Where Toronto Eats: Chop Chop

Succulent dumplings and glistening stir fried noodles are by now a mainstay in many Torontonians’ diets — they are everywhere and affordable, unselfconsciously delicious despite their stints as American-Chinese food. In the precarious food world where trends bubble over, these classics seem somehow eternal. We’ll be slurping up versions of glistening noodles long after toasts become toasted bread again, terms of authenticity are redefined, and the kingdom come. And if there is a place to slurp, slurp as the world pirouettes out of orbit, Chop Chop on Dundas West is the place to do it.

The tall windows, the white walls, and the high ceiling of Chop Chop would put one in mind of a hip brunch place with colorful hollandaise sauce and ‘creative’ takes on French toasts, if it weren’t for the subtle nutty smell of woks being worked in a small open kitchen. The simple menu, divided into three short sections, ‘Dumplings’, ‘Appetizers’, and ‘Mains’, feels like a bridge between a menu at a corner takeout joint and one at a place marked authentic. Ginger beef, Shanghai Noodles, and General Tao chicken sit side by side with mapo tofu, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup, and spicy cucumber salad. The daily specials menu that includes braised eggplant and pig ears continue the theme. Chop Chop does not cater to the shooters in search of the authentic, nor does it fall back on the comforts of the simulacrum. It’s truly welcoming, in the way eating at a friend’s place is: Come eat what we like to eat.

If you luck out and find the pan-fried vegetable dumplings on the daily specials, start there. The thick and chewy skin that’s absorbed the nutty oil lead the way to the sweet fillings of cabbage and other veges I was frankly too absorbed in eating to decipher. The Shanghai noodles is unsettling as it reminds diners of how good this simple dish can be: vegetables sautéed to be soft with a hint of crunch, slivers of pork and small shrimps swimming in the tangle of oil-glistened, perfectly seasoned noodles. The mapo tofu, more mellow and tangy than it would be in a Sichuanese restaurant, is silky and comes with just the right amount of kick to offset its own sweetness. The braised eggplant makes the apostate believe in vegetables again.

Among the fortune cookie-like aphorisms written in crisp red letters throughout Chop Chop, every syllable of “Happiness begins from within your stomach” rings true like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perfect Spring Trends for Your Zodiac Sign

Everyone loves knowing their zodiac. Even those who pretend they could care less about what their star sign says about them find themselves skimming through astrology books to see if their personalities match  their zodiac signs’ attributes. One fun way to match your personality with your star sign is in terms of personal style. In the same way that every sign has their own specific set of unique personality traits that make them who they are, zodiac signs have specific traits that guide what decisions in appearance each one makes. Infusing each unique sign with a personalized style guide made especially for them. So how about it, why not try and match your astrological style with some of this spring’s best trends to see if your everyday style matches your signs preferred style.

ARIES

Stella McCartney / Vogue Runway

Always ever so self-confident and self-assured. Aries’ have a knack for drawing attention to themselves with their strong personalities and their demand for respect. This headstrong and aggressive personality falls perfectly in line with fashion’s most assertive and aggressive Spring trends. For an Aries, the perfect spring trend is all about colour. Bright reds, citrine yellows, and tropical greens.

TAURUS

Jacquemus / Vogue Runway

Grounded Taurus, as close to the earth as the plants that grow from its soil. Taurus is a very earthy sign. So when it comes to fashion and style, it’s all about how the clothes feel rather than how they look. For that reason, Taurus spring trend is the straw hat. Earthy and organic, fashion’s take on the straw hat reimagines the farmers straw hat and farming is career birthed from mother earth herself.

GEMINI

Since Gemini’s can’t decide what they want, do the same in terms of fashion. Wear whatever you feel like wearing. You’ll probably hate it by tomorrow anyway.

CANCER

Proenza Schouler / Vogue Runway

Always the sensitive one, Cancer tends to be the most emotionally vulnerable and emotionally driven. As a sign guided by feeling, Cancer is best off looking for a spring trend that’s based more the material rather than the look. To put it simply, opt for trends rooted in texture and fabric, soft, silky, and comfortable are your best bets. This ultimately leaves Cancer with the opportunity to wear one of this and last seasons biggest trends, feathers!

LEO

Acne Studios / Vogue Runway

Proud Leo loves a good injection of drama. Like Aries, it’s all about drama and flash when it comes to Leo’s style and this spring’s trends came through with a decent supply of drama. One of the most dramatic trends of the summer has to be the multitude of rubber that was used this season. From Paris to New York, colourful rubber seemed to pop up over and over. Here’s to you, Leo!

VIRGO

Jil Sander / Vogue Runway

Virgo, the Zodiac’s resident perfectionist, is right at home with clean and well put together looks. Pristine tailoring and crisp design are exactly what any Virgo needs. This season, crisp white suits were all the rage on the world’s runways. Now, most people would run from the idea of wearing an all-white suit. But well maintained Virgo is the perfect person to keep a white suit bright and shiny from day 1 to day 365.

LIBRA

Christian Dior / Vogue Runway

The scales of the zodiac are the embodiment of balance in the human world. Libra’s are known for their balanced personalities. Always weighing the scales of logic in hopes of making the best decisions. Unfortunately, this season’s fashion trends were more about the chaos coming together in unison than the perfect balance of equals. However, one of spring’s trends does embody the idea of linear equals and that’s the square neckline. Which perfectly frames the neck and almost looks like an upside down scale itself.

SCORPIO

John Galliano / Vogue Runway

Fiery and sensual Scorpio is all about exploring the body. Scorpio is essentially a sign with an affinity for drama, however, Scorpio uses a unique form of dramatics to feel their best. The name of the game for a Scorpio is sexiness, with that said, the perfect spring trend is the flirty peek-a-boo panty. Showing just enough skin to provoke, nut still being deeply rooted in what’s relevant in fashion.

SAGITTARIUS

Carolina Herrera / Vogue Runway

Sagittarius is the adventurer. Always one to be a free spirit, Sagittarius can’t be tied down by the conventions of everyday life. Spontaneity is the name of the game and their fashion choices should follow suit. Try bright colours or punchy patterns. One of this season’s perfect pattern trends is polka-dot. Opt for a fun and graphic black and white polka-dot for the best visual effect.

CAPRICORN

The Row / Vogue Runway

Like Virgo and Libra, Capricorn’s personality is built around being organized in all aspects of your life. However, Capricorn’s are known to focus their perfectionism and organizational skills on education and career more than anything else. Since Capricorn’s focused mind would most likely be created with functionality in mind. And what’s more functional than the everyday white tank top. Created to serve a sole purpose, just like Capricorn likes it.

AQUARIUS

Delpozo / Vogue Runway

Individualistic and creative Aquarius’ are known for their unique personality and style. Their lives are dominated by the idea of being different. One to always move against the grain, Aquarius will most likely be the sign to either avoid trends altogether or pick the most outrageous one to stand out from the pack. That’s why Aquarius is best paired with the modern Leg of Mutton sleeve, a trend that very many would dread to wear. But to Aquarius, it’s the perfect way to stand out.

PISCES

Y/Project / Vogue Runway

Pisces, like Cancer, is a deeply emotionally sign. Guided through life by their ability to be completely in tune with their emotions, the name of the game of Pisces is sensitivity. Like Cancer, Pisces would most likely enjoy a trend that involves creating emotion through feeling and texture. Like feathers, which is essentially a tactile trend, Pisces would enjoy spring’s obsession with ruching. Especially since ruching mimics the ripples seen on the surface of a body of water, Pisces, being a water sign, would highly enjoy this spring trend.

To All The Predatory Men Who Wore Time’s Up Pins

Between Christmas and New Year’s I started watching a show on Netflix with my family called Turn: Washington’s Spies. That has nothing to do with what I want to talk about in this article except that I think the opening line of the theme song is quite relevant: “There’s snakes in the garden”

If you saw the Golden Globes on Sunday, you might have been impressed by the huge show of solidarity for women, whether it was almost every star dressed in black and/or sporting a Time’s Up pin, the many stars who brought activists with them as their dates, a monologue all about #metoo from host Seth Meyers (with a little help), Natalie Portman’s sharp quip announcing the “all-male nominees for Best Director”, or even Debra Messing directly calling out E! for paying former anchor Catt Sadler far less than her male cohost.

Debra Messing calling E! out

And yet, it seems like there are some snakes in the garden. For a start, a great deal of attention has been given to the hypocrisy of James Franco sporting a pin and claiming support for the movement, despite his own numerous allegations of sexual misconduct (at least five women so far), which he, in a tense interview with Stephen Colbert, merely described as inaccurate, and when Seth Meyers later asked him about allegations from Ally Sheedy, Franco said he did not reach out to her at all. Even if you believe Franco, there’s still the fact that just a few years ago he was caught trying to pick up a 17-year-old girl in Scotland, when he was about 36. Franco’s lackluster attempt to explain all this is perfectly summarized by this Reductress article: He believes women, just not the ones accusing him.

A lot of attention also went to Justin Timberlake sporting a Time’s Up pin, even though he is currently starring in a Woody Allen film. In case you forgot, Woody Allen allegedly molested his daughter, Dylan Farrow, when she was seven years old. And hey, even if you think it’s not true, he still is the guy who, in her personal and professional life, is really, really obsessed with teenage girls, especially the ones who date older men (like his wife/ex-stepdaughter, who was 19 when they wed).

Oh, and need I remind you that Emma Stone and Steve Carrell also wore black, and starred in Woody Allen films recently? And, have praised him up and down? Or what about Jude Law and Zoe Kravitz apparently supporting the movement despite being set to star in Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald with Johnny “alleged wife-abuser” Depp?

I don’t want to take away from the awesomeness of the night, or suggest that Hollywood isn’t starting to take all this a little more seriously. But if we’re actually going to do something about abuse and harassment of women, we cannot leave anyone behind, whether they were victimized last week or 20 years ago, by Harvey Weinstein or by Woody Allen.

For a start, it’s encouraging that so many actresses maintained enough self-awareness to understand their own incredibly privileged positions, and brought activists as dates who want to better the lives of women of color, of working class women, and of undocumented women. And the fact that Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers even asked James Franco about the allegations is quite telling because, let’s be real, even last year it would have been unheard of to do so. The time for being polite is over. The time for ignoring some women over others is over. The time for letting some predators slip by because they’re “artistic” or whatever is over. Time is up, and not just for Weinstein. For Woody Allen. For James Franco. For Johnny Depp. For Bryan Singer. For Christian Slater. For Bill Murray. For all the men whose names we don’t even know yet. Enough.

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You Should Cook More and Other Holiday Tips: a Conversation with Chef Todd Perrin

©David Howells 2017

There are reasons why you are not rushing to a fishmonger after work for a pound of fish that’s not salmon so you can go home and cook dinner. Perhaps a vile den of villainous conspirators are behind the rise of UberEats and the decline of cooking something other than a sad pasta. Who knows? But if there were an action figure the remaining eager home cooks and would-be chefs can rally behind, it might just be in the shape of Todd Perrin — a short beard, red tuque, blue jeans, and fishing boots. He has the back story too: a viking, as Matty Mathieson once put it, of a man with an unassuming background, from an unassuming town rises to champion good cooking and good eating. Maybe there’s a TV series here. Somebody call Anthony Bourdain.

Perrin, now famous for the Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village, Newfoundland, may be familiar to some from his appearance on Top Chef Canada. Though, looking back since our interview, it seems like an unlikely place to find him in: television is too rehearsed, obsessed with the need to pit one against another, too many close-ups. With so many scenes of ‘judges’ taking bites, TV’s somehow drained the actual process of cooking and eating out of food.

What Perrin talks about when he talks about food is the joy behind cooking and eating. Less grapefruit mousse, more mushrooms.Less bullshit, more fresh caught cod. Less judging, more food.

As part of his collaboration with  Paderno, Canada’s only cookware manufacturer, Novella had a chance to chat with chef Perrin about the holidays in the kitchen.

Paderno’s stainless steel multi-roaster with removable rack.

Tell us about your partnership with Paderno.

TP: My relationship with Paderno is cool because I’ve been in a partnership with Paderno even before they knew I was in a partnership with them [laughs]. I’ve had their set of pots for more than 20 years. When I went to cooking school, one of the first places I went to was the Paderno factory in PEI because I just knew about it through friends and family who knew. Being a young cook, I wanted to get the coolest pots I could find. I’ve had them 20 years and I use them almost everyday: their “Pots for Eternity” is a real thing, they’re as good today as they were the day I bought them. The thing with Paderno is that the moment you take them out of the cupboard, you feel like you’re doing something [laughs]. They’ve got a weight to them and are quality. It’s been a fond partnership so far. I talk about local ingredients a lot and, you know, quality ingredients: these guys have quality products that are Canadian-made.

Do you remember your childhood Christmas meals? And if there was turkey, do you actually like turkey? 

Todd Perrin: We were pretty traditional, so a turkey dinner with all the fixings was the classic. At home in Newfoundland, where I grew up, we basically had Christmas dinner pretty well every Sunday. Every Sunday was like roast beef, roast turkey, salt beef, vegetables, and what you’d normally do on Christmas. We’d do that at my grandparents place. Turkey is still one my favorite things to eat.

What dish do you think people should stop/start making for the Holidays? 

TP: I think that in a world where people are cooking less and less, the holidays is an opportunity to cook something. So, I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to stop making anything. I would say, get out there and do something: a traditional turkey dinner, lamb, whatever you like, maybe a vegetarian feast. I would never say anything to discourage anyone from doing anything. I’d just say try something different, expand your horizons, and don’t be afraid of failures — the holidays, around your family, it’s the best time to do that.

The cliché is that home cooks need to use more butter and more salt to be on par with restaurant food. But what are some other things home cooks can do to elevate their skills?

TP: I think the single biggest piece of advice for a home cook that a professional cook can give them is: you need to be better aware of what you can do in advance. Maybe this isn’t so much for the taste of the food, and more for the overall quality of the experience you and your guests are going to have when you are entertaining. There’s no reason for you to be running around like an idiot when your guests are there.

This is something thing that’s always been true with me since I started entertaining. When I entertain, people are always amazed at how cool and calm I am, sitting around with a glass of wine or a beer when they’re supposed to be there for dinner. It’s because, as a professional cook, I know how to take things part way through the process, how to do mise en place. That’s the biggest thing people can pay attention to as home cooks: learn those few tricks and how to bring things along part of the way, so that the only thing you need to do last minute is to cook that piece of fish or turn the oven on high to finish cooking something. If you learn how to organize, it will make the cooking better, make you a better, more relaxed cook.

You’ve spent time in various parts of Canada. In your mind, what’s the most Canadian dish, and what’s so  Canadian-y about it? Also, where do you get it?

TP: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite Canadian dish per say. What I love doing is going to different parts of Canada and experiencing what those parts have to offer. We have an awesomely vibrant food scene in the country right now. We have a big country, which makes for a diverse palette of food, chefs, styles of food, etc. The east coast is heavy on seafood, and we can do wild-foraged foods. You go to Alberta, you’re talking about beef, and in B.C. you have the west coast seafood; Ontario and Quebec are the bread baskets of Canada.

There’s such a wide variety across Canada. What I really love is seeing what’s happening in each town, city, and province. You get an experience in Alberta unlike what you’d get in, say, Newfoundland. So everywhere has its unique touches. Not to mention the ethnic diversity in our major cities.

What’s your favorite Newfoundland ingredient? 

TP: My favorite Newfoundland ingredient is probably chanterelle mushrooms. But when you are talking about Newfoundland ingredients, it starts and ends with cod fish, because it’s the reason why we’re there. Unless you’ve had a fresh piece of cod straight out of the Atlantic coast in Newfoundland, you’ve never eaten a good piece of fish. It blows your mind with how special it is. So, a good piece of fresh cod with a few chanterelle sautéed over is about as quintessential Newfoundland as you can get.

Paderno’s classic non-stick fry pan

Our ‘relationship’ with food is a constant topic these days. Why do you think we are more concerned with what and how we eat now than ever before?

TP: I think it’s one of the ironies — when we feel like we are losing something, we talk about it a lot, but we don’t act on it. Fact that there’s so much food tv, food journalism, that we talk so much about it is a direct correlation to the fact that we don’t cook as much as we used to. People feel like they’re getting the connection to food from reading about it and seeing on TV. Unfortunately, it’s the way our society has moved. We’ve never had a stronger virtual relationship to food, and, at the same time, we have the weakest actual relationship to food. I think we need to push back against that. I think there is a way to use media as a way to promote actual and better relationship with food.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Find out more about Mallard Cottage here and Paderno here. 

Hear Me Out: What You Should be Listening to This Month (December Edition)

December is a big month for hip-hop releases. While the weather drops and the snow beings to fall, our favourite artists are releasing some fire music. If you are having trouble finding a Christmas gift for a loved one or hip-hop head, there is something for everyone on this list.

War & Leisure – Miguel (Dec. 1)

I’m not gonna lie, I have a huge crush on Miguel. How can you not? His sultry tones can sing me right to sleep – preferably in his arms. War & Leisure dropped at the top of this month which gives us the perfect closure for 2017. Miguel describes War & Leisure as amindful celebration” that plays upon the relationship between music and politics.

Rubba Band Business: The Album – Juicy J (Dec. 8th)

Juicy J is about to drop his forthcoming album, Rubba Band Business: The Album with a star-studded line-up. Artists such as A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Offset, Travis Scott, Denzel Curry, are featured on this anticipated album.

Double Or Nothing – Big Sean & Metro Boomin (Dec. 8th)

Metro Boomin has another album worth celebrating under his belt with Double Or Nothing. This collab with Big Sean has us on our toes, with the only track released thus far is Pull Up N Wreck with 21 Savage. The album is said to feature artists like Future, Eminem and Jeremih.

No_One Ever Really Dies – N.E.R.D – (Dec. 15th)

Lemon is one of my top 3 favourite songs from 2017. Rihanna raps and that’s all I need to say. We can only imagine the features that Pharrell has cooked up for this album, we already know of Kendrick Lamar having his turn on a song called “Don’t Don’t Do It.” This album is going to be one for the ages, so you better get your wallet ready.

Revival – Eminem (Dec. 15th)

Eminem’s ninth studio album, Revival drops this month and dropped his single, Walk on Water, with Beyoncé at the helm. Along with Queen B, there are a lot of pop stars featured on the album such as, Ed Sheeran, Kehlani, Alicia Keys, and Skylar Grey.

The Beautiful & Damned – G-Eazy (Dec. 15th)

The Beautiful & Damned will be released along with a short film. The album is said to be about the two sides of G-Eazy’s life – a double album displaying both sides. Like most of G-Eazy’s albums, relevant themes are sex, drugs, & rock n’ roll.

Saturation III – Brockhampton (Dec. 15th)

Saturation III will be the third album the Brockhampton releases this year. This boyband is on a whirl after releasing multiple albums, their American Boyband show on Viceland and selling out multiple merch launches of quality clothing. I can’t wait to see what they get up to in 2018 after taking 2017 as their own.

King Capital – Capital STEEZ (Dec. 23rd)

Back in July, Joey Bada$$ revealed that King Capital, Capital STEEZ posthumous album will be released this month. Capital STEEZ took his own life back in 2012 and the album will be released five years after his death. Click here to learn more about the rapper and his story.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

A lot of music has been teased to have a release date by the end of this year by some pretty major artists. Although we don’t have any specific dates to push you towards, here are some of the examples of work that may drop without warning before 2018:

  1. Travis Scott and Quavo collaborative album: Quavo has teased about the release of this project recently with Montreality. The rapper mentions that he has a lot of work under his belt with this project but he doesn’t have a confirmed release date to share with the fans.

  2. A$AP Rocky: The follow up to At.Long.Last.A$AP is addressed as “coming soon.” A$AP Rocky revealed the news to GQ Style back in October.

  3. Lil Yachty – Lil Boat 2: Back in August, Yachty posted an IG video hinting at a sequel to his most popular mixtape.

  4. Kid Cudi (prod. by Kanye West): It has been reported by Cudi that he is working on an album that will exclusively be produced by Kanye West. Following their brief turmoil the past year, the two have seemingly rekindled and are cooking up something magical in the studio. No word on when that release will be as its rumoured to be dropped without warning.

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