Toronto by Library #18: Fairview Library

It’s another weekend and that means that Sage and I have a bit of time to head out on adventures. This time we have a couple of things planned. The first part was to visit a random part of the city, and since there wasn’t a library immediately nearby we went to an entirely different neighbourhood to find a library.

Our trip starts with a bus trip and we head north. As we board I see a peloton coming the other way – probably 10 bicycles riding in formation. It makes me happy to see because when we first moved to Toronto, I was often the only person I’d ever see riding on the street here as it is relatively busy and suburban. Not so anymore. It’s becoming a bicycle commuter street.  Another ten minutes later on the trip we see another peloton riding quickly in the other direction.

After about an hour and a second bus ride we find ourselves at Finch and Midland in Scarborough. Here there are several strip malls with a number of mostly Chinese businesses  and tons and tons of restaurants. We are so spoiled for choice we walk for a good 30 minutes just seeing what there is.

midland1

For as busy as it is, we’re on the the edge of the city. There are still open spaces to be found here right at the edges of the parking lot.

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We’re hungry and walk around a while trying to find the one place I read about on Yelp before coming, “Hot Party” – a Sichuan restaurant known for it’s fiery food. Sadly, Hot Party has gone out of business. We pass by another one that looks to have similar offerings, “Hot Lover”

hl

We took a pass on Hot Lover, and another restaurant with a pun in its name.

pho

On our walk we saw a number of restaurants advertising dumplings and decided that we wanted to go that route and ended up here:

dumpling

I can’t read the Chinese writing but my receipt says it’s “JXY Dumpling”.

xmas
It’s pretty festive inside!

We sit down and order a few things and they quickly start arriving.

First up: Scallion Pancakes…

scal

I’ve tasted these before but these are the best I’ve had. They have a tendency to be very oily but somehow these managed to be nearly oil free but still crisply and delicious. Of course they’re even better if you make up a dipping sauce for them. This one is chilli oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. I will use it for the dumplings when they come.

oil

Then we ordered one of the spiciest dishes on the menu. A chicken in chilli sauce dish.

chicken

This sauce was tasty – a peanut sauce with a tiny bite. A lot of restaurants see us and assume that like many Canadians our idea of spicy is when you put a bit of garlic salt in your Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and tone it down accordingly. This has to be what happened because there was no bite to this at all. Certainly not enough to warrant one chilli let alone two on the menu. The dish itself is cold (on purpose) but we’re a bit disappointed. We agree it needs something. If I were to have make this in a recipe at home I’d redo it by mincing the chicken, adding much more chilli – possibly some fresh Thai chilli, and serve it with noodles. But it was still good – the sauce, especially.

After that our pork and garlic green dumplings arrive, still steaming.dump

We are mixed on these. I find them tasty, especially with the sauce above but Sage isn’t so fond of them. They were pretty meaty and she doesn’t often like meat that has a strong taste. I eat more than my share but need to save room for our next stop.

Across the way is “QQ Thai Ice Cream”. I have no idea what Thai Ice Cream is so I’m intrigued. We head over and order a coffee flavoured one. Sage decides what toppings she wants and then brings it over to our table where we share it:

ice cream

The thin rolls are the ice cream and it’s really interesting and delicious. The ice cream is particularly cold but because it is so thin it melts quickly in your mouth. Curious, we go to see how they make it. Other customers come in just in time so we can see.

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Making Thai ice cream

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Watching this reminded me of watching Mr. Rogers as a kid where he’d show movies about how things are made. I watch with the same level of fascination. It is delightful and hypnotic.

But our exploration is not done yet. I wanted some bubble tea. When I first moved to Toronto, the idea of bubble tea grossed me out. Who wants to drink something with chunks in it?  Well, after a bit of time I learned that I was one of them. I’m not sure how widespread it is outside of big cities but the idea is simple: take iced tea (often with milk though I have to limit my consumption of dairy), and add a number of “pearls” of tapioca (sabudana) also called “boba” and then use a large straw to drink it so the tapioca goes in to your mouth with the tea. I am a huge fan now. So off we go to “Boba Boy” who advertise that they make their own fresh tapioca and have some great tea options. And so I order a lemon green tea – with matcha tapioca. The tea is good but the tapioca is pretty normal – not a lot of flavour to it. But still I’m happy. I have a nice drink on a warm day.

bubble tea

We take the tea and leave, catching a bus to our library for the day.

At the point where we need to change buses we stop and wait for our next bus. It arrives and it’s pretty full. Not feeling like standing we sit tight and wait for the next one. Two guys get on and ask the driver if they go to Don Mills Station. When he says they do there’s a brief pause and then one of the guys gets really angry and starts yelling at the driver and punches the barrier between the driver and passengers. It was a strange moment. We decide that if they get on the next bus that we’re hoping to take we’ll wait for yet another one. They come every 5 minutes or so so we have no great loss. It’s better than riding with these guys. But we don’t have to make that decision. They immediately cross the street and disappear, grumbling as they go.

The next bus comes and we take it about 5 minutes to our next library: the Fairview branch. This branch is a “District Branch” – one of the middle-sized branches designed to serve a region. Where most branches are “Neighbourhood Branches” that are small and serve a small area, some are larger “District Branches” and two are still larger “Research and Reference Libraries”. There are only two of those. One is currently undergoing renovations while the second is the Toronto Reference Library which I’ve visited before and written up here.

fairview

From the outside it looks like one of the classic “Brutalist” buildings that I see a lot around Toronto that were built in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s a lot of concrete and few windows. However, renovations in the past five years or so have made this a very welcoming place.

One of the first things we see when we enter is the automated returns system. Now that books have bar codes and RFID tags inside, checking in books gets easier. With this one you push a button to open the door and load your books on to a conveyor. They are scanned and checked back in and you can obtain a receipt. So now both the checkout process and check in process are completely automated.

returns.jpg

inside

While it might look like an uninviting brutalist space from the outside, it’s a bright and airy space inside thanks to the large windows on the north side of the building.

This library is my favourite so far that we’ve visited. The space is beautiful and there’s lots of space to relax. There’s a nice balance between quiet and social activities with everything from quiet study happening to an information session on the Ryerson School of Architecture. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to read or somewhere to study with friends you’ll find it.

The selection was spectacular. It seems like the past few libraries have had me saying “This is a lovely space and welcoming but if I lived here I wouldn’t find anything by browsing, I’d have to have my holds delivered here.”  This is most definitely not the case in this library. I hadn’t planned to get any books here, but their selection of books on sociology and especially travel narratives meant my backpack was full when I left. I probably won’t be able to finish them but I certainly found some good titles. I picked up a few for Daegan as well.

Most of the books for adults were on the upper floor and this space was particularly beautiful. The wall of windows makes a space people are drawn to and it’s a joy to be there.

upstairs

We pack our books and head over to the Children’s section. I always make a stop there to see if there are any Hindi children’s books as that’s about my level right now. I didn’t find any – I think there are only 1-2 libraries that actually have them able to be browsed, unfortunately. We did find a really great art installation, though, that really drew us in. Sage remarked that if Daegan had been here they likely would have spent an hour playing with them.  The premise is simple: each light has a lens on top. Turn the lens and the colour changes. It was pretty fun.

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With @sagetyrtle

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After that we headed next door to the mall. This mall is more of a traditional mall with major brand name stores – not particularly interesting. It also happened to have a tea store so Sage could stock up on her preferred black tea. And then it was time for us to get on the bus for home. Fortunately there’s a station a 5 minute walk away so off we go – to make dinner and then study Hindi. Another wonderful weekend day behind us.

If you’d like to read about more of Toronto’s awesome libraries and the neighbourhoods they’re in, visit the Toronto by Library page.

5 thoughts on “Toronto by Library #18: Fairview Library

  1. I know what you mean! A week ago I had no idea what it was. Now I crave it. There were so many interesting flavours too including matcha and taro. Clearly I have to go back and try some more.

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  2. I hate when the tone down the spice, I can totally tell they do that to my boyfriend often at Asian restaurants. I also hate cold food, I get so upset when I accidentally order something that’s supposed to be cold and I didn’t know. 😛

    There are are a ton of ice cream shops around here that do the ice cream rolls, I’ve been meaning to go to one but never have! There’s even one with dairy-free options around here. I’m so glad you changed your mind about boba tea! It’s so yummy! That place you went sounds so wonderful, they make their own tapioca & they have different flavors?! Count me in!

    The adults section in the library is beautiful!!

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  3. The names of the restaurants made me chuckle! LOL Not interesting on the outside this library but looked great inside. And now I definitely want to try Thai ice cream rolls! *adds that item to my food list* Thanks for taking us along for another fascinating library tour Todd. 🙂

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    1. I’m glad you liked it. Every time I do one of those it reminds me of how lucky I am to live here. There are so many cool things to see and do here. It’s really as if Toronto is actually dozens of different cities all rolled up in to one.

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