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MoCo Downtown– The Best Italian Style Restaurant in New Brunswick

The following is a repost of my review for MoCo Downtown that appears on TripAdvisor.

I was there for the first time on Saturday and I was floored by how wonderful this gem of a place was. I ordered the Sussex Sausage Risotto and for a side paired it with the Sliced Brussel Sprout with Prosciutto and Pine Nut side.

It was so creamy and spicy and flavourful that it blew me away. The Brussel Sprouts we very salty, but that is exactly what you would get in Italy. Unlike many Italian restaurants that simply mimics what you would get in various parts of Italy, this place cooks like a Tuscan or Venetian chef would with access and highlighting of New Brunswick ingredients.

The food was so good but I would not want to not mention how friendly the wait staff was and how efficiently the kitchen was putting out plates. Definitely going to go back and explore more of this menu.

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An Election is in the Air

As the fall approaches, it is time for another round of provincial elections. The province is in a tough but still hopeful situation, people throwing around money and making promises that will make them look popular and ruthlessly attacking their opponents.

I’m going to make a list of items that I consider a priority for the next government.

1) Remove the ban from walking down the street with open liquor. There is no real public safety impact here, and littering would be of little impact as the empties will quickly be retrieved.

2) Rename the Saint John River the “Saint John / Wolastoq River”, it would only cost 50ish signs and would make everyone happy. Also, please the indigenous peoples in the area.

3) Within 5 years, eliminate 10 schools. Even if you have to build new modern 20th century buildings.

4) Change legislation to ensure there are no more than 6 levels of management between the minister and the front line staff in every department and agency.

5) Change the way we do municipalities. Naming streets, municipal planning, recreation, transportation, by-laws etc are what makes a community and councils should be limited to those things. Protective services should not be at the municipal level. There should be large regional elected service boards that run protective/regional services.

6) Reduce 10 municipalities. There are too many for the size of the Province.

7) Modernization of the delivery of government services. It is completely ridiculous that you still have to play phone tag with the receptionist to get appointments at the hospital and be called by 3 different departments for the same procedure. Also that your medical information is in silos that don’t allow your doctor to know the whole story, and allow electronic filing of prescriptions so you are not given conflicting drugs, and reduce the addictions.

8) Be ambitious and strive to have Bilingualism as a requirement of Graduation for all students of New Brunswick. “switching between two or more languages gives the brain a dexterousness and improves our attention, planning, memory and problem-solving skills.” (Irish Times, 27 March 2018)

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Photo of the Month 2017

As we ring in the new year time for my annual photo a month post!

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Mobile Ordering

Today I visited the local coffee shop in the mall. The line was very long and the people started to appear frustrated or tired, but there was the pot of gold at the end of the line to make it all worthwhile. Correction, it was coffee, not gold but in the eyes of the patrons waiting it was more valuable than gold.

Meanwhile, I enter and walk past the line and pick up my coffee there waiting for me and leave to sit in the mall and watch the people and write this. The people watching began before I could even leave the restaurant. The scowl of disgust on their faces as I did not lime them join in the ancient, or present-day British, the tradition of fair queuing.

I participated in the modern “there’s an app for that” method of placing my order using my phone and picking it up. Although I used an app this is nothing really new. For all my life you could call up and arrange for pick-up of take-out restaurants.

Today’s purchase was at Tim Horton’s using their app. When it comes to ordering their app is pretty good. It is very straightforward and adding modifications is simple. The payment process and choosing a restaurant is also very intuitive. The downside of the app is that the specialty muffins are not in the app and some instructions like double toasting bagels are not there.

However, they are making lots of improvements and when I first used the app you could not have 1/2 sugar. There is a promotion now where you can get a free coffee (Regular, Dark, or Decaf) after 3 orders by the end of the year.

Another app I use regularly is the Cineplex app. This app is good for purchasing tickets, but the number of options to buy a ticket can be daunting. The perk, however, is not waiting in line for the kiosks and 50 bonus Scene points (1/20th of a movie).

The McDonald’s Canada app is of similar quality to Tim’s and is really straightforward to make a complex or simple order.

The final shopping app review has to be the Esso Speedpass+ app. This is really convenient as you do not have to stand outside and swipe your fuel savings card, then your points card, then choose a car wash option, then the on-screen payment. It is simply done on the app with very little effort.

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StartUp Weekend Saint John

As most of you know I have volunteered at ROGERS tv for going on 19 years. Bi-weekly there is a talk show that I work on called What Matters most. A few weeks ago the had someone on as a guest from the Momentum Group to talk about a then-upcoming event for a Startup Weekend. Long story short that episode didn’t make it to air and was instead put on YouTube. Therefore you can watch the following 13-minute interview to get the idea of what it is about.

Or not… I guess I can tell you what it is about.

The premise is that you pay money for a ticket and choose if you are a Developer (can code), Designer (can design stuff), or Other (smart person, marketing person, money person, et cetera). Then on Friday you show up raid the buffet spread, socialize, network, and assess the competition.

Then you get to listen to speeches, “The is is how the weekend is going to go down”, “we love business”, “entrepreneurs are awesome”, “there are so many services you have never probably heard of that you are going to get a taste of”, “your community needs you”, and lastly “who has an idea!”.

This is the first taste of the opportunity where you get to line up and present and possible idea, everyone claps for you presenting your idea, then you walk off to write your idea down on a big piece of paper and stick it on the wall. After all the ideas are presented comes the fun. Everyone in the room goes an puts a post-it note on the idea they like. Then the top several ideas get selected and then they get moved around the room that the idea person stood beside their idea and if you liked their idea you could join their idea team. If an idea had at least 3 people it was then a team.

We then spent a few hours planning out the idea. Then we went to socialize at a special after-hours gathering at the new Saint John Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.

The next morning we arrived to have a light breakfast. Then go off to work. It was this portion of the day where we got to choose the local business people and entrepreneurs we would talk to in a type of speed-dating to understand our idea and it’s potential best future best. Of course, we then had an amazing lunch. Then back to work on the afternoon working on the business plan, the supporting market research, prototypes of ideas, and to build a blow-away presentation for the next day. Then a large supper arrived and it was back to work into the night.

The next morning involves a lot of fine-tuning the presentation, and practice of the presentation. Our group used Prezi for the presentation and there were a few points where we had to add a few seconds of fill to transition the topics for the visual animations that done well, nails the presentation and, not appearing to be filler.

Then we got to do a test presentation and got some great feedback from the event organizers. Using the feedback it just made the presentation stronger. Then lunch arrived I think this one was from Toro Tacos and it was a rice bowl that was incredible.

Then it was presentation time. This was the first time I ever used a presenter button (or TV term GPI) it is so much better than hitting the arrow keys on a laptop and makes it easier to present. After the presentation, I was relieved that that was it. Now to listen to the other presentations. There were nine teams in total with prizes for the first, second and third place teams.

When the third place team was announced, I was a little surprised. The criteria I thought of that would make a great idea was not what the judges looked for. There were great but impractical ideas in the pack, some that when it went from the idea Friday night took a turn for the worst. Then there was some that got a whole thot better after research. The thirds place idea was one of those and in reflection well deserved and was championed by someone truly invested in the limitless potential of their idea.

My team won second place and again I was in shock not because I didn’t believe our idea but because I had spent the last hour being won over by some of the other ideas.

Then when the first place was announced it was definitely the one I expected. I’ll link to a CBC interview on the winning idea.

After the awards it was a bit more, socializing, networking, and business talk on where the ideas can go from there.

There is going to be another one in Saint John hopefully in the Spring, and there is going to be one the first weekend of November in Fredericton.

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My First Heckler

I love comedy and always have. Robin Williams and George Carlin are amongst my favourites. Over the past few years starting with the summer of trying things I have started going to see stand up comedy shows. Not to say I no longer love improv comedy, but there is just so much more stand-up lately in these parts.

One of the recurring shows is the No Jokes Barred put on monthly by Jon Forward at the R Bar. What I love about this show are the new performers. Back when I was rehearsing on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Ken Bolton, he kept encouraging me to try stand-up. I never did however mainly due to my anxiety.

However this past June, Ken was going to be leaving town, and after the No Jokes Barred show, there was an open mic for the third anniversary post-show. I was considering doing it and was trying to think up some good material all day before the show. All of which I ran out of time to perfect and only used a bit as a preamble to my 2013 Amsterdam Trip story. (Which you will not find on this blog)

All during the show I was debating actually doing it. There was the option to do a Karaoke song, or comedy. They were giving past performers 6 minutes and other people 3 minutes. At this point, I was unsure about the comedy as 3 minutes was not enough time to tell my story. When the sign-up papers were placed on the table I grabbed one right away and wrote “Charles Frees-Melvin… Comedy”. I was still nervous and spoke to a few people and then, what the hell, gave Jon the piece of paper.

After a few others, my name got called and there was no turning back. From my 18 years of TV experience holding and talking into the mic was child’s play. I also love to story-tell as well so that was not an issue. The hard part was I had to make them laugh.

As it turned out my story was either really funny or the crowd was great because they were laughing a lot and in all the right places. Then the dreaded R Bar experience a heckler! That guy said something stupid and wrong and I made fun of him and moved on to finish the story. I don’t know how but the right words just came to me to shoot that guy down.

Obviously thrilled with myself I finished my beer and headed home.