Feed Me: Fall-Winter Menu launch at The Whippoorwill

Hi there,

cake
Have I got your attention yet?
Rich and sweet ice box cake.
Goodies inside included cocoa, graham crackers, toasted hazelnuts, and preserved blackberries. Here’s the kicker: the candy coated fennel seeds (the ones you typically find at Indian Restaurants after a meal)!

I had the pleasure of partaking in an intimate dinner hosted by Fat Girl Food Squad’s Ama Pod. At this particular event, we got to sample newly launched Fall/Winter fare from The Whippoorwill. It’s a cozy restaurant located right across from Landsdowne station in Toronto.

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The space inside and our table.
The lovely Ms. Ama herself seated in front of the chalkboard.

I had been to this spot before for brunch but never for an evening meal so this was quite a treat. I had raved before about their ethereally light- flaky biscuits, as well as their sky high, fluffy pancakes– so suffice it to say– I was hankering for good dinner eats from them too!

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Our meal started at 6pm but by 8pm, this place was packed.

Without further ado– here are the drinks (admittedly– I was a lightweight in this area– I couldn’t keep up with the pace) we sipped and the food we noshed on. Note: I’m choosing to present them in no particular order– however– they were thoughtful in the progression of our meal.  We started with salads and lighter fare then moved onto richer proteins. We finished with desserts. After each round of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, there would be a cocktail pairing to go along with the flavour profiles.

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Korean Ribs. A mountain of delicious flavour. Nice char on the meat and it was quite tender and succulent. It came with king mushrooms, scallions, and topped with sesame seeds.
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And the beet goes on… 😉
Okay, featured here is a winter spiced beet salad with walnut pesto, muscatel vinaigrette for some tang, and topped with chunks of pungent Thornloe Stilton. It was a nice marriage of tang (vinaigrette), sweetness (beets), and richness (from the cheese)
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Fancy drink #1 made for us
In the mix: brown butter, cava and aromatic bitters
Creamy and sweetly nutty.
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Roasted Cauliflower- one of our apps. It reminded me of a Moroccan rice dish. Heady cumin, sprinkling of sultana raisins, sweet caramelized onions, almonds, and finished with parsley.
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Another pretty plate.
Rosemary Cured Coho- Paper thin slivers topped with puffy popcorn-esque quinoa, salted cucumber, and creamy horseradish.
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Dessert (one of the three we devoured)
Apple Crumble with spiced rolled oats and tamarind ripple ice cream (like the hint of sour the tamarind brought to the party).
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Frothy head of a cocktail. It was our post-dessert cocktail
The Lemmy: Alberta premium dark horse rye, Murphy’s Irish stout reduction, maple, agave. Lemon, sailor Jerry’s spiced rum foam, scrappy’s celery bitters.
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Game– on: Rich braised duck leg. It came with a sweet and sour cipolline, it sat on a bed of swiss chard and surrounded by pot roasted carrot spears.
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Handmade gnocchi (one of my favourite dishes of the evening– needed to be a bigger size!)
It came with soft braised beef nuggets and dusted with brown butter powder– this gave it bursts of nutty sweetness. A textural pleasure too.
Chef's Menu
Thank you Chef Cunningham for all the comfort fare!
The Space inside. Cozy diner meets eclectic coffee house
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They have a penchant for Mickey

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See what I mean? 😉
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The menu of eats– we got to sample a number of items off this list of goodies
Pickerel
The last main before dessert.
Great Lakes Pickerel: it sat on roasted squash wedges. The fish wore a coat of pine nut crumble. The dish came with cerignola olives and spiced squash sugo.
Fish had a nice sear and the flesh was meaty and creamy.
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The third dessert:
Skip- hop- over to Butterscotch Pudding-ville. It came with sponge candy and salted caramel. Cute touch with the presentation.
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Diablo Verde: Spiked love in a glass
Tromba blanco tequila, green chartreuse, lemon, housemade poblano syrup, maldon, Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters.

A kind thanks to Ama for the invitation and Chef Tyler Cunningham for the meal.

For more info about The Whippoorwill Restaurant and Tavern (to make reservations, times, etc) visit http://www.thewhippoorwill.com/

The Whippoorwill on Urbanspoon

Part 2: Chef Christina Tosi and Momofuku Milk Bar Opening in Toronto

Hi there,

Poster

As promised, here is part two of the Momofuku Milk Bar and Chef Christina Tosi story:

Milk Bar Cookbook
Milk Bar Cookbook

When desserts were first offered on the menu, in the beginning, Tosi would bake and slice to order then plate up all the desserts.  As line-ups began forming, it was apparent that this approach was no longer sustainable.  People loved not only Chang’s food, but Tosi’s sweet creations as well!  Being observant to the needs of the masses, Chang knew there was something to be gained from allowing her to expand her menu offerings.  8 1/2 years later and 6 Milk Bars throughout the United States and Canada, it’s safe to say he made a good choice in allowing her to exercise her craft with sugar, flour, butter, and eggs.

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As a self- described glutton for punishment, being with Chang’s empire for almost a decade has taught her a lot.  Again, her penchant for numbers shows through as her logical minded approach is what has allowed Milk Bar to flourish and continue to build momentum in its successes.  For instance, when making the Cake truffles, or layered cakes, it is done on a half sheet pan. This allows for a more even distribution of heat throughout the cake.  Circular cake tins run the risk of dry exteriors and uncooked or gummy interior.  In addition, once the cake round is stamped out of the rectangular pan, the lower height saves her staff time from having to cut the layers horizontally to frost; she can stack them immediately. The leftovers– ‘cake scraps’ she affectionately  dubs them as, are used to make the Cake Truffles.  Initially, they were given to the staff as a snack; after undergoing a transformation, it’s now the ever popular spheres with creamy interior we know and are all fond of.

Showing us one of her favourite recipes
Showing us one of her favourite recipes

With 3000-4000 Cake truffles being birthed in a day and double that during Christmas time, there are a number of tips Christina shared with us.  Firstly, the scraps are turned breadcrumbs with some scrunching of the hands.  To form the balls, flavored whole milk is added– this time she used clear vanilla extract.  When inquired about why clear was her preference, she said that vanillas such as the amber Tahitian one was missing that “je ne sais quoi ” flavour.  The clear vanilla was the missing piece of the puzzle in providing that unadulterated birthday cake taste.  She adds just enough milk to hydrate and tosses the crumbs together to form a moist ball.  They are doled out with a truffle scoop, the perfect size to pop into your mouth.  She takes some  melted white chocolate and using her hands, gives each ball a good even coat.  When the shell hardens, it not only provides a lovely ‘snap’ when you bite into one, but also helps to seal in the freshness.  The truffles are dropped into a crumb-sprinkle mix and ready to devour.

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This smart cookie is not one for having an ‘ego’ and letting relationships crumble.  She gives thanks to her friend and mentor David Chang as well as her parents who supported her; as a result, she’s been able to build one heck of a sweet empire.

Cake Truffles

Momofuku Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Go Now! Delicious Food Show Oct 25-27, 2013

Hi there!

Photography by Tiffany Leigh
Photography by Tiffany Leigh

Make sure you swing by the Better Living Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition this weekend for the Delicious Food Show.

I was there yesterday to sample some fabulous eats.  Those of which include fluffy doughnuts from Modern Jelly Doughnuts, hearty cheeses from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, flaky Aussie pies from Kanga, and loads of gourmet treats during breakfast with Ms. Stewart herself (almond croissants, earl grey macarons, and chai hot chocolate with torched marshmallows– oh my!)

On until this Sunday Oct 27, 2013 you’ll get to sample fare from talented chefs in the city, nosh on yummy eats from gourmet food trucks, and do some righteous chef celebrity spotting at the shows.  I’ve already spotted Chuck Hughes and met Martha Stewart.  It was quite a thrill!

For those who adore Iron Chef, make sure you don’t miss out on the grande finale of Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium.  It will be on this Sunday at 4pm and is slated to be THE culinary battle of the city!

Bring a hearty appetite and lots of time: you’ll want to plan out your day so you can catch the shows and interact with all the food vendors

For more information about the Delicious Food Show, schedules, etc. visit http://www.deliciousfoodshow.com/

Baking and Sweets Show: Have you been yet?

Hi there!

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Alice in Wonderland Cake a la Johnny Depp!!

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From now until this Sunday, stop by the Toronto Congress Centre to enjoy all things sweet, baked, and delightful.

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I was at the Baking and Sweets Show yesterday where I sampled lots of delectable cakes, squares, tarts, cupcakes, chocolates, macarons,… and loads more! It was certainly a sugar- high of a day!

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Not only were there desserts to devour, but plenty of fantastic equipment and kitchen gear to stock up on.  Best of all, the prices during the show’s run are pretty much unbeatable– and the quality– pretty much jaw dropping.  In fact, I found my a few of favourite brands of chocolate and cocoa powder there for fantastic prices.  (Callebaut and Guittard.. they were just missing Valrohna!.. My holy Trinity!)

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Tower of flaky pastries and baklava

Speaking of being kitchen equipped, I saw the new line of Baking gear from Buddy Valastro that Canadian Tire will be offering to all of us fine Canadian Folks. The quality of the devices looked quite durable and as I was reading a few of the labels, the wooden spoons I saw were made of just that– the real deal– rather than being diluted with a cheaper substance.

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In addition to filling your bellies at the show, you can also partake in a few of their informative workshops and even try your hand as an assistant.  There are a number of stages at the show that will fit whatever you’re hankering to learn about (i.e. decorating, fondant, exotic ingredients,etc)

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Kids will also be pleased to know that there’s an Easy Bake Area for them too!  They can be artists to their own cupcake and decorate it to their heart’s content.

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Keeping in line with the Alice in Wonderland Theme, I saw a series of cakes that were in a word… breathtaking.  They are truly a sight to behold! All the intricate details: from Alice to the Cheshire cat– you must go and see for yourself in person what I’m referring to.

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I had an opportunity to speak with Master French Chef Christian Faure who has cooked for royalty and worked alongside some of the greats (i.e. Alain Ducasse) as well as Brian Emmett, winner of The American Baking Competition 2013 on CBS who was Crowned Americas Top Amateur Baker.

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Here is a recap of my mini Q&A with Chef Faure.  (*There was a bit of a language barrier– aka fail on my lack of remembering my French!.. so Emilie Cobbold, one of the staff members, was fortunately– on hand to do the interpretation)

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After traveling around the world cooking and making pastries/desserts for the like of the Prince of Monaco, to the royal family in numerous Arab countries, to offering his showstopping art and chocolate works in the VIP village at the Vancouver and Salt Lake City Olympic Games, he began teaching at the Cordon Bleu in Ottawa.  This year, he decided to make the jump and open his own Culinary School in Montreal: Maison Christian Faure.  The school offers both formal training and workshops for those who simply wish to make it a pastime or learn about Baking and Pastries in general.  If the macarons with soft chocolate ganache are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the talents he has to offer, I think you’ll all be in for a treat if you choose to participate in one of his classes.  Make sure to drop by, say hi to him, and pick up a sample treat.

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Brian Emmett is a friendly and charming person.  Although we only had time to speak over the phone, he had a warmth and presence which allowed me to understand why everyone

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A few things to note from our chat:

– He began Baking when he was 6 years old.. and as an adult, he enjoyed baking for his friends and family as a host and entertainer when they held house parties and dinners.

– With his newfound fame, his desire is to continue with his passions in baking– whether it’s hosting baking classes or teaching

– With his $250,000 winnings, most of it has gone into savings (*it was his wife’s choice 🙂 )

– He is writing a Book (Yay!).  It will be published by Simon & Schuster.  Look out for it in bookstores soon.

– His favourite thing to bake is a mascarpone cheesecake. He also mentioned that he makes a divine strawberries and cream version, as well as caramel apple.  All renditions sounded drool worthy.

– The sugar he uses? Redpath, but of course 😉

– Why is he attending the show? He wants to inspire people to get into the kitchen and continue to bake for pleasure and fun. Also, when you are passionate about something and persevere, you can acheive anything (Emmett won despite a severe injury to his ankle– he fractured it and throughout the competition had to go for therapy.  In spite of this roller coaster experience, he was still able to come out on top and crowned the champion

-Tell me one quirky fact: Brian loves to vacuum.  His favourite brands include Bissell, Dyson, and Kenmore

To purchase tickets, visit their website: http://www.canadasbakingandsweetsshow.com/buy-tickets

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Great and Informative shows hosted by folks of Redpath Sugar

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Dagwood Inspired Cake!
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Fondant Cake filled with Memories

Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show with The Cake Boss: Buddy Valastro!

Hi there!

Buddy Valastro: The Cake Boss

How Sweet it is!  Do you enjoy baking, sweets, and desserts like me?  Then you have to attend Canada’s Baking Sweets Show presented by sweet Sugar purveyors RedPath!

With an Alice in Wonderland theme, from September 27 to 29, 2013, we’ll get to venture down the rabbit hole and enter a world full of sugar, spice, and everything nice.

2013 CBSS Alice Website

I’m super excited to attend and hope you will be too!

An an avid baker 😉 …I’ll have an opportunity to speak with like-minded and dessert loving people.
The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro will be present to speak about his love affair with cakes and other delectable goodies; we’ll also get a sneak preview of his new Bakeware line at Canadian Tire.  I’m always on the hunt for durable pans so it will be interesting to hear him speak about the qualities we should look out for and why his line is a cut above the competition!

If you’re lucky enough to reside in the New Jersey area, you can sign up for technique/baking classes or order cakes from Carlos Bakery http://www.carlosbakery.com/

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Learn from Brian Emmett on what it takes to be crowned Top Amateur Baker on CBS’s The American Baking Competition.  I think his chat will resonate with many people who start out like him.  He’s a person who simply bakes because there’s a lot of pleasure to be derived from it; he reminds me that it’s always a positive to pursue your passions in life. It’s not just about workin’ the daily grind to bring home the bacon!

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 Also in the line-up, is Canada’s own Cupcake Girls (Heather and Lori) from B.C. to dish on the roller coaster of a ride it’s been so far in terms of running a bakery/sweets shop. With some great advice mixed in, alongside a dose of quirky and lighthearted storytelling, it’s guaranteed to be an enjoyable time. You can catch their show “The Cupcake Girls”, on WE tv.

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I cannot forget Chef Anna Olson: having met her on numerous occasions including at Ravine Vineyards (Niagara on the Lake) and the Eat to the Beat event (Willow Foundation, Breast Cancer Charity Gala), it will be a pleasure to see her take the stage at Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show.

I’m looking forward to hearing her speak about her successes, her favourite items to bake, tips on how to make the perfect cake, tart, cookies, etc., and for her to talk about her show ‘Baking’ on the Food Network.  At last! The return of a ‘non- drama/reality’ show that actually teaches you how to make desserts!

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Last but not least is French Chef Christian Faure M.O.F.  He has an impressive resume and his background and training in Baking and Pastry Arts had given him opportunities to work alongside the best and the brightest in the industry.  Although, it cannot be stressed enough that the man himself is quite a legend.

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From working in the Prince of Monaco’s Palace, alongside Chefs Mario Muratore and Alain Ducasse at the Grand Hotel de Paris, working for royal families in various Arab countries, gracing us with his presence with his beautiful creations in the VIP village at the Vancouver and Salt Lake City Olympic Games, to being the guest of honor at the G8 G20 Summit in Toronto, there’s no shortage of talent coming from this brilliant man.

The Baking and Sweets Show is at The Toronto Congress Centre (650 Dixon Road).

I recommend getting tickets online — you get them at a discounted rate. http://canadasbakingandsweetsshow.com/buy-tickets

Your best bet is to get the 3 day pass as the celebrity guests will be on stage throughout the span of the 3 day show.

For more information, schedules, directions, and mapping out your visit in terms of what you’ll want to devour and what goodies to buy for loved ones,  visit their website: http://canadasbakingandsweetsshow.com/home

buddy-valastro

#TIFF13 Recap: ConvergeTIFF, The Weinstein Company, and Star sightings

Hi there,

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(left to right)
Sean Stanleigh, Tommy Oliver, Nicholas Tabarrock, Stephen Bruno, Nico Bacigalupo and Massoud Abbasi

A meeting of the film industry minds occurred in the boutique Windsor Arms hotel during the last leg of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Aptly named Converge TIFF 3.0, Director Tommy Oliver, Executive Producer Nicholas Tabarrok (Darius Films), as well as Dani Weinstein (President of Publicity) and Stephen Bruno (Director of Marketing)– both from the Weinstein Company –comprised the panel of speakers who shared their thoughts about the film industry, TIFF’s performance and reputation on the world stage, and why our homegrown festival continues to be a powerhouse for international brands and companies to debut their films in.

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The event was hosted by Omega and Madflower Creative Groups; the panel was moderated by The Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business Editor, Sean Stanleigh.  The panel shared their insights into what makes TIFF so distinct, alluring, and an ideal launch pad for creative films to show in our city.  Reasons cited included Toronto and the general populace’s multicultural composition, its warmth and receptivity to the festival, as well as embracing it with pride and support.

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Other issues and insights shared by the panel included their stance on piracy and the surge in social media.  With regards to the former, Oliver fielded the question first.  Being a forward thinker, he said that he embraced piracy; rather than combat the problem and create ‘enemies’ or ostracize certain types of people, his hope was that bootlegged films watched by these individuals would impress them enough to motivate them to purchase the real thing.  And this indeed, does happen.  Much of his reaction and beliefs are fueled by the job he holds and the nature of the industry.  He’s resilient and able find find hidden opportunities.  Like the other panelists, his response is a testament to the continuing successes they’ve all achieved at festivals like TIFF.  Dani Weinstein said that the larger issue was that a pirated film would not do justice to how Harvey Weinstein and his company envisioned the film to be viewed as.  A shoddy version of a film seen on a computer screen for instance, would be more devastating to Weinstein; these individuals would be cheating themselves out of a true film-going experience.The panel shared positive sentiments towards social media. Not only does it connect individuals and creates a community full of sharing and dialogue, but that audiences supply valuable real-time feedback and critique about the film they’ve just seen.  As mentioned by Stephen and Dani, movie companies greatly value this information; it is a resource useful for marketing and business purposes.

IMG_6083A question of demographics was brought up.  The boomers are getting older and being retired, they have more time for leisurely pursuits– those of which include going to the movie theatre and watching films.  An audience member wondered where these targeted demographic films that contain mature actors and themes were.  Dani and Stephen half-jokingly said to look no further than their company.  They argued that films they carried such as The Artist (previous years), as well as The Butler, and August: Osage, for this year were geared towards an aging populace.

It was also interesting to hear about what we deem as ‘successes’ today and awareness of marketing capabilities– or lack thereof.  Dani mentioned that everyone now is familiar with Silver Linings Playbook but the campaign was an arduous undertaking.  It was a challenge to build up excitement for a film that was difficult to create a riveting ad campaign for.  Even with all the talented and well-known actors in the film, it was a challenge to get people into the movie theatres.  Chalk it up to good ol’ fashioned word of mouth (“it’s gold”)– the verbal buzz was actually the reason for the movie’s successes.  It spent a long time in the box office before anyone took notice of it.

Stephen used the documentary ‘Bully’ as another strong arguing point.  It is also difficult to market films that are ‘good for you’.  Despite the heartfelt message, again, it was difficult to get audiences into the theatre doors.  It just so happened that they were graced with a bit of luck when armies of American youths rallied against the R rating the film received.  As vocal advocates– again, word of mouth spread the message about the film and its importance to be seen by a broad audience.

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The question of celebrity vs. film was raised.  We are increasingly becoming a society obsessed with ‘stars’.  Does this necessarily mean that the movies in which these celebrities are featured in become hidden in the shadows?  Not so, says our panel.  Stephen mentioned that many foreign films or one that are relative ‘unknowns’ are gaining traction simply because they have a riveting plot-line or a talented director behind the lens.  As questions were opened to the floor, I had an opportunity to ask the panel which film they thought was the media darling this year regardless if stars were featured or not.  Oliver jokingly advocated for his film.  Dani Weinstein said that she did not have time to see many films at TIFF this time but used examples from the previous year; she cited successful films like Argo and Silver Linings Playbook. Bruno vouched for Tracks and Tabarrock gave his vote of support to Gravity.

TIFF is broadening its reach more than ever before.  Soon, we may even see apps to help us all navigate the festival and manage our time so we can catch more films.

One thing is certain: The Toronto International Film Festival is a 10-12 day affair riddled with excitement, film buffs, celebrity watchers, and those just looking for fun and parties.  This intimate panel discussion was a fantastic experience where our love of film and the movies afforded us an opportunity to speak with some industry heavy hitters.

Thanks to the Omega Group for the invitation to cover this event!

p.s. I didn’t forget– for your viewing pleasure– some more TIFF related fun in the city and some stars I was able to snap pictures of:

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“…Whoa…” taken right from the pages of The Matrix 😉

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Keanu Reeves!
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Kardinal Offishall

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#TIFF13 Recap: Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) Movie Premiere

Hi there,

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Thanks to the fabulous folks at Mongrel Media, I won passes for 4 to the premiere movie called Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) starring Fanny Ardant!

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I was so excited to be seated next to the talent in the film.  It was quite a whirlwind experience and I fully enjoyed just being a ‘movie-goer’.  Don’t misunderstand me though, while I adore covering events and am grateful to be invited to them, sometimes the best means of decompressing comes in the form of being a simple spectator.

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As I took my place in the cozy fold-down seats at Roy Thompson Hall, I experienced the animated and devoted nature of the ‘fans of film’.  It’s a culture and environment I hadn’t partaken in for some time so it was incredibly rewarding to do so now. From the spirited laughter, the exuberant cheers, to the pirate “Arrrrs” when a copyright notice appeared on screen– it reminded me how wonderful it was to watch a movie with people who are supportive and optimistic rather than critical and skeptical.

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It made me remember the purpose of the Toronto International Film Festival… a celebration of artistic, creative minds and showcasing these talents on the big, bright screen.  It’s interesting to note all these emotions I felt but after speaking with a few PR industry folks, it seems to be the norm to be caught up in the organizational aspects of TIFF but being unable to carve out time to see a film!  (*Hint! This is my next post– I attended a panel of speakers, those of which included executives from The Weinstein Company!)

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Bright Days Ahead is a bit of a pseudo-romantic comedy about a recently retired dentist named Caroline dite Caro (played by Ardant). As a gift, one of her daughters gives her a pass to Bright Days Ahead– essentially an ‘older/mature’ folks home where participants are free to sign up for workshops that enrich their lives.  As she is trying to hit her stride with the activities offered, in a series of events, she attends a computer class in the hopes of learning how to solve her internet woes at home with her husband.  Unknowingly, she enters into a dalliance with her younger ‘playboy’ instructor named Julien (Laurent Lafitte).

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As the number of trysts rise, the chance of being found out increases– including by her husband Philippe played by Patrick Chesnais… and the entire town, it appears.  As a dentist in a tight-knit community, she’s always been unavoidably in the spotlight.  As she posits, “I know half the town and the other half knows me!”  It is a heartfelt story and I encourage you to watch it to find out what happens in this twisted lust-love triangle.

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A warm THANK YOU and MERCI goes to Mongrel Media for awarding me tickets to see this film 🙂