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YYZ’s Best of 2013

3 Jan

We started YYZGourmand quietly in March 2013, only sharing our project with friends once we had passed the three month mark and realized that our little project had momentum. The blog has permitted us to become vocal supporters of the flourishing Toronto food community and meet some really fantastic people.

This is our first, of what we hope will be many!, “Best Ofs” where the writers of YYZ Gourmand share what they think was the best of the year – most of what you see on this list is new, and others will reference memorable posts from 2013.

Best place to hold a grown up party: Archive 909

We didn’t promote it on the blog at the time, but we decided to celebrate our 6 months of being in the blogosphere with some of our fellow Toronto food bloggers, friends and supporters. We ended up at the Dundas West gem, Archive 909. The owner, Joel, was an excellent host and chef. t’s really a perfect venue for tapas and drinks. We’ve had other friends host birthdays there since – and everyone said that they wanted to go back after our September soiree. Take a look at our party photos, and then head over and say hi to Joel for us! – Cherry

Where to bring your classy and hungry friends: Archive 909!

Where to bring your classy and hungry friends: Archive 909!

Best books to read when

You need an #uglycry: JoJo Moyes, Me Before You (Penguin) and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Press) — Clementine

When you want to contemplate the slippery and tricky nature of time: Ruth Ozeki’s Tale for a Time Being, with a side of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad. But perhaps not one after the other. You might start questioning time and if you’re running out or into it. Mix it up with Clementine’s suggestions! – Cherry

Best bar for creating drunking memories: Rock’n’Horse Saloon and Clinton’s Tavern

Not that long ago, 60% of YYZ drank too many of these:

'The Bulldog' from Rock 'n Horse Saloon : the margarita/beer combo is a magical elixir that makes you think that you're invincible

‘The Bulldog’ from Rock ‘n Horse Saloon : the margarita/beer combo is a magical elixir that makes you think that you’re invincible

And then decided it was a good idea to try riding a mechanical Bull.

The results were as expected.

Same goes for two YYZ writers joining forces for a birthday bash at Clinton’s. All the photos are blurry, as are the memories. I was dancing in such a happy daze that I forgot that Alice was even there (for shame!).  – Cherry

Best travel destination for twenty-somethings easing into retirement:

Prince Edward County

The #smugcouple is on a quest to discover the bounty Southern Ontario has to offer. We did a lot of driving and tasted a lot of delicious food. Prince Edward County is a nice escape from the city for those looking for small town charm, outdoor activities, and yummy food. Think: small friendly wineries, LAVENDER gelato, and restaurants like Blumen and Pomodoro showcasing fresh local ingredients. Also a great place to be eaten alive by black flies the size of small birds … or visit an ER and not wait 10+ hours – Clementine & HoM

Clementine looking out over Prince Edward County

Clementine looking out over Prince Edward County before the ER visit!


Another thing that #smugcouples love in addition to wine and bike rides through the country is live the-a-tre. Another little escape overflowing with quaintness and culture is Stratford (yes, the hometown of the boy idol that shall not be named). In search of Cynthia Dale and Christopher Plummer (who we heard was in town for opening week), we discovered a great production of Othello as well as Blithe SpiritClementine has always wanted to see a Noel Coward play (featuring the foibles of swishy aristos). Sometimes when a movie or play is billed as a “comedy,” it is more witty than laugh-out-loud funny. Blithe Spirit, however, was genuinely hilarious.  Each successive act upped the ante as Charles Condomine (played by Ben Carlson) was driven to the edge of madness, henpecked by his wife Ruth (played by Sara Topham) and the spirit of his late wife Elvira (played by Michelle Giroux). Going back to Stratford on several occasions revealed some hidden culinary gems like Monforte on Wellington and Revel Caffe. We will definitely be back in 2014 to see Colm Feore in King Lear and skip through the streets while holding hands. — Clementine & HoM

Best way to get your greens: Join a CSA!

Now that my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm box has ended for the year, I realize even more how amazing it was. I miss having kale and swiss chard coming out of my ears.  I miss the vibrantly coloured and impossibly sweet and flavourful tomatoes.  I miss the jalapeños that actually packed a serious spicy punch, as opposed to their bland grocery store counterparts. Store-bought lettuce now seems to be a poor imitation of real lettuce. Unlike many people, I love winter, but the anticipation of spring and the bounty of vegetables my farm box will bring is giving me some conflicting feelings. -HoM

Best coffee in the Financial District: Dineen

Progressive Torontonians are putting more emphasis on properly made coffee.  I base my observation on what I see in the financial district, and while that area does admittedly contain a fair number of people who likely do not merit being described as progressive, the explosion of establishments where one can enjoy a proper espresso points to the triumph of the progressives.  I noted this trend in my review of Dineen, SJCB and Kupfert and Kim.  All three, while quite different, should be recognized for providing the Bay St. suits with something better than Starbucks sludge-in-a-paper-cup.

Another place that requires requires recognition: iQ at Wellington and Bay does espresso right.  They brew it with care, and it comes out tight and luscious.  Even a simpleton could come up with a word other than “coffee” to describe its complex flavour.  Best of all, it only comes out in a proper porcelain cup.  The friendly till-minder warns you that you can’t get it to go, a warning that brightens my day every time I hear it. The fact that all these places are packed at most times of the day, especially the coffee-driven spots like Dineen and SJCB, tells me that people actually want the quality brew they are offering up.  They are by no means struggling, and this is a sign that we finally want something better than warm manure. – MCyyz

Best Airport Lounge(s)

2013 boasted a lot of travel for our editors including Belize, Ecuador, Iceland…and even closer destinations like Boston, NYC and San Francisco! There’s no better way to set the mood for an awesome trip than…an awesome airport lounge.

Best Free Lounge:  Hands down, no competition, because quite frankly there’s only one lounge in Toronto that doesn’t require a membership and is available to all flyers, frequent or not, and that’s Porter’s Lounge [insert link to Porter’s site]. Each and every patron can relax in deep-seated leather chairs, read complimentary newspapers, and help themselves to an espresso-based drink, premium snacks, and unlimited wifi.  No laptop or tablet or smart phone?  Then head over to their tech savy business centre filled with Apple computers.   I once took advantage of the comfy chairs, bottomless cappuccinos and Walker shortbread a little too much and had to be paged for my flight-true story.

Best Valued Not-Free Lounge:  Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge (for those flying Air Canada).  Unless you have a membership or access to this lounge through a frequent flyer program or whatever fancy travellers have, it’s normally $50 for a pass (for an economy flex ticket).  But Craiglist and Kijiji are filled with $12-$15 priced guest passes and with a bit of effort you can easily figure out a discounted or free way of entering (I did, shhh!).  So for $free-$15, you can enter a private oasis in the middle of Pearson where there are no screaming babies, clean washrooms with no lines, hot showers, big screen Sony tv rooms, and…12 yr Glenlivet.  Unlimited.  Complimentary.  Oh yeah and soups and healthy quinoa salad and veggies & hummus and other weaker alcoholic beverages blah blah blah.  Go.  Spend the $15 and drink yourself to a warm cozy nap and possibly miss your flight but hey, nobody knows you’re here you can probably just live there and declare it your kingdom.  Hot showers and scotch-what more does a gal need? – Alice

And there is our review of our best of 2013! We can’t wait to share and discover what 2014 has in store for all of us, and especially for our city, YYZ.




BOOK REVIEW – Eleanor & Park

28 Dec
Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Press, 2013)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Press, 2013)

The holidays mean that I get to squeeze in some fiction and, as I said in a previous review, I love books that make me cry. I don’t want to just dab little tears politely from my face. I want to be heaving with sobs. I want my eyes to be puffy the next day. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, judging from its cover (that works!) and blurbs, seemed like a charming romantic story about teenage outcasts. It didn’t come off as inherently gut-wrenching like The Fault in Our Stars (a story about terminally ill teenagers).

It’s 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska. Park (half-Korean, half-Irish) and Eleanor (red-headed and Danish) are thrown together by school bus politics. I love how quietly and organically they form their alliance against the other kids on the bus every morning: he tries not to look at her directly but takes her in with his peripheral vision and she sneaks peaks (eaves-reads) at his comic books. She scribbles names of songs she’s never heard but wants to on her note books. He, an aficionado of 80s punk and new wave, makes her a mix tape. Remember when making someone a mix-tape was the greatest declaration of one’s affection?!? Park comes from a stable and loving home (his parents are the ones that still can’t keep their hands off one another) and Eleanor’s family is a mess. It’s so bad at home that Eleanor doesn’t ever really leave her bedroom and she doesn’t have her own toothbrush. Scenes like this – in fiction and life – bum me out. Of course, the moments that really wrench at your heart happen when we see how much Park’s parents love one another and their kids (in contrast to Eleanor’s home life) and when our modern day Romeo & Juliet realize (well confronted with it in a scary way) that loving someone so hard (probably for the only time ever) doesn’t mean you get to be with them.

The characters are quirky. Rainbow Rowell evokes images of high school (the terror and the lovely bits like falling in love for the first time) with scary accuracy.

I’ve tried to write this with as few spoilers as I can. I want you to read this book. I implore you to read this book. Have a good “ugly cry.” Hug the love of your life a little bit harder.

REVIEW – Michael Smith, Back to Basics

5 Dec
Back to Basics, 2013

Back to Basics, 2013

This review is made possible by Penguin Canada’s Daily December Delights holiday campaign. 

” Success is defined not by whether you cook exactly the way I do but by whether you and your table are enjoying yourselves. Nothing is more fun than taking pride in something you created yourself, then taking a bow for the inevitable compliments!” — Michael Smith, Back to Basics

Since the debut of The Inn Chef, Chef Michael Smith’s casual charm and easy manner has been a fixture on Canadian televisions. Unlike celebrity chefs, who make their name with one tv show or publish a single book and then ride off into the sunset “working” as a judge on a reality TV show, Michael Smith is as prolific as ever in writing and developing recipes. We love that he calls himself a “nutritional activist”!

His seventh cookbook (SEVENTH!!Back to Basics features 100 recipes that remind you how delightful it can be to cook with fresh and nutritious ingredients. The organization of the book reads like a menu: salads, mains, sides, and sweets. Finding a dish to suit your mood is simple. Each recipe is accompanied by a vibrant full-page photo that tantalizes your tastebuds. This feature may seem like a no-brainer but SO many cookbooks don’t have photos OR, even more vexing, the photos and recipes are in entirely different sections of the book. It is essential that we, the home cooks, have an image of what we are trying to create!

The recipes themselves are concise and clear. Instructions as well as the ingredients required can be located at a glance without having to wade through irrelevant anecdotes. Chef Michael Smith doesn’t ask for devices or methods that are beyond the reach of a novice cook. No sous-vide here! Our favourite feature: each recipe includes a “twist,” a hallmark of Michael Smith’s style, which encourages you to experiment and personalize his dishes. Michael Smith wants to inspire you!

One thing that jumped out at us was the prevalence of “pan-rushing,” which he explains is a trick he learned as a line cook. Simply: you sear a piece of meat, build the sauce in the pan, and simmer them together to finish. This method is quick and allows you to create a flavourful dish without a billion pots and pans! We were so intrigued by the technique that we tested the “Pan-rushed Salmon with Bacon Clam Chowder (p.123).” The results were delicious. The soup was creamy and luxurious. The salmon was so tender. And, just like Michael Smith would have wanted, we added our own “twist” to his recipe and threw in some corn. Had HoM not selected the wrong sized pan to start, we also would have dirtied only ONE pan as the method intended.


Michael’s Pan-rushed Salmon!

We also tried his “Green Apple Salad (p.17),” which proved a light accompaniment to the rich main. Genius: cheese toast croutons! So crunchy and chewy. Who could ever have have plain old dusty croutons again?!

Cheese croutons

Cheese croutons

A perfectly balanced and low maintenance meal brought to you by Chef Michael Smith!

A perfectly balanced and low maintenance meal brought to you by Chef Michael Smith!

Back to Basics is a great addition to every cook’s bookshelf. As he’s done throughout his career, he’s making good food accessible and achievable in our humble kitchens.  For many people, cooking can be a chore or even scary.  Michael Smith provides readers with guidelines but then gives you permission, nay encourages you, to be creative and have fun! Perhaps the best compliment we can pay to this book is that we enjoyed cooking and eating from it.  By Smith’s own criteria, this makes it a resounding success.





Me Before You by JoJo Moyes — (#uglycry)

26 Aug

I read about Me Before You in the British papers. It was touted as a “phenomenon” and everyone in Britain seemed to be reading it. It was also described in the NYT as a “real weepy”, which is a genre I crave from time to time. I was even tempted to buy it from a UK vendor and circumvent varied (and entirely inconvenient) publication dates. But, I had promised not to buy any new books until I had read a substantial number of those on my bedside table. Then, the book fairies (the charming women of Penguin Canada) gifted me a copy when Cherry and I attended a reading of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being. We walked out with a wheel barrow of books that night. I’ve been saving it for the right moment. I was also worried that it would be all hype and it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

My literary tastes are simple: literary fiction (dysfunctional protagonists with a deep sadness or strong women leads dressed up in precise/ efficient but fluid prose). I don’t do chick-lit … or Canadian lit (despite Cherry’s best efforts! Something about misery and muskoka chairs). I have a weakness for beautiful scenes of pastoral England as a setting … I also prefer New England as a setting for my literary frolicking.

Me Before You could be classified as “chick-lit” though it’s more complex than that – Louisa Clark isn’t a singleton aching to be married, to be pregnant, or unhappy with her opulent lifestyle. I hate those types of books. I also can’t stand the way that those books are written. So cheesy! She is self-described as “ordinary” and someone who lives in and is comforted by her small-world (a council estate in one of those villages where everything, especially the economy, is centred around a National Trust relic). She likes her clutter-filled and noisy home. She’s always been overshadowed by her brilliant sister. She was happy with her job in a cafe. Yes, there’s a handsome man in her life but, after being laid off, she takes a job as his caretaker. I like a story where romantic love (and sex) are not the only driving force of the narrative. Louisa and Will are friends and they care for one another. He wants her to have a better life. She wants the same for him. It’s very complicated indeed. The story turns doesn’t have a storybook happy ending but, as a reader, you are satisfied because it was the right ending. I’m trying not to spoil anything for you!

It’s a book that took me only 1.5 days to read. I could not put it down. It made me #uglycry but the story wasn’t emotionally manipulative (like The Fault in Our Stars was in parts). It was a wonderful example of simple strong story-telling.

In my imagined movie adaptation, Louisa would be played by Felicity Jones (or Anna Kendrick, if she can pull off the accent) . Claire Foy (Upstairs/ Downstairs) also has the right face and she could be dressed down enough to be “ordinary.”  Will Traynor: I’m torn between Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) and the ONLY BRITISH ACTOR THAT EXISTS RIGHT NOW, The Cumberbatch.

Franzen’s FREEDOM – #whitepeopleepic

18 Jul

I have been bugging Cherry to read Franzen for a while now .. for a year? … she finally did and she wanted to share her musings. My response follows below:

I’m not going to suggest you drink anything when you read this book. No book has made me want to drink less. It featured joyless drunks that convince you alcohol is a catalyst for more misery. Perhaps freedom from alcoholism is the key to happiness? Or just freedom from alcoholics?

The only way to qualify this book is as a “white people epic”. Sure, there is one Indian character. But she doesn’t count. It’s about white middle class misery in America. Think about it, you would go to the section in the book store titled “White People Epics” and know what to expect: cheating, drinking, carousing, misery and small glimmers of hope. Full of first world problems! Who doesn’t like reading about first world problems packaged in lovely prose? I’m not being facetious. Everyday disappointments can be dull , but when written by Franzen, they somehow shed the tedium which we experience in our own lives. Prose can transcend the every day and make us reconsider what we do and who are and why – that is Franzen’s greatest success.

Less appealing were his oddly two dimensional female characters – yes, even Patty. While all the characters were flawed,  only the female ones were overwhelmingly tragic and all led “small” domestic lives. (No, Lalitha doesn’t count – she was more of a symbol of desire than an actual person.) The men were out in the world achieving and striving and… following the “stirring in their pants”. Maybe there was a point to that expression being used numerous times but I found it disappointing that Franzen would use an expression that would better belong in something like “50 Shades of Twilight”.

Clementine declared that this book “changed her life”! I’m not sure if I can proclaim the same, but I will let myself consider if it might be on the same level of my favourite “White People Epic”: The Marriage Plot by Eugenedies. How will I know if it is? If I am still thinking about Walter, Patty and Richard in 6 months.


This post is dedicated to @Alexandriandria , who requested a review of Franzen’s Freedom.


When I declared that the book “changed my life,” it was part hyperbole and part genuine revelation. Franzen opened my eyes to human behaviour that was so self-destructive and people who worked really hard to make themselves and those around them unhappy. I guess it gave me a bit of perspective at a time when I was feeling isolated and overwhelmed by my work. My life was not nearly as dramatic/ bad. Cherry and I had an interesting conversation about how the Richard-Patty-Walter love triangle might have been a way for Franzen to work out his experiences in love as a young man.  I didn’t really like any of the characters except, as Cherry pointed out, Franzen’s prose is intoxicating. You don’t even mind dragging around a hardbound copy of this tome as you’re out and about. Another revelation: men who marry brilliant/ intelligent women (who are leaders in their field/ industry) NEVER reconcile the woman they initially married (whom they place on a pedestal) with the mother and (inevitable) housewife they become. They end up hating these women. Sad.

Franzen was a respite from a string of mediocre books so it did change my life! I will continue imposing Freedom on others who haven’t read it yet because I want someone to tell me what they think Patty/Walter/Richard look like!!!!!!

The Luminato Gala Reading

26 Jun

YYZ writers are also voracious readers. We read as a group. We read when we’re apart. When I read a good book, I impose it on those around me. What do you mean you’ve never read “Freedom”?!?! It will change your life. TAKE MY COPY!! We like literary evenings like the Luminato Gala Reading last week.  Initially, I circulated the info about the event because one of the authors who was to read would be Lisa Moore (a great Canadian East Coast writer) and we each liked/ hated February in equal parts.

I didn’t really pay attention to who else was on the billing.

Lisa read first. One of the major criticisms of Moore’s work by our book club was the disjointed rhythm of her prose. Imagine riding in a car with a new driver who keeps slamming on the breaks. I, the contrarian that I am, interpreted her manner of writing as singular for the purposes of the novel. It seemed to fit with a story based on sudden loss and the process of grieving. I was wrong. Moore’s reading suggests that the cadence of her writing is how it plays out in her head all of the time. She lost her place on several occasions. She was always out of breath. It was unpleasant. To be sure, writers are insular beings and a public forum like that of a reading can be jarring. However, for a seasoned writer such as Moore, you’d think she would have cultivated a public reading face/ persona for such occasions. It was a forgettable experience.


We were tickled, however, by 2/4 authors at the reading: Sheila Heti (a Canadian!) as well as Claire Messud. We’ll gush about Heti another time because she’s just so clever and funny.

Messud’s latest work The Woman Upstairs had come across my radar a couple of months ago as I surveyed book reviews for summer reads. I added it to/ removed it from my Wish List several times. It became a permanent fixture when I read that Lionel Shriver loved the book (“the prose is impeccable”).

Messud’s reading was the polar opposite of Moore’s. Where Moore seemed fearful/ hesitant of her own words, Messud displayed strength and confidence. She seemed playful. She conveyed a sense of intelligence and wit in her work and personality that made us all turn to one another and agree, with only a look, that The Woman Upstairs would be our August book club pick.

Seizing chance, and drinking gin gimlets

25 Jun

I was supposed to read  Amor Towles’ “The Rules of Civility” back in March. I’d agreed to read it at the same time as my friend Jordan-na as we were both vacationing at the same time – albeit separately. The idea was that we could discuss it when we came back. I downloaded it from the library onto my kobo, started reading it, wasn’t really into the first 20 pages and then decided not to risk bringing my kobo on vacation and read something else (which was awful). My digital download expired while I was away. Once we came back from vacation, Jordan-na was nice enough about my laziness, but urged me to read on. I am very thankful that she did.

Towles’ main character isn’t ambitious Katey, it’s New York City pre-World War Two. He was successful in making me nostalgic for a time I didn’t experience and a city much different than it is now. It made me remember how I reacted to the New York City skyline when I first saw it at 16 years old – and how that first trip to the city held so much promise, and actually managed to live up to its epic reputation (among other things, I scored a free cross city ride in a stretch limousine!). The book even managed to make me nostalgic for my twenties, which aren’t yet over. The scenes of nights out  in New York made me nostalgic for my favourite Toronto bar, where the characters in Rules of Civility would have gone, were this book set in Toronto… in 2012. The bar is now closed, because the site is becoming a condo! Quelle surprise! Goodnight, the bar in question, was much like a 1930s New York speakeasy : you’d only really know about it if a friend told you, they didn’t accept walk-in patrons, and the best part: they served gin gimlets.

As this is a Book&Booze pairing, the only type of book review we do (so far!) on YYZ Gourmand, I would say a gin gimlet would be what you would drink to put you in the mood for the first section of the book. The feeling of the second section would be well paired with a few too many gimlets. The third part would be well paired with the feeling you have when you wake up the next day: wiser, slower and less likely to go back to the speakeasy and make loads of new friends just because you can.

At the bar with friends is how this story begins. And how many remarkable stories in our lives begin with chance meetings in bars?! You might be surprised if you take a moment to consider that concept (or maybe not at all?). Now, consider the fact that most of your married friends don’t go to bars with the ambition to talk to strangers and see where it could bring them. They don’t do that because they are already there – or think they are. I think Amor Towles wrote this book for everyone who believes in the value chance – and taking advantages of those moments. Not destiny (because there is a distinct difference!), it’s about taking advantage of those new situations which fall into your lap – if you do or you don’t is entirely up too you. This idea that we are self-made by the hand of others as well as ourselves was revealed by the plot and also by references to the books that Katey reads or has in her apartment.

At first, I loved the many literary references which informed the themes and tone of the book, as well as the protagonist’s relationship to the written word. But after a while they seemed heavy handed: Walden, Dickens, Agatha Christie… even an 11th grade English class could figure out half of what you were hitting us over the the head with.

No matter my criticism, I did enjoy this book and loved the time I had with it. I loved in the way I like my friends, who, no matter their faults, are lovely, engaging and I want to spend as much time with them as I can.

PS. If you’ve already read it and miss Eve… guess what?! Towles wrote an e-book just about her and it comes out TODAY!

Note: If you’ve already read the book, then read this review from The New York Times. A book doesn`t feel over until I’ve read the NYT review.

adultery, hermès hats, & crippling debt – JULY BOOKCLUB

14 Jun


This month, the writers of YYZ have chosen The One is Mine by Maria Semple for our book club. In the reading guide, Semple says that she was inspired by Wharton’s House of Mirth and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when she penned this first novel. She continued, “I realized my favourite kind of story involves strong, singular women who set out to destroy themselves. Especially if the women are living in fancy houses, have lots of help, and commit adultery.” (This One is Mine, Reading Group Guide 2010) These types of plots make me incredibly anxious … remember how you felt when Patty couldn’t get over Richard in Freedom at the expense of long-suffering Walter?!?

I have been reading for 36 hours now and I cannot put this book down! I was eager but apprehensive about picking up Semple’s first book (well reviewed, but didn’t sell many copies) because I loved Where did you go, Bernadette? (2012) I loved the epistolary structure. I loved that the story was set in Seattle (Did I ever mention, I left my heart in that rainy, crunch-granola city?). I LOVED BERNADETTE (a once great architect who refuses to adopt the “Eddie Bauer” sporty-cas aesthetic of the Pacific-NW but insists on “fancy” clothing). Anyway, it’s always a treat when you’ve discovered an author and they have an under-appreciated back-catalogue of stuff to obsess over. Lionel Shriver is another fave that way!!

Since this novel is set in the 90210 zipcode – I would like to suggest somewhere that serves mimosas for our next meeting. Or, somewhere with a mediocre Tarte Tatin. As for a booze pairing – California Riesling?

We’re big readers at YYZ and we’ll be posting some of thoughts on literature more frequently here! Let us know what you think or give us some suggestions for August! Have you checked out Cherry’s book + booze pairings?

Literary Heartburn

7 Jun

My mother likens my relationships to books to that of a junkie. And she’s right. Once I have finished a book that I swear is my favourite, that it was THE BEST, SO good that I managed to miss my stop on the subway – twice! – I am in search for the next to replace it.

I had book love strike twice in the past two weeks. First with Gillian Flynn’s brilliant Gone Girl (which was the YYZ Gourmand June book club pick). And then Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. I thought I loved Gone Girl, but then I read Heartburn. I loved Heartburn so much that kept wanting to highlight all of my favourite passages… but I read it on a Kobo! So I tweeted them instead. Here are a few of my favourites:

“Show me a woman who cries when trees lose their leaves in autumn and I’ll show you a real asshole.” – p.40

“It seemed quite unsurprising that Charlie would betray me – he, after all, was a man, and men had been betraying me since the first grade.” – p.104

“Sometimes I believe that love dies but hope springs eternal. Sometimes I believe hope dies but love springs eternal.” – p.120

So many more I forgot to tweet or to take note of, merely because I was so caught up in the rhythm of the book. The trick with Heartburn is the tone of the narrator. It allowed me to imagine myself in an impossibly beautiful living room sharing drinks with the narrator as she was telling me her story. I got so into the experience of reading the book that I thought I really was Rachel’s confidante. The tone is confessional and intimate but it sidesteps the trap of sentimentality. When I finished the book I felt Ephron had tricked me. How did she write so simply and yet to beautifully? How did she get me so involved and worried about Rachel’s life in under 150 pages? Why was I still worried about Rachel even after I put down the book? And, how close did the book reflect her own second divorce?

The last question doesn’t matter now, in 2013. I’m sure it was a sensationally smutty when it was published in 1983.

And how I could even consider writing about Heartburn without including a recipe? I won’t write one for I am not Rachel, but I will include one. Here’s what I imagine myself making Rachel when she is telling me about her story:a Gin Rickey. Because Rachel deserves a cocktail with a proper recipe, not just a glass of wine. I am sure those of you who have read it will agree.