Sunday, December 12, 2010

Special Edition: Part IV - Donuts, Doonies and Don Cherry

Road Trip Recaps: Part I | Part II | Part III

Ah, Saturday.

After the debacle of the night before, we managed to get a few hours of shuteye in before we got up early in the morning.  If we were so hell bent on getting up there, damn if we weren't going to get in a full day taking in what the city had to offer before the game.

First stop? Tim Horton's in College Park.

Being the native New Englanders that we are, some of you might scream heresy. But remember, this is Canada.  There really aren't any Dunking Donuts here and Tim Horton's is basically their version of Dunks.

Make no mistake, their coffee pales in comparison.  And their idea of a large barely matches a medium back home. What they lack in java offerings is more than made up by their donuts, however.  I introduced Heather to the wonder that is the sour cream glazed donut. I'm a big fan of Dunks' glazed donuts, but those are yeast donuts.  Tim's are cake dounts, with a distinctive richness to them courtesy of the sour cream.  Needless to say, Heather is now a huge fan.  I only got a single donut at this store.  I knew that we would be back later.  Besides, we had another stop to make where we'd be sure to satisfy our appetites.

But first we had to make a quick side trip.

On our way to Tim's from the hotel. I noticed the Best Western Primrose hotel in the distance as we came upon the intersection of Yonge & Carlton.  I immediately remembered it as I had stayed there the last time I was in Toronto to see the Bruins.  That was on January 9, 1999.  The Bruins lost to the Leafs 6-3.  It was the last time the Bruins played at Maple Leaf Gardens

As this was a hockey trip, I would be remiss if I did not make an effort to show Heather this one-time temple of hockey. The building has not been used since the middle of the 1999 season, but the building is still there, devoid of lettering on the marquee and behind some scaffolding.

From there, we made our way south on Yonge Street towards the Eaton Centre.  The Eaton Centre is a huge multistory downtown mall that spans many city blocks.  If there is chain store you can think of, this place probably has it.  Seeing that it was just after 9:00 in the morning, the vast majority of the stores weren't open yet, so we made our way through the place.  Besides, do so provided a nice warm respite from the 20 degree wind chill.

Eventually, we made it down to Front Street and headed west.  Our next stop was but a short distance away: St. Lawrence Market.

When we were planning out this trip, we wanted to hit up more than just bars and typical tourist traps like the CN Tower.  And I solicited opinions from friends as to where we should go.  It was almost universally agreed that a trip to the market was in order.

With the exception of Boston, many of the great cities in North America have large central indoor marketplaces where local merchants, farms and purveyors sell their goods to the public.  Seattle is known for it's famed Pike Place Marketplace.  Philly has the Reading Terminal Market.  Baltimore has Lexington Market.

We were not disappointed.

Bakeries, butcheries, cheese shops, pasta shops, fish mongers, even a kitchen gadget shop, this place had just about everything.  The smell of the fresh baked bread was intoxicating, the line outside one particular bakery was wrapped around itself twice over.  It's a good thing we had but a small bite for breakfast. I found a bagel place that had homemade potato knishes.  They were good, but I should have had them warm them up first. We could not stop looking at the meat cases - not just the numerous types of homemade sausages and charcouterie, the huge rib roasts, stuffed pork loins and the exotic game meats. We came across one particular pasta shop where they were offering samples of their meat ravioli in their marinara sauce.  It seriously was some of the best pasta I've ever had and the sauce was to die for.  Even better, they had a guy making the ravioli right there using a really cool looking pasta extrusion/stuffing machine.

Wearing some Bruins gear, we found ourselves engaged in a few hockey conversations with the locals, all good natured.  What we did notice was an overwhelming sense of defeatism with the Leafs fans.  The fact that the team wasn't performing well and that the Bruins were ale to improve themselves greatly at the expense of the leafs, not just the Kessel/Seguin & draft picks deal, but the Raycroft for Rask trade as well.

As we finished making our rounds about the place (both up and downstairs), we decided we needed one last bite to eat and figured that we should try something that's a local delicacy - the peameal bacon sandwich.  So we stopped at this place:

Paddingtons. The self-proclaimed "Home of the Oink".  With a slogan like that, how could we go wrong?

For those not in the know, peameal bacon is a smoked pork loin dusted in cornmeal.  Its sliced thin and piled on a bun and served with a choice of condiments.  Heather and I went with the honey mustard.  It was fantastic.  Sweet, smoky, moist - the perfect blend of flavor and texture.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you stop by and grab one for yourself.

After our marketplace jaunt, we headed back down Front Street to the one place any hockey fan should visit when in Toronto - the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This was my third time visiting the place.  Many of the exhibits were the same or had minor updates, but its always a good take, if not only to see the plaques of the newest inductees (well, except that DB Dino Ciccarelli).

Now, one of the highlights of any visit is finding the bubble hockey tables.  Technically known as Super Chexx, very few places have these nowadays, so when you find them, you've just gotta play.  And you knew that the HHoF will always have them. So when Heather and I found an open table, it was game on.

Except it wasn't.  Not quite yet, at least.

Seems that the tables only took Loonies, the Canadian $1.00 coins.  And all we had were paper bills and doonies ($2.00 coins).  We asked just about everyone around us if they could make change, but no one could help us out.  I was shocked.  He we are in Canada, where it's damn near impossible to buy something and not end up with a half ton of coins in your pocket and no one had a couple of loonies to change.  So I headed to the ticket desk and was able to get the requisite money.  Then it was game on.

Sadly, the tables there didn't feature the US vs. USSR matchup that I grew up with.  Nor did it offer US vs. Canada.  Rather, we had generic red and blue players.  But we did get O Canada as the anthem, which was apropos.  I ended up winning both games, the second one a bit closer than I liked it to be.

As for exhibits, there was not shortage of Boston representation, from the Bobby Orr display, to Don Cherry collectibles, Boston Garden nostalgia, All Star game memorabiliaWinter Classic uniforms, generic team displays and even Paul Stewart's referee sweater.  We spent a lot of time in the Stanley Cup room, which features one of my favorite architectural elements in the world.  The inductee plaques are neat to see, especially with so many Bruins included.  I always get a kick out the fact that Can Neely and Ray Bourque's plaques are located next to each other.  And then there is the Stanley Cup.  I took some pictures of it, but I refuse to touch it until the Bruins win it.  I did, however, snap a couple of photos of the 1970 and 1972 winners on Lord Stanley's chalice.

There was, of course, a lot of non Bruins stuff.  A couple of things that stood out to me: Ray Bourque's Avalanche sweater from 2001 when he won the Cup and Rush drummer Neal Peart's custom drum kit.

I'm really glossing over the hall here, but that's only because I've been there before.  If you haven't gone and you love the sport of hockey, whether it's the NHL, NCAA or international competition, there's something there for you.  And bring the kids too.  There are a lot of interactive games for them to play.

And what kind of museum doesn't have a gift shop?  The hall's store has relocated to upstairs outside the museum from it's old spot downstairs adjacent to the hall.  The new store is decidedly larger than the old one.  As one might expect, there's plenty of banal crap available (keychains, pencils, etc.).  And the children's clothing selection leaves much to be desired (I got my son a "the Next Bobby Orr" t-shirt.  The had no HHoF branded stuff in his size).  It was very heavy on Reebok branched merchandise.  But if you like hockey sweaters, particularly throwback ones, this was the place for you.

When we were in the checkout line, Heather had noticed a silver travel mug embossed with the Hockey Night in Canada logo on it.  She picked it up to look at it, only to find out that it was not for sale. It belonged to the cashier.  Oops.  But she liked it and really wanted one.  And I knew where we might be able to get one.

So we headed out on Front Street towards the entertainment district. Up ahead was the place I had in mind - the CBC broadcast center.  We went inside through a door that someone just exited through. The place was empty and the gift store appeared to be closed.  We went up to the security desk to see if anything was open.  Apparently, the gift store and museum were not open on the weekends. Weird.  It also was apparent that we got in through a locked door and the perhaps we should have not been in there in the first place.  That said, it would have been really cool if we had managed to bump into PJ Stock, Ron McLean, Mike Milbury or even Grapes himself, Don Cherry.

Well, that was bit of a bummer, but I had another place in mind that we needed to check out.  Legends of the Game is a hole in the wall place in the heart of the entertainment district on King Street next to Roy Thomson Hall.  This place is a memorabilia collector's dream.  The vast majority of stuff here is off-beat and out of the ordinary.  Looking for a Leafs sweater?  You might find one.  But you'll probably have a much easier time finding a Garth Iorg autographed Blue Jays pennant first.  The last time I was there, I picked up a really cool Don Cherry bobblehead.  This time, I got a 1994 World Cup pennant, new with tags, for $1.95.  Awesome.

At this point, Heather and I were getting a bit exhausted, having walked around the city for the better part of the day at that point.  What better way to recharge our batteries than to have an afternoon snack at Tim Horton's, conveniently located next door.  This time we went with the maple swirl, a cream filled donut frosted with maple and vanilla.  Heather found it a bit too sweet for her liking, but I loved every bite of mine.  We also used this stop as an opportunity to pick up some trinkets to bring back home.  Heather picked up the Tim Horton's coffee pot tree ornament.  I picked up a box of maple fudge for Jen.

We also took advantage of the free wifi to check in back home.  I also used this opportunity to check out all the news about the Adrian Gonzalez trade.  The day was looking bright. 

We decided to walk back to the hotel.  With the wind picking up off the water and the temperature dropping, I decided to introduce Heather to the underground tunnel system known as PATH.  In a stroke of genius, the City of Toronto has an entire network of underground tunnels connecting major shopping areas, hotels, public transit and corporate centers that spans the heart of downtown.  We made it back to the hotel, turned the TV on to the CBC to catch women's curling from Medicine Hat and relaxed for a bit.  We needed to get ready for the main event.

Up Next: Part V - It's Hockey Night Tonight!

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