Part of me would like to start off this blog post with the following: “For our 2013 Cassels Brock summer student event Leigh-Ann green-lighted an evening at the Backyard Axe Throwing League, which involved hurling 26-inch lumberjack axes across the width of a crowded bar in hopes of lodging the weapons deep into a target carved from wood. The beer was plentiful and super cheap too”. For some reason, the axe-wielding never ended up happening. We also nearly descended on the Muskokas, and stacked mattresses all the way up to the rafters of one of the student’s cottages for a weekend. The enthusiasm waned, and we opted for a more classic evening suitable for the budding lawyer – a chef’s tasting menu on the rooftop patio of Gusto 101, a swanky eatery in the clubbing district, followed by a few casual drinks at the local table-tennis joint, or as the kids call it these days, “Spin”.
Gusto 101 is a 3 story restaurant, jam-packed with fashionable young people looking for a good time and scrumptious food after an exhausting day at the grind. We seemed to fit the bill. It is virtually impossible to find a table there on a date, let alone a table to accommodate 24 of us – so kudos to our event organizer, Kate Byers. We were seated on the rooftop, which had some funky glass pyramids that you could peer into and see the floor below, and some overhead hanging Christmas lights. Generally, it was just a very appealing ambience. We sat at one long communal table at the side of the floor, and there was a giant “Goodyear Blimp” sign welded from sheet metal hovering above us. Some jokes were told, and some wine was to be had, and before we knew it we were bogged down in plates of aranchini (deep-fried risotto balls covered in fresh marinara sauce and shreds of fresh basil), thin-crust pizza with a variety of vegetarian-friendly as well as carnivorous toppings, beautiful roasted whole chickens without a hint of dryness, and plates of homemade pasta glistening with a rich cream sauce infused with truffle-oil. Everything was pitch-perfect, and the service was attentive and friendly. We played musical chairs and discussed everything under the sun, other than the current state of the law. It was refreshing.
Someone had the brilliant idea of ordering a few rounds of Fernet-Branca, an Italian amara digestive liqueur that is reminiscent of a minty flavour and cough medicine. The medicinal properties did wonders for settling our post-gluttony stomachs. One student though the appropriate move was to “shoot back” one of these potent glasses of Fernet. Typically, the drink is sipped slowly. That student is rumoured to still be recovering. This was sort of the transitional moment of the evening. Now we were off to Spin to see who was the best ping-pong competitor of the bunch.
Spin is a bar located in a back-alleyway jetting off of King Street West. The business model of combining an endless sea of ping-pong tables with bars and drinking culture originated in the Big Apple. New locations have sprouted across North America, and recently Toronto was added to the roster. All the Spins are independently-operated with creative licence to do what they want with the environment. In Toronto, the lighting is dim, and the calibre of play isn’t exactly intimidating. Buckets of orange balls are propped up next to the tables and kids just start wailing on these things, littering the floors with dozens of them. Attn: Ambulance Chasers. At one moment I am pretty sure I witnessed somebody trying to deliberately snipe people across the bar with ping-pong balls. A couple of employees roam the bar with something I can only describe as a vacuum/swifter mop device, combing the ground for balls that ricochet off the table. It makes everything slightly more convenient for the players.
Our student night happened to coincide with the opening rounds of the All England Tennis Tournament, also known as Wimbledon 2013. In an historic year that saw the shocking departures of Nadal and Federer in the first and second rounds, respectively, the feeling was in the air that there would be some upsets at Spin. Some genuinely surprising lacklustre showings came from Daniel Shiff and Hilary Fender, who were both pegged for greatness. Even David Kelman, a self-titled “3-time Fantasy NHL champion” put his chips on the wrong horses. The sleeper of the event undeniably had to be Peter Reinitzer, and an honourable mention goes out to Jake Goldberg, who was not too shabby himself.
This was a really incredible event. This summer we have already had numerous opportunities to get to know each other and let our hair down. This made the night more enjoyable because it wasn’t an ice-breaker or a pressured sort of “work event” It was just an awesome way to spend time together outside of the office and do something a little out of the ordinary. Everyone was in good spirits, and the night went off without a hitch. If you ignore 1:30 A.M. and onwards that is. Thank you again to Kate for organizing.