Believe it or not, I have never been to Central America or Canada; never, that is, until I went to Toronto this month! This was only my second foreign business trip, the first being another sports story in Argentina, and thanks to some awesome friends who live there, I squeezed a great time into what might have been an all-business... well... business trip!
For dinner we checked out Real Sports, a huge sports bar and restaurant with seductively dressed waitresses, and one TV screen larger than some movie theater screens I've paid for. The big wall of TVs was controlled by an all-powerful DJ with light and sound affects who switches between sports games and music when every channel is showing commercials. Basically, an amazing pace to watch sports.
Naturally, I ordered the first thing that said "Canada" and "IPA"from the drink menu, and I Alexander Keith's is what came out. I was disappointed to find it was more akin to an English IPA, malty with - I'm guessing, a rather low IBU. I am not calling this a bad beer; it just wasn't what I prefer.
But any excitement lost over the beer was completely overshadowed by my first authentic poutine! Poutine is french fries, cheese curds and gravy and Canadians go on and on about how good, and how unsatisfactory poutine outside Canada, is. I can now now say with experience: Canadians, I get it. You are right. I had a "Canadian burger" too, but by then I was so full, I could barely eat half.
After dinner and some prep work for the next day, two friends from my Hiroshima days, one Japanese, one Canadian, met me up and took me out for a drink! Both friends had individually hung out with me in New York City, so being able to see them on their turf, and while on a business trip, made it extra special! The bar we chose was The Friar and Firkin, a nice bar with fun decorations. This time I did find a deliciously hoppy Canadian IPL called "Hops & Bolts". I really enjoyed seeing them, but we had all worked long days, so after a drink and some fine conversation, we said our farewells. When did we become so responsible!?! Haha.
|「Friar and Firkin」というパッブで一杯飲みながら|
The next morning, I actually got up extra early to meet another friend, Tom, for coffee. I hadn't seen or heard from Tom in several years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Tom is one of a number of my Canadian friends who have such a good heart, I want to do an anthropological study of Canadian to see what they're doing so right. We chatted as long as time allowed, and then we were both of to work.
That day, I worked about two days worth as the rain alternated between a dusting and visibility-impairing, but while the hours were long, my team were very used to working together, which left me with mostly driving, logistics, and food. I didn't mind that one bit though, and I did chip in with the actual news producing, too.
The cool thing about the Blue Jays, besides their logo, is their baseball stadium has a fully retractable roof! Something they chose not to do this cold, windy, rainy night. I can't imagine what playing baseball must be like without any trouble from the elements, but I'm guessing the players didn't mind! While Tanaka pitched, we headed back to the Real Sports bar to interview customers watching the game on that monster screen and my three-day, all-access pass went almost completely to waste. Oh well.
By the time we wrapped up for the day, I found myself making midnight dinner reservations at a Chinatown hole-in-wall restaurant with sky-high ratings on Google Maps (my secret weapon in choosing food locations). The joint looked like a scene from a movie that serves as a front for a back-house illegal gambling ring, but the food was legit!!!
Here's the restaurant, in case you want to go. Kom Jug Yuen. The portions are big, prices cheap, food is great, and the server: weird. He really loves his Heinekin. It's imported, from Netherlands, he repeatedly reminded us as he drank the last can in the shop. He actually declined to sell it to us, so he could drink it!
My hotel, right by the ballpark and CN Tower, which looked great at night, was also located on the harbor front and next to a great-looking microbrewery I never had time to try.
Although I have talked a lot more about beer in this post than previously, (spoiler, I have one more beer to tell you about!) because I was driving for the crew this entire trip, I drank very little.
I have one more friend to brag about too! Another Canadian who I've known since studying in Japan in college (9 years ago, ack!) took me out to breakfast my last morning in Canada to a place called Fran's. I guess by now you can guess what I have to say: Great food, great company, and I'm super grateful for the chance to catch up with an old friend after so many years. We figured out the last time we had met was in Japan, six years before, in Kobe!
My colleagues wanted to make one last stop for lunch before flying home, and chose a place in the Distillery District, which during the U.S. prohibition was the largest alcohol manufacturer in North America. Now a mere shadow of that former glory, the remaining buildings have been remodeled into a sort of shopping mall with lots of arts and craft shops, another microbrewery (Seriously Toronto, I'm impressed with all the craft beer! Next time I need to actually drink it!), a small sake brewery(!), and our destination: Pure Spirits Oyster House.
After eating way too much seafood, I dropped my crew off for their flight, returned the rental car, and waited for my flight back to NYC. That's where I tried that last beer I promised, a delicious IPA from the Great Lakes Brewery. As you can tell by the name, I felt it was the appropriate end to my first trip to Canada.
Here are a couple parting images from Toronto:
Yup, that's Captain America promoting the new movie, and frozen yogurt, in Canada. Amazing...
Another fun fact about Toronto, their biggest cab company is called... BECK! It was oddly comforting seeing my name everywhere I drove.
So Canada was great, eh!? Hope you enjoyed reading. Of course I had to pick up a souvenir, and what better than this? Until next time, friends!