Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ring Side for Round 2

Our second round of questions we are posing to registered mayoral candidates, is on the topic of Accountability. We chose this as our round two topic, as it is one of the cornerstones of good governance. And while accountability should rest throughout an organization, it arrives on the laps of our representatives who are ultimately accountable to the public.

It can be a thorny topic and thus an opportunity for would-be leaders to demonstrate that they can step up to the tough questions. We will be publishing each submission in the order of which we have received them.

Stepping into the ring first is Mayoral candidate Rev. Michael Baldasaro who will be featured on Tuesday morning. The series will continue from there.

So get ready to pull up a chair, grab a drink and a snack. You've got ring side tickets to round two here on The Hamiltonian.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Come @EatWith Us

Come @EatWith Us

Many people like dining in some-one else’s home. They like to do so either in person or, perhaps vicariously, by watching some of the popular shows on television. Some go to more extreme lengths: A fellow member of my cooking club, ate at four strangers’ houses in the course of a week, and then invited them all to his place for supper!

He won the popular, if bitchy, TV program “Come Dine With Me”. (Brad’s 15 minutes of fame were well deserved; his recipes blew the competition away, and included one for a delicious maple miso glazed sea bass that I’ve cooked a variant of.)

So I was interested to get an invitation via Facebook to join a friend “and other interesting dinner guests for an Exotic Journey to the Past - a British Raj dinner in downtown Burlington.” It would be $35 a head and hosted by someone called Sandy in Burlington. We’d have to sign up via a website. Fascinating...

I perused the EatWith website to get an idea of what this was all about. With a vision of bringing “people together one meal at a time” EatWith claims to be a “trusted global community that invites people to dine in homes around the world.”

People who love to entertain can become “EatWith” hosts. Thankfully quality and safety appear to be uppermost in the minds of EatWith organizers. The vetting process is long enough there are apparently ~5000 people waiting to be approved. This is somewhat reassuring.

Folk seeking an authentic or different home dining experience, whether in a place they are visiting or one they live in, can sign up at modest cost for the number of spots available at the table: These seem to range from as few as one to a maximum of ~20, but the limits are set by the host who also provides a description of their house and what will be on offer on the website.

You can “find a meal” in over 30 countries now. In Canada there are pre-vetted hosts in a few cities including Burlington (check the website for details.) Currently featured on the front page is “Guinea pig: the Brazilian cooking experience ($50 per guest) in Sao Paolo, a $14 “Flavour Tripping” party in Cologne, Germany, and Euro-Australian fare in Richmond, Australia ($46). There are many other choices when one begins to search by country, and you can even find some professional chefs who are offering meals.

My spouse and I signed up. We quickly heard back from Sandy who gave us instructions on how to get to his house and told us what to expect. We turned up at the appointed hour, bringing our own B, and were warmly welcomed with a Salted Mango Gin cocktail.

One of the guests accurately described the locale as “spacious and beautifully decorated with bright red colourful Indian fabrics draped flowing across windows and lit candles in small colourful earthen pots.”

In between scrambling to greet guests, and running to the neighbour’s kitchen that he had commandeered in addition to his own, our urbane and charming host was a fount of knowledge on Indian food and how the British had tried to bend it to their palates. He also told me that he loved to see people connect and have a good time: as a first time host things he felt things were going pretty well as he had expected, though the food was being served later than anticipated.

We mingled with the twenty or so other guests as the appetizers began to emerge. First off was one of the best dishes of the evening: a chicken chappli kebab was flavoured with onion, green chilli, turmeric, tomato and coriander and came with a tamarind sauce. Its origins were Northern Pakistani, bordering on Afhanistan, where the British had a garrison in Peshawar, Sandy told us.

Chicken 65 had great curry-leaf influenced flavour and was not too spicy, just the way the Brits liked it. According to Sandy, the dish was named after item #65 on a menu rather than featuring 65 ingredients as you would be forgiven for assuming.

Last among the apps were Ismaili/Gujurati-style (by way of East Africa) chicken and vegan-friendly samosas sourced from Burlington Samosas whose owner Kris Mistry was one of the guests. She has a fascinating story about her new business, one I hope to tell in the future.

Conversation among the guests flowed freely, with a number of other food connections. Our initial contact was Louise Sherwood, a friend of Sandy’s and Editor of the newly re-launched and BCity Magazine, eye-catching copies of which were available for all the guests. (Full disclosure – I’ve just been appointed Food and Drink Editor.)

Another of her friends present was Bob Nedelko, the gregarious operator of a “No Frills” grocery store on Brant St. It turns out he has a great story to tell too, not just about the store’s local-sourcing approach, but also his Ivan Vineyard. (We sampled an excellent Charles Baker 2012 Riesling made using his grapes.)

We sat at a long table for the mains: first, a mulligatawny soup with coconut, rice and a serving of well-cooked fish. The final dish was a dry meat fry curry from Kerala served in a heavy Karai pot (like a steroidal wok). It was plated with eggplant, raita and a pilau rice and cachumbar (onion and tomato and cucumber with black salt) salad.

We departed late in the evening with mysterious loot bags labelled “Spicebox Kitchens”, a reference to a new online magazine related to Indian cuisine. Each contained smaller numbered bags of spices. We’ve been promised recipes so we can replicate some of the dishes.

So, did the event run perfectly and to time? Of course not. When was the last time you held a dinner party for 20 strangers and that happened? Was it tasty, fun, and would I go again to dine with Sandy or some other EatWith host? Absolutely!

In fact that opportunity is open to readers in May. Sandy is planning three more dinners themed around the evolution of curry. You’ll be able to choose from evenings dedicated to curries from East Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia, and Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

So GoEatWithHim! And perhaps, if I decide to get vetted at some stage, EatWithMe...

For more pictures, click here

Alex (Alex can be reached at ) or on twitter @AlexBielak

Food for Thought logo, designed and kindly donated by Ninka Bielak. Ninka can be reached at

Public Art or Political Art? By Santo Barbieri, Hamilton,

Update: The Hamiltonian asked Clr. McHattie for a comment on the issue of the statue. The Clr. advised that he will be speaking to this issue this evening at a public meeting, 7:30PM at Zion United Church at Napier and Pearl St N. He assured us that he will issue a statement to The Hamiltonian the following week, once he has had a chance to consider the comments from tonight. We'll publish the Clr.'s statement  when it is received.

On November 19, 2013, Councillor McHattie and City staff presented a project for a statue in Victoria Park to the Strathcona Community Council (SCC). The proposed art piece has a budget of $200,000 which was set aside for a Public Art project in Victoria Park in 2011 by Councillor McHattie as part of Ward 1 area rating monies. The project is named The Frankie Venom Art Project after the late singer of Teenage Head. Die-hard fans may not believe this but many in this city don't know who Frankie "Venom" Kerr is. Tom Wilson (the musician) and his daughter Madeline Wilson (his tour manager) presented the idea for the project to Councillor McHattie. Madeline Wilson is also the daughter of Ward 1 candidate Sandie Shaw. Councillor McHattie was kind enough to attend Madeline's stag and doe earlier this year.

According to the SCC president Jonathan Therien there is strong support from the community according to his research as an employee at Rolly Rockets bar/grill. Ken Coit (City of Hamilton, Art in Public Places Coordinator) wrote, "based on my work so far and the comments of the Focus Group he (Frankie) had a meaningful connection with many Strathcona residents and the park is at the Centre of the neighbourhood." My first thought was, "Does that include the large number of Italians, Portuguese, Greeks and Asians who live in the area and who are also tax payers?" I asked Mr. Coit to show me the research he used to support

Helping Anita....a thank-you

Nancy Kos (left) with Hamiltonian Publisher Teresa DiFalco (right) at a recent fundraiser to help Nancy's daughter Anita, who is suffering from Lyme Disease. To learn more about Anita's struggle, click here

Nancy would like to acknowledge all those who contributed to this worthy cause. To see the list of contributors, click here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round 2- soon to begin

Our series, in which we ask all registered Mayoral candidates a series of questions to help Hamiltonians decide whom they might vote for, for mayor, is soon approaching round two. Round two promises to be an exciting one, as the topic assigned to it is sure to help further identify those who have what it takes to lead. Stay tuned......

And while you are waiting, have a look at Round 1 by clicking here

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spec, the Sting and a Simple Question

You may recall that our friends at The Hamilton Spectator did a story on the work hours of Waste Collectors and after, a sting-like operation, alleged that waste collectors were working part time hours for full time pay. Click here for our reference. 

The Spec followed up with a story that queried whether The City of Hamilton was capable of answering a simple question related to the issue. 

We decided to take The Spec's assertions to a test, and find out whether the city can in fact provide an answer to a simple question of our own. We see our question as simple, as it goes to a fundamental aspect of work: hours of work and related pay. 

Here is the question we asked, addressed to City Manager, Chris Murray:

Dear Mr. Murray:

This question may have some play as it pertains to the issues with respect to waste collectors and their hours/pay, but it is being asked in a more universal manner. We believe that the city must have a default position on this question in order for its employees to fully understand the expectations of them, as it relates to work hours.

The question is as follows:

What is the default understanding and expectation of city workers, where a working day and pay is concerned? Is the default understanding and expectation of city workers that they are to work a full day according to the hours specified in their job position, regardless of whether their work gets done earlier in the day? Is it that they are permitted to leave work earlier in the day if their work is complete, while still being paid for the full day’s work? Does it vary by position? If so, what is the criteria that is used to make the determination? We understand and respect that the city is in the process of getting a report on the Waste Collectors issue, but our question is a universal one.

To date, we have yet to receive a reply, although we received an acknowledgment of the question. Should we receive an answer, we will post it.

Which begs the question that our friends at The Spec previously asked: Can the city answer a simple question?

Dear Hamiltonian......

Hello Hamiltonian,

I just received your latest email regarding the garbage scandal, excellent job in this continued coverage.

As a Ward 3 Candidate, I recently did a twenty five minutes interview on the Garbage Scandal regarding my opinions as a small business owner, taxpayer and Ward 3 Candidate. I offered some very strong comments on possible solutions to this city issue.

I just posted a comment on your site with a link leading to my Garbage Scandal interview. I apologize for this, as I just realized that I should have first asked your permission at the passion got the best of of me. As this issue of the city wasting our tax dollars really bothers me.

I would hope that you would allow my comment and video link to be posted on the Hamiltonian and you should also allow all other Candidates to post comments that include a video which best illustrates their position, as long as the video link is of good taste. Video comment links would be an excellent way to for the Hamiltonian to expand it comment post.

Thank you.

Here is the video link I posted;

Best Regards,

Candidate for Ward 3
Bob Assadourian

Bobby...we obviously agree with your suggestion and welcome others to submit. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Teresa DiFalco named Citizen of the Year by Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce

Teresa DiFalco
The staff of The Hamiltonian would like to express our heartfelt congratulations to our Publisher, Teresa DiFalco for being named Citizen of the Year by the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce. (click here to go there) 

We are thrilled that Teresa's decades of community service and her dedication, devotion and efforts have been recognized with this prestigious award!

Congratulations Teresa and thank-you for your leadership and ongoing commitment to helping others!!!!!

Staff of The Hamiltonian.

Please feel free to help us congratulate Teresa by leaving your comments here.