The second in a series of pieces written to photographs taken by Nicholas James Seaton on our autumn/winter 2013 shoot in Canada. Each focuses on an element, albeit a new kind of element.

By Jon Day.

In his 1885 treatise ‘Physiologie de l’asphalte’, Alexis Martin described the way in which asphalt, then a relatively new element in urban life, was beginning to be read by city dwellers. ‘The manufacturer passes over the asphalt conscious of its quality’ he wrote:

the old man searches it carefully, follows it just as long as he can, happily taps his cane so the wood resonates, and recalls with pride that he personally witnessed the laying of the first sidewalks; the poet walks on it pensive and unconcerned, muttering lines of verse; the stockbroker hurries past, calculating the advantages of the last rise in wheat.

One of the great tyrannies of the modern city is the speed with which road-surfaces are renewed, making obsolete the slap of time. Roads were once democratic spaces, created by the collective movement of generations of travellers. In his poem ‘The Path’ Edward Thomas described a track ‘winding like silver’, worn into the woods by children who, ‘With the current of their feet’ created a monument to their passing.

Now that most roads are metalled, something of the relationship between traveller and path has been lost. Asphalt is shed annually, like the skin of a snake: scraped off with flailing chains, spat out into waiting trucks, and laid anew by machines which resemble combine harvesters. Asphalt suffers from an amnesia unknown to mud and stone. But still it struggles to remember. On city roads potholes remerge perennially, always occupying the same places. The marks of passing buses are recorded as depressions in the tarmac.

We think of asphalt as a lifeless material, as a neutral barrier between driver and landscape. Attend to it, however, and asphalt comes alive. It’s a fickle material, changing with the seasons. Greased with rain it flares with the rainbow splashes of oil slicks. In the winter it becomes sluggish and brittle. The water gets in underneath it and cracks it open. In summer, awakened by the heat, it oozes and begins to flow, at glacier pace, through the streets.

In 1927 Professor Thomas Parnell, a physicist at the university of Queensland, placed a small nugget of asphalt into a funnel before entombing the whole in a bell jar. About ten years later, the first drop of pitch fell through the funnel. Eight drops have plinked into the petri dish so far. The eighth drop fell on 28 November 2000. The next is due imminently.

http://jontday.wordpress.com


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by TOAST ( 04.09.13 )

Jessica Seaton, Toast’s co-founder and Managing Director provides an incomplete guide to Montreal – one of the locations for our autumn/winter 2013 photo shoot in Canada. Photography by Nicholas James Seaton.

Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard Ouest, Montreal, H2T 2K5 – t. 514.279.2221, drawnandquarterly.com & Le Port de Tete, 262, Avenue de Mont-Royal Est, Montreal, H2T 1PS – t. 514.678.9566, portdetete@videotron.ca 

Two Bookshops – One English, One French

It is fitting that bilingual Montreal should have two bookshops of excellence – one English, one French. Depending on your linguistic bias, both are a refuges against the busy day, browsing in peace amongst the calm shelves’ well-edited selections, chosen by their respective, dedicated proprietors.

Drawn & Quarterly is not only a bookshop, but also a publisher with a specialism in new graphic novels, a dynamic scene recently established in Montreal. Here they range alongside a comprehensive selection of arts and music publications, as well as the best in modern and historic literature.

Le Port de Tete is run by Eric Blackburn and his selection includes philosophy and history of art amongst French versions of the graphic novel. His bookshop is beautiful and calm, the spines of the books gently gradated tones of cream and vellum, in the French style.

Lawrence, 5201 Boulevard St Laurent, Montreal – t. 514.503.1070, lawrencerestaurant.com & boucherielawrence.com

We came across Lawrence whilst scouting for suitable shoot locations in the Mile End area and loved it immediately.

Situated on the corner of St Lawrence and Fairmount, the simple graphic on the window, the friendly but self-respecting demeanour of the staff and the calm interior spoke immediately of Lawrence’s modern and serious sensibility. We lunched there later that day and the food did not disappoint – to such an extent that we immediately re-booked for our farewell-to-Montreal dinner the following day.

The owners, Sefi Amir, Marc Cohen (a British-born chef), Ethan Wills and Annika Krausz (a Montreal-born designer) came together to create Lawrence almost 3 years ago. They all share the same ‘nose to tail’ philosophy, favouring organic and respectfully produced meat from small local suppliers, which they also butcher in house. Vegetables are seasonal and local wherever possible – even in winter when the cold of Quebec creates real difficulties in providing fresh local produce.

Since we visited they have opened Boucherie Lawrence a little down the street. This is currently garnering rave reviews by selling the same meat served in the restaurant in the same enlightened and thoughtful way. A worthy addition to the newly-founded Lawrence tradition.

Other places we liked:

Sucrerie de la Montagne, 300, rang Saint-George, Rigaud, Quebec, J0P 1P0 – t. 450.451.0831, sucreriedelamontagne.com

Situated outside Montreal this historic sucrerie still extracts and processes maple syrup from its maple woods. You can enjoy a traditional Quebecois lunch; stay in a little cabin, and in the winter drive through the woods on a sleigh.

Station Epices, 174A West Bernard Street, Montreal, H2T 2K2 – t. 514.274.1514, spicestation.ca

A ravishing-looking spice and herb store in the lively Mile End region of the city.

le Cartet, 106, rue McGill, Montreal, H2Y 2E5 – t. 514.871.8887, lecartet.com

The hip, cool down-towners of Montreal eat brunch and lunch here with their families in this modern, fresh café/bar and store on McGill. The quality of the coffee depends very much on who is working the machine, but the food is good and the ambience enjoyable and modern.

Hotel St Paul, 355, rue McGill, Montreal, H2Y 2E8 – t. 514.380.222, hotelstpaul.com

A modern, comfortable hotel downtown in Montreal. Many of our favourite photographs were taken in close proximity to the hotel and all the team-member were perfectly sustained by the food eaten late, after shooting, in the Ham Bar.

Savoie Fils, 251 Rue St Viateur Ouest, Montreal, H2V 1Y1 – t. 514.507.4092, savoiefils.com

Savoie Fils is a cleverly edited shop selling men’s and women’s clothes, together with maple syrup, good coffee, flasks, penknives and other surprising finds. Worth a visit

And finally a small selection of other places to eat:

Brooklyn, 71 St Viateur Est - t. 514.564.6910 (a mid-century furniture shop, combined with delicious food)

Pied de Cochon, 536 Avenue Duluth Est – t. 514.281.1114 (go with loose trousers – very substantial, but brilliant Quebecoise cuisine)

Café Sardine, 9 Avenue Fairmount Est – t. 514.802.8899 (famous for doughnuts and coffee)

Last week: An Incomplete Guide to Montreal Part I.


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by TOAST ( 03.09.13 )

The first of twelve people, men and women, all of whom in their various ways work with food and all of whom are passionate about what they do. It’s a truism to say there has been a revolution in food – but these twelve have all taken fresh approaches: all have a sense of rootedness and authenticity. It was a great pleasure meeting all of them: from the lovely Jeremy Lee working in a down-to-earth way at his grand and history-imbued Quo Vadis to the three artisan producers at Spa Terminus: extraordinary people working enormously hard at what they love. Our great thanks to them all.

Unhindered by conformities, Ole Hansen arrived in London treating the city as a 19th century Norwegian emigré to Canada might have treated a wilderness riverbank, going about establishing his livelihood using whatever means were available. Thus, discovering a disused boiler room in a Stoke Newington warehouse, he built his smokery in it. Finding his studio flat short on space, he built himself a wooden cabin hidden among the rooftops of east London…


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by TOAST ( 30.08.13 )

Jessica Seaton, Toast’s co-founder and Managing Director provides an incomplete guide to Montreal – one of the locations for our autumn/winter 2013 photo shoot in Canada. Photography by Nicholas James Seaton.

 

Dominion Square Tavern, 1243 Metcalfe, Montreal, H3B 2V5 – t. 514.564.5056, tavernedominion.com

If by any chance you happen to feel an urgent need for a Mint Julep at the end of a long day’s sightseeing in Montreal, then the Dominion Square Tavern (photo above) is the place to go. On shelves above the long mirrors behind bar are ranged glittering bottle after bottle after bottle: a fine, imaginative and fully comprehensive array of scotch, gin, vodka, bitters and a myriad other ingredients, all more than suitable to serve the best mixologist’s dreams.

The interior itself is a faithful and sparkling re-creation of the original 1927 building by the current owners, who also own the Whisky Café on St Laurent Boulevard. The terrazzo floor and chandelier are original, as are the colourful Canadian coats of arms that dominate the walls.

Although we didn’t get a chance to sample the food, I have heard that the French/English menu designed by Eric Dupuis nestles fish and chips alongside duck confit. Very Montreal.

 

Bota Spa – Sur L’Eau, Old Port of Montreal, Corner of Commune and McGill, Montreal – t. 514.284.0333, botabota.ca

Whoever had the idea of situating a spa on a refurbished steamer right amongst the atmospheric old port of Montreal was some sort of genius.

The old port buildings loom over the still water and gently decompose in the most picturesque way. On our visit the weather was glorious with clear skies and temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. What better than to lounge on one of the soft bean bags or be immersed in a hot tub under a gushing spout whilst gazing at the new moon soaring over still water?

In addition to the hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas – called the ‘water circuit’ which winds up, down and around the vessel – there is a comprehensive selection of excellent treatments and a café with a deliciously tempting menu.

Club Social, 180 St-Viateur Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, H2T 2L3 – t. 514.495.0114

The first thing you notice about Club Social (photo above), on a bright, warm morning early in May, is how it acts as a magnet for the coffee-loving residents of Montreal. Overflowing from the pavement tables outside, from the stools ranged along the open-windowed long side and at the several tables within the dark interior, are small and larger groups of enthusiastic and dedicated customers. A permanent queue snakes to the open door, whilst the intriguingly named Jay Lucifero, and his helpers, serve up cups of the very best coffee.

But there is more intrigue about Club Social. Originally a men’s only gambling club, it was nurtured by Jay’s father and brother into a new life as a coffee shop and bar. It retains an echo from this time – you have to pay a yearly $25 membership fee for you, and a guest, to drink alcohol here.

But bring two – or more – to drink the delicious, secret blend of coffee for no membership fee at all.

 

St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Saint-Viateur W., Montreal, H2V 1Y1 – t. 514.276.8044, stviateurbagel.com 

I have never been a particular fan of bagels, but the freshly baked sesame seed versions I ate at St-Viateur Bagel – tired after many hours of jet-lagged walking – turned me into a devoted follower. There is no other way to eat them, layered with smoked salmon and dipped into cream cheese, in the window of the bakery, whilst studying the expansive wall of press cuttings documenting the history of this Montreal landmark.

We had selected St-Viateur Bagel from a number of other competitors in the Mile End area. Bagels are a Montreal institution and are different here to the ones you may eat in places such as New York. They are boiled in honey-sweetened water and thus are both denser and more melting – with a bigger hole in the middle.

At St Viateur you cannot fail to be seduced by the way the soft, just boiled, bagels are subdued and crisped by the large wood fired oven and finally parade in glossy, stately manner down the conveyor at the end of their journey.

Just writing this makes me hungry for one again.

Next week: An Incomplete Guide to Montreal Part II.


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by TOAST ( 29.08.13 )

Orlando Gough.

We’ve just been to the Edinburgh Festival for a few days, mainly to see our son Milo’s unmissable groundbreaking hilarious genre-bending etc. etc. play Morag and Keats. (Actually it was hilarious.)

We also saw the unmissable groundbreaking etc. etc. adaptation by Jack Thorne of Alexander Masters’ book Stuart: A Life Backwards. Masters is a middle-class bleeding-heart leftie who is working for a homeless charity when he meets Stuart Shorter, a chaotic, violent, flirtatious, brilliant, disabled working-class homeless man (a stunning performance by Fraser Ayres). Alex decides to write Stuart’s biography. The play is, amongst other things, a wonderful dissection of class, and in particular of middle-class guilt. I squirmed in my seat with recognition, as I’ve worked on several pieces with the company Streetwise Opera who make operas with homeless people; five minutes before the start of my very first rehearsal with the company, I found myself up against a wall with Rob, an alarming ex-squaddie, shouting at me ‘If you do this fucking piece I’m going to fucking kill you.’

At one moment Stuart says ‘I wanted to have a fish breakfast this morning’ and Alexander says ‘You mean kedgeree?’ and Stuart says ‘What the fuck is kedgeree?’ The word kedgeree becomes a weapon in the ongoing class war between them. At the end of the play, Stuart furious with Alexander, delivers the worst insult he can think of. ‘You…..kedgeree cunt’ he shouts.

What the fuck is kedgeree? Allegedly it’s derived from the Indian dish khichri, a mixture of lentils and rice cooked with spices…


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by TOAST ( 27.08.13 )

The first in a series of pieces written to photographs taken by Nicholas James Seaton on our autumn/winter 2013 shoot in Canada. Each focuses on an element, albeit a new kind of element.

By Olivia Laing.

There was a summer when I swam in the sea every day. Sometimes I swam alone, but more often I swam with my friend Clare. Her kit included a hat and goggles, mine a pair of flip-flops that I’d tuck inside my swimsuit like a kangaroo.  Neither of us was very happy at the time. We’d talk our problems over as we struck out for the buoys, tossing sentences back and forth between the breakers.

Because I was miserable, I took more risks than I otherwise might have. We swam when sea-mists had blotted out the horizon; swam in the aftermath of a storm, when the waves were smashing and climbing far above our heads. Just once, I got into trouble, when I got caught in the undertow and slammed repeatedly against the shingle, knocked down and dunked again each time I staggered to my knees. Some days the water was so clear that you could make out each small brown stone, the colour of loaves of bread. Sometimes it was smooth as glass and the sensation of movement was closer to flying than swimming. Out at the buoys we’d turn and see the ruined pier and all the city’s Georgian squares, quaveringly redoubled.

All those swims – every swim I’ve ever made, in fact – are tucked away inside me like a pack of cards. Swimming on Dog Beach in Key West, where Tennessee Williams used to take his afternoon dip, in warm water the colour of Gatorade. Swimming in a rocky cove in Cap Ferrat, or over ruined houses on a tiny beach in Andros. Body surfing in Devon and dropping from rocks into water clear as jelly at the northernmost extremity of Scotland, where anemones pulsed red and pink beneath the lapping surface.

I lived by the sea for twenty-six years, but recently I moved inland. These days, the nearest coast is more than sixty miles from my house. I pine for it, I think. I want to swim out to the horizon, and hang there between the sea and sky: a native, suspended in my element. The shifting, unplaceable colours of seawater tug at my heart: now indigo, now turquoise; now electric and steel; now Egyptian and ultramarine; now the colour Yves Klein saw in his lost dreams of flight.

Olivia Laing’s To the River and The Trip to Echo Spring are published by Canongate.

www.olivialaing.co.uk


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by TOAST ( 23.08.13 )

The third and final of three Tales of the Wilderness, in anticipation of Wilderness Festival, where Toast will be curating the Lakeside Spa this August.

Extract from Wildwood by Roger Deakin.

The House-sheds: Camping

13 June

I slept in the shepherd’s hut last night after an evening swim in the moat, now beginning to weed up, under an almost-full moon. It was so bright, you could hardly call it proper darkness at all. At ten to four I was awoken by a blackcap hopping along the tin roof, then striking up the most exquisite warbling, at first utterly solo in the half-light, soon joined by other birds. It sang its heart out, moving about the roof now and then between phrases or cadenzas to a new vantage point, eventually ascending into the ash tree that overhangs the hut and the pond beside it. You hear everything in the hut: the foxes barking down the lane, even the rabbits thumping their hind legs on the ground sometimes. Easing myself up on one elbow about twenty past four, I inched back the curtain and surveyed the meadow. Yellow pools of buttercup, and here and there a pyramidal orchid, or a lush, intensely purple patch of the southern marsh orchid, the huger flowers stacked and layered like wedding cakes. A crow was flying in big circles above the pasture, climbing steeply, then gliding down for pure pleasure.

I dozed back to sleep, but was awoken by a most violent rumbling and shaking of the whole hut, then a sound of loud scratching. For a moment I thought a cat must have leapt in, somehow, through an open window and on to my bed. Then, looking through an open window in some alarm, I realised what it was: a roe-deer rubbing herself against one corner of the hut, inches away from my pillow. A clamour of hooves as she and two others bounced off through the standing hay. The birdsong was by now too loud for sleep, so I adjourned to the house across the dew for breakfast.

10 August

I’m lying in the shepherd’s hut on a wooden bed under a boarded roof like a pine tent, between walls panelled with pine, tongued and grooved horizontally. Each time a nail has pierced the deep amber wood it has bled a black rusty stain that has crept along the grain and blurred, as though the wood or the wagon itself were travelling at speed. A woodpecker shrieks across the field. A wasp worries the windowpane, then zigzags above the bed and eventually blunders into the outer air. The open door frames a wall of green: the hawthorn, maple, blackthorn hedge, the dipping wands of an ash, nettles, graceful flowers of grasses. All stir in the hot breeze. Dust motes flicker and drift in the window-light. In the far corner, the stainless-steel stove pipe rises like a new stem from the rusty little stove. On the other side of the doorway is the pine corner-cupboard I bodged out of skip-wood containing spare blankets and Bushmills for cold nights. Across the common, cows have been lowing all night. Perhaps the weather will change. I sleep coffined in pine.

Why do I sleep outdoors? Because of the sound of the random dripping of rain off the maples or ash trees over the roof of the railway wagon, or the hopping of a bird on the wet felt on the roof, or the percussion of a twig against the steel stove-chimney. Out there, I hear the yawn of the wind in the trees along Cowpasture Lane. I feel in touch with the elements in a way I never do indoors.

Sleeping one time in Burgate Wood on the moated island of the old hall, I put my cheek against the loam and the cool ground ivy. When I closed my eyes I saw the iceberg depths of the wood’s root-world. Walking there, picking my way through the trees, I had thought of it as perpendicular until I lay down and entered the ground-world. This is the part of a wood that only reveals itself occasionally after a big storm, when the trees have keeled over and the roots are thrown suddenly upright, clutching earth and stones. How deep do roots go?

Extract courtesy of Penguin.

Purchase a copy of Wildwood here.


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by TOAST ( 02.08.13 )

Orlando Gough.

A wild pig lives for up to 25 years.

A domestic pig lives for 10-15 years.

A pig slaughtered for its meat lives for about 6 months.

One Pig

The excellent dj and composer Matthew Herbert made a piece recently which consisted entirely of the sounds of a pig, raised for slaughter, which he had recorded intermittently throughout its short life. These sounds were transformed and played by a band of musicians who triggered the sounds from various instruments, including the Sty Harp. This beautiful machine, invented by Yann Seznec, looks actually more like a boxing ring than a sty, with posts at four corners, and a pair of horizontal wires forming the perimeter. The sounds are triggered by pulling on the wires, the speed and direction of the pull affecting the pitch and timbre of the sound. It’s made out of customised Gametraks, a failed pro-motion controller which became obsolete about ten minutes after it was invented in 2003…


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by TOAST ( 01.08.13 )

The Ethicurean, a kitchen garden restaurant just outside Bristol, was founded in 2010 by four friends and passionate food enthusiasts - brothers and self-taught chefs Matthew and Ian Pennington with Paula Zarate and Jack Adair-Bevan. Housed within the walled garden of a hillside Georgian estate and overlooking the Mendip Hills, The Ethicurean was awarded Best Ethical Restaurant in the Observer Food Monthly Awards in 2011 and a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand earlier this year. The Ethicurean Cookbook (Ebury Press), telling the story of a year in their Somerset kitchen, is out now. We caught up with Matthew, Ian, Paula and Jack to find out more about The Ethicurean’s sustainable and seasonal values, their journey so far, and what makes a good pudding…

From farmers’ markets to an award-winning restaurant and cookbook. Such a leap! Tell us about the journey…

Since The Ethicurean’s creation, we have been responsible for a series of eccentric events and pop-ups, from a Mexican yurt on the Brecon hillside to a BBQ from the back of an old ambulance on the Mongol Rally launch. We began as a market stall and made our famous cakes for The Canteen in Stokes Croft, Bristol. Over the years we worked with The Adventurists and Hendrick’s Gin, catering for afternoon tea as well as private viewings for art galleries, food festivals and fairs. We worked in all weathers across the country but Somerset was our home.

What does The Ethicurean stand for?

The Ethicurean is founded on a sense of place. This is the idea of having a connection with the native land, its history and the community who grow food locally upon it. Our family team seek to discover harmonious pairings between the ingredients that surround the walled garden. We strive to look for alternatives to imported fresh produce and constantly look as close to our home for the best ingredients which are often foraged or shot a stones throw from our walls or grown within. Mark Cox is the gardener at Barley Wood. He is a one-man band with an incredible passion for heritage and heirloom vegetables. We are re-working and re-imagining the existing traditions of drink making. Our bar is alive with experimentation. There is a strong synergy between kitchen and bar. Sharing our knowledge of flavours and recipes, swapping our ingredients, expanding our drinks into our dishes and back into our drinks. Embracing the limitations of nature has, for us, spurred unbounding creativity…


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by TOAST ( 30.07.13 )

Hall Newbegin.

When I started out, it broke my heart to see what passed for fragrance. All those fancy, tiny bottles filled with manipulated petroleum – yuck. I wanted to make fragrances that smelled like the places I knew and loved as a lifelong backpacker and hiker. Nothing smells better than the sage-covered mountains of Big Sur, or wildflower meadows along Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail at the height of alpine summer – that’s real fragrance.

People think of fragrance as being a shallow experience that just happens in our nose. It’s so much richer than that. Smell is the oldest of our senses. It by-passes reason and goes straight to the ancient parts of our brains – right to our emotions. Until really very recently in our evolutionary history, we depended on our sense of smell (and on wild plants) for our day-to-day survival. So it’s no surprise that we have deep faculties for interacting with nature through our noses, even if those faculties are laying dormant inside of us.

Real, place-based fragrance – the kind that comes from plants, trees, moss, and bark – rearranges your insides, it brings up emotions, transports you to the stillness of the outdoors. You can’t buy our materials or ingredients anywhere because nobody else does what we do, no-one works with the plants we work with. I’d never substitute European sage oil for our local wild sages because they smell completely different. The only way to capture Big Sur in a bottle is to go there, put your hiking boots on, collect plants, and make it yourself. We wildcraft our ingredients, which means we travel to our favourite wilderness areas, harvest plants there and distill them into fragrances. Sometimes we even distill the fragrance on the road in our converted whiskey still. No-one else in the world is making fragrance this way and probably for good reason – it’s a questionable business model.

We’re the world’s only wild fragrance company. We are the only company in the world harvesting, distilling and formulating natural fragrances. A hundred years ago, every perfume house in Paris made perfume this way. But when cheap, petroleum-based synthetic scents appeared in the 1960s, the perfume industry abandoned the techniques and ingredients they’d used for thousands of years and stopped making real fragrance. Our materials are everything to us. They’re not just important to our products, they are our products. We create our fragrances by spending months in the backcountry, drinking beer, crawling around like squirrels, smelling all the plants and dirt so we can bring you the real feel of the real place.

Juniper Ridge, founded by Hall Newbegin in 1998, makes 100% natural colognes and perfumes wildcrafted from real plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, tree pitch and other things found hiking the backcountry.

Buy Juniper Ridge soaps and colognes here.


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by TOAST ( 24.06.13 )
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