Nostalgia not what it was
While I was away last week, I received an email from Donna Dooher announcing that Mildred Pierce will close its doors for good on July 31, 2007. Well, I was gobsmacked. The place does so well, especially for Sunday brunch, and Donna has her Cookworks studio in the adjacent space! Then again, she reminded me, March 8 marked the seventeenth anniversary of Mildred Pierce’s opening. An impossible statistic—it was just a few years ago, surely, that we first oohed and aahed at the décor, a high-camp masterpiece of film-set trompe l’oeil that was simultaneously amusing and beautiful. Remember how those boughs and foliage arched from a faux marble dado to chandeliers made of gold-painted plastic cherubs, how that painted Dutch tile floor lead directly to heaven’s gates? Such fun! Today’s restaurants take themselves far too seriously. The only good news was the suggestion in Donna’s message that she and her husband and partner, Kevin Gallagher, have been “presented with an exciting opportunity” elsewhere. Meanwhile, she says, “we plan to celebrate these years over the next five months. And, as we prepare to board the train there will be NO tears on the platform!” I trust that true Mildred fans will flock to their favourite between now and July 31 and raise a last flute of Champagne to the memory of youth’s fleeting pleasures.
Even deeper reminiscences are contained between the covers of Louis Jannetta’s long-awaited book, King of the Maitre D’s, a fascinating, tell-all memoir of his almost 50 years at the Imperial Room of the Royal York hotel. I first met Louis about 15 years ago and he was planning the book even then as a unique souvenir of his tuxedoed life, full of his best photographs and stories. He was and is a charming and amiable raconteur and I recommend the book heartily to anyone with an interest in Toronto’s history, in its restaurant and hotel industry or in show business gossip. The city doesn’t have an Imperial Room now—nothing even comes close in terms of a high-society venue for live entertainment and fine dining. What a shame! Can it be possible, do you suppose, that some aspects of our lives today might not be as chipper and rosey as they were in the last century? We are naturally predisposed to believe that life gets better as the generations succeed one another, reassured by the undeniable progress of science and technology that this is indeed the case. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to be true in other, more humane disciplines—certainly not in music or painting, architecture or calligraphy, cinema, air travel, jazz or ice skating. I’m still not sure about gastronomy. King of the Maitre D’s is published by Rain Publishing Inc. of Burlington, Ont. I’ve asked them what is the best way of getting hold of a copy and I’ll post this information when I find out.
News comes in that chef Tom Thai is back in town. He has been travelling and eating around Asia since he left Tempo in January, 2006. Tempo is now Mini-Market by Tempo (I haven’t been there yet—must do that) but Thai won’t be returning to his old haunts. He plans to open a neighbourhood bistro of his own, called Foxley, at 207 Ossington (near Dundas Street West). The menu will be Asian-based with a streak of Latin and South American. Tom Thai has a brilliant grasp of Japanese and Vietnamese cooking (remember his pre-Tempo work at Café Asia and Youki alongside Andrew Chase and Camillo Costales?). I can’t wait to see what he’s up to at Foxley. The opening is imminent—maybe as soon as the end of March. Be there—if only to earn the opportunity one day, many years from now, to start kvetching and grumbling that things aren’t anything like as delicious as they were back in the golden spring of 2007 when a fish tasted like a fish and chilies were still legal and yadda yadda yadda.