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Review: ‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’ by Joanne Proulx

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Who do the lucky become when their luck sours?

One frigid winter night, the happily prosperous Mia and Michael Slate discover that a close friend and business partner has cheated them out of their life savings. On the same night, their son, Finn, passes out in the snow at a party — a mistake with shattering consequences.

Everyone finds their own ways of coping with the ensuing losses. For Finn, it’s Jess, a former babysitter who sneaks into his bed at night, even as she refuses to leave her boyfriend. Mia and Michael find themselves forgoing tenderness for rougher sex and seeking solace outside their marriage: Mia in a flirtation with a former colleague, whose empty condo becomes a blank canvas for a new life, and Michael at an abandoned baseball diamond, with a rusty pitching machine and a street kid eager to catch balls in Finn’s old glove. As they creep closer to the edge — of betrayal, infidelity, and revenge — the story moves into more savage terrain.

With honesty, compassion, and a tough emotional precision, award-winning author Joanne Proulx explores the itch of the flesh, sexual aggression, the reach of love and anger, and the question of who ultimately suffers when the privileged stumble.

Review:

Think Jeffrey Eugenides, ‘The Virgin Suicides’. ‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’ by Joanne Proulx is hardly an easy read but like Eugenides work, Proulx’s work requires your entire attention and a keen eye to look outside of your moral compass code.

‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’ reads like a thriller film. A cast of characters with a Canadian connection (the setting is in Quebec) whose individual lies are closely examined.  As they begin to untangle and snap, the reader is catapulted into a reality that is not only vivid but jarring to the eye and heart.

‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’ reads like a television drama. Secrets, denial, compulsions and sexy scenes with a clear intent. If you like ‘Pretty Little Liars’ meets ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’, ‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’ will bring you close to her bosom.

The reader participates in the child’s social pressures and the quest to fit in. While the marital cracks and tears of a parental woes that has its quirks.  A strong mother with a clear vision towards change but also working out her own strife.  A father who is weakened by a loss of a job and perhaps a burnt pride that resonates deeper than just in his unemployment.

Themes of grief, loss and interrupted love are explored in ‘We All Love the Beautiful Girls’. Proulx’s brand of writing is rich, sultry and brimming with verbose detail that takes the reader willingly down the rabbit hole towards a dim light full of whispers and questions.  Digging yourself out of that hole in one piece could be a tad startling.

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/545769/we-all-love-beautiful-girls#9780735232884

Review: ‘The Child’ By Fiona Barton

 

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As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Review:

‘The Child’ from Fiona Barton is a true crime story that could easily be ripped from the headlines. A child’s abduction and the threads of characters who may or may not have done ‘it’.  The story is rich, the characters are hardly easy to get along with and the plot riddled with intrigue.  Your Netflix account can easily be avoided for a few days once you bring ‘The Child’ home.

Barton can conduct a Master Class in writing suspense and thriller tales that will not only keep you up at night but will challenge the most seasoned reader to dig deep and examine the psychopathy of the characters that Barton is so well versed in creating.

The personalities of the characters came to life as well as their personal journeys. Individual stories of angst and bravery, show the reader that some childhoods never leave. The reader inhales in the lies, deception and the selfishness of the exposed narratives and how deeply corrosive their thoughts, behaviours and instability runs through the entirety of the novel.

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/531857/child#9780143197737

Review: ‘Mrs. Fletcher’ By: Tom Perrotta

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From the bestselling author of The Leftovers and Little Children comes a penetrating and hilarious new novel about sex, love, and identity on the frontlines of America’s culture wars.

Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

Sharp, witty, and provocative, Mrs. Fletcher is a timeless examination of sexuality, identity, parenthood, and the big clarifying mistakes people can make when they’re no longer sure of who they are or where they belong.

Review:

A wonderful book to get stuck into over the weekend. Three different perspectives from three characters whose life experiences vary and collide. But their entertaining voices will make for some memorable images and a wonderful conversation starter for a summer book club.

The characters choices and individual life threads may not falter from the beginning of the book to the end, but they do provide for some fascinating input on their observations of life, their personal mishaps and want for change.

‘Mrs. Fletcher’ is a modern day ‘Mrs. Robinson’ for a millennial audience or a adult in transit reader who needs some lighter fare to keep their chin up and free styling giggles.

http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/Mrs-Fletcher/Tom-Perrotta/9781501144028

 

Review: Sugo

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Sugo on Bloor Street West just outside of Lansdowne station is your spot for the most delicious and slap up Italian comfort food in the West end of Toronto. The prices are right, the service on point and the food – well, let’s say you will feel like you are in your distant Nonna’s kitchen moments after morsels of their food hit your palate.
Sugo opened 6 weeks ago and business is booming. A small shop, owned and operated by some local gents who clearly know the neighborhood and want to keep the commerce local. Honourable. Kind. Hardworking. Generous and having all the makings of a business success story. Classic Italian American cuisine is their mission and boy, do they know what they are doing.

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The menu is simple. Meatball sandwiches, veal sandwiches, gnocchi, Peroni, stuffed hot peppers, homemade mozzarella and a homemade red sauce that will make you want to lick your bowl clean. If you have a hankering for Italian food from New York, that will satiate you – this is it. Uncomplicated, fresh and welcoming. Don’t forget to pick up a latte or affogato for the road!
From the red and white table cloths, vintage wooden chairs and boxing shots of framed fighters set the scene, the foosball table is kept hot by locals who are full of giggles, screams of delight as they munch on appetizers, while others dig into their meals quietly.
Three must have small plates to indulge upon if you are wanting an introduction to Sugo and need a quick Italian meal fix are the Caprese Salad, meatballs and a stuffed pepper or two. The whole meal will cost you less than $20. Filling, rustically plated and definitely a win!

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The Caprese Salad is perfect. The mozzarella is made every day if not every other day in house, delicious, succulent and oh so creamy. With some freshly cut tomatoes and olive oil, the mozzarella shines. It’s a wonderful dish to have to warm up your appetite and belly.
The Meatballs at Sugo are lovingly fashioned. Sitting in a bed of Sugo’s own homemade red sauce (which can be purchased for $10 to take home with you), Sugo’s Meatballs will encourage you to have more than one in a sitting. Luscious, tasty and perfectly seasoned.
Lastly, the stuffed pepper is succulent. Think a mild Hungarian banana pepper which has a tad kick. We loved how the Sugo’s staple red sauce accentuated the peppers flavours and added a slurpable vibe to the dish. I would encourage you to have a few of these peppers on the side if you are sharing dishes with friends and family. They are a conversation warming plate.  Make a trip to the west end of Toronto soon before summer’s end and pick up some of Sugo’s delights. If you can’t eat in and take in the atmosphere on their stoop, take food to go along with some red sauce. I promise, once you’ve tried it – you may want to take home a few jars for some late night reminiscing.
https://www.sugotoronto.com/

Toronto’s Best New Restaurant: Atlas Restaurant

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Nestled on a quiet a quiet street at the corner of Avenue Road and Dupont St., you will instantly feel like you are about to encounter something special upon entering Atlas Restaurant’s space. Atlas Restaurant is offering Toronto patrons the best in finely curated Moroccan food by a team that goes beyond when it comes to haute couture cuisine, impeccable service and thoughtful dishes that will trigger moments within your own life’s history that will make you smile and encourage excitement for your burgeoning voyage with Atlas Restaurant.
Chef Doug maybe the humblest chef on the block when he speaks as to why he was chosen to represent Canada in Brazil as part of Canada’s 150th celebrations. “I feel passionate about my work and I wanted to feel like I was giving back in a different way in Brazil.” His training albeit in French cuisine with infusions of different styles, Chef Doug also drew inspiration for Atlas Restaurant’s menu from his journeys between Spain, the strait of Gibraltar, North Africa and Marrakesh.
The portrait he paints demonstrates his desire to challenge Torontonians away from their usual ‘comfort zones’ of French and Italian fare into the ‘unknown’ of Moroccan delights. It’s a gradual exposure experience and Chef Doug is excited to be your grounded guide. I encourage you lean into the culinary journey he has mapped out in his menu design.

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The quiet neighbourhood away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto and a spit’s throw from Casa Loma and gorgeously listed churches, the location emanates style, elegance and a breath of history. As you dwell upon bites of your meal take a moment to breath in the muted soft furnishings, golden wall mosaic, wooden tables and glass lanterns in the Atlas space. Serene. Hopeful. Calming.
When the cocktails arrive I am delighted to be acquainted with an aperitif and also a sipping drink for my meal.
The Fino & Tonic can make for an excellent palate cleanser and refresher. It will help in taking the pressure off your day and oozes a dry, bright and salty taste. It illuminates a romantic relationship to the food that will follow while also speaking to its Spanish roots and its close proximity to Morocco.
The House Manhattan is the perfect ally when you need a dash of alcohol in between bites that will punctuate your meal. A boozy but yet thoughtful cocktail, the House Manhattan and its notes of a Dark House Rye (this spiced rum brings out the aromatic spices in the cuisine), Vermut Lustau, cardamom and angostura will lead you down the garden path.

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We started off with the Flat Bread which is made from chickpea and cumin. Light, fresh, flakey and easily married to the jben that accompanies it to the table. A wonderful dish to warm up conversations with friends and family.
The Beet Salad was next. Including of roasted beets, yogurt, celery leaf, chives and preserved lemon – it’s a dish that stands on its own. Perfect to be tucked away for a snack and a quick pint on the way out for an evening. The yogurt is hung over night so half the liquid drains off. The residue that is left makes for the plate. Genius.
The Beef Kefta is priced at a meagre $5. I encourage you to order 3 pieces of this giant. Use a dash of the jben to take some of the spice off or eat the Beef Kefta on its own. Served medium rare, it is flavourful and unique. It makes the pomegranate seeds strewn across the plate courtesy in its royal presence.

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The idea of feasting emanates throughout each plate that was brought out. Small, creative portraiture dishes that encourage reflection are evident.
The Brimat, provides an ode to Chef Doug’s favourite – mushrooms. Perhaps not a dish you would order the Brimat oozes, mushrooms, phyllo pastry and green harissa. The simplicity of the phyllo pastry explodes when you cut into it. The mushrooms dipped into the green harissa reminds us that not all is what it seems upon first glance of this plate.
The Whole-Roasted Quail is a force to be reckoned with. The beautifully tied and snap worthy quail is attended by a walnut farce and fig sauce. The chest plate of the bird is delicately removed and stuffed with parsley, cream, roasted walnut and ground chicken. You can easily slice right through the bird without issue. As the heat rises off the bird, you may feel inclined to dab into the fig and its accompanying sauce. The preserved lemon leaps the fig into your mouth with ease. As morsels of quail follow – be ready for your knees to shake and perhaps tears to fall onto the glistening white plate. This can be your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with friends as you savour and delight over Atlas’ other food pairings.

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I encourage you to pair a gorgeous glass of wine with your plates. The well educated staff can make wonderful recommendations based on their cohesive wine cellar that sits above the kitchen in full view.
Next came the heavy weight, the Tagine of Agadir-Style Whitefish. Whitefish served with green olives, preserved lemon, sundried tomato and zucchini. As Beyonce would say, this is a full ‘slay’. You may feel the urge to gaze – once the presentation of the meal has been revealed. Housed in a traditional Tajine, the dish is visually stunning with its deep greens, reds, milky white of the cod and supple potatoes to greet you.
The plate houses cod, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, lemon – each element illuminates the plate. The base is house made and contains a mix of the richest of spices including, onions, sweet paprika, saffron, garlic, preserved lemon, fresh lemon and parsley to name a few. It can be eaten as a stew with friends and a few signature drinks. The dish is next level in quality, design and execution. It will humble you.

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Lastly, the Roulade of Lavender & Sesame includes of blackberry purée and poached pears. The perfect light and delicious dessert that will you feel like you found a quiet spot away from the heat of the summer in a cool room in Morocco with a dear friend to have a conversation with. A satisfying end to a gorgeous meal.
Atlas Restaurant is a must to have a meal with before summer’s end. Not only will you leave their property feeling satiated and giddy from an exceptional chef’s table type rendezvous. But you will feel the humble and true artistic vision of Chef Doug and his team as they carve out a memorable nod to diversity, exquisite food and impeccable service that you will be sure to want to lean into with them again.
https://www.atlasrestaurant.ca/

Review: Leña Restaurante

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A Chef Anthony Walsh creation, Leña pays homage to his Argentinean mother-in-law, Elena, from whom he has drawn great culinary inspiration, and embodies what he experiences in her kitchen – a passionate food philosophy that brings people together.
Imaginative yet rooted in tradition, Leña’s cuisine showcases the vibrant essence of South American cooking, with unique Spanish and Italian influences. It, along with stylish design, warm character and lively tunes, promotes a “live to eat” ethos and fosters a convivial spirit at the table. Above all, Leña celebrates authentic, flavourful food and drink, enjoyed amongst old and new friends.
Tucked inside the first level of Sak’s at the Hudson’s Bay on Yonge Street, Leña is full on swoon worthy. Think European decor, delicious drinks, shareable plates and eats that will make you feel like you have been transported to Argentina for some authentic familia cooking.
The wallpaper found on the bottom floor of the space and inside the menu is dark navy with animals of every type strewn about, is a stand out motif in the space, vintage paintings and portraits hang by the doorway, stain glass windows that echo art deco, a luxe bar that could be used in period film and a marble floor that you will want to take home with you. Leña will make you catch your breath. It’s a stunner.
We started off with the Salt Cod Fritters which came with caper & dill crema. Delicious and perfect with a cocktail in tow. Warm, toasty and genuine.
The Broken Avocado Salad followed with kohlrabi, toasted pepitas, smoked paprika & orange vinaigrette is a must. Although we shared this plate in anticipation for our main, it could have been eaten solo. Simple, fresh and the avocados as usual stole the show. Top grade in quality and refinement.
For our main we savoured the 8 oz grilled ribeye, shaved cucumber, piquillo pepper, pickled red onion salad, with a made in house lemon vinaigrette (parsley, mint, coriander) and a green tomato compote with sherry vinegars and cloves. Robust, flavourful and infused with so much delight we were hard pressed to dig into dessert even after a brief respite.
For dessert we tucked into a Torta De Queso, burnt cheesecake, candied lemon. It was creamy and the perfect mix of decadent and refreshing. Order a milky tea on the side for a little extra celebration.
The architecture of the space is worth dwelling upon whilst you dine. Breathe it in. Argentinean, clean and a nice refuge from shopping or a lunch break from the hustle and bustle of the downtown artery – we will visit Leña again. Tourists and visitors will enjoy the overall experience. Leña is brimming with a Canadian kindness, hand to mouth service and a genuine respect for creating and delivering cuisine that will not only fill one’s belly but one’s heart.
http://www.lenarestaurante.com/

Review: Alchemy Food & Drink

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If you are looking for the perfect brunch space or evening hang out oozing a Canadiana good vibe, sweet tunes and a chill patio – Alchemy Food & Drink needs to be your new spot.
Think quick drink, shareable plates, craft beers, hearty and comfy eats enjoyed with your mates before you head off to a show or down College Street for a night out, Alchemy Food & Drink will take care of you. Now if you prefer to stay a little longer with their team – grab a pitcher and listen to the great artists showcased in the evenings in their delicious space.
If patios are your thing, the side patio at Alchemy Food & Drink is super sweet for your summer indulgences. We loved that there were shady spots and if you fancy the heat, sit up near the front with your cocktails. The turquoise soft furnishings and lazy wooden tables made for an easy and chill ambience.
The staff were courteous, polite and eager to make suggestions for food and drink without a push. Their sunny personalities and smiles only added to our time at Alchemy Food & Drink.
Indulge on the Pulled Beef Po Boy when you visit Alchemy Food & Drink. Think a braised beef sandwich with deep-fried kimchi and yuzu aioli with either fries or greens. This is the perfect summer dish to soak up your drink and leave satiated. The beef was succulent and tender with a slightly acidic kick. The addition of the kimchi, yuzu aioli and their juices soaked into the warm bread lusciously – really, it’s a quiet moment best enjoyed with a good friend.
Grab a Rusty Tromba on your visit too. Think Tromba, Cointreau, Lillet, lime and topped with Helles Yeah! Lager. This drink could be a perfect ally to get you started off for the evening. Light, tasty and the rose petals that adorn the top of the drink accentuate the bohemian vibe in the space.
Check out Alchemy Food & Drink the next time you are walking down College Street. The live music culminated with their food and drink schedules is a must to pencil into your summer social calendar.
https://www.alchemyto.com/alchemytomenu/