Thursday, 24 October 2013

People Watching-Soulpepper and an oyster lesson at Pure Spirits

“Is this lettuce leaf all for me?”  Norman in Table Manners

The long weekend continued with a day in Toronto that included all three plays from The Norman Conquests, the St. Lawrence Market and some nice nibbles at Pure Spirits where I’m pleased to report there was substantially more on offer than just lettuce leaves.

A little panic stricken about the drive in-long weekend and all the joy it brings; QEW jammed with families bound for the US.  Never understood why people wait ‘til mid-morning Saturday to make a move or indeed travel South on long weekends at all.  You know what you’re getting yourself in for; pick another weekend. What’s the fascination with pastry shells, anyway? Often wonder if it’s worth the three hour wait at the border. Okay, so you cannot get rolled pastry in this country; take them out of the case and lay them flat. I digress.  Piece on the morning show regarding exchange rate.  CA dollar on par so why are we paying so much more in the North?  Move to get shoppers to stay away from Black Friday.  Fortunately the traffic presently at a standstill was going the other way so the rest of us enjoyed a smooth run.

Parked up and sprinted to the Distillery District while shovelling down a chocolate and caramel pretzel.  By nature, I’m not an inhaler of food but there wasn’t time for a proper lunch.  In fact I thought I was in for a day of grazing due to intervals of sixty and ninety minutes.  Would this be an espresso laced day?

Never got ‘round to The Norman Conquests with Richard Briers and Penelope Keith so long overdue to see the play.  If you have the choice, try to see all three on the same day.  To be perfectly honest, I think I would have difficulties remembering all the little things going on from one week to the next.  (We were spoiled with Angels In America-another marathon.)  Mass confusion with the seats and guests were a little ruffled.  I couldn’t get the damn phone to shut off and we all know how I feel about cell phones going off mid play. Conferred with seatmate and think we got there but slight paranoia over telemarketers making their calls during a critical point in play.  Meant to ask where seatmate was visiting from.

Conquests is comprised of three plays that revolve around six characters with each play taking place in a different part of a house but in the same time frame as the preceding plays. Hope that’s clear. Table Manners was a romp and everyone had a good laugh.  Very often, you’ll get veteran theatre goers who look downright miserable.  They’ve seen everything so many times I think they go out of habit and don’t really get into the plays. 

Sterling cast for this one-Shultz, Reid, Boyes, Mennel, Condlin & Dennis (if memory serves). It seems as if you could enjoy your character night after night; all very playful and flirty.  I enjoyed the table mats; we’ve got some old Sheffield scenes in the top drawer.  I like that they were given pride of place, like fine crystal. Norman is a bit of a disaster but his zeal for life comes through and you willingly cheer him on.  Loved the breakfast scene; oh to have so much energy (and self-control) in the AM.  Confess to examining actors’ bare feet for state of arch support.

Off to get rid of the phone and have a browse. October is good time of year to go to the Distillery District.  Crowds are manageable, temperature is good and it’s usually easier to get into a restaurant. (Or so I thought.)

On the To-Do List is a sake tasting.  They also do a sake-based Cosmopolitan and salad dressings.  The Cosmo sample was rather nice.  The air was thick with when I arrived as someone had just dropped a bottle. Quick whip ‘round the St. Lawrence for the Foodie Pen Pal. Decided on Bisket-a-Basket apricot jam with brandy, chocolate and lemon. How can you go wrong with brandy and chocolate?  Another dash back to the theatre; another pretzel in hand.

Getting good results on the plea for phones to be turned off.  Second disembodied voice to encourage eyebrow raising.  What can be done about mint popping?  It too deserves an equally sound thumping.

Living Together finds us amongst the Lounge chairs with the family trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. The play mellows out and we get a little deeper into the characters.  I call it a romp but there is great poignancy. Different seatmates for this one and I asked about my neighbour’s bracelets.  Plastic zippers which turn out to have been promotional prizes from Italian potato chip packets. Who needs Cartier?

The generation gap was the only thing that got in the way for some of the under 30’s.  Not sure they knew what to do with Reg and his nudge-nudges and wink-winks.  I thought he was great fun.  Master of cereal.  The dinner gong went and we filed out with visions of what might have gone on under the rug.

I made a second stab at getting a table at El Catrin; 6:30 and they were jammed.  Over to Pure Spirits, equally jammed but managed a bar stool.  Note to selves:  if you want a meal in TO after 6:00, make a booking.  Not a fan of sitting at the bar, however, things worked out well.  This was my third visit to the restaurant and I was ideally situated for a lesson in the fine art of oyster consumption.

I have always been told to stun the oyster with a little lemon juice and let them slide down unencumbered.  Not according to tonight’s shucker; oyster eating is more like wine tasting.  First, get a sense of the oyster; second, sip the oyster water and third, let the oyster slip in and give it a good chew.  Lots of texture and you want to get the most out of it.  Our host explained the difference between the various oysters and he and his partner made light work of getting them plated.  So obviously a return visit is in order to sample a dozen or so.  First the sake tasting then the oysters.

Like to see a cocktail menu in flux.  The Autumn cocktail of gin, rhubarb liqueur and lime cordial was very refreshing.  The bar staff work hard at Spirits and are constantly on the move.  Started with the tuna tartare which I raved about before. People love those root chips.  Followed this with macaroni and cheese with seafood; the smaller elbows are used here and it was light on the sauce which is a good thing in my books.  Don’t like getting a plate of food that’s gone through death by sauce.  And since a trip to Soma was not in the cards on this day, took a Gin & Tonic dessert~gin semifreddo, tonic bubbles and lime gel.  This would make a very nice equivalent to sorbet in between courses.  It’s not sweet so those who shun dessert would be very at home with it.  Lots of different textures to play about with.  Lovely.

And we’re for off Round and Round the Garden. Consensus (before intermission) amongst audience on preferred play order-Manners, Garden then Living. By Act II- Manners, Living, Garden.

Apologies to all for my outburst mid-way through.  It’s one of those laughs I would normally reserve for the privacy of my living room.  A couple of Gen X’ers mystified at what all the fuss was about, but, they soon go into it.  My mind was racing to remember what happened at one o’clock; trying to piece the scenes together. Must try not to think so much.  Norman was in his element seducing Sarah, again.  How could she refuse?  Annie seemed to have gotten off the fence by play’s end and we’re told the rendez-vous will happen, some day.  Compliments all ‘round.  Very nicely done.

Hadn’t factored the Leafs game into the drive home.  Lots of long faces so one can only assume it was business as usual for the team.  But somehow, they still manage to sell tickets.  Next home game pop down to the east end, instead.  Think you’ll get more out of Soulpepper and the Distillery District than you will a hockey game.

Until next time.
Mind the shrubbery.