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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The top 10 daiquiris in Toronto

daiquiris torontoThe top daiquiris in Toronto aren't quite enjoying the renaissance some other trends are seeing in the city's most recent cocktail boom. That's a shame, because the humble daiquiri, a clean fusion of white rum, lime, and sugar, when made well, produces one of the most stunningly crisp and appetite-whetting drinks in existence. There are a number of classic variations, though many bars have settled on the Hemingway Daiquiri (named after Havana's most famous adoptee, Ernest Hemingway) as the definitive iteration.

Here are my picks for the top daiquiris in Toronto.

County General

At West Queen West's ever popular rum 'n' bourbon bar, the Esteban Daiquiri ($12) has apparently been selling like gangbusters. Shaking up mint with a cucumber-infused rum, lime, and watermelon syrup may seem pretty far from a traditional daiquiri, but all of the requisite crisp flavour and bright punch remains intact, albeit in amazingly refreshing fashion.

Rhum Corner

Possibly the only frozen daiquiri really worth getting excited about, Rhum Corner's offering, at $7, also represents fantastic value for money. Yes, it gets poured from one of those slushie machines, but the devil is in the details - the classic combination of lime juice, rum and sugar is topped with grated lime zest and sprayed with a fine mist of Goslings rum to finish.

La Creole

OK, so the Ti'Punch ($8) at St. Clair West's Haitian eatery isn't technically a daiquiri, but it is very closely related, mixing rhum agricole with cane syrup and lime juice. Their version provides a more pungent and spicy variation than the crisp and sour Cuban classic.


BarChef's basil daiquiri ($13) is, like the County General's offering, twisted with a number of flavours: coconut rum is shaken up with fresh basil, lime, a pineapple-infused honey, and black pepper, offering bite and subtle spice along with a delicious background fruitiness.


The Hemingway Special ($12) at SpiritHouse can't really claim to be a true Hemingway Daiquiri. After all, the great man himself was a diabetic, and required the use of maraschino liqueur and grapefruit as a substitute for sugar, producing a notoriously punchy cocktail. The one on offer here tempers that with a little simple syrup to provide a little more balance.


This King West saloon's take on the classic Cuban cocktail takes its name after the famous La Floridita bar in Havana. Known as 'the cradle of the daiquiri', La Floridita is credited with elevating what sounds like a devastatingly simple concoction and turning it into an art form. Weslodge provide a sparkling update to the Hemingway with the addition of cava, orange spiced simple syrup, and lemon oil ($14).

The Beverley Hotel

Since taking control of the front of house operations at Queen West's microscopic boutique hotel, Aja Sax has been developing a competitive bar program to draw people up to the outstanding roof patio. While there are a number of inventive signature creations, there's also a short, snappy list of classic cocktails made well. The daiquiri on offer ($12) is as classic as they get, shaking up Havana Club Blanco with lime and sugar.

Tortilla Flats

By no means the most refined daiquiri on this, or any, list, Tortilla Flats merits a mention entirely on the basis of price. On Mondays, their frozen fruit daiquiris can be had for a bargain $3.50. With a base mix of lime and sugar working it's way around the slushie machine, punters can choose from a variety of flavours - peach, mango, strawberry, mojito, lime, raspberry, or pina colada. On any other day, they're available for $5.25.

Portland Variety

This brand new spot at King and Portland is impressing with some deft and restrained use of molecular technique in a short, but well-worked, menu. The Hibiscus Daiquiri ($9) uses a dash of hibiscus water alongside lime and sugar, with a hibiscus flower infused Bacardi. It's floral and very fresh, and certainly worth a try.

Mambo Lounge

The only restaurant on this list under authentic Cuban ownership, Mambo Lounge's Hemingway Daiquiri ($9) can also be served in Ernest's favourite style, as a 'Papa Doble' (requiring a double helping of rum) for $14. However, in place of the maraschino, you'll find that Mambo opt for triple sec, so not quite as authentic, though certainly still delicious.

Did I miss any? Leave your favourite spots for daiquiris in the comments.

by Jen Hunter via blogTO

Toronto Food Events: Ontario Food Truck Fest, Twilight Tuesday, Dim Sum Sampler, Heroes vs. Villains

food events torontoToronto Food Events rounds up the most delicious events, festivals, pop-ups, winemaker dinners, supper clubs and other food related happenings in Toronto this week and next. You can find us here every Friday morning.


  • The Depanneur (1033 College St.) turns three this summer, and will celebrate on Sunday, August 3 with an open-house shindig complete with music, $4 snacks and drinks, door prizes and more.

  • Twilight Tuesday, a mini night market, is popping up in the parkette on York between Richmond and Adelaide on Tuesday, August 5 from 6 to 9pm, and recurring every Tuesday for the rest of August. Drake One Fifty, Momofuku, Richmond Station and The Garbardine will be there serving up street foods and snacks to a backdrop of live music.

  • Mean Bao (275 Dundas St. West) and Toronto Common host a Dim Sum Sampler on Wednesday, August 6 starting at 7pm. Meat eaters and vegetarians alike can take part for $12.


  • Ontario Food Truck Fest is coming to Ontario Place on Sunday, September 21. The festival, put on by the folks behind CraveTO, already has a line-up of 11 food trucks on board, including Food Dudes, Me.n.u and Curbalicious. Ticket sales to be announce soon.

  • Top Toronto chefs will tap their alter egos to each present a dish along the theme of Heroes vs. Villains at this gastronomic adventure hosted by the Cheese Boutique on Thursday, August 14 from 7:30pm. Tickets are $175 but extremely limited. The evening will also include drink pairings from Samuel Adams and Stratus Wines.

Photo of Food Dudes fish tacos.

by Liora Ipsum via blogTO

That time when an Alice Cooper riot rocked the CNE

alice cooper riot torontoAugust 19, 1980: Picture 13,000-plus heavy metal fans milling around Exhibition Place Grandstand, drunk, high and simmering on a muggy August night. They have already endured a torturous 30 minutes of noodling from Toronto-area progressive rockers Zon, and then an additional 90 minutes of roadies setting up for star headliner Alice Cooper's "Welcome to my Nightmare" tour, as the house lights raised and dimmed ad nauseum. Someone appears to announce that Alice Cooper is running a little late due to lost luggage at Pearson.

Storm clouds begin to roll in and the temperature spikes; the crowd is anxious, and the stadium is a foggy hothouse of pot and tobacco smoke. Something is amiss. Rumours swirl that the Godfather of shock rock ain't coming out. At 10:05pm, Cooper's lead guitarist Dick Wagner takes to the stage to confirm that Alice won't, in fact, be attending the show tonight, but Zon would be more than happy to come back out and play some more space jams. What could possibly go wrong?

alice cooper riot toronto

Before Wagner had even finished his ballsy peace offering, chairs and stubbies started flying and the tinderbox of pissed-off metalheads exploded into a frenzy of pent up violence. With only 25 or so policemen and Exhibition Place security staff on hand, a crackle came over the radio for all available Toronto Police officers to proceed directly to the CNE - the great Alice Cooper riot of 1980 was in full swing.

For roughly 30 minutes, the Grandstand became a pitched battleground. Mounted police were the first to arrive, storming the floor area of the stadium and pushing the chaotic mess of Canadian tuxedo-wearing fans towards the opposite side's exit. While chairs and bottles rained down with escalating urgency, fistfights began to break out as crowds heaved away from the mounted units and came dangerously close to being crushed. As more police arrived, troublemakers taunted them to draw their weapons and made sport of vexing them at every turn.

As the rowdy scrum exited the stadium, it became open season on the CNE midway as stalls were looted and food trucks tipped. A defenceless 511 streetcar was even ransacked by a breakaway mob.

In total, 12 fans, five policemen, and a security officer were seriously injured in the melee, and 31 people were arrested. The Toronto Star reported: "Thousands of rioting fans tried to wreck the Grandstand last night. They bombarded 268 policemen with bottles, chains and other missiles during a 30-minute rampage that will cost at least $175,000 to repair. They tore out 200 seats welded to steel posts and bolted to concrete. They ripped out steel turnstiles, smashed windows and ticket booths and the Grandstand restaurant, and damaged several cars outside the stadium".

alice cooper riot torontoPublic outrage followed the next day as the city awoke to news which pretty much confirmed Alice Cooper and his ilk were the spawns of Satan. The Star quoted concert attendee Greg Delaney, 18 of Halifax, who proudly boasted: "I hit a cop on the head with a chair. It was really great. He gave chase but didn't catch me. Concerts aren't any fun if you just sit there and listen to the music. You gotta make things happen!"

Toronto was still reeling from a summer of rock concert discontent: In June, a mini riot of 400 youths assaulted police and destroyed cars when they were denied entrance to a Teenage Head show at Ontario Place. The previous month saw subways cars and a station attacked by youths leaving a Nash the Slash concert at the same venue.

In the wake of the riot, the usual Pablum about youthful alienation, Satanism in heavy metal, and drug and alcohol abuse were bandied around as prime suspects for fuelling these orgies of vandalism and destruction. Some celebrated the mayhem as a signifier that the hedonistic rock 'n' roll ethos would thrive and survive into the new decade - "You're a Riot, Alice" buttons were a popular fashion item in the Fall of 1980.

Things returned to normal fairly quickly. Three nights later, Burton Cummings opened his show at the Grandstand (the first since Alice) by saying "Yes, there will be a show tonight". Local rock band Moving Targetz, who had been in attendance at the fateful Cooper riot, even wrote a song about the incident entitled "Fly to a Flame" which featured samples of the crowd they had recorded in situ. While many suspected Cooper's non-appearance was due to a drug or alcohol related relapse, his biography stated it was a severe asthma attack.

Riots at concerts have always been a fairly common occurrence, but nothing quite like it had happened in Toronto before that sweaty night in August when Alice Cooper welcomed us into his nightmare.

alice cooper riot torontoRetrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at

by Ed Conroy via blogTO

5 Toronto wards that will have new councillors in 2014

toronto council chamberThe majority of Toronto's city councillors are seeking re-election this October 27, meaning that, barring an unprecedented clear-out, there will be several familiar faces in the chamber next year. That said, several wards will certainly be electing a new representative, either because the incumbent has been elected elsewhere, or has decided not to run.

At time of writing, councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre), Peter Leon (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre), Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale), and Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) have not filed registration papers, but could still enter the race (Lindsay Luby looks like she will do just that.)

Here are five council seats up for grabs this election.


Doug Ford hasn't completely ruled out running for re-election, but the presence of his nephew's name on the ballot is any indication, the mayor's brother will be sitting out the next term of office. Twenty-year-old Michael Ford and Andray Domise, a writer, financial planner, and community organizer, are among the favourites to fill the seat.


James Maloney, the replacement for MPP Peter Milczyn, says he's not running in October, leaving the door open for a new representative in Ward 5. Already on the ballot: Justin Di Ciano, who narrowly missed out on winning the council election in 2010, and Kinga Surma, Milczyn's former executive assistant.


Incumbent councillor Karen Stintz is making a bid for mayor, meaning the midtown ward of Eglinton-Lawrence is almost certain to see a new face come October. Stintz's former TTC advisor Jean-Pierre Boutros is running, as are nine other candidates. The ward was previously represented by long-time councillor Anne Johnston.


With Adam Vaughan in Ottawa and his replacement Ceta Ramkhalawansingh vowing not to run for re-election, the downtown ward of Trinity-Spadina is up for grabs. At time of writing, there are 25 candidates in contention, including Joe Cressy, the NDP candidate who lost to Vaughan in the federal by-election earlier this year, who has the support of former mayors David Crombie and John Sewell.


Former budget chief Mike Del Grande, a firm believer in term limits for city councillors, said he would not be returning to City Hall this Fall after more than a decade in office. The fiscal conservative told the Toronto Sun he was working between 75 and 80 hours per week when he had a heart attack last year. Former MP Jim Karygiannis and subway advocate Patricia Sinclair have registered to fill the seat.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo by inventor_77 via the blogTO Flickr pool.

by Chris Bateman via blogTO

Ireland Park

Warm welcome in Toronto for rare Blood Orange date

Blood Orange TorontoLast night, Blood Orange erupted at the Danforth Music Hall with a salvo of sexy, 80's inspired r&b. Backed by a crack six-piece band consisting of drums, bass, guitar, keys, saxophone and a co-vocalist who was out-of-this-world, Devonté Hynes cast a groove-heavy spell concocted of cuts from his 2013 sophomore record, Cupid Deluxe.

Blood Orange TorontoHynes began the night solo on guitar and vocals backed by a drum machine. Once the band came on he moved restlessly, moving from the front to the back of the stage, seemingly unsure of where he felt most comfortable. His reluctance to be a classic front-man really allowed the band to shine as a whole. Saxophone solos wailed through the hall.

Blood Orange TorontoHynes is well known for his collaborations with Sky Ferreira and Solange - even more so perhaps for his public falling-out with Solange last fall - and much of the music on Cupid Deluxe is fleshed out with ethereal vocals from Samantha Urbani. These essential elements were handled with ease from his current touring on-stage counter-part, whose rendition of "Bad Girls", which appeared on Solange's True EP (produced by Hynes) was soaked with soul. Solange, who?

Blood Orange TorontoAt one point Hynes thanked us all for coming out and confessed, "this is very different from our last Toronto show," referring to a sparsely attended gig at The Garrison in 2011 after the release of his debut album Coastal Grooves. On this night, the Danforth was packed with fans dancing and singing along.

The house was eager and responsive, enthusiastically shouting for an encore that never came. Although he's blatantly influenced by Prince, the four-hour mega-sets are still a few album-cycles away, but the hour-ten minute set was satisfying regardless of our greedy desire for more. Dynamic, emotionally charged, and flawlessly executed, Toronto is lucky to have witnessed one of only four tour dates scheduled this summer.

MORE PHOTOSBlood Orange TorontoBlood Orange Toronto-Blood Orange TorontoBlood Orange Toronto

Writing by PO Karim, photos by Alejandro Santiago

by Staff via blogTO

Road closures in Toronto: August 2-4

toronto road closuresRoad closures in Toronto for the August long weekend rounds up the key transportation shut-downs affecting the city, including street and TTC closures.


Lake Shore: Colborne to Strachan. The grand parade of the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival will close Lake Shore Blvd. in both directions from Saturday, August 2 at 12:01 a.m. until Sunday, August 3 at 6 a.m.


510 Spadina: The ongoing closure of the Spadina and Dundas intersection for water main and streetcar track replacement means the replacement bus service will be operating in two parts: between Spadina Station and Baldwin St. and Sullivan St. and Queens Quay. Riders will need to transfer between the two buses at Dundas until Aug. 11.


Over and above the special closures this weekend, construction projects across Toronto result in numerous other road restrictions across the city. For a comprehensive list of such closures, you can consult the official map maintained by the City of Toronto (also available as a PDF.)

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

by Chris Bateman via blogTO