Sunday, November 12, 2017

Recommendations, "they were fresh when they were frozen" edition

-"Le Meilleur Pâtissier." Much as I wanted to love "The Great Canadian Baking Show," much as I like it and will totally keep watching it, a Guardian piece about global Bake-Offs led me to what I'm just going to declare the best of the bunch: the French one. Predictably? Yes. It seems at first like the usual cozy, homey, hygge (?) set-up, except the assortment of random French (and Walloon) contestants, with varied day-jobs, all turn out to be exquisite French pastry chefs. The level is something else. The harshness, for me, a graduate of two French programs, familiar. (Not cruel, but unapologetic about the search for perfection. The French answer to Paul Hollywood, Cyril Lignac, seems more than up to the task. Everything is just pushed a bit further, with the contestants making more complicated things, and the judges giving more detailed feedback than in the British original, and a whole lot more than in the Canadian one. The show has also solved the problem of combining French cultural consumption with times of the week when I'm keen to relax, and not to catch up on spillover novels purchased here and there, for possible dissertation-related reasons, but not gotten around to. 

-The Toronto public library card. With access to the university library, and a whole lot of books I own that I need to catch up on, I'm ashamed to say I only just got this. But the card is not just for the library - it also allows access to all sorts of movies and TV shows. Thanks to socialist Netflix, I watched a curious 1967 CBC documentary about the Six-Day War, with a (stated; it had to do with sources) perspective so pro-Israel that even I went hmm on occasion. The Canadian angle - which kept taking me by surprise - meant, among other things, that Israel was referred to as being around the same size as the Niagara Peninsula. 

-The Danforth. The part of Toronto I live in - Yorkville - is convenient for work, has worked out surprisingly OK (by expensive city standards) rent-wise, but is very much the rich-person going out district by night, with assorted super-expensive boutiques, car dealerships, cosmetic surgeons, assorted non-surgical beautification offices, etc. There's a Whole Foods, and the Kebaberie (and more specifically, the lentil soup at Kebaberie), but otherwise, not much, or really, not much for me. Which means weekend trips to other areas. Often "other areas" winds up being, near the old neighborhood, so either the Kensington Market or West Queen West, both of which have more going on, but take forever to get to. The Danforth, however, is one short-enough subway ride away, and has... stuff. As in, bookstores (one of which had my book!) and a Japanese café, but also a French bakery whose specialty is - bear with me - pastries shipped in frozen from France and baked in the shop. That may not sound promising, but the croissants and flan, at least, defrost magnificently.

-J-town as day trip. I'd wanted to try an udon place that's effectively inaccessible on the weekend subway, so - as planned - I took a weekday subway to it over fall break. The noodles were good, maybe not good enough for that long of a subway ride, but the advantage of having taken the train to the end of the line was... I was right there on the bus route to J-town, the Japanese strip mall! This entire trip took forever, but is the sort of thing I enjoy tremendously, especially when (apologies to the NJ years) it doesn't involve me driving. The kitchen is now stocked with all the necessary Japanese pantry items, and - for better or worse - I now know that the best (bread) bakery in the city is very likely Bakery Nakamura. It might be more efficient to learn how to make raisin bread than to attempt that trip again any time soon, but given the likelihood I'll figure that out, seems like another trip may be in order.

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