On one side of Archive, an exposed brick wall partly covered with a vase of baguettes and jars of pickles and dried herbs and spices lead to the bar and kitchen. On the other, a pristine white wall is background for a row of wooden tables and a bench, and decorative photographs of ferris wheels and a carousel. The space is longer than it is wide and is decidedly cozy. On a recent visit, a traveler sat planning out her itinerary next to a group of coworkers on a night out; a young couple perched by the bar and chatted with the staff; two old women sat in the corner by the window and quietly worked on their bottle of orange wine. With its two windows facing a calmer bit of Dundas West and Bellwoods and low hung yellow lights, Archive is a picture of a place one imagines one would someday stumble into, make chance acquaintance with and fall in love.
The wine list is not exhaustive but long enough for a good perusal and the small menu of tapas and cheese & meats encourage adventures and learning by trial and error. The staff take a “What do you like to drink?” approach, which is, more often than not, for formality than function, but the 3oz glass option ease the pressure. But a recommendation from a well informed staff — a glass of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from A. A. Tiberio — was refreshingly dry and delicious with notes of flowers and, in the parlance of wine descriptions, ‘minerals.’ The point, it dawned on me half way through my second glass, was to be okay with not putting the exacting words of description to a wine. A glass of pinot noir from Alsace sealed my trust in her recommendations.
The foods offers, however, were less satisfying. Small savory snacks are offered as ‘Nibbles,’ $5 per plate or three plates for $13. Though the warmed olives are decent, neither the lupini beans (served in olive oil and salt) nor the shishito peppers offer much flavor. That the bread and oil are not complementary is perhaps becoming the norm in the restaurant world today, but the utterly soft and flavorless slices of baguette were an affront to good hospitality. Neither the Prosciutto nor the Chorizo offered much solace, but the Comté was, as it often is, satisfying. The steak tartare is served with the yolk of a quail egg and the shaved vegetable salad includes watermelon radishes.
Archive is located at 909 Dundas St W and is open everyday from 5pm to 2am. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You’re having a dinner party or you’re invited to one or you’re just at the right place at the right time and a perfunctory dinner extends into a leisurely span of sitting and talking or into a bass-heavy dancing and occasional nibbling: Whom — I think whom is right — would you want to be with? Yes, yes, family, friends, partners, etc. But fantasize a little. Which celebrity, writer, director, president? I’m sure everyone’s at one point imagined having dinner — and post-dinner activities that may lead to breakfast — with their middle school celebrity crushes. Even now, you only need a bit of prompt to fall into that rabbit hole of fantasy. Here are Novella’s choices.
It’s not a hard answer really — who would you want to spend a leisurely evening with, basked in moonlight and the flickering of a single candle on your beautifully decorated table? For me, it would be a literal dream, (and I’m saying this literally because I have had this dream many times) to spend an evening, sharing a meal with Frank Ocean. Ever since 2011, when Frank dropped his first mixtape, Nostalgia Ultra, I immediately became a super fan. Who wouldn’t want to know what goes on in his mind? The opportunity to spend a night, picking his brain — or listening to anything he would want to say — is something that I wouldn’t be able to pass up on. Frank’s lyrics are beautifully written, and combined with the soft velvet of his voice, he creates an aura of mystery that one can’t help wanting to unravel.
Adina Heisler, Contributor
Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ve become a cable news junkie. I used to be totally uninterested in it (back in the more innocent time of two years ago), but that was before we entered the upside-down of politics and “covfefe”. I’ll be the first to admit they can get a little sensational and sometimes spend more time debating tweets or obvious facts, but when you cut out the noise and the partisan-ness, you can find some actual journalism. So I’d invite Jake Tapper (I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with him), Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lester Holt, and Anderson Cooper. I’d probably be a little too intimidated to say much, but honestly I’d be happy enough just to listen to the five of them talk. If I did ever pluck up the courage to talk to them, I’d probably ask if they could give me some advice or encouragement to me, since I’m hoping to be a journalist some day.
Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief
Besides great food, dinner conversation is key, so having the right mix of people at a dinner party can make or break your event. I have been in love with Grace Jones since she first asked us to pull up to her bumper. After reading her book I’ll never write my Memoirs, my love for Grace Jones grew even more. Not only would she have plenty of stories to tell, but I might be able to convince her to sing after a few bottles of wine.
I would also add Diane von Furstenberg, who I think is the epitome of style and grace. Diane would also have great stories about her life, fashion, and, of course, Studio 54. Both Titus Burgess and Andre Leon Tally would have all of us in stitches, and I would love to pick the brain of Grace Coddington, whom I adore.
Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor
It has been a long-standing dream of mine to host a dinner party with famous folks in attendance, so you can bet I’ve given this some thought before. To start with, I’d need to invite my ladies Georgia O’Keefe and Frida Kahlo. Both were fantastically talented artists and fiercely independent women. I would love the opportunity just to hear them speak and share ideas. Obviously I would need to invite Jane Birkin simply because she’s everything and I’ve got a feeling she would know which wine to bring. There’s no way I wouldn’t invite Trevor Noah who 1) I love and 2) is absolutely brilliant. My final, and very coveted, invitation would probably have to go to Sade Adu, an unbelievably beautiful and talented woman. Would this be the wildest dinner party? Probably not, but I think some fascinating conversations could come out of it.
Hoon, Managing Editor
Party of five, Robert B. Silvers, Elizabeth Hardwick, Lore Segal, Grace Paley, and yours truly, at hardwood tables and comfortable booth kind of a bistro, well lit enough to read the menu but dim enough to be unselfconscious. Talk about politics and books with plates of porterhouse, salad, and cheese going cold and limp late into the night. Talk about food. Talk about sex and New Jersey. Talk about gentrification. Talk about newspapers. Talk about music and movies. Talk about Hollywood. Grace (Paley) might want to make posters. I might need Kleenex from tears. Elizabeth (Hardwick) might want another glass of wine. Robert (B. Silvers) might need a cigarette, might want to go out on a boat. Lore (Segal) might take notes. Talk about traveling. Talk shit about neighbors. Talk shit about writers. Talk shit about readers. The fun stuff. That’d be nice, getting to befriend some of my favorite writers and editors, all of them, except Lore (thank God), dead. They would still have things to say.
Claire Ball, Contributor
In all honesty, I have never thought about who I would invite to my dream dinner party before, so trying to make a decision and think about this question was difficult for me. My invitees are fairly predictable, especially if you know me, and not very under the radar. Let’s just say my dinner party would very much be a ridiculous A-list affair. To start, I think I would absolutely have to invite my number one crushes, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jake Gyllenhaal. I think Jennifer and Jake would both be super cool, down to earth people to have at a dinner party. I think they’re great actors. I also find Jennifer hilarious because we share the same sense of humour. She is basically my spirit animal.
I would also invite Chelsea Handler because I love how brash and honest she is about everything she talks about, and Ellen Degeneres (I don’t feel the need to explain why). I am also a not-so-low-key Harry Styles fan so I would obviously have to throw him an invite and, ideally, the cast of Game of Thrones would be fun.
Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor
Just try to imagine this scenario with me: A majestic set of wrought iron gates open up to a winding gravel road; the driveway is lined with nothing but cherry blossom trees; the wind blows them past your car as you drive up to a gorgeous manor tucked away amidst giant oaks and elms; the staircase leading up to the entrance seems to get longer and higher as you walk up; the doors lead to a gilded hallway covered in portraits of royalty; you come to a set of large mirrored doors and the doors swing open and reveal a beautiful room, gold leafing on the walls, pastel pinks and blues are woven throughout, Baccarat crystal chandeliers bathe it in light; as your eyes focus, you notice a beautiful round antique mirror table with 6 people sitting around it; there are cakes and pastries scattered across its surface, champagne bottles pop in a continuous rhythm; the riotous laughing and cheering is almost contagious, but you dare not interrupt the party you’ve just stumbled into. You focus on the guests. You quickly notice me, proposing a toast to my 5 extraordinary guests. Beside me, Marie Antoinette yells “Let us eat cake!” as she stuffs a kiwi tart in her mouth. Across from her, Naomi Campbell calmly says “I can tell you’ve had your fair share already.” And the table bursts into laughter. Beside her, Isabella Blow sends a text message to her pal McQueen — “you‘re missing out darling!” while Leigh Bowery does his best impression of Sasha Velour’s “art-drag” shtick. The room once again breaks into laughter, but something catches the Divine David‘s eye. He tilts his head in confusion and says “Well, that’s not very lovely…” We all turn to look at you, standing there, silently watching this marvelous kiki unfold. Congratulations. You’ve just ruined our night.
On Peoples Eatery’s menu, next to an introductory ‘Cheers’ in seven different languages, the ‘General Tso fu’ sits atop potato latkes and butter lamb croquettes, HDB (hwe dup bap), a Korean raw fish and salad rice bowl, next to BTC (bo tai chanh), a Vietnamese beef salad, and chopped liver delite side by side with steak and poutine. The drink menu continues the theme with cocktails with various cultural touches, a beer list that curiously includes a decidedly underwhelming Korean lager, and a good list of whiskeys, both American and Japanese. The diversity on the menu is meant to both reflect the cultural diversity of Toronto and to be a one-stop place for foods otherwise offered separately, often times many blocks apart. Though the concept itself is, if not unique, commendable — an extension of Toronto’s search for an identity —, not much else is particularly remarkable in this Spadina establishment.
Gin No. 3, made with Cocchi Rosa, Martini Dry, Regan’s orange, and Violette, is a stiff cocktail. It’s simple yet tasteful and the Cocchi Rosa gives it a nice pink hue. The Tokyo Sour — gin, yuzu, sugar, and egg whites — is served with a shiso leaf bathing in thick froth. Though refreshing at first, after a few minutes, the egg whites, from a carton of liquid egg whites, give off the distinct pungent odor and ruins the rest of the drink. The shiso leaf itself does little other than look pretty. The Monk’s Mule — Chartreuse, Fever Tree ginger beer, white port, lemon —, is served in a tin cup full of ice, and is a good thirst quencher.
There is nothing bad to say about Peoples Eatery’s general atmosphere. The dark green bar in the front and wooden panelling in the back toward the kitchen give the place a sense of luxury. The staff are friendly and courteous, prompt but not overbearing. Yet there is a sense that the niceties of the furniture and the staff are a veneer: the liquid egg whites, the cold center of the butter lamb croquette, the unevenly cut turbot of the turbot poke, and the dry dough stuck on the bottom of a plate. With many options around the Spadina and Dundas W. area that specializes, and simply many options around the downtown area in general, it seems that the only reason one would choose Peoples Eatery over them is for its concept.
The key to a simple dish lies in the details: the quality of the ingredients and the precision in preparation and presentation. If the demands of these details are met, even the most simple and humble dish can be downright thrilling. But when such dishes are prepared halfheartedly, with no rich sauce or pretty decorations to hide behind, their flaws become glaringly apparent; the balance is thrown off and the humble and simple dish becomes, at its best, noxious fuel for the road. Sushi is a great example: it can either be of Jiro’s dreams or of his nightmares. Though certainly not as highly prized as sushi, the same principle applies to even a deli sandwich. To those who love the pleasures brought on by such dishes’ simplicity, the nightmares are not merely disappointments but causes for moral outrage. For those, and for those looking for a great deli sandwich, Toronto’s Sid’s Deli gives cause for outrage in every bite of its pastrami sandwich. Stuff of Willy Katz’s and Reuben Schwartz’s collective worst fears.
Let’s not get too much into the establishment itself; suffice it to say that the alley next to its patio was riddled with oozing garbage and a red table just in front of the front counter was sticky with whatever combination of substances left undisturbed for god knows how long. The more unforgivable of Sid’s Deli’s deficiencies greeted me in the form of a supposedly 6oz pastrami on rye. The first bad sign: the absolute pinkness of the pastrami without the dark, smoky edges that should have, in the very least, been visible. The second: the visibly, and soon, to my dismay, to touch, cold pastrami — pastrami should sit in a steamer until it’s warm before it’s sliced and served. The third: the unbalanced distribution of the meat: each bite should offer a balance of lean and fat meats to bread ratio. These are, so far, only signs of the kitchen’s carelessness and lack of know-how that are telling me that this sandwich is not likely to satisfy. However, still at this point, the actual sandwich itself, against all odds, might very well have been a pleasant surprise. Not the case. The pastrami was flavorless, dry, and somehow devoid of any fat. The only noticeable flavor came from chunks of peppercorns lodged somewhere in the mound of dry pink. I should also note that Sid’s Deli charges 85 cents to have the pastrami hand-cut, an essential part of eating pastrami I’ve apparently been taking for granted all these years.
Hoping to find some solace, I looked to the rest of the plate, but it offered none. Though I saw the kitchen staff put the cold latke from the fridge into a microwave, I was hoping that it would still be good: it’s difficult to mess up such a simple and perfect classic. But the latke had, by the time I turned to it, oozed yellow oil onto the plate. Cutting into it, I found that the potato was neither grated nor shredded in the food processor but rather pulped in something or other. It was soggy and bland. Not an ounce of soul could be found in this infinitely forgiving and nourishing Jewish soul food. The cabbage in the cabbage slaw was unevenly cut, a paper-thin piece swimming in the same tasteless juice as a piece as thick as a finger. The matzo ball soup with a cold matzo ball was reminiscent of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup in its briny broth. In the end, the only solace came from a bottle of water that tried to wash everything down.
Some may think that I’m overanalyzing a sandwich platter. Would I, for instance, look at a Subways sandwich with the same level of scrutiny? Isn’t a sandwich, after all, just a sandwich? But a pastrami sandwich, especially one from a place that calls itself a deli, is not just a sandwich. Like many everyday foods, pastrami has a long cultural history and carries with it the stories of people who make and eat it. It is nothing short of an embodiment of that history and those stories. As such, it should be treated with respect and when it isn’t, one should scrutinize and call out. With a dash of exaggeration, I might even posit that mediocrity in food — and people’s acceptance of the mediocrity as normal — is both symptom and outcome of a blindingly materialistic culture. That the only thing BlogTO had to “kvetch” was Sid’s Deli’s high price and that BlogTO is a common reference point for Torontonians are, therefore, sufficient causes for further moral outrage.
After all the moral outrage at this emotionally hazardous establishment, what bugs me still is the fact that it had the audacity to charge 85 cents to have pastrami hand-cut. Was it an attempt to make that extra near-dollar per sandwich and thereby lower food costs? Or were those 85 cents going to the master cutter who otherwise sits solemnly in the back room, sharpening his tools? That the establishment even considered thinly machine-cutting pastrami was a good idea is a testimony to the fact that those running it have neither love nor respect for the food they sell. It should be obvious by now that Sid’s Deli is notKatz or Schwartz, but that’s not really the point. The point is that Sid’s Deli’s values and principles are antithetical to those of respected institutions of deli sandwiches; by extension, it’s antithetical to those of anyone who loves what he/she cooks.
Recently at Grey Goose’s beautiful Sunset Soirée, Novella had a chance to meet Chef Justin Kent, previously of Alain Passard’s 3-Michelin starred L’Arpège, and chat about French cuisine and its often overlooked adherence to simplicity and the quality of French produce. But more importantly and — and this is no jab at the chef’s personality — more memorably, we had a chance to eat his food. And I must say that Chef Kent’s Parisian picnic-style dishes were a testimony to Grey Goose’s ability to create and spot simple elegance and tastefulness. “Grey Goose approached me because the concept of what I do — farm-to-table — is much in line with their philosophy of field-to-bottle. I wanted to [make pairings] that touch on some of the key notes of Grey Goose and its terroir,” he said. Though those prone to hyperbole might suggest that the pairing ofGrey Goose Le Grand Fizz— with which everyone was eventually awash — and Chef Kent’s farm salad and poulet au moutarde was indeed the culinary equivalent of being taken on a nice ride through France’s Picardy region in a 1950 Citroen 2cv — where Grey Goose’s wheat come from —, I myself will go only so far to say that the pairing was a form of alchemy in which scenes of Paris became food and drink.
Luckily for those of us who cannot make it to Paris or Picardy anytime soon, Grey Goose and Chef Kent were kind enough to share their recipes with us. Below are your gateway to effervescent Paris and Picardy and their French effervescence (with some personal notes from yours truly).
Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz
1 & 1/2 parts Grey Goose vodka
1 part St-Germain elderflower liqueur
2 parts chilled soda water
1/2 freshly squeezed lime juice (or approximately 2 wedges)
To switch things up a bit, maintain the ratios and replace Grey Goose with Grey Good L’Orange (or Le Citron) and the lime juice with freshly squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice). You can also try it with Grey Goose Cherry Noir — just replace the lime juice with lemon. The only rule here is to keep things simple. Use good quality ice — the clearer the better — and always use a jigger and let Grey Goose do its thing.
Build ice into an oversized cabernet wine glass. More ice than you initially think seem appropriate.
Add Grey Goose vodka and lime juice and top with St-Germain and soda water (in that order).
Garnish with fresh lime wedges and a swanky Grey Goose stirrer if you have one.
Farm Salad with Goat Cheese & Champagne Vinaigrette
1 fennel bulb (halved and cored)
1 large carrot
1 small Chioggia beet (blanched and peeled)
3 large radishes
1 granny smith apple (sliced)
1 tablespoon of tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon of dill
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chives (chopped)
1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
85g fresh goat cheese (crumbled)
This recipe makes 4 servings
The Chioggia beet is a variety straight out of the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s. The candy pink and white striped beet is sweeter than the usual variety and does not bleed as much, which is great since red beets may very well overwhelm the rest of the salad with its colors. But if Chioggia is not available at your nearby farmers’ market or grocery store, you can of course replace it with a regular old beet. Or if you want the bright colors, try using watermelon radishes — just make sure to use a little less of the other radishes. Or, do like I did and take it out entirely. Nobody will notice if you don’t tell a soul. It’ll be your little secret that will tickle you when the guests get on your nerves, like, “Little did they know…” Do Mr. Burns’s evil fingers and move onto the other vegetables. Finally, near the end of the summer, try switching red radishes with black ones. They are more pungent and a bit spicier and the charcoal skin adds great color to the salad.
Blanch the beets in simmering water with the skin on until easily able to be pierced with a knife.
Let the beets cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin of the beets with your hands. It should slide off.
Using a mandolin, thinly slice the fennel, carrot, beet, and radishes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the endive, arugula, tarragon, dill, parsley, and chives.
In a small bowl, whisk the champagne vinegar with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing and half of the goat cheese, and toss gently.
Transfer the salad to plates and garnish with the remaining goat cheese.
Poulet au Moutarde
10 chicken thighs (skin on, deboned)
1 cup white wine
1 cup cream
150g grain mustard
1/2 banana shallot (diced)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Fresh parsley (chopped for garnish)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
This recipe makes 5 servings
Use a thick bottomed pan. Cast iron skillet works well here. Some suggest oven roasting the chicken in the oven, but it’s hot in the summer and who has time for that. Poulet au moutarde (mustard chicken doesn’t sound as appetizing for some reason — the French really know how to make everything chic) is a classic and even if everything doesn’t go 100% right, it’s hard to muck up. Use good chicken (organic, kosher, air-chilled, because we are about that good life), good grain mustard (that Grey Poupon, though Canadian brand, Kozlik’s is also very good), and fresh vegetables, and you’re set. Because I’m a sucker for all things pickled, I like the poulet au moutarde avec pickled slaw. Smitten Kitchen has a great and easy recipe and you can get it here. Finally, though this may not really be that haute-cuisine in spirit, always have a loaf of sourdough or a baguette to soak up the sauce.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
In a pan on medium-high heat, sear the chicken thighs, skin side down in oil until crisp and golden brown. Flip and sear on the other side until lightly caramelized.
Remove the chicken thighs from the pan and set aside on a plate.
Add lardons to the pan and cook until crisp.
Add shallots to the pan and cook until translucent.
Add the grain mustard and stir for 30 seconds being careful not to let it burn.
Deglaze the pan with white win, bring to a simmer and reduce by half.
Add cream and bring to a simmer.
Add the smoked paprika.
Place the chicken thighs back in the sauce and cook on medium to medium-low heat, covered, until fork tender.
Remove from the sauce and place on to the plate to serve.
Spoon sauce over the top of the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley.
Riz au Lait with Caramel Beurre Salé
1 liter whole milk
200g risotto rice (carnaroli is best but arborio will do)
Zest of 2 lemons
200g heavy cream
500g sugar (for the caramel beurre salé)
400g heavy cream (for the caramel beurre salé)
125g salted butter (for the caramel beurre salé)
This recipe makes 6~8 servings
Riz au lait is rice pudding. More or less. But instead of chocolate or cinnamon powder, here we have the caramel beurre salé, a fancier accoutrement to be sure. But, lucky for us, not that much more difficult nor time consuming! I recommend the carnaroli instead of the arborio because it is starchier and will give you a creamier result. I’m used to adding a bit of nutmeg to my rice pudding, and I’m sure it won’t harm the recipe here. In fact, I believe that the nutmeg may go very well with Grey Goose Espresso Martini.
Bring milk, rice, and sugar to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through.
Add lemon zest and allow mixture to cool.
Whip heavy cream and fold into the riz au lait, set aside.
To make the caramel sauce, heat cream so that it is warm, just before simmering and set aside.
In a small pot, caramelize sugar to a med-dark amber color.
Slowly add in the cream to the caramel, whisking consistently, then remove from the heat once well blended.
Add butter and stir well.
To serve, pour cooled riz au lait into individual sized ramekins and top with caramel sauce.
Grey Goose Espresso Martini
1 &1/2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
1 part single origin espresso
3/4 parts premium coffee liqueur
This is the finisher. Your guests had their salad and chicken and they’re just digging into the rich riz au lait, thinking something along the lines of I’m dead, and you come out with this concoction of smooth blow of elegance and power.This delicious cocktail wakes up the drinker and makes them happy at the same time. What more can one ask? Maybe a take-out box if there’s any of that salad left. But otherwise, nothing.
Shake hard and long.
Double strain and garnish with grated chocolate.
There you are, folks, the solution to your summer lunch, dinner, and picnic menu problem. Don’t mind the beautiful photo of the rock by the beach with perfectly photogenic charcuterie, cheese, and roast chicken, and absurd ratio between baguette and other foods. I put it there because it’s pretty and maybe it will inspire you to seek out a bit of the French-picnic chic this summer. When preparing the food seem a bit daunting, remember the perfect wood picnic basket. That the Grey Goose is the first on the list is by no means an accident — it’s meant to enliven and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul as you spend the long summer day out in the sun. Keep the food and drinks simple, spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your friends and family.