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Chicago vs. Toronto: Why Everyone Got Wound Up Over Neil Steinberg's Column

Posted: 03/09/2013 8:33 am

Earlier this week Toronto inched above Chicago to become the fourth most-populous city in North America. Cue the celebratory articles, columns.

"Toronto is a desirable location for people to live and work. We are attracting people from across North America and other parts of the world," said Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Of course Chicago (or the Chicago media) wasn't going to take this lying down. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg poked fun at Canadian Business for its technical dismissal of Toronto's "win."

Steinberg goes on to mock Toronto for its "non-descript skyline" a rather forgetful "monument to multiculturalism" and our weed-like Tim Hortons doughnut shops. There's also this rather hilarious and inflammatory line "Why? I'd rather be the 500th most important person in Chicago than the King of Canada."

For the record Neil, being King of Canada is actually pretty awesome. You get a big house (it's probably drafty). Sadly, you also have to live in Ottawa (it's worse than Toronto, trust me) and probably take calls from the real ruler of Canada, who lives in London. But I digress.

Needless to say, Torontonians and Canadians did not take kindly to Steinberg's bluster. Twitter went a little nuts with responses and even dredged up the horrible tragedy of gun violence in Chicago, a human crisis that Chicagoans are well aware of. Frankly, it's a little crass and insensitive to bring up the death of children to score a rhetorical point against a newspaper columnist.


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To me, this little outburst of anger over a newspaper column points to something unattractive over the Toronto psyche. Toronto and Torontonians aren't unfamiliar with being mocked. Practically everyone in Canada has made a joke about the Centre of the Universe. Torontonians shrug it off when a Vancouver radio DJ mocks us for being overworked Bay street drones. We don't particularly care when Montrealers call us soulless Anglos who don't know how to have fun. Do I even need to talk about the bile spewed at Leafs fans?

But when that criticism comes from New York, or London, or Berlin, and yes, Chicago, we bristle, we get angry, we lash out. The truth of the matter is despite how far Toronto has come as a city, and it's a pretty amazing city, we're still horribly insecure. We still seek validation from tastemakers in places glitzier than us, from real "world-class cities."

It's an ugly habit and, you know what, no one likes a whiner. I grew up in Vancouver and you get used to being second, third fiddle to Toronto and Montreal, places that are bigger and look like more fun than little, quiet Vancouver. Then I remember that in Vancouver winter is a theory not a way of life, that I can go to a beach, a real honest to goodness beach and not a lakeshore hemmed in by a highway, or that I went to a university with an actual old-growth-forest next door.

Toronto, you can disagree with Steinberg if you want, but don't let Neil Steinberg get under your skin. Instead of skewering the poor fella for doing his job, really try to have a good time right here in Toronto. Forget deep dish pizza and revel in the fact that you can get cuisine from literally dozens of nationalities within our city limits. Our music scene might not have Chicago's iconic history and name recognition but enjoy the fact that this city is cranking out great bands and performers at an enviable rate. He may mock our skyline but on a clear night out on Toronto Island there aren't too many prettier sights.

As for me, I'm reaching out to Steinberg. Neil, you must've had a pretty lousy guide the last time you were in town. I'll show you around, see if I can get you to change your mind about Toronto. Also, if that column was any indication, you're probably a pretty funny guy and fun to have a drink with. First round's on me. Also, anyone that gets an endorsement from Dan Savage can't be all bad.

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  • Dufflet Pastries

    <b>What</b>: Maple caramel budina<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.dufflet.com/home.asp" target="_hplink">Dufflet Pastries</a>

  • Dufflet Pastries

    <b>What</b>: Milk chocolate peanut butter and jam balls<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.dufflet.com/home.asp" target="_hplink">Dufflet Pastries</a>

  • The County General

    <b>What</b>: Steamed pork belly buns with kimchi<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://thecountygeneral.ca/" target="_hplink">The County General</a>

  • Union 72

    <b>What</b>: Steak tartare with a pickle and house-made hot sauce<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.union72.ca/" target="_hplink">Union 72</a>

  • BeerBistro

    <b>What</b>: Berkshire pork, smoked and braised in barbecue sauce with a blanche de chamblay, served with Dutch gouda on a buttermilk bun. It was being served alongside a Mad Tom IPA.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.beerbistro.com/" target="_hplink">BeerBistro</a>

  • Thompson Diner

    <b>What</b>: Grilled flank steak, served with a baby beets and goat cheese salad, topped with an apple cider vinaigrette<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.thompsondiner.com/" target="_hplink">Thompson Diner</a>

  • Centro

    <b>What</b>: A seafood salad, consisting of octopus, shrimp, mussels, scallops, oven-dried tomatoes, fennel and finished with fried garlic<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://centro.ca/" target="_hplink">Centro</a>

  • Ace Bakery Artisan Breads

    <b>What</b>: Italian Flag Tramezzino on Pane di Liguria (a new ciabatta bread Ace was offering at the event), made with salami al prosciutto from Niagara Food Specialties and Quebec Fontina from the Cheese Boutique.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://acebakery.com/" target="_hplink">Ace Bakery</a>

  • Boehmer

    <b>What</b>: A pork slider with a wild leek and piri piri mustard<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.boehmer.ca/chef's_philosophy" target="_hplink">Boehmer</a>

  • Corner House

    <b>What</b>: Local roasted leg of lamb served on a red-skin grilled rosemary potato with a fruit stew and smoked chipotle drizzle<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.cornerhouse.sites.toronto.com/" target="_hplink">Corner House</a>

  • Great Cooks On Eight

    <b>What</b>: Tomato-braised oxtail on a quinoa and arugula cake<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.greatcooks.ca/" target="_hplink">Great Cooks On Eight</a>

  • Aria

    <b>What</b>: Smoked duck, fresh pea marscapone and freeze-dried pea risotto<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://ariaristorante.ca/" target="_hplink">Aria</a>

  • e11even

    <b>What</b>: Nova Scotia lobster roll on a top-cut hot dog bun with iceberg lettuce<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.e11even.ca/" target="_hplink">e11even</a>

  • Oro

    <b>What</b>: Butter-poached octopus and Niagara chorizo in a vegetable ragout with a little smoked paprika<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.ororestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Oro</a>

  • Ruth's Chris

    <b>What</b>: A USDA prime tenderloin<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.ruthschris.com/Steak-House/3877/Toronto" target="_hplink">Ruth's Chris</a>

  • Rodney's Oyster House

    <b>What</b>: "R.O.D. Dukes" oysters, from Rodney's Oyster Depot in Prince Edward Island<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.rodneysoysterhouse.com/" target="_hplink">Rodney's Oyster House</a>

  • Rodney's Oyster House

    <b>What</b>: The "sea dog," a combination of lobster and sea scallops, topped with a tequila mustard, smoked tomato ketchup and wild Halliburton ramp relish<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.rodneysoysterhouse.com/" target="_hplink">Rodney's Oyster House</a>

  • Buca

    <b>What</b>: Prosciutto d'Alce (aged 16 months) served with mustard, radish, spiked mascarpone and pistachio<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.buca.ca/" target="_hplink">Buca</a>

  • Cafe Belong

    <b>What</b>: Ground pork, rhubarb, pickled ramps, morel mushrooms and sheep's yogurt served on a buttermilk biscuit<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.cafebelong.ca/" target="_hplink">Cafe Belong</a>

  • Little Anthony's

    <b>What</b>: House-made lamb sausage on date soda bread, with Jerusalem artichoke crisp, pickled onion and "made with 95% love, 5% anger," according to chef Aaron Foster<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://littleanthonysrestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Little Anthony's</a>

  • Woodlot

    <b>What</b>: Marinated tofu on brioche<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.woodlotrestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Woodlot</a>

  • Scaramouche

    <b>What</b>: Seared yellow fin tuna on a taro root crisp with fava bean<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.scaramoucherestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Scaramouche</a>

  • Globe Bistro and Earth

    <b>What</b>: Sunchoke vichyssoise made with sunflower earth and sorrel<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.globebistro.com/" target="_hplink">Globe Bistro</a> and <a href="http://www.globeearth.ca/" target="_hplink">Globe Earth</a>

  • Epic

    <b>What</b>: Sous vide Arctic char over an organic quinoa and wild rice salad, served with celery cress puree, bay oil, crispy chickpeas and pickled pear<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.epicrestaurant.ca/" target="_hplink">Epic</a>

  • Frank at AGO

    <b>What</b>: Churro with salted dulce de leche and chocolate sauce, originally tossed in cinnamon sugar<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.ago.net/frank" target="_hplink">Frank</a>

  • Salt Wine Bar

    <b>What</b>: Lamb taco with confit garlic aioli and pickled fennel<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://saltrestaurant.ca/" target="_hplink">Salt Wine Bar</a>

  • Chiado

    <b>What</b>: Baked skate fish with a lobster saffron veloute<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.chiadorestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Chiado</a>

  • Mark McEwan's Fabbrica/North 44/Bymark/ONE/McEwan

    <b>What</b>: Grilled crostini with whipped fresh ricotta, mint and citrus, a lamb bouillabaisse with chickpea and fennel<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.bymark.ca/" target="_hplink">Mark McEwan</a>

  • Nota Bene

    <b>What</b>: Cumbrae farms chuck and brisket burger with braised shortrib and crema on a poppyseed bun<b> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://notabenerestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Nota Bene</a>

  • Sotto Sotto

    <b>What</b>: Porchetta sandwich, served with Dijon mustard or homemade chili oil (made by the owner's mother)<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.sottosotto.ca/" target="_hplink">Sotto Sotto</a>

  • Ciao Wine Bar

    <b>What</b>: Chianti-braised shortribs on a gorgonzola polenta with crispy onions<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.ciaowinebar.com" target="_hplink">Ciao Wine Bar</a>

  • Harvest Kitchens

    <b>What</b>: A play on macarons, these "Louisiana macarons" represent the Asian element in the taste. This "Pinoy" is made of Chinese five-spice biscuits with confit duck tongue and black garlic pate.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://secondharvest.ca/harvest-kitchens" target="_hplink">Harvest Kitchens</a>, a part of Second Harvest that trains adults and youths in food preparation, and readies meals to distribute to Second Harvest partners, like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club

  • Harvest Kitchens

    <b>What</b>: This "Lousiana macaron," the "Bayou" consists of Andouille-spiced biscuits with roasted frog leg and palm heart pate.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://secondharvest.ca/harvest-kitchens" target="_hplink">Harvest Kitchens</a>

  • Far Niente

    <b>What</b>: The restaurant's take on a BLT, the sandwich consists of an in-house confit pork belly with smoked tomato jam, baby gem lettuce, rocket and argyle -- and to make up for not being able to saute indoors, they added a chicharon pork rind.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.farnienterestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Far Niente</a>

  • C5

    <b>What</b>: BBQ pork steam buns made with carrots, red peppers, pickle shiitake, diakon and cilantro.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.c5restaurant.ca/" target="_hplink">C5</a>

  • Estiatorio VOLOS

    <b>What</b>: A dolmata of arborio rice with a brandy macerated raisin and wrapped in a grape leaf, brined in chicken stock and lemon, and topped with tzatziki<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://volos.ca/" target="_hplink">Volos</a>

  • George

    <b>What</b>: Cobia sashimi on top of an avocado and quinoa summer roll<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.georgeonqueen.com/" target="_hplink">George</a>

  • Pauline's Pastries

    <b>What</b>: Carrot cake with a cream cheese topping<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.paulinespastries.com/" target="_hplink">Pauline's Pastries</a>

  • Linda Modern Thai

    <b>What</b>: Curry, three ways, including a curry shrimp cocktail with Thai yellow curry, a vegetarian yuba dumpling with Thai sour curry, and a crispy beef wrap with a curry tortilla and Thai panang curry<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.lindarestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Linda Modern Thai</a>

  • Tundra

    <b>What</b>: A lobster salad with truffle potato foam with a bacon bone marrow vinaigrette<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://tundra.sites.toronto.com/" target="_hplink">Tundra</a>

  • Scarpetta

    <b>What</b>: Three takes on fish: Fluke crudo with yuzu cucumber, trout tartare with fiddleheads, and yellowtail -- accompanied by radish and pickled ramp.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/toronto/thompson-toronto/eat/scarpetta" target="_hplink">Scarpetta</a>

  • L'Unita

    <b>What</b>: Rhubarb and fennel zeppole<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.lunita.ca/" target="_hplink">L'Unita</a>

  • Petite Thuet

    <b>What</b>: Black bear on bread -- the animal was shot by Chef Thuet himself.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.petitethuet.com/" target="_hplink">Petite Thuet</a>

  • Petite Thuet

    <b>What</b>: 72-hour braised pork belly with house-made teriyaki and Asian mayo with arugula, served on a beignet<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.petitethuet.com/" target="_hplink">Petite Thuet</a>

  • Sassafraz

    <b>What</b>: Pulled pork grilled cheese made with a four-year-old cheddar and manchego and served on sourdough bread<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.sassafraz.ca/" target="_hplink">Sassafraz</a>

  • Sodexo

    <b>What</b>: The food service company, which has partnered with chef Michael Smith, created crusted venison with a risotto cake and cranberry chutney, topped with crispy shallots.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.sodexo.ca/" target="_hplink">Sodexo</a>

  • Grano

    <b>What</b>: Hand-made bufala ricotta and whole what cavatelli (served with prosciutto, for those who wished)<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.grano.ca/" target="_hplink">Grano</a>

  • Indian Rice Factory

    <b>What</b>: One of the few vegetarian options, with a traditional rice dish.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.indianricefactory.com/" target="_hplink">Indian Rice Factory</a>

  • Ruby Watchco

    <b>What</b>: Chicken liver parfait with spreads: beetroot marmalade, bacon and caramelized onion jam or a summer berry compote.<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://rubywatchco.ca/" target="_hplink">Ruby Watchco</a>

  • Pangaea

    <b>What</b>: A chilled pea soup with goat cheese and lime sorbet -- all made in-house-- and a cured lardo<br> <b>From</b>: <a href="http://www.pangaearestaurant.com/Welcome.html" target="_hplink">Pangaea</a>