Category Archives: Corporate events & business

HELP…GET ME OUTTA HERE – I’M HAVING WAY TOO MUCH FUN !

This coming weekend, Ottawa will experience the launch of a fun, interactive live game that challenges problem-solving skills, patience, and bravery at CLAUSTROPHOBIA, the new “escape room” game venue located in Ottawa’s Hintonburg/Mechanicsville neighbourhood.  I recently spoke with Claustrophobia founder and architect of the current two rooms , Jennifer Schnare (below) who kindly shared the who, what, where, when, why and how about this worldwide phenomenon where teams of friends, family, classmates or co-workers are locked into mysterious rooms and have to solve puzzles and clues in order to unlock the door….and escape.  It’s a thrilling, spine-tingling game that results in trust and team building which usually ends up with tons of laughs all around.

Everest 341Jennifer, what inspired you to open an escape room gaming venue?
I played an escape room for the first time about a year ago and was immediately drawn to the concept. Not only did I have an amazing time in the room and trying to solve the puzzles, but I continued thinking about it after I left.

Why Ottawa?
I first started the planning for Claustrophobia to launch in Toronto but it quickly exploded into a phenomenon and there were a significant number of competitors. I moved to Ottawa and quickly saw that there was a market here, too, and only one other competitor.

get me out Key ImageWhat’s the background or history of the “escape room” phenomenon?
The real life escape room phenomenon was inspired several years ago by “escape room” video games popularized in Japan, and the live game has already taken off in the U.S., England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Mainland China. Over the past couple of years, escape room game venues have mushroomed all across the US and now Canada, and is ideal for families, friends and companies looking to encourage team building with their staff.

trapped2Who writes all the clues and comes up with the room themes for Claustrophobia?
I do with the help of my close family and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support!

Did you personally have to search for all the furnishings and nic-nacs to create the correct ambiance for each room? And where did you find these things?
Yes, I found all the furniture and décor accessories! This was a big job, sourced over months. Kijiji was my biggest source for the larger furnishing – I was renting a Uhaul and driving around Ottawa and surrounding areas by myself, relying on the kindness of the seller to help me lift things. Many of the smaller pieces came from sites like e-Bay, Etsy and Amazon.

labWhat business background do you have that suggests you will make Claustrophobia a resounding success?
I’ve worked as a fundraiser and marketer for over 12 years. This has allowed me to gain the skills in everything from managing a budget, sourcing and working with vendors, to finding cost-effective ways to advertise, developing creative ideas and problem-solving.

Do your friends and family think you’re nuts…or are they all supportive and helping out?
Oh yes indeed, they do think I’m a bit of a nut…LOL…but they’re all very supportive and love to help out. Most have said that they “can’t believe I am doing this” and “I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this” but I wanted to take the risk because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. And I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Describe the two rooms your currently offer, and their capacity.
There are two rooms – The Laboratory (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-laboratory) which accommodates 2 to 5 people. The second room is The Hostel (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-hostel) and it accommodates 2-4 people. It’s important to me that the rooms don’t feel crowded and that you don’t have to play with strangers. I also wanted to ensure you have a full hour to complete the puzzles.

RoomAny plans to increase or expand the current rooms?
Yes! My current venue has the room to expand and I’m already in the process of mapping out the new game room called ‘The Gallery’.

trapped lockHow do people book the rooms and do you have any plans for a Claustrophobia tournament in the near future?
People can book via the website. For the grand opening weekend coming up (March 12-March 15) we’re offering a special discount: $25 per room using promo code ESCAPE25. I don’t have plans for a tournament at this early stage but there are opportunities for corporate team building, birthday packages and of course we have a prize for the team who gets out the fastest every month by room.

ClaustrophobiaBlack (2)To learn more about Ottawa’s newest live “escape room” venue and to book a room, please visit www.claustrophobiagame.ca

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URBANSOURCE CELEBRATES 30YRS OF CATERING TO TORONTO’S DISCERNING FOODIES

Bravo and a big standing O to Toronto’s URBANSOURCE CATERING who, this month, celebrate 30 successful years in one of the most volatile and difficult to crack service industries – event catering.  Starting off with a modest yet stylish storefront on Yonge St at Davisville, founders CALVIN HAMBROOK (below right) and WAYNE ABELL (below left), have built up a loyal following of corporate, private and fundraising clients who sing their praises and re-book year after year, and a professional staff who delivers 5-star service at every event.

1091 The 2 Crazy Owners Opening DayAfter moving to the larger 396 Queen St East with its big commercial kitchen in January of 1990, the business expanded with more staff being brought on board then, when the space next door at #400 became available in late 2012, Calvin and Wayne took that over, opening a stunning art gallery (www.UrbanGallery.ca) with exhibitions curated by Toronto artist, Allen Shugar. The gallery hosts monthly artist events plus can be used as a private party/dining venue.

Calvin Wayne & AllenCalvin, Wayne & Allen (above L to R)

I had a chance to chat briefly with Calvin the other week, who gave me a brief overview of the evolution of UrbanSource Catering – here’s our conversation which is, perhaps, a great lesson on how to build a thriving business while maintaining high standards of service and always delivering a quality product.

Calvin, any personal thoughts on the significance of reaching this milestone with your business? Over the past 30 years, what we’ve learned is the importance of not only giving our clients the best food, and service, but creating a thriving environment for all our staff. We see and appreciate the talents and work ethic our staff bring to our company, both on and off-site. Permitting our staff to grow professionally and bring their own energy and talents to the table helped us become a responsive company that can cater to a broad spectrum of events. It lets us bring enthusiasm and passion to every dish we serve, every party we staff and every event we plan. That’s something our customers can attest to – and this is how you stay successful for 30 years.

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WWP-7200Weddings are such big business now – how have you seen catering for weddings evolve over the past 30 years…and are you seeing any changes ahead for this season’s wedding banquets?  Weddings have evolved in many ways over the past 30 years, yet in many other ways they are the same. Many couples are much more interested in being ‘hands-on’ these days, and look for a more personalized event. But it is still a big undertaking for them, whether it’s a small reception or a big event. Often it’s the first time they’ve had to plan anything as elaborate as a Wedding Reception – and our team of consultants keep everyone sane and happy – and actually enjoy their Wedding!  Our Wedding consultant, Kaspara Albertsen, has guided many couples through the whole planning stage, and helped them overcome hurdles to get the wedding they’ve dreamed of!

IMG_0163 Leek Wrapped Tilapia

BeefFennelCroustini party table

Knowing that Urban can supply full on-site service staff, how important is having professional cater waiters/service staff at an event? Having professional staff at an event saves you headaches and stress –our Staff Manager Jean-Marc Fontaine hears from our clients often, how they ‘couldn’t have done it without our staff’ or ‘Thank you for sending me xxx, they understood my party and my guests’. That’s the difference between throwing a party and being a GUEST at your own party!

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IMG_0320 You have an exciting and innovative Exec. Chef, Lyndon Wiebe – what does he bring to UrbanSource? Lyndon (below) has cooked and traveled the world, and he has a great ‘taste memory’ of things he’s tried. He can make the classic dishes – as well as our 30 Years of Urban Classics  – but he is always introducing new and delicious dishes for us to offer to our clients.

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Each year, Urban supports a number of worthy charitable events – which ones and why?  We recognize the need to give back to our community, and Toronto is one of the most charitable cities anywhere. We support so many worthwhile charities: Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fife House, Surrey Place, Casey House, Inside Out,  Nellie’s Shelter, Toronto United Church’s Heart & Vision and many area Hospitals and charity fundraisers.

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IMG_0975 US-25 Any suggestions/recommendations for people planning weddings, corporate events or personal dining parties to create the best experience for their guests?  We suggest they make a list of all the items they can think of that they will need to provide for the event, assign an estimate of $$$ and a timeline. This will help them plan their budget, and how many guests they want to invite. If they see that this will be more than they can manage, either time-wise or budget-wise, they will save themselves a lot of headache, heartache and energy. This also makes them a much better-educated client, and will help them choose a caterer that meets their particular needs.

IMG_0063And what food trends do you see coming our way over the next year or so?  Street food, homestyle menus and ethnic dishes, especially South Asian and South & Central American. And more vegan, gluten-free and green-sourced foods, pickled vegetables, and house-butchered meats, artisanal foods….people are really embracing locally-sourced foods.

Seared salmon stackwasabi tuna canap+¬

If you’d like to experience what 30 years of successful catering and event planning can do for your next special event, dinner, gala or fundraiser, contact UrbanSource Catering for a quote: http://www.urbancatering.com/

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CONGRATULATIONS TO CALVIN, WAYNE and THE FABULOUS STAFF @ URBANSOURCE CATERING…wishing you another 30 years of delicious success!

2015 Decal Tourism Toronto

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DISTILLERY DISTRICT ALL DRESSED UP TO SHOWCASE EVENT FACILITIES

Yesterday, Sunday March 1st, I spent a glorious hour or two experiencing the fabulous decor, event services, entertainment and …..gulp…FOOD offered in the DISTILLERY EVENTS showcase at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. And, boy, did they deliver the goods!

20150301_135121I’ve attended numerous Leslieville Flea events at the Fermenting Cellar but have never seen it dressed up so beautifully, all courtesy of the on-site Events division of the venue management. The event was promoted as a Wedding Open House, showcasing a number of “preferred suppliers” of wedding gowns, custom tuxes, music, floral arrangements, wines, etc. but as an event producer/planner for corporate and private functions, it was a great way for me to check out how stunning this huge open turn-of-the-century warehouse space could look with some fancy lights, furniture, flowers and filled with happy well-fed people.

20150301_140812 20150301_142925 20150301_143131 20150301_143156The food was phenomenal…never have I attended a free industry event where they doled out the King Crab legs so freely, along with juicy tender (and big) lamb chops, Thai shrimp, oysters, gourmet Mexican tacos…even my fave Portuguese custard tarts!!

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20150301_142344 20150301_134706 20150301_135246 20150301_141223 20150301_141206The entire space was glittering and shimmering with twinkling lights and stunning floral sculptures…I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it all.

20150301_140734 20150301_140625 20150301_142131 20150301_143119My favourite vignette was this huge stunning vase placed in a wall nook (below)…love love love this.

20150301_140723Met Mallory (below), the charming wedding consultant from GOTSTYLE, the chic menswear store that offers custom tux jackets and, as Mallory says, the best accessory for a bride is a well styled groom. GOTSTYLE showed everyone how to do just that!  http://www.shop.gotstyle.ca 

20150301_141916Frank Correnti Cigars had a couple of cigar rollers there, too (below) who were busy crafting the leaves into large fragrant cigars.  http://www.correnticigars.com

20150301_140841Big thank you to my dear friends over at Urban Gallery/UrbanSource Catering who gave me the ticket. And bravo to all at Distillery Events for a well-produced event – the staff was lovely, welcoming and took very care of us all. I highly recommend the Fermenting Cellar for your wedding or other celebration so contact Distillery Events to get the 411. http://www.distilleryevents.com 

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CHEF WHO RAN WILD PRESENTS INT’L PHOTOGRAPHIC ART SHOW & NOT-SO-TAME CATERING

I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming exhibition of LYNDON WIEBE‘s photographic art Lost In Travels: Solitary Confinement at URBAN GALLERY, 400 Queen St East, Toronto, which opens Thurs. January 15th with a special reception for media and art fans.  See: http://www.urbangallery.ca for details

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Along with two other chef friends, Lyndon (pictured above) starred in the CHEFS RUN WILD TV series which has been broadcast on APTN and Travel+Escape TV networks in Canada as well as 40 countries worldwide on the National Geographic Channel. On their featured two-year trip, he discovered his love of photography. The photos in this exhibition were taken over several years of travel in Asia, Africa, Canada and New Zealand. The show will run from Jan. 15th to February 28th.

I recently asked Lyndon a few questions about his photography, travel and culinary passions:

What prompted you to undertake your “chefs run wild” reality series & why did you choose to take 2 others with you?
Well, originally we wanted to create our own web-based food and travel series which became Without Borders. We had all been travelling for years and thought this might be our last big epic adventure so we decided to do something different. We were tired of simply travelling and drinking and doing the usual adventures, not that there is anything wrong with it as we did it for years but we wanted to take advantage of our knowledge of food and expand it and come home with a different experience. At the end of the day it would not hurt our resumes or our repertoire of food knowledge. After making over fifty YouTube videos and winning several awards in the U.S. for Best Food & Travel series on the web, we were starting to get noticed and our production value went up. Marcus Samuelsson (who is a well known celebrity chef) used to show our videos all the time on his own website and promote them for us because he loved them. Eventually our footage was bought from us and commissioned into a 15-episode series called Chefs Run Wild here in Canada on the Travel + Escape Network. (Lyndon is pictured below, right)

1380782_10151909619221014_1362482927_nWhat life-changing events did you experience while travelling around the world?
I spent seven years of my life abroad so it’s hard to pinpoint certain experiences. I think in general, all of those experiences helped me become a better person. Traveling taught me patience and understanding. If you have neither you will have a hard time in some countries. It taught me that slow is better and you don’t always need to rush. You appreciate things more when you can actually relax and take it all in. (Masai tribesman, Africa, pictured below)

Invitation Image Masai Tribesman TanzaniaYou’re originally from Winnipeg – what brought you to Toronto?
After travelling and undertaking the Without Borders adventure I decided to move back to Winnipeg. I knew after a few years I had to go to a bigger city, so was set to move to Vancouver to live with my brother on the coast when my producer suggested I move here to Toronto as the TV networks were all here as well as the production studio. So it made sense as we were doing a whole bunch of media interviews and spots to promote the show in Toronto. After moving here to give it a try, I fell in love with the city and have been here for three years now.

When/how did you come to work at UrbanSource Creative Catering?
I started at Urban Source in March of 2011. I had moved to Toronto six months prior to promote the TV show and had been slowly looking for work but no longer wished to work in restaurants – they no longer appealed to me with the long hours and dismal pay. I had done some catering in Calgary before and I liked it so I thought I would send out some resumes to different catering houses. Urban responded and when I went in for an interview, it turns out they were hiring a head chef and I felt up to the task.

How do you describe your cooking style?
Very loose and playful, I would say. I’m not rigid when it comes to following recipes unless it’s baking which  needs a little more attention. I like comfort foods, braised dishes and love smoking my own meats and making my own pickles. I prefer simple, well presented flavours that are evenly matched and not too bold unless they need to be.

ArtofFood14Do you have plans for expanding your culinary skills or do you plan on opening your own restaurant one day?
I try new recipes all the time when I’m at home and at work when the time allows and the ingredients are available in the kitchen. As for my personal ventures, I do love teaching people how to cook and do personal lessons from time to time in the comfort of their own home over a glass of wine. I used to volunteer at The Stop Community food centre teaching kids how to cook in an after-school program and I loved it. As for the immediate future, I will continue to offer lessons and small dinner parties whenever I get the chance.

Your travel photos are stunning and will be shown at Urban Gallery Jan.15 to Feb 28th – how did you select which photos are shown and why?
Going through all of my photos over the years, the ones that really made an impression on me were the ones that gave a sense of loneliness and isolation even in a busy environment, so I decided to choose the ones that put me in that sense of calmness and reflectiveness when I look at them.

DSC_1155 DSC_0238

Apart from the large prints hung on the gallery walls, can people purchase other prints?
Absolutely – people can order a smaller print size, if they so choose. This is my first exhibition and if it goes well there will be more to follow.

Any exciting new travels planned for the near future?
My girlfriend and I are off to Cuba for a friend’s wedding in April and other than that, maybe a trip to the Bahamas or somewhere warm with my family this year. I no longer desire the six-month trips abroad. A month is more than enough for me now.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:  Lost In Travels: Solitary Confinement looks at feelings of isolation in the world around us. Even in a group, we are still alone in our thoughts. Nature can make us feel isolated when it opens itself up to us – the more surreal and beautiful the moment, the more removed from our surroundings we become, lostin thoughts of awe and wonder.    Lyndon Wiebe 2014

Urban Gallery hours:
Monday-Saturday noon  to 5pm
Thursdays noon to 8pm
Closed Sundays & Holidays
400 Queen St East in the historic Corktown district of  downtown Toronto   http://www.urbangallery.ca

UrbanSource Creative Catering: http://www.urbancatering.com/

 

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“URBAN FOODIE” NIGHT AT URBAN GALLERY, TORONTO

Presented by the fabulous folks at URBANSOURCE CATERING, Toronto’s URBAN GALLERY hosted a special “Urban Foodie” event last night presenting some of the most delicious delicacies created by their Executive Chef, LYNDON WIEBE.

2 30thAnjniversary2015I arrived a little early so I could sneak a peek in the kitchen where Chef Lyndon and his crew were busy putting the finishing touches to the canapes (below)

20141120_171631 20141120_171713 20141120_171811…then watched as they were laid out for the soon-to-arrive guests (below)

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20141120_172549 20141120_172617 20141120_173000 20141120_172705The always-fabulous gallery goddess Kaspara vamped for cameras as she tweaked and “fluffed” the food!

20141120_172651And then the guests arrived!

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Visiting food blogger, Linda Matarasso (@aStarvingFoodie) below, posted numerous Instagram & Twit pics, enjoying all the scrumptious treats as well as the stunning photographic art of Karen Silver, whose current show ends Nov. 29th

20141120_175132 20141120_180023 20141120_175814and our talented artist Karen Silver dropped in to enjoy the great food and socializing, below left

20141120_184532Artist, poet and performance artist Brenda Clews (below left) dropped by, too. Brenda hosts monthly poetry salons in the gallery and has previously exhibited her colourful, large format paintings at Urban Gallery.

20141120_184906Then Brenda (with gallery curator, Allen Shugar, below) turned the camera on me!

20141120_185005 GlendaBelow, Wayne Abell, our host-with-the-most, enjoyed welcoming the guests….

20141120_173902….and Catering & Events Mgr, Calvin Hambrook (below right) shared a glass of wine and stories with guests

20141120_185739(0)CHEESY BALLS!  Yaaaaay, they’re back…my favourite “cheesy balls” which are actually delicious risotto balls with warm cheese stuffing made a special appearance, just for me – below

20141120_185502…but the spicy shrimps were also pretty awesome. Simple, delicately spiced with lime, these were gobbled up quickly by very happy guests.

20141120_175648My favourite Canadian wines by Pelee Island Winery were served…

20141120_173328 20141120_173345and the food kept coming….even Whisky & Spice booze-infused mustards made an appearance beside the charcouterie platters.

20141120_181657 20141120_182347But my new all-time favourite has to be this special treat Chef Lyndon prepared…maple candied bacon strips. OMG, they were sooooo good and they disappeared sooooo quickly. At least I managed to grab a few!

20141120_173703 20141120_173731Big thank you to everyone who attended, and thank-you to UrbanSource Catering for showcasing such an amazing selection of holiday hors d’oeuvres, canapes and charcouterie platters, all available from their special festive menus. Find these plus holiday cocktail menus online here: http://www.urbancatering.com/

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THE STORY OF “O” – TORONTO’S O RESTO-LOUNGE, THAT IS!

O Burger logo fbhttp://www.orestolounge.com

Welcome to Yonge & Delicious!

patioLocated on the s.e. corner of Yonge & King St, O Resto-Lounge is a favourite of bankers, investment brokers, marketing professionals, shoppers, tourists, artists and hipsters, all rubbing elbows at the long bar enjoying their after-work cocktails (you gotta try the Passionfruit Sour), wines, beers and spirits. And you’ll see them chowing down on perfectly grilled juicy burgers or fresh crispy salads presented with locally-sourced produce for lunch or dinner.

bardiningBut for my money, it’s all about the crispy fresh-cut onion rings (below) – the perfect O in the story of this 10 month old downtown Toronto restaurant.

20140929_184356 20140929_184406Ideally located for pre or post-theatre dining (Massey Hall, Sony Centre, Winter Garden & Elgin Theatres are all within 5-10 mins walking distance), O Resto-Lounge has an elegant but casual interior as well as a generous patio area for relaxed summer hang-outs. Also close to the Eaton Centre shopping mall, Yonge-Dundas Square and the historic St. Lawrence Market, Union Station, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Nathan Philips Square.

20140929_182744 20140929_182823 20140929_182812 20140929_182803Chef Landi Prendi is proud to offer a menu that includes meats, poultry, fish and pasta dishes with a rustic Italian flavour to satisfy the most discerning palette. And if you are planning a corporate gathering or party, Chef Landi is happy to create special hors d’oeuvre menus (featured below) to compliment the theme of your event.

meat platters plattersWith a seating capacity of 60 or approx.100 for a cocktail reception, O Resto-Lounge is an affordable and convenient option for smaller corporate or family gatherings, and is fully wheelchair accessible. The attractive front patio, great for people watching, is open all year round.

Restaurant manager, Ms. Berna Coban, welcomes enquiries for group bookings, corporate or private functions so I encourage you to contact her then go visit O Resto-Lounge. There is still space for upcoming Christmas group bookings (lunch or dinner) but don’t wait too long to book.

Hours of operation:
Mon. to Thurs. 11:30am – 11:00pm
Friday 11:30am – 12midnight
Sat. & Sun. 12noon to 10:00pm
Amex, Visa, Mastercard & Debit cards accepted

20140929_182749O Resto-Lounge, 7 King St East, Toronto, ON  M5C 3C5   T: 416-901-5535   E: info@orestolounge.com

 

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URBANSOURCE CATERING SPONSORS CATERING FOR FIFE HOUSE FUNDRAISER

Congratulations to UrbanSource Catering (www.urbancatering.com)  on another fantastic catering gig last night – the exciting Fife House benefit “Spotlight” produced by Michael Rubinoff, featuring TV and Broadway star Megan Hilty with Seth Rudetsky, held at the Glenn Gould Studio in CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto. Urban has sponsored the food for this annual event for over a decade.

now_ad_2UrbanSource Catering always delivers great food and last night’s hors d’oeuvres were no exception…

20141110_181309 20141110_182056 20141110_184614 20141110_180358 20141110_180037I was especially thrilled to see the re-appearance of my favourite “cheesy balls” (they’re really very tasty risotto balls filled with deelish gooey cheese)

20141110_181150 20141110_184441 20141110_184426The bar was packed, too, with fabulous wines from our friends at Tre Amici

20141110_183617and the food service was handled by Urban’s always friendly staff

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20141110_182100Fife House (www.fifehouse.org) held a silent auction during the pre-show reception and there were lots of great items vying for bids, and the lovely volunteers selling drink tickets helped keep everyone well-lubricated!!

20141110_180250 20141110_184116Wayne W. Abell, Urban’s Catering Sales & Business Manager, posed with Fife House Exec. Director Keith Hambly (below)

20141110_182316Lots of guests packed the Glenn Gould Studio foyer devouring all the fabulous treats….including Urban’s Catering & Events Mgr. Calvin Hambrook and http://www.Newz4You.net publisher/writer, KJ Mullins pictured below with Wayne.

20141110_190802 20141110_191314Ooooo, look…more cheesy balls – I must have nibbled at least a dozen (or two) myself!! Yummmm

20141110_185418And I met the delightful Dusty Balfour who came in all the way from Niagara Falls to attend the event – damn, I want that tiara!

20141110_190404 20141110_190507Big thank you to everyone at CBC, the Glenn Gould Studio, Fife House (esp. David Currah, Dir. of Development & Communications), all the sponsors and the mgmn’t & service team at UrbanSource Catering. Bravo and a big standing O to all!

 

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