Author: crayola1207

8 am in Trinidad

I wrote this reflection exactly 4 years ago today (July 10, 2014). Don’t ask me why, but this came to mind. I searched my hard drive, and there it was, in a ‘TRAVEL’ folder. To honour Carnival season in Toronto, here’s a personal essay on a place I hold dear to my heart, with memories that are shaping the person I am becoming. 

It’s 8 a.m. in Tunapuna and a woman calls out for her dog. Its name is Iris and her voice rings with urgency. Minutes before, and minutes after, sirens fill the air. They scream danger in broad daylight as people flock to the market for fresh breadfruit or meat, flies hovering in the heat above each slab.

Inside a home, sophisticated and plush, surrounded by tin roof shanties and Creole houses coloured lavender, robin egg blue and baby pink, there is no urgency and you feel no tension. The world outside, stigmatized by crime, kidnappings, pickpocketers and rape is separate. Foreign women are free from catcalls and terse eyes. You can watch the news without being subjected to reality.

“Out in the streets, they call it merther,” sings Ini Kamoze. “When rhythms spacing out your head.” The concrete is hot, as the sun welcomes a new day in Trinidad. Kamoze’s birthplace may be Jamaica, but it all makes sense in daylight. Just walk around Port of Spain, and you’ll see an array of faces, characters, symbols and surfaces. Behind each of them lie vast experience, historic depth and cultural flavour.

“How many yuh want?” says the doubles lady on the corner, placing two bara on a piece of grey parchment in the palm of her hand. “Channa? Aloo?” Yes to both. She dips her spoon into vats of curried chickpeas and potato, dumps them onto the bara, adds a little chutney, be it cucumber or sweet tamarind. “Pepper?” she asks. All in, it’s an inferno. If you’re somewhat committed, say, “slight.”

And that’s only breakfast – an intro to the gastronomic blend of Creole and Indian cuisine and the event we call “eating.” Curried chicken wrapped in paratha or dhalpuri, its layers sprinkled with dried split peas makes a mean roti. Fill mine with pumpkin, a bit of channa and a bit of aloo. A dash of tamarind chutney. Wrapped in paratha. All is well.

Natural light seeps through a barred window into the kitchen, where a grandmother picks at a roti shell, buss-up-shut. After a series of locked gates, a door is left open to let in the island breeze. Walls are plastered with photographs. Family heirloom pillows grace a couch covered with macramé throws. The Price Is Right blares through the TV, its neon American primetime applause fighting the percussive chutney soca from a car passing by. The day is hot, and bodies become lethargic. Across the street, small children play in the yard of a shanty house. The woman tells me her neighbour’s property has never changed. No progress in upkeep or addition. She says that one of the young male inhabitants is a Rastafarian, who can be seen smoking sinsemilla in his own private space – a tin shed in the backyard. Bricks lay atop the roof to balance the beams below. It’s a wonder that they don’t fall.

Cars drive by, blasting Machel Montano’s latest track. Some bump Drake or 50 Cent. There’s shared cultural elements amidst the varied demographic puzzle in each subdivision and it shines in many ways.

At night, it’s hot. Crickets orchestrate a symphony of song, buzzing in the heat. A breeze rushes in every now and then. As palms brush against the walls of the house, it sounds as if someone has entered the property. Your heart races. Then stops. Races. Then stops. You realize that it’s just the nature of the weather, the vibe of the people, the essence of the land.

Sometimes you forget where you’re going; numbers, names and turns. The next thing you know you’re driving around town with strangers. Full speed down the highway, the windows are down and your hair is a mess. It’s mad hot. The heat is thrilling as Action Bronson plays through the stereo on full. The directions to Tacarigua are blurry as each moment passes. And at that point, you want to be lost for a very long time.

It’s almost midnight in Trinidad. In a partition, you question what you just did and answer with emotion. Push boundaries. Turn a blind eye to the warnings. Life is more real when it’s raw.

Sonia Aimy Live at Lula Lounge

Sonia Aimy is all about movement; it’s in her voice, performance and modus operandi for life. She is a progressive, innovative artist in an emerging world music scene in Toronto (and abroad!) that blends African, Italian and Canadian culture through her art.

“Con i piedi per terra,” she says. “You are a servant to the earth through your art. Once you understand your purpose – you need to get your nia, your purpose. The spirit of the art leads and guides you. The work will speak for itself.”

If you’ve had the opportunity to experience Sonia perform live, like I have, then you know her words ring true. Here are a few shots I captured at her stunning performance at Lula Lounge for BanTOR Radio on November 5, 2015 in Toronto.

Sonia Aimy Oduwa and Band:
Sonia Aimy – Lead vocals and percussion
Jan Morgan – Trumpet
Jerry Nkatrah – Bass 
Peter Oppong (Paa Joe) – Guitar
Michael Adeoba – Percussion 
Sani Ijovudu – Percussion

Off-the-Shelf Traditions with #BonneMamanCA at Cluny Bistro

by Ola Mazzuca 
Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Bonne Maman

French fare can be attributed to a variety of eponymous elements. Julia Child represented technique. Alice Waters stood for quality ingredients. In the kitchen, it’s Bonne Maman – a brand that has been around for over 40 decades, celebrating the nostalgia of homemade jellies and preserves. Maybe it’s the red and white gingham pattern lid or simple script logo that resonates in our minds, echoing nostalgia of fresh buttery croissants spread with butter and strawberry jam. Maybe’s it’s the most humble branding that struck us first as we strolled the aisles of our local supermarket or specialty grocer. At Cluny Bistro in Toronto’s historic Distillery District, it’s all about bringing Bonne Maman to brunch.

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Chef Christine Tizzard

On Saturday, November 14, Celebrity Chef Christine Tizzard (CBC’s Best Recipes Ever) hosted an engaging event, sharing her love for Bonne Maman products. Tizzard, who was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, can’t remember any name brand jam sitting on the shelf. Despite the fact that “good quality fruit was hard to find in Newfoundland,” all jellies and preserves were homemade. It was on the chef’s first trip to France that she discovered Bonne Maman.

 

 

“That’s where I had my first Parisian croissant,” Tizzard says of the cafe below the hotel she and her mother stayed. “The jars on the table were Bonne Maman. I said to my mom, ‘this is way better jam than what we have at home.’”

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Bonne Maman uses top-notch ingredients, sourcing fruit directly from France and non-GMO practices. A recent AC Nielsen product report states that overall sales of jams and preserves have been down 10 per cent on the market, however Bonne Maman is booming at an increase of 29 per cent.

Cluny’s Executive Chef Paul Benallick emphasizes the bistro’s attention to detail. “It’s not tweezer food. It’s interesting, good French food,” he says.

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Cluny Bistro Executive Chef Paul Benallick at work

Benallick says it was a “challenge to pair sweet jams with a savoury brunch,” yet showed and proved effortlessly with a diverse menu infusing Bonne Maman’s flavour with style.

On the table were Cluny’s fresh mini baguettes baked from the in-house boulangerie, a selection of breads and croissants perfect for spreading the jam. We commenced with a bonne maman red currant jelly roasted heirloom carrot salad. Set atop a sunchoke puree, and dusted with fresh lime, chili, hazelnuts and ducca, the dish was aesthetically pleasing. The vegetables had been roasting since the wee hours, and it was evident in their texture and compliment to the red currant.

 

The second course featured grilled east coast halibut cheek. Benallick says that all fo Cluny’s seafood is sourced from East to West coast from various boats, highlighting everything in season. In this dish, Bonne Maman dulche de leche was used in the vadouvan base, an flagrant and rich French curry made in-house, blended with steel-cut grits and a slice of soft, roasted acorn squash.

Pairing berries with poultry is key, and the main event delivered with a whole roasted organic duck. Carved table side, the bird was complimented by an array of sides including: brussels sprout and quinoa salad, confit fingerling potatoes dusted with coarse sea salt and herbs, and a sticky-sweet blend of spiced walnut and bonne maman cherry jam chutney. With duck, tart flavours (citrus or berry) is imperative.

The final course, or piece de resistance, of bonne maman chestnut spread stuffed profiteroles, with milk chocolate chantilly and a berry puree. Perhaps the most unique product from the Bonne Maman line, the chestnut spread is definitely an acquired taste for those who are used to seeing vibrant colours on their butter knives. However, it’s a surprise to the palate, with its earthy, full flavour and concentrated texture.

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A table full of like-minded women, passionate about food and a dedication to the craft, is the perfect setting to celebrate a kitchen staple like Bonne Maman. It’s simple, it’s quality and unapologetically off-the-shelf.

 

Ola x OSHEAGA 2015 – The Visuals

Ola conquered Osheaga for the first time during the civic holiday weekend (from July 31 to August 3, 2015) at Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The annual music and arts festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with utmost girth by bringing out  some of the most internationally-renowed artists. Amidst the chaos of waiting in long line-ups, running from stage to stage, sore feet, expensive beer and sneaking in to the VIP media area, the park’s natural, tranquil setting offset all to make for a truly rewarding and memorable experience. In this photo essay, you’ll find some of the moments Ola captured throughout her coverage with BanTOR Radio.

Roots & Culture Cuisine – A Diasporic Food Feature

Welcome to Toronto, where the biggest party of the year is the colourful, enthralling celebration of Caribbean culture known as Caribana. The festival might only happen every summer, but West Indian culture is celebrated year round in “The Six” through music, fetes and, of course, food. Toronto is one of the best cities in the world for Caribbean cuisine. Jerk chicken and roti are the first dishes that come to mind when one mentions Caribbean food, but all of the dishes that reflect the true flavors of the Caribbean — pelau, ackee and saltfish, callaloo, bokit — are available in T.O. It’s a place where you can taste the flavour of almost every island. If you’re craving a five-dollar jerk chicken lunch special with rice ‘n peas packed up in a white Styrofoam box, there’s a good spot for that. If you’re searching for authentic Trinidadian doubles, reminiscent of those sold outside Piarco airport, a flight isn’t necessary. Toronto is more than a ‘mosaic’ of cultures – it’s a place where people share and explore different parts of the world. The city cherishes facets of the Caribbean and the Diaspora, which is why many of the restaurants in our list have been serving the city core and Greater Toronto Area for years. They are preserving culture, straight from the kitchen, and onto piping hot plates.

Lisa Ray

Photo by Javier Lovera

“Success is yours to define.”

Growing up global

Actress. Model. Advocate. Call her what you will, Lisa Ray is more than all three. From being the host of Top Chef Canada to the face of Rado Watches, her travels mimic the span of her career. “I like to think of myself as more boho than corporate,” says the self-proclaimed “covert type A,” who began modeling at 16 in India. “In reality, I have a strong work ethic.”

Core values  

In 2009, Ray was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare blood cancer. She established the Yellow Diaries, a blog that chronicled her experiences, and led her to explore concepts of beauty. Believing that the modern age suffers from ”pathology of perfection,” she embraced meaningful endeavours to inspire change. In a recent collaboration with Indian design house Satya Paul, Ray manifested her experience through silk and sequin. Her “Phoenix Rising” sari is one of many gorgeous creations, where portions of the proceeds are donated to Multiple Myeloma Research at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Diversity her strength

Known for her tenacious role as Sue (Sunita) Singh in Deepa Mehta’s Bollywood/Hollywood, Ray “proudly proclaims” her mixed heritage off screen. “I realized early on that my strength was my uniqueness,” she says of being born to Indian and Polish parents in 1970s Toronto. Ray aptly calls Canada a “cultural stew” that has shaped her outlook on life

Bright diamond

Ray ultimately serves all, be it culture or people. This year, she was recognized for servicing her country with a Diamond Jubilee Medal. “After leaving Canada at 16 to live in India, Europe and the States, I have discovered a new sense of purpose and stability in Canada, which helps me give back in more effective and meaningful ways.”

You can catch a stunning Ray as the lead role in the theatre performance of Taj, which will hit stages across Canada in late October and the new season of Top Chef Canada next year.

 

http://www.lisaraniray.com/

This piece was originally published in the FALL 2013 issue of CHLOE Magazine

Rose Reisman

Photo by Javier Lovera

“Success is waking up every morning, loving what you do and not thinking you’ve ever worked a day in your life.”

The “Art of Living Well” is not a formula, but a philosophy

Opt for a Citrus Salmon Superbowl at the Pickle Barrel or discover a recipe for healthy chocolate cake. Thank nutritional guru Rose Reisman. She believes that “eating well isn’t about deprivation,” and is constantly searching for dishes both flavourful and healthy. Her Choose It And Lose It concept compares counter intuitive menu items from restaurant franchises and is a resource for real people on the go. “Life is such that we’re all going to end up in a fast food restaurant at some point during the week.” Reisman often finds salads that are twice the fat and calories than burgers and shares her collations on CityTV’s Breakfast Television, CityLine and in her daily Metro News column.

Palatable pages

With a roster of 19 books this fall, Reisman didn’t always write about health-conscious eats. In the 90s, the avid jogger was filling pages with decadent recipes, but her “cholesterol was off the Richter scale.” This inspired her to publish Rose Reisman’s Enlightened Home Cooking in 1996. It sold 75,000 copies in Canada with proceeds donated the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Fueling the cause

Rose Reisman Catering sponsored the 2013 Weekend To End Women’s Cancers, providing a total of 7,000 lunches in partnership with Pickle Barrel. Yet, the Art of Living Well truly shines at Glow Fresh Grill. The unique restaurant in Toronto’s Shops at Don Mills features a menu with Reisman’s light, seasonal picks.

Fall feasts

Reisman considers sweet potatoes “candy food” and tops her turkey breast with a cranberry apricot salsa. This season, she is boasting about a newfound favourite: Brussels sprouts. “I roast them in the oven with bell peppers and Parmesan cheese. They’re outstanding!”

Watch Rose Reisman “Choose It and Lose It” weekday mornings on Breakfast Television.

This piece was first published in the Fall 2013 issue of CHLOE Magazine

Andi Petrillo

Photo by Javier Lovera

“Success is being happy with your accomplishments, big or small.”

From living room to screen

Growing up, Andi Petrillo didn’t understand why her father spent Saturday nights watching men pass a puck back and forth on television. Now, he watches her on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada. Raised by Italian immigrants, hockey became a “tradition in the household” and ultimately gave the Petrillo family a “Canadian identity.”

Versatility is key

During the 2012 NHL Lockout, Petrillo felt “crushed.” She says that, “For someone covering the sport, this iconic brand, you’re a little miffed that you can’t fulfill that.” Yet, it presented a new wave of opportunity for Petrillo to cover cross-country skiing with first-hand experience. “I swear I was out there for two hours but it was only twenty minutes,” she says of the challenge. “It gave me more of an appreciation and opened my eyes to other sports.”

Petrillo studied Broadcast Journalism at Seneca College/York, covering everything from politics to local news. That changed when her radio instructor noticed her passion for sports. “I back up my work. I do research. I have my contacts,” she says. “The minute you open your mouth and know what you’re talking about, you’re for real.”

Real life

In 2010, Petrillo traveled to Afghanistan to host a Default concert for Canadian troops. She reveled as the audience was “getting a break from the grind” of 24/7 war. But when the reporter and crew witnessed injured Afghan children at a nearby hospital, reality set in. Petrillo didn’t shy from delving into core issues – Journey to Afghanistan is a 30-minute documentary that captures the experience, which she shot and edited herself.

Learning from the pros

Petrillo has watched athletes prepare with “so much dedication, discipline and focus.” She applies these elements of practice before she goes on air. “The day that I don’t feel like doing it is the day I should push myself even more.”

 

Catch Andi on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada this fall or follow her @andipHNIC

This piece was first published in the Fall 2013 issue of CHLOE Magzine

Angela Aiello

Photo by Patrick Lascina

 

“Success is in making goals, being driven and motivated to achieve your life’s vision, while understanding that fear and failure are a part of the journey. Success is having a dream and going for it!”

Tasting experience and undertones of passion

From growing up in the Niagara region to working at a winery at barely legal drinking age, Angela Aiello, 31, had no idea that she would be the founder of iYellow Wine Club – a social utopia for wine lovers worldwide. Today, bold glasses of Riesling and gentle flutes of Prosecco have weaved their way into every facet of her life. “It’s a perfect ménage of work, life, travel, and love,” she says, with the inclusion of her sommelier boyfriend. “Its here to stay and I’m not going anywhere.”

Bottleneck education

Aiello knew wine was the perfect fit while working at Vineland Estates as a teen. The ambitious young woman would later become a host at Peller Estates, simultaneously pursuing a Communications degree. The new grad moved to Toronto, working as a receptionist at a television production company, unaware of the real resume at her fingertips. With an unfulfilled palate and an insatiable thirst for a robust glass of pinot noir, Aiello established the iYellow blog. The list has grown to over 10,000 members to date.

Pinot Grigio with Asiago or Louboutin pumps with MAC Russian Red?

By teaching others about identifying grapes to pairing wine with food, Aiello equates wine with fashion, as it is the “perfect accessory” to lifestyle. When it comes to trends in the bevy world, she predicts that Port and aperitifs will make a comeback as post and pre-dinner drinks. Apart from opening up a bottle with sushi or dessert, Aiello believes sparkling wine is for every occasion. “Regardless of how the bubbles are made, whether it’s traditional or Charmatt, I use it in a lot of different ways,” she says, citing juice pairings or mixing with sangria. “You’re alive, so drink a glass of sparkling!”

A sip of the future.

Aiello says that many things she has premised in her life are “coming true,” and even sees her own wine label in the future. Wine is in her blood, as Aiello’s 85-year-old grandfather still makes wine in the traditional Italian way. The reason she hasn’t had the chance to make her own?

“I’ve been too busy drinking it!”

To learn more about iYellow, check out http://www.iyellowwineclub.com and http://www.angelaaiello.ca/

This piece was first published in the summer 2013 issue of CHLOE Magazine

Tre Armstrong

Photo by Javier Lovera

Choreographer, Founder of A New DAEI (Dance Academy for the Entertainment Industry) Dance School.

“Success = failure + persistence + passion.”

 

Always kickin’ it

The choreographer mama and her seven-month-old son definitely share a passion for movement. What she calls a “hilarious birth,” the former So You Think You Can Dance Canada judge recalls back and forth treks to the hospital this January, reflective of her son’s groove. “The second he hears music, he’s doing the belly pop. He’s very rhythmic, so with any music or beat, he’ll catch it.”

 

Dancing past doubt

“At the age of 11, I wanted to give up on life and contemplated suicide,” Armstrong says of growing up in an abusive home. With a dream of becoming “Canada’s first ‘Blackerina,’” she faced scrutiny from instructors and peers before leaving dance at 17. In university, Armstrong cut the rug and said, “This is it. I’m going to be successful.” She established her dance academy with fellow choreographer Tonya Burke, and together, they are driven to elevate dancers into the entertainment industry. A New DAEI caters to all cultures by offering everything from belly dancing to hip-hop and a class for walking in heels.

 

Classroom cavort

Her innovative “Davatar” trading cards promote physical fitness by educating youth about dance moves, and are distributed within the Dufferin Peel and Toronto District School Boards across Ontario. The Youth Empowerment Tour is Armstrong’s latest choreography endeavour, where she will host a conference about “powering youth for success.” The project includes an online “iAM” campaign, which encourages celebrities and students of all ages to post a video that captures their potential.

 

Advising novice dancers

Armstrong believes that life is about decisions, even when we fail. She encourages her pupils to “choose not to lose.”

http://anewdaei.com/
http://trearmstrong.com/

This piece was first published in the fall 2013 issue of CHLOE Magazine