We Paint Like the BOMB, Though at Paint Nite Toronto!

Banu Iranian Restaurant and Vodka Bar at 777 Queen Street West in Toronto.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Once upon a time, drawing was all I’d ever do. I carried sketchbooks and supplies wherever I went, transforming my imagination into all sorts of pieces. I don’t know when I stopped, but if you’ve got a good thing going, never stop, because you never know when you’ll pick it up again.

Other than sketches in the margins of meeting notes done in ballpoint pen, my days of drawing had become a distant memory — a dream deferred, perhaps never getting the chance to see reality.

But that doesn’t mean I ever stopped thinking about it. When I daydream, it’s like an animated movie playing out in my head, all my characters playing their part in a grand sci-fi odyssey. But I never make the time to make the ideas in my cranium any more than that — mere thoughts.

Which is what made Buytopia’s invite to a Paint Nite so appealing.

SPONSORED POST: Take me out to the Ball Game — A Buytopia Deal

Escobar signs a ball and asks Patrick Burke to give it to me.

My Dad loves baseball. I don’t know whether it’s something hearkening from his days in Jamaica or a burning desire to show patriotism in his later life as a Canadian, but he’s fiercely followed the progress of the Toronto Blue Jays for as long as I can remember.

There must’ve been a time where sports played a greater role in my life as well; I remember one birthday where I was thoroughly excited that I was going to a Jays game with my Dad — on the 100 Level of the SkyDome, no less… the good seats.

I know there’re likely a number of Torontonians out there still reeling from the  Stanley Cup slipping through the Maple Leafs’ fingers for the 46th time — but never fear, baseball’s here!

A WEEK IN THE LIFE… Sodas, Saving and Bowling

Sunday, May 5th – May 11th, 2013

Not all weeks are created equal. Some have events that you may have waited ages for, like a vacation, a birthday or a milestone in your life – but some will pass by in the blink of an eye, without you fully realising what you did or why you did it.

So, in the spirit of making the most of the life I have, every now and then I’d like to put together posts called “A Week in the Life…”, a quick look at the madness I get up to and the lessons I learn from my experiences (if any).

Let’s start with May 5th through 11th!

SUNDAY the 5th

Saw Iron Man 3, and despite some clever one-liners, was generally underwhelmed by the closing act of the Iron Man trilogy. Also planned some downtime — a picnic down at the Toronto Islands, because you can’t be on “go time” all the time.

MONDAY the 6th

Went to ING Canada’s #SaverSearch as a +1 and got to see the launch of their ING Superstar Saver Search with their special guests and partners, Walk Off the Earth 🙂

TUESDAY the 7th

Hit up the Scarborough Dishcrawl to see what Wexford Heights had to offer.

WEDNESDAY the 8th

Got an email from Nicole letting me know that we were only a week away from BiSC and to get ready!

THURSDAY the 9th

I took Sarah to Kraft’s SodaStream promo events at 2nd Floor Events.

What we got:

  • SodaStream-carbonated drinks
  • appetizers
  • a SodaStream source and Country Time lemonade mix
  • candy

How it was:

Okay. Mostly mingled and took photos; we had a good chat with someone we met named Avery about travel, Twitter and how the Internet is changing the way we live. But the SodaStream is ridiculously amazing! We’d put it in action at Sarah’s birthday party later in the week (see below)

Danforth Pizza House

FRIDAY the 10th

Got together with some fellow Ingress players from the Enlightened faction at Pour Girl to socialize…

A Week in the Life May 11 2013 (8 of 39)

…and later hit up Bite Bar to get what would turn out to be some delicious miniature cupcakes… (Buytopia Deal: http://www.buytopia.ca/deal/3546/?a_aid=4de9b34e683ca?skip=true&a_aid=casepam)

 

 

…ending the day with some Indian from Banjara Indian Cuisine, eaten with Sarah’s siblings to celebrate her birthday 🙂

weekend 11-12 pics-1

SATURDAY the 11th

We wrapped up the week with Sarah and a number of her friends to celebrate a milestone birthday that I won’t mention any more specifics on. It was a good time at the house and at Danforth Bowl, and I’m prettysure she enjoyed herself!

Until next time,

–case p.

I AM NOT A FOODIE: G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar

G... for Gelato and Espresso Bar — Shant Behesnilan and Faema

G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar

Seating: Around 30

Address: 75 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON

Location: Jarvis/Adelaide

Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence

Food type: Italian fare and gelato


Shant Behesnilan is a man who’s passionate about customer service. He’s done what many only dream of — making the jump from working a safe job to working the right job.

With a family history in the restaurant trade, Shant grew up working in all areas behind the scenes at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale, California (aka one of the favourite Armenian restaurants of the Kardashians), owned by his uncle, Ara Kalfaian.

After travelling the path of many a Canadian — go to school, get a job, pay your dues — Shant soon discovered that life behind a desk wasn’t for him and went on a quest for something different.

Originally looking to open a frozen yogurt shop, Shant was thrice denied by fate, once having lost out on a lease to Menchie’s by seconds; once seeing a Yogurty’s opening up across the street from a spot he was viewing; and when he looked one last time, up the street was G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar, a family-owned business founded in November 2011 that had astounding family recipes covered, but to take customer service to the next level, needed some outside help.

Under Shant’s new management and ownership as of fall 2012, G for Gelato has a ton going for it — a scenic view of St. James Park across the street, authentic Italian food and customer service that brings it all together.

The good thing about doing reviews for Buytopia.ca is that it gets me to find cool places in Toronto that I wouldn’t make time to visit otherwise, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this one!

With recipes coming from a small Italian town and brought to Toronto for our delight, G for Gelato has a lot going for it:

  • it’s ranked #1 of 4,065 restaurants in Toronto on TripAdvisor
  • all the food’s made in-house, especially the gelato made daily at 7:30 AM with hand-squeezed flavours, pasteurized for healthiness and rotated more often than your average gelato shop
  • pizzas cooked in a Moretti Formi Amalfi Vintage oven imported from Italy
  • espressos made with a Faema Emblema machine based on designs from Giorgetto Giugiaro (who’s designed some obscure cars called Lamborghinis and Ferraris to name a few)

Sarah and I had a great time getting to know Shant and his team, and I hope to visit again sometime. If you don’t happen to make it to the St. Lawrence Market area, they’re also delivering through orderit.ca, so you can get your gelato… and eat it too! (Especially if you take advantage of the Buytopia deal on until end-of-day Sunday, March 24, 2013!)

G for Gelato and Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

–case p.

[Disclaimer: As a Buytopia Inner Circle blogger, I get to test deal out to give you an honest review so you know what you’re getting into. Shant was kind enough to comp the delicious meal! Thanks, Shant!]

The Lords of Winter — A Buytopia Skiing/Snowboarding Deal at Skyloft

Casey and friends at Horseshoe Valley, 2006.
2006 was a simpler time with whiter snow, colder winters and a serious need for adrenaline!

It’s -14°C outside, feeling like -21 with windchill. To everyone who’d complained that we weren’t getting a white Christmas, I hope you’re happy now.

It’s been ages since I’ve gone skiing (February 21, 2006 to be precise). I remember the last time I was on the slopes — barely knew what I was doing, but hitting hills because I could (and not doing a very good job of it). Winter sports have never been my forte, but when in Rome….

There’s No Business Like SNOW Business!

I’ve never been a fan of winter.

My parents always say that being born in Canada, I’d be used to the cold by now — but come on. I have my parents’ West Indian genes and the blood of someone who loves the heat flowing through his veins — how’re the cold and I gonna be friends?

To be honest, I’m probably the worst Canadian ever. I don’t follow hockey. I don’t drink Tim Horton’s coffee. And anything that has to do with water (frozen or not) that’s not a shower? Fuhgeddaboutit!

But where I see the snow and cold outside and think of it as a pain in the ass, I know there’re friends of mine who look at it and see opportunity. The friends who run straight to their sleds and toboggans (which I, too, hope to check off my list), or even better — to their skis and snowboards.

If You Like Going Down Hills of Snow at Ridiculous Speeds, DO I HAVE A PROPOSITION FOR YOU!!!

Having fun on the slopes doesn’t come cheap, though! If you go without your own equipment, there’s rental fees, the cost of a day pass, the change to use the ski lift, and heaven help you if you need to grab a meal or stay overnight!

Buytopia’s made the entire process a little easier, though, in a recent offering of a cheap deal where you can pay $45 for a Day Lift Pass and equipment rental, or $59 for a Day and Night Lift Pass with equipment rental at Skyloft up in Uxbridge, ON. An hour northeast of Toronto, Skyloft Ski Resort markets itself as the “best ski resort” with “the highest elevation in the area” — with only a short distance from the big city and these kinds of prices, how could you go wrong?

So if you want to go skiing, better do it soon — global warming waits for no one, the winters ain’t as cold as they used to be, and you only have a couple of days to take advantage of this deal at Buytopia, so if moving down hills of snow at ridiculous speeds is your thing, get off your butt and go save some money!

Go scope some slopes!

–case p.

[Disclosure: I wrote this post as a member of the Buytopia.ca Inner Circle, where we try goods and services before blogging about them and earn affiliate percentages for successful sales. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]

I AM NOT A FOODIE: Cooking With Chef Pino, the Chef on Two Wheels

A shot of the van Chef Pino drives to carry all the goods for his services!
He’s had to upgrade to four wheels since his start all those years ago, but everything else remains much the same!

Today we take a short break from the November to Remember series to talk about an amazing experience I had last night, which involved one of the few things that’ve paralyzed me in my tracks for years —

cooking.

Back when my Dad used to run a restaurant, he would give me my first set of jobs ever. While I was really good at customer service and bookkeeping, there was one thing I really sucked at — and that was anything having to do with the kitchen.

No matter how hard I tried, I could never do prep work fast enough. Or cook anything right. The only thing I was good at in the kitchen was messing up. So after I got through that horrendous experience, I never got anywhere near cooking again!

So imagine my surprise when Buytopia.ca offered me the chance to get a 2-hour cooking class, where Chef Pino Padula would teach me how to make a 5-course meal, presumably without burning down the house!

Who is Chef Pino?

A shot of Chef Pino from his website.
Chef Pino at work. Source: http://thechefon2wheels.com/main/

Born and raised in Bari, Italy, Chef Pino got an early start in the restaurant biz when his father would pay him 10¢ a day to do dishes. Many days (and many more dishes) later, he would save up enough to buy his first bicycle. Continuing to work in restaurants as he went through his teenage years, more responsibility meant more money, the bicycle became a motorcycle and the legend of The Chef on 2 Wheels was born!

Chef Pino is an extremely personable gentleman who strives to get to know his clients and treats everyone with the same amount of respect. You get the same Chef Pino whether you spent your last dime hiring his services or you’re working on making your next million. He’s polite, he’s classy and he’s secure enough in knowing what he’s doing that he has no problem sharing his recipes and methods with you!

And for a couple of hours, he was bringing decades of experience (from such celebrated places as Toulà and catering for celebrities at both Toronto Fashion Week and the Toronto International Film Festival) to my home so he could teach me a thing or two… hundred.

The 5-course menu was lavish and offered tastes of things I normally wouldn’t have without finding a nice Italian restaurant to visit. The menu included:

Meat Menu

Appetizers: Thinly Slices Beef Carpaccio with Lemon Oil Dressing & Parmigiano Shavings

Pasta: Penne Alla Vodka

Intermezzo: Scroppino with Chaffonade Mint & Pink Peppercorn

Main Course: Encrusted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin  with swiss Cheese & Caramelized Onions

Dessert: Classic TAJAN Vanilla Ice cream in Affogato

Source: http://www.buytopia.ca/deal/2230/?skip=true&a_aid=casepam

Here’s a look at some of the prep work and outcomes of the food I got to try — everything was delicious!!!

What I Learned from Chef Pino Padula

You can’t help but learn from Chef Pino. There were little tips and tricks I’d pick up as he worked — like not putting the sauce in the skillet until the onions are translucent, or that hard cheeses go with pork and soft ones with chicken — but here’s 3 key lessons I’ll take with me when I try to make meals of my own!

1. You Can’t Make Good Food from Ingredients Gone Bad!

Chef Pino would emphasize multiple times that the thing giving his food so much flavour was its freshness. He buys everything as close to the prep date as possible, only holding on to ingredients for short periods of time before they’re no longer good — and his attention to detail definitely pays off!

2. You Get What You Pay For

You might think that a sauce is a sauce is a sauce, but Chef Pino would tell you how wrong you are. He showed us that cheaper sauces include seeds and skins, making them bitterer the longer you cook them, while premium sauces had neither, making them sweeter the longer they simmer. And he had tips for every ingredient.

3. Eat the Food the Way You’re Meant To Eat It

When I went to another course without cleansing my palate first, Chef Pino pointed out that I wouldn’t be getting the true flavour of the food. After following his advice and taking a mouthful of sgroppino, I could note flavours that I never would have tasted otherwise! So here it’s important to:

  • use a palate cleanser
  • eat the food fresh off of the stove
  • eat enough to appreciate the food but not so much that you regret it — your state of mind is part of the dining experience

Years later, my Dad would tell me that there was a lesson he wanted to teach me those days I spent in his kitchen staff:

“I want you to learn about the things you hate to do so you’ll go out and do amazingly at the things you love.”

While he may have been right that cooking wouldn’t be my secret to success, I don’t think he intended to turn me off from cooking forever.

Before Chef Pino came along, the kitchen would be the last place you’d ever find me. I’d take any chore over cooking if ever given the choice.

It only took two hours for Chef Pino to give my confidence back, and in the end that’s better value than I would’ve gotten from any cooking show.

Have We Tempted You?

If you want to try this experience  yourself, Buytopia has a deal for Chef Pino’s services! Instead of the $320 you’d normally shell out for the service I just described, you can score it for $99!!! Vouchers are good until December 16, 2013; he also offers fish and vegetarian menus; and can come to any house in the GTA. These make awesome Christmas, anniversary or birthday gifts for the people who already have everything and are impossible to shop for. (To be honest, I got a couple of vouchers, myself!)

You can check the deal out here: http://www.buytopia.ca/deal/2230/?skip=true&a_aid=casepam

And if that’s not enough incentive, I had some good chats with Chef Pino himself, and he’s informed me that this just might be the last round of discounts before it goes back up to full price forever! The deal’s only on until midnight Sunday, December 16, so if you want it, you’d better get it while it’s hot!

Thanks for reading, and if you do get the chance to try what Chef Pino has to offer, let me know how it goes!

–case p.

Next Up: Back to A November to Remember, Caribbean Edition!

[Disclosure: I wrote this post as a member of the Buytopia.ca Inner Circle, where we try goods and services before blogging about them and earn affiliate percentages for successful sales. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]