Uptown Saint John not only has unmatched historic charm, is situated on the beautiful Bay of Fundy, and has a prime arts and culture scene; we are also home to quaint indie shoppes and a mecca of dining and social spaces. Uptown Saint John Inc. recently asked seven local bloggers to spend some time and money ($100 each) uptown and share their experiences with us.
Every day since February 25th, weve been highlighting each blogger and their ventures. We wind up this series with a wonderful post by Greg Knudson! We hope youve enjoyed reading sevenUp, and perhaps venture out yourself to experience uptown and its unique ambiance.
sevenUP . Day Seven . March 3, 2013
by Greg Knudson
Greg Knudson runs his own company, GK Media, where he works as a wedding photographer, filmmaker and graphic designer. This past December, his work took him all the way to Dhaka, Bangladesh to film a 2 day wedding. Though he has developed an ever-increasing appetite for travel or destination work, he truly lives and loves life in uptown SJ. Beyond work, Greg is a foodie who enjoys cooking, browsing the local cultural markets and the fine dining experiences found throughout the city, with a particular weakness for Japanese food and almost anything normal people consider “too spicy.” He is a fitness and nutrition enthusiast, but has been known to cheat on the latter when it comes to overly-caffeinated beverages and a good beer (or several). You can check out Gregs work and social media contact info atwww.about.me/gregknudson
Be sure to follow Greg on twitter @gregknudson
This will be my first blog post…ever, so please bear with me, because there is a chance it may appear like I've clumsily glued a bunch of tweets together. For those who know me, I'm often posting lengthy Facebook statuses in desperate need of a blog, so maybe this should be more of a regular thing. To begin with, I'll tell you a little bit about how I came to write this guest blog on Uptown SJ. On February the 6th at 4:30 PM, I was summoned to the Uptown SJ office for a gathering of seven of Saint John's blogging elite. In other words, I had no idea why I was there. They were calling it “7Up,” but my deductive reasoning and lack of carbonated beverages brought me to the conclusion that this was not your average 7Up meeting if there are such things. Uptown SJ was offering each of us $100 for us to spend in any way we saw fit, with only two requirements: We were to spend the money uptown, and then blog about our experience. Who could say no to that? I obviously didn't. If you weren't already a blogger, you would have become one that day. Besides, photographers are only paid in exposure, so give me an actual $100 and Im certainly willing to blog about it!
After the brief meeting, I ran out and deposited my cheque before Uptown SJ could change their minds, and quickly got to thinking about what I would spend it on. If I wanted to, I could have run around town and paid five strangers' parking tickets, but my 'sevenUp' experience would have lasted all of 2 minutes. Another option I considered was single-handedly taking down one of Ta-Ke sushis 75 piece sushi boats (battle cruisers?), which would last roughly 1 hour plus an indefinite food coma. The bloggers were chosen based on their unique perspectives, so with that in mind I opted to spend it on things I would normally buy, but with more thought towards supporting some local businesses and making a point of trying something different. I also had my camera with me, so I hope you enjoy the accompanying photos! 'SevenUp' was a great experience, which made me reflect on a few of my spending habits, such as: 1) I have no trouble thinking of what to buy until you put a spending cap on it. 2) I don't buy a lot of 'things', and typically prefer entertainment experiences. 3) I spend an unreasonable amount of money on food, so I wanted to be sure I had at least one lasting, tangible product of some sort at the end of the day. The following is a breakdown of how I chose to spend my $100:
Gym, Coffee, Haircut: Ahh, my trifecta – a succession of things that never fail to make me feel like a new man. Naturally, I had to factor this into my spending. I walk through the City Market, grab a coffee at Java Moose (Moose Size Cocoa Mochanut, for those who must know) and head toward Hairacys for my appointment with Adam Donnelly. Adam is an exceptionally talented, award-winning hairstylist with a lot of passion for what he does. I have always been impressed when I see his work in collaboration with local fashion photographers on Facebook. It's always pure art. Adam has also been cool with the fact that I sometimes try to book my appointments the day before through Facebook. Okay, maybe every time. I'm pretty sure he's even penciled me in on some of his off days. After the haircut I dropped my camera off at home and headed to Goodlife (It was already weird bringing it to my hair appointment, and there are already enough gym selfies on instagram).
On my way back home through the City Market, I purchased the only item that was not experienced or consumed in a short time frame. I stopped to talk with John Baxter at Canvas Pics in the City Market and ordered an 11×14 canvas of one of my photos. Ive passed by the display on countless occasions and always thought to get one, but never got around to it. I dont have a lot of my own work committed to print or canvas, so I figured it would be a good idea. The original photo I chose is shown below, as the final canvas product was not ready before the blog had to be ready for posting. Im considering gifting it to my grandmother, but if I decide to keep it on my own wall, thats okay too. She doesnt read the Uptown SJ blog to see this, or have internet serviceor a computer. Cash remaining: ~$50
(update…Greg's grandmother received her gift. …i think she likes it!)
Lunch at Taro: Taro (formerly Saigon Noodle), is a Vietnamese and Thai restaurant on the corner of Union and Coburg St. They've got some delicious food at great prices, but their challenging location in the uptown area and relatively little marketing means a lot of people don't find their way over there to discover it. The owner, Bi, is a friend of mine, and back in the Saigon Noodle days I was notorious for stopping in on Saturdays for some of that amazing Pho at around 2:30am, adding ridiculous amounts of Sriracha sauce and chilis to the point I could barely handle it. I also created Saigon Noodle's first website, so I had familiarized myself with the menu for the past few years. Much has changed since, though. They've re-branded to “Taro,” and recently brought in a new chef from the Springrolls restaurant franchise in Ontario. They are also no longer open at 2:30 am.
Since I hadnt been out for lunch with friends in a while, I invited my friend Mark McColgan to try some of Taro's new menu items. Mark is a social-media/marketing consultant and strategist in Saint John who has helped several businesses to form strategies and engage with customers. He has also helped me in the past with these areas. We talked about social media and how our businesses were doing while we enjoyed our meals. Mark got the sweet and sour chicken while I had the new Kalbi beef ribs with grilled shrimp and vegetable skewers. As a starter, we each got a bowl of Tom Yum Soup, a hot, sour and spicy Thai soup with herbs and vegetables. The spice level was a bit toned down and the flavor slightly sweetened compared to others I've had, but it was delicious nonetheless. The Kalbi beef ribs were grilled to perfection with slightly charred, caramelize edges and a Korean BBQ marinade that I believe is a mix of soy, garlic, sugar and sesame oil. The shrimp were juicy, tender and grilled along with some bell peppers. With my meal, I also had a Vietnamese filtered ice coffee, which I was supposed to pour over a glass full of ice, but ended up drinking like an espresso shot instead. Still great. All in all an excellent lunch, and Im looking forward to my next visits so I can check out the rest of their new dishes. Cash remaining: $25
My fifth and final purchase was at Ta-Ke sushi. When I entered I asked for a selection of sushi to be chosen by the chef and explained what I was doing for the Uptown SJ blog, so they ordered an amount to fit within my remaining budget. I love many things about Japanese food. The simple-but-brilliant flavor combinations, the freshness of it and feeling completely energized when I finish a good meal. Ta-Ke definitely gave me that feeling. If Uptown SJ gave me $100 every week Id probably spend some of it there every time. The presentation of my plate was spot on, complete with a rose bulb and an intricately sculpted radish for garnish, and a creative mix of 20 Nigiri (raw fish on rice) and Maki (rolls with seaweed) sushi pieces. The chefs selection included squid, octopus, tuna, two different cuts of salmon (belly and fillet) and pieces made from egg, grilled eel and salmon roe (eggs). The sushi was fantastic! My favorites were the grilled eel and salmon pieces, but the roe variety definitely caught my attention because I dont think Ive tried it before. This was my second visit to Ta-Ke and thus far I have nothing bad to say – quite the opposite. Im really impressed with the service and the unique sushi rolls Ive had there.
After Ta-Ke my balance was $0, so I hung my head and resumed spending my own money. So thats it! I hope you enjoyed reading about – and viewing – my sevenUp experience. Big thanks to Uptown SJ for choosing me as one of the bloggers!
Find out more about Greg: www.about.me/gregknudson