The fourth 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.

Hidden away in what appears to be a small garage on a quiet residential street in furthest west London are two beautiful copper stills. From this small and discreet headquarters Sipsmith produce their delicious gin, vodka, supper cup et al. The master distiller behind these spirits is Jared Brown, an erudite east coast American, a historian of drink who combines expansive literary knowledge, practical application and great gustatory enthusiasm. He loves his work – as witnessed by the bookshelves in the distillery, where a thousand dusty bottles of obscure and wonderful aperitifs and digestifs are punctured with 18th century recipe books…


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by TOAST ( 20.09.13 )

The third 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.

Alys Fowler discovered a love of gardening at her mother’s knee, went on to study at the Royal Horticultural Society, at Kew and, having been awarded a Smithsonian Scholarship, at the New York Botanical Gardens. Raised in the English countryside, she now lives in the city where she has become a great proponent of the bringing of abundant and productive greenhouses to the grey. She grows lots of vegetables mixed in with plenty of flowers in an allotment and an urban back garden…


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by TOAST ( 12.09.13 )

James Seaton, Toast’s co-founder and Creative Director has written words to photographs taken by Nicholas James Seaton on our autumn/winter 2013 shoot in Canada.

on the bluff above the river,
five yards off:
a mountain lion

who was more surprised?

it was away, into the scrub,
forty seconds later crossing the river
three hundred yards away
unseen between here and there

http://toast.co/october2013


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by TOAST ( 06.09.13 )

The second 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.

From early spring to late summer Steve Benbow becomes itinerant. We photographed him at Spa Terminus on a sunny late afternoon and, as we wrapped up, he headed off unhurriedly to the Kent coast, the back of his small and aged white van full of sealed hives in which the bees were drowsily objecting to their confinement. Having tended his hives he settled down for the night beside them, returning to town – and more hives – the following morning…


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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 )
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