Monday, February 13, 2006

Reviews Galore: 3 stage performances, 3 restaurants and a movie

Yikes. What a weekend. No rest for the wicked and debaucherous.

Friday. 8 PM. Toronto.

Dinner at Da Gianni & Maria Trattoria on St. Clair roughly 10 blocks west of Bathurst St.

I ask the waiter for a menu recommendation bearing in mind my penchant for pasta that is both creamy and full-flavored. I have little sissy taste buds you see, so I always demand a lot of spice or what not. He plugs the Tagliolini Della Langhe. I order it and it is seriously TDF (that is - too die for - in cool kid lingo - I hope. Truth is I’m going out on a limb here. I don’t know any cool kids). ‘Twas aburst with flavor and oh-so-creamy. An utter delight at only $22 if I correctly recall. The portion was responsible. Not too big. Not too small. I appreciate that.

My dinner/theatre companion - Rockin’ Roddie goes kookoobananas over the orange-flavored black olives. Utterly kookoobananas I tell you. (Apologies to those of you whom I promised I would stop saying kookoobananas. Last time. I swear.) They were indeed scrumptious but - you know. They’re just olives, man. Small things amuse great minds, I guess.

So the chef, Gianni Poggio, comes by and is friendly and animated but brief of course. He’s a busy guy. He asks how the food is.

“Lovely. Delightful,” we say.

“Bravo!” I add, all proud of my sophistication and the ethnic authenticity of my comment. But they one-up me at the next table.

“Magnifico!” they shout. So I stick my tongue out at them and give them the finger.

The Cologno Chianti Rufina 2000 is almost silky enough to make this former Chianti fan a Chianti fan again.

The service is strictly excellent. The waiter shows up every moment we could use him, is engaging and tolerates our inane chatter with good-natured grace. It’s one of those rare encounters where I get to pull this little stunt:

I demand to see the manager who seems slightly frightened of me upon arrival. I bark, “THIS waiter…” (while said waiter sweats profusely) “…gave me the best service I’ve had in years! I insist you double his salary! That’s all. Go on now. Get me my bill, Chop-chop!”

Both parties exhale with relief and go get on with their lives and pray they never see me again. I then leave a 20% tip which marginally disappoints the waiter having just been told he’s the best I’ve had in years but hey - waiters make more money than I do so suck it up, I say!

That waiters work harder than I do is beside the point.

9:30 PM

Down St. Clair a block to the Zemra Lounge, haven of chrome and veneer, for some live music. Rings of June are slotted to play the first and third sets and are touting a new bass guitarist. He is sports journalist and touring solo children’s musician Ben Knight. He’s also a pal of mine and a character of the most free-spirited variety.

I forget the name of the middling band. Shame on me. Something Train perhaps? Soul Train? No. Freedom Train? Train in Spain? The Train in Spain Chugs Mainly Down the Drain? I give up. Can’t do it. They’re young and loud and full of piss and vinegar. I like the guitarist with the grey suit jacket and the Beatlish mop top.

Sarah, the lead singer/songwriter/pianist for Rings of June has an enchanting voice - akin to Loreena McKennitt I would say, and I would make the same comparison with regards to some of her music. Rockin’ Roddie prefers to compare her to Sara McLaughlin, Celine Dionne and Kate Bush but he’s still swooning over the orange olives and not thinking straight.

She and singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeff Stamp are the architects of the band that also included a drummer and two violinists on this night. I would prefer to call them ‘fiddlers’ but I can’t be certain that’s not some kind of faux-pas.

Unfortunately things go rather astray and rather quickly. The sound system goes schizophrenic. The violins are mute. Jeff’s mike peters out. I count only two or three songs where all six musicians take part. On one of these occasions I finally get into it. I dig the song. I feel the energy. We finally have some momentum. The song ends and four of the members go and sit down in deference to a pending duo performance. We never get on track after that. I presume the fleebing sound system is plenty to blame. Stamp is noble and declares responsibility for the technical bamboozlement.

“God’s been after me all day,” he explains. I find that concept rather fascinating. That God was after him all day and he has not yet been done in is high testament to his durability I must say.

The rest of the night amounts to a jam session. This is kind of fun actually. A casual environment. There’s enough inspiring moments to guarantee my return and probably soon, and to get a few bucks out of me for a copy of their CD.

Saturday. 3:30 AM.

We finally make it back to Rockin’ Roddie’s house for a modicum of sleep. His ten-year-old daughter is at mom’s house this week. I sleep in her bedroom surrounded by stuffed horses.

Speeking of sleep. It’s getting late. We’ll have to pick this up tomorrow…


Dave said...

You tight bastard. And I don't mean that in the good way either! :o)

It looks like waiterrant is right. He has said several times that people who go on and rave about how great the service is to the server or management usually leave a shitty tip.

OK, 20% isn't pathetic, but it's what should be tipped for "good" service. Spectacular service should warrant 30-40% or more, especially if it's the best service you've had in years!

Oh ya...and that kookoobananas thing has GOT to go! Don't make me come over there!!! you remember KooKoo Taffy? That stuff rocked.

Bugs & fishes,

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

40 per cent? What are you, crazy?

You probably think that picture framers should get tipped just for getting the damn thing square!

I don't remember KooKoo Taffy but I remember Bugs & Fishes.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. How I loves the bugs & fishes...

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