Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Olympic Gold Around My Neck

What a GREAT time tonight!
A couple highlights:
1)  I wasn't singing opera, but I traded stories and chit chat in a dressing room at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (Queen & University) in English, French, Spanish & Japanese with a Parisian model.  Funky times.  Marinne (sp?).  She had lived in Tokyo for a year.  Very unexpected when she started speaking Japanese to me (after I told her I could).  Another model was knitting a dress for her 2-year old.  Quite the beauties.  I even had my make-up done by a professional:  concealer, some blush and other colours to keep me looking natural.
2)  I also met 11-year old Tony Yang.  Toronto-based pianist extra-ordinaire.  He practices 3-4 hours a day (vs. 1 hour/day max during the apex of my piano career).  He played a few songs and was quite the talent.  Here's a video of stuff he's done before -- not what he played today when he wore a sprightly white tuxedo with sport socks.  I learned from his excited dad that he came from Chongqing (10 million+ person city in central China) 5 years ago as I explained my work and the functioning of the products I work on in Mandarin (a first for me in Chinese).  I don't think I've spoken this many languages (with models) in an hour since I was in Taipei at the Mongolian All-U-Can-Eat on Hsin Yi Road!  Memories!
Also -- I offered to hold his Starbucks coffee cup while he got a picture with some other cool folks.  And when I gave his coffee cup back, someone remarked while looking at and acknowledging me 'his parents must be so proud'.  A huge group of people looked at me like I was his dad:  "so you're his father!  Congratulations.".  Um.  No.  Awkward.
3)  My highlight?  Meeting Gold Medal Canadian Athlete for skeleton Jon Montgomery.  What a GREAT guy.  Friendly.  Quick.  Funny.  Easy-going.  He shared his gold medal freely.  His line was "want to touch it"? as he pulled it out of his pocket and explained its unique design.  Everyone was giddy.  I got a picture with the medal; with him; with him and the medal, me wearing the medal, and almost any other combination you could think of.  I can't prove any of this, though.  One of the cameras that took the photo was the Fuji 3D camera (very cool, by the way, I felt like I was reliving a still-shot Avatar-like experience).  On the screen you could see the 3D effect.  Since these pictures are only developable in Japan, and are expensive, it'll take a while or maybe never.  Maybe I can get 2D pics.
Jon also shared an auctioneering tip (he's a professional auctioneer):  say "Big Brown Bug bit a Big Brown Bear" quickly and repeatedly clicking against the roof of your mouth as many times as possible.  Actually, this might be good for speaking and performing in general:  (note to self, articulate bugs and bears before June 30 - July 10 Fringe show "Asiansploitation Spanks the Tiger".  Don't miss it!).
Here is a clip of Jon highlighting his win and what he does which I found interesting, but which doesn't do justice to his in-person charm.
And what brought this all on?  How do multilingual beauties mix with musical genius, a TV personality (David Clemmer from Style by Jury graced us with his presence) and a Gold Olympian?  A four-letter word.
Work.  We're launching a new set of products that are going to blow your socks off (well, maybe not your socks but it will be AWESOME and GREAT).  Tonight was one milestone that put a huge SMILE on my face.

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Best Buns in Town

Nope.  Not mine.  Or were you thinking yours?  536 Dundas West.  On a chilly Sunday evening, as I was walking by, a basement Chinese resto west of Spadina caught my eye.  It was just west of Noble House -- the Cantonese restaurant I was excited to take my folks (despite needlessly fearing for my safety twice at this place at ~3:30AM).
I peered in curious at the possibiity of switching restaurants.  There were a few customers inside and some workers just inside the front door busy making noodles and steamed dumplings and other goodies.  Fresh.  Perhaps.
You would think a restaurant called "Chinese Traditional Buns" woud have good buns.  I've passed by this place many times, so with my folks in tow who rarely venture such downtown eats, here was an opportunity to try something different.  They're such adventurers in life that trying this restaurant was less risky than parking at Pacific Mall.  We went in.
The ordering required we make many decisions.  Simple or complex?  Big or small?  Rice or noodles?  In the end, a large meal of fried salt/pepper pork chop and green beans with minced pork (the largest plate of green beans I've ever had) won out along with a delicious soup noodle with full shrimp.  I insisted we order one of the buns.  We were at a bun restaurant after all.  My dad was excited by #3 on the list of buns.  ZhenJiang buns (I think).  He doesn't perk up too often so this was remarkable.  I've never had this bun before at Asian Legend (they don't serve it).  Nor in any dumpling restaurant.  Possibly in China or Taiwan, but nothing I remember.
The food came pretty quickly.  And was goo.  We even ordered extra noodles which were fresh.
But the ZhenJiang steamed pork buns came.  5 for $3.99 (I think).  They're similar to xiao long bao (soup-filled pork dumplings) but with a skin more akin to a risen bun than skin wrap.  i.e. more bun than dumpling.  The inside was a little different.  Flavourful, soup-filled and extra juicy.  100% delicious.
And I dare say, these are the best buns I've had in Toronto.  I'll have to go back.
Has anyone else been here before?

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

UTSAV: Indian Food Anyone?

This post on a sunny, warm Toronto Sunday has absolutely nothing to do with my high school (University of Toronto Schools) audio visual department, and everything to do with a gem of an Indo-Resto find on Yorkville.  If you like Indian food, then UTSAV is a MUST try.  Good value for the quality of food.   I HIGHLY recommend this place.
UTSAV is tucked away at 69 Yorkville just west of Bay in a quaint, sub-terrain hideaway.  But it's not the clean, inviting atmosphere where artwork graces warm, yellow walls that stands out, it's the food.  This place edges out the fine Indian restaurants I've tried and really like from Nataraj, to Cuisine of India, The Host, or that place at Albion & Finch I used to go to when I worked at the Weston plant.  Yes:  UTSAV meekly pokes its head a little bit over some strong contenders.

UTSAV is deliciously subtle.  My two favourite dishes:  the awesome eggplant dish (I couldn't tell it was eggplant -- smooth, well-spiced, and satisfying), and the Shrimp Dhingri with mushroom & tomato sauce:  flavourful mushrooms and giant, fresh shrimp smothered in a great sauce.  We had two chicken dishes, Chicken Masala, and Chicken Vindaloo.  Both delicious but somewhat similiar.  Note to self:  order one chicken dish in a sauce next time.  The Sag paneer (home-made cheese in spinach mixture) was really nice.  Fresh naan (we got regular and garlic), and good rice made it a home run.

I do have some advice about ordering form this place: portions are ever slightly more generous than other places I've been, so for groups of 4 or more, I would order one dish less than the number of people.  For 3, you might want to get 2 dishes and an appetizer.  I would probaly also recommend coming here with 4 or more people to sample a variety of foods as they complement each other so well.

Cost for food:  $20 per person, though $18 or $17 would have worked if we had ordered a bit more optimally.  I could also make $15 per person work if needed.

So, check this place out if you're feeling it.  I certainly hope to do so again.  Drop me a line if you're interested and I'll join you!

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