We had the great good fortune to see these two amazing ladies perform last night at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Gretchen Parlato was the "opener", but we would easily have paid top dollar just to see her on her own.
Esperanza Spalding has to be one of the coolest ladies working in the music industry today. She played pretty much anything with strings that you don't have to sit at. And that voice! She brought with her a dozen crack musicians, including an incredibly tight eight piece horn section. Truly remarkable!
But the highlight of the night came as the hands on our watches started to tilt upwards toward midnight; it was encore time and Esperanza invited Gretchen back onstage to join her in performing "that song".
We recently returned from an all too short visit to Chicago, one of our favourite cities in the world. Naturally, we were sad to leave... but hopefully someone was lamenting our abrupt departure as our cab made its way along the Kennedy Expressway to O'Hare with a stirring rendition of "Don't Leave Me This Way".
Why this particular song?
Our first visit to the Windy City was in spring of 1977, about the same time this song was peaking (if the internet is to be trusted- what the heck, it's probably more accurate than our memory!) Five white university students from Canada found themselves in a small but very funky second floor disco on Division St just off the Rush Street strip, dancing our asses off to Thelma Houston. It was a revelation!
YouTube offers up a multitude of live clips of Ms. Houston belting out her biggest (one and only?) hit, but we couldn't bring ourselves to share any of them. Without fail each one featured Thelma workin' it for an audience of well-dressed, rhythmically-challenged young white folk, bums securely in seats, sitting there just clapping along. Pathetic!
So here is a static image version with decent sound quality so you can dance your own asses off in the privacy of your home or cubicle, followed by a clip from American Bandstand. The AB video has poorer sound quality, but it's a great time capsule peek into the look of the day.
After this weekend comes the kick-off of Pride Week in Toronto. What more fitting way to get into the spirit than an ancient disco mega-hit??
Have yourselves a fabulous weekend, and try not to leave any lovers high and dry!
Upgrade to the crossing of the Lower Don Recreational Trail at Pottery Road in Toronto's Don Valley. Really slick landscape architecture with a subtle touch of humour. Proof your mother's always watching out for you!
While lunching with a friend yesterday he relayed a charming story of stumbling upon a Grace Jones concert while spending an evening wandering Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens. Of course, Grace has been stuck in our head since.
This song is probably our favourite from a long list of loves, and the video still looks remarkably inventive some 25 years later! Together they are for us the hallmark of what was such an exciting era, fueled by creative new music, the emergence of video art, and a discovery of the magic of the French pubs (commercials). Grace Jones was a huge phenomenon in Europe and worked extensively in the modelling and commercial milieu, and many of her iconic images pop up here in the clip. So, without further ado...
The first thing that must be said about Enoteca Sociale is that it's good. Very Good. The second thing that must be said is that it can be frustratingly difficult to get the opportunity to eat there. That's because it's so damn popular. It's a smallish place, so seats go fast. If you're planning a visit we'd suggest making your reservation about 30 days in advance. Maybe it will be easier over the next few months- they have a beautiful side patio that looks as if it about doubles their capacity, plus it's usually easier to get a table anywhere during our summer months when there's that great migration north to Cottage Country. But maybe not...the Saturday evening we went, the Saturday of the Victoria Day long weekend no less, when everybody should have left town, the patio was in full operation (and fully occupied) and in the main room the place was mobbed throughout our stay.
Top photo- pretty patio via Toronto.com
Lower photo- the small comfortable dining room via Toronto Life
Enoteca Sociale is brought to you by the same folks as Pizzeria Libretto, so you go expecting pretty honest Italian fare, and that's exactly what they deliver. Grant van Gameren, former co-owner of The Black Hoof is currently executive chef, but he came to what was already a smoothly running operation and has apparently only tweaked things a bit rather than re-inventing the wheel. (Read Joanne Kates' take on things here)
It was difficult to choose from the tempting menu (view here) which we perused while sipping a delightful prosecco and nibbling rustic pane dipped in excellent olive oil.
We settled on a couple of delicious appetizers to start and shared a dish for two as our main course. Jay began with fiddleheads, fresh local morels, lardo (chunked bacon), breadcrumbs & crotonese cheese. Bee opted for the dandelion & chicory salad, which included sauteed jerusalem artichoke, pancetta, and grated pecorino. Both were stellar.
We shared a hearty rabbit stew for two which was delivered to the table in rustic crockery adorned with a whole leg. The stew featured delicate house-made rabbit sausages and fregola (pasta that bears a visual resemblance to chick peas) with a chunky mirepoix of vegetables and a smooth rich tomato sauce. It's hard to say enough about the sauce; only in Italy have we previously experienced tomato sugo as sultry- almost creamy in texture, not a hint of acidity, barely sweet without being sugary. Bellissimo!
Our server was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic, but knew how to keep his distance when he wasn't needed. (Or maybe it's fairer to say he was pretty busy but never failed to pay attention to us when we needed it!) We relied on his expertise to guide us in selecting a wine that would pair well with the rabbit and he steered us in the right direction. We had a lovely Tuscan rosso (Bolgheri Rosso "Poggio Ai Ginepri" 2009 DOC by Tenuta Argentiera), a delicious blend of cabernet, syrah, merlot.
Unfortunately, choosing a rich stew on a warm early summer night rendered us incapable of sampling dessert, but the espresso macchiati were top notch and they served to power us through a relaxing walk all the way home.
So, we heartily recommend that you plan a visit to Enoteca Sociale. It's relaxed, comfortable and serves up food that feels like someone's Nonna has been cooking all afternoon. Yet, beneath its down home veneer there's a subtle sophistication and even a couple of surprising twists that tells you this place is a little special. Set a date and make your booking. Then settle in for a period of delicious anticipation!