Monday, June 16, 2008

Lumin-"eat"o At the Distillery

Luminato, now in its second year, is Toronto's "Festival of Arts and Creativity" that runs for 10 days in June. The Distillery District was a great place to partake in multiple Luminato events, which seemed to cater to all the senses. There were the usual street dancing and musical acts to be enjoyed by the eyes and ears. But this year, for the first time, a culinary component was added to stimulate your senses of smell and taste.

The concept behind One City, One Table was to promote diversity in dining opportunities in Toronto, while supporting the concept of a united community, by having everyone dine at a single 500ft long table that spanned across Mill Street. Top-named chefs from high-end restaurants across Toronto (e.g. C5, Perigee, Edo, etc) provided their versions of street food tastings for $5 per serving. A secondary motivation could have been to prove a point that these chefs have been making recently, which is that street food does not have to be confined to the boring hotdog carts that currently litter our streets.

Instead, we were treated to such delicacies as Crab and Lobster corn dog in an avocado aioli sauce, Kobe beef hotdog with sauerkraut, wild mushroom risotto topped with osso bucco served in a plastic champagne flute, and plantain chip wrapping a salad of chopped tomato, zucchini, red onion and avocado, topped with a jumbo shrimp skewered by a sugar cane. Granted, I think we'd be holding our breaths to expect such treats to start showing up on regularly on street corners, but it does open the imagination to what improvements could be achieved in this area.

In addition to this eating feast, there were many other fun events available at the Distillery for Luminato. Visual arts ranged from a 100 ft continuous mural, to drawings by school children, to "performance art" involving shoes thrown on telephone wires, and the stories behind them, which were posted on the telephone poles.

Inside the Young People Theatre, we watched 3 original short skits written, acted and directed by young, up-and-coming talent from Toronto. The skits ranged from insightful dialogue about a withering relationship, to witty repartee between two distant cousins discussing the implications of one cousin's job as a call girl, to a 10 minute reenactment of all four books of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Each skit came with live musical accompaniment and foley sound effects.

A fascinating demonstration of glass blowing showed a non-descript blob of glass being transformed into an exotically decorative drinking goblet.

All in all, the Distillery District provided a one-stop location chock-full of interesting events that clearly fulfilled the goals of the Luminato festival.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Night-time stroll through Forest Hill

My friends and I decided to take a night-time stroll through the near-by Forest Hill neighbourhood to walk off our dinner and look at the gorgeous homes. Along the way, we encountered some really interesting sights and sounds.

First we were amazed by the size and beauty of the homes, with their immaculately landscaped front yards. We saw houses as big as churches; some with turrets or eyebrow windows, others with huge stone walls or hedges to protect their privacy from nosy voyeurs like us.

On one of the front lawns, nestled in midst an oasis of foliage was a bronze McElchern statue, depicting his iconic businessman seated and reading a newspaper. The house was even for sale. If only I had the money .. I would have bought it for the statue alone!

We passed by three teenage girls approaching us in the other direction, giggling and chatty happily. Something seemed unusual about the way they were dressed, but in the dark I couldn't quite register what it was. But as they passed as, they suddenly started to tug down on their tee-shirts self consciously and it became apparent that these girls were not wearing any pants!

As we turned the corner, we caught sight of a chauffeur, dressed in a navy blue uniform including the stereotypical chauffeur's cap. Melodic sounds of jazz brought the street alive, and as we got closer to the source, we saw the front of a home that had the entire walkway lit by glowing lanterns. Men in tuxedos and women in designer gowns started flowing out of the home towards their awaiting limos. Walking past the backyard, which was surrounded by tall hedges, we could barely make out the images of a garden party, complete with a sparklingly lit pool, champagne flutes and a live jazz singer and band. I felt a giddy euphoria at my sudden and unexpected exposure to the lives of the upper class.

Continuing on, we passed by Upper Canada College and heard loud chatter coming from the football field. Expecting to see a late night match, instead we encountered a group of tipsy students, seemly leaving their prom or formal. The girls were dressed in short tight glittering dresses while the boys had on tailored slacks and jackets. They looked like they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine.

Finally, the highlight of the evening for my friend occurred when he stumbled over a fully sealed bottle of beer that someone had accidentally dropped at the edge of their lawn. As he pocketed his souvenir from the walk, he happily pronounced this one of the best walks he'd ever been on, and that Forest Hill was the most hospitable neighbourhood which even provided free beer!

My only regret is that I did not bring my camera along to capture any of these memories.