Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Toronto: What Torontonians Stand in Line For

The Uncle Tetsu's Not Taken, Toronto, Canada. Summer 2016.

What to Torontonioans stand in line for? 

Sweet Jesus and cheesecake, that's what.

Hmmm, writing this brings back a cringe-worthy memory of me standing in line years ago for a recreational food item. It was at the Olean Testical Festival. And the food item was fried turkey testicles. The vendor's supply couldn't keep up with the demand, hence the long line. I stood in line for my measly serving of crispy turkey testicles for an hour. Hopefully, not something I would do today. 

Sweet Jesus

Sweet Jesus is an ice cream, pretty much. It's a soft serve with stuff on it. The lines for this ice cream are insanely long.

Sweet Jesus has legions of disciples, but there are always Thomases and Judases in the mix. Here's one such disgruntled from the Globe and Mail, written by Chris Nuttall-Smith. It is a masterpiece of disdain. An excerpt:
The El Chapo cone at Sweet Jesus, a shark-jumping, lineup-clogged soft-serve ice cream phenomenon just north of King Street West, on John Street, presents like a medical exhibit from the lost causes cabinet of a journeyman Victorian-era surgeon. Bulbous and misshapen, the cone is dipped in what tastes like Dollarama clearance bin chocolate, be-drizzled with spasms of sauce and rolled in deep-fried pork skin. Its most prominent colour is a looming, viruliferous brown.

The experience of eating that cone, which Sweet Jesus promoted around Cinco de Mayo earlier this month, is a lot how I imagine it’d feel to slurp on a stick of freezer-burned margarine dipped in Nestle Quik and week-old bacon drippings. As for the wisdom of celebrating one of Mexico’s most beloved national holidays with a paean to the country’s most murderous drug lord, I’m slightly less certain, though I do look forward to the launch of Sweet Jesus’s Maurice (Mom) Boucher cone this Canada Day.

I don't know if Sweet Jesus is any good, according to my tastes. Didn't try it. But it sure knows how to market itself.

Uncle Tetsu's Japanese cheesecake, Toronto, Canada. June 2016.

Uncle Tetsu's Japanese cheesecake

Sandy, friend Heloise, and I spent an afternoon together, poking around Toronto neighborhoods. Sandy had an envie to try out the madly-popular Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake. We arrived at one of the Uncle Tetsu locations, where I was intrigued to see there were two Uncle Tetsu storefronts side by side. One pink and one green. One had a very long line out onto the sidewalk; the other didn't.

I had no interest in the long line for cheesecake in front of the pink storefront, so I walked into the green one, thinking maybe this was an alternative highway to the cheesecake heaven for my friends. But no, the green store offered different goods. Something related to "matcha," about which I knew nothing. After understanding there was no cheesecake here, I opted for a bright green matcha ice cream cone.

Unremarkable flavor but pretty color.

Sandy and Heloise succeeded in buying the cheesecake. Later, over lunch, in one of Toronto's underground warrens, they tried same and pronounced it ... good but not particularly noteworthy.

Below is an entertaining video from Taiwan about the popularity and the making of Uncle Tetsu's Japanese cheesecake:

The remark from one customer offers much insight: "I saw a lot of people lining up, so I lined up too."

Holy heck. I think if I were a new business, I might pay people to line up for my goods for this very human reaction.

And before I go to some sort of dismissive thought about any herding instinct of us humans, I remind myself of when my daughter and I took a road trip from Missouri to Alaska. Always on the lookout for big animals such as bears, moose, or elk, if we saw a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road, we'd at times also pull over just in case its inhabitants had seen something.

But I must know. What did the Globe and Mail's Chris Nuttall-Smith have to say about Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake? He didn't disappoint, building suspense almost to the very end before he pronounces his verdict. I won't spoil it for you, other than to note that Mr. Nuttall-Smith had observed the same phenomenon as quoted in the video: "Hype breeds hype: A lot of the people in the line both times I’ve been were in the lineup because of the lineup. They wanted to know what all the fuss was about."

We're all willing to queue for an hour or longer for something, I suppose. What am I willing to stand in line for?

Parades. I arrive early for parades. 

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