Saturday, August 30, 2014


Over the past week I have encountered some good, reasonably priced places to score a good bite while at a same time not sacrificing flavour, quality, and poise.

On Monday I had the lunch special at Sakura in North York where for $7.95 I had a bento box of tempura, bulgogi, salad, rice, and sushi along with miso soup and little appetizers.   

On Wednesday I had a hearty lunch at Su&Shi Noodle Bar (located at Dine on 3 at Yorkdale, ) where I had an appetizing and mouthwatering serving of three crispy chicken spring rolls, and a plate of grilled chicken thigh with rice.   In addition to the chicken and the rice, I was delighted by the vegetable medley that was served, along with alfalfa sprouts.   And at $4.99 for the spring rolls and $10.99 for the meal, it was a great deal to people to eat a well-balanced yet exotic meal.

For coffee hour I went to my favourite coffee shop Second Cup and in addition to chai tea ($2), I had a rich and delicious slice of carrot and walnut cake with a thick layer of sugar icing ($2.75).

One of the highlights of Wednesday evening was accompanying friends to the latest poutinerie called “Poutineville” ( where they specialize in Quebec’s national dish, poutine.    I had the custom version where for $13.95; I selected chicken, Brie, mushrooms and white wine sauce on shoestring fries.   This poutinerie is a new classy way of transforming an iconic Quebec staple to haute cuisine for the 21st century foodie.    The custom poutine was so good; I would give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

Thursday I had the $6.95 Sushi Lunch special of Grilled Salmon Maki and Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Maki that was succulent and flavourful at the same time at New Generation Sushi at the Annex.    Later on I was treated to a light dinner by having a $4.50 crispy Spring Roll at Urban House while I was networking among the filmmaking community in Toronto.

Friday I had a succulent hamburger combo at the South St. Burger Company ( where I had a simple 4oz burger complete with fries and a drink for $.8.95.   To cap off the day, I had vegetarian dumplings at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant called “Kings CafĂ©” ( , where for $5.99 I had a sampling of exotic, new Asian cooking meant to cater to those that are on both meatless and healthful diets.   At low prices, vegans, vegetarians and even meat lovers can find something to like in this establishment.

Who says its impossible finding good eats on the cheap these days?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


On a late Tuesday summer afternoon, I had the pleasure of catching an early jazz set performed by a bunch of talented young musicians led by saxophonist Peter Cavanaugh.   Not only they are a talented band, they happen to be my new young confreres in the Toronto jazz scene through weekly jam sessions and for one member being an integral part of my trio.

In a program of mostly standard repertoire, I won’t analyze here the nooks and crannies of the takes of the standards, but I want to comment on the individual styles of each musician and how they have impacted my life.

Peter Cavanaugh is a young, vivacious leader, and a soulful saxophonist with a well developed voice.   He can also be seen busking around the streets of Toronto performing contemporary hits with his “Sidewalk Crusaders”, giving musicians a chance to make money while honing their crafts on the piano.   He is a talent that you will hear a whole lot more of, and I can’t wait to feature him in one of my groups someday.

Miles Finlayson and I hang out week in and week out through the Norman Marshall Villeneuve jam sessions held every Tuesday afternoon, working with old and young musicians honing our improvisation and repertory skills while becoming better musicians in the process.    He is always searching, always striving for perfection, and he is developing into a more mature sounding musician that is serious about the music.

Felix Wong, as a young teenager, is slowly becoming a new ferocious beast on the piano.    His command of bebop, his solos, and his style shows maturity far beyond his years and it is only going to get amazingly better with well-aged time.

Bennett Young.  Also met him at the Norman Marshall Villeneuve jam sessions.   Upon hearing him not only we have been playing a lot together, but we have become true music friends, confreres, and confidants in the jazz world.    When I call him my “Ray Brown” (Oscar Peterson’s longtime bassist), there is a reason why.

I haven’t heard much from Stuart Mein, but from what I heard he is an exciting drummer that I love to work with in the future.   Very colourful, rhythmic, and very precise in his timekeeping.

Hanging out with these musicians makes me feel young again.   Listening to them makes me all the more assured that the spirit of jazz will live on and on for those who have ears to hear and the drive to succeed.

(Peter Cavanagh, Bennett Young, Miles Finlayson, Felix Wong, Stuart Mein)

Monday, August 25, 2014


To cap off a beautiful late summer night, I attended a set of forward thinking, rhythmic world/Latin jazz courtesy of a newly formed trio headed by pianist (and old friend and schoolmate of mine from university days) Jeremy Ledbetter.

In a program of mostly originals, it was like being taken on a boat cruise to various ports of call along the Caribbean and Latin Americas, sampling and tasting a fine gumbo of rhythms, beats, cultures, and pleasures.   

Jeremy’s compositions and playing fused elements of Thelonious Monk, Chucho Valdes and Oscar Peterson into a style that is truly organic and uniquely his own.   Starting with Little Bell, he cooks with a fine rhythm section of bassist Rich Brown and percussionist Luis Orbegoso that brings a driving groove to the music and keeps the audience wanting more of this exotic cuisine of music.  

The classic Sonny Rollins composition “St. Thomas” has been taken into a 7/4 groove that leads into a very rhythmic and tribal percussion solo by the master of the conguero, Luis Orbegoso.     “Her New Wings” features a duo with melodica and bass by Rich Brown in which he plays chordal patterns on the bass and does effective pedaling to set a foundation for Ledbetter’s moving melody on the melodica.     His new composition “Mais Un” is a funky, exciting Brazilian clave composition that will make you want to jump on your feet and dance to the music, while “Two Cousins” closes the night fusing both elements of Afro-Cuban and Reggae beats into a highly original piece.

After all these years, Jeremy Ledbetter is becoming a fine expert and practitioner of the Latin jazz sound, and his forward thinking music should be experienced, not just heard, whenever he plays in town.


(Jeremy Ledbetter, Rich Brown, Luis Orbegoso)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On a cool Monday in August, I finally decided to make the trek to one of the great delicatessens in Toronto with a storied, entrepreneurial past.   The deli: Caplansky’s on College.

Located near Kensington Market and Little Italy, this delicatessen is known for its delicious, succulent sandwiches, donuts, borscht, matzo ball soup and hosting Passover dinners in April (in which I will be attending next year).    This is Jewish soul food at its finest and best and it brings me back to a certain kinship and camaraderie I have felt amongst the Jewish people of the day.

Since it was Monday, I opted to have the Turkey BLT ($11), in which was a big, juicy succulent sandwich loaded with smoked, pulled off the bone turkey, beef bacon strips, lettuce and tomato on toasted challah.     It was finger licking good and mouthwatering, shattering my expectations when it comes to the usual suspects of processed poultry meats.

A word about Mr. Zane Caplansky.   He is best known as a judge on the “Donut Showdown” TV show on the food network, has appeared on Dragon’s Den, and has a famous food truck that wants to elevate street food in a new level in Toronto.   Upon meeting this man I see nothing but enterprising success and charm in his character, and that by keeping the tradition alive he is making it possible for a new generation to check out some good quality eats.

Caplansky’s is a place in which I will definitely be coming to again and making it my new “Cheers”, or “Central Perk”.

356 College Street
Phone:  416-500-3852

 (Mr. Zane Caplansky and Me)

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Sunnyside Records
5 out of 5 stars

One of the most intriguing albums that I have had the pleasure to listen to in recent memory is Dan Tepfer’s take on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”.    When the piece “Goldberg Variations” comes to mind, we automatically think of the great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and his landmark recordings in the 1950’s and 1980’s.

Here, Dan not only plays the variations, but on each variation he does a jazz improvisation.    The improvisations echoed Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Paul Bley and hints of Thelonious Monk.   

Dan showed impressive command, technique and poise on the piano, plus creative ingenuity through his jazz improvisations of the tune.   Worth the while to pick this one up.