Monthly Archives: October 2017

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ARTIST ROMI SAMUELS OPENS HER SOLO SHOW @ GALLERY 1313 IN TORONTO

Last night was one of the most enjoyable opening receptions for an art show I’ve attended in some time. South African-born, now Toronto resident ROMI SAMUELS launched her solo show THE LION, THE WATCH AND THE WARDROBE at Toronto’s Gallery 1313 with a gallery full of family, friends and art lovers as well as representatives from the South African Consulate.20171026_175241The main gallery showroom looked more like a safari with giant canvases of elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons and even a hungry looking crocodile (below, Romi’s husband Frank was busy on social media while being stalked by the giant croc…watch out!)20171026_173709The paintings reflect Romi’s childhood experiences in South Africa – can you imagine looking out your window and seeing elephants roaming outside?20171026_17572620171026_172536Guests seemed in awe of the giant B&W canvases and it’s easy to see why…20171026_181950 20171026_175044 20171026_175101Before the doors opened, I managed to corral the Samuels family for a photo – below LtoR: husband Frank, Romi, daughters  Hannah and Adina (son Josh arrived later in the evening)20171026_173738Romi’s proud sister Vivienne couldn’t stop smiling all night! Here she is (below R) giving her artist sister a great big hug!20171026_203443… and another friend, Elizabeth Greisman from the JCC (below L), also offered her congratulations.20171026_202455(0)As well as the wild beasties, there is a smaller gallery at the back that features some smaller, more intimate portraits of things found in Romi’s closet.  The stunning painting of lace gloves (below, centre) was sold – this was one of my personal favourites so I’m happy the gloves have found a new forever home.20171026_175007 20171026_175002One of the high points of the evening was when guest Mr. Goce Tasevski presented Romi with a bouquet of pink roses….such a lovely moment I was fortunate to catch with my camera20171026_185941In fact, there were quite a few floral tributes given to Romi, and her sister Vivienne even brought cake. Yum, her lemon poppyseed cake was deelish!  Daughter Hannah is quite the culinary expert, too, and she catered the whole affair. Hannah is my new BFF – she made the most amazing chocolate truffles. I would have taken pics of those, too, but we all gobbled them up so quickly, there was nothing left to photograph…LOL!

Being Thursday night, I immediately flipped thru the pages of NOW Magazine to see if I’d managed to get Romi listed…wow, even better – her show was listed under their “Must See” column. Woohoo!20171026_181439So 9pm came around and as the guests departed I managed to grab an exhausted but happy Romi for a quick video interview to get her reaction to the evening’s celebration.

Her show runs until Nov. 5th at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto  www.g1313.org  and if you would like to learn more about Romi herself, visit her website at: www.romispaintings.weebly.com The Lion, the Watch  - JPEG

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A Thai feast fit for a King….and I!

So apart from the bad grammar (s.b. “and me”) the headline here really does tell the story of Toronto’s small but mighty ISAAN DER Thai restaurant and its equally small but mighty queen of the kitchen, Chef Ko (pictured below).Chef Ko 2I was recently turned on to this snug and beautifully decorated dining establishment located in the heart of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood by fellow foodies and owners of No. 7 Hot Sauce, Carlos and Sandra, who told me about the incredible food and lovely people who run Isaan Der. Chef Ko, along with her Canadian husband Donald, run the place like clockwork, juggling take-out and home delivery orders with quiet aplomb as they and their servers offer personal but discreet table-side service to their guests, many of whom are neighbours and regular/repeat diners.20171018_183950Attention to detail is key at Isaan Der – just look at these cute elephant hooks for coats or purses located behind every table for diners’ convenience.20170829_184227I recently spoke with Donald and Chef Ko about their journey from Thailand to Toronto and the fabulous food they serve to hungry fans Tuesdays thru Sundays.

Chef Ko, what first inspired you to become a professional chef?  Having had the opportunity to travel around Thailand as a journalist for Channel 7 news, I have discovered that it’s not all Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. There are lots of delicious dishes from every part of Thailand. 20170525_121454Did you study under any well-known chef or in a professional kitchen?  I studied at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is also a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, in their Professional Thai Chef program as well as at Kasesart University to learn about the origins of some of our well known dishes.

You specialize in traditional fine Thai cuisine at Isaan Der– how important is it that you use fresh, locally sourced ingredients for your menu?  We only use the freshest of ingredients for our food and every dish is made à la carte, meaning every dish you order is made specifically for you. We do NOT have anything pre-made so dishes might take a few minutes longer getting to your table….but the wait is worth it!sataysDonald, since opening Isaan Der in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood in March , how have you seen your customer base grow?  Since opening, we’ve seen tremendous growth; from 3 people in the kitchen to now more than 8 dealing with the volume which we handle with great care and efficiency. It’s our loyal customers with whom we have had table-side conversations, educating them on the many differences in Thai food. We are certainly no better than any other Thai restaurant, but we do know that we are ‘different’.IMG_20170321_030403_608received_159738710362409620170320_20050620170320_200409Donald, any exciting news about menu or service you’d like to share?  Here we grow!  We recently changed our menus adding several new items to replace those we have “retired” for now. We cater to everyone with dietary restrictions such as celiac, vegan, food allergies as well as likes/dislikes. We can do it all as our dishes are made for you…any way you like it!

We’ve seen a tremendous increase in our Doordash delivery as well as personal take-out with our online ordering. Thanks to our brand new ordering app (for both iPhone & android) we’re able to streamline the dining experience for those dining at home. Easy-peasy with a simple click, click and done! We no longer take phone orders so we’re able to focus on personal table-side service in the restaurant.  But if people have questions about our menu we are certainly available via phone queries. See below the special promotion for 1st time app orders:July 2017454

Isaan Der is definitely one of my favourite Toronto restaurants and I’m especially fond of their Shrimp Roll appetizer – I frequently construct a meal by combining 2 orders of those with a salad. I love the little noodle ribbons and bows tying them up (see below). The handcrafted chili dipping sauce is super deelish, too.20170829_180825You MUST try the Golden Bags and Spring Rolls (below)….
17155630_1495954417121699_3390928405222378590_n 20170525_110821And each Wednesday is “Wine Wednesday” with $3 off your glass of featured wine…..20171018_184058…followed by “Beer Thursdays” when your favourite brew is only $5!20171018_184024Located at 2961 Dundas West (a few blocks W of Keele) there’s lots of parking (on street and in the green P lot behind) and prompt bus transit (take the #40 from Dundas W subway stn). Check out their menu, hours of operation and directions here: www.isaander.comlogo

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JOIN ME AS I “EAT TO THE BEAT” – attending annual fundraiser to raise breast cancer awareness

Each year, I’m honoured to accept the invitation to cover EAT TO THE BEAT issued by friend and PR colleague Peter Ashworth of Ashworth Associates Inc. and last night, I enjoyed all sorts of edible treats and drinks courtesy of 60 of Toronto’s leading female chefs. Raising awareness for breast cancer support with the Canadian Cancer Society as well as the $s is the focus of this annual event held at Roy Thomson Hall, and this band of happy volunteers greeted us at the front door, all dressed up to put smiles on our faces (below).20171017_190601

20171017_190633Thanks to KitchenAid who came on board as a sponsor this year – they donated so many wonderful kitchen gadgets for the silent auction (below)…who knows, this non-cook might just win a closing bid (am waiting for a phone call as I type!)20171017_193922(0)So instead of me prattling on with text about the show, I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Be prepared for some major mouth-watering reading, and be sure to visit the restaurants of those chefs who donated their time and food to Eat to the Beat – I’ve listed them all at the bottom of the blog.20171017_19093720171017_19101520171017_191024I always look fwd to finding the lovely ladies of Succulent Chocolates – below – they always have such fab sweet treats!20171017_190837 20171017_201559

20171017_191231 20171017_191414 20171017_19144020171017_19153320171017_19164420171017_19173720171017_19222720171017_192703 20171017_192245 20171017_194401I really liked this locally-produced Scotch (below)…mmmm, good!20171017_203025Below – Pumpkin soup anyone? So deelish!20171017_200103I love me some savories! Although there were lots of sweeties, I headed straight for the meat and seafood!!20171017_19265620171017_19275320171017_19510820171017_195203The crowd moved thru Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby in an orderly fashion, although some tables offered samples that just drew ’em in in droves…20171017_202425….like these awesome and spooky Halloween mini-cupcakes from Lolli Cakes.20171017_202028 20171017_202055So many tastes and sights to take in….it was sensory overload!!20171017_195558 20171017_192703 20171017_19365320171017_19492920171017_19534320171017_195405(0) 20171017_201937 20171017_194043Then all of a sudden, it was over – another successful event done and dusted!20171017_201824Congratulations to event organizers and their amazing team of volunteers, and especially to the participating chefs and restaurants (see below). Bravo, everybody!!July 2017456

 

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SOUTH AFRICAN-BORN ARTIST HERDS WILD BEASTS INTO GALLERY 1313 FOR SOLO SHOW OCT.25-NOV.5

South African born and raised, and now Toronto resident Romi Samuels’ solo show “The Lion, the Watch and the Wardrobe” runs Oct. 25 to Nov. 5 at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West in Toronto with an opening reception on Thurs. Oct. 26 (6-9pm) .  Romi’s floor-to-ceiling canvases illustrate the wild beasties that surrounded her family home in South Africa, painted in bold strokes of black and white. She also brings together a collection of colourful “portraits” of items found in her wardrobe, many of which belonged to her artist mother, plus a very special family heirloom – a pocket watch.

Her work features distortions, thick paint and strong colours. Her creative inspirations include the great South African painters Irma Stern, Wolf Kibel, and Maggie Laubser who were strongly influenced by the teachings of the German expressionists. To learn more about Romi please visit her website at www.romispaintings.weebly.comThe Lion, the Watch  - JPEGI recently had the opportunity of chatting with Romi when I asked her about her early artistic influences and her childhood in South Africa which has obviously informed many of the paintings in her upcoming show.

How did you become interested in painting?   My first introduction to the art world was as a newborn.  I have been told that my mother parked my stroller under the grapevine while she set-up still life paintings and give art classes on our patio.  Growing up, there were always paintbrushes in our house, palette knives, coloured pastels, twisted tubes of paints, batik dyes, lino boards, linseed oil, art books, not to mention the sketch books which were given to me even before I knew how to write – I still have a childish pencil drawing of my family relaxing in a train compartment, which I did when I was about 7 years old.  There were also outings to art galleries and of course my mother’s beautiful paintings (see below) which covered the walls in our home, and I always hoped that one day, like her, I would be able to decorate my own house with my paintings.20170911_142217What was the first subject of your painting?  Now that I think about it I am amazed to remember that my first painting which I did in nursery school was of a crocodile with its mouth wide open (probably inspired by one of our many trips to the Kruger Park – a huge game reserve in South Africa, almost the size of a small country).  And now, some 45 years later, I have, in my current show, a painting of a crocodile in that exact pose (see below).  My first oil painting which I did much later, was a still life with various objects including an African clay pot with a traditional Ndebele motif. So Africa has always featured in some way in my paintings and even now, living in Canada it continues to work its way into my art.Croc - croppedHow did your early years in South Africa influence your work?  As a child my most exciting holidays were our family trips to the Kruger Park. I have vivid memories of waking up at the crack of dawn, hopping into the car with a delicious picnic lunch, hoping to be the first out of the camp gates onto the dust roads looking for game.  I remember how we would suddenly stop the car at the slightest hint of movement and I’ll never forget the excitement of joining a whole row of cars, straining to see what all the fuss was about, or sitting for hours at a waterhole waiting for a thirsty animal to come and drink.  And then there was the thrill of eventually spotting a lion in the distance or of being dangerously close to an elephant crossing the road. So yes, these amazing images of the African bushveld have been subjects of my paintings since childhood.Two lionesses - croppedIn a previous series of paintings, I focused on the people’s struggle for survival in post-Apartheid South Africa which I did on large canvases. These paintings are of ragged children in the veld, mothers with babies on their backs begging for money, craftsmen, construction workers and security guards slaving for a meager wage.20170911_142232On a more personal level, some of my “Wardrobe” pictures also include sentimental items which travelled with me to Canada. So even though I have been living in Canada for 17 years, my paintings still reflect the bittersweet nostalgia of the ex-pat.Gloved hands - cropped Handbarg - cropped Pocketwatch - cropped Red tie - croppedDo you have a favourite medium in which to create?  For many years oils were my favourite, but now, I have also begun to enjoy acrylics mainly because they dry so quickly!  I’ve also started working with collage and mixed media which add a lot of interesting texture to my work.  For quick drawings, ink is one of my favourite mediums – I especially like the combination of a gentle washes and hard lines.20170911_142416What do you hope gallery visitors leave with after attending your upcoming show.   Firstly, because my paintings are so large and imposing, I hope to share that experience of being in such close proximity to the magnificent African fauna. Also, because my paintings are more expressive than literal, I want to communicate their intense emotion to which we as human beings can relate. I also hope that gallery visitors will see that even my “Wardrobe” paintings are not just still-lives, but rather expressions of the personalities behind them.  So basically, my intention is that that people will come away identifying on an emotional level with my paintings or responding to them emotionally or even just realizing that as human beings everything we see or create is influenced by our own emotional responses.20170911_144923What is next for Romi?  I never know in advance what I am going to paint. I usually start off playing around with something which develops into an idea and then becomes a body of work.  So my next series will be as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you. [laughs]

Opening reception takes place on Thursday Oct. 26th (6-9pm) at Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St West, Toronto. For gallery hours & directions: www.g1313.org   Light (kosher) refreshments will be served so if you would like to attend and meet Romi, kindly RSVP to FordhamPR@rogers.com  Space is limited so email me a.s.a.p.

Although it’s not in this show, here is one of my fave Romi paintings – I just love chickens and Romi painted some of the hens that used to run around her childhood nanny’s property back home in S.A.20170911_141930

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ARTIST CHRIS MARIN OPENS HER “PASSAGES” SHOW @ URBAN GALLERY in TORONTO

URBAN GALLERY hosted the opening reception for artist CHRIS MARIN’s solo exhibition “PASSAGES” last night and Chris welcomed family and friends as she unveiled a series of intuitive paintings that are both intriguing and powerful.  Her works utilize a bold colour palette and viewers can interpret their own vision as to each painting’s subject or meaning – it was interesting to hear several gallery guests air vastly differing interpretations of one particular painting! Anyway, let’s ask Chris to us about about her work herself…

Artist’s Statement:  One brush stroke leads to the next. When I begin a non-objective painting, I do not know where I will go. It’s a liberating, intuitive way to paint and to live. In “Passages” I invite the viewer to take his or her own steps through the paintings. Chris Marin, 2017.20171005_174612Chris became intrigued by art after learning intuitive watercolour painting from Dorothy Clarke McClure in 1993. Over time, Chris expanded her interests to include collage, printmaking, acrylic painting and applying transparent underglazes to her pottery.  One of her paintings is on the cover of “What About My Kids?” a book written to help families coping with breast cancer. Chris’s painting “Home Again” is the image in the Port Medway Lighthouse calendar for February 2018, and “My Favourite Things” was used for the IWK children’s hospital fundraising raffle this year. She contributes regularly to the IWK and Elderdog shows, and her paintings can be seen at the Riverbank, Mill Village, and Port Grocer, Port Medway, Nova Scotia. They also hang in law offices and private collections.

Chris’s story, The Edge of Risk is included in the book, Outside of Ordinary: Women’s Travel Stories.  And her Nova Scotia treetops studio was featured in the Spring 2009 issue of Studio Magazine. The majority of Chris’s paintings arise from the subconscious, whether she is pouring watercolours or sitting at her easel applying paint, simply responding to what she has just done with no end result in mind.

Here are just a few of Chris’s paintings that caused a stir with gallery visitors…20171005_164303 20171005_164333 20171005_164341And as the guests arrived, Chris was eager to greet them and show them around…20171005_174648 20171005_180035 20171005_174610Chris gave an interview to arts journalist Mark Hasan of KQEQ.com (below)20171005_172043…and here she is (below) with gallery curator and fellow artist, Allen Shugar…..20171005_165335…and with her friends (below)20171005_165832Below, Drew from Snap’d newspaper came out to take photos, too.20171005_180243Chris’s guests thoroughly enjoyed the reception and Urban Gallery hopes to see red dots going up alongside a number of paintings that created quite the buzz with the opening night crowd.20171005_180207 20171005_18053020171005_174800Gallery owner, Calvin Hambrook (below L) was also busy welcoming guests…20171005_172102 20171005_174928…and this sumptuous and artful refreshments spread was courtesy of UrbanSource Catering  (urbancatering.com)20171005_170438 Chris’s show runs throughout the month of October (closes Sat. Oct. 28) so please visit and support another talented Canadian artist. Directions and gallery hours: www.urbangallery.ca20171005_164527 20171005_164249 20171005_165404