Sunday, November 30, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Sips and Bites – Holiday 2014 edition

SB Prime Chef, Sidney Brandt (r) 
and Ampersand Catering Chef, 
Christina Christiansen
Photo by A. Bielak
Sips and Bites – Holiday 2014 edition

I know how busy folks are in the lead-up to the holidays, so this column will be a short, sweet roundup of food and drink news and opportunities.

But first, last time around I wrote about a new book on gluten-free artisan bread. We’ve had the chance to test several of the recipes and chat with one of the authors, Jeff Hertzberg, and I hope to report more fully in the future along with pictures of some of the results. Bottom line is the book is a recommended “Buy” for those who have to deal with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

I also hope to offer reflections sparked by a tasting organized by Tourism Burlington in conjunction with SB Prime. The restaurant is, I’m given to understand (please correct me if I’m wrong), the only one in the area headed by a female Chef. It was good to visit for the first time and watch Chef Sidney Brandt, assisted by her colleague, Chef Christina Christiansen (she leads SB Prime’s parent group’s catering division) in action. The space was convivial, with lots of food and cocktails for the assembled bloggers and food writers to photograph, sample and tweet about (in that order). All in all it was a lively and fun event. A bonus was that I learned appetizers at SB Prime are ½ price from 4 to 6 pm every day. Go on a Monday and bottles of wine are half price as well!

Looking for a quick, easy advance Christmas present for your sweetie? The indefatigable Dave Hanley, owner of Popup Hamilton continues to grow his enterprise. His Holiday High Jinks event at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market this Tuesday (December 3rd) still has tickets available. This time around, Hanley has enlisted some star power: Proud advocate of aboriginal cuisine and third-place finisher in the last season of Top Chef Canada, Chef Rich Francis will be doing his thing along with Chefs Mark Farruggia of La Piazza Allegra, and Shane McCartney of McCartney and Son. There will be wines from Ridge Road Winery, live entertainment and more.

Or you could put tickets for “Pop Up Speakeasy” under the tree. The Valentine’s Day 2015 event sounds like a ton of fun: A prohibition-era Speakeasy will be the venue, with “authentic period cuisine, wine, beer, bawdy entertainment.” Tickets go on sale December 15th.

On the wine front I can recommend the excellent Tawse Winery Sketches 2013 Riesling ($17.95 LCBO Vintages # 89029): it was an excellent match for a spicy Singapore Prawn dish I prepared recently. I also had the opportunity to crack a 2011 Pillitteri Estates Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine ($34.95 LCBO Vintages # 674812) and have it with a chocolate terrine with berry coulis. It was a fantastic match. (Thanks to my daughter’s friends for this generous house gift incidentally. Come back any time!)

Want to stock up for the holidays? I was recently informed by an impeccable, knowledgeable and trusted source that Niagara College Teaching Winery has some great deals on currently “like Dean's list 2009 & 10 Pinots and 2011 Chardonnay $20, DL 2010 Meritage $30, and 2010 Merlot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc $15 by the case (can be mixed).”

In closing, sincere kudos to local restaurateurs Matt Kershaw and Erin Dunham. Their following have such regard for them that 174 of them stumped up over $100,000 in a crowd-sourced funding campaign to fund a new restaurant to add to their existing stable (The Alex, in Burlington, and Rapscallion and Two Black Sheep, both in Hamilton. For more on the story that can only be good news for the food scene in our area see this CBC report. Bravo both on pulling this off.

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mayor Declares This Friday 'Black & Gold' Day

Residents Encouraged To Show Their Hometown Pride & Support The Ticats

HAMILTON, ON – November 25, 2014 – Today the Mayor of Hamilton, Bob Bratina, announced that this Friday, November 28 is 'black and gold' day across the city. All residents are encouraged to show their hometown pride by wearing the colours in support of the Hamilton Tiger Cats, bound for the Grey Cup for the second consecutive year.

"The sold-out Eastern semi-final game this past Sunday was a testament to the enormous spirit and excitement our community has for its CFL football club," says Mayor Bratina. "To help boost our Ticats as they head to Vancouver for this Sunday's final against Calgary, I hope to see as many Hamiltonians displaying the team's colours."

“Our fans at Tim Hortons Field have made a huge difference for us,” says Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell. “While we know they can’t all be there in Vancouver with us wearing our colours on Friday will further demonstrate how much they are behind our team on our journey to bring the Grey Cup to Hamilton.”

Black and gold day was declared as the Mayor, along with council members, Tiger Cats management and residents of Hamilton gathered at the team's headquarters this afternoon on Jarvis St. to help send the team off. The Ticats boarded a bus at approximately 3:15 p.m. to depart for their flight from the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to Vancouver.

Mayor Elect Eisenberger will be heading west to represent Hamiltonians and join Tiger Cat fans in cheering our home town favorites in the 102nd Grey Cup game. "Hometown pride is running high as we make our second consecutive trip to the big game," said Eisenberger. “In keeping with the betting tradition between mayors, I will be connecting with Calgary Mayor Nenshi to make a friendly wager on Sunday’s game. We're going to ask the online Hamilton community for their ideas and determine a wager that is meaningful for our respective cities."

Mayor Bratina's Message re: the Passing of Pat Quinn

On behalf of myself and City Council I want to express our deepest sympathy on the sad passing of Pat Quinn to wife Sandra, the Quinn family and Pat's friends everywhere. Pat always maintained a strong relationship and love for his hometown, and the East End neighbourhood where he was raised. As kids we were team mates on the Mahoney Park Dodgers baseball team and on meeting up with Pat through the years our conversations would start with memories of team-mates, neighbours,
war-time houses, the old Barton Street arena and all the things he cherished from his growing-up years. 

 Thankfully his city acknowledged him during his lifetime with the arena and street-naming of which he was very proud. In view of Pat's remarkable life which emphasized education in addition to sport I would suggest that some thought be put by Council and others to a further tribute to Pat involving his passion for education that could inspire our youth to follow his example of life-long learning. As Pat assisted me in becoming mayor I would be pleased and honoured to participate in such an initiative.
Mayor Bob Bratina

Monday, November 24, 2014

Media Release: Crews prepare for winter maintenance on Cannon cycle track

HAMILTON, ON – November 24, 2014 – As we brace for winter conditions and more snowfall, City crews are preparing to replace the planter boxes in the Cannon cycle track with flexible bollards (knockdown sticks) for the winter season.

Due to limited space restrictions there is a risk of the snow removal equipment damaging the planters or knocking them into the traffic or bike lanes, causing a potential safety hazard. The planters will be removed and flexible bollards will be added to maintain the buffer between traffic and the bike lanes during the winter season. The planters will be added back to the cycle track in the spring.

“Roads crews are making every effort to assist with this pilot project and are committed to accommodating cyclists and motorists during the winter season,” said Bob Paul, Manager of Winter Control. “We appreciate the patience and cooperation of both cyclists and drivers this winter as we strive to provide efficient and reliable snow clearing service.”

In the area of the Cannon cycle track, crews will plow the road and the bike lanes so they are clear and safe for travel. Crews will then use a blower, as required, to remove the accumulated snow from the bike lanes. This removal is expected to take place during overnight hours.

The City’s operational experiences and community feedback over the winter season will be documented as part of the evaluation of this three-year pilot project.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Democracy to Oligarchy? - Our Perspectives Virtual Panel Weighs In

The Hamiltonian posed the following questions to our Perspectives Virtual Panel. Their responses follow.

The following chart  represents the percentage of voters who voted the new city council, as per the October 27th 2014 city-reported election results. Click here to see chart.

The chart presents the candidates in order of lowest to highest percentage of voter support. For example, the Ward 9 candidate won with the lowest amount of % of Voter turn out, with 8.95% of the vote. Even the winner with the highest amount of voter turn out (Ward 14) only won with 28.53%.

Representative government rests on the concept that elected officials represent the people who elect them. The results suggest that the new council will in effect, not have a mandate supported by a healthy degree of people who they are to represent.

What do you believe led to the very poor voter turnout, what does this say about the state of affairs in Hamilton and how could this new council hope to be effective in a representative model, when the majority of people to be represented did not provide their support or endorsement?

Herman Turkstra wrote....

One solution is really simple. If one candidate does not get 51% or more, a run-off happens between the first and second place candidates. Premier Wynne has told Ted McMeekin, as Minister of Municipal Affairs to make that happen in 2018. It will make a big difference in turnout. I'm not sure it will make any difference in the depth of voter analysis.

M Adrian Brassington  wrote.....

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Reader's Den - In The Company of Educated Men by Leonce Gaiter

In the Company of Educated Men is quick but interesting read. At 177 pages, it's an ideal read for those who want something new to read, but something not as voluminous as your average paperback or hardcover.

Author Leonece Gaiter takes us through the misadventure of three recent Harvard graduates who take to the open road as an escape of sorts from the world of the mundane in search for an undefined outlet or calling.

Instead, they find themselves entangled in a unexpected encounter, which leads to being on the run from police, with an armed thief and young girl who happens to sneak her way into their vehicle.

The stress and tensions that result, pull at loyalty, strain relationships and impact lives forever. 

Find this book by clicking here.

Are you a published author, or a publisher who would like your works considered for review in The Hamiltonian's Reader's Den? Contact us at admin@thehamiltonian.info with your request. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Media Release- Preliminary report on The People’s Platform

Key Achievements

19 town halls were held
10 community partnerships were built
47 proposals for a better Hamilton were put forth
7 mayoral candidates endorsed the process
6 mayoral candidates went on record supporting citywide participatory budgeting
70 candidates completed the People’s Platform questionnaire
544 residents voted on the proposals
44 proposals were approved
9 of the 16 members of the newly elected Council endorse some or all of the 44 approved proposals
30 focused media impressions were made, including news articles, op-eds, radio interviews, and television spots

Campaign Overview

A kick-off event was held in July, four regional forums were held in August, and 15 ward forums

Friday, November 14, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Artisan Bread – Gluten Free?

Gluten-free Artisan Bread
Artisan Bread – Gluten Free? 

One of the pleasures of this gig is getting to see some neat cookbooks. Danielle Johnson, Senior Publicist At BC’s Raincoast Books very kindly sent me several titles recently, and I am looking forward to perusing, and sharing thoughts about, them with readers in the coming months.

The one that first caught my eye was “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg (an MD), and Zoe Francois (a Pastry Chef). It seems more and more people say they can’t handle wheat or gluten, but their options for truly great fresh, crusty bread appear pretty limited. I’d also like guests at my table to be able to indulge in one of life’s pleasures, without concern

The front cover attracted me because of the beautiful loaves featured. The resident baker was instantly sceptical saying something to the effect “there is no way those are gluten-free”. After an expensive trip to the health food store to acquire the various ingredients (which are going to see us thru about ten loaves) the yeast is doing its magic and the dough is rising.

The aforementioned baker is an adept of the Jim Lahey, ‘no-knead’, method of making bread popularised in a seminal New York Times Article. She learned the techniques from Marc Albanese at Pane Fresco when he himself was still actually baking his fantastic breads in the Burlington Store. The method is close to foolproof and we immediately ditched our bread machine as our ‘no-knead’ bread proved far superior in taste and texture, and was not appreciably more work. (We also reduced the frequency of visits to Pane Fresco, except for a few items they excelled in, but which were beyond us!)

Hertzberg and Francois previously authored “Healthy Bread”, “Artisan Bread,” “the New Artisan Bread” and “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread” (all “in 5-minutes a day”), none of which I was previously familiar with. Point is they seem to know what they are about: The family baker found plenty to give her comfort as she read through the key bits before acknowledging gluten-free could well work, and heading out on her shopping expedition.

The results of the first experiment (a standard white made following the basic recipe) won’t be in till tomorrow and, after that is mastered, there are plenty of great-sounding recipes to try. (Pumpernickel, date and walnut for one.) I’m encouraged too, enough to share the details with readers who might wish to acquire the book without delay. I will report later on how things turned out and also point readers to a coming cookbook giveaway (including this one), in the winter edition of BCity Magazine, where I also get to write about food and drink.

For more pictures. click here.

To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ontario Ombudsman Comments on The Hamiltonian's Question to Earl Basse

Double click on picture above to enlarge it. 

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin applauds Hamilton for having the position of Integrity Commissioner but wonders why  Hamilton Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse believes our question to Mr. Basse for stats related to how many investigations he has submitted late, was deemed by Mr. Basse to be an inappropriate question.

Thanks Mr. Marin for tweeting out your view on this! 


The Hamiltonian recently attempted to quantify some facts related to the work of Earl Basse, Hamilton's Integrity Commissioner.

We were interested in determining how many investigations he has undertaken to date, how much he has been paid to date and, of the investigations that he has received and deemed worthy of investigation, in how many of those has he missed the time frames that he was expected to deliver within.

By our contacting the city, we have been able to determine the following:

The number of complaints filed to date has been 17.

The total amount paid to Mr. Basse to date, has been $200,474.25

Our query about how many investigations were submitted late, was referred back to Mr. Basse. Mr. Basse advised us that he is preparing a report that he will be submitting to council; thus, in effect, not answering our question. The Hamiltonian contacted Mr. Basse reminding him that we have no affiliation to the relationship he has with council, and our questions are being asked of him independent of that.

Mr. Basse's final reply was as follows:

"My report to Council covers that area and it would be inappropriate to inform the media prior to Council."

As The Hamiltonian has not asked for any specific information pertaining to any cases that are or were investigated, and requested aggregate data only related to the number of cases that were submitted late, we see no reason why Mr. Basse saw this request as inappropriate. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Checking in with Mayor Bob Bratina

Prior to the new term of council commencing, we thought we would check in with Mayor Bob Bratina and ask him to share some thoughts with our readers. Enjoy the Mayor's comments.

My sincere thanks to the Hamiltonian for presenting a dignified and respectful forum in which city matters could be discussed in as neutral and non-partisan a manner as is possible. Had all such local forums approached the issues in a similar fashion we may well have had a much higher voter turnout in the recent municipal election. The “why bother” attitude came in part because of the four year long LRT debate, spurred by a very small advocacy group. The broader public and prominent business leaders had long ago dismissed the B-line proposal as an unnecessary waste of money. I know this because I asked people in scores of direct conversations in every part of the city and in every walk of life. This was not a “wedge” issue for the vast majority who demonstrated their indifference on October 27th.

My reluctant entry into the 2010 mayoral campaign was related to my indifference to the slate of candidates, and as in 2014, the failure of a galvanizing figure to step forward who was not associated

Chat with Ward 9's Doug Conley

Enjoy our chat with new Ward 9 Councillor -elect, Doug Conley.

As a new councillor, what will your focus be in the first 90 days of your term?

  • To get to know the staff and who is responsible for what.
  • Review the King street proposal and follow through with some of my concerns
  • Follow up on several issues in the ward
  • Be interactive with the other councillors

What impression do you hope to make at council and for Hamiltonians?

I am not trying to make any impression but do my job and ask the right questions at council.

How will you go about making this impression and what might Hamiltonians notice about your style and approach?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Afterthoughts with Ejaz Butt

The Hamiltonian reached out to all Mayoral contenders, and asked them if they cared to share their views post election. The following is Ejaz Butt's submission:

First of all ,I would like to extend my whole hearted greeting to Fred for his great success in Municipals elections as Mayor of Hamilton. I hope after taking over his Mayor office , he will not repeat the same mistakes , which he did during his last term. He will move forward. to take the city toward prosperity and overcome the poverty issue in our city .His funding toward economic development plan is a great visionary idea to move the city forward economically. Once again I congratulate Fred for his success.

Now I ask a question to myself and I am sure everybody would be interested to know,why I participated in this election ,in spite of that I knew , I will not be able to win this election at any cost and even then I joined this Mayoral race.

a. Wanted to know the process of election and compare the election process between developed and under developed countries democratic system.

b. Role of print and and electronic media. ( fair or unfair )

c. Encouraging the youth specifically the youth from ethnic back ground to be more proactive in

Media Release: Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger names his Chief of Staff and six-member Transition Team.


November 4, 2014

Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger names his Chief of Staff and six-member Transition Team.

Drina Omazic, who served as Chief of Staff to Eisenberger 2008 -2010, will resume this role in addition to managing the transition team. Drina brings extensive experience to the Mayor’s Office, having served as Chief of Staff to former MPP, Dr . Marie Bountrogianni at the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs and Democratic Renewal, and the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. As well as direct federal and community experience having served as Special Assistant, Community Outreach to former Deputy Prime Minister and MP Sheila Copps.

Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger is pleased to have the support of the other members of the team which include; Christopher Cutler, Eisenberger’s 2014 campaign manager, former Mayor’s Larry Di Ianni and Robert Morrow, lawyer, Scott Smith and Senior Human Resources leader, Mary Nagle.

The transition team has begun preliminary meetings and framework to move forward, including finalizing the operational makeup of the office and preparations for the swearing in on December 3, 2014. For inquiries: transition@Fred2014.ca.

“I am looking forward to getting to work and appreciate the support of the team and their expertise during my transition into Office,” said Mayor-elect Eisenberger.

We Need better Candidates- by M Adrian Brassington

There are so many valid criticisms of our municipal governance. Confidence in City Council is habitually low. Over the last seven weeks of the election campaign, I attended more than a half-dozen ‘candidates’ evenings’, as well as watched all the available debates online, courtesy of Joey Coleman and Cable 14. As a result, it’s my belief that we need to take a good look at the other side of the formula. That is, what’s being offered up from the constituents: the candidates. After all, election campaigns are extended job interviews. But you wouldn't know it, based on the behaviour of so many, this time through.

So here are some observations and suggestions for new candidates and incumbents alike when out on the hustings.

Monday, November 3, 2014

With Mayor Eisenberger

Hamilton Mayor-Elect
Fred Eisenberger
The Hamiltonian welcomes Mayor Elect Fred Eisenberger and will check in with Mr. Eisenberger from time to time on issues facing Hamilton.

In this first edition we talk to the Mayor Elect about the major issues that will face Hamilton, his plans in the first 3 months of his term and his thoughts on low voter turn out. Enjoy our chat with Fred.

1. Looking forward to the next four years, what are the major issues/ decisions that Hamilton must absolutely get right in order to prosper and move forward. How will you prepare for these issues, as mayor?

We need to continue providing our Economic Development department with budget to advance their business attraction and retention work as well as promote the city’s transportation infrastructure as a key benefit to doing business in Hamilton. Our commercial port along with the road and rail infrastructure is ideal to support a number of sectors including manufacturing. The steel industry remains a critical part of our economy and we cannot underestimate the importance of the future use of these lands as it relates to steel production as well as port activity. Urban development and a focus on our downtowns across all parts of the city are vital to improving quality of life, attracting more small business. The discussion about how LRT may support city building will remain an important

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Election Afterthoughts with Michael Baldasaro

The Hamiltonian reached out to all Mayoral contenders, and asked them if they cared to share their views post election. The following is Michael Baldasaro's submission:

Dear Hamiltonian and Hamiltonians,

Thank you for this opportunity to express my after thoughts regards Hamilton’s 2014 Municipal Election.

It’s impossible for me to fathom why soldiers would give life and limb to their Country in 2 Great Wars for democracy sake, in light of the voter apathy displayed in this Election. They must be rolling over in their graves. We are continually told how our Armed Services Personnel gave life and limb so we could vote in a “free and democratic society” and we claim to be grateful? We sure have a funny way of showing it. 64% of eligible voters abstained and a new Mayor was elected by 39.93% of the tally, taken from only 34% of the electorate. Shameful. That’s a whopping 13% representation of 366,124 eligible voters, over the next 4 years. And we wonder why we are in financial straits? Citizens obviously fail to realize the importance of Municipal Government and the By-Laws it creates, the authority it holds over the judiciary, local policing and emergency services. Municipal Government is the entry point for all levels of government. It ascertains our true needs for governance from whimsical wants and desires. If our so-called leaders actually wanted us to vote, all that needs done is issue an electronic Citizen Card, based upon our S.I.N. Card which every Citizen has. Those who do not wish to become a Citizen, ”When in Rome do as the Romans do”, by their abstinence from voting, municipally, provincially and federally, have no right to access government services. No O.H.I.P., Welfare and/or Pensions etc. Don’t call 911 expecting service, unless it’s in the Governments interest to intervene. In other words “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

In closing, thank you, all the Citizens of the G.H.A., who exercised their constitutional right and voted, for me and/or any of the other Candidates. Voter apathy, being the record setting high it was, 64% of 366,124 Municipally eligible voters didn’t vote, we can proudly say it wasn't our apathy that set a record low turn-out of 34% at the Polls. Congratulations Citizens! Because of your vote our soldiers did not fight in vain. To those who didn’t vote, you have no right to wear a Poppy on Veterans Day and/or to any of the privileges Members of our Society won. Thank you, one and all, for standing up for your rights. We looked good, bless us all!


Be well and prosper,
In peace, bless us all.
Rev. Bro. Michael Baldasaro
2014 Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Cooking with Maharajas - Dining with Princes

Geeta preparing food at the tour launch event
Cooking with Maharajas - Dining with Princes

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights - marking the victory of light over darkness and good over evil - just came to an end. Given tragic recent events, culminating in the funerals of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent this week, one can only wish the gods are paying attention.

I’ve had occasion to mention Burlington-based Chef, Geeta Maini, before: she’s the author of a fine cookbook (An Affair with Indian Cooking) with another in the works. I’ve had the privilege of cooking with her on a couple of occasions and her recipes are delicious and practical.

She is a bit of a stickler for detail, but in a good way. This will serve her well as she co-leads a

Picture of the Moment-In Honour of a Fallen Canadian Hero

Visitors continue to pay tribute to Canadian hero Cpl. Nathan Cirillo; a young man, in the prime of his life who died for his country.