29 Aug 12
Well now that the CFL season is well underway and things are moving along towards the labour day classics and fall weather football, its about time to introduce the Argos Admirals.
Consisting of a group of around a dozen Toronto Argonaut fans, we have been brought on board to contribute content – about the team and the league – to the various social media outlets available today. Having been hired in early June, this group of enthusiasts have been writing and uploading and tweeting and talking and yelling (while at the games), in all forms and fashion about the Toronto Argonauts. Being a big supporter of the club myself, it was natural to get involved and I was one of the lucky hires of this group.
We will be working all the way towards and through the 100th edition of the Grey Cup to be played in Toronto this coming November.
You can find information, details, events, contests, and all things Argos via facebook, our website, the Argos official website and twitter…..simply search ARGOS ADMIRALS.
Having been a fan for my entire life it is certainly welcoming to get involved with the club in this fashion. We work out of the head offices on King st in Toronto in a room called M31, and on game days we are in the press box and in the stands at the dome. Anything going on in Argoland or regarding the Grey Cup will come right through our channels via the club.
argosadmirals.com Great articles with player interviews, summaries, predictions, and stories from the past.
Admirals on official Argos website With links to twitter, pintrest and reddit.
Facebook page with lots photos, video, and banter.
I asked a very good friend of mine if he would write a story bout his travels that he would share on this blog. And he did. Its worth the read, if not for the adventure, for the sincerity. Thanks Colin.
Central America – 1 June 12 – Colin Sim
Growing up in the Niagara area, just 20 minutes from the US border, I was fairly used to the relative ease in which a Canadian could cross into the US. It was generally just a quick chat with the border guard and you were into the states, or the same going back into Canada with my bucket of buffalo wings, case of cheap beer, and a tank full of gas. I´d say I´d crossed back & forth well over a 100 times without incident, ever. But it´s slightly different here in Central America when it comes to crossing borders. For example, you have to have your passport visa stamped OUT of the country you are currently in, before you can get a visa stamp going INTO the country you are on your way to. Sometimes this process can be extremely simple, Like going north into Guatemala from Honduras. You stop at a little outpost in the middle of nowhere , get a quick stamp from Hondo, walk across the dirt road to the Guat(emala) Immigration office, which looks identical to a toll booth on a US Expressway. Ironically, you do pay an entrance fee going into Guat & you just know that a portion of that fee is going to pay for the border guards´ dinner that evening. But all in all, quick, easy and painless. Sometimes, however, border crossings can be an exercise in patience, humility, absolute corruption and hopefully, redemption. This is one of those stories.
My good friend Chris and I had been traveling for awhile and ended up in a small surfing town in El Salvador for the better part of October in 2011. Two other friends, Melanie & Ty, had been on a rubbertramp (driving a van) tour from BC and had met up with us. The plan was to drive from El Salv into Nicaragua. To get there, you have to cross out of El Salv, into a very small portion of Honduras, and then into Nica. We had 4 border crossings ahead to get into Nica & to get there with plenty of daylight to spare was the goal. We were leaving early enough, the drive only 6 hours, it should be attainable, we were sure.
The rules for vehicles are exactly as they are for people. If you´re driving in Central America, your car needs a visa/permit too and also has to follow the stamp IN/OUT procedure. So, as we were leaving El Salv, the van´s permit was stamped OUT first at a small checkpoint prior to the main office, we then drove the 300 meters to where we needed to have our passports checked. I went to the window first, and was promptly told that my visa had expired and there was a hefty fine of $104US! That´s a lot of money down here.
And on with the story….
Now, I had been in Central America for 7 months by now, and El Salv, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua share what is called a CA-4 visa, giving 90 days maximum within those 4 countries. I had received a 90 day extension in Guat about 45 days earlier, so I should be fine, I tried to explain to the border official in my broken Spanish. In turn, in his broken English, he said he knows, he sees the stamp, they just weren´t going to honour it AND he reminded me that the fine was $104US.
The other option he said, was to drive to the capitol city of San Salvador, go to the main immigration office there, and get an El Salv extension and the fine would not apply. After a quick discussion, the 4 of us jump back into Ducey (of course the van had a nickname) and proceeded to turn around and drive towards San Salv. Just a quick stop at the checkpoint for vehicles and we´d be on our way. The next guard looks at the van´s permit and quickly retorts that our permit has ended and no longer valid. It was only 20 minutes earlier that it was stamped out but the guard didn´t care and told us to turn around, go back to the office we were just at, and get a new permit to drive into El Salv. Back down the 300m, of course we get the same officer as before, and he tells us that this office does not provide vehicle permits and we´d have to drive to another border crossing, about 200kms away. But, he giggled, because we did not have a current permit, we could not do that either. Yep, we couldn´t get out of El Salv or back into it. We were stuck in border crossing limbo. A 3rd option came about….if we stayed at the hotel conveniently located beside the immigration office for 3 nights, they would stamp us OUT and we could be on our way. Something was telling me that he had a stake in that hotel, or that his brother or uncle owned it. I tried to explain the situation again, that the visa from Guat should be valid & I should be allowed out of the country. Again, he explained to me that the fine was $104US.
I reached into my pocket & had $27. He told me to go and beg my friends for the rest, but I convinced him we were all broke. He finally relented a little, pulled out an official Customs & Immigration binder, opened it up to a specific page about fines, pointed out how many days my original visa was over the 90, leading to a line with the fine of $57. Bastardo!
I think I might be screwed.
I knew he was just gouging me before, but at least this was somewhat acceptable. I paid the fine, he gave me a 5 day extension out of the CA-4 countries and we were on our way. Well, at least the 150m to the next border station for Honduras. A traffic warden waved us over to the side of the road and came to chat. He had noticed the problems we had at the El Salv office and was curious as to what happened. He seemed a friendly guy and as we talked, I gave him a quick rundown. He asked to see my passport, and to quell the urge to prove my story to a total stranger, I gave it to him. He checked it out, then without saying a word, put it in his back pocket and walked away.
Yup, its Central America…..it actually does get worse, way worse.
I was dumbfounded. Did that just happen? We sat there for a few minutes, shocked, and discussed our current options and I decided to go and talk to him. He was clearly after a bribe, it was just a matter of how much it was going to take to get it back. When I approached him, he immediately raised his hand to have my stop in my tracks, and with his other hand, reached for his gun. Holy shit! He was yelling at me in Spanish far beyond my understanding, but the body language was telling me enough. I backed up, slowly, him keeping his hand on his gun, me keeping my eyes on him just in case he went cowboy on me, and I sat down on the curb. I sat there for the better part of an hour, my friends unsure what to do, and me just stewing about it. I mean, this guy wasn´t police, or customs but some lowly traffic warden (insert sarcastic tone here ) helping to maintain the immense amount of traffic at this crossing. Who was he to steal my passport? So I started to walk up to him again, and the same response came back at me, but this time, I understood – ¨sit down & shut up¨. That line, accompanied by the gun grab is an effective way of getting what you want. Back on the curb, 3 hrs have passed and now my favorite traffic warden is on the move. Not towards me for the bribe, but towards a small building with a dozen or so other traffic wardens. Break time. Obviously I´m not going to confront this guy in front of his colleagues, so I needed to form a new plan. What to do?
I recognize that his office, is only 15ft from the Honduras Immigration building. So I walk over there, tell the officer at the border that a traffic warden has my passport and will not return it. his eyes widen, leaps out of his chair, runs out the back door, around the corner and is beside me within seconds. He asks me to follow him and we are now at the warden´s building and wants to know which of these guys here has my passport. I can feel all eyes on me now, staring through me with teeth clenched and furrowed brows. I´m petrified. I reluctantly point out which warden has it, and the officer starts charging towards him like a bull. Yelling at him, arms flailing, the conversation between the two of them does not look like its going well for me. This goes on for a minute or two, and eventually, the warden lowers his head, reaches into his back pocket and hands over my passport to the officer who quickly snatches it out of his hands, berates him a little more and hurriedly walks to me and returns it. He begins to walk away, and me feeling the eyes of the wardens still staring through my soul, I follow him like a lost puppy. We head back to the Honduras office now, rejoined by my friends who saw this go on, and the officer sits back into his chair, and asks us for all 4 of our passports and he quickly stamps our visas in succession and without any questions. Ty had gotten the permit for Ducey while I was dealing with el douchebag, so we jumped into the van as quickly as possible. We were all pretty nervous as we pulled away, thinking the traffic warden would simply call one of his friends a little farther down the highway to make retribution, but we seemed to have luck on our side and didn´t see another official until we got to the Nicaragua border. What should have been 6 hours, turned into 12, but we made it out of Hondo and into NIca fairly quickly, and after a few days, I journeyed into Costa Rica, then back into Nica with a fresh 90 day CA-4 stamp.
I´ve been in & out of 19 countries, and crossed international borders so many times its hard to remember, but that´s a day of traveling I´ll never forget.
In the newest series of ads for the CFL, they have released what I would call Memoirs of the Grey Cup, a montage so to speak.
None the less, a great tribute to Football fans and proud Canadians alike. Can you guess the narrator?
Check out the Argos Admirals Blog…….official fan voice of the Toronto Argonauts……14 dedicated boatmen offering their views and interacting……..having alot of fun with it!
Dangerous Dans Diner…….A Dangerous Burger, served with a heaping side of ATTITUDE.
7 May 2012
After a lovely Sunday afternoon hanging out with friends and family in Lesliville, some afternoon suds, and great conversation – early evening hunger set upon us. Combined with the “end of the weekend” blues and laziness we decided to check out a diner just down the road which apparently serves one hell of a burger. The joint is called Dangerous Dans Diner.
Ill try and keep this short in the spirit of not posting every detail about everything I eat in the city…..but this place deserves a few points to mention.
First, it is a basic diner, set on the corner with views of the street through the large glass windows, and lit up by traditional fluorescent lighting. The menu was quite extensive but certainly focused on various burgers ranging from the traditional ½ pound cheeseburger all the way through the “Colossal Colon Clogger Combo” at $25.
Note: the “CCCC” is a 24oz burger (1 ½ lbs) topped with 2 eggs, ¼ lb of bacon, ¼ lb of cheese, served with a small poutine and a large shake. I asked the manager how many people actually eat the CCCC and he replied that they probably sell 25-30 a week. WOW, glutten.
Immediately upon entering the diner you could smell the grill, hear the music and chattering, see that the seating was slightly different than we are used to……and notice a touch of attitude from the manager, cashier, cook, and dishwasher. For those of you not familiar with traditional diners and “how they should be”………..a certain amount of attitude, cockiness, no care if youre there shtick, is appropriate and expected. They treat you as if youre the one lucky to be there….that WE need them (to eat) more than THEY need us (the customer to pay the bills). This however is no reflection of the food or speed or efficiency of service, simply how the staff interact with the guests. After finishing your meal it wouldn’t be out of place for the waiter to say something to you like, “hey you done?”…………ah ya…………”well if so why don’t you free up these seats and get the hell out of here.” . This might sound offensive to some but it is the essence of a proper old school diner, and just one small example of this attitude.
None the less. Dangerous Dans Diner is this type of place, and interestingly enough the seating in the restaurant is comprised of seats from cars and vans. Neat concept. Not sure if it adds to anything or takes away….but it is what it is, and when you go there you sit in a retro fitted car seat around the tables of four. We all ordered the traditional cheeseburger and decided to split a large order of poutine to see if in fact it was good old traditional poutine or simply fries, gravy, and shredded cheese.
Everything was served quickly and in the astonishingly large portions we were expecting – becoming even more impressive when the plates are right in front of you.
Burgers were awesome all around. I though the bun could have used a bit more work but all in all, what a good burger! Poutine was decent as well. Good Ontario cheese curds but certainly not those rubber squeaky curds you get in La Belle Province. Well, we tried.
We finished our meal and on our way out of the diner, I had this exchange with the cook.
Me: “Hey man, good burger.”
Cook: Walking by, looking away, in a snarky voice says “Ya……. you don’t think we know that?”
Prices: ½ lb Cheese Burger – $ 5.55. Large Poutine $ 7.25. Pitcher of draught $14.00
Location: 714 Queen St East, Toronto, On 416 463-7310
It is never interesting to watch people eat, but here is a quick video of us at the table with food in front of us. The really cool thing about the recording is: THE MUSIC PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND. To hear a sample of that alone, is worth clicking on the video if only for a few seconds. Hilarious.
The Big Slice of Life.
3 May 12
Years ago life was simpler. We’ve all heard that – probably say that – and shit, even thinking that ages one immediately in front of company even a few years younger than yourself. It is true though – in some sense – there were less rules, more personal responsibility, and in that, more leeway in what we could do and get away with. Kids could still go to playgrounds or adventures in the woods without a parents supervision……dressing up as a devil on Halloween was considered an appropriate costume, and there was no such thing as a peanut free zone. Today of course, none of these three examples are appropriate or allowed. It is too bad really.
My early youth was accelerated by an amount of independence given to me by my parents, with trust of course (although I didn’t always follow that, kids will be kids), and appropriately for the times, I lived a great childhood exploring, doing, living and learning. Growing up, I was a big sports fan and I was allowed to attend Toronto Maple Leaf games at the Gardens – me and my buddy on our own – as early as age eleven. Living outside of the city a random “Leaf game school night” would look something like this. Mom drops us off at the GoTrain station in Oakville. We ride into Toronto to Union, and transfer to the subway. From the subway, walk to the Gardens and watch the game from up in the grey section (and get this, tickets were $8 at the time), and do this in reverse following the contest. Alternatively, my friends mom would pick us up around 11pm in Oakville and drop me off at home for bed and an early rise the following day for grade six. Grade SIX! Yes folks, during those days, you could leave a somewhat responsible child on their own to do their own thing, and not have your neighbours call family and children services for neglect. Having this new found freedom, my friend and I would snatch up every available Leaf ticket and exercise our independent option from those early days well into our teens. I remember heading to the ticketmaster outlet at Sunrise records on opening day for ticket sales and laying down $300 for upwards of 20 games we would attend. And this would be at age 12. On a side note. When the boys in blue played their last game in the storied building back in 1999 I remember people saying they had never been to the gardens to watch a game. Or maybe once for a game, once for a concert and once for a wrestling event featuring Hogan vs Andre the Giant or something along those lines. At the time I went through my meticulously kept ticket stubs – in a photo album – and counted the games I had attended during those years. A proud me had walked through the hallowed halls of my/this hockey shrine, at least 122 times. Thank you mom and dad and the late 80’s.
To continue, one of the places we would frequent in the city was a pizza joint called THE BIG SLICE. Located on Yonge St just south of College this appropriately named pizza parlour was just what a young and hungry kid needed. In no particular order: Pizza, Cheap, Big. My friend and I would go there night in night out for our fill right before puck drop and I would always order the peperoni and mushroom – cost with a coke at the time $3.50. Standing at the counter in awe of the massive slices of pie, the smells, the excitement of the city and game night, was magic to us. This was growing up at its finest…..free to do as we wished and away from moms and dads who (as with most other kids our age) were telling their children to do their homework and go to bed. How cool were we?
Fast forward 25 yrs later and I’m still eating THE BIG SLICE. It has become a Toronto staple for me. When Im in town and I need a quick bite to eat, nothing tempts me more than going for a quick slice of premium pizza (note: this is not gourmet pizza or gluten free pizza or organic pizza or any other lovey dovey term of the day), simply pizza. And it is good. It was good then and it has been good ever since, including yesterday. The pizza is still spun by hand in the front window, toppings generously added by feel – not by scale and weight. The counters, tables, chairs, and paintings on the walls – all remain the same. Dance music of the day played over the decrepit radio shack speakers – wires still unattached to the walls – a five minute job that could have been done decades ago. Until recently Ive not taken notice of how long Ive been eating at The Big Slice and how long things there have just remained the way they were. Continually I still order peperoni/mushroom and a can of coke. The cost today is five bucks tax incl. Pizza, Big, Cheap. I was thinking to myself that maybe it’s the nostalgia, maybe the feeling of returning to a different time – young, innocent, free – or maybe Im just stuck in my ways, and this the reason I keep going back. I mean Im not with my buddy like the good old days – who has long since moved to Asia – nor going to a hockey game……..nor there avoiding bed time and homework. But I am there for some reason besides just being hungry.
I can only think to myself that I love the place because it hasn’t changed. Its grown up a bit – like we all have. Funny though……on the other hand it means that (in this case) I haven’t grown up either. To take note of yourself in a slice of pizza……it’s a bit crazy, but I think its contemplative and cool. Life is good sometimes.
Final Note: take away all the philosophical stuff and life lessons Im trying to pull together, and the pizza there is that good. You really should check it out. Open daily…….pretty early to very very late. East side of Yonge at the corner of Gerrard.
……and my buddy, that’s Graham. Some of you would know him. Hes lived in Thailand for the last decade with a lovely wife and two beautiful children…..he has everything he needs but access to The Big Slice.
Walking along Queen st East this afternoon I came across the Caplanskys Deli food truck affectionately called Thunderin Thelma.
Its located at 72 Queen St East and serves up a mini menu from the actual restaurant. A smoked meat sandwich with pickle costs $7. They have poutine as well ans some sort of speciality maple donuts which sound (and probably are) very good. The truck is open M-F from 11-3pm. This also happens to be the idea that owner Zane Caplansky pitched on the CBC show called Dragons Den. Incidentally the Dragons did not invest in the food truck idea, but Zane went ahead anyway. They also make appearances at food shows and other outdoor events in the Toronto area.
Next time Im in the area, its going to be a tough decision between traditional street meat and Torontos best (and first) smoked meat. A pic of the truck below.
Check out the video of the pitch from Dragons Den.
1 May 12
Metro Toronto convention center hosted the Toronto Argonauts season ticket holder jersey unveiling last night and it was well attended, well organized and somewhat of a star studded affair.
One of the best reasons for following the CFL and the Argos is the public access to players and coaches in a very informal way. Access not granted in any other sport. It is the essence of this wonderful football league, who this year is celebrating the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto at the end of November.
Lights, stages, displays, food areas, casino, interactive exhibits and a bit of a hob knob in the whos who of the Argos, lit up the convention hall for a couple hours – we were there – and we certainly did enjoy it.
The biggest disappointment was the convention centers pricing of suds. A domestic bottle of brew selling at $9. NINE BUCKS? Are you kidding me? For serious football followers, keep in mind, many of the events during the Grey Cup week will be take place at this same location and I certainly hope they get their pricing a little more pocket book friendly or people will certainly shy away. For our group it is pretty much unheard of that we wouldn’t purchase a frosty beverage during any football event, game or otherwise..……..in fact, this evening will go down as the first time ever that we went dry. It certainly says something about the tolerance level for high priced beers having gone over the top. A $10 tall boy at the dome is bearable. A severely over priced bottle of beer in the convention center, no way! Enough of that rant……..a pit stop afterwards at Joe Badalis restaurant/bar across the street for $7 pints of decent ale was the remedy.
Back to the event. For those in the CFL/Argos football know, here are some of the people who were in attendance: Ricky Ray, Damon Allen, Jason Maas, GM Jim Barker, Pres Chris Judge, Prefontaine, Chad Owens, Drurie, Jordan Younger, Jeff Keeping……at least a dozen other players…………and of course, Mike Pinball Clemons staying till the bitter end as to make sure he greets and meets anyone and everyone who waits in line for a few minutes of his time. Remarkable guy.
As for the jerseys, they were ok…..nothing spectacular or “wow”, but not terrible either. Of course, the jerseys were the focus…….creating a buzz around the team the goal. Certainly for those in attendance the event provided this.
Good to see many of my “football friends”……the ones you say goodbye to at the last game every year and say hi to at the first. It will be fun to be in the city this summer, if only for the Argos games alone.
Damn Good Burger – Royal Meats Barbeque
25 April 12
Finding myself tailing along with a buddy on a business appointment just outside of Toronto, we were delayed in the timing of his meeting so we decided to go for a quick bite to eat. The sales rep we were waiting to see suggested that there was a “great spot for burgers – if you like burgers – right around the corner.”
Now I am a burger guy and this comment peaked my interest with the usual cynicism I hold when it comes to peoples evaluation of what a good burger is, what good wings are, what good street meat is (Diamond cut required) or who serves a good deli sandwich. These four items Ive searched far and wide for – and when possible, indulged, eaten, and evaluated. For years I’ve been complaining that no one could make a decent burger on Utila for example. Some people there blame it on the beef, some on the lack of fresh baked buns and others simply don’t care about this stuff and would look at me like “why does this guy talk and care about a freaking burger so much?”.
Recently when in was in Israel I went through the same process with friends there of whom most claimed to know of a decent burger spot in Tel Aviv or somewhere else. I digress, I was so enamoured with the high quality shawarma in Israel that I didn’t give even one burger the chance at my criticism, while I was visiting. I looked but didn’t take. At a cost of 12-15usd for a minced beef sandwich (with probably a crappy bun – although I don’t know why Im saying that), the thought of an Israeli burger just wasn’t doing it for me…….that ……. and the shawarmas were just that good.
On with the show here and back to this afternoon.
My buddy Hitch and I stepped inside a very tidy and simple restaurant with big glass windows and lots of light. Immediately I sensed that we might be in for a bit of a treat. At Royal Meats Barbeque, you select from the deli counter the meat you wish to be cooked. They favour burgers there (in two sizes, ½ pound and full pound) and they are well on display beside a few other items such as sausage and chicken fillets, which are also on the menu. After placing the order, you have a seat and wait a short time while the fresh made patty is grilled in the open kitchen with your eyes and nose as witness.
Once ready, they call you back up to the counter to garnish the fine looking specimen of beef. There are the traditional toppings – lettuce, tomato, full size deli pickles, and condiments. Further, they only provide Heinz Ketchup – there is only one kind (as WE know) and anything different would be sac religious on a burger (or anything else requiring ketchup) – check mark for that.
Also offered, was a special house dressing which looked decent, but I didn’t want to crowd the senses in the overall evaluation. This would be similar to being served a draught beer in a frosted mug – that is, youll never know if the beer has gone sour because of the coldness of the glass – always room temp mug for the first beer to verify a good brew, FYI. Royal Meats also offered another special “spread” we’ll call it. I believe the worker said it was a mixture of cream cheese and mayo. I usually add mayo to my burger so I reasoned this wouldn’t be too far off the path not to give it a go. They spread it on the underside of the top bun, looked good. Was a decent replacement for cheese.
Speaking of bun. This is where everything about a burger can fall apart – literally and figuratively. You can have a decent burger….heck you can even have a great burger…..but if the bun isint up to speed the whole thing can fall apart and go right downhill. This burger bun was big enough to cover the patty and was toasted as well – which made me a bit nervous. That is, with over toasting and a large portion to shove down the trough, a badly toasted bun can become hard and tends to cut/chafe the top of your mouth. Not a great description but a situation we can all understand. Well…….. this bun was perfect. A mix between toasting and steaming on a fresh baked bun that had the consistency and look of a ciabatta and Kaiser roll mix.
When leaving I inquired to the manager about the burger and he told me they were made fresh daily at their Royal Meats Butcher shop that has been in business for the past fifteen years. Also, they only use salt, pepper, chillis and onion in the patty……simple but good. Fresh and fast. Price was decent at $7.50 for the half pound and $9.50 for the full pound………youre going to pay a bit more for drink and fries if you even have the room.
And there it is……..a very decent burger at a relatively new joint.
Royal Meats Barbeque
710 Kipling Ave, Etobicoke, On M8Z 5G5
This post is dedicated to Dor, Arbel, Stass, Niv, Nir, and others.
Another weekly visit to Jims Diner in Lesliville for some eats this past Saturday at noon.
As always, the food was hot, fresh, served quick, and with just enough attitude to make you feel welcome. I had a choice of weekend papers to read and found a quiet table close to the back of the restaurant – me and the Toronto Star. As I have previously written about the “Best Western” they serve here, it was on the tip of my tongue to make that my choice yesterday as well. However I opted for a dish we are all familiar with but one I neglect (do to the grandness of the western) when Im visiting Jims. This particular choice can be found in many restaurants, diners and bars with the prefix “all day”. After eating I got the check and proceed to the cashier. A quick look at the bill to see what I was in fact being charged for, I decided to take a picture of the order as written by the waitress. Based on this, any ideas what I ate? Of note, the total included a drink and came to $5.50 with tax.
31 March 2012.
Location: Toronto, On. Just outside Kensington Market. 356 College St. 416 500-3852
Second day home after a one year trip abroad which turned into three, I had my first meal at this relativley new deli.
Toronto smoked meat for god sakes….
Hand carved, proper rye, slaw and pickle of course.
Good proper menu otherwise.
College and Spadina, west on Spadina…north side.
Thank you zane.