free)”. Note: while the meat may be all that, the butcher at the Roncesvalles shop acknowledged to us that Rowe Farms products are not organic.

The store also offers a selection of products from other local producers including Organic Meadow dairy products, Anton Kozlick’s Mustards, and eggs, salad greens, and other prepared foods.

The store offers a wide range of Organic Meadow dairy products, like Organics on Bloor before it

In addition to offering frozen and refrigerated packaged meat products in the large coolers that line the sides of the shop, there’s a butcher’s counter at the back, staffed by a real live butcher.

The butcher counter

The West Annex Bloor strip has been without a butcher shop since a rent increase caused the owner of Elizabeth Deli and Meat Market to lock the doors and walked away from her thriving store at 410 Bloor Street West in December of 2005. Some will welcome Rowe Farms as the return of a basic neighbourhood amenity to Bloor Street.

But is Rowe Farms a basic amenity?

Elizabeth’s was a full service butcher and European-style delicatessen. It contained its own smokehouse on the second floor where staff prepared sausages, hams and other meats. Elizabeth’s offered a wide variety of products at an equally wide range of prices.  It attracted a socio-economically diverse clientele.

Rowe Farms’ retail model is decidedly different. During the week starting December 31, 2010, we compared the price of selected Rowe Farms products at Fiesta Farms against the equivalent product in other local supermarkets. We found that the Rowe Farms’ prices per kilogram were consistently the most expensive, often double or more the lowest price amongst the competition.  Some examples:

  • Pork loin centre chop boneless:  Rowe Farms $26.99; Loblaws “Free From” $15.41; Metro “Traditionally Raised” $12.76; Metro regular $12.99; Price Chopper $12.10;  No Frills: $11.40; Fiesta Farms $11.00;
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs:  Rowe Farms: $19.82; Loblaws “Free From” and Price Chopper $15.41; Metro (Prime) $14.64; No Frills $13.44; Fiesta Farms (Prime) $12.99
  • Extra lean ground beef:  Rowe Farms: $16.99; Fiesta Farms (ground Angus) $15.41; Loblaws President’s Choice Blue Menu (Angus Sirloin) $13.21; No Frills $9.44; Metro: $8.80; Price Chopper $8.45.

Rowe Farms boneless skinless chicken thighs $19.82 per kg

There are legitimate reasons why “traditionally raised” meats cost more. As Rachel Hahn pointed out in her article Like Sex in the City, but with meat: Toronto’s Gourmet Butcher Scene, “farmers who don’t use a factory farm model . . . spend more money per animal. If animals are free-range, there’s more space to pay for and if they’re free of hormones and antibiotics, they take longer to become ready for slaughter.”

Torontonians are in the grip of a so-called ethical and healthy meat craze. Nose to tail eating and charcuterie plates reign in Toronto’s trendiest restaurants, and indie butchers are eclipsing indie coffee shops as the hottest trend in retail.

Centre cut boneless pork chop $26.99 per kg

Hahn quotes Toronto celebrity butcher Peter Sanagan of Kensington Market’s Sanagan’s Meat Locker in explaining the trend: “In Ontario we are not as lucky as, say, California or Vancouver where they have a more temperate growing zone where vegetables have a longer season. But meat is something we can do well, and it’s all year round.” But Sanagan is honest enough to acknowledge that the movement towards local produce is a “privilege trend” because of the cost.

The proliferation of high-end butcher shops–variously described as green, healthy, ethical, organic, local, and conscientious–is more evidence that Toronto is becoming a city of stark socio-economic extremes, the work of The Stop and Food Share in promoting local and healthy foods for low-income Torontonians notwithstanding.

Organics on Bloor shuttered its doors in early 2010

And are these meats really all that green and ethical?

After energy production, livestock is the second highest contributor to atmosphere-altering gases.  Nearly one fifth of all greenhouse gas is generated by livestock production, more than all modes of transportation combined.

And four hundred scientists in 34 countries recently compiled a report for the British Government about the overstressed global food system, and the need for it to expand to feed a projected 9.5 billion people in 2050. Professor Charles Godfray, one of the report’s lead authors told Jessica Leeder of the Globe and Mail that “consumer demand for unsustainable goods will have to be harnessed. This includes meats, the production of which creates a huge drag on the environment.  It would just be impossible for the global population to consume meat at the rate we do in North America and Europe.”

In “Attention Whole Food Shoppers” in Foreign Policy Magazine, Robert Paarlberg observes how local, organic and slow food has become an elite preoccupation in the West. “The hope that we can help others by changing our shopping and eating habits is being wildly oversold to Western consumers. If we are going to get serious about solving global hunger, we need to de-romanticize our view of preindustrial food and farming. Factory farming is essential to feed the hunger-plagued rest of the world.”

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For more on the myth of green and ethical meat, see Mark Bittman’s What’s wrong with what we eat:


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Note: interior photographs are of the Roncesvalles store.

In Arrivals & Departures, we watch the changes in the commercial/retail strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets, and think about these changes in the context of Jane Jacobs’ analysis that popularity on retail strips can lead to commercial monocultures and store vacancies and Max Fawcett’s thesis that the Annex is un-gentrifying.

For related articles, visit the Arrivals & Departures archive.


The weekly wrap for January 28, 2011

In Coming events, Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, This week in the neighbourhood on January 28, 2011 at 12:01 AM

“One of the best pizzas in the Annex”. Renée Suen praises Bar Mercurio’s excellent pie. [Toronto Life]

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The inner city is a safer place to raise children than the suburbs. Tamsin McMahon looks at the not so surprising data on the safety of downtown. [National Post]

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With pluck and grit, a Globe food critic roughs it on the Bloor-West Annex strip. Joanne Kates bravely endures the lack of a coat check to enjoy bargain-priced omakase at Sushi Couture. [Globe and Mail]

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A History of Toronto in 8 Millimetres, screening Sunday, January 30 at 7:00PM at the Bloor. Jason Anderson recommends this compendium of amateur Super 8 films that provide glimpses of life in Toronto between the ’30s and the ’70s.[thestar.com]

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Robert Baldwin is the greatest Torontonian ever. Derek Smith tells Steve Paikin how Baldwin–the scion of the family who owned the lands immediately east of the West Annex–brought responsible government to Canada. [TVO]

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

Arrivals & Departures: Lettieri Espresso Bar and Hero Certified Burgers at 581 Bloor Street West

In Arrivals & Departures, Eating & Drinking on January 9, 2011 at 2:23 AM

Lettieri Espresso Bar closed its doors for good on December 30, 2010

Another one bites the dust . . .

By West Annex News | Coffee Corner, Java Junction, or Corporate Coffee Headquarter; whatever you call the aggregation of coffee shops around Bloor Street West and Albany Avenue, the group suffered its first fatality at the end of 2010 when Lettieri Expresso Bar on the south-west corner of Bathurst and Bloor quietly closed its doors on December 30.  A note posted on the front door reads: “After eight years of making fresh espresso, Lettieri Espresso Bar will be closed on December 30, 2010.  We have loved being a part of this community.  It has been an absolute joy serving you. Wish you all have a very happy new year.”

Good-bye note from Lettieri franchise owner Joe Lee | click to enlarge

Signs already hang in the windows announcing that a Hero Certified Burgers will be moving in to the 581 Bloor Street West space.  The Lettieri website says cryptically that Lettieri is “co-branding with Hero Certified Burgers”.  Lettieri directs readers to the Hero website for further information, but we found no mention there of Lettieri or of co-branding. John Lettieri is the founder of both the Lettieri Espresso Bar and Hero Certified Burgers franchises.

Honest Ed's signage overwhelmed that of Lettieri

It’s hard to say what lead to the demise of Lettieri. Once inside the shop, it was an attractive, soothing, light-filled space with large east-facing windows looking out on Bathurst Street.  And Lettieri made arguably the best-tasting espresso-based drinks of all the chains located on the West Annex Bloor strip. But tucked in the north-east corner of Honest Ed’s, the garish extravagance of  Ed’s signage overwhelmed that of Lettieri’s; it was easy to forget the coffee shop was even there.

And Bathurst Street still forms a considerable psychological barrier for Annex shoppers. Although the number of non-Korean-themed shops establishing themselves west of Bathurst on the Bloor West strip is increasing, many shoppers still hold on to the notion that Bloor west of Bathurst is a Korean ethnic enclave with little to offer shoppers who do not share that ethnicity.   As we noted in a previous post, the stiff competition with four major coffee chain outlets killed a local tea shop in 2010. With that competition located on the more desirable West Annex side of Bathurst, the few extra steps to cross the street into Koreatown apparently proved a few steps too far for Lettieri’s survival.

Lettieri Espresso Bar was located at the south west corner of Bathurst and Bloor, in Honest Ed’s

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In Arrivals & Departures, we watch the changes in the commercial/retail strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets, and think about these changes in the context of Jane Jacobs’ analysis that popularity on retail strips can lead to commercial monocultures and store vacancies and Max Fawcett’s thesis that the Annex is un-gentrifying.

Visit the Arrivals & Departures archive.

The weekly wrap for December 17, 2010

In Eating & Drinking, Heritage & History, Reviews, This week in the neighbourhood on December 17, 2010 at 1:01 AM

“Does the Annex really need another budget-friendly Japanese restaurant?”  Apparently yes. Gizelle Lau loves the fresh ingredients and home made stock at Kenzo Ramen. [Toronto Life]

Kenzo Ramen | 372 Bloor Street West

“We wanted to bring in city bikes from Holland that are upright, fashionable, and can function as your car.” Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy profiles Eric Kamphof, manager of Curbside Cycle.  [torontoist]

“The Green Room . . . a place so dirty that a health inspector found even its license completely covered in cockroach feces.” David Topping calls out the Green Room as one of torontist’s Villains of 2010.  [torontoist]

Beer was still 15 cents a glass and big old homes yet to be gentrified were cheap rooming houses. Jim Henshaw recalls David French and the Annex theatre scene of the early 1970’s.  [Legion of Decency]

Still looking for the perfect gift for that left-wing bike-riding pinko kook in your life? Get your commemorative T-shirts from Biking Toronto and buttons from spacingtoronto.  The buttons are also available locally at the Outer Layer, Curbside Cycle, and Sweet Pete’s.

First came the stagecoach stop in 1876. Eric Murtrie explores Brunswick Avenue at Bloor, and environs. [spacingtoronto]

They tested Model Ts on the roof. Matt Bubbers uncovers the storied history of the Faema Building (and former Ford automobile plant) at the corner of Dupont and Christie.  [Sympatico.ca Autos]

“You get to the point when you see so much pain in people’s lives, you have to do something.” Eileen Donnelly profiles Harbord Collegiate Institute teacher Michael Ericson’s work to establish a shelter for Toronto’s homeless LBGTQ youth.  [The Toronto Observer]

“One of Toronto’s oldest cinemas has been nestled in the Annex for almost a century.” Tracey Chen recounts the history of the Bloor Cinema, AKA the Madison Picture Palace.  [Heritage Toronto]

The Madison Picture Palace, now the Bloor Cinema | Courtesy of City of Toronto Archives

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.