Fave 5: Bands we’re seeing at Canadian Music Week

We love music, and we especially love Canadian talent that not too many people know about yet. Canadian Music Week is creeping up (March 21-25) and it can be overwhelming to figure out which of the 500+ bands you want to check out. We thought we’d share a few of the lesser-known bands performing around our fair city. We’re not claiming to be music critics, so there is no deep analysis or thoughtful criticism here. Just a list of five bands that we like and are eager to check out live.

1. Kids & Explosions
We loved Girl Talk when we first discovered him, so were thrilled to find out that the Great White North has a similar DJ. We first saw the boy wonder (Josh Raskin) perform at the Drake Underground during their What’s In The Box festival, and can’t wait to see him again. His mash-ups are fun, lend themselves to dancing and cleverly mix our fave hip hop, 80s pop, rap, dance and metal tunes into one wicked good time.
Find Kids & Explosions at The Garrison on March 22, 1:30 a.m. (yep, it’s a late one).
On Twitter and on the interwebs.

2. The Balconies
Nothing’s better than a cool chick fronting a band, especially one that has a killer voice, good style and serious stage presence to go along with some solid rock tunes. Check out Kill Count and Serious Bedtime to get a taste. If only we could convince Jacquie to give us a guitar lesson.

Find The Balconies at Cabin 5 on March 22, 11 p.m.
On Twitter and on the interwebs
3. The Treasures
We like variety and nothing beats an awesome roots rock band. These guys have played Hillside, SXSW and NXNE already, so maybe not the most obscure group. But, we still bet many of you haven’t heard of them. We’ll be sipping bourbon and listening to the harmonies in Warning Sign and On My Own. Can’t wait for their album to come out later this spring.
Why WOULDN’T you go see a band that poses for photos like this? 
Find The Treasures at the Dakota Tavern on March 24, 1 a.m.
On Twitter and on the interwebs

4. Cold Specks
Our friends at Arts and Crafts gave us a sneak peek of this songstress from Etobicoke and we were immediately hungry for more.She’s fairly established in the U.K., but just becoming known at home. Her music makes us want to hop on a train, zone out and listen to just her crazy-powerful voice for hours on end. 

Find Cold Specks at the Music Gallery on March 22, 9 p.m.
On Twitter and on the interwebs

5. Jaron Freeman-Fox and The Opposite of Everything
No music festival is complete without checking out a band that’s completely different – and this is that band. Jaron is a whiz on the fiddle and his band plays, well, almost everything. Drums, accordions, bass, guitars, clarinets, keyboards and more have all been seen on stage (it’s a talented bunch). It’s a high energy performance and sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Why not?

Find Jaron Freeman-Fox and The Opposite of Everything at The Garrison on March 21, 9:45 p.m.
On the interwebs

Intrigued about our suggestions? Buy wristbands/tickets here. Quick, before they’re gone. 




Yum, yum: Macaroni mania

Now that the holidays have passed, we’re fairly fed up with turkey and mashed potatoes. But the cold weather means that we still crave comfort food – something hot, delicious and filling. Ideally with lots of carbs.

One of the best foods to cure this craving is good ol’ mac and cheese. This childhood favourite has made a big comeback on the foodie scene, with restaurants serving up a classic version with rich, creamy cheddar or taking it to the next level with inventive ingredients.

Here are some of the best macaroni and cheese options in Toronto.

This downtown hot spot on Queen Street West is the place for comfort food prepared with an upscale touch. Credited with starting the gourmet mac trend, Czehoski is the restaurant of choice for mac and cheese enthusiasts. Made with medium aged white cheddar, Czehoski’s macaroni is a creamy, melt-y bowl of delicious. Portions are big and can easily be split, but this is one bowl of mac and cheese that’s just too good to share. 

Trevor Kitchen and Bar, named after chef Trevor Wilkinson, opened in 2006 and quickly made a name for its delicious, inventive culinary creations. Word of their cheesy gourmet macaroni quickly spread; the fancy indulgence will impress even the toughest of food critics. Their infamous dish is a sophisticated twist on the classic, made with Asiago cheese and topped with seared foie gras. The upscale ingredients make this one of the most interesting pastas in the city, and a must-try for anyone who considers themselves a macaroni connoisseur.

The Dakota Tavern
This Ossington country hot spot boasts some truly tasty eats, with locally sourced products and very few pre-made ingredients. Their mac and cheese is no exception, and it’s quite different from the others we mention above. The three cheeses used include a spicy jalapeno havarti that gives it a Tex-Mex kick. The homemade pico de gallo that tops the rich dish adds a refreshing taste of tomato and cilantro. It’s extremely filling, so grab a friend and share a bowl while listening to some guitar and killer vocals.

Drake Hotel

Not to be outdone by other Queen West restaurants, Drake serves up a mean mac and cheese. The rich, gooey dish is packed with four delicious cheeses – blue, parmesan, goat and a two-year-old cheddar. The combination of such flavourful cheese makes this version a standout, and the housemade catsup on the side is much better than store-bought (sorry, Heinz. There IS another Keinz). It’s also made with a whole lotta Drake love, which takes it from great to amazing.

Although, we do admit to tucking into a bowl of KD from time to time, you don’t get much better than these favourites. Where are your go-to spots for mac and cheese? Tweet us @rockitpromo!

Yum, yum: The Dakota Tavern’s Mint Julep

From time to time, we like to get down to some live music. One of the best music spots in the city is The Dakota Tavern, known for Sunday Bluegrass brunch, The Beauties, surprise musical appearances by Ron Sexsmith, Serena Ryder, and members of The Barenaked Ladies, and just generally as a place for good, ol’ fashioned fun. No BS, no club beats, no frilly drinks (motto: “Unless Malibu comes in a bottle of Wild Turkey, we don’t have it.”).

Aside from a massive beer selection, they boast some great whiskey and bourbon cocktails. One of the best is their Mint Julep. Simple, refreshing and makes you feel right at home with the guitars and banjos.

Insider’s tip: The Dakota Tavern has an amazing menu. They make their own sausage and burgers from different types of game (like venison), use local fish in their fish tacos, and have a mean three-cheese macaroni dish. Nearly everything is housemade, and they use as few pre-mixed ingredients as possible. Go early enough for dinner – you’ll be glad you did. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to midnight, daily.

The Dakota Tavern’s Mint Julep

1½ oz. bourbon
½ oz. simple syrup
10 mint sprigs, muddled

Mix all in a tall, thin glass. Top with crushed ice.

To get into the true Dakota spirit: pour 1 oz. bourbon in a short glass. Drink. Repeat.