Who doesn't love a good independent bookstore? WHO?

You? Well then, you shouldn't be reading this blog. Plain and simple.

Anyway, I'm supposed to be reviewing Toronto' Book City, so here goes:

It's great! I know that's a simple thing to say, but really, it sort of sums things up. I know it's not always as close as say, you're local Chapters/Indigo (boo! hiss!) but taking the time to support independent businesses like this one is always worthwhile.

Book City is great because it has everything. Everything current, I mean. Personally, when I lived in the Annex, I have to admit that to save cash, I often checked out BMB first. But if BMB didn't have what I wanted, if the book I was looking for was brand new, or if I just felt flush, I'd walk down the street to Book City instead and I was always happy I did. (There are several Book City locations in Toronto if you are not in the Annex, fear not.)

Anyway, my one beef with Book City is that is is often very crowded. I like the effect (very bookish) but at the same time, when I can't find what I want right away, I become frustrated. If you're like me, save yourself the aggravation and just ask for help immediately. Book City clerks are super knowledgeable and should be able to find what you're looking for in an instant  (or, if they don't have it, they'll let you know right away).

Anyway, check it out. If you like what you find and you buy a lot of books (like I do), consider getting a loyalty card. You'll save a lot. And even if you don't, enjoy the bookmarks. They come free with every purchase. It's a small thing, but I like having all those yellow bookmarks around. It makes me feel good.

Book City (Annex)
2350 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON (416) 766-9412
In Toronto, the hippest things never hold their lustre long, but maybe The Black Hoof will be the exception to the rule.

The restaurant is all about charcuterie (cured meat being smokin' hot with foodies at the moment). Though, admittedly, in the last year, interest in the trend has already fizzled a bit.

And that's what the Black Hoof really is: a place that capitalizes on cool. The tiny restaurant is nothing special, the wood-encased back patio is cramped, the sweaty servers are young and a bit bored and snooty. The food is... well, it's delicious. But it's also not for everyone.

What can I say? I like meat. I LOVE meat. And I love charcuterie. I'm not afraid of it. Pork-belly pastrami with a side of crispy pig's ears? Bring it on.

The place, despite humble looks, isn't cheap. Two people who really want to eat can expect to spend $100 (including wine). Nonetheless, I would recommend it for a special treat if you're a carnivore like I am.

Be aware, however, that the place turns into a bit of a bar late at night. It seems to be where all the city's coolest servers go to hang out once their shifts end. So if you're going to go and aren't interested in interrupting hipster revelry, go a bit early.

The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON M6J 1W3
(416) 551-8854

* Salami photo by Gabriella Fabbri from Stock Xchng.

I've been living in Toronto (for the second time) for more than three years now and I have yet to find REALLY GOOD Chinese takeout. I don't know if it's because my tastes have changed in recent years of it because take out just sucks everywhere, but it's frustrating either way.

Ginger Blossom Asian Kitchen
is the latest place Nate and I have tried and they're... okay. They deliver to our neighbourhood (unlike our favourite brick and mortar places) and their food is palatable. We haven't tried everything on a menu, of course, but here's my experience so far:

Their Hot & Sour Soup is okay, as is their Won Ton Soup. A single serving is $3.50, which is normal.

Ginger Blossom's Deep Fried Shrimp Dumplings are delicious because they're deep fried (and most deep fried things taste good). They come with a side of a very thick and addictive mayonnaise. (Or maybe the addictive thing is just me.)

Their Wonton in Spicy Peanut Sauce is awful. Gooey and drowned. Their Szechuan Chicken is way too sweet (imo), but their Beef with Oyster Sauce is decent and their Tofy with Minced Pork is surprisingly tasty. (The Minced Pork seems gross at first, like grade B ground beef or mystery meat, but it's actually really yummy. On rice, this dish is a favourite.)

What you should know: within their delivery area, drop off is free as long as you order more than $25 worth of food. Otherwise, it's $2. If you order more than $28 worth of food before taxes, you get a free item from a predetermined list. I recommend the Deep Fried Chicken Wings. (See note above about how all things deep fried taste good.) If you order more than $48 worth of food and you pick up and pay cash, you get 10% off and a free item. Don't forget to ask for these perks or you won't get them.

Ginger Blossom Asian Kitchen is nothing special. It's not authentic or impressive. But if you're looking for take out that isn't awful, it's a decent choice.

Ginger Blossom Asian Kitchen
256 Christie St.
Toronto, ON
(416) 537-3388