Monday, 31 October 2011

Tattinger's Restaurant & Lounge, Barrie, ON

I had supper tonight at Tattinger's as it was in my hotel. I was tired (lots of driving and presenting earlier today) and didn't feel like going to far.

There are two parts ... the restaurant and the lounge with a windowed wall separating them. I sat on the lounge side and there were a handful of other tables of people. The lounge is cozy and comfy.

The menu has some interesting choices. I ordered the Chicken Parmigiana (only Ontario grain fed birds, a 6 oz breast butter flied, fried golden then topped with marinara sauce and a melted mozzarella parmesan blend, served over spaghetti with a rich meat sauce). My server warned me it was a large portion ... and it was.

It was okay ... the chicken is a good size with lots of cheese. The garlic bread was a bit too soggy. The spaghetti was okay.

My server was very friendly and helpful and took good care of everyone.

I'd come to the restaurant again if I was in the area. It wasn't great but it was okay.

Tattinger's Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Pizza Hut, Hamilton, ON

Steve and I had a client seminar to conduct in Hamilton today and we met at Pizza Hut on Main Street W for lunch.

I arrived first and was "greeted" by L, the manager of this location. By way of greeting, she said that the buffet was closed at 1:30 (it was just after that) and we'd have to order from the menu. No hello or anything ... just that.

I wandered over to look at the buffet as I was curious as to what a Pizza Hut buffet would have (I love pizza and pasta). L yelled over at me, "Ma'am, I told you the buffet was closed." So welcoming ... NOT!

When my colleague arrived, we both ordered calzones. When they arrived, they were mostly dough, burnt, extremely dry and had hardly any ingredients (mine was meat and his was pepperoni) ... just a bit in the middle. We didn't have time to reorder or go elsewhere so we ate them, laughing hysterically because they were so bad and our server was even worse.

We ate the middle part of the calzones and left most of the crust. When we left 20 minutes later and had paid the bill, our plates hadn't been removed.

L was extremely disinterested in her job. And it wasn't like the place was busy ... there were only three tables.

Given the nature of my job, I travel a lot so eat out quite often. This was the worst dining experience I have had in a long long long time. It was such a waste of $30. I'll never go back to this location again. With a manager like L, I'm sure a lot of people feel the same way.

Pizza Hut on Urbanspoon

November 1 update: I rarely write to a company to complain about poor service and food but I did about this experience. I left a comment on the Pizza Hut homepage. I got this email today from Customer Communications Representative, Yum! Restaurants International (Canada) Company:

Hi Teena,

Thank-you for your e-mail and we do apologize for the experience you had with a Pizza Hut Restaurant.

Please be advised that we have forwarded your concerns to the Franchise Group that owns and operates the restaurant. They will be in contact with you to review your experience at the restaurant and identify ways to address these challenges.

We sincerely appreciate being informed of this incident and thank-you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Have a lovely day ahead!

November 7 update: I got this email today from the Area Coach, Franchise Management Inc.:

Hello Teena,

I want to thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. I am sorry that your experience with our Pizza Hut was not an enjoyable one.

At Pizza Hut, we pride ourselves on serving a great product and providing a memorable experience. Since we were unable to do this on your last visit, I would like to invite you back to give us a try again. I will mail some vouchers to the address you have listed. They are honoured at multiple locations listed on the back.

We are looking forward to serving you again soon!

November 21 update: I received $30 in Pizza Hut coupons today which expire on December 31, 2011. They can be used in many locations ... alas, none in Toronto so I'll give them to Steve so he can use them when he visits his in-laws.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Book ~ "Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man" (2011) Chaz Bono

From Amazon ~ Chaz Bono's groundbreaking and candid account of a forty-year struggle to match his gender identity with his physical body and his transformation from female to male

At first, America knew the only child of Sonny and Cher as Chastity, the cherubic little girl who appeared on her parents' TV show. In later years, she became famous for coming out on a national stage, working with two major organizations toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights and publishing two books. And just within the past eighteen months, Chaz Bono has entered the public consciousness as the most high-profile transgender person ever.

All through the hoopla surrounding his change, Chaz has insisted on maintaining his privacy. Now, in Transition, Chaz finally tells his story. Part One traces his decision to transition, beginning in his childhood-when he played on the boys' teams and wore boys' clothing whenever possible-and going through his painful, but ultimately joyful, coming out in his twenties, up to 2008, when, after the death of his father, drug addiction, and five years of sobriety, Chaz was finally ready to begin the process of changing his gender. In Part Two, he offers an unprecedented record in words and photographs of the actual transition, a real-time diary as he navigates uncharted waters. These chapters capture the day-to-day momentum of his life as his body changes.

Throughout the book, Chaz touches on themes of identity, gender, and sexuality; parents and children; and how harboring secrets shatters the soul. It is an amazing contribution to our understanding of a much- misunderstood community.

I watched the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour when I was a kid and remember Sonny and Cher bringing Chastity on stage with them. I didn't know too much else about Chaz other than she was gay and then recently became transgendered.

So it was interesting to read this book and learn more about him ... what life was like being the child of entertainers, coming out as gay, figuring out what to do career-wise, dealing with alcohol and drug problems, realizing he was a man in a woman's body and having the courage to go ahead with the process to be true to himself.

It's told with honesty especially regarding his mother's reaction and his relationship with his girlfriend, Jenny, and how she handled it.

I enjoyed it ... it's an interesting story.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Smokeless Joe, Toronto, ON

Smokeless Joe used to be downtown on John Street. They suddenly disappeared in the summer and there were rumours that they would opening at a new location.

Three months later they recently reopened on College Street, just west of Bathurst. We checked it out this evening.

The old location was in a basement and cavernous. The new location is on the street level (they also have space on the second floor) and they have renovated it to be similar to the old digs.

We sat at the bar ... here's Rob, the bartender. He took good care of us.

The food menu consists mainly of mussels (they are very popular). In addition to ensuring everyone has a drink, Rob also gets those ready.

Here are Gord and I.

The draft selection is good ... lots of craft beer. And their beer menu is still quite extensive, though not as large as it was at their old location.

Glad to see them back!

Smokeless Joe on Urbanspoon

Bohemian Gastropub, Toronto, ON

After Gord and I saw The Rum Diary, we walked to the Bohemian Gastropub on Queen Street W for supper. It opened in July and we've been wanting to check it out.

It's a cute spot ... here's the front.

There's also a big room in the back.

We sat by the window so had a great spot for people watching on Queen Street W.

Our server came over right away and asked up what we wanted to drink and was quick about getting them to us. Then the service went downhill. We had made it obvious that we would be ordering food but it took him a long time to come back. When we tried to catch his attention, he was indifferent to our needs.

I ordered the Southern Fried Buttermilk Chicken and Mashed Potatoes.

At $16, it's expensive for what you get. A thin layer of mashed potatoes and a small boneless chicken breast. The chicken was moist and tender but the batter was fairly bland.

Gord ordered Battered Fish and Chips.

Surprisingly it's trout rather than the usual cod, haddock or halibut. At $16, this too is fairly expensive. The fries were good. Gord said the fish was mushy and not great.

Given the cost of the food, we were surprised at the low cost of drinks. A draft is $6 or $7 and a rum and coke was $6.25.

We both agreed we couldn't go back to eat there again. Gord loves beer so was happy with the beer selection and said he'd go back for a drink. There's enough bars on Queen Street W that I'd be inclined to go elsewhere.

The Bohemian Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Friday, 28 October 2011

Book ~ "Quick Study" (2009) Maggie Barbieri

From Amazon ~ In Barbieri's third book to feature English professor Alison Bergeron, Alison befriends Hernan Escalante and his extended family from Ecuador at the soup kitchen where she's doing community service north of New York City. When the beaten body of Jose Tomasso, one of Hernan's relatives and an illegal immigrant, surfaces in the Hudson near Riviera Pointe, a luxury condo development in the Bronx where Jose was a construction worker, Alison offers to help Hernan find out what happened. After a second murder at Riviera Pointe, Hernan disappears. Alison's investigation leads her and her sidekicks, including her faithful canine companion, Trixie, into all sorts of nail-biting danger. An offer of assistance from former sweetie Jack McManus, marketing director for the New York Rangers, tests Alison's relationship with her main squeeze, NYPD detective Bobby Crawford. Barbieri scores again with this high-octane blend of romance, laughs and chills.

This is the third book in this series.

Alison is a prof at a Catholic university. She stumbles into situations that wouldn't happen to anyone else. The rest of us would walk away. Instead she charges in to solve the problem.

This time she is trying to solve the murder of Jose, a fella she knows from the soup kitchen she volunteers at once a week. Even though her cop boyfriend tells her to back off and someone is leaving her threatening notes, she still tries to find out what happened.

Jack McManus, the brother of her friend who is a priest, still pursues her even though he knows she has a boyfriend.

Max, her recently married friend, is having problems with her husband, who is Alison's boyfriend's partner. I'm not a fan of Max's ... I find her self-centered.

I enjoyed the writing style and it kept me interested even though I found the plot not overly exciting. The ending was quick and I didn't really care about the bad guys who got caught in the end and what they were involved with.

I look forward to reading the next one in the series.

Wild and crazy Friday night

It's wild and crazy right now at our place.

Gord is having a nap so he can watch the last World Series ball game tonight.

Morgan and Crumpet are sleeping next to me on the couch.

I'm watching Judge Judy.

Yep, wild and crazy!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Liberty Village Rotisserie Grill, Toronto, ON

After conducting two enrolment seminars today, I drove home from Windsor this afternoon.

It started raining after I hit London so it was a longer slower wetter drive.

By the time I got home five hours later, I was exhausted so stopped off at Liberty Village Rotisserie Grill, which is in our 'hood, to pick up some supper for Gord and I.

Since May, it has new owners (it used to be called Rotisserie House). This is the first time we've tried it since the change in ownership. Some of the less popular Portuguese items the former owners had on the menu are gone. They have been replace with fish tacos, chicken poutine, etc.

I got us each a half chicken dinner with rice and potatoes. Here's mine ... I got extra hot sauce on mine (Gord didn't want any sauce).

Everything was delicious! The chicken was so tender. I love potatoes done like this! The rice with the sauce was good.

We're definitely going to have it check it out more often.

The Rotisserie House on Urbanspoon

Monday, 24 October 2011

Hilton Windsor, Windsor, ON

I have a couple seminars to conduct tomorrow in Windsor. The first one is at 10:15am so I drove to Windsor this afternoon (it's a four plus hour drive from Toronto).

Here's my room ...

The view from my window when I checked in about 6pm was gorgeous ... the sun was setting on Detroit (I'm on the 16th floor).

Here are the same views when I got back from supper (about 9pm).

WIFI is free (in this day and age, I hate it when hotels charge for it).

Parking is odd. You can park your car yourself in the back for $10. Or you can have it valet parked for $21 (they take it away to the same spot you would have parked it but charge you $11 more). Or if you are lucky enough, you can leave it in front of the hotel and it's only $15 but you have to pay cash. Huh?!

It's a about six blocks from the casino. I stopped in and played roulette after supper. I lost $40 and that was enough for me. I'm soooo not a gambler! There are tons and tons and tons of slot machines (I find them boring).

Papa Cheney's, Windsor, ON

I asked the fella at the front desk of the hotel I'm staying in where he'd suggest I have supper ... I was craving a pub.

He recommended Papa Cheney's a couple blocks away.

This evening the special was all the wings and/or ribs you can eat for $18. I was craving wings ... a dozen cost $16 so it made sense to get the all you can eat special. So that's what I got. It came with six wings, six ribs, fries, carrots and celery and beans with bacon.

The wings were okay. I'm not a fan of breaded wings ... I like 'em deep-fried and then tossed in sauce. I got them with medium sauce and they had a good kick to them. I'm not a fan of beans but did try them. The fries were really good (tossed with salt). The ribs were the best part ... the sauce was also medium but peppery.

I could have had as many platters as I wanted but I found one was enough ... I didn't finish what I had.

The pub was quiet ... not surprising for a Monday night.

My server was Chandalle and she took good care of me.

Papa Cheney's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boston Pizza, Hamilton, ON

Steve and I had a client meeting in Hamilton this afternoon.

We met for lunch beforehand at Boston Pizza on Main Street W.

Steve ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (breaded chicken breast filet tossed in hot sauce served on a toasted French-style bun with lettuce, tomato and their creamy garlic parmesan sauce) with sweet potato fries. He said it was okay ... it didn't look overly exciting.

I had Chicken Parmesan (a tender chicken breast breaded and fried until golden brown. Topped with pomodoro sauce and pizza mozzarella then baked to perfection. Served with your choice of side dish and garlic toast) with spaghetti. It was so-so.

The service was fair. It seemed to take a while for our meals to come. Plus our server seemed a bit frazzled. For example, I ordered a Diet Pepsi and she brought iced tea.

Boston Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday afternoon nap

They make napping look so easy!

Book ~ "Playground" (2011) 50 Cent

From Penquin Canada~ Thirteen-year-old Butterball doesn't have much going for him. He's teased about his weight. He hates the Long Island suburb his mom moved them to so she could go to nursing school and start her life over. He wishes he still lived with his dad in New York City - where there's always something happening, even if his dad doesn't have much time for him.

Still, that's not why he beat up Maurice on the playground.

Now his school is forcing him to talk to some out-of-touch lady therapist, as though she could ever fix him - as though she could ever figure out the truth. No, Butterball's lips are sealed about what happened that day. But some tales can't help being told. And this is one of them.

Inspired by 50 Cent's own adolescence, Playground is a hard-hitting and inspirational story of the redemption of a bully.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. The voice of the story is Butterball, a 13 year old overweight black kid who is just trying to fit in. He thinks his mother is selfish and only making decisions to better her life without any regard to his. He worships his dad who lives in the city and, unbeknownst to Butterball, is not the best dad.

After getting into a fight, Butterball has to see a therapist twice a week so he can resolve his issues. Butterball feels that "Old Liz" isn't hip enough to know what's going on but he either has to see her or get kicked out of school.

I wasn't sure what the end would bring ... would it be happy or tragic? You're going to have to read it to find out.

It's considered a "young adult" book but I found the writing style and content mature. Yes, the main character is only 13 but the language is strong (there is graphic swearing) and there is violence (batteries in socks are used in fights).

If your child is fairly mature, they will be able to handle it ... it's not something they won't see in movies today (as I was reading it, I could envision it being made into a movie). If you are trying to shield your child from some realities of today, then you shouldn't let them read this.

I received a copy of this ebook at no charge in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Book ~ "Natural Order" (2011) Brian Francis

From Amazon ~ Joyce Sparks has lived the whole of her 86 years in the small community of Balsden, Ontario. “There isn’t anything on earth you can’t find your own backyard,” her mother used to say, and Joyce has structured her life accordingly. Today, she occupies a bed in what she knows will be her final home, a shared room at Chestnut Park Nursing Home where she contemplates the bland streetscape through her window and tries not to be too gruff with the nurses.

This is not at all how Joyce expected her life to turn out. As a girl, she’d allowed herself to imagine a future of adventure in the arms of her friend Freddy Pender, whose chin bore a Kirk Douglas cleft and who danced the cha-cha divinely. Though troubled by the whispered assertions of her sister and friends that he was “fruity,” Joyce adored Freddy for all that was un-Balsden in his flamboyant ways. When Freddy led the homecoming parade down the main street, his expertly twirled baton and outrageous white suit gleaming in the sun, Joyce fell head over heels in unrequited love.

Years later, after Freddy had left Balsden for an acting career in New York, Joyce married Charlie, a kind and reserved man who could hardly be less like Freddy. They married with little fanfare and she bore one son, John. Though she did love Charlie, Joyce often caught herself thinking about Freddy, buying Hollywood gossip magazines in hopes of catching a glimpse of his face. Meanwhile, she was growing increasingly alarmed about John’s preference for dolls and kitchen sets. She concealed the mounting signs that John was not a “normal” boy, even buying him a coveted doll if he promised to keep it a secret from Charlie.

News of Freddy finally arrived, and it was horrifying: he had killed himself, throwing himself into the sea from a cruise ship. “A mother always knows when something isn’t right with her son,” was Mrs. Pender’s steely utterance when Joyce paid her respects, cryptically alleging that Freddy’s homosexuality had led to his destruction. That night, Joyce threatened to take away John’s doll if he did not join the softball team. Convinced she had to protect John from himself, she set her small family on a narrow path bounded by secrecy and shame, which ultimately led to unimaginable loss.

Today, as her life ebbs away at Chestnut Park, Joyce ponders the terrible choices she made as a mother and wife and doubts that she can be forgiven, or that she deserves to be. Then a young nursing home volunteer named Timothy appears, so much like her long lost John. Might there be some grace ahead in Joyce’s life after all?

Voiced by an unforgettable and heartbreakingly flawed narrator, Natural Order is a masterpiece of empathy, a wry and tender depiction of the end-of-life remembrances and reconciliations that one might undertake when there is nothing more to lose, and no time to waste.

I liked the writing style of this book. It was quick and drew me into the story.

I wasn't crazy about the way the story bounced around, though, about Joyce's life. I don't mind flashbacks but this was all over the place with different events in her life. Sometimes it wasn't obvious right away at what point in her life we're at.

Joyce Sparks isn't likeable at all. Just out of high school and living in a small town in Ontario, she falls in love with Freddy and is blind to the fact that he is gay. After he leaves town for bigger and better things, she settles and marries Charlie. Charlie just seems to plod through life and is uninteresting. They have a son, John, who becomes the focus of Joyce's life. John spends his early years as a mama's boy before rebelling and becoming a secretive unlikeable jerk. But he doesn't know any better because Joyce was all about hiding the truths and expecting that John will turn out "normal".

Joyce becomes a bitter alone old woman living in a retirement home ... I didn't feel a lot of sympathy for her.

Despite all this, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books by this author.

Saturday evening kitties nap

I wonder what they did today that made them so tired this evening.

Toronto Zombie Walk, Toronto, ON

While Gord and I were at Trinity Bellwoods Park this afternoon looking for KC's tree, we realized that the Zombie Walk was happening.

They’re back, they’re hungry and they’re not staying 6 feet under any longer!

Last year nearly 6000 corpses writhed, weaved and lurched their way through the streets of Toronto feasting on those unlucky enough to be living.

On October 22nd the dead will rise again for the 9th annual Toronto Zombie Walk!!

This year The Toronto Zombie Walk starts at Trinity Bellwoods Park at 3pm! Festivities start at 12pm!

So we wandered down to the pit to check it out.

There were some very creative people wondering around, many in character, and only too happy to pose for pictures.

Toronto police officers on bikes were keeping an eye on things.

We left about 2pm, just before the "wedding" ... there were lots of people there.

And still more coming!