Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Garden Report #32

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The following ‘best of’ are very subjective and limited to my experiences, nonetheless, I venture forth.

• The best places to eat for big flavor: 1) Siam 2) The Greenspot 3)13th Avenue Coffee House

The worst places to eat: Any and all of the fast food joints which have directly contributed to the physical decay of our society. A bit ‘preachy’ but so what?

• Best ‘old school’ service: Lakeview Fine Foods, Colin O’Brian Men’s Wear, Dutch Cycle. All three are tops.

• Worst customer service experience of 2010: Rona

• Best things to do in the Regina summer: 1) Folk Festival 2) Fringe Festival 3) Kiss a pretty girl while on a walk around the lake 4) Bicycle ride through Wascana 5) Rider game

• Worst thing to do in the summer: The Exhibition- home of five dollar hot dogs, three dollar waters and some of the scariest people in the city.

• Best story teller of the year: Martin Dockery from New York, who was on his first Fringe tour. Very gifted. Performed at ‘The Artesian’.

• Best place for a diner breakfast: Nicky’s Café

• Best coffee: 1) My house, hands down 2) The Greenspot 3) Roca Jacks

• Best French fries: 1) Nicky’s 2) Bushwhacker’s 3) Butler’s

• Best comic actor on a television series: Jim Parsons (Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory)

• Best dramatic series on television: 1) Madmen 2) Rescue Me

• Best food show: Diners, Drive Ins and Dives

• Best sports show: ‘In the Huddle’ with Rod Pederson and John Lynch (better than any show on TSN)

• Best Leader Post columnist: Rob Vanstone

• Best local news anchor: 1) Manfred Joehnck 2) Costas Maragos

• Best bread: 1) A tie between Koko’s and Beer Brothers 2) The pumpernickel and sour rye from Maple Leaf

Best pastry: Lemon tarts from Koko’s

Best greenhouse: Sherwood Greenhouses and U and K at Indian Head

• Best new theater venue: The much needed and appreciated ‘Artesian’ on 13th Avenue.

• Best deli: The Italian Star

• Best thing to do on a Friday night: The Central Library’s Film Theater in the basement. Great films for six bucks and no junk food.

• Best hidden gem: Rotary Park-beautiful, serene and rarely busy.

• Best event on a Saturday morning: The Farmers’ Market

• Best new law of the century: No smoking in public places.

Best new law yet to be enacted: Ship motorcycle riders who insist on loud mufflers to the South Pole. They should take car alarm people with them.

• Best reason to not listen to the radio: Fan phone in shows.

• Best reason to listen to the radio: Randy Bachman and Stuart McLean

• Best honey: Wink Howland’s from the Yorkton area (Farmers’ Market)

• Best pies: Sharon Wallace’s ‘Apple, Pear and Ginger’ or her ‘Country Apple’ (Farmers’ Market)

• Best bread and butter pickles: Roberta Nichol’s – she doesn’t sell them but she should.

• Best local chocolates: Harden and Huyse

• Best Canadian chocolates: Purdy’s or Roger’s

• Worst parking: 1) The General Hospital 2) The Pasqua Hospital

• Best lingerie shop: No idea. Never thought about it.

• Best concert: Leonard Cohen in Saskatoon. Played from eight until almost midnight and didn’t cop attitude. Sheer talent and entertainment.

Best cappuccino I ever tasted: The Broadway Roastery in Saskatoon at Five Corners. Better than the best in Vancouver.

• Best cappuccino in Vancouver: The Continental on Commercial Drive.

Writers Write: Another Sunday afternoon. The wind is a cold one, blowing snow around the garden. The nooks of the sidewalk and the driveway are receiving their drifts. One pile is approaching two feet. Someone should shovel those drifts. This morning began as many of our Sundays, except there was no Johnny Cake for breakfast. The cook took the morning off. When she was a nurse, an actual RN, there was always Johnny Cake or waffles or French Toast or pancakes on Sunday morning. Now that she has retired and established herself as an artist, she does not feel the old traditions apply. So today, it is toasted bread from Calories in Saskatoon, served with Saskatoon jam and a Panama coffee that was a Christmas gift. I had to make it myself. That is how much our brunch has deteriorated. I barely have the strength to write. I told her that without the Johnny Cake, I would probably not be able to shovel the walks or take out the garbage all week. She glares at me. She hears idle threats. We listen to ‘The Vinyl Café’. She is stretched out on the couch. I am in the big chair, the lap top perched upon…well…my lap. I really thought taking her dancing on New Year’s Eve would entitle me to another year of good brunches. Life with an artist is not easy. Thank God us writers are able to adapt, otherwise there would be nothing to read.

• Readers Write: Denise Mirva writes “thanks for these entertaining, thought provoking and informative reports.” Paula Grolle had a different view of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ than I did. She wrote than when she was a young, single lady, whenever that song was played, she headed for the washroom to avoid being fondled by the young men she danced with. Darrell Komick who runs a farmers’ market in Calgary, writes that building community relations is the cornerstone of a great neighborhood. Right on, Darrell. Roberta Nichol thinks that guitarist Bob Evans is the epitome of humility. Roberta thinks Bob is a genius when it comes to music and I do not disagree. He is brilliant. We were in Saskatoon on Thursday and had a delicious lunch at Calories on Broadway. Janice Hutton who owns the bistro, told me that she reads The Garden Report sometimes. Sometimes? Regardless, we had some great soup, a Mexican styled one with beans and corn. Their wild rice bread and baguettes are now baked using organic flour. Both are wonderful to eat. Neil Vandendort wrote that he enjoys reading The Garden Report. Greetings also arrived from Marcus Fernando, Kirsten Van Ritzen, John Huston, Jean McKay and Georgia Hearn.

• Urban Renewal: There are a few new homes under construction in the neighborhood. This is a very good thing for all of us. The new homes are replacing lower valued homes, ones usually in need of much work. It is also a good thing because it shows that people have confidence in our neighborhood to build a new home. A neighborhood never stays the same, even if we want the status quo. It either is improving or it is declining. With new home construction, the market indicates the neighborhood is improving.

• Neighborhood in full cycle: When we moved into the neighborhood in February of 1973, the area was in decline. Several of the homes had been rented out, many were in need of repair and the population was leaning to the elderly side of the demographics. My cousin Duncan Fisher, lived in the house on the corner, by the bridge, as he still does today. I phoned Duncan before I bought my house and I expressed my concerns over the declining housing stock. Duncan said that he thought the neighborhood was just about to improve, that there would be a resurgence brought about by younger families moving in. Duncan was right. Within a few years of us purchasing, several of our friends also bought homes close by. The neighborhood went from having very few children to many. Soon, there were renovation vehicles on every block installing new roofs, painting, upgrading bathrooms and kitchens. That was the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Today, our children and the children they played with have all grown up. The neighborhood is again populated by people between fifty and eighty-five, most of us ‘empty nesters’. In the next few years, several homes will be sold to younger couples as our once young and formerly hip friends choose condo living. It’s just another cycle for the neighborhood. At one time, we were on the front end of the shift and now we are on the back end. Hey man, what happened? Answer: Time.

Slow food movement: I applaud local chef, Adam Sperling for running ads promoting the slow food movement. Adam is the owner of La Bodega on Albert Street and he has been promoting local ingredients, organics, green energy, healthy food and now slow food. As regular readers of The Garden Report realize, I am on my high horse when it comes to slow food. Our reliance upon fast food, both at the grab joints and at our homes has been detrimental to society. The increased levels of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure can all be connected to the fast food movement and industry. We have traded ledged convenience for our health. I use the word ‘ledged’ because it does not take very long to prepare your own soup, spaghetti sauce from scratch or a bit of salad dressing. I made a scratch tomato soup two weeks ago and I doubt if my prep time was much more than ten minutes. And I knew every ingredient that was in the soup and more importantly, I knew everything that was not in it. This week, a pot of homemade minestrone took me fifteen minutes to get started and it covered for three meals. So, how much more time did it cost me versus opening a can of Campbell’s? Not much and the taste, well there is no comparison. Feel free to join in the slow food conversation. I know that many of our readers are already converts, but I don’t mind preaching to the choir.

• Garden Tip: If you wish to grow your poinsettia into the spring, best to start fertilizing it lightly. Use a 10 30 20 or a 20 20 20 at half strength. Keep them in a fairly well lit place. Protect from drafts and from heating vents.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in snowy Regina

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