Wow what a fun and busy last month it has been.
I am so happy to report that I could cross off another item on my bucket list – Niagara Falls. What an amazing experience it was to visit Niagara Falls 1,5 hours outside of Toronto. Everybody always told me that the Falls would look better from the “Canadian Side” but until now I had no clue what that really meant and I can confirm that the falls look spectacular from the Canadian site! I always asked myself how can there be the same falls in two countries, its not like the water falls down on one side and then comes back up on the other. But now that I have seen it I know what people mean. On the US side you can walk on some sort of pier (I assume…I couldn’t see it close up) and only look down the falls, where on the Canadian side you can see the entire front and width of two waterfalls. On the US side you pretty much walk out over the falls which I assume is still pretty cool but on the Canadian side you can take a boat (Hornblower) and get super close to both falls, that was an amazing experience.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t sufficient time to also go “behind the falls” something you should definitely do if you ever visit the Niagara Falls on the Canadian side and you should also stop on the way in or out at Niagara on the Lake. I was told it’s a really cute and quaint town on a Lake. Again, we were strapped for time and couldn’t take advantage of those two stops. Instead we had lunch at the Niagara Falls Brewery in downtown Niagara Falls which looks like a run down Reno. What a weird experience to just have seen one of the most amazing sights, pretty much a “7th world wonder” and then you turn around and find yourself in an ueber touristy fake run down “gambling” style of town…only in America :-).
My reason for actually being in Toronto was Microsoft’s world wide partner conference, quite the spectacle Microsoft is putting on for its partners. Most Microsoft (partner) sellers and their partners participate in this 1x year 3 day conference. This is the 5th time I have been to this particular conference and it its always super busy with back to back meetings and then evening events but it is also a lot of fun as Microsoft is always putting on great events and a concert. This year Gwen Stephanie performed in front of 15,000 Microsoft employees and partners. It is much easier at this type of concert to make it to the first row on the floor than at a “regular” concert and so my friend Michelle and I went for it and it was amazing! Gwen Stephanie looks amazing close up and put on a great show, the entire hall was rocking out. Considering that Gwen’s music is not exactly my style, I had a great time hanging out with my work “family” and liked Gwen’s new song “Misery”. Sounds like she is not in any Misery at all anymore with her new beau, new album and new tour.
Besides the falls and seeing Gwen Stefani, I also got to take a ride up the CN tower – its absolutely worth paying extra to have lunch or dinner at the restaurant which gives you priority treatment and you do not have to wait in line for the elevator and cuts out a good 1,5 hours in waiting time – and hang out at the hip “Distillery” district with its quaint boutiques and a slew of outdoor restaurants.
There wasn’t sufficient time to go to the Queen West district with its eclectic boutiques or doing an island tour (the water taxis depart right behind the Westin Harbor Castle hotel). So this goes on to the list for the next visit.
One of our good Azure partners and former manager, transported us in style with the 10th Magnitude “tour bus” around Toronto to all the different party’s and supplied us with drinks and one of Canada’s national dish “Poutine” – I had never heard of it before – and have to say it is pretty tasty at midnight after only having tiny pieces of finger food for 3 days in a row; Poutine is a mixture of fries, cheese curds and gravy. But then again the brain is somewhat clouded enduring food and sleep withdrawal so anything at this time tastes great on an empty stomach, but who knows how this dish would taste under normal “circumstances”, a bunch of my colleagues didn’t like it at all, so you will have to try it for yourself!
Tuesday night the US team puts on its own party for our partners and this time we hung out at the Sound Academy which had an awesome view onto Toronto’s skyline and I also got to meet Marcus Allen, ex running back for the Oakland Raiders that was a ton of fun! I will miss hanging out with my work family, making amazing people and business connections, receiving approx..500 texts a day (including lots of HR violations), late night party’s and bread pudding, “steaming” the keynote in bed, and lots of chuckles with my roomie Michelle.
Prior to my visit to Toronto I spend 4 awesome days with the entire Sudore family in Longbeach enjoying some well deserved time off as well as beach and fireworks festivities.
The below Tacos Al Pastor Recipe was triggered by my visit to a Mexican restaurant (El Catrin) in the Distillery district where Michelle and I finished out our week in Toronto with a glass of champagne and Tacos Al Pastor.
Tacos Al Pastor:
For the pork:
- 3 Goya Guajillo Chiles
- 1 Goya Pasilla Chiles or Goya Ancho Chiles
- 1 chipotle pepper from a can of Goya Chipotle Chile in Adobo Sauce
- 1 medium white onion, halved
- 1 8 once can pineapple chunks
- 1/4 cup White Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Goya Minced Garlic
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1tablespoon Adobo
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 (2 1/2 pound) boneless, skinless pork butt, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Corn Tortillas
- Sour cream
- Mexican cheese
- Green and red salsa
- Lime wedges
- Bring 2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add guajillo and pasilla chiles. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chiles soften, about 10 minutes; transfer to plate. Remove and discard stem and seeds. Meanwhile, coarsely chop one onion half; reserve remaining half.
- Transfer guajillo, pasilla and chipotle chiles, chopped onion half, pineapple chunks, vinegar, garlic to bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer chile mixture to saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring chile mixture to a boil; cook until paste loses raw onion taste, about 2 minutes. Season with Adobo; cool. In large container with lid, or in large Ziplocg bag, combine pork cubes, cooled Chile marinade and reserved pineapple chunks; transfer to refrigerator. Marinate at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Strain pork and pineapples, discarding marinade. Add pork and pineapples to skillet. Cook in batches until dark golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes; transfer to large serving plate.
- Meanwhile, finely slice remaining onion half. Transfer sliced onion to bowl with cilantro. Serve pork and pineapple mixture in warm tortillas. Garnish pork tacos with cilantro, onions and limes.