Sunday, December 20, 2015

White Christmas @ Sofia

Ladies & Gentlemen,

'A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play;
his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He
hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever
he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself,
he always appears to be doing both.' ~ Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

Before I begin let me mention that Mother Nature was not cooperative with our shindig.
It was not a 'White Christmas @ Sofia' soiree... but rather a 'September in New York'
kind of night. I am back, after such a prolonged absence, to extol the virtues of our latest
gastronomic regale. The evening was a fabulous chef-d'oeuvre with delicious sprinkles...
we were able to amass quite a montage of bon-vivants. N'est-ce-pas? I say 'We', because
the success of these shindigs is the collective effort of the whole and not of its parts.
What began quietly enough, and with very little fanfare, turned out to be quite interesting,
engaging and very entertaining. The evolutionary cycle, always moving forward, has cast
its attrition.

First and foremost, let us welcome the nubile Chef Doriana... who took my breath away!
And for the longest time... a male newcomer making an appearance, Luigi, who also dabbles
in writing with a degree in drama. I like people who are creative... in any field. Very cool!
I hope they continue to grace our table.
A special mention goes out to the bombacious Ms Marilyn, va va voom! Not bad for a woman
who recently gave birth! She wore white as she had done on her first outing back in 2012.
I believe Antonella & Wendy are added stimuli, intellectually and emotionally. One of the
patrons @ Sofia confided in me her surprise by the level of camaraderie by everyone.

The word for the evening is 'Umami', whispered into my ear by lovely Chef Doriana.
A loanword from the Japanese, 'Umami' can be translated as 'pleasant savory taste'
and is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness,
and saltiness). People taste 'Umami' through receptors included in the foods that
indulge you in an orgasmic experience of the palette. Kudos to the chef, I'm glad Frank
is back where he belongs. The food was remarkable and sublime, as it is always.
They say the measure of a great restaurant is the consistency of its dishes. Bravo
to the personnel as well... who showed true professionalism in the face of our constant
barrage of requests.

Watching Vince & Loredana in the throws of verbal exchanges with Fil & the Attorney,
who had mentioned earlier that she was 'As happy as a little girl' because of all the
male eye-candy in the form of the wait staff. And in the other corner, Antonella with
Wendy, and Domenic with Monsieur Bombardier, each being raconteurs, is the fuel
that propels these evenings.

'Life's euphoria consists of little moments; you steal away from the mundane.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

The new decor is white-wash brick with vintage trattoria mementos and artworks...
along with a wall of colourful bottles. The bar is a long, expansive wood and steel
structure and the floors are a wooden parquet Herringbone pattern. Beautiful, sturdy
wooden tables, again very trattoria-style decor. There's a whole wall of windows
overseeing the kitchen in full swing.

Gianni and Danny are the epitome of 'Gentlemen service' down to the minutest detail,
and here we were not disappointed. We enjoyed another staple, the dessert platter
and our espressos & cappuccinos.

I'm a big proponent of evolution… as is the case with each soiree the dynamics and
the landscape changes, and this eclectic ensemble has definitely evolved, having passed
a year of ups and downs, while maintaining a certain level of familiarity. As Ms. Marilyn
pointed out to me in hush voice, 'These are my people! This is where I feel most at ease
and free to speak my mind.'
I like to equate it to an ever-changing, living organism that grows as it absorbs particles
it picks up along its journey. I have been told that such a group, as we have, is a rarity
and I hope I am living up to that task.

© Your Cruise Director
Food is my compass
December 18, 2015

* Sofia Trattoria ¤ Vineria
2042 Peel St.
Montreal (514) 843-5100

Friday, September 11, 2015

And then, on September 11, the world fractured . . .

'It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day and the days that would follow--the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.' ~ President Barack Obama

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
September 11, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

End of Summer

'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.' ~ Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel

'It's easy to get sad as the carefree days of summer come to a close but before we
go there, and although I'll openly admit that I'm slightly sad to see the days get
shorter and to see leaves on the ground, it's nice to know that we've got a few more
weeks left and that the autumn months give us much to look forward to. Let's
collectively and softly say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn.' ~ © Frank Borsellino™

© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant
September 7, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sofia Trattoria ¤ Vineria

'There is no love sincerer than the love of food.' ~ George Bernard Shaw

You feel as though you're sitting at a café on the Promenade de la Croisette (according
to one of the ladies at my table who was there recently) or on Via Veneto in the Eternal
City, but we're neither in Cannes nor in Rome. We are seated, on this glorious Saturday
evening, on Peel Street in the heart of downtown Montreal in the newly formed terrace
at Sofia Trattoria ¤ Vineria. The plants in their pots and wooden vases... the bistro
tables and chairs... the light bulbs dangling on a long cord at the top of the awning,
typical of those locations on the other side of the world. I felt the hustle and flow
of a busy artery in the city core, but none of the noise. I had been dragging my feet
to return to my favorite haunt for too long... but the wait was over and I was ready
to indulge in their new menu.

We started with the wine, of course ... a smooth '2012 Sebastiani Gravel Bed Cabernet
Sauvignon, Alexander Valley wine with aromas of dried olives and blackberries with
underlying mineral and tea-like hints of espresso. Powerful, dusty Cab with concentrated
blackberry fruit flavors.
Our first course consisted of 'Arancini alla Bolognese' ... a risotto ball stuffed
with bolognese sauce, green peas & mozzarella…just sweet enough and full of flavour
with a crisp outer shell. They were consumed rather quickly. 'Sarde ripiene al pesto'
... sardines stuffed w/pesto, olives, capers, parsley, thyme, bread crumbs, and chilli
& lemon sauce. A new experience for 'moi' but found the combination of these ingedients
infused together forming a new burst of flavors. 'Polpo alla Siciliana' ... grilled
octopus is cut into chunks and flavoured with olives, capers, parsley, chili & braised
fennel's raisins. Braising is a surefire way to make it tender and succulent. 'Caprese
di Mozzarella di Bufala' ... Mozzarella di bufala made from the milk of the domestic
Italian water buffalo & heirloom tomatoes, olives, Prosciutto di Parma & crostini. It
was very refreshing.

Finally, as a way to clean and prepare your palette for the main courses we finished
off with 'Insalata di Rucola con Pomodori' ... Arugula salad w/cherry tomatoes and

The new decor is white-wash brick with vintage trattoria mementos and artworks...
along with a wall of colourful bottles. The bar is a long, expansive wood and steel
structure and the floors are a wooden parquet Herringbone pattern. Beautiful, sturdy
wooden tables, again very trattoria-style decor. There's a whole wall of windows
overseeing the kitchen in full swing. The staff is cordial, knowledgeable and eager
to please. We needed a few moments to cross the finish line... and so without further
ado we proceeded to the main courses.

'Costolette di Agnello alla Griglia' ... marinated grilled lambs chops, accompanied
with crispy polenta fries, radicchio & watercress salad. They were so moist and juicy
that fork and knife were not needed. 'Sgombro alla Griglia' ... oily fish, such as
the grilled mackerel, are strong-flavored and pair well with boldly seasoned glazes
made from Korean gochujang rich, chili paste. Served with eggplant caviar & grilled
asparagus. 'Spigola alla Griglia' ... grilled striped Sea Bass, roasted pepper-green
olive clam sauce, sautéed kale and lemon-thyme basmati rice. A staple at this
establishment and it did not disappoint. It was moist and very flavourful.

Gianni Caruso and Pasquale Ruffolo are the epitome of 'Gentlemen service' down to
the minutest detail, and here we were not disappointed. We enjoyed another staple,
the dessert platter and our espresso & cappuccinos. After such a culinary feast
a dinner party needs to be forthcoming so my circle of friends can also regale

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
August 15, 2015

* Sofia Trattoria ¤ Vineria
2042 Peel St.
Montreal, H3A 2R4
(514) 843-5100

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wind of Change

The wind of change
Blows through our days
Sometimes can leave
Our minds with haze

When thinks do not
Go as expected
It is easy to feel
Quite dejected

If we live
With love inside
And never faith
We compromise.

We can bring
Our dreams to reality
Transform that haze
Into clarity

Wind of change
Can be uplifting
And also gifting

A chance for
Love and new beginnings
When you believe
You end up winning.

* Ben Stiller by Annie Leibovitz

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Ode to Robin Williams

'I have always been afraid of being left alone but I never thought that I would be
surrounded by people that make me feel like I am alone.' ~ Robin Williams

In 1979, fresh out of high school, I discovered 'Reality: What a Concept!' ...Robin
Williams had a deep voice... I believe it was his debut comedy LP.
In those days there weren't a lot of avenues for learning about somebody you'd see
once a week on TV, so I just assumed the squeaky helium voice of Mork was Williams's
natural voice. Nope: it was just part of the antic disposition he donned for the flimsy
one-note role that made him, within a few months in 1978, one of the biggest stars
in America.
In real life — to the extent a stand-up comic's stage persona is any closer to real
life — Williams sounded like what he was: a superbly educated young man who
spoke with a velvety and erudite baritone, the product of a life of ease and opportunity.
He grew up in suburban Detroit, the son of a vice-president of an automobile company.
He moved to Marin County, California (home of the über rich) and eventually studied
theater at Juilliard in New York, a protégé of John Houseman…where his classmate
and later roommate was Christopher Reeve. They went on to be lifelong friends.
'Happy Days' (1974–1984), created as a de facto serialization of 'American Graffiti'
(1973), had already entered its interminable creative decline when he auditioned for
a part as a space alien who descends into Richie Cunningham's Milwaukee. Invited
by the producer to take a seat, he sat on his head. The rest would have been a late
1970s' flash in the pan (who remembers Leather Tuscadero?) if Williams had had
nothing to offer beyond manic improv comedy energy. But it turns out that Juilliard
and Houseman had an eye for talent. First, Williams had a lot of manic energy,
goosed in those days with beach-toy shovels full of cocaine. His ability to fill
a room with his spirit, to riff until his feet practically lifted off the floor,
carried him out of 'Happy Days', through four seasons of 'Mork & Mindy' (1978–1982),
and on to a lifetime on talk shows he could carry through dead spots with one of his
preferred celebrity imitations (John Wayne, Truman Capote) or a reference to drug
culture. He use to say, "Canada is like a really nice apartment over a meth lab."
The hints of richer talent were sporadic for a while. His title role in Robert
Altman's 'Popeye' (1980) was just confusing, as was the whole movie, an attempt at
an art-house blockbuster. His performance in 'The World According to Garp' (1982),
understated with flashes of anger, is the one I'd recommend as the first evidence
of serious dramatic skill. 'Good Morning Vietnam' (1987) had its moments, but it
wasn't until Peter Weir's 'Dead Poets Society' (1989) that you could hear the
satisfying crack of a serious actor knocking a performance out of the ballpark. The
notes he established here — wistful but warm and confiding — set the parameters
for most of his dramatic work to follow. But here he shines above some of the best
actors of a younger generation. When he leans in close after Ethan Hawke's painfully
shy young student manages to improvise some serviceable beat poetry and whispers,
"Don't you forget this," it's a perfect moment.
Most of the American performing arts are so rooted in the colloquial — jazz,
stand-up comedy, cinema and team sports — that it's easy for audiences to fool
themselves into believing the greats are nothing but intuitive talents who get by
on luck and help from the Almighty. But Williams honed his comedy through hundreds
of nights in clubs, and he brought the same discipline to his movie roles that he
used to get into Juilliard. While my favourite film roles for him are like most
everyone else's — 'Dead Poets Society',
'Awakenings' (1990), 'Good Will Hunting' (1997) — his craftsman's discipline is
perhaps most clearly on display in Christopher Nolan's 'Insomnia' (2002), where
he plays a disturbed Alaska resident caught up in a murder mystery investigated
by Al Pacino. Here Williams avoided mannerism and sentimentality to deliver
a cold, bitterly compelling performance.

It took only a few minutes for Williams' apparent suicide to bring out legions
of commentators who are sure they knew why he could not carry on. I won't throw
more guesswork onto that pile. He made no secret that life could be as hard for
him as for millions of others who do their best, every day, with demons at their
heels. What I prefer to remember is that when he became famous he seemed
certain to be a flash in the pan, but 36 years later he leaves a deep and generous

In 'Dead Poets Society', John Keating (Robin Williams) tells the boys: "To quote
from Whitman: 'O me, O life! Of the questions of these recurring... Of the endless
trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish… What good amid these,
O me, O life? Answer: that you are here….That life exists, and identity. That the
powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.' That the powerful play
goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

That was his...

© From Where I Sit™
July 20th, 2015

* photo: Final appearance @ 'The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson' - May '1992

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Movie Review - 'Stuck in Love' (2012)

'I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way.' ~ Andrew Boyd

It seems that whenever a new film or movie is released it's a car chase or a killing spree…
blowing shit up, children's stories or sequels. 'Die Hard 18', 'Rocky 26', 'Rambo 10' or my
favorite 'Halloween 101'. But there was a time, in the 1990s', due in part to Sundance and
Miramax, when studios began acquiring 'independents', and the calibre of adult-oriented,
intelligent, riveting films began a resurgence. Actors, such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, who
made a slew of Indie flicks, such as 'Happiness' or 'Doubt'... would probably still be working
as a waiter somewhere in New York, but instead became a major player, until his demons
precipitated his demise.
In the new Millennium all that changed... especially after the stock market adjusted
(I won't say 'crash'), and the flowering of 'Indie Studios' by the majors stopped. Those
divisions full of creativity not so long ago dried up. I recently enjoyed a film that put
a smile on my face... made me reminiscent of that time - a sweet little American indie,
'Stuck in Love'. I know, it sounds like a corny 'chick flick', which is why it had
been lagging behind on my 'DVR' list for so long, and I kept skipping over it. I rarely
come across films that transport me and I become completely engrossed in every word. When
that moment happens there's a little pitter-patter in my heart as I know I'm witnessing
what could be the launching pad for hot new talent. Lo and behold... I found that here...
a glimmer, a spark that ignited and inspired me. I hope you enjoy my review as much I
enjoyed writing it.

When released it must have been in the midst of a plethora of films that were better
marketed…because I never saw ONE ad or commercial. An independent romantic-drama film
written and directed by Josh Boone, an auteur's first gift to adults… that stars Jennifer
Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff and Logan Lerman. First-time writer/director
Josh Boone crafted an exquisite film which successfully combines several themes that few
are able to tackle propitiously. The sharp edges of the story are sanded down; human
connection -- the innocence and fear of first love, the seesaw of a mature relationship,
and the pain of an estranged couple.
An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teenage children come to terms with the
complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year… a drama
of family dysfunction with many literary references that takes a little from Curtis
Hanson's 'Wonder Boys' (2000).

Greg Kinnear plays William Borgens, an unhappily divorced, once-brilliant novelist,
who hasn't had a hit in ages but refuses to allow anyone to sense his self-pity, channels
his creative energy into coaching his two children to be writers: he pays them a kind
of stipend so they can concentrate on writing their 'journals' without needing to take
a demeaning 'McJob' –- and he is still obsessed with his ex-wife. Erica, played by
Jennifer Connelly, is the quintessential partner cast aside at the expense of William's
inattention and indiscretion. Their teenage children Samantha and Rusty are discovering
their own offbeat paths into the wacky world they've inherited. High school student Rusty
(Nat Wolff) is a struggling writer himself, remains cruelly unpublished, and like their
now creatively blocked dad is beginning to experience the first frightening pangs of
adolescent desire. Dad isn't the best role model, after all, but this is a father-son
relationship that has promise if either or both can get their acts together. The minxy
19-year-old daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins), is in college and headstrong in the way
a young woman is determined to control her life and career at the expense of entering
the dating scene and submitting to the wants of a man. She astonishes and secretly
appals one and all by getting a book deal for her smart, but cynical first novel. Enter
Lou (Logan Lerman), the earnest intellectual who will stop at nothing to win her over.

From top to bottom -- Kinnear, Connelly, Collins, Wolff, Lerman -- are perfectly cast,
even the adulterous Tricia, brilliantly played by Kristen Bell ('House of Lies'), all
inhabit their roles as if created by them. In fact, to some extent, that's true as the
dialogue's authenticity is at least partly rooted in Boone's generosity in allowing the
actors to improvise some of their material. Wolff, in particular, takes advantage of
this opportunity to add a good deal of the narrative's comic relief with his ad-libbed
lines.As his would-be suitor, young Lily Collins is an able foil to Lerman's advances
and wins over the viewer with her sharp wit.
The adults who anchor the film deserve far more credit than they're given. Jennifer
Connelly, who won an Academy Award opposite Russell Crowe in 2001's 'A Beautiful Mind',
is a beautiful soul inside and out as the wounded spouse who still has a place in her
heart for a potentially loving husband... who still holds a torch for her, as well,
an intensely personal plot device that could easily lack credulity in the hands of
lesser professionals. Oscar-nominated Greg Kinnear, unbeknownst to me, turned into
a very fine actor able to tackle complex characters... proves once again why he is
one of the industry's go-to guys. Few actors handle comedy and drama equally well,
and he has no problem convincing us he's a tormented has-been.
The film is technically well-balanced between slick Hollywood production values
and a relaxed indie look. Bright lighting belies the turmoil beneath the surface.
Tim Orr, a longtime 'indie' cinematographer is truly a master. His signature style
is the ability to capture beauty in nature and everyday objects -- a dripping gutter
here, a playground swing there -- and photography that is comforting... enveloping
the actors in a warm glow that matches their affections. The quaint beach house
setting used in many of the scenes is awash with a color palette of earth tones
and rustic furnishings, a counterculture milieu befitting this family of intellectuals…
Think Cape Cod.
'Stuck in Love' is overflowing with the authenticity of real life. You'll laugh,
you'll cry -- often in the same scene -- and, most of all, you'll empathize with
at least one of the characters. There isn't one of us who hasn't experienced the
feelings and emotions exhibited by the members of this richly complex family.
That's key to this ensemble that features many of our best and brightest young
independent film actors. For what I expect a 'sweet little American indie' to
accomplish, 'Stuck in Love' is simply perfection.

* From Where I Sit!
July 7, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bello Ristorante - Québec‏

'A story is not like a road to follow … it's more like a house. You go inside
and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you
like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the
world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows.' ~ Alice Munro

My Muse has given me much, gives me much, so I like to do things to make her
happy and smile. She mentioned Québec City and its many culinary establishments
and wanting to take a break. Research, Google and on the recommendation of a close
family member, I planned a three-day weekend. Québec City is a very beautiful,
authentic, cosmopolitan and extremely clean government town…and by the way...
NO POTHOLES! In the heart of this vibrant 'ville' is Vieux-Québec (Old Québec).
Old Québec evokes images of closed street fairs of a bygone era, outdoor cafés
and sport bars, specialty shops and bakeries which have always been a major
factor in the allure of this city within a city. The city of Québec, to this wanderer,
was always of no interest to me and partly due to the way it is portrayed in the
media vis-à-vis the English-French dynamic, until recently. Nothing is further from
the truth. The French in Montreal should take lessons from the French in Québec.

Our first night, after settling in at the hotel in the center of the downtown core
and a stone's throw from one of the gates to Old Québec, we began our 'excursion
gastronomique'. It was going to be a culinary journey through the streets of
Québec City.
When the car manoeuvred into a small space between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari,
you couldn't help but feel transported to the streets of St. Paul in Old Montreal,
where the cobblestone streets run perpendicular to the terraces filled with the
young, the hot and the hip. Except these cobblestones were completely shaved
evenly, so no bumpy rocks of extreme shapes and sizes. The concrete façade of
'Bello Ristorante' is like a beacon guiding the ships at sea, across the street,
ther bistros overflowing with patrons, enjoying the cool, warm, early summer
As we were escorted to a table at the edge of the terrace, we are immediately
greeted by a young and very tantalizing server in a skimpy little dress, accentuating
her natural-born assets, who says, "Bonsoir M. Borsellino", and hands us the
wine list and the menu. Every table of the terrace was filled, including most of
the tables inside. There are two arched doorways leading you to the dining room,
the floor-to-ceiling glass doors were encased and out-of-sight. The décor is
neo-classical fused with a brush stroke of Louis the XIV. The twenty-five or so
wooden tables, arranged tightly, accompany well the stone walls. Very artsy -
Old World!

We begin with a bottle of 'Beni di Batasiolo Barolo'. This wine is made from
Nebbiolo grapes grown on the slopes of the Barolo winemaking area located
on the lower spurs of the Langhe. Barolo is distinguished by its ruby-red color,
full-bodied, dry medium nose, featuring refreshing acidity on the palate. It
showcases a marked tannin content which gradually gives way through skillful
maturing in wood and leads to a soft, medium finish --- velvety, delicate flavour.
The food is the story. At 'Bello' the excitement is on the plate. The ingredients
are exotic, the plate presentations are decorative, and some of the flavour
combinations are downright adventurous.
For starters, an 'Arancine siciliane' ... these incredible rice balls filled with
a ragù sauce, mozzarella, and peas coated with breadcrumbs and fried. The
filling was sweeter than regular 'arancini' and the breading was light. Another
entrée, a 'Salade d'Homard', had meaty, succulent lobster tossed with yellow
bell peppers, crunchy celery and spicy onions all in a creamy base. Luxuriously
Flavours come alive again with the main courses one of which a 'Tartare di
Manzo'. Beef tartare with olive oil, lemon, and salt of the Himalayas with a
never-ending supply of thin, crisp bread slices. The meat was tangy in the right
doses…being an aficionado of the dish. Chapeau!
The other was a 'Risotto au canard' --- several roasted duck breasts, trimmed
green beans, minced shallots, duck fat, Arborio rice, red wine, chicken broth,
grated pecorino, mascarpone, and a few drops of truffle oil. It was like Heaven
on your palette.
With our 'café macchiato' we indulged in a delightfully, crusty 'Tarte au
citron'...made of short crust pastry and lemon custard filling. Piquant! A meal
here is most pleasurable, service is so friendly, discreet and professional that
you get the feeling you're eating dinner at a friend's house.
As we are finishing our dessert, I notice a man-about-town, who looks like
Luc Besson, schmoozing from table to table, until he approaches ours. I extend
my hand and present myself... he returns with,

"Bonsoir, je suis Yannick Parent. C'est ma place, vous avez aimé?"

"Nous avons beaucoup aimé! Merci."

He was very charming, charismatic and not the least pretentious... considering
he's got another 'Hotspot' on another hip avenue, Grande Allée, reminiscent of
Crescent St. called 'Savini Resto Bar\Vinothèque', where we met him the
following evening. We exchanged cards and he will look me up when he comes
to Montreal, so I can reciprocate.

* From Where I Sit!
June 19, 2015

* Bello Ristorante
73 rue St-Louis,
Vieux-Québec, G1R 3Z2
1-418-694-0030 Yannick Parent

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Diana Krall @ PDA

Diana Krall can play anywhere she wants, and the fact that she keeps coming back to
Place des Arts... makes me as happy as a little girl! On Friday night... to end the month
of May on a delicious and soothing note I experienced Lady K in all her smoothness...
up close and very personal. I lucked-out and had front-row seats. I observed and was
mesmerized by her hand movement and ease in which she fingered those keys. Krall
filled the newly renovated hall to the balconies and beyond, providing many with a cozy
early summer soiree.
With a five-man band arranged in a line across the stage — bass, drums, guitars,
fiddle, and organ, including a full ensemble orchestra — Krall both defied and fulfilled
expectations that she would lean heavily on her brand new album, 'Wallflower', a return
to pop classics after her many years of jazz devotion. The album was coming, but first,
there was a Krall original called 'Just Couldn't Say Goodbye', a bit of swinging ragtime
that proved she's not out of the jazz club yet…and what a jazz club.
Across the front of the stage were set old-fashioned, shell illumination lights,
ensconced in vintage radio consoles, but the real mood was set by a casual array of
candles on the floor. Suspended above the stage were glowing, old-time, circular
microphones, and a screen backdrop kept up a rapid run of vintage visual images. Very
Krall calmed things down with the quiet 'Just Like a Butterfly Caught in the Rain'
then, claiming to like songs about weather, did the light swing of 'Sunny Side of the
Street' and the sweet and soft 'Let it Rain'. With a big bash of the drums she and the
band sashayed into 'Temptation' by Tom Waits, and this often flavorful tune provided
a real chance for the band members to show their stuff.
It's a mark of Krall's supreme ability as a player and bandleader that she can hand the
stage over to her talented band members any time she wants, then, with a breath into
the microphone or a flick of her blond hair, take that stage right back and settle into
a masterful solo of her own. And just to show how she could own that stage, the band
melted into the wings and Krall did a few by herself, including 'Let's Face the Music and
Dance', 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon', and some marvelous jazz improvisation on
Joni Mitchell's 'A Case of You' and Fats Waller's 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down' (and Write
Myself a Letter).
Back came the band to do some of the Wallflower album, starting with 'California
Dreamin', featuring varying tempos and Krall moving over to electric piano, then Jim
Croce's 'Operator' and Elton John's 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word'.
It was back to her jazz roots with Nat King Cole's 'Just You, Just Me' complete with
galvanizing solos from guitarist Anthony Wilson and violinist Stuart Duncan, then
'Indeed I Do'. By the time Krall did her own 'I'm a Little Mixed Up', the film on the backdrop
behind her of a belly dancer and several wildly leering men was so distracting that it
was hard to concentrate on the band. Diana Krall needs no juicing up from visuals. Just
let us see and hear the woman play.
After a 90 minute set, a cheering standing ovation brought Krall and her band back for
a stirring two more numbers... to feed the soul. Diana Krall can take her piano, her voice,
and now this crackerjack band through any music she wants. It was rock, pop, country,
folk, and lots of jazz in Montreal Friday night!

* From Where I Sit!
Place des Arts
May 29, 2015

Subject of Life

'Being a subject of life, there is no sky without storm, roads without accidents,
work without fatigue, and relationships without disappointments. Being a subject
of life, forcefully we are to find forgiveness, hope in the battles, and security
on the stage of fear and love in disagreement. Sometimes grinning is not only
enhancing the smile, but reflects the sadness of one's life; not only celebrate
the success, but learn lessons in failures. Not only be jubilant in applause, but
find joy in anonymity.
It has tardily recognized that it is a worthless living in life in spite of all
the challenges, misunderstandings and periods of crisis. Being a subject of life,
it is bound to be victim of the problems and becoming an author's own story.'

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ladies' Night @ Tapas24MTL

'When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy
my life.' ~ Monica Bellucci

I had the pleasure, nee the privilege, of being invited to a sumptuous and exquisite
dinner at one of Old Montreal's trendiest 'restaurantes' surrounded by a bevy of beautiful
Entering the restaurant I was taken aback by the crowds, the decor, and the crackling
ambiance. I spied the thirty-to forty-something crowd that consisted of many groups and
couples. 'Tapas, 24 Montréal' is modelled after the original in Spain owned by Barcelona's
highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan…the Montreal contingent includes two partners. Québécois
radio and TV personality Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva of 'MTL Cuisine',
and star sommelier François Chartier was brought in to consult on the liquid part of the chefs are Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as one who goes by the name of
Ildemar (who came to the table to say hello because he's friendly with one of the ladies),
this was an opportunity to discover their craft.
As it is always the case with tapas outside of Spain, the ingredients can rarely speak
for themselves, so sticking to items relying heavily on the ingredient is a bit like
expecting the sun to shine at night. However great the ingredient, it simply won't
reproduce the effect of its Iberian counterpart. Bombshell and I allowed our Hostess
to choose from the menu, which comes in a children's booklet-like format. We went through
sixteen or twenty plates of morsel-sized orgasmic explosions in our mouths, so I will
only name a few.

Our first wave of plates began with fat calamari rings, fried to golden perfection and
served with a saffron-enhanced dipping sauce. The delicate, pop-in-your-mouth cod
croquettes, enhanced with honey and lemon. What a perfect pairing with our 'Cantiga
Rioja' a delicious, fruity red wine. 'Bomba de Barceloneta' (potato croquette) is, of
course, not a big deal, but unless someone is devoid of any 'sense for nuances', the
appreciation of that croquette I was having had lots more to reveal: the technique
in keeping the croquette low in fat while maintaining the taste delicious and rich is
not a secret but few are delivering it this well, a fabulous croquette of the sort that
only a handful of the finest restaurants of Montreal can pull off. The accompanied aioli
and salsa brava simply perfect.
The next round included 'coco con tomato', porous coca bread rubbed with tomato and
drizzled with olive oil, and a trio of luscious charcuterie meats including Iberian
sausage, a pitch-perfect-spiced chorizo, and ribbons of nutty-tasting 'jamón', a.k.a.,
Iberian ham.
The pace of the service was perfectly timed, with meals that take longer to cook
taking the relevant time it needs to be served. As for the portions, it was in line
with the quantity of food that is usually served nowadays at most contemporary
restaurants of this sort. What we sampled, and there were many, is all I needed in
order to assess the cooking skills at 'Tapas24MTL', were items forcing the kitchen to
'focus on the substance': personal touch of the cooks, their sense of flavors, palate,
and the ability of extracting the most out of the least (maximum flavor out of simple
ingredients or from simple flavor combinations which is essentially the point of tapas).

I love tapas as it forces a good kitchen to extract a lot out of virtually very little,
which for me is what cooking should be all about. Coupled with the stellar ingredients
of the Mediterranean can turn into mouthfuls of bliss.

* From Where I Sit!
June 22, 2015

* Tapas, 24 Montréal
420 Rue Notre-Dame West (near McGill St.)
Old Montréal, H2Y 1V3
(514) 849-4424

Friday, May 15, 2015

Movie Review - 'The Brave One' (2007)

'You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, and you
may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!' ~ Maya Angelou

As I set out for my cinematic fix, I scroll through my PVR list until a title
talks to me. 'The Brave One' a 2007 film by Neil Jordan ('The Crying Game'
(1992), 'The Good Thief' (2002)... another gem) about the safest big city…
New York.
There are certain actresses that I admire, who time and time again, deliver
first-rate, top-notch performances…regardless of the role, the movie or the
quality of the writing. One that keeps making me smile is Jodie Foster, think
'Panic Room' (2002), need I say more. I saw her in a film some time ago, I
won't mention the film, but it was a minor part in a forgettable movie... but
she turned her bit part in the only thing I remember about that fiasco.

'The Brave One' exploits middle-class fears about urban crime and violence.
Radio host Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) keeps announcing 'The Safest Big City'
On her show as an intro to her daily segments about the inner city titled 'Street
Walker'. About her (Erica Bain) moves about the city and records sounds of
anything that tickles her fancy... and then narrates on her show while it plays
in the background.

With an A-list director at the helm and top-flight talent the plot engages when
good people make the mistake of crossing into a land where rules of civilized
behaviour do not apply. Erica has a wonderful life she loves and her fiancé,
Dr. David Zirmani (Naveen Andrews 'Lost' (2004–2010) which she adores. She's
even gone out to pick invitations for their nuptials because his mother loves
that. One evening, while walking the dog in Central Park, he distractedly throws
a ball into a darkened tunnel. Predictably, they subsequently venture forth into
this isolated structure to discover what has become of the animal. A group of
lowlifes step from the shadows, beat them to a pulp, rob the couple and leave
them for dead. She awakens from a coma twenty-one days later to a radically
changed world, and a dead fiancé. Also to her shock, discovers from the good
doctor's mother, they went ahead with the funeral, unaware if she would ever

Unable to move past the tragedy, she can't seem to leave her apartment. The
woman, who hosted the talk show that extols the joys of New York City, now
fears that very place. Eventually, she convinces herself to purchase a firearm,
and begins prowling the city streets at night to track down the men she holds
responsible. The weapon is suppose to be for protection only, but one night in
a convenience store in a strange case of self-defense, she takes her first step
in her transformation into an urban hunter. This is the turning point, and why
her talent is undeniable.
The two-time Oscar winner for 'The Accused' (1988) & 'Silence of the Lambs'
(1991), exudes mesmerizing intensity in her transformation from frightened
victim to vigilante, and it's all there, as clear as day, on the screen. She
projected it so well that you understand at that precise moment, which was
short of an epiphany, what true talent is. That is a calibre above the fray,
and Jodie Foster is in that rarefied air.

Her dark pursuit of justice catches the public's attention, and the city is
riveted by her anonymous exploits. Soon, the tabloids are full of the escapades
of this local hero. Erica is wracked by guilt, but has enough presence of mind
to cover the case on her show and to befriend Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard
'Empire (2015– ), a good cop who believes in the justice system, who takes
charge of the investigation, vowing to catch someone he regards as no better
than the murdered criminals. He says, "The vigilante disgusts me." Being hot
on her trail, she must decide whether her quest for revenge is truly the right
path, or if she is becoming the very thing she is trying to stop.

As a general rule, I don't reveal endings, but in this case I'm making an
exception. At the conclusion of her righteous killing spree, Erica tracks down
the ringleader of the gang who killed her fiancé and Detective Mercer helps
her kill him, even taking a bullet himself in order to ensure she's never caught.

'The Brave One' may raise the question whether Erica's actions are right or
wrong, whether in some case the right thing to do is to get out of harm's way
or not put oneself in jeopardy, etc., but that everyone deserves what they get
is pretty much a foregone conclusion. By confronting Erica with uniformly
despicable thugs who consistently present a clear and present danger to Erica
and to others, 'The Brave One' makes their murders as gratifying as possible
to the viewer. Jodie Foster has suggested in interviews that the film is anti-
violence, and I wouldn't be surprised if Neil Jordan agrees as well.

* From Where I Sit!
May 15, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring @ Liverpool House

Spring came early in Montreal, a rarity, and it was no more apparent than
along Notre Dame Street West. To celebrate my birthday Bombshell suggested
we indulge in food porn at 'Liverpool House'... the sister restaurant of the
famous 'Joe Beef'. Sister restaurant in name only because the food was, is
a stand-alone culinary experience.
As a young boy, my formative years were spent in a quiet, safe neighbourhood
with beautiful tree-lined streets and mom-and-pop corner stores. The main
street, in our quaint section of town, was right around the corner from where
we lived. This section of Notre Dame in Little Burgundy is evocative of that

Marcel Proust once said, 'The door of memory is opened by the taste of
a Madeline cookie.'

Little Burgundy (La Petite-Bourgogne) is a neighbourhood in the southwest
borough of Montreal. Its approximate boundaries are Atwater Street to the
west, Saint-Antoine to the north, Guy Street to the east, and the Lachine
Canal to the south. The adjacent neighbourhoods are the borough of Ville-
Marie and downtown Montreal to the north and northeast, Griffintown to
the southeast, Pointe-Saint-Charles to the south, and Saint-Henri to the
west. The neighbourhood became famous for producing several talented
jazz musicians. During Prohibition and the later pre-Jean Drapeau years
as an 'open city,
Little Burgundy was home to many lively nightclubs featuring homegrown
and international performers; one of them was Rockhead's Paradise, owned
by Rufus Rockhead, after whom a street is named. Oscar Peterson and Oliver
Jones are the two best-known musicians who emerged from the bebop and
post-bop era.

'We come together in unity to play a grand symphony of cosmic consciousness,
in the divine meditation of our souls' manifestation as being ONE.' ~ Ange Maya

Liverpool House is split into a barroom, which is totally decked out in
Canadiana, and a laid-back dining room, with deer antlers, rowboat oars,
and great artwork on the walls. The woodwork and cream-coloured
wainscoting are painted a warm white. The rest is decorated with flowered
wallpaper, brass chandeliers, and leather banquettes, antique hutches and
squash displays beside the door. There is an eclectic mix of paintings —
over-sized modern canvases and tiny impressionistic. Listen carefully and
you can hear Bob Seger's 'Against the Wind'.

We sat at a corner banquette facing the dinner menu, which is a large
blackboard suspended over a row of tables. Looking around you would
never think or believe all that rhetoric concerning the dire economic condition
in Montreal. The place was in a constant flux… patrons waiting for the next
group to be seated. They must do three or four turnovers a night. Fréderic
(Fred) Morin (one of the owners) came over and sat with us... we had seen
each other since Globe’s 25th Anniversary Gala evening… and for what
seemed like a long enough time… we caught up and reminisced.

Our wine was a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon... Montepulciano Falesco,
Marciliano, Rosso Umbria. I am not a big fan of Italian wines but this one
was slightly robust and delightfully fruity on the palate. And the chorus of
dishes explodes…
We begin with a plate of succulent raw oysters... juicy and very meaty.
A dozen was not enough... but we wanted to fully enjoy the next courses.
Liverpool House has a rotating menu; it offers seasonal entrées inspired
by ingredients found in the market. For the second course...we had two foie
gras dishes. One, of course, was 'Foie gras poêlé' au pain croutés…sautéed
and very moist… with an added 'Joe Beef' combination of spices. The other
was ' torchon de foie gras or terrine' named for the vessel in which they
are cooked. The third appetizer, compliments of the kitchen, were roasted
Brussels sprouts with bacon, almonds and mustard. It was tangy, sugary
and crunchy... their originality and taste shined brighter than the rainbow,
and we could not satisfy ourselves enough, even though it seemed like we
had our fill, but the main dishes remained.
Bombshell had been fawning over their famous 'Lobster Pasta' for quite
some time, so immediately went for that. The lobster pieces were larger
than a pear… so soft and sweet. Every morsel was a meal. The pasta portion
was equally delicious, once again with their mélange of spices added. I,
being a Sea Bass aficionado, had the 'Wild Striped Chilean Sea Bass' on
top of a saffron risotto that was the stuff of dreams…. soft, moist and seared
to perfection.

The meal set the precedence for the fabulous dessert of almond cake
with a slight vanilla tinge… and a sparkle on top. There's a lot to like
about Liverpool House, but the question is, 'How does it differ from Joe
Beef?' I read somewhere that compared the two in this fashion, 'If Joe
Beef is macho Liverpool House is more feminine.' You sit among a gallery's
worth of fine art and soak up the buzzing candlelit atmosphere.

* From Where I Sit!
March 20, 2015

* Liverpool House ****
2501, Notre Dame St. W. @ Charlevoix
Little Burgundy, Montreal
(514) 313-6049