Greg and I once had this idea to do an anonymous blog about events and restaurant openings. We were going to call it Hors D’oeuvres For Dinner and it was going to chronicle the weird and bizarre things we find ourselves at while writing for TasteTO. Like the event at the hotel where the PR lady was in the lobby having a nervous breakdown because the hotel didn’t shut down regular restaurant service for the media event and she couldn’t tell the paying customers from her media guests. Or the things where you show up, expecting dinner based on the wording of the invitation only to end up eating a couple of canapés and too much wine (hence the title). We never followed through with it because we figured everyone in the food community would eventually figure out it was us, and because we already get in enough trouble for calling people on their crap as it is. But sometimes, there are events so bizarre or “fail” that they need recounting. This is one of those.
Greg attended the German Beer Festival last year and admitted it was a bit of a dud (mostly because there was only 1 beer) but insisted that it was going to be much better this year. So I agreed to go. Normally I don’t bother to attend events that we’re not going to write about, but for some reason I believed him when he said it was going to be good.
We arrived at the north St. Lawrence market (home of the Saturday morning farmers’ market) to find it looking pretty sparse. Two German cars parked in the middle of the huge open space, a few tables set up around the perimeter with beer and food, and an arrangement of flimsy folding tables and chairs meant to mimic a German beer garden.
Supposedly presented by some German-Canadian business association, we expected there to be more… stuff. Besides four stations pouring German beer, there was a local restaurant serving sausages, and another offer some canape-like things on bread. Plus the cars. That was really it. Nothing else. I was expecting a range of displays for other German products and companies… chocolate, cheese, mustard, maybe some other businesses.
The crowd was older and well-dressed, and milled about eating sausages and sampling the beer. That was the only thing there was to do. I settled in at a table and surveyed the room while Greg went off to get beer for us.
The current north market building was erected in the late 60s and is definitely showing its age. Set to be razed and rebuilt next year, the huge warehouse-style room looks rough and unloved. We never notice it while at the market on Saturday mornings, there’s too much good food to distract us, but emptied of the farmers, the piles of veggies, displays of baked goods, and cases of sausages, the building is downright ugly. The walls are a harsh orange except for one section of stone wall on the east side, which seems to have been an afterthought. There is a space for shops and offices along the west wall but those have since moved out and the windows are papered up. Jerry-rigged wires spread like ivy along the south wall, necessitated by a lack of hydro connections for the farmers on the floor of the market itself. And overhead, more wires run the length of the space, with ugly bare bulbs hanging from more wires to light the space.
It reminds me of the old warehouses we’d find ourselves in at raves in the early 90s. Ugly, harsh and slated for the wrecking ball, but good enough for a party for a thousand kids on E all bouncing to throbbing beats and strobe lights. Except at this event, the room is harshly lit and instead of raver kids, it’s full of men in suits and women in cocktail dresses, standing around new model BMWs and trying to eat sauerkraut-covered sausages with some grace.
If this isn’t bizarre enough – because there are no presentations, no speeches, nothing to put the event into context – there is a DJ. Playing the oddest mix of music we’ve ever heard, from the BeeGees to Tom Tom Club to Stevie Wonder to Scissor Sisters. It all sounds like crap – the room has horrible acoustics – and we wonder aloud if the crowd is going to get rowdy after a few beers and start dancing. We’re curious as to whether he’ll play any German music, some Einsturdende Neubauten or Nina Hagen or at least some Nena. “Or maybe some Hoff,” Greg says, a terrified expression on his face. “I bet he plays some Hoff, because… Germans love David Hasselhoff!”
“I’m done!” I say, chugging back the rest of my beer. “I’m not sticking around to watch the German business community dance to David Hasselhoff where I buy cheese.”
We finish up frantically and leave. Not quite full, but not really hungry enough to go have dinner somewhere else. My butt is sore from the crappy plastic folding chair, I’ve got heartburn from the one sausage I’ve eaten, and I’m slightly tipsy from the beer. I’m glad we’re not actually writing about this one, because what could we even say to make it sound good?
Not to diss Germans, or the German population in Toronto – we’ve been to some great events hosted by the German consulate. But this wasn’t one of them.
I almost wish we had stayed around until the DJ played some David Hasselhoff. Maybe that’s when the real party got started. Maybe we missed the best part of the evening. It might have taken an event that was merely sad into a whole other realm of bizarre.