Janet Monk

Food & Drink - Wine Season     October 2022

By Janet Monk

It’s finally wine grape harvesting season in Canada, which means our local wineries will be busy preparing next year’s star bottles. So, for those headed south to enjoy the spoils of Niagara wineries, be on the lookout for the following recent releases. From delicate Pinot Noir, to low-alcohol Rosé, to crisp Riesling, there is a perfect bottle for every plate and every palate.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Lakeview Wine Company, which once upon a time had a retail location in Cliffside, has just introduced two new low-alcohol and low-sugar wines to their roster: the Mindful Pinot Grigio and Mindful Rosé. The Pinot Grigio is light and slightly oaky with notes of green apple and pear on the palate while the Rosé is floral and tastes of hibiscus and cranberry. They are perfect for individuals with food sensitivities, blood-sugar concerns, or who want to have a little less alcohol but still enjoy a glass of wine with supper. Both bottles retail for $12.95, have 1g of sugar per serving, and are 8% ABV.

Château des Charmes, which opened in 1978, is another Niagara standby. Their 2019 and 2020 vintages garner much praise, and the pride they take in their product is clear from their extensive tasting notes available online for each and every bottle. Their 2019 Pinot Noir Cuvée Michèle is a lovely choice, and for just $16.95 a bottle, an absolute steal. It is dry (with just 3.3g/L of sugar), light, and fruit forward with an earthy finish. It pairs perfectly with pink fish, chicken stuffed with blue cheese, and ratatouille.

Flat Rock Cellars, located on the Twenty Mile Bench in Niagara, cleaned up at the Decanter World Wine Awards this year. They won not only Best Canadian White, but also Best in Show. Their 2019 Riesling topped all other Canadian white wines this year, but the best part is that it retails for just $20.15 per bottle! In terms of sweetness it is medium at 25g/L and it has lovely notes of citrus fruits like mandarin, yuzu, and a floral and honey-like finish. For $37.15, you can try the Best in Show and one of the fifty best new wines in the world: Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling (2019). Orders are currently limited to twelve bottles per person. This wine has beautiful stone fruit flavours and aromatics of fresh flowers and orange blossom. There is a slight acidity to the finish, akin to freshly squeezed lime or a twist of lemon zest.

Konzelmann, Jackson Triggs, Inniskillin, Peller, and Trius are also great wineries to stop in and have a tasting, tour, or even dinner. Remember to always check online or call ahead to see whether reservations are required, what COVID-19 restrictions are in place, and what services they offer. Sip safely, and enjoy the best of what Niagara has to offer this autumn.

 

Property Lines Splitting Driveways ~ Who's Asphalt is? That     September 2022

By Janet Monk

Property owners across the GTA are discovering that their right-of-way is in jeopardy because indefinite property lines split their driveways in half. Since Ontario made away with the historic Ontario Registry Act in the late 90s—replacing it with the Land Titles Act to build a computer database of Ontario property lines—grandfathered encroachments like driveways have become a sticking point for homeowners and developers alike.

“Since roughly 1885, there have been two distinct land registry systems operating simultaneously in Ontario: the Registry system and the Torrens-based Land Titles system of land registration,” said Paul Hancock, an Associate Lawyer from Daoust Vukovich LLP. “The rights under each system are different (whereby you cannot gain an interest in land under the land titles system solely by using and occupying a portion of land for a certain period of time).” For example, if a person had a shed encroaching 10 feet onto the neighbouring property for sixty years, the Ontario Registry Act would typically allow them to continue to maintain it. Historic encroachments would be grandfathered into the property by the old system. However, according to the new system, these grandfathered encroachments (some over a century old) are seldom recognized—resulting in issues like today’s driveway disputes.

One local Scarborough Southwest Resident from Brooklawn Ave, Alan Burt, was one of the first in the area to discover the property line issues in Cliffcrest. “The houses were built in the fifties—’54, ’53. So instead of giving the properties their full breadths (new developers) started cutting the property lots in half. For example, where we are at our house, it was originally two lots and they cut it in three,” said Burt. The owners of 11 Brooklawn Ave were shocked when a developer bought the neighbouring property and intended to build over three feet onto their existing driveway. The developer’s property line, according to the new system, overlapped with their driveway. “If, in fact, the rule went through that these people could then put fences on their property line, people would barely be able to get their cars onto the driveway and then they wouldn’t be able to open the door. They wouldn’t be back into their driveway.”

Anxious after learning about their neighbours’ woes, Burt discovered that number 48, their own home, also had a property line coursing down the middle of their driveway. “When my wife bought the house that really wasn’t an issue because of the Land Act that was in effect at the time. There was an automatic amendment on the property, which we have subsequently learned,” said Burt. “So our use of the driveway was never an issue until the Land Act, which we didn’t really know about at the time, changed in 2000.”

The City of Toronto currently categorizes property line and driveway disputes as civil, regardless of whether or not it was the province’s system changes that incurred the dispute. According to Burt, most real estate agents are unaware of these changes to property lines, and it is up to buyers after settling the deal to manage the aftermath. “That’s why I call it a time bomb. As this ‘buying-up-homes’ becomes more prevalent, this sort of thing is happening. What we’re seeing now are people in this situation starting to put up fences on their property. That’s what happened at number four Brooklawn,” said Burt. As for the City’s involvement in property line disputes, Councillor Gary Crawford provided the following statement to the Bluffs Monitor: “I have been working closely with staff to seek amendments to the current by-laws that will address the issue regarding single driveways split in two by property lines, including permitting front pad parking spots. I also encourage new builders to work collaboratively with existing neighbours early in the process, to help design a solution to the problem.”

The owner of 9 Brooklawn Ave, an elderly woman, was able to negotiate with the Toronto Local Appeal Body to secure her property rights according to Burt. However, not all are successful in doing so—least of all those with low income or no outside help. Burt estimated that the legal costs of securing one’s property lines in a dispute can be as much as $20,000—far out of range for most.

Some are worried that due to property line disputes, neighbours or developers might cause irreparable damage to their property with new builds or construction. At 9 Brooklawn, the owner was able to secure a stipulation check in the event that her property was damaged. Her son-in-law, an engineer, recognized that the next-door developers were going to dig much deeper than the builders of number 9 did. Therefore, the builders risked causing vibrations strong enough to damage number 9’s foundation. “They went down about 14 feet. So this creates a problem with the groundwater flow,” said Burt. “For adjacent neighbours to the groundwater flow, it can jeopardize not just the physical structure of their cinderblocks, but also their plaster walls, or if they put an addition, your drywall. It’s a whole barrage of things with these properties getting wider.”

To mitigate the risk to one’s property when construction is occurring on/over your property line, the team of surveyors from ‘Protect Your Boundaries’ suggest the following tips on their website: First, speak to a lawyer who specializes in boundary disputes and land-related matters. Second, take photos of the exterior and interior parts of your home which face the development. Last, consult a lawyer and your neighbour about putting funds into a trust for any damages your property faces during construction.

As these disputes become increasingly common, hopefully the system will begin taking grandfathered land and easements into stronger consideration. Property lines are of utmost importance at a time when property is worth so much and is so deeply meaningful to our lives. “It’s not just the driveway,” said Burt. “It’s about the integrity of your home.”

 

Ontario Trillium Fund Supports Variety Village     September 2022

By Janet Monk

On June 14, 2022, at the annual ‘That’s Amore Pizza for Kids’ celebration, Variety Village unveiled their brand-new Pavilion and mural dedicated to Pizza Nova’s Primucci family. The Primucci Pavilion at the Danforth Variety Village is a gesture of thanks to Pizza Nova for their long-time support and annual ‘That’s Amore Pizza for Kids’ campaign, where every May Pizza Nova donates fifty cents from every dip sold to kid’s programs, camps, and program expansion at Variety. This year, Pizza Nova raised a grand total of $203,902 for the campaign.

“And how many years has it been? For this event for kids, (it has been) 23 years,” said President of Pizza Nova, Domenic Primucci, at the ribbon cutting. Over those 23 years, he said that Pizza Nova has raised over $2 million for Variety. “We’ve also given Variety Village and Variety – the Children’s Charity awareness and probably over $3 million worth of advertising. Then, so on and so forth, awareness in the community and in the province of Ontario.”

Domenic Primucci referred to the event and the dedication as “very humbling” and gave his sincere appreciation for the Variety team, Pizza Nova staff, and their customers. Domenic Primucci’s father, Sam Primucci, also attended the event on June 14. He and his brothers opened the first Pizza Nova location in 1963. “We’re still in the Italian community. When there’s a need, I know that certain people can call on me, and we’re always there for them,” said Sam Primucci. “After all, I was born in Italy. My heart is still there, even after 70 years.”

Karen Stintz, President and CEO of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ontario, also attended the dedication ceremony and gave her thanks to Pizza Nova and the Primucci family for their support.

“It’s a really special day for Variety, you know in past years we had the one-day campaign, and we would raise about $125,000. Now we raised over $200,000, and not only that, with the campaign running the whole month there was that much more exposure,” said Stintz. “So today we had a celebration, not just of the campaign, but of the partnership that we’ve had with the Primucci family. And now having this tribute in our lobby, everyone who walks into the building will understand the close relationship that we have and the importance of Pizza Nova and the community family to the kids.”

The ceremony also included the showing of a 22-foot long mural by local artist Nicole Lalonde, who designed the work in conjunction with Variety and the Primucci family. Lalonde also notably painted a mural for Variety’s children’s gymnasium. “Last year when we came up and the board approved the renaming of the pavilion, the Primucci pavilion, it was really (just) a concept,” said Stintz regarding the mural. “Then we worked with Domenic and his team over the last 12 months to come up with something that would reflect what his vision is and his philanthropic vision and what his relationship with us looks like.”

The mural features stylized families and children flying kites, biking, walking, having a picnic, and playing games. Some of the figures have mobility aids and service animals. The background is of the Toronto skyline, and even features some figures enjoying pizza slices out of a Pizza Nova truck. In an interview after the ceremony, Stintz remarked on the influence of Pizza Nova’s donations. “There’s no question that the support of Pizza Nova changes the lives of these kids.”

Food & Drink - Wine Season     September 2022

By Janet Monk

It’s finally wine grape harvesting season in Canada, which means our local wineries will be busy preparing next year’s star bottles. So, for those headed south to enjoy the spoils of Niagara wineries, be on the lookout for the following recent releases. From delicate Pinot Noir, to low-alcohol Rosé, to crisp Riesling, there is a perfect bottle for every plate and every palate.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Lakeview Wine Company, which once upon a time had a retail location in Cliffside, has just introduced two new low-alcohol and low-sugar wines to their roster: the Mindful Pinot Grigio and Mindful Rosé. The Pinot Grigio is light and slightly oaky with notes of green apple and pear on the palate while the Rosé is floral and tastes of hibiscus and cranberry. They are perfect for individuals with food sensitivities, blood-sugar concerns, or who want to have a little less alcohol but still enjoy a glass of wine with supper. Both bottles retail for $12.95, have 1g of sugar per serving, and are 8% ABV.

Château des Charmes, which opened in 1978, is another Niagara standby. Their 2019 and 2020 vintages garner much praise, and the pride they take in their product is clear from their extensive tasting notes available online for each and every bottle. Their 2019 Pinot Noir Cuvée Michèle is a lovely choice, and for just $16.95 a bottle, an absolute steal. It is dry (with just 3.3g/L of sugar), light, and fruit forward with an earthy finish. It pairs perfectly with pink fish, chicken stuffed with blue cheese, and ratatouille.

Flat Rock Cellars, located on the Twenty Mile Bench in Niagara, cleaned up at the Decanter World Wine Awards this year. They won not only Best Canadian White, but also Best in Show. Their 2019 Riesling topped all other Canadian white wines this year, but the best part is that it retails for just $20.15 per bottle! In terms of sweetness it is medium at 25g/L and it has lovely notes of citrus fruits like mandarin, yuzu, and a floral and honey-like finish. For $37.15, you can try the Best in Show and one of the fifty best new wines in the world: Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling (2019). Orders are currently limited to twelve bottles per person. This wine has beautiful stone fruit flavours and aromatics of fresh flowers and orange blossom. There is a slight acidity to the finish, akin to freshly squeezed lime or a twist of lemon zest.

Konzelmann, Jackson Triggs, Inniskillin, Peller, and Trius are also great wineries to stop in and have a tasting, tour, or even dinner. Remember to always check online or call ahead to see whether reservations are required, what COVID-19 restrictions are in place, and what services they offer. Sip safely, and enjoy the best of what Niagara has to offer this autumn.

 

Variety Village Honours Primucci Family     July/ August 2022

By Janet Monk

On June 14, 2022, at the annual ‘That’s Amore Pizza for Kids’ celebration, Variety Village unveiled their brand-new Pavilion and mural dedicated to Pizza Nova’s Primucci family. The Primucci Pavilion at the Danforth Variety Village is a gesture of thanks to Pizza Nova for their long-time support and annual ‘That’s Amore Pizza for Kids’ campaign, where every May Pizza Nova donates fifty cents from every dip sold to kid’s programs, camps, and program expansion at Variety. This year, Pizza Nova raised a grand total of $203,902 for the campaign.

“And how many years has it been? For this event for kids, (it has been) 23 years,” said President of Pizza Nova, Domenic Primucci, at the ribbon cutting. Over those 23 years, he said that Pizza Nova has raised over $2 million for Variety. “We’ve also given Variety Village and Variety – the Children’s Charity awareness and probably over $3 million worth of advertising. Then, so on and so forth, awareness in the community and in the province of Ontario.”

Domenic Primucci referred to the event and the dedication as “very humbling” and gave his sincere appreciation for the Variety team, Pizza Nova staff, and their customers. Domenic Primucci’s father, Sam Primucci, also attended the event on June 14. He and his brothers opened the first Pizza Nova location in 1963. “We’re still in the Italian community. When there’s a need, I know that certain people can call on me, and we’re always there for them,” said Sam Primucci. “After all, I was born in Italy. My heart is still there, even after 70 years.”

Karen Stintz, President and CEO of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ontario, also attended the dedication ceremony and gave her thanks to Pizza Nova and the Primucci family for their support.

“It’s a really special day for Variety, you know in past years we had the one-day campaign, and we would raise about $125,000. Now we raised over $200,000, and not only that, with the campaign running the whole month there was that much more exposure,” said Stintz. “So today we had a celebration, not just of the campaign, but of the partnership that we’ve had with the Primucci family. And now having this tribute in our lobby, everyone who walks into the building will understand the close relationship that we have and the importance of Pizza Nova and the community family to the kids.”

The ceremony also included the showing of a 22-foot long mural by local artist Nicole Lalonde, who designed the work in conjunction with Variety and the Primucci family. Lalonde also notably painted a mural for Variety’s children’s gymnasium. “Last year when we came up and the board approved the renaming of the pavilion, the Primucci pavilion, it was really (just) a concept,” said Stintz regarding the mural. “Then we worked with Domenic and his team over the last 12 months to come up with something that would reflect what his vision is and his philanthropic vision and what his relationship with us looks like.”

The mural features stylized families and children flying kites, biking, walking, having a picnic, and playing games. Some of the figures have mobility aids and service animals. The background is of the Toronto skyline, and even features some figures enjoying pizza slices out of a Pizza Nova truck. In an interview after the ceremony, Stintz remarked on the influence of Pizza Nova’s donations. “There’s no question that the support of Pizza Nova changes the lives of these kids.”

Small Business Focus: DUCKWORTH'S     July/August 2022

By Janet Monk

This past April, Cliffside’s famous local fish and chips shop, Duckworth’s Fish and Chips, celebrated it’s 66th anniversary! The location was opened on April 10, 1956, by Doug Duckworth, father of current operator Lisa Duckworth. “It’s not an easy business these days, but I don’t know that it’s changed that much,” said Lisa Duckworth. “We have a great staff and regular customers, and that’s stayed the same. That hasn’t changed at all.”

The first Duckworth’s location in Ontario, Len Duckworth’s, opened in 1929 on Danforth Avenue. However, the Duckworth’s Fish and Chips locations are all privately owned and are not franchised. “My cousins are still on the Danforth and there’s a newer one that opened in Orillia,” said Lisa Duckworth. “It’s not a franchise, it’s just a family name. That was one of my cousin’s sons, he and his wife opened up a business out there.”

Duckworth’s is true to their roots when it comes to business values, according to Lisa Duckworth. “We’re happy to see them because a few of us who have worked there over 40 years. We know them, we’re happy to see them, they’re happy were still there. You just don’t see that kind of mom-and-pop shop too often anymore I don’t think.” Over the last 66 years they have not been without local competition. “When there were so many different franchises that would come in and out of business, like Arthur Treacher’s, H. Salt Fish and Chips, they all thought they’d put the little guy under. And they never did. We survived,” said Lisa Duckworth. “My dad always says you can’t worry abut the other person, all you can do is put out the best product you can, and give your customers the best service that you can.”

When it comes to fish and chips, Lisa Duckworth and her staff go above and beyond to ensure they provide great quality, taste, and freshness. “We don’t cook ahead, everything is fresh. You order? We start cooking it! I think our staff takes a lot of pride in the product we put out.” Duckworth’s gets a delivery of whole Alaskan halibut every day, which they butcher in-store so their product is as fresh as possible, and they pick up fresh bread every morning from the National Bakery at Birchmount and Danforth. Their recipe for fish batter, chips, and coleslaw hasn’t changed since the store opened. “We still, honestly if you walked down to the basement where we peel the potatoes its like a walk back in time. We have a chipper and one potato at a time goes through. It’s the way my grandfather did it and it’s the way we’re still doing it.”

Duckworth’s has many customers that, even when they move out of the neighbourhood, return every chance they get to enjoy a classic Scarborough treat. After 66 years of business, their loyal customer base has only grown. “I’ve been serving people over forty years. I see these babies, and then they come in with their babies! It seems like just yesterday,” said Lisa Duckworth. “We work hard and try to put out a good product and we have a very loyal clientele. I think we are quite lucky. I feel very fortunate that we do have this business.”

Duckworth’s was one of the few businesses that was open for takeout in the middle of the pandemic. Today they have opened their doors once more for indoor seating. The restaurant seats approximately 42 people and their menu includes halibut, haddock, cod, and basa. You can also find them on UberEats! “We’re hanging in there and hopefully we’ll weather this storm,” said Lisa Duckworth regarding business at the tail-end of the pandemic. “I would like to thank our loyal customers, they are so much appreciated, and we really value their service and loyalty to us. We really do.”

 

Cocktails With a Canadian Twist     July/ August 2022

By Janet Monk

Summer has finally arrived, and whether you’ll be celebrating it with a trip to the beach, lake, or cottage, a refreshing cocktail is in order upon arrival! This month, try these unequivocally Canadian cocktails, easily made with local ingredients.

The Mojito is a delicious summertime drink for which I gave a recipe for Canadian Mint Syrup last month. This July, put your mint syrup to work in a Cranberry Mojito.

First, add a small handful of wild Canadian mint to an empty shaker with 1 oz mint syrup, 1 oz lime juice, and a handful of fresh cranberries. Muddle gently until cranberries are crushed. Next, fill your shaker with ice and add 1 ½ oz of amber or light rum of your choice. Shake vigorously to combine, then pour the contents into a tumbler or rocks glass. Top with lemon lime soda and enjoy!

                  No spirit could be more synonymous with Canada than Canadian whiskey. However, you can still kick it up a notch with the addition of maple syrup. Treat your friends to a delicious Maple Old Fashioned at your next campfire gathering.

Add 2 oz of your favourite Canadian whiskey to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Then, add one teaspoon of dark maple syrup and two dashes of angostura bitters. Shake gently to combine and strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. For garnish, twist an orange peel over the glass to release its oils and add it to your drink.

                  The Canadian Caesar puts a coast-town spin on the Bloody Mary and is widely adored across the country. However, many are hesitant to try it because of the addition of clam juice. Trust me when I say that the ‘clam’ in ‘Clamato’ juice is very subtle and adds a nice salty flavour to this classic savoury cocktail.

To a cocktail shaker full of ice, add 3 oz of Clamato juice, 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 1 ½ oz Canadian vodka, 1-3 dashes of hot sauce (to your taste), and a pinch of black pepper if desired. Shake well and strain into a highball glass full of ice. Garnish with a celery stick or 2 pickled beans and a wedge of fresh lime. Enjoy with salty snacks or a B.L.T sandwich by the beach.

                  Canadians grow apples in every province, and places like The Big Apple in Colborne, Ontario, stand as a testament to their wonderful flavour and versatility. This recipe for a Golden Apple Cocktail is as apple-licious as it gets.

Add 1 oz of Canadian vodka to a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir in 2 oz of apple cider or juice and top with ginger ale. For garnish, add a fresh sprig of thyme. This cocktail is best enjoyed when the weather is hot and sunny, and it pairs wonderfully with a cheese platter and fresh fruits.

                  Whatever cocktails you enjoy this summer, remember that they always pair best with good company and memorable occasions.

 

An Artist Lives Right in your Community     June 2022

On May 7, 2022, the Cliffcrest Artists group held the An Artist Lives Here event to display and sell their handmade crafts, paintings, and other creative works. “My mom (Robyn Wood) and I wanted to have a collective of like-minded, intelligent and creative people to share their love and passion for art or creating all in one place,” said organizer Angela Wood. “It was actually our first show that we had put on as a group.” The event comprised of local artists setting up miniature galleries or stands of their handmade pieces on their driveways or front lawns. Passers-by, or people following the online tour map, enjoyed, purchased, photographed, and discussed art directly with its creators.

“It’s nice to see that people from all walks of life get pulled into the show and purchase from anybody because that’s what they saw and fell in love with that day,” said Angela Wood. She was pleased to see people visiting artists that they may not have otherwise noticed if not for the event. The event featured acrylic, watercolour, oil, and multimedia painters as well as many unique artisans. “When COVID hit, (participants) Doug and Eileen Simpson decided that they were going to go on walks to the beach to keep themselves sane,” said Angela Wood. “They started collecting rocks that looked really pretty and tumbling them. Then they started making jewelry and earrings out of natural rocks from the Bluffs area. It’s really cool to know they come from your own neighbourhood.” Other participating artists included acrylic painter and furniture refurbisher Katelyn Schruder, sign-maker Ashley Borden, macramé and textile artist Tiffany Barnett, Tail Wags founder (of Dragons’ Den notoriety) Karyn Cassar, and OOAK doll artist and acrylic painter, yours truly. Angela Wood and Robyn Wood also took part; Angela displayed custom made items, DIY keychain packages, and magnets, and Robyn showcased her lovely abstract acrylic and watercolour works.

Robyn Wood was inspired to run the AALH event by Fiona Debell, who created the tag in 2020 with the Lawrence Park Art Collective in Toronto. When it went virtual during the pandemic, artists showcased their work from home and even held online demonstrations. “It would be kind of cool to do something similar to that in a live art aspect if any of the artists ever wanted to in the neighbourhood walk-about,” said Angela Wood. “We could put down a time slot: ‘hit up this location at 11 o’clock to see a live painting being done right in front of you!’”

In early 2022, Robyn Wood began her own artistic initiative to make a positive difference, and it was a great success at the AALH event. She began painting fine sunflowers on pennies, the national flower of Ukraine, to sell for charity. She donates the cost of supplies herself, and all the profits from every $10 penny sold goes to Ukrainian relief efforts. “Her last donation she put in this weekend–she’s hit over $1500 in donations,” said Angela Wood. “The first time she donated the government was matching the money, so when she donated $500 it was actually $1000. The next time she donated they were actually tripling, so if you sent $500 it would actually be $1500.”

The next An Artist Lives Here event will be taking place on June 18, 2022. The cut-off date for artists to register to participate is June 12 at 11:59 p.m. However, Angela Wood encourages anyone who is interested to reach out and join in. “We want to welcome everybody who wants to be a part of it. Our hope and our goal is to eventually have it so far spread out amongst Toronto or Scarborough–or even into Pickering or down in the Beaches–that it doesn’t matter where you are located, because they’ll be artists near you that also want to get involved.” However, if any artists are nervous about joining in, she offers the following positive wisdom: “There was a girl that signed up kind of last minute for the last show who was eleven years old. If she can do it, anyone can do it. You just have to sometimes get out of your comfort zone and do it, and you’d be surprised what can happen when you just put yourself out there.”

Lawn to Table     June 2022

By Janet Monk

There are plenty of perfectly edible flowers, plants, and leafy greens growing all around in Ontario this time of year–including in your very own backyard. Of course, one must take caution foraging plants, but in the age of the smartphone it’s much easier to look up what a plant should look, smell, and feel like while you’re on the go. Here are some recipes using local forageable treats!

Canadian wild mint will soon start popping up in large patches across Ontario, perfect for turning into jelly, jam, or cocktail-ready Mint Sugar Syrup. Start by adding equal parts white or cane sugar with filtered water to a saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is boiling, simmer for one minute and remove from the heat. Rinse 3 cups of lightly packed mint leaves under cold water, then air-dry them on a tea towel. Mix the leaves into the syrup and let sit for 10-12 hours. Strain the syrup through a sieve and store in bottles or jars. You can use the syrup in mojitos, lemonade, Tom Collins cocktails, or even in your iced tea for a minty twist!

Now hear me out–dandelions. Yes, the common weed so many people try to banish using harsh chemical killers actually makes for many delicious treats. Dandelion Tea is still very popular in parts of Europe, Korea, China, and Egypt, and is very easy to make at home. Pick the yellow flowers off of the plants and place on a baking sheet or in a basket. Dry them in sunlight for 2-3 days, then store in an airtight container. Steep a tablespoon of the dried flowers per cup in hot water as you would herbal tea. It’s also delicious with a touch of lemon and honey. Dandelion Greens are delicious too! They taste like a cross between chicory and arugula and add a bitter note to your average romaine lettuce salad. Dandelion roots, even, are commonly used to make a coffee alternative. Dandelion Coffee is bitter and earthy like coffee is, but without the caffeine or acidity. Harvest roots after the yellow flowers bloom and wash them thoroughly. Chop the roots into 1cm chunks and bake in the over for 40 minutes at 350˚. Once baked, add 2 tbsp to a pot filled with 2 cups of water and boil for 10-12 minutes, until dark brown in colour. Strain into cups and enjoy! Keep in mind, since many people do treat their lawns to kill dandelions, only harvest them for consumption from places you are absolutely certain have not been treated with pesticide or herbicide.

Rhubarb might seem like an obvious edible plant, but it has more potential than to be used in just pies, tarts, and sweets. Rhubarb can be simmered into a light Springtime Soup! Dice and fry 4 slices of bacon in a large pot until the fat renders out. Then, add a diced onion, two sliced carrots, and two chopped stalks of celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown, then add salt, garlic, and pepper to taste. Dice 4 medium sized new potatoes and 3 cups worth of rhubarb stalks. Add them to the pot along with 3 cups of your favourite stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft and the rhubarb has broken down into the broth. You can enjoy this version of the soup hot, or let it cool completely before adding a can of evaporated milk and a few sprigs of fresh dill for a perfect Rhubarb Vichyssoise.

Lemon balm, forsythia flowers, and violets are only a few more edible plants that might be growing on your front lawn. Always double check how to pick and prepare your backyard bounty with a guide or trusted online resource. Happy hunting

Clark Centre Open to the Public     May 2022

On April 20, 2022, the Clark Centre for the Arts was formally opened to the public with an arts-filled ceremony. It included a poetry reading by Poet Laureate Randell Adjei, a performance by the Medicine Sisters and Jayden, an anecdotal address by heritage Artist in Residence Dorsey James, and an exhibit of art by Sir Wilfred Laurier C.I. students.

“Philanthropists Rosa and Spencer Clark founded the original Guild in 1932 at their home atop the Scarborough Bluffs. For almost 50 years, the couple welcomed all kinds of artists, craft-makers, art supporters and guests to their nature-filled property,” said President of the Friends of the Guild, John Mason. “Today, the City of Toronto operates this site, now known as Guild Park & Gardens. The 88-acre park is home to Toronto’s newest arts facility. The aptly-named Clark Centre keeps alive the couple’s life-long vision–making the world better through art.”

The newly renovated 967 square metre building will host 90 programs annually, cultural heritage programming, and Artists in Residence. The current residents are photographer Thomas Brash and painter Claire Brown. There is a permanent installation on the third floor by Dorsey James, which was donated to the centre by the Guild Renaissance Group.

“I was here for the first time in October, and I was blown away by this facility. It is with such deep care and love that this building has been brought together,” said Interim General Manager: Economic Development and Culture, Cheryl Blackman. Blackman went on to acknowledge the City of Toronto’s Art Services Team, who reminded her that the Clark Centre for the Arts is the first of its kind to open in the last thirty years in Toronto.

“The community has worked very hard to make the Clark Centre for the Arts vision a reality,” said Councillor Paul Ainsley at the opening ceremony. Ainsley praised the City of Toronto, Parks Forestry and Recreation, Friends of the Guild, and the Guild Renaissance Group for their diligent work. “I can’t thank (the Guild Renaissance Group) enough for all of their work, dedication, guidance, and thought and reminding me of what Rosa and Spencer Clark would have liked to see on the grounds on an ongoing basis.”

After contracting COVID-19 Mayor John Tory was unable to attend the ceremony, so Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson brought greetings on his behalf. “We are actually making history today,” said Thompson. “I think that your work and the collaboration and consultation–the input–is a fine example of how listening pays a dividend. What we have here is a historic building which is going to be such a huge component of the community. It’s going to attract people from far and wide to come here.” Near the end of his speech, Thompson gestured to the young members of the audience and remarked “I know there are some young children here. This is for you. This is the foundation we are building on to make this place, this space, and this city a better place for all of us.”

The Clark Centre for the Arts will run art courses, workshops, camps, a green roof, a 3-level public gallery, and 5 studio spaces. By June of 2022, the grounds and building will be available for rent for private events. “An expert team of architects and builders turned that plan into reality after years of hard work–and unexpected COVID challenges. The result: An abandoned warehouse transformed into a public place for art programs, exhibits and studios,” said Mason. “It’s a fitting tribute to the Clarks and the Guild of All Arts they founded – the only artists’ community that existed in Canada during the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Scuba Scarborough     May 2022

The Scarborough Underwater Club recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and is currently welcoming new members. The club trains individuals how to scuba dive, leads trips to diving sites around the world, and campaigns for safe and responsible diving standards and the protection of historic Canadian shipwrecks.

“I think SUCI is Scarborough’s best kept secret,” said member Owen Jones at the Our Scarborough online conference on March 10, 2022. “When I wrote this presentation, we had 65 members… we now have 69 members for 2022 and we are growing every day.”

The Scarborough Underwater Club began in 1961 at Cedarbrae pool and is a non-for-profit scuba diving organization. They are also affiliated with Save Ontario Shipwrecks and were instrumental in the creation of the Ontario Underwater Council. Besides hosting professional training workshops on how to scuba dive safely, SUCI leads diving expeditions throughout Ontario at sites like the Niagara River, the St. Clair River, the Thousand Islands, the St. Lawrence River, and more. “(We dive at) St. Lawrence, where there is probably the largest collection of shipwrecks in the world, up to Tobermory and other places–Penetang is a great spot!” said Jones. Members have even gone on diving expeditions in Australia, the Galapagos Islands, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The season for diving in Ontario lasts from May until October, however, they once braved an ice dive in the winter of 2019!

For a small fee, one can learn to scuba dive with experienced instructors and dive masters in local pools. Their training director has been diving since 1969, their senior instructor has between 5 and 6 thousand dives under their belt, and their 5 other instructors and 11 dive masters are eager to train new recruits. “About 6 years ago we entered the Toronto Pan Am Centre,” said Jones. “The pool that the high diving platforms are on is actually 5 metres deep. It is just excellent for us as scuba divers, and it allows us to do a lot of skill training and development in that pool. We are certainly blessed with that facility in our area.”

                  As for their activities, the club puts safety first and fun closely in tow. They adhere to the standards of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and require members to undergo some level of training before they can join diving expeditions at natural locations. The levels are Open Water certification (after completing which you can dive without an instructor), Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, Dive Master, and Instructor.

Jones strongly recommended that anyone who wants to learn to dive should at least complete up to the Rescue Diver level. “This course changed my life as a diver. This one teaches you how to spot problems before they happen, teaches you all the necessary emergency safety procedures, and you’ll come out of that course with Emergency First Response and CPRC–which is a critical life skill that we should all have anyways.”

                  They are currently looking for new members of all ages and experience levels to join their group. At the time of the presentation, 41% of club were people under 50, 38% had less than 100 dives under their belt, and 11% had over 1000 dives. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult member. As to the cost of the pastime, Jones said that scuba diving is comparable to golfing or skiing.

                  To join SUCI, view their stunning underwater photos, or ask questions, visit www.suci2.ca. “This will open up a whole new world to you,” said Jones. “The ability to breathe underwater and what you can do is truly, truly amazing.”

Beer Fit for a Queen     May 2022

Here’s a fun fact about Queen Victoria for the May 24 weekend: her favourite mixed drink was a glass of claret topped off with single malt whiskey. Since that cocktail might not be a wise addition to your long weekend menu, take along some of Queen Victoria’s second favourite libation instead–beer!

When it comes to local beer, we here in Ontario are spoiled for choice. From hoppy IPAs to rich stout to bittersweet sours, we have the pick of the litter at nearly every LCBO and Beer Store in the GTA.

Boneshaker IPA has a great citrus flavour with a lingering woodsy aftertaste. If you are headed up north this upcoming long weekend, you can’t go wrong packing a few into your cooler. If you appreciate a lighter-bodied IPA, then the Flying Monkeys’ The Mutants are Revolting IPA might be just right for you. It has juicy tropical fruit notes as well as a bit of peppery flavour on the finish that goes great with barbecue fare.

Nickel Brook’s Café del Bastardo and Kentucky Bastard stout beers are great for warming up by a fire, watching the stars or fireworks, and roasting a few too many marshmallows. The Kentucky Bastard has notes of dark bitter chocolate and smoky bourbon while the Café del Bastardo has a completely different agenda; it has a rich coffee flavour from being barrel-aged with 6 pounds of coffee beans!

As for sour beer drinkers, Jelly King Brewery is a consistently fantastic choice. Every time they release a new flavour or incarnation of their famous sour beer, I fall in love all over again. The original is not too sweet with naturally occurring grapefruit and rosehip flavours, while other flavours such as Cranberry Tangerine and Mango Guava Passionfruit ring true to their names. I’d like to give Lost Craft’s Lemon Lime Sour an honourable mention as well for being a light and pricewise choice for longer trips to the lake.

Not to leave out those non-beer drinkers, Ontario boasts some of the best hard cider in the country! Forbidden makes a Pink Raspberry hard cider that is absolutely scrumptious. It is lightly sweet with a tart, naturally flavoured raspberry overtone. Poured in a glass with frozen raspberries it makes for a very classy weekend bevvy. Rekorderlig Wild Berries hard cider is also an incredible choice. The brewers boosted its complexity and sweetness by adding wild raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry juices to a refreshing apple cider base.

As for lager, the Ace Hill Dry Hopped Lager is a crisp and delicious choice and pairs elegantly with grilled shrimp, tacos, and seafood. It has a natural lemon-lime flavour on the palate, but finishes with a slight floral bitterness. The Lost Craft Revivale premium lager is another great choice that tastes of malt, toasted grains, and crisp apple. Beau’s Lug Tread Lager is sessionable, wheaty, mildly sweet, and wonderful with a juicy burger and fries.

No matter what Ontario craft beers you crack open during the May 24 weekend, you are sure to celebrate in style and great taste. Stay safe, drink responsibly, and have a happy Victoria Day!

Election Candidates Dossier      May 2022

The next Ontario General election will be held on or before June 2, 2022. In case you haven’t had a chance to review the candidates in your area, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources online to learn more about the candidates, such as their own personal websites and Elections.ca.

Scarborough Southwest’s incumbent Doly Begum of the NDP will be running to hold her seat. Liberal candidate Lisa Patel is on the ballot as are Bret Snider of the Conservative Party and Cara Brideau of the Green Party..

In Beaches East York, NDP Incumbent Rima Berns-McGown will be stepping out of their role to allow for a new NDP candidate to run. Kate Dupuis of the NDP is running, as are Mary-Margaret McMahon of the Liberal Party, Abhijeet Manay of the Green Party, and Angela Kennedy of the Conservative Party.

In Guildwood, Incumbent Mitzie Hunter of the Liberal Party will be seeking re-election after being voted in with a 0.20% lead in 2018. She will be up against Alcia Vianga of the Conservative Party and Veronica Javier of the NDP.

In Rouge Park, incumbent Vijay Thanigasalam of the Conservative Party also seeks re-election. Felicia Samuel of the NDP, Manal Abdullahi of the Liberal Party, Priyan De Silva of the Green Party, and Dave Madder of the Peoples Political Party have also declared their candidacy.

While there are still regions that do not have a confirmed candidate for certain parties, they have until May 12 at 2 p.m. to submit the paperwork required to run in the election. The current list of candidates is fully expected to expand, and this list is accurate as of April 22, 2022.

Your Chance to Love Scarborough      April 2022

In January 2022, Scarborough Health Network announced their ‘Love, Scarborough’ marketing campaign and fundraiser for the improvement of Scarborough healthcare. Today, the campaign has raised just over 65 million dollars of its 100 million dollar goal. Scarborough is home to 25% of the GTA’s population, is a known diabetes hotspot, has an aging population, has many people living with lower-income or in multi-generational homes, and is home to many new Canadians. According to SHN representatives, however, Scarborough healthcare centres still receive less than 1% of donations made to GTA hospitals.

“Scarborough health network has actually got the oldest operating rooms in the province. So, operating rooms have not been upgraded since they were first built at the General Hospital,” said Alicia Vandermeer, President and CEO of SHN Foundation, at the Our Scarborough online presentation (hosted by the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization) on March 10, 2022. “In trying to raise money for SHN, (we realized that) the hospital does not have an incredibly high profile in the community. 100 million dollars is a very large amount of money to raise, and that amount of money has not been raised in the past in Scarborough.”

SHN is composed of three major hospitals in the Scarborough region: Centenary Hospital, Birchmount Hospital, and Scarborough General Hospital. They merged to form SHN in 2016. However, they are now serving above their intended capacity. The emergency care units at Birchmount and Centenary, for example, are serving approximately 2.5 times the population they were designed to serve when they were built. The SHN affiliated hospitals serve over 850,000 people in the Scarborough community and together they are the third largest community hospital group in Ontario.

                  The ‘Love, Scarborough’ campaign aims to raise money for a wide array of new programs, equipment, improvements to existing hospital wards, and even new buildings. Firstly, SHN wants to put 16.5 million dollars towards kidney care–implementing new dialysis units at Centenary Hospital and Scarborough General Hospital, and building a new community hub in Bridletowne. 27 million dollars is intended for diagnostic imaging improvements at Scarborough General, wherein they intend to increase capacity and reduce wait times by 50%.

“For those of you who have been to the General and had any diagnostic tests there, you would know that diagnostic testing is currently spread out in 5 different places in the General Hospital on different floors,” said Vandermeer. “The doctors and nurses are wonderful, but from a patient perspective, people are changing in corners and waiting for their tests in the hallways. There aren’t a lot of private spaces for waiting and the equipment certainly needs to be modernized.”

                  32.3 million will be designated towards expanding emergency care at Centenary and Birchmount, 18.2 million will be designated towards improving cardiac care units, and 6 million will go towards building an all-new community mental health hub outside of the existing hospitals. The 100 million dollar goal is daunting, but the fundraising is absolutely necessary. “Hospitals in ON, whenever there is Capital development, it needs to be approved by the province, and then the hospital is expected to come up with 10% of the capital cost,” said Vandermeer. “Often that is done through fundraising. And also, the hospital is expected to come up with 100% of the equipment costs.”

                  The marketing portion of the campaign includes photos and stories of locals who have benefit from, worked with, or volunteered for SHN. Their stories can be read or watched in promotional posts and videos as part of their ‘Alphabet’ campaign, in which 26 individuals were each assigned a letter. Each participant wrote out their assigned letter, which were all combined to create a unique font. Bus ads, newspaper ads, and promotional videos were also created to spread awareness about the campaign–each featuring individuals from Scarborough involved with SHN and the key phrase ‘Love, Scarborough’ at the end of each message.

Donors can make contributions online, host an event with SHN as the beneficiary, or “Fundraise!” as Ryan Baillie, Vice President of Community Development at SHN Foundation, said at the March 10 Our Scarborough presentation. “Event fundraising, Cause-Related Marketing, getting your business involved, your employees involved, and your community involved in fundraising events and the like are a great way to show your love for the ‘Love, Scarborough’ campaign and SHN. If you want to lean more information you can sign up on lovescarborough.ca.”

People may also purchase SHN’s ‘Love, Scarborough’ t-shirts and hoodies to help their cause, as 100% of the net proceeds from their shirt sales goes towards the campaign. Every day from March 31 to April 10 from 3-6 p.m., merchandise will be available for sale at the Scarborough Town Centre’s Centre Court. Show some love for Scarborough and support local healthcare by sharing, retweeting, fundraising, and representing the ‘Love, Scarborough’ campaign.

Brunch Bunch Beverages      April 2022

Warm weather is just around the corner, and with restrictions lifting, spring brunches will be too! This month, impress your brunch guests with these fantastic cocktails and welcome springtime flavours back to your table.

If you are looking for a fresh take on a classic cocktail, look no further than deliciously creamy and bright Orange Creamsicle Mimosas! The following recipe makes enough for 4 to 6 people and can be made and refrigerated well ahead of time.

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup half and half

Champagne or sparkling wine

Place sugar in the blender with orange juice and half and half. Blend on high until fully mixed, about 2 minutes. The mixture should be pale orange and a bit frothy. Pour into a carafe or serving jug and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Fill champagne glasses halfway with the mixture and top with your choice of champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with a slice of fresh orange and serve.

Sometimes we need a pick-me-up at brunch, but a cappuccino or macchiato just won’t do the trick. This recipe for a bittersweet Espresso Martini will give you a caffeine boost à la liqueur. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use canned cold brew concentrate instead.

2 oz. vodka

1 oz. Kahlua

1 oz. espresso

1/2 oz. simple syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add all ingredients to the shaker and shake vigorously for several minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture has a light brown foam on top. Strain into a martini glass.

To me, springtime is synonymous with dry gin. It’s a zesty, floral wake-up call after a few cold months of drinking dark spirits. Try this delicious recipe for a Peach and Grapefruit Sour, which adds a little extra sweetness and citrus flavour to complement brunch classics like fruit salad, eggs benedict, and fruit pastries.

1 ¼ oz. dry gin

½ oz. grapefruit juice

¼ oz. peach schnapps

¾ oz. lemon juice

¼ oz. sugar syrup

1 egg white (optional)

                  Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add all ingredients to the shaker and shake to combine. If using egg white, shake until frothy. Strain into a coupe glass.

Last but not least, it never hurts to have a fun drink for those who are driving or who are underage. This Raspberry Lemonade Slushie is sure to please, and the following recipe serves six people. To make a hard version, feel free to substitute the soda for 6 oz. vodka and 2.5 oz. limoncello.

600g frozen raspberries

Juice of 3 lemons

1 ½ oz. sugar syrup

8.5 oz. lemon-lime soda

9 large ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture has a smooth slushy consistency. Pour into 6 highball glasses or mason jars, add a paper straw to each serving, and serve immediately.

Whether your next brunch is with family, friends, co-workers, or your partner, be sure to toast the season of new beginnings with a fresh and tasty beverage.

The Pantry of Earthly Delights      March 2022

With ongoing supply chain issues and tightened budgets after the holidays, getting everything on your grocery list might be more difficult than usual. However, that means it is a good time to make use of those canned and dried items that have gone long overlooked in your pantry. Capitalize on your pantry stock with these recipes, and better yet, contribute what you don’t need to your local food bank.

If you are flush with beans, lentils, and have some chili spices on hand, try making the Minimalist Baker’s recipe for 1-pot vegan lentil chili. https://minimalistbaker.com/1-pot-red-lentil-chili/#wprm-recipe-container-35351. Lentils and canned beans are inexpensive and a great source of protein in a meatless dinner. If you don’t have fresh jalapeños or red bell peppers on hand, you can easily leave them out or substitute them for additional chili flakes and celery.

If you have some rice, canned tomatoes, and cheese, you can make a delicious cheesy rice casserole. In a casserole dish, mix cooked rice with spices like paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, thyme, cumin, hot pepper flakes, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Stir in a can of diced or crushed tomatoes (or a bottle of pasta sauce). I like to add a chopped onion and fresh garlic, cooked in a pan until translucent, as well. For protein, you can add a layer of leftover sliced sausages, chicken, or ham on top of the rice mixture. Top with a layer of your favourite cheese and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until melted and slightly browned.

Soup is always a good idea at this time of year, but most recipes require a lot of fresh vegetables. If you have a hankering for a rich soup that won’t empty your crisper, try The Beader Chef’s recipe for homemade French-Canadian chickpea soup. It uses canned chickpeas, chicken broth, garlic, onions, and a few slices of bacon to give it a lovely smoky flavour. https://www.thebeaderchef.com/creamy-bacon-chickpea-soup/#wprm-recipe-container-3890. If you decide to make a large amount, put the extra soup into freezer-safe containers and serve within the next 3 months for a quick weeknight dinner.

Lastly, if you are anything like me, you have a liquor cabinet with several bottles of who-knows-what languishing at the back. Make use of your spirits in classic cocktails like the Rob Roy, Gibson, or Old Fashioned. I happened to have a bottle of shochu in my cupboard, a clear Japanese spirit made from distilled barley, which I recently used to create a new twist on the Sidecar cocktail. Try the recipe below, the ingredients for which can be mixed and matched depending on what you have on hand!

Pantry Shelf Sidecar

1 ¾ ounces shochu (sub. vodka or cognac)

¾ ounce Triple Sec (sub. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)

½ ounce lemon juice

4 dashes bitters

Instructions

Add the cognac, triple sec, bitters, and lemon juice to a shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a coupe or wine glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and enjoy.

Devastating Flood at Scarborough Arts      March 2022

By Janet Monk

The Scarborough Arts building, located at 1856 Kingston Road, suffered a devastating flood on January 14, 2021. Their offices and the Bluffs Gallery, which displays works by local artists, collectives, and partner organizations, were severely damaged. In a previous interview, the Scarborough Arts Executive Director, David Spooner, said that they estimate 65 to 75 percent of the building was damaged by the flood.

The building’s HVAC system malfunctioned during severe weather conditions, causing several pipes to burst and portions of the building’s roof to collapse. Water was reported to have been pouring out from the outer walls. The basement of the building, which housed art materials belonging to Scarborough Arts, was also flooded with up to 5 inches of water. Many of the materials were reported to be destroyed as a result. Spooner also reported that many essential office supplies were lost in the flood as well, including projectors, computers, and furniture.

The historical building was built in 1927 and Scarborough Arts began running their programs in the building in 1978. For the last half-century, Scarborough Arts has provided the community with a hub for local artists to thrive in. Scarborough Arts is responsible for beloved community initiatives such as the Scarborough Sign project, the EAST Youth Collective program, and the Healthy Arts for Seniors program.

Renovations to fix the damages are expected to take somewhere between 8 months and a year to complete, meaning that the building may largely be out of operation during that period. On a brighter note, Scarborough Arts is planning to use the time for repairs to make new additions. They are currently working on designs for a chairlift and a fully accessible washroom for people with mobility aids.

At this time, programs have been moved online as the building is currently inaccessible. Members of the public and Community Partners are not permitted in the building for their safety. For those interested in contacting Scarborough Arts with questions, please note that their office phone line is out of service at this time. Email hello@scarborougharts.com with any questions or visit their website at www.scarborougharts.com/ to see how you can contribute, get involved with their programs, and get updates on the renovations.