city of blinding lights

Everyone should experience Toronto for the first time from the penthouse suite of a downtown hotel.

How on earth did i end up here?

My vacation hostess C serves at a restaurant in Toronto called the Indian Rice Factory. The restaurant is an institution in the city, with a really cool history. Her boss Aman was kind enough to let me crash at almost-fully-renovated apartment next to the restaurant, and insisted that C and I join him for a tasting event that evening.

We dropped my bags off and headed to C's house. Like at least half the inhabitants of this city, C lives in an old redbrick duplex along a tree-lined street. One of her flatmates is away and offered up her bicycle for me to use while I'm here. This is great, but also a challenge: I haven't been on a bicycle...long enough that I can't remember the last time. There is truth the the expression 'it's like riding a bike', but I was a more than a bit shaky. Oh, and I only had a front brake.

So I'm on a bicycle for the first time in a decade, following C downtown, dodging trucks and streetcars. I'm trying to take it all in as I whiz by increasingly larger and larger buildings, through the most eclectic parts of the city. Toronto is really a city of distinct neighborhoods, and I had a fast introduction to the Annex, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and Queens West on our way to Downtown South.

We had some time to kill before the event, so we locked the bikes and wandered around. One of the things I really like about Toronto is the integration of old architecture into the modern glass towers. Kelowna doesn't have much (or anything) in the way of large old buildings, so this was a treat.

Bay Street. UofT. Queens Park. Yonge Street.

The event was held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel just off of Yonge Street, right in the middle of the Financial District. The concierge smiled when we introduced ourselves and led us to the elevator. He swiped his card and pressed 27, while saying 'Once you get up to the penthouse, turn right'.

We stepped off of the elevator into the swankiest hotel room I have ever seen. Twenty-four foot high ceilings, a glossy white upright piano to match the white leather couches, picture windows overlooking the water on one side and the CN Tower on the other. Even though I had the foresight to throw on a blazer over my t-shirt before we came, I was a little out of place: most of the guests were wearing shoes that cost more than my rent. Nonetheless, we were welcomed with a glass pressed into our hands and an introduction to Carlos, chief winemaker from an estate winery in Chile and the host of this event. Sandwiched in between New York and London, this tasting was the second on a whirlwind tour through the markets they hoped to break into.

I made my way through the smalltalk and laughter up to the rooftop deck illuminated by the lights of the skyscrapers all around. I couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of the situation: less than twelve hours since arriving in the city, I was here on the roof of a boutique hotel at a party with some of the most respected and influential foodies in the city.

My amusement was interrupted when Aman came up and, with a slap on my shoulder, announced that we were moving the party over to the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Sure. Why not.

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6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5, reduced highlights.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.
6.5.08. Cropped to 3X5.

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