Saturday, August 31, 2013

Diner en Blanc (Toronto)

My friends Tom and Carrol helped organize one of the groups for Diner en Blanc in Toronto this year. Tom sent me an e-mail two or three days beforehand asking if I wanted to come and take pictures. I thought it would be neat so I said, yes.

Diner en Blanc was started in Paris about 25 years ago I believe. They hold it in a secret location each year. Diners have to bring all their supplies - tables, chairs, beverages etc. They can order food or bring their own. If you want alcohol you have to order it ahead of time through the organizers. Oh... and everyone has to wear white, hence the name Diner en Blanc.

Tom and Carrol's group met at Alexandra Park along Bathurst Street south of Dundas at 6:15 p.m. There were about 55-60 people. After everyone arrived we walked south to Queen Street where we waited for the eastbound streetcar.

Since our group was so large we didn't think we could fit everyone into one streetcar so we thought we should divide into two smaller groups with Tom taking one and Carrol the other. The first streetcar that came was so crowded with passengers no one fit in.

I started getting a bit worried after that. If all the streetcars were going to be that busy I wondered if we'd be able to get to the venue on time. Luckily the next car was a double-length one. Everyone fit in all together. We were hot and sticky from waiting in the humid, evening sun, but we were on our way.

The secret event venue was a parking lot located on the north side of Queen Street just east of Church Street. I guess it was the only place large enough to hold 1500-1600 people. Still, I read afterwards that many people were highly disappointed with the choice of venues (not to mention the band). Last year it was held at Fort York.

For me, I thought it was pretty neat. 1500 people dressed smartly in white, sitting, row upon row, on white folding chairs at little square tables covered with white table clothes and decorative white centerpieces. It was pretty romantic considering the location.

After everyone sets up their tables and chairs the evening begins with everyone waving their white, cloth napkins. Dinner then starts.

At 9:30 p.m. it's time for everyone to light their sparklers and wave them in the air. This signals the end of dinner and the time to begin dancing.

I believe clean up starts at about 10:30 p.m. or so. The venue must be returned to it's original state and cleared by 11:00 p.m.

Rules from the Diner en Blanc website:

What are the key rules of the event?

Le Dîner en Blanc® is quite different from other special events. The evening takes place in a public place which was not designed for such a purpose and is often crowded. It must necessarily be very controlled in order for future editions to be held.
Seats are allotted on-site in a very specific manner.

• Seats are allotted on-site in a very specific manner.
• In order to participate, one must be invited by a participant from the previous year or get on the official website's waiting list.
• Once confirmed, the presence of each guest thus becomes mandatory, regardless of weather conditions, as the event is held regardless of weather conditions.
• Colour of attire and table setting: white only.
• Table seating is symmetrical with men seated on one side and women on the other.
• Participants arrive and depart at the same time by chartered bus or organized public transportation.
• Depart with one's belongings, leftovers and trash, leaving the place as clean as it was upon arrival.

What must guests bring?

• A table, two (white) chairs.
• A picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and a china dinner service including proper stemware and flatware.
• Wine or Champagne, if allowed. Beer and hard alcohol is prohibited.
• Participants must wear white and be dressed elegantly.
• Originality is encouraged as long as it stays stylish and denotes taste.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Should You Shop in Canada?

I have to admit I've gone down to the U.S. to go shopping in the past. They certainly have a lot of good deals, especially at their outlet malls. I've also bought camera lenses online and either had them shipped to my relatives place in Long Island or had someone else bring them up. Since our dollar is so strong it makes cross border shopping quite attractive.

That being said, it's not impossible to find good deals here in Canada too. We have the discount fashion store, Winners, here. And, just recently, sister store, Marshalls, (also under American parent company TJX) opened a boatload of stores in southern Ontario (as well as those in other provinces).

A couple of weeks ago I had a bit of time to kill and walked into the Marshalls at John and Richmond for the first time. After half an hour I walked out with a pair of Tommy Hilfer casual shoes for $49.99* and a half dozen pair of black Perry Ellis socks for $9.99*.

Yesterday I went to the local GAP store and bought a pair of 1969 boot cut/fit jeans on sale for $19.97*. Normally they go for $69.95. But when they want to get rid of old stock significant discounts can be had. That's when I swoop in for the kill.

So before you jump in the car and head for the border you should take this into consideration. Is it worth the gas money and travel time to go to Buffalo or Niagara Falls, New York? Or can you find similar deals here in Canada?

*Not including HST.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Walk on the Beach

I had an hour to kill on Sunday afternoon after visiting the boarding home and before going to Tony and Iris' place for Seungchan's birthday dinner so I took the opportunity to visit the Beaches. I hadn't been down there in awhile.

Since the weather was so nice it was absolutely packed. I was lucky to find a parking spot not too far away on Coxwell.

The beach has changed since I was last there. I believe it's gotten a lot larger. I was surprised at how far out the sand goes now. I'm not sure what happened, but I'm guessing the city filled a lot of the shoreline in.

I walked to the eastern most point to try and take some photos. My plan was to start there then head as far west as time permitted.

They bike path was full of cyclists, joggers and inline skaters. The beach had people playing all sorts of sports like volleyball and frisbee. But, of course, most people were just lying around getting a tan.

I didn't get too far taking pictures before I had to leave. In the time I was there I believe I got a few good shots though. It was a bit tough finding open spaces to shoot since so many people were around. Oh well, what can you do?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lunch with Bruce

Our relative Bruce came to town last week with his family. I believe my father either knows his father or is somehow related to him. I don't know the exact connection though.

Anyway, he sent my sister and I an e-mail the day before his arrival on Thursday. He mentioned he'd be in town for three days before heading to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake on Sunday, then flying to Quebec on Monday (Montreal then a visit to Quebec City).

My parents had actually gone away on a 3-day bus trip on Wednesday night to Quebec. They were going to visit Mont Treblant and Quebec City among other places. They wouldn't return from their trip until Friday evening.

So it was up to my sister and I to entertain our relatives. Since I have Fridays off work, we decided to meet them for lunch on Friday. My sister picked a restaurant downtown, not far from her workplace. She would meet us on her lunch break.

We chose the Queen Mother Café on Queen West (just west of McCaul). They describe their food as fresh and flavourful Lao-Thai and pan-global cuisine. I have to say it's quite tasty and very unique. Among the dishes we had were Quinoa Salad with garlic, lemon, fresh herbs, chickpeas and olive oil, topped with crumbled goat cheese and sundried tomatoes, nestled on baby greens; Ping Gai - a boneless chicken marinated with garlic, coriander and black peppercorns, grilled crispy and served with a spicy lime and coriander dipping sauce, salad and steamed rice; Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni baked with garlic and herbed tomato sauce, topped with edam cheese and served with salad greens and garlic toast; and Barbecue Pulled Pork Tacos - slow cooked pork in a smoky homemade barbecue sauce, topped with maple cheddar cheese and nestled on soft corn tortillas, served with crunchy ‘slaw.

It took a little while for our food to come since the place was quite busy. We took advantage of the time to catch up on what was going on with everyone and our families.

After lunch my sister headed back to work, I headed back home and Bruce and his family headed out to explore the city.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I just watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World on DVD. It's a romantic-comedy my sister took out from the library. I have to say I enjoyed it.

The movie stars Steve Carell as Dodge a quiet, non-confrontational insurance salesman and Keira Knightly as Penny his quirky, young neighbour. The plot - a huge, 70-mile-wide asteroid is hurtling towards earth. In three weeks it will hit causing it's total destruction. What will you do with your remaining time?

The movie opens with Dodge and his wife Linda (played by Steve Carell's actual wife Nancy Carell) sitting in a parked car listening to the news of earth's impending doom on the radio. She knows what she's going to do with her remaining time... and it doesn't include him (as she gets out of the car and walks away).

The movie follows the unlikely duo of Dodge and Penny as they head out together in search of the things they think will bring them comfort in these end times. Dodge is in search of his high school sweetheart, Olivia, and Penny is looking to fly to England to be with her family. As well they have a canine companion, Sorry, who Dodge finds attached to him after he wakes up in a park having unsuccessfully trying to kill himself by drinking window cleaner.

Both characters have endured recent break ups; Dodge with his wife and Penny with her boyfriend, Owen. So they're both somewhat emotionally fragile. As unlikely as it seems, in this journey of personal redemption they eventually discover the people they were seeking fill this void in both their lives is actually sitting in the car seat next to them.

I think I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic at heart. Because Dodge loves Penny so much, there's a scene near the end of the movie where he forgoes his happiness in order to bring her what he thinks will be unsurpassable joy (to be reunited with her family). It's the ultimate sacrifice which will leave him alone in his time of greatest need.

But, don't worry... this isn't the end. Though I don't necessarily need to see a happy ending to enjoy a movie this one has one. Lovely. I appreciate that.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dinner @ Spice Route

I went to dinner with my friend, Lawrence, last week for his birthday (which was actually earlier in July). I bought a voucher for a buffet dinner for 2 for $24 at Spice Route down on King Street West (west of Spadina Avenue).

It's a nice looking place. The decor is dark wood with yellow/orange accent lighting.

Their food is a mix of different Asian cuisines. They bill themselves mainly as an Indian and Chinese restaurant, but they have some Japanese and Thai influences as well.

Since they mentioned that it was a dinner buffet I expected to see rows of hot plates with food on them. But, actually, you order each item (like at a AYCE sushi place) and they make it up and bring it to you.

The food selection was pretty interesting. And the presentation quite nice. But, the description and taste was average I'd say. Still, the regular price, $24 per person isn't too far out of line compared to what you'd pay at a Mandarin (buffet) restaurant. So, if you had to pick between the two I'd come here.

But, if you opened the competition up to any type of ACYE/buffet restaurant you'll find me standing in line at either Echo or Ajimi sushi restaurants in my neighbourhood. A much better bang for your buck as far as I'm concerned. Though, if you don't eat raw fish, I guess I'll see you back at Spice Route.