Archive for April, 2009

Amoeba! Amoeba! Amoeba!

April 26, 2009
Amoeba Records in Hollywood

Amoeba Records in Hollywood

There was a time, back when I had a mostly disposable income, that I would make bi-monthly trips to Sam The Record Man and other Toronto music stores and load up on CDs, usually four or five at a time.  As I’ve moved into adulthood and life as a homeowner, I’ve come to realize that a heavy sense of responsibility weighs on my conscience when it comes to buying music.  I still support musicians with any chance I get, but I rarely allow myself to buy impulsively anymore.

Two or three years ago, when Cari and I first visited L.A. together and stayed with her brother, Dan took us by Amoeba Records in Hollywood.  I had never heard of Amoeba before, but Dan promised I would love it.  I did, though I was so overwhelmed by the size, selection and prices of used CDs the store carried, that I felt faint and overstimulated.  When we returned on our last visit in June 2008, I still felt like a kid returning to his favourite candy store, but I had equipped myself with a list of items to look for.  This made it a lot less nerve-wracking though equally hyperactive.

We knew Amoeba had to be a part of this visit, and yesterday morning was my chance to go nuts.  Before we left, Cari handed me an envelope with an early birthday present: $100 to spend at Amoeba.  Huzzah!

Everybody has their own strategy when confounded with thousands of used CDs.  Mine was to grab a basket and load anything that looked remotely interesting into the basket and ultimately narrow down my choices to a number that fit my budget.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately I ended up with:

  • American Recordings, Johnny Cash
  • The Complete Goldwax Records Singles, James Carr
  • Live at the Apollo, James Brown
  • Duet for Guitars #2, M. Ward
  • Moon Pix, Cat Power
  • Lost In Space, Aimee Mann
  • Bone Machine, Tom Waits
  • Back To The Egg, Paul McCartney & Wings
  • Either/Or, Elliott Smith
  • Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, Neko Case
  • Everybody’s In Showbiz, The Kinks

Once that was all done, Cari convinced me I should pick up an Amoeba t-shirt, which I did.  Then Dan handed me Writer’s Block by Peter, Bjorn & John and a reusable Amoeba tote bag.  Thanks, Dan & Cari!

My Amoeba Haul!

My Amoeba Haul!

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Eating in L.A.

April 25, 2009

Cari and I are big food people, so it’s only natural that one of our favourite things to do while traveling is try new restaurants and return to places we’ve enjoyed before.

Canter's Deli

Canter's Deli

After exploring the shops along Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice with Cari’s mom, Art and Art’s son John, John suggested on our way to The Grove that we stop for lunch at Canter’s deli.  Obviously none of us took convincing, so away we went to the 24 hour Canter’s, which first opened its doors in the 1930s and quickly became a fixture of the community.  Cari ordered a tasty avocado melt and her first egg cream, while I went with a Downtowner (lots of corned beef on rye with a slice of swiss cheese on it.  Blasphemous I know, but boy was it tasty).  To wash it down I had Dr. Brown’s black cherry… from the bottle!

 

The adorable cartoon Paco

The adorable cartoon Paco

Several hours later, we were at it again.  By this time we had dropped off our earlier company and met up with Dan and Liana for dinner at Paco’s Tacos.  Paco’s is Dan’s favourite Mexican place, and I had been and enjoyed it before.  The hour wait only served to give the four of us some time to catch up.  By the time we sat down at close to 9 PM we were all quite hungry, so we shared two delicious plates of melted Mexican-style cheese (one with chorizo, one without).  Cari had cheese enchiladas, while I had a beef chimichanga and chile relleno.  And of course we had to go with margaritas on the rocks.  Yum!

Santa Barbara: Andersen’s Bakery

April 24, 2009

 

How could se not stop here?

How could we not stop here?

After visiting the beautiful Unitarian Church that Dan & Liana will be getting married in, we took a walk down State Street, the main drag in Santa Barbara. We all knew it was time for a coffee (Adam and I had been up for nearly 13 hours by then with no coffee!), and while we were all content to stop at Starbucks Dan suggested we go for something a little nicer. It didn’t take much convincing once we saw the amazing display of desserts at Andersen’s Bakery

 

A lovely little bakery with nice strong coffee was the perfect mid-afternoon break. We shared three desserts between us – a strawberry tart, a chocolate layer cake, and a lemon mousse cake. Yum!

Tapas in Ventura, CA

April 24, 2009

JonathansWe’re currently in LA visiting my brother – getting a chance to meet his lovely fiancée’s family and discuss wedding plans. Yesterday right after landing we drove out to Santa Barbara to see the venue, and on a way we stopped in Ventura to try out a restaurant they were considering to cater the wedding: Jonathan’s at Peirano’s

Very very good Mediterranean style tapas. We started with a nice antipasto platter full of tasty cheeses, meats, olives, roasted tomatoes in balsamic, and artichoke hearts. We also ordered:

  • A tasty humous with filet mignon – by all reports the filet was very good
  • Garlic seared shrimp & scallops – served in an amazing wine mushroom sauce. Adam’s not usually a big seafood fan, and even he gobbled this up.
  • Vegetable tempura with a trio of sauces 

After we all devoured the food Dan & Liana are almost for sure going with Jonathan’s at Peirano’s to cater their wedding. Now more than ever I can’t wait for November!

Sunday Dinner: Six Friends & A Baby

April 20, 2009

Weekends lately have just been wonderful. We’ve done a great job of making the most of them – and this past weekend was no exception. Saturday night following our crazy long walk, we hung out at the Ankle abode for a few hours. A nice evening with friends… many of whom we hadn’t seen in some time, so that was really nice. Thanks, Ankle for a great party! 

Sunday we invited a few people over for dinner. Over the past few months it seems when we have dinners/meals – we end up with 10+ people, so we decided to intentionally keep this a pretty small group. We ended up with 6 1/2 people total (6 plus baby!) – a nice manageable group size. And if I do say so myself, the menu worked out beautifully. We had:

  • Romaine, Red Pepper, and Fennel Salad – entirely inspired by the fact that we got fennel in our weekly veggie delivery and were not really sure what else to do with fennel besides throw it in a salad. It was a nice simple salad, and the fennel was definitely a nice touch.
  • Garlic bread – as in, bread with garlic baked into it, not bread toasted with garlic on top. Mmmmm.
  • Potato, Garlic, & Smoked Mozzarella Strudel – the same we made at our Sunday Roast – and it was as big of a hit this time around. So darn tasty!
I need to figure out how to seal up the puff pastry better... both times I've made this I end up with leaking cheese. Which, of course, is a delicious tragedy.

I need to figure out how to seal up the puff pastry better... both times I've made this I end up with leaking cheese. Which, of course, is a delicious tragedy.

  • Pasta Primavera. With homemade pasta, of course! One new thing I did learn this time around – 2lbs of pasta dough doesn’t work so well in the food processor. We started that way, but it just wasn’t forming a ball – so eventually I moved it into our Kitchenaid stand mixer with the dough hook – and it came out better than ever (though a bit dry – but that was my fault, not the mixer’s).
  • Carrots glazed with balsamic and butter – a simple side dish that I’ll definitely make again. We made a half batch of the linked recipe, which was more than enough for 6 of us.
  • For dessert, we made coconut pudding and served it with fruit. I’d do this again I think – it tasted good, but the consistency was a bit off. Too lumpy. Any tips on pudding making would be appreciated! 

If anyone wants a recipe not listed, let me know.

And while the food was good, the highlight of the night came from our 1/2 guest…

It was a great night with friends. Thanks to the Neumans, Matt, and Melissa for helping us end our weekend on a high note!

Summer Walks: Corso Italia to the Danforth

April 19, 2009

We did a lot of walking on Saturday. We started with the fairly brief walk over to Green Barn Market, about 3 1/2 kms total round trip in the morning. That was nice and leisurely – a good way to start the day.

Then we decided to walk to our friend’s party at Danforth & Broadview – now that is a walk.

April18_walk

8.5km walk

About 8.5kms in total. Go us.

A few interesting things of note:

  • We stopped into Sonic Boom for Record Store Day in hopes of picking up an exclusive single – Elvis Costello – but no luck. Ah well, we’re saving up for Amoeba next week. (Ok, Adam is saving up)
  • We went to Grassroots (both of them, actually) in attempt to get some soapnuts. I’ve been reading about them and want to give them a try – they are the only place I thought might have them locally – but no luck. Both were out of stock. I did find something containing soapnuts at a few other places, but it wasn’t in raw form… it seemed to be ground up and pre-measured into pouches. Eh.
  • There is an amazingly crazy house on Shaw north of Bloor. Big and white with odd sculptures out front. What’s with Greek people wanting everyone to know they’re Greek?
Seriously - what's up with this?

Seriously - what's up with this?

  • Apparently it takes about 2 hours to walk from our house to Ankle’s apartment – and yet the only part that feels long is between Sherbourne & Broadview.
  • We went to Kalyvia for dinner and had a super-fast and cheap meal. A filling trio of pita & dips plus salad for me and gyro for Adam. Very yummy and only $30 – and we were out of there in about a half hour.

Today was also a fabulous day – but no time to post about that now. In all, a fantastic weekend. I wish every day could be such fun.

Green Barn Market

April 18, 2009
Cari explores Green Barn Market

Cari explores Green Barn Market

Although Cari and I have lived in the Corso Italia area for over two years, we’ve found the area of St. Clair east of Dufferin to be a bit more appealing than the relatively homogenous stretch between Lansdowne and Dufferin.  Khmer Thai and Mezzetta have become two of our favourite restaurants, we’ve delighted in The Cupcakery, and 2Q Video has become our go-to place for DVD rentals like recent favourites Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Rachel Getting Married.

For every place we’ve visited, eaten at or explored, there’s been at least five or six places we keep passing by and commenting, “we need to check this place out!”  The Green Barn Market, located in the Artscape Wychwood Barns just south of St. Clair on Christie, was not one of these places.  In fact, when my sister Melissa told us about it, we had no idea where she was talking about.  Our curiousity was piqued, so we decided to make our way there this morning to check it out.

Heading south on Christie, you definitely won’t miss the Artscape Wychwood Barns.   What was once a streetcar depot is now the home of a Saturday morning farmer’s market, open from 9am to 12pm.  In reading up about it, we realized that this farmer’s market is affiliated with an outdoor one we had seen driving by on St. Clair.

This multi-generational string band was a nice touch

This multi-generational string band was a nice touch

Amish!

Amish!

The west-end farmer’s market that gets talked about the most is Dufferin Grove, but when it comes down to it, Cari and I have never been all that impressed with it.  This one was a completely different story, reminding us of a lot of the farmer’s markets we’ve been to in other cities like Vancouver and Seattle.  Not only were we greeted with a lot of fruits and vegetables, there were also vendors selling everything from eggs, cheeses and meats to yarn and homemade soaps to pastries and crackers.  We ended up buying a pound of Kurtis Coffee‘s Wychwood Barns Blend and the vendor treated us to two cups of same blend to drink outside.  Fresh, bold and delicious.

Outside the Artscape Wychwood Barns

Outside the Artscape Wychwood Barns

Green Barn Market is open every Saturday morning from 9am to 12pm, and during the summer will have extended hours and extend into the large outdoor space.  We’ll definitely be back.  A weekly tradition, perhaps?

Framing Fabric

April 14, 2009

Remember our dining room art?

Dining room art

Dining room art

Pretty blah. We’ve been thinking for awhile about getting a piece of cool fabric and framing it as a cheap way to bring some colour and life to the main area of our house.

Today I stopped at Fabricland and picked up a meter of a really nice flowery purple fabric. It was more of a task than I expected getting into the frame, but I love it!

Fabric! In a frame!

Fabric! In a frame!

It’s pretty girly, but I think Adam will forgive me. I don’t know yet if we’ll fill all four with the same fabric. I think that will be a bit much… so we may go back in the next day or two to find some complimentary fabrics. Yay for small changes!

Cocktail of the Night: Harvey Walbanger

April 14, 2009

Harvey Walbanger

We were lucky enough to get a bottle of galiano as a gift from Adam’s aunt & uncle, and decided we’d give it a try in the classic cocktail it’s associated with: The Harvey Walbanger.

Harvey Walbanger isn’t all that far off from an alcoholic Orange Julius. It has a slightly vanilla flavour somehow, and it’s darn tasty.

A Harvey Walbanger:

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz galiano
  • 4 oz orange juice
     

Yum!

Monday Night Dinner: Blackened Tilapia

April 13, 2009

 

Cookin' in some butter

Cookin' in some butter

I love it when we find a recipe during Passover that would work any time of the year. This is one of those finds! Recipe courtesy of Passover by Design:

Ingredients:
(spices can obviously vary a lot depending on your tastes/what you have on hand… but we followed it to a T and it was lovely)

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup butter (I would recommend MUCH less – seriously, 1/4 cup would be plenty)
  • 4 x tilapia filets (approx 6 oz each)
  • sour cream

Preparation:

  1. Grease and heat a skillet to medium high.
  2. Mix all the spices on a plate.
  3. Melt butter and put on a second plate.
  4. Dredge each filet through the butter, then coat with spices.
  5. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until blackened. Pour 1 tbsp butter on each filet (or, ya know, less than that), and turn over. Pour more butter on that side, and cook for 3-5 minutes, until blackened on both sides.

Serve with a nice dollop of sour cream on each filet.

It recommends grilled tomatoes seasoned with oregano as a side. Sure, if you want. But it’s not necessary.

 

YUM!

YUM!

We had it with garlic mushrooms and the grilled tomato. Yum!