The Beauty of Summerlicious

Ciders, patio visits, and trips to the island are all signs that summer in Toronto has kicked off. With the season in full swing, I am more than excited to partake in one of my favourite Toronto summer events, Summerlicious (thanks to scheduled posts, I am likely dining at SoCo Kitchen + Bar as  you read this).

Characterized by prix fixe menus from some of the city’s largest and most prominent restaurants, Summerlicious (and its colder months counterpart, Winterlicious) has been part of the local scene since 2003. The city seems to be divided between two different schools of thought regarding these food festivals that were introduced to boost spending following a decline in spending and tourism as a result of the SARS epidemic in 2003. One camp likes to sing the praises of the -licious events, claiming these promotional menus are of great value. And it is undeniable that these affordable prix fixed menus are a great way to catch a glimpse of honeyed Toronto has to offer. But the other end of the table likes to remind us that the -licious events really just offer a glimpse, a tease. A friend texted me the other day and referred to Summerlicious as “watered down”.

As I read his text I took a step back and shook my head just the slightest bit. As someone who lived in the city for 4 years I’ve visited my fair share of restaurants for Summerlicious and Winterlicious. I’ve had great food and great experiences at some (Pangea and Harlem East) and not-so-great experiences at others (one visit resulted in credit card fraud). But I still adore the -licious events.

I adore Summerlicious and Winterlicious because it provide a platform and reason to reconnect with friends and reach beyond the highly frequented pizza and sushi joints. These events check off the why,what and where boxes behind each social activity. Summerlicious and Winterlicious isn’t just about lunch or dinner,the marketing and hype behind it make it an event. The nature of such an  event with a lengthy timeline makes it super easy to meet up with multiple different friends with minimal planning without doing the exact same monotonous thing.

The beauty of Summerlicious isn’t found in the relatively affordable menus of participating restaurants or in the experience the glimpses offer, or even in the food. Instead, the beauty of Summerlicious is found at the table, in laughter and jest, with the friends that you see frequently and the friends that you never get to see without an occasion. Without Summerlicious I would be watching Netflix and eating dinner in pjs right now (not that that’s a bad thing…), but let’s face it, hanging out with a number of gorgeous Rotman Commerce ladies in a pair of delightful heels with a glass of wine is probably the better option :).

If you were hoping to read a restaurant review and not a ramble, sorry! To make up for it, let me redirect you to Aija’s review of SpeakEasy21.

 

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There is More to Pan Ams than Traffic Disruptions

“We can’t take the HOV lane on Monday!”

My father hit the panic button during dinner on Saturday as my mother asked if I had any friends competing at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. The only thing my dad apparently knows about Pan Ams is that effective today, the HOV lanes will require occupying vehicles to carry 3 passengers. Although, after the panic was expressed, he did ask me what sports would be featured.

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games is a major international multi sport event yet the sentiment within the host city is lacking. But really, who can blame the citizens of Toronto and the surrounding region? Google Pan Am Games, turn on the radio, visit Reddit/r/Toronto and the only stories and hype about the Pan Ams are centered on:

  • HOV lane changes/transportation disruptions
  • Unsold tickets
  • Budgets & committee bonus payouts
  • Low hotel occupancy rates

In trying to prepare for the Games, the committee and media has focused entirely too much on the potential disruptions due to excitement, hype, and activation around the Games itself and the corresponding events. In doing so, building the actual excitement about the actual event, the Pan Am Games, has been neglected. Other than one commercial, Invade, and the TTC wraps on trains, I have yet to see commonplace media buys focused on telling the story, the importance, and athleticism of the Games. I believe the people of Toronto and the surrounding supporting committees feel indifferent, rage, and the readiness to fly out of town because they have only been exposed and educated on the potential inconveniences of the Pan Am Games.

During my first week in advertising the very valuable lesson of not overwhelming your consumers was passed down. If you look at the most effective ads out there, whether it be print or video or digital, there is really only one main Call to Action. As one instructor, a partner at a multicultural-focused agency, once told our class, “Decide whether your goal is to capture the share of mind or the share of market”. A campaign can absolutely have more than one Call to Action but in the event of the Pan Am Games, it seems the marketing team and media has missed an important component.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivered many CTAs by the local media and official bodies, from the Pan Am Games team to the City of Toronto, and each CTA has directed a negative connotation toward the games. Torontonians are being told to:

  • Take public transit inside of drive
  • Stay away from HOV lanes
  • Carpool
  • Take a vacation (to avoid the crowds!)

All of these issued CTAs are negative inconveniences (well maybe other than the last one). In contrast to these numerous issues, the positives of the Games, the experiences, have not been released to create awareness. And CTAs to attend such a large international sporting event, if they have been released, have been buried by the negativity.

Personally, I am excited for Pan Ams. With inspiring athletes like Greg McNeil, Sasha Gollish, Donna VakalisSarah Wells, and Rachel Hannah competing, I am more than ready to throw on a red tshirt and cheer on Canadian athletes. Armed with waterpolo tickets, I’m taking the Games as an opportunity to learn about sports that are not my own and enjoy the higher level athleticism. If only other Torontonians realized that there is more to the Pan Am Games than transportation disruptions.

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Beer Education – Craft of Not?

For those of you reading this who are still wrapping up at the office, already a few drinks in, or just chilling and wondering what should be on the menu for the weekend, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Last year, for our final project, my International Business team chose to analyze the Hong Kong beer market and strategize an entrance for the Boston Beer Company. Although our instructor bounced us from serving Samuel Adams samples during the final presentation we all walked away with a just a little bit more knowledge about brews.

A while ago I drew upon that knowledge as  a few friends and I set up at-home beer sampling tasting completed with fries and gravy, spicy roasted chickpeas, salty edamame, and 14 different beers. As 14 beers in one night, albeit in sampler sizes, is a tall drink order we ended up only sampling 10. Domestic, foreign, and arguably craft beers were included in the line up – from Halifax’s Moosehead to the Belgian export, Delirium, to the Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams. I am not a beer connoisseur but I tend to favour those with fuller bodies or a crisper sense , that night 3 beers stood out: Shock Top, Rolling Rock, and Creemore’s Hops and Bolts.

Of the three, none are actually considered craft beers by the official bodies. In today’s consumer market, the term craft beer is associated and aligned with a sense of intimacy between the brewer and consumer and superiority in taste and brewing. But the Brewer’s Association (America) has a more defined take, they state that production of craft beer must be carried out by brewers that are within the scope of being small, independent, and traditional.  With Ab Inbev owning the breweries that churn out Shock Top and Rolling Rock and Molson owning Creemore Springs a question of what exactly is craft beer and what definition should be employed arises.

An interesting timbit to take note of is that the brewery that ignited the craft beer movement and education in the United States, the Boston Beer Company, sold 2.3 million barrels in 2010 – over the 2 million limit [ a brewery must produce less than 2 million a year for it to be considered craft] set by the Brewers Association. That year, the allowance was changed to 6 million barrels. Tastes are arbitrary and apparently numbers are too.

Capture

The truth is I am not a beer expert and I can’t really tell you if a beer is craft or not but I can tell you this:

Shock Top – Tastes light and golden with hints of citrus. Personally, I think it tastes like sunshine.

Rolling Rock -Refreshing light taste with a slight hint of lemon

Hops and Bolts – A bit harsh with a fuller malty flavour with strong citrus and light caramel notes

Sorry, I lied, I don’t have you covered – I am not qualified to give out beer recs.

That’s all she wrote folks!

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Treat of the Week: Baked Chocolate Donuts

Every morning, after the emails have been checked and the urgent matters resolved, my team makes a coffee run down to Tim Hortons. And every morning, while standing in line, I will glaze my eyes longingly at the display of donuts. The desire is strong and the temptation is near. I woke up yesterday morning with the realization of how I can have my donut and eat it too, without consequences.

Tomorrow, as I stand in line wincing at the Creamy Chocolate Chili sign while craving a sweet chocoately baked treat, I will only have to picture one of my own baked goodies.

Sidenote: While I adore the creative heights that Tim Hortons and JWT broke with the Creamy Chocolate Chili Levitation stunt I can’t believe they let the product go to market with such a name. The product title is just not appetizing, and although I would probably enjoy this frozen treat I don’t think I can ever bring myself to order an item with such a title. 

Baked Chocolate Donuts 

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Makes 7 donuts

  • 1/3C + 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4C oat flour
  • 1/4C cocoa powder
  • 1/4C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • coconut oil spray

Glaze

  • 3/4C powered sugar
  • 3 tbsp almond milk

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Melt the butter. In a large bowl whisk the melted butter with the almond milk. Add the sugar, maple syrup, and egg and mix until will blended.   Incorporate the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt until just combined.

3. Spray the donut pan with the coconut oil spray and ladle the batter until each donut mold is 2/3 full.

5. Bake 12 minutes

6. While the donuts are baking, combine and whisk the glaze ingredients.

7. Glaze the donuts once they have been removed from pan and cooled.

Enjoy!

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Upwards and Onwards

The sun is shining and a new chapter awaits.

After months of searching, bleak silence, and bouncing from interview to interview I am pleased to let you all know that the job search chronicles will now be paused.  Instead, commuting horror stories are about to be my topic of conversation du jour. I am excited to share that I will be joining an awesome advertising agency, effective Monday.

The last couple of months were bleak as I faced periods of silence before bouncing from interview to interview. Every night, at bedtime, an image of a dark tunnel would emerge as my eyes closed.

It was an endless dark but glimpses of light from some distance above peeked through the dim sooty bleakness. The little dots of light that had penetrated the otherwise somber twisting road looked to be far off and in irregular stretches. Sometimes the distance between one burst of brightness from another would be so lengthy that one would be encompassed in the darkness.

The ups and downs of the last couple of months and years, in reference to the academics, the professional life, and my personal shenanigans, have taught me the power of hope. We cannot control when or where the light will be able to break through the solid earthen walls next but we can and must visualize the next flicker. Hope, it’s a powerful thing.

Every year at this time, with the stress of school over, I try to dig up a contribution to the surrounding community to place smiles and ignite hope. Last year I baked goodies for the homeless and this year I am donating to Gregory MacNeil’s funding campaign for this summer’s Pan Am Games and Rio 2016. While my resume lists a number of intern positions Greg’s athletic resume includes titles such as Silver Medallist at the 2014 Canadian Nationals Track & Field Championship and CIS Gold in the 60Hm. Greg is an amazing athlete whose only fault may be influencing the Madison girls to call me Jojo. If you haven’t already, hop over to TrackieProfile to make a donation to ignite the flame and fund his dream.

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I’ll rather play beyond the walls

It was cold outside. The winds were howling, the ground was covered with icy snow, and the sky was dark.

The lights were bright. They shone from slanted rectangles, they stood stark against the black barred ceiling. The inside contrasted with the scene beyond the glass windows; one could see in here. Under the sterile lighting one could read, write, type, and glem information from the world wide web. She was inside, but despite the contrast with the outside, she felt cold.

Here she was subjected to reading feverishly, typing faster than the tick of the clock, and developing expertise through an unviewable connection to the outside world. The concrete Turkey offered warmth and the tools of learning that the 21th century had to offer. But she still felt cold; she was trapped.

She had entered the Turkey with the intention to learn, to solve problems, but the concrete had acted more as a nuisance than structural barriers. She looked out the steel-encased window and at the snow, with her wool coat draped over her and her red mittens on her hands she would be warm.

***

Recently I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about the value of education, especially the value of business education within the classroom. There is a notion that classroom education, university degrees, equates to smarts or competency but I feel knowledge cannot be measured by the GPA or the title on the certificate alone. Sitting alone at Robarts at 1AM while working on an international “group” paper alone somehow inspired this little sketch about my feelings about the confines of the traditional classroom education. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take classes that challenge students to complete practical projects and I believe more of this needs to be implemented.

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Happy Chinese New Year from Nestle !

新年快樂!

My aunt told me a few days ago that she felt a line needed to be drawn at my proposal to make guacamole for Sunday’s Chinese New Year dinner. Orange-flavoured KitKats however, will be on the dessert menu, thanks to the festive Chinese New Year packaging Nestle has come up with.

With a matte gold sheep (Year of the Goat/Sheep) embossing a red background and well wishes printed in white, I think this marketing campaign is extremely nifty. For starters, the orange-flavoured (or milk-flavoured) KitKats  were not developed for the Lunar New Year. But Nestle is positioning these products, that are already within their portfolio, as a Lunar New Year treat. And this simple change in packaging has captured the hearts and the wallets of consumers, my mother revealed she only purchased the chocolate for me because the packaging would let me celebrate Chinese New Year and share my culture with my friends and roommates.

I am also extremely impressed with the execution of these KitKats as Chinese New Year treats; it is exceedingly smart. A printed paper sleeve was used instead of printing the festive graphics directly on foil, allowing for product continuity post-Lunar New Year. These sleeves can simply be removed for products to stay on store shelves, eliminating the practice of the post-holiday margin lowering markdowns. (As much as I love the markdowns of February 15th, Valentine’s Day manufacturers could learn a thing or two from the Lunar New Year KitKats.)

More and more companies in Canada are actively targeting the ethnic market but many are still reluctant to do so due to the risks and costs associated with segment marketing. I think these Lunar New Year KitKats are an excellent example of how companies are becoming more and more creative at lowering the barriers to ethnic marketing.  I am excited to see (and maybe be part of a team!) what is next in store for ethnic marketing, as Andrew Pelletier of Walmart Canada once revealed, “This is truly the future of retail [marketing] in Canada.”.

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