Paleontologist and ROM Curator David Evans… and DINOSAURS!

5 Mar

Lunch with Mary 050

Date of lunch:
Friday, March 4, 2011

The company:
David Evans is the associate curator in vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). So basically he has the job that every single eight year old would die for. He oversees dinosaur research at the ROM, travels the globe looking for dinosaur bones – from the Arctic to Africa to Alberta – and meets with researchers at the world’s best museums. He is about to leave for a five week trip to Northern Sudan to search for dinosaur remains. So I was really glad we could find time for this lunch before he left. Oh and he took me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the dinosaur collection at the ROM and it was THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!

The food:
We ate at Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner – a café on the 3rd floor of the Gardiner Museum. It’s a great space. While we were there, a couple was getting a tour for their upcoming wedding. I can see how this venue would be awesome for special events. I had the layered vegetarian sandwich, David had the meatloaf sandwich and we split fries. The food was light and tasty and very fresh. We both drank water. Total bill was $27 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
So it turns out that Dr. Alan Grant was right. Birds are dinosaurs. David explained to me that birds share much of the same genetic make-up as dinosaurs and in fact (I am likely not explaining this in the correct scientific terms) have the ability to have tails, hands and teeth but those features have been turned off within their genomes. Then he gave me a great lesson. Picture a chicken. Now take away its feathers, put a tail on it, put teeth in its mouth and add little hands to the ends of its arms. It would totally look like a little dinosaur. Amazing. Dinochicken.

The lunch:
I usually don’t publicly talk about my upcoming lunches or tell others who I am taking out just incase it falls through. But with this lunch, I could not shut up about it. I had a countdown on Twitter. I pretty much told everyone that would listen – to the point that I think people were getting sick of me. And the lunch did not disappoint. We’ll get to the actual behind-the-scenes tour in a bit.

David talked to me about how he actually finds dinosaur bones. He said it’s not all about digging like you see on TV, it’s really about walking. For his upcoming trip, he is traveling with a German group of dino-trackers and they will be walking in the desert in Northern Sudan and just looking at the ground, at mountain sides and everywhere around them for fragments of dinosaur bones sticking out. Isn’t that insane? After 75 million years, there could still be a dinosaur bone sticking out of the ground. Anyway, they will see a tiny fragment and examine it and what may be around it. Then, if further exploration is needed, the team will arrange to do the exploration with the heavy equipment on another trip.

I did talk to David about how every kid goes through their dinosaur phase where they are just fascinated by everything to do with dinosaurs. I think it’s so awesome that he continued that interest and now works with dinosaur bones every day. He says he knew he wanted to do this for as long as he can remember. He also said that dinosaurs are a great introduction for kids to science. Even if they don’t end up pursuing a career in paleontology, it’s great that they’re interested in and loving science.

I also had to ask David what killed the dinosaurs. He said it is a matter of fierce debate within the scientific community. He did say that it seems that an asteroid did hit the Earth and this took out many of the dinosaurs. However, he doesn’t believe this was the only factor and says it was a combination of things and didn’t just happen in one big bang.

Never in a million years did I think when I started this blog that I would get to do something as cool as taking David out to lunch and holding 75 million year old dinosaur remains. I haven’t been to see the dinosaur exhibit since I was a kid and I really did feel like a kid again. It was such an amazing day and a big thanks to David for giving me so much of his time.

My exclusive tour behind-the-scenes of the ROM’s dinosaur collection:
The tour started with David taking me into the room that people don’t get to see. It houses over a million dinosaur bones and fragments.

IMG_2778 This room is the coolest room that has ever existed… EVER! Here are a few pics of what I saw:

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Me holding a 75 million year old dinosaur horn – Look how excited I am!

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David holding part of the neck bone of a dinosaur

 

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A part of a dinosaur skull. This particular dinosaur used his head as a battering ram – look how thick it is!

 

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Some duck-billed dinosaur skulls – David’s area of expertise

 

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Wouldn’t want to bump into this guy in a dark alley – Roaarrrrr!

 

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Coolest pic of all – a Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth! Look at that thing! And its edge is serrated like a steak knife.

 

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Another dino tooth!

 

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Dinosaur toe!

 

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Part of a raptor’s skull. David let me know that they were A LOT smaller than they were portrayed in Jurassic Park. Raptors were only 2-3 feet high, who knew?

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United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada Genealogist Doug Grant

11 Feb

Lunch with Mary 049

Date of lunch:
Friday, February 11, 2011

The company:
Doug Grant is a member of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada, the editor of Loyalist Trails and the genealogist for the Governor Simcoe branch of the UELAC. He is also my 5th cousin once removed (or 4th or 6th or 7th – I need to do a bit more research into my family tree). Doug is a descendent of loyalists and both him and I descend from the same loyalist, Michael Warner, who came to New York Province in the mid-1700s. Being loyal to the British Empire cost him his home in the American Revolution, but for that loyalty, Michael was given land in Canada for free by the king.

The food:
We ate at Mangia e Bevi, which I just found on Google when looking for a restaurant in the King and Sherbourne area. And what a discovery! It’s actually pretty hard to locate because it’s back from the street across a parking lot but it is awesome. The restaurant smells delicious and has a main dining area, as well as a smaller room for larger groups. The décor is very cool. Once we saw how huge the pizzas were, we decided to split a pizza and a salad. We had the Four Stagioni pizza which has mushrooms, prosciutto, artichoke hearts and olives, as well as a Caprese salad with tomatoes and boccaccini cheese. I had a ginger ale and Doug had a small Steam Whistle. Total bill was $35 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
The lesson from this lunch actually is not something I learned at the lunch but more the spirit behind the lunch itself. I am just glad that I have taken this step to learn more about my family’s history. At times in high school I will admit that I found my Canadian history class a bit boring. I also didn’t know about the whole loyalist family connection thing yet either. But knowing now that I am part of this history, as we are all part of history, really does make it that much more interesting, and I think everyone should take the time, if they can, and learn a little more about where they came from.

The lunch:
My grandfather, Roger Warner, passed away in November. I went back to Ottawa for the funeral and we drove to the area where my family comes from along the St. Lawrence River. The Warners have a lot of history in the area – from Cornwall to Russell and beyond. My great-grandmother’s farm actually no longer exists because it is now underwater in the expanded St. Lawrence seaway – it was flooded in the fifties. When I was in the area and at the cemetery, I saw how rich my family history was and how little I knew about it and I decided I wanted to learn more. I knew that we did descend from loyalists so I emailed the association and Doug wrote back and indicated that his mother was a Warner and we are, in fact, related. Crazy.

The story of how the loyalists ended up coming to be is quite interesting. And Doug was very patient in explaining it to me and I hope I can at least summarize a bit of it accurately. The British soldiers –  both professionals and loyalist regiments raised from the local population – were fighting against the rebels (Patriots). It was basically a civil war. My loyalist ancestor, Michael Warner, was a member of the loyalist King’s Royal Regiment of New York. As the countryside fell out of Britain’s control, the loyalists’ lands were confiscated. Loyalties were divided, towns were divided, families were divided. The loyalist soldiers and families had to leave and go to British-held areas where many of them lived in refugee camps, several of which were located in what is now Canada.

At war’s end, in order to provide for the loyalist soldiers and their families who could not return to their former homes, the king granted them land. Members of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York were  settled along along the St. Lawrence River.  In the following years, to keep these families loyal, the king also granted land to their sons and daughters right until the mid-1800s.

So we know that Michael Warner stayed loyal and received land from the king. Documents haven’t been completely clear as to where exactly it was although we know it was in Osnabruk Township in Stormont County and many believe it is now underwater along with my family’s land.

My mother was born in Italy and because her family history was so far away, we did go to Italy a few times in my youth to see where my mom grew up, meet our cousins and learn about her history. So it’s funny that there was such rich Warner history just an hour or so away from where I grew up and I never took the time to learn it all. I guess Italy always seemed more glamorous (it is pretty awesome) but I am glad that I now know a bit more about my dad’s side and I am very grateful to Doug for giving me a little glimpse of the rich history that I hope to learn.

Oh and the neat part is that Doug signs his name with UE (United of the Empire) at the end and I have since learned that I can do the same.

Sincerely,

Mary Warner, UE

Two years of lunching… and counting

5 Feb

Two years_2

Me – In between meals

A year ago, I looked back at my first 12 months of lunching and was mostly in shock that I was able to pull off this funny little idea that I had.

Now that I am two years into this lunching adventure, I continue to be so grateful to everyone who has agreed to have lunch with me and taught me so much along the way. I feel a bit like a kid doing a school project when I ask people out to lunch so I am always a bit surprised when anyone agrees. So a huge thank you to my lunch guests from the past 12 months:

· Ryan Taylor

· Corey Mintz

· Sunny Fong

· Amy Cole

· Ben Barry

· Inessa Frantowski

· Rahaf Harfoush

· Massimo Capra

· Daryl DSouza

· Jian Ghomeshi

As I enter year three, I haven’t figured out what I want to do next. As the site continues to grow with more lunches and more readers, I want to make this into more and I am struggling what that “more” is.

But there is one thing I want to accomplish in 2011. Since I am two years into this, I am just going to be up front. I want to have lunch with Paul Krugman. It’s why I started this blog and I think it would be a fascinating conversation. I outreached to him this year and did hear back (yay!) but the lunch still hasn’t happened. I am willing to travel and work around his schedule but I am going to you all, dear readers, and asking for help. Any ideas on how I can make this happen?

And finally, thanks for reading – I hope you all enjoy my blog just a fraction of as much as I enjoy doing it.

Restaurant Owner Daryl DSouza (and special appearance by Owner/Chef Sean Smith)

14 Nov

Lunch with Mary 045

Date of lunch:
Sunday, November 14, 2010

The company:
Daryl is one of the owners of Lou Dawg’s Southern Sandwiches at King and Portland. The restaurant is about a year and a half old and Daryl, along with Chef Sean Smith, are learning all about running a restaurant along the way. A lifelong entrepreneur, I thought I could learn not only about owning a restaurant but also about starting a new business and all that it entails. Besides Lou Dawg’s, Daryl also works full time for an IT consulting firm specializing in eHealth and often lectures and sometimes teaches classes on entrepreneurship and business at Ryerson.

The food:
We ate at Lou Dawg’s and split a pulled pork po’boy sandwich and the vegetarian chili cheese fries. The chili cheese fries are a new menu addition and they are delicious – not too heavy and full of flavour. The sandwich was great and the coleslaw is a great addition. We both drank water and then each ended the meal with a Caesar. Daryl graciously treated me to lunch but if you were to order it, the total would be about $30 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Daryl discussed some of his future plans for Lou Dawg’s, including conversations with investors about expansion into food courts and other counter service options. And that got me wondering – how does one find investors? Daryl told me about a Dragon’s Den type presentation series at Ryerson called Angel Investors. The network brings together a bunch of investors and then young entrepreneurs present their business plans. I had no idea anything like this existed. Daryl and Sean presented there, with food samples of course, and not only met investors in the audience but made connections that led to new connections and to the team of investors that they are speaking with now.

The lunch:
Daryl’s mind is always working – always looking for ways to grow and expand the business and always on the search for new opportunities. It was pretty interesting to listen to his plans for the future of Lou Dawg’s and how the plan has evolved based on what has worked and not worked up until this point. It seems quite obvious that any entrepreneur needs to be extremely flexible and be able to handle change, quick decisions and risk.

Having known Daryl and Sean for many years, I remember when Sean was learning about southern US style BBQ. He traveled down south and brought back the techniques and flavours that he found. Then Sean would cook up huge batches of pork at his house and treat all of us friends to late night pulled pork sandwiches. And Daryl, always the businessman, ate these delicious sandwiches and knew that there was a business in it. And Lou Dawg’s was born.

Although I was in total agreement that Sean’s sandwiches were amazing, I am a risk averse person and would not likely have thought to embark on such a risky business venture like restaurant ownership. This is one of the reasons I really admire Sean and Daryl. Now that they are well past their one year anniversary and the restaurant has really found its footing, it seems that the risk has definitely paid off and seeing their success has been a great reminder to me that I should probably be a bit more open to taking risks and not be such a chicken.

And special guest Lou Dawg’s co-owner and chef Sean Smith

Lunch with Mary 047

Sean’s Lunch Lesson
I am always curious about the weirdest things, so I wanted to know how much meat Lou Dawg’s actually goes through considering a large portion of their menu is meat based. So I got the scoop – they go through around 300 pounds of pork, about half that of beef brisket and 48 chickens a week, not including wings. And this conversation led to my wondering how chicken wings are always so much bigger when you order wings compared to the wings you get when you buy a full chicken. Turns out, the wings are from chickens that are a bit older – and older in chicken time so only a couple of weeks older. You learn something new every day.

Chef Massimo Capra

9 Oct

Lunch with Mary 044

Date of lunch:
Friday, October 8, 2010

The company:
Massimo Capra is a well-known chef. Many people will know him from his appearances on The Food Network’s Restaurant Makeover. He is the owner of Mistura and Sopra on Davenport Road. He is also an author having published One Pot Italian Cooking and currently promoting his newest book 3 Chefs: The Kitchen Men along with Michael Bonacini (of Oliver&Bonacini) and Jason Parsons (of Peller Estates). He is incredibly friendly, enthusiastic and has such a love and passion for good food. And he has an awesome moustache!

 

The food:
We ate at Tutti Matti on Adelaide Street. It was Massimo’s choice. Being that he is a chef, I left it up to him because I didn’t want to choose somewhere awful by accident. Massimo is a huge fan of Tutti Matti because he says it reminds him of home cooked food. If there are any imperfections in the food, it is just the way nonna would make it, which makes it that much better. Even the smells of the restaurant reminded me of my nonna’s cooking. We split the fettunta (which is like bruschetta in my non-professional opinion), Massimo had the ravioli special and I had the fettucine with meat sauce. Important to note that all the pasta was made in-house, yum! We both drank water. Total bill was $49 with tax.

 

The lunch lesson:
We talked a lot about Italian food. My mom is from Italy, actually not far from where Massimo is from, and I grew up eating Italian food. Massimo explained that he is taking traditional Italian dishes but changing them slightly and updating them into his own recipes and food that he knows his customers here in Canada will enjoy. He says the food that we eat now in Canada and the US that is labeled Italian has gone through much of the same transformation as his cuisine and is its own form of Italian food. He said in Italy, if you order a specific dish like fettunta, no matter where you get it, it will be the same. While here, chefs are all putting their own take on it and Massimo has mastered this with years of dedication.

The lunch:
About a year ago, I saw Massimo at the Loblaws by my house when I was grocery shopping with my boyfriend. We wanted to follow him around the store and buy whatever he was getting, because we figured then we might be able to cook up the same great meal that he was making. Then we just felt awkward and gave up on the idea. But Massimo is the type of chef that cooks food that fills your kitchen with smells that are warm and comforting and is exactly the kind of food that I want to make.

Massimo still likes to work in the kitchen at his restaurant. The restaurant seems to have a real family feel, his wife works there too. He has been lucky to have many members of his kitchen staff stay on for upwards of ten years. Massimo told me that a lot of his longtime employees do leave eventually but he encourages them because he believes that chefs need to go out in the world, see what’s happening and learn along the way. His ex-staff members are now working at restaurants all across the globe.

Massimo told me about a new show he is working on that is currently being pitched in Cannes. It’s called Gourmet Escapes and Massimo travels around the world trying different cuisines and experiencing different cultures. So far, he has been to Iceland, South Carolina, Italy, Nova Scotia and more. Massimo told me about his time in Iceland and how much he wants to go back. He said the food is amazing, there are lots of great restaurants, a happening night life and the hot springs that everyone talks about? He said he could’ve stayed in them all day.

Hearing about his new show reminded me of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I’m a huge fan of the show and so is Massimo. He told me that after watching the episode of Anthony Bourdain in Chicago, Massimo took a road trip and went to all of the same places. He said it was an amazing trip and included eating the most delicious hot dogs and tamales at a diner in a trailer. Often when I watch No Reservations, I want to go to the city and try the food. I liked that a professional chef like Massimo is also so enthusiastic and open to try out what other chefs are doing around the world. As this blog has taught me over and over again, you really never stop learning.

World Economic Forum Associate Director and Obama Campaign New Media Team Member Rahaf Harfoush

20 Sep

Lunch with Mary 043

Date of lunch:
Monday, September 20, 2010

The company:
Rahaf Harfoush, after living in Geneva, has just moved to Paris (jealous) and works for the World Economic Forum as the Associate Director of the Technology Pioneers Programme. She is also a sought after new media and technology speaker with engagements all over the world from Egypt to Uruguay to Toronto. In 2008, she was part of the new media team working on the Barack Obama campaign in Chicago. She has published a book about the experience called “Yes We Did: An Insider’s Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand”. She is currently in Toronto for 10 days for several speaking engagements and interviews and I was very happy to get some time on her very busy calendar.

The food:
We ate at Kit Kat on King West. I was a bit disappointed in that I made a reservation and was then given one of the worst tables in the restaurant. What’s the point of a reservation? We were, however, able to move in the end. Rahaf had the warm scallop salad (which looked delish) and I had the agnolotti daily special – it was FULL of cheese and amazing but I assume extremely unhealthy. We both had diet Cokes and Rahaf had a tea. Total bill was $40 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
I feel a bit silly writing this but having lunch with Rahaf kind of felt like a life-changing moment. I spoke with Rahaf about the amazing things she has already accomplished at a young age, like having a successful book published and working on Obama’s campaign. She just explained that she is like a dowsing stick. When an opportunity arises or she is looking into doing something, she wants to be so excited about it that she is shaking like a dowsing stick that has found water. And if she feels that way about a job or opportunity, she will find a way to do it. I have never met someone who so fully lives by this rule. She searches out inspiring work and makes it happen. Now this book I keep talking about – it’s time to make it happen.

The lunch:
Rahaf explained to me that while working on the research and writing team for Don Tapscott’s book “Grown Up Digital”, she interviewed Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and coordinator of online organizing for Obama’s campaign. After speaking with him, she knew she needed to get on the ground and be part of this amazing movement. She called Chris and he told her to get down to Chicago asap. So Rahaf put her current work contracts on hold, found roommates on Craigslist and moved herself to Chicago.

I love Chicago and had the pleasure of being there just a few weeks before Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 and the city was buzzing. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in the campaign war room and part of the groundbreaking social media campaign as excitement was continuing to grow.

Rahaf’s current work at the World Economic Forum is really fascinating. The Technology Pioneers Programme identifies companies from around the world that are involved in the design and development of new technologies, typically in the start-up phase. Once identified as a Technology Pioneer, these companies become part of the World Economic Forum’s network and benefit from this integration. 2011 Pioneers include foursquare and Scribd.

Rahaf has now gotten her work schedule down to about 70% of her time so she can commit herself to writing her second book, which she is co-authoring with Len Brody tentatively titled Misfits: How We’ve Outgrown the Way We Live and What to Do About It”.

 As I mentioned above, Rahaf also commits a good deal of her time to speaking engagements and through this she has had an amazing opportunity to travel all over the world, and sometimes add a few days here and there to be a tourist, such as an extended trip to Portugal earlier this year and another trip to Uruguay and one to Columbia coming up. For someone who admitted to me that she doesn’t like to fly, she certainly is racking up a lot of air miles.

I was truly inspired after my lunch with Rahaf. She is so positive and driven and genuinely excited about the work she is doing and the future of her career. It’s really amazing to see and something I hope that everyone can accomplish in their lives. I hope to be able to speak with Rahaf again and see how she’s doing on her current and new projects and perhaps try to get some of her incredible optimism, drive and perseverance to rub off on me.

Second City Mainstage Performer Inessa Frantowski

10 Sep

Lunch with Mary 042

Date of lunch:
Friday, September 10, 2010

The company:
Inessa Frantowski is a mainstage performer with Second City Toronto’s current show Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes. She also performs with several sketch comedy troupes including Bull Hooey and HIR. She is also a Gemini Award winner for her work on Cock’d Gunns and she recently worked on the new Kids in the Hall show Death Comes to Town. In short, she’s very talented and hilarious and a very fun lunch guest.

The food:
We ate at 7 West. We both had the prosciutto panino, filled with bocconcini cheese and avocado spread. Delish. The sandwiches came with a side house salad. Inessa had a diet Coke and I stuck with water. My only complaint would be that it was freezing in the restaurant because they had the giant windows open even though it is currently NOT warm outside. I’m all for trying to extend the summer but sometimes you just have to admit that it’s cold out. Total bill was $32 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Inessa and I had a great conversation about funny women versus funny men. I’ve always admired funny women. This is me talking now since Inessa got me thinking. You see way less women headlining comedy movies (unless of course it’s a romantic comedy). It would be great to see more women succeeding in mainstream “Hollywood” doing physical and outrageous comedy, like what’s being done at Second City. I guess what I am saying here is that we women need to support other women. If we want to see funny women leading the way in Hollywood, we need to be out seeing shows and buying tickets. Now make it so.

The lunch:
Before meeting Inessa for lunch, I had the chance to see her at Second City. She was really funny and the show is great. I felt a bit like an uber fan when we finally sat down to eat as I kept telling her all the parts from the show that I liked the most. Incase you’re wondering, I really liked her as Helen Thomas and as Aunt Sheila, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

Inessa is a very positive person and really seems to be living out her dream. Her work right now at Second City is an incredible opportunity, one of the only full-time sketch comedy gigs in the city.

As a huge fan of Saturday Night Live, always, it was great to hear what an inspiration the show has been for Inessa. She remembers watching it back in the day and being totally inspired. It changed her life and continues to be her dream job. Secretly I’ve always wanted to be on SNL too. Recently, when my parents moved and I had to pack up my old childhood room, I found a letter that I had drafted to SNL at the age of about 12 telling them why they should have me as the host. Dork. I never did send that letter though.

I asked Inessa about her Gemini that she won for comedic ensemble on Cock’d Gunns. She said she never believed she would win. Quick aside, I asked her where she kept her Gemini and she said her mom has it. I would totally have mine right in the middle of the coffee table, just sayin. Anyway, the show is not officially cancelled but is not in production for a second season. Inessa did say that the show has taken on a bit of a life of its own on Hulu and has a lot of fans in the US. Since I am terrible and never saw it the first time around and because I love to support Canadian shows, I really hope this Hulu popularity translates into a second, third and fourth season. Go Canada!

It was just really great to talk to Inessa about all the different work she is doing to make her way as a successful comedic actor. She does stand-up, acting, sketch troupes and online videos. She also talked about the different sorts of work she does, be it a Walmart commercial, timely comedy at Second City or her more alt-comedy work with her troupe. She just really likes to make people laugh so she is happy to do work that entertains all different kinds of audiences. It’s a great attitude and makes me want to check out her other work even more.

SOMETHING_AWESOME_PR_003Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes

Me! (In other words my lunch guest didn’t show up)

12 Aug

Lunch with Mary 041

Date of lunch:
Thursday, August 12, 2010

The company:
I want to start this post by making sure to emphasize that I hold no animosity towards my intended lunch guest, I understand that stuff happens and we’re hoping to re-schedule. But I was planning to post today and I did have a blog lunch after all. So I thought I would just share what my lunch was all about. As for the company, I was joined by myself, a lovely blogger and avid fan of food. I was likely bad company to myself as I was constantly checking my Blackberry and looking out the window.

The food:
I ate at Milagro. I have always wanted to try this place ever since we almost had a staff party there a few years ago. I drank water and had the chicken burrito. The burrito was totally different than the type you get at Burrito Boyz, not quite as heavy and more fresh ingredients, raw veggies and such. On the down side, it was very greasy and had too many onions. But on the plus side, it was incredibly delicious and I would totally have another one right now – with a request for less onions. Total bill was $11 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
My lesson is to anyone out there who is planning on having lunch with someone but they end up not showing up. I have eaten lunch at restaurants alone plenty of times and it’s never been a problem. But when you’re sitting at table with a menu in front of yourself and another menu in front of an empty chair, people look at you with sympathy and it’s one of those things where you can try to explain that it’s really no big deal but then you’re protesting too much and it gets weirder and weirder. So my advice would be to simply get one menu when you arrive and the second menu when (and if, ha!) your guest arrives.

The lunch:
The lunch itself was uneventful but also kind of hilarious. I think the entire staff thought I got stood up on a date. The reservation I made for two didn’t help that assumption too much. At least three servers came to my table to make sure I was okay. At one point, I told one of the servers that I was likely just going to get take-out and he said don’t worry about ordering anything and that they understand. They were very nice.

My lunch gave me a great opportunity to get caught up on Twitter. I saw that Jake Tapper blogged about a billboard comparing Obama to Hitler – ya, you read that right. Ridiculous. I also read that J.Lo was having trouble deciding what to wear today from her overflowing baskets of jewels. And I thought having a no-show lunch guest was a problem – boy, was I off base.

I am a pretty easy-going person (unless I’m on an airplane) so I wasn’t too upset about my lunch today. I tried to find the humour in the whole thing. Next time I am going to just play into what everyone is thinking. Start crying. Throw the menu on the floor. Slam my head on the table. Wail. Whine. Whimper. Yell “Why? Why?” while looking up at the ceiling. Ask the waiter that if anyone calls asking for me, to tell them I left and got hit by a car… Maybe that would get me a free burrito.

Model and Talent Agent Ben Barry

28 Jun

Lunch with Mary 040

Date of lunch:
Monday, June 28, 2010

The company:
Ben Barry is the CEO of Ben Barry Agency Inc., a model and talent agency in Toronto. It’s a pretty amazing story because Ben started the agency when he was only 14. Ben is from Ottawa like me and I remember hearing about him and his agency when I was in high school. A friend of his was told she was “too big” to be a model by one of the local agencies so Ben called a magazine on her behalf and got her a gig. And the rest is history. The Ben Barry Agency focuses on representing models of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities, and is bringing diversity to fashion and the runway. Ben Barry is also partnered with a previous lunch guest of mine, Sunny Fong, as business director of Vawk.

The food:
We ate at Kokyo Japanese Restaurant at Yonge and Alexander. They have a huge patio but it was so hot out today that we chose to sit inside. I’d love to come back and sit on the patio when the air is a little less muggy. We both had lunch specials, a variety of sushi rolls, salad and miso soup. The sushi was fresh and delicious. We both drank water and green tea. Total bill was $22 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Ben has also written a book called Fashioning Reality – A new generation of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, Ben has a definite business mind and it’s fascinating to listen to him and how he sees business opportunities in everything. He offered advice to me regarding my blog and how I might be able to add a bit of a business slant to the whole thing. It’s something I have been struggling with for awhile, had some hits and misses. But listening to him talk about business possibilities, as well as his book, has re-ignited my lifelong dream of writing a book – and hopefully using this blog and what I’ve learned and done so far as a great first step.

The lunch:
Although it’s hard to understand how a 14 year old can become an incredible advocate for diverse definitions of beauty and healthy body image, I am glad it turned out that way. And I’m not the only one.. He was noticed by the talkshow queen herself, Oprah, and appeared on the show as one of 20 teens who will change the world. I’ve never met anyone who’s met Oprah. Incase you’re wondering, he says she’s very nice. Him and his agency have also been featured on CNN, People Magazine, Globe and Mail and more.

When Ben explains what he is doing with his company, it makes so much sense. Women come in all sizes, ages, shapes, etc. so why not make and showcase clothing that fits all of these variations. And Ben also was sure to point out that he isn’t trying to eliminate thin models but instead co-exist in the industry and offer an alternative. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty really embodies this belief. Incase you were wondering, Ben’s agency provided the models for the campaign.

Ben explained that at Toronto Fashion Week, Sunny Fong was the only designer who used plus size and older models (although Joe did have one plus-size model in their show so I don’t want to forget to mention that). But Ben is seeing a shift in the industry and how it is regular people helping to push this forward. Fashion isn’t only for the big designers anymore. With blogs like The Sartorialist just picking people off the street and showcasing their awesome style, it becomes obvious that fashion really is defined by the people and it should look like the people – from skinny all the way to plus, all shapes, all backgrounds, all ages.

Aside from running the agency and working with Vawk, Ben is also working towards his PhD at Cambridge. He is doing research into whether women are more interested in buying products that are advertised using the typical model or using models that more represent regular women. I’ll let Ben discuss those results once his research is complete but I think it’s pretty obvious what I think the results will be.

Rural Alberta Advantage band member Amy Cole

17 Jun

Lunch with Mary 039

Date of lunch:
Thursday, June 17, 2010

The company:
Amy Cole is one third of the excellent trio Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA) on vocals, keyboard and percussion. She is also a good friend of mine from university and has slowly turned into a rock star since graduation. I nearly DIED of jealousy the first time I saw her singing on stage at the Horseshoe. Amy recently returned from a European tour that had immediately followed a tour across the United States. Since I know I can never be a rock star myself, I decided to take Amy out of lunch and hear what it’s all about.

The food:
We ate at a wonderful little spot called Calico Café, which is pretty much right in between Lansdowne and Dufferin on Bloor. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with a great vegetable and herb garden by the patio. It’s like a little oasis right off Bloor Street and tasty too. I had a grilled portobello and sweet potato hummus sandwich with salad and Amy had a mixed green salad with tempeh. We both had cranberry ginger lemonades. The owner was the chef, waiter, dishwasher and busboy and let me know that this weekend is the one year anniversary of Calico Café. You should all check it out. Total bill was $22 with tax.

The lunch lesson:
Since this was a rock star lunch, I figured a rock star lunch lesson was most appropriate. I asked Amy what her favourite shows have been. She said doing shows in France was amazing because they treat bands so well. Backstage they provide wheels of cheese and red wine. Free cheese and French wine, I can’t imagine a better lesson – start a band, get gig in Paris, eat, drink, enjoy, repeat.

The lunch:
Amy had been in the RAA and was playing quite a few shows in Toronto and other spots in Canada and what seems like overnight (but obviously wasn’t) the band pretty much exploded. It was so amazing to have a friend as part of a Toronto darling band and I was excited to have lunch and hear from Amy how it all happened.

It’s such a perfect grassroots story, much like the feel of the band itself. A blogger in Nova Scotia called Herohill wrote about Rural Alberta Advantage and the post and the music caught the eyes and ears of a lawyer in LA. He is a big music fan and sent eMusic a note about the RAA. eMusic then went on to feature the band and through the feature, Saddle Creek heard their tunes and signed them to their label. And the rest is history. Next thing I know, I have to drive to Hamilton just to be able to get tickets to see Amy perform.

Amy talked about some of the big moments so far in this crazy ride that she’s on. She said they booked their first NYC show at a bar called Piano’s. They were just hoping that people would show up. But once they got there, the show was sold out and when they started to perform, the whole crowd knew all the words. The experience was pretty surreal as they had never performed in the US before, and thanks to the internet they had this amazing fan base.

The incredible experience continued as the band hit Europe and people in London knew all the words too. The RAA plays songs about Alberta, so I kinda love that they have this international following of totally Canadian music. They did try to play a show in Spain but were held up due to the volcano. But Amy said she couldn’t really complain about being stranded for a few days in Barcelona. I wouldn’t complain either.

The RAA will be playing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in July so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Right now, the RAA is in Toronto, working on their next album and I can’t wait to hear it. I like to live vicariously through Amy. I hope she continues to have these amazing adventures and I can continue to listen to her awesome stories and pretend they’re mine.

Calico Cafe Garden The Calico Café garden