Restaurant Wars: The Black Hoof vs. Hoof Raw Bar

Photo by Renée Suen, via torontolife.com

It’s always a little dubious when a favourite indie restaurant decides to expand with a second dining room — a bit like when a film studio announces a sequel to a great stand alone movie. Did the world really need a Grease 2? How about The Return of Jafar? So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went to visit Hoof Raw Bar, a fish-focused offshoot of Toronto’s beloved charcuterie shrine, the Black Hoof. (True, there’s already the Hoof Cocktail Bar across the road, but as it doesn’t have a full dinner menu, I’m thinking of that more like a prequel — a genre that has it own weird baggage and expectations.) Anyway, here’s my comparison of the Black Hoof and Hoof Raw Bar.

Atmosphere:

The first time I went to the Black Hoof two summers ago, it was a Thursday night and the room was so packed that my friend and I had to wait for an hour to get seats at the bar. We didn’t start eating until well after nine, but even then, more and more people were arriving at the door. There was never an empty chair, and the room was roaring with diners raving about the beef tongue sandwich and pork carnitas tacos.

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How (Not) To Party Like a Hipster on HBO’s Girls

Zosia Mamet plays Shoshanna and Jemima Kirke plays Jessa on HBO’s Girls

On The Crackcident — episode seven of Lena Dunham’s Girls — Marnie, Hannah, Jessa and Shoshanna go to a warehouse party in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Jessa hopes that it will be the “best party ever” (which is why she stole her outfit from a Lady Gaga backup dancer), but between the four of them, they manage to make the night seem more like a bad after school special. And, like all after school specials, there are serious life lessons to be learned. Here are the key takeaways.

Lesson 1: Your ex-boyfriend doesn’t want to say hi. Why? Because if you are like Marnie, you look like a crusty “school teacher,” or worse, “one of those Real Housewives”: a high-strung, self-centered priss wearing a too-tight cocktail dress and and a tart, desperate look that says “you miss my face, right?” And, if your ex is like Charlie, he won’t miss your face. He’s too smart, and has already moved on with a lithe young thing like Aubrey, who twirls around him like a stripper on a pole. Strangely, Marnie can’t understand how Charlie could get over their sexless, emotionally void relationship so quickly. But let’s be honest, after being with someone so frigid, he would probably sprint toward a flying monkey with a bad case of ticks.

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OMA’s Milstein Hall at Cornell University

Milstein Hall at Cornell University. Image from dezeen.com. Photography is by Philippe Ruault

Last week, on my way down to New York City, I stopped at Cornell University to see their new Architecture, Art and Planning building, Milstein Hall. The OMA-designed facility looks like a Mies van der Rohe-style box propped up on a concrete ant hill, floating not incongruously between the kind of Victorian and Georgian structures one imagines at an Ivy League school. Some of the design is quite subtle — part of the exterior is clad in elegantly stripped Turkish marble — while some of it is showy and loud — a giant, 50-foot cantilever reaches over University Ave., almost-but-not-quite touching the 150-year-old Foundry Building across the road. I wasn’t sure if this latter gesture was an act of aggression — like a bully announcing its presence to a meek, helpless victim — or one of kindness, like an outstretched hand between a young spunky kid and an old, fair lady. This ambivalence basically describes my reaction.

What I liked: The building is porous. As people walk or bike by, there are interesting opportunities to look into spaces that are normally much more cloistered in a school: a lecture hall that has windows on three sides, or a submerged auditorium/crit space with large clerestories.  Continue reading

Vampire Diary: What It’s Like to Eat Blood Pudding

Image from thegroveto.com

I’m not sure why eating cooked blood seems so gross. Is it really any different than a meal of muscle and fat? Especially when that muscle and fat is grilled rare. Or how does it compare to a microwaved, store-bought hot dog, which is like ingesting running shoes and ground chicken beaks. But blood reminds people of scraped knees and crusty scabs and eating it seems a bit vampire/Silence of the Lambs. That is until you try it, as I did the other night.

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The Finger Trap on HBO’s Girls

Lena Dunham plays Hannah on HBO’s Girls

Even though we’re only six episodes in, there have been some noticeable trends on Lena Dunham’s Girlsgross guys, cupcakes, more gross guys. But on the latest episode — The Return — there was evidence of the most alarming trend by far: surprising someone with a little butt play. Here’s what I mean:

Hannah travels home to Lansing, Michigan to celebrate her parents’ wedding anniversary. But instead of spending time with her family, she meets a young man with farm boy good looks and wavy blond hair — Eric — who is a huge improvement from her previous boyfriend Adam, the jobless, brainless, shirtless wonder.

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Really Good Pizza Alert: NYC’s Don Antonio by Starita

Photo stolen from http://donantoniopizza.com/

This past week when I was in NYC, I tasted what is probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. My hometown of Toronto has been having a pizza boom for the past few years, with places like Libretto and Queen Margherita serving excellent, Neapolitan-style thin crusts from wood burning ovens. But, I have to admit, the Montanara Starita at Manhattan’s Don Antonio by Starita is superior. The toppings are simple: tangy-salty-sweet tomato sauce, fresh basil, and smoked buffalo mozzarella. Most of the time, I could honestly take or leave buffalo mozzarella — it’s good but I don’t understand why people drool over it. The smoked cheese here, though, really makes the dish. It’s still light and milky, but has a rich, deep flavour like a good piece of bacon. And the crust is flash fried before it’s baked, making the dough airier and the edges crispier than I’ve ever had before.

Here’s more about the place and the pie from New York magazine (which is where I read about Don Antonio in the first place): http://nymag.com/bestofny/food/2012/pizza/

Prime Meat: Stephen Harper Without His Sweater Vest

Emperor Haute Couture by Margaret Sutherland

Artist Margaret Sutherland claims she was making a satirical political statement with her now-famous painting, Emperor Haute Couture, which depicts Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper completely naked. I have to admit that I’m transfixed by the piece, but I’m not sure what statement it’s making. I can see how the work echoes Manet’s Olympia, which would suggest that Harper is a prostitute. But is that fair? He seems more like an aggressive pimp to me, whoring out Canada’s natural resources and smacking around his bitches cabinet ministers. In my opinion, the painting is best taken at face value: Harper is an exhibitionist with a weight problem, a small penis and a habit for Tim Hortons. None of that may be true, but it’s funny none the less.

Emperor Haute Couture is currently hanging in a library in Kingston, Ontario, and is for sale for $5,000. Who would buy it? I’m guessing a gay guy with a daddy issues and a taste for irony.