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Charlie's Burger?


Has anyone been? Or been invited? What was your experience like if any?

  1. Folks, we want to clarify something regarding posts about Charlie Burger.

    We don't allow discussion of "underground" restaurants because of reasons we explain here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/112367. Primarily, it's to protect small unlicensed businesses from notice by authorities that would shut them down. We initially thought that was the case with Charlie's Burgers, and have been removing discussions of it in keeping with that policy. However, our research indicates that does not seem to be the case with this operation, and so we're going to allow discussion of it.

    24 Replies
    1. re: The Chowhound Team

      I knew it. Charlie's Burgers is just a gimmick. I'm pretty sure they invite everyone who signs up.

      1. re: Negaduck

        I haven't been able to get to one as yet, but that is very doubtful - if only because of limited capacity. Events fill in minutes.

        1. re: embee

          embee is right. I went to last night's Charlie's, and from talking to one of the organisers, I learned that they had roughly 250 responses for the 30 person dinner.

          I'm also curious to know what "research" was done by the Chowhound folks to make them think that Charlie's isn't a quasi-legal underground restaurant. The venue where last night's dinner took place was definitely not an establishment licensed to serve food or drink.

          That said, there were a couple of media people present with full knowledge of the organisers, so they're obviously not shying away from publicity.

            1. re: stonedtoronto

              Umm... filling. Very, very filling. :)

              (My wife is writing an article about it, so I don't want to reveal too much and scoop her...)

              1. re: gregclow

                And she wrote a fantastic article, at that! Seems like you guys had a good experience, Greg! Wondering about all the press that was present though. And the illegalities of it all? Health code violations etc?
                I've received my questionnaire in the "mail" but wonder if I'll even get in - it's such a popular 'event', now!


                  1. re: foodyDudey

                    Yes, I read those this morning - great articles....but no pictures. Sheryl Kirby got some nice ones.

                  2. re: tp24

                    There are no Illegalities... per se.. You do not pay for the food or wine you offer a "suggested donation" .. you do not make a reservation you are invited to a private party peronally.. therefor it is not a public place it is like having a dinner party in your house. Health department had commented in a previous newspaper story that they are not going to police this type of event unless there starts to be complaints. Also since the events are heald in places with no liquor licences the licencing police cannot do much especially since the locations and dates & times always change and are secret except to the attendies.

            2. re: embee

              i think that unless you send them a truly horrendous application only then will you get rejected and so by that line of thought... they do invite everyone who signs up.

              considering what gregclow just said, it seems like their invite list may have doubled recently as the previous one has about 125 rsvps come in. they've gotten a lot of press recently and it's looking like that is part of the goal as they hand pick who is to be at an event (recently only newbies) and a number of seats are given away to "press" of sorts. it is a fun event though i think the last one veered a little off course from their mandate as i understood it (the higher price may have reflected this as well) and i'm curious to see if they morph into just a dining club and/or if all the press starts encouraging more of these to pop up.

              and i really can't see how this place is completely legit but hey, if ch says so....

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                I think it'd be cool if more were around. There's bunches in NYC, LA, SanFran.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Again, we'd like to clarify that our intent in not allowing discussion of underground restaurants is because we don't want to be the cause of them being brought to the attention of public health authorities if they are operating "off the radar". However, in this situation, Charlie's Burgers seem to be having some meals at licensed operations, and based on the article in The Star, the Public Health department is aware of the operation.

                  We certainly don't claim to be experts in assessing whether or not this or any other operation is up to snuff when it comes to health regulations, so please don't take our decision to allow discussion as a stamp of approval and safety.

              2. re: Negaduck

                I signed up approx two weeks ago but never heard back from them. I bet my answers didn`t appeal to them, lol.

                1. re: radiopolitic

                  If you signed up two weeks ago, there would be little chance in getting into the last dinner. They sent out the invites on March 17, (2 weeks ago) and there would be many people ahead of you. But then as you metioned not everyone gets invited, it depends on how you reponded to the survey.

                  1. re: foodyDudey

                    Ah, thank you for clarifying that. It would be appreciated if one of you guys posted when the next invite goes out. At least that way I'll know whether I'm in or not.

                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      I finally got a reply from Charlie after filling out their survey. But now when I try to open the email with the attachment, my e mail says there's an error, lol.

                      Anyone who has gone before or been added to their list know if this is an invite to an event, or simply, you're now added on the invite list?

                      1. re: stonedtoronto

                        I also received a reply last night... about 5 days after applying. The reply simply states that I have been accepted and will be notified of the next dinner at a date and time TBA. The attachment was a pdf of the last dinner and wine list, i.e. the duck in a can that was profiled in the Toronto Star.

                        1. re: cynalan

                          Lucky you! Send in my applications a couple of weeks ago! Havn't heard from them. Guess I'm not welcome!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Charles, though I don't know you, I have enjoyed reading your reviews. Your passion for good food would certainly be their loss. Are you sure that your message was delivered? Try again, perhaps?

                              1. re: cynalan

                                Indeed, the first time I signed up, I never received a reply, but the second time I did. I think Charlie's workflow has a few cracks in it, so you might just try again.

                                1. re: Jacquilynne

                                  Did you answer everything exactly the same on both applications?

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    The first time I signed up, I was never sent an application.

                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                      I haven't gotten an invitation, yet either. Why does this feel like high school. :)

                2. A secret invitation to buy an $80 hamburger?

                  No thanks.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Everythingtarian

                    Nary a burger in sight actually...

                    1. re: Non Doctor

                      I'd like to chime in and state I had a great time as well. The 'mystery' element to the event is fun, the food was great (especially the duck in the can), and the hosts/severs were knowledgeable and informative.

                      Jamie - loved the leather outfit - and you are one seriously funny guy. I think you made the night!

                      These events are heavily dependent on the crowd that attends and the personalities in the mix. As others mentioned, the crowd seemed to be comprised of 'younger' professionals, but not all were. These nights are definitely not intended to be a formal event of any kind - so if you're good at mingling, and are not too snooty - you'll have a good time.

                      Portions were extremely generous, the wines very well thought out - definitely well worth the $110.

                      As for getting in... you do have to be quick on the draw. I think those with Blackberrys and iPhones for immediate response may have the advantage - but those timed well sitting in front of a computer would fair just as well.

                      1. re: Tara9000

                        speed has nothing to do with it. nor do your answers. based on a conversation with one of the organizers i was told that they want to give everyone a chance.


                    2. re: Everythingtarian

                      It's just a name, there's no burger in sight

                      1. re: stonedtoronto

                        I was accepted and the menu they sent me featured Martin Picard as the guest chef and Jamie Drummond was the sommalier. The menu looked great actually and easily worth the 110 dollar price tag.

                        1. re: jamesm

                          Picard wasn't the chef. They just brought in the “Canard en Conserve” from Au Pied De Cochon as a main course.

                          And yeah, it was well worth the $110.

                        2. re: stonedtoronto

                          Well now I feel like a poopyhead for shrugging it off. Sounds like I missed the good seat on the boat.

                      2. My wife and I ate there last night. We met some other people who post here also. (Tara9000, Greg Clow, Sheryl Kirby)
                        We had a good time. I'll post a review in this thread as it looks like it's OK to mention CB's now. Yesterday I received an email from CH saying not to post anything about my experience but it seems something has changed.

                        There were roughly thirty to 35 people in attendance. Most seemed to be in their 20's and early thirties, in case that matters.
                        We arrived around 6:20 and dinner ended around 10:45. I think everyone enjoyed the food. I have some pictures taken with my wife's Blackberry but I don't know how they turned out yet, I will post them if the quality is good. There was a bit of a gap between each course, probably due to the fact that they were preparing food for 35 people at a time and tried to serve everyone together. The main dish was “Canard en Conserve” which was brought in from Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal. It tasted great but was very filling, I didn't notice anyone else that managed to polish off the complete serving except myself. Most people only ate 30 to 60% of it as it was so rich. (Each serving contained 100 gr. of foie gras and a magret) The cheese plate which followed was great but again a very generous size and impossible to finish. At least I have some good cheese to eat today. I told my wife I am eating only cucumbers for the rest of the month as I was still feeling it this morning. There was an article in Friday's Toronto Star which you can find online. The woman who wrote it was there last night with a photographer so I think you will see another article from her soon. Here is the menu:

                        Selection of Hors D’oeuvres
                        2006 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Gris "Barriques" Alsace France

                        Assiette de Charcuterie
                        Pingue Prosciutto, Goose Rillettes, Tartare de Cheval, Pickled Root Vegetables, Citrus Marinated Olives

                        “Canard en Conserve” from Au Pied De Cochon
                        Duck Magret, Foie Gras, Roasted Savoy Cabbage, Cauliflower puree, Balsamic reduction

                        Assiette de Fromages Francais Artisanaux
                        Camembert Normand AOC, Langres AOC, Pont L’Eveque AOC, Livarot AOC, Crottin de Chavignol AOC,
                        St. Nectaire AOC, Roblochon AOC, Bleu D’Auvergne AOC

                        Malbec Poached Bosc Pear
                        Almond, Walnut ice cream

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: foodyDudey

                          foodyDudey, would you & your wife dine at Charlie's again?

                          1. re: phoenikia

                            Yes I would. It's a different atmosphere from a regular restaurant, but I liked it. The only thing my wife didn't like was sitting down for over 4 hours, and the late end time on a Sunday night. I know she wanted to get home as she leaves for work very early.

                            1. re: foodyDudey

                              Good to know.
                              I considered trying to rsvp- but I thought I'd wait to see the next menu. I'm not a big fan of foie gras, and I like horses too much to get my mind around eating them for pleasure - no problem eating frogs or goats, though ;).

                              1. re: phoenikia

                                The horse was a no-show last night - they subbed venison tartare instead.

                                1. re: gregclow

                                  Did you like it? Would you be able to tell that it was venison if they hadn't told you what it was?

                                  1. re: phoenikia

                                    It was very good. I've had venison carpaccio before, and it was similar enough in flavour that I probably would've known even if they hadn't mentioned the switch.

                                    Either that, or I would've thought "hmmm, horse tastes a lot like venison...".

                                    1. re: phoenikia

                                      I can tell the difference, horse is much sweeter then venison and is a darker meat. Whenit arrived at the table I thought that was some funny looking cheval, then they mentioned the switch. I wish there was a way to slice off pieces of a horse with something like the cheese knives that have a slot type cutter, then we could enjoy cheval without the guilt as it would be sustainable farming.

                                      1. re: foodyDudey

                                        Is the horse served in TO raised for its meat? Or are they serving vintage 30 year old horses that were ready for greener pastures? I remember reading that horsemeat was one of AB's top exports to Russia, but I thought that the horsemeat industry was a secondary industry, after the horse owners decided it wasn't worth racing/dressage-ing (sp)/breeding/riding their horses anymore.

                                        Do any restaurants tell you the provenance du cheval?

                                        1. re: phoenikia

                                          I'm not sure where all the horse meat avaibale comes from, but there was a show on the CBC's "Doczone" last fall that mentioned the slaughterhouse in AB that was processing unwanted pet horses that were shipped in from the USA. (because it can't be done in the USA). There is farm in Quebec that supplies many restaurants such as Globe Bistro. It think it is called "la Firme"

                                  2. re: phoenikia

                                    Since we own a horse my wife won't eat it knowingly. I'll still eat them if it's on a set menu as they taste good and hey it's dead already, too late to save it now. But they substituted venison tartare for the cheval, so I didn't get to eat her portion after all. It is hard to eat horses after realising how smart they are.

                                    You may want to consider one of the winemaker's dinners at Globe Bistro, the next one is in May and we'll found them to be great value. I heard that some of the food for the next Globe dinner wil be prepared by a famous chef. I'm not going to mention his name yet in case it doesn't come together for any reason.

                            2. Some friends have been and thoroughly enjoyed. I'm too lazy to answer that quickly though...

                              8 Replies
                                1. re: Non Doctor

                                  Jamie, great pics!!!! Looks divine! What a whole lotta cheese! :)

                                  1. re: Non Doctor

                                    wow, that first photo of the duck on the plate looks kinda gross yet fascinating but delicious all at the same time!

                                    I really like the cheeseboard selection - I would have loved to munch on that, with suitable imbibing as well of course.

                                    1. re: JamieK

                                      It tasted great. Too bad it was so rich that many people only ate half of it. The woman across from me left more than half, and I was wishing that the big piece of foie gras she didn't eat could magically jump onto my plate. I kept looking at it, but it just sat there.... Overall it was a great evening and I'd encourage anyone who likes this sort of thing to go. If you don't make it in the first time, just try again.

                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        That's what duck in a can looks like, though looks can be deceiving, like most of Picard's dishes. Most of them are brown-sauced; he doesn't really focus on making them look appealing in the same manner as a chef at a 3* restaurant in Paris.

                                        1. re: tjr

                                          Those photos are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing those photos with other chowhoundes. I really need to attend one of these events...Hopefully one day soon.

                                      2. re: Non Doctor

                                        What did you think of the event in terms of value? I notice that the duck alone would be $36 at the restaurant.

                                        1. re: Snarf

                                          If you read the various reports here, in the Star and tasteto.com you will see that overall it was good value. The article by Corey Mintz in the Star said "Diners at mystery location certainly get more than $110 worth of delectable cuisine, drinks and service"

                                    2. Very interested in going to an event. From what I heard, this was also popular for a while in Hong Kong around the time of the dot.com bust.

                                      1. I wish there was a vegetarian version of these events. As it is, there's no point in paying that much money when I'll have to pass on nearly everything they serve.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: piccola

                                          That would be great, I would actually be able to take my DC with me, as of right now, the most adventurest veggie meal I can think of, is maybe the tasting at Perigee. But Charlie clearly says, it's not for everyone, but it's not Fear Factor either.

                                          1. re: stonedtoronto

                                            Yeah, I don't blame them -- they're very clear about who this is for. But maybe have one all-veg meal once in a while?

                                          2. re: piccola

                                            have you heard of guerrilla gourmet?


                                            i enjoyed it quite a lot. and, you bring your own wine, which is much cheaper.

                                            1. re: capiscum

                                              she's great for vegetarians (well she only does vegetarian) and focuses on local organic which has her using some interesting ingredients at times but i never felt her cooking style was very refined and she is very much a self-taught cook. there also isn't the mystery and air charlie's burgers offers but you'll still be dining with people you don't know.

                                              1. re: capiscum

                                                just wanted to note that guerrilla gourmet will be doing a dinner april 25th for anyone how is interested. mystery vegetarian menu!

                                            2. I am uncomfortable with the kitchen care level, and public health concerns at Charlie's Burger. In an art gallery? Who does the scrubbing?
                                              I won't soon be getting on the list, and I hope Chowhound has some interest in public health concerns.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                As a rule, we don't allow discussion of public health concerns on the site -- we don't consider our site to a be a reliable, appropriate source of information on those issues.

                                                In general, we also don't allow discussion of underground restaurants, for the reasons outlined here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1123... It appeared that Charlie Burger dinners were happening in unusual but professional locations, so we were okay with leaving the thread up. Now it appears that's not true of all of them, but since the Star interviewed someone from Public Health about this group specifically, we're going to assume allowing this thread isn't letting the cat out of the bag.

                                              2. I am curious, how was the payment handled, were you told going in what is was and in what manner was it collected, before or after, also was it only cash or could you use your credit card, I am just curious because with the exposure of Charlie's Burger cheap imitations could be spawned where subpar food could be served, heck all it would take is to do one with cheap food and you would make a killing.

                                                CB had about 35 people at the event on the weekend, they most likely have a couple hundred if not more people who have signed up on the website, so they could have just as easily invited 70.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: CBlake

                                                  We knew before we responded what the donation would be as it was mentioned in the invite. I doubt you will see any cheap imitations pop up. Many if not all of Charlie's team helping out at this event are connected to the industry and already working in some welll known establisments.

                                                2. Wow! I did a search for reviews of the last Charlie's Burgers event and found this large thread. Hubby found out about the event from a friend and we went to the dinner in February. Our "Charlies" were forthcoming with information and it looks like there is a lot of hearsay here.

                                                  The newspaper articles have most of the facts right. Unless your questionnaire was filled with fast food references, you were accepted. Hundreds of people are now part of this "club" and all of them get invited to each dinner. Our first email said that dinners would include wine pairings and cost from $65-85. Coincidentally the February one was right in the middle at $75. The menu is sent to you when you are asked to RSVP so that you are completely aware of what you are getting yourself in to.

                                                  I loved that our dinner only had about 16 people. It made it feel like an intimate dinner party of strangers. The room was low-lit and the wine was flowing during the whole night. A sous chef from Via Allegro was brought in and he had two of his own sous chefs working in a back room with three folding tables, a small portable oven, and portable burners. All food looked like it was prepared in advance. I can't see how they would have put together the meal in the small room with raw ingredients. His food was typical of Via Allegro and I'll admit I ate around some of the "interesting" ingredients. A lot of diners left the pig's trotter too. The only perplexing thing of the whole night was the Olive Oil Gelato that tasted like cake icing. The wine pairings were fantastic and some even had interesting labels that are probably inappropriate to describe here.

                                                  I thought the experience of the whole evening was worth it but we didn't RSVP for the next dinner. The price and the menu didn't have value to us compared to our dinner and knowing the next one would be larger made it less convincing. It would have been nice to have talked to Jamie Drummond more as we didn't get a much of a chance at our meal.

                                                  Charlie was the name of the group of men running the event. They told us how they had picked the name for the dinners and a little about how the idea started. They were all industry on varying levels. Only new people were picked for the February dinner and only new people were picked for the March dinner. They were very aware of who was press and knew of all the articles written about them. They are savvy in their concept and it looks like they are marketing it appropriately.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: syrahc

                                                    I am curious what was the price point and menu for the one you declined to RSVP for and did you not think it had the vaulue, just curious.

                                                    1. re: CBlake

                                                      Have you read the articles in the Star and Sheryl Kirby's article? You will find the price mentioned there. It was $110 each.

                                                      1. re: CBlake

                                                        I sent an application request in, and the response states:

                                                        HOW MUCH?
                                                        Total cost of food divided by number of attendees – our goal is to keep it around $75 - $150 per person.

                                                      2. re: syrahc

                                                        Thank you for clarifying this whole process. I was beginning to think this was another gimick where only the media and affluent Toronto residents (as per the Star article) were being "selected". I like the fact that it is genuine food, an innovative if not fun concept, and at this point, seemingly open to anyone with a reasonable interest in food. Would love to try it. How far in advance does one get the invite? Does the invite allow one to bring a date?

                                                        1. re: tuttebene

                                                          Yes, but it specifically states only one person.

                                                          And the application is not just about food preferences; they also ask you about your occupation. Predictable...

                                                      3. I am curious, how money evening's have CB done and since the first one has the price remained the same, along with health what would happen if a patron was not satisfied with there meal and did not think it was worth the price, what recourse would they really have outside of deciding never to attend a future event .

                                                        What would happen if something along the lines of CB popped and served crap cheap food, all it would take is one of these and then run with the money. You could charge $100 a head, spend say $25-$30 per person and pocket the rest, not bad for a nights work, I am sure you would have no shot at doing another, but who cares when you cleared severeal $1000.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: CBlake

                                                          It is not a conspiracy.

                                                          A chef and menu is disclosed beforehand and you are free to choose if you feel there is value or not. If you are given none of these then caveat emptor. Otherwise I am sure a mutiny would occur at the event.

                                                          Also, the invite was clear to mention that this March event was a special occasion that required such a high price. Normally dinners were not priced as high.

                                                          1. re: syrahc

                                                            All these chats but no information as to how to apply? Do they have a website or e-address?

                                                          2. re: CBlake

                                                            Well you're already doing that by going to a restaurant. General industry standard is to aim for 30% food costs, meaning if your meal cost $100, the ingredients you ate cost $30.

                                                          3. Is the survey they ask to fill out has anything to do with the picking process ? Why do they ask for 3 favourite restaurant in Toronto if this thing is about Anti-Restaurant ?

                                                            19 Replies
                                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                                              I'm guessing that the purpose of the survey is to elicit who from their target market actually is interested in food and not reviewers. From what I can gather from previous posts about the costs, this is not a big money maker for anyone, but more of an effort to do something special for people who would actually get it. Not people who would fuss because the bread wasn't Ace, or there might not be linen on the tables.

                                                              As for occupation, yes, I would rather poke out my eyes with dull souvlaki skewers than sit at a table of lawyers for an evening. One of the fundamental rules about hospitality is don't bore.

                                                              Maybe a little straw pole here might help. Has anyone who has applied not been accepted?

                                                              1. re: Snarf

                                                                =( I am an auditor and they still accepted me

                                                                1. re: Muffin__Top

                                                                  How long until you found out whether or not you were accepted?

                                                                  1. re: LTL

                                                                    About ten minutes after I sent the email in! You always need an accountant for tax advice ;)

                                                                    1. re: Muffin__Top

                                                                      Seriously? That quick? I guess I wasn't accepted. :(

                                                                      1. re: Davedigger

                                                                        Don't panic! Don't panic! It took more than 24 hours for me to receive an application. I doubt someone's sitting by the computer full-time...

                                                                        1. re: Davedigger

                                                                          Likewise. It's been two days :(

                                                                          1. re: LTL

                                                                            Mines been two or three days as well. Maybe they got flooded after the articles... Fingers crossed.

                                                                      2. re: LTL

                                                                        4 days; for me now. I feel so..... so.... unwanted.

                                                                        1. re: cynalan

                                                                          Clearly you are unwanted. Another lawyer perhaps? Kidding. I think it took a week for my response, at least. Remember, these are folks with full time gigs who are doing this as a passion, after much press. And my response was before the press.

                                                                          1. re: cynalan

                                                                            I never got an actual confirmation that I was accepted. I just went straight to getting an invite to the last dinner so I guess I made it on their list after all.

                                                                      3. re: Snarf

                                                                        My thoughts on teh question of 3 fav restos is the opposite of yours.. If someone puts pizza pizza, Milestones and Hooters.. they probably would not "get" it.. "what I am paying $110 and you are giving me food in a a can!!!"

                                                                        1. re: OnDaGo

                                                                          Wha??? I would think that from a can is exactly where such a diner would expect good food to come from ... hahaha

                                                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                                                            I've had the Duck in a Can at APdC and it is fantastic. Although incredibly heavy. But I think I would rather go to an event like this where all the food is being cooked "live." If I want APdC's food I'll just go there.

                                                                            Still, this sounds like a lot of fun, maybe a year late as far as the "underground supper club" trend goes but that's Toronto for you. I don't know why it's ruffling some feathers here. Seems to me this is all about eating and drinking way too much, isn't that what we do?

                                                                            1. re: childofthestorm

                                                                              We ate too much, but I could have drank twice as much.

                                                                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                so what's with the drinking deal? I like to enjoy a ratio of wine:food higher than many people I know. Do you get a set amount of wine with your food, with no option to purchase more?
                                                                                Thirsty the Winehound

                                                                                1. re: JamieK

                                                                                  We were served maybe 3 oz with each course, and they would come around and top up your glass a bit. Because the food was so rich, I really needed a bit more of the red wines. But they were not economy wines, so they couldn't have the wines as free flowing as some winemaker's diners that I attend. One thing I remember is that I didn't even feel like I had been drinking when I walked out of there, but I felt like the fat guy in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". If any of you have not seen that film, check out the part I'm referring to here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2Bs1Z...

                                                                                  1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                    Oh lord. Your link didn't work for me but I remember the fat guy and refreshed my memory at the following link. Gross!!!

                                                                                    I like to eat but am more of a grazer, prefer to eat small amounts often or a larger amount slowly and leisurely along with conversation and good wine. Don't know if I could have handled the CB menu, or at least not this one.

                                                                              2. re: childofthestorm

                                                                                Yes, but you have to apply!!! That, to me, is crazy. What are the rejects among us to do???? (Me included, possibly.... Only time will tell.)

                                                                      4. i would like to try out CB but is it total wrong or waste if i dont drink wine?

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: ttran88

                                                                          I'd say it would be a bit of a waste, especially since the wines are picked to match the food. But if you go with someone who could drink that wine for you, it wouldn't be a waste. So go with a friend who can drink your wine.

                                                                        2. I sent in the questionnaire 20 hours ago and got an acceptance.
                                                                          They may be catching up on emails today.
                                                                          I included three modest places, Fratelli's, Pho Mi Asia, and Aoyama, two of them close by.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: jayt90

                                                                            I got my response today too...so excited :)))
                                                                            when/how often do they send invites?

                                                                          2. How often are these things happening.. if it is only once a month or so.. I am guessing it will take a while before most can attend even one...

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: OnDaGo

                                                                              as far as i can tell, events are 1.5+ months apart.

                                                                              i highly doubt they're excluding anyone... i'm pretty sure they're making decent coin on these little events but they do have main sources of income that i'm sure take up the majority of their time.

                                                                              to think that many of us will ever meet at one is to be in an illusion.

                                                                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                That's too bad. If Charlie could somehow manage to get us all there together, I bet you it'll be an awesome night with great conversations, and the best CB event so far!

                                                                                1. re: stonedtoronto

                                                                                  just go to a CH meetup. you'd get a similar experience minus some of the intrigue.

                                                                                  CB was an interesting alternative to the CH meetups because of the diversity of backgrounds. i think a lot of people were there more so because of the mystery and much less because of the food. it's curious though that now they're asking for more information... perhaps they noticed the lack of adventurousness i saw.

                                                                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                    I didn't know you were at the last event. I was close to end of the table which was farthest from the front door. I was wondering how many CH's were there.

                                                                                    1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                      i was at the february event.

                                                                                      from what i can see from the menus and latest invitations... things have changed and i feel for the worse.

                                                                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                        Can you please get a bit more specific about this perceived turn-for-the-worstness, pinstripeprincess?

                                                                                        I do have an invite to the April event (although have perhaps/likely missed the window to RSVP), but I'm not sure how it compares to previous offerings.

                                                                                        While the whole evening sounds like fun, I am a bit ambivalent about value, especially weighting it against a potential evening at Splendido or Scaramouche... thoughts?

                                                                                        1. re: Rabbit

                                                                                          Well I'll give you my wife's thoughts. She said she'd rather eat at Scaramouche, and also mentioned how much she loves the winemaker's dinners at Globe Bistro. (we've been to every one).
                                                                                          When she heard that this dinner was $150, she said that she'll go again when they are in the $85 range. But as each one has increased in price, that does not look likely. But it's not a bad deal if you work it out by the hour. Ther last one was 4.5 hours of entertainment for $110, that's under $25/hr. Our meal at Scaaramouche about 2 weeks ago was $46/hr each. (230 / 2.5 hrs) :-)

                                                                                          1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                            Hi foodyDudey, is it the main differences between a dinner at Charlie's and a dinner at high-end restaurant is its length ? I don't see much adventurous/special or difference on Charlie's latest tasting menu than what is on some high-end restaurant in Toronto. Not sure if I want to risk $150 on an experimental dinner taking place in a subway station or some sort for 4.5 hours ...

                                                                                            1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                              Hi Skyline33, sory if my post confused you. It was my style of weird humour. I commented that by the hour, it was cheaper than Scaramouche. My wife found it a bit too long and drawn out. It's hard to sit down to a dinner for 4.5 hours and that's how long it was. I doubt it's in a subway station, I have know idea where it will be. My suggestion is to try to go to one when the menu and price appeals to you. Now you have to be pretty gregarious also, since you will be sitting with a bunch of strangers for at least 4 hours. And some strangers can be very strange.

                                                                                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                Thanks foodyDudey,

                                                                                                I am wondering why it was taking 4.5 hours for the meal, there were only 5 courses, right ? Is it because some people came late so the dinner was delayed for a while ? Or were there some kind of entertainment or speech in between courses ?

                                                                                                It is probably weired if I bring out my PSP after talking to my neighbors for 20 mins while still for my next course to come ...

                                                                                                Do you think the dinner length will increase accordingly provided if there are more people joining or/and more food this time ?

                                                                                          2. re: Rabbit

                                                                                            my impression was that these evenings were about letting up and coming sous chefs from kitchens around our fair city shine under their own creativity at nominal fees with a touch of intrigue mixed in. i have only been part of the list since the february event and can't speak for previous evenings but can tell you that they organizers spilled a lot of information with abandon in comparison to the one in march. while i don't know the pricing of prior events, the initial range they gave us was $65-85. i felt that our evening fulfilled the impression i was given.

                                                                                            so.... based on this... the increasing costs (from $75, to $120? was it... to $150) seem to be testing the waters of what they can charge and get away with. it's not as if i feel they shouldn't get paid for their efforts.. but now we're charging proper resto prices for what exactly?

                                                                                            wine had always been included and i was very happy with their selections compared to times i've let restos in this city do their thing. i can't speak for the quality as my experience is still very limited but i don't imagine they're getting double-y expensive wine at the these dinners. so where is the value here?

                                                                                            looking at march's menu and the photos to match... well was any cooking actually done? they carted in an entree from a city a mere 5 hours away from out of a can and much of what was eaten seemed to be cheese and charcuterie. i'm sure it was delicious and all but i thought the point was to offer me something i wouldn't normally get in a restaurant. now if they carted in prepackaged meals from el bulli or not even so far reaching as alinea i would have been all over it.

                                                                                            now with april.... the price is astronomical, that was my price for two people! as ambitious as this menu sounds i also feel that it reads poorly. my menu was offal slanted and so had unusual ingredients in that sense but was certainly manageable and didn't compare to most restaurant menus out there. the ingredients for april are good, i'll give him that... but with such a ranging diversity in methods of preparation, would a sous chef really have time to work on them to a point of perfection? i hope he has several other sous helping that truly own a technique or two. keep in mind they don't have a kitchen, but an unfurnished back room. if he proves me wrong.. he would be a true up and coming chef!

                                                                                            if you really want to have dinner with strangers then in a lot of ways i would just recommend organizing a CH meetup instead at splendido. at least for april. also, it was obvious that a portion of invites had been doled out to media and they tended to be more focused on their thing than having engaging conversation. maybe the shine of the unknown has worn off after one event... but surges in popularity tend to have inevitable results.

                                                                                            btw, i do not understand all this fuss about rsvps. they take about 3-4 days if not longer to sort out who they want and don't want. it's not about timing, it's about the melange of people... just like any successful dinner party. i wouldn't be surprised if they increased the number of people accepted either which just makes it more like a dining hall of supposed foodies. they had 250 rsvps at their last event... with the number of members growing. they can pick and choose as much as they like.

                                                                              2. For anyone not on the invite list, $150 gets you this:

                                                                                Selection of Hors D’oeuvres
                                                                                Omnibus of Bison:
                                                                                Jerky, Satays, Steamed Buns
                                                                                Rob Howland’s Unpasteurized Butter
                                                                                Assortment of Crusty Breads, Radishes and Pickles
                                                                                Langdon Maple Martini
                                                                                Amuse Bouche: Colville Bay Oysters
                                                                                Lemongrass and Shallot Mignonette
                                                                                Marinated Scallops and Charred Octopus
                                                                                Mango, Tamarind and Red Chili
                                                                                2006 Pinot Grigio IGT, CANDONI, Delle Venezie - ITALY
                                                                                Opus of Rouen Duck
                                                                                Cured and Roasted Breast, Boiled Egg, Leg Confit, Gizzards, with Glutinous Rice, Lotus Root and Leaf
                                                                                2006 Barbera D'Alba DOC, "Piani" PELISSERO, Piemonte - ITALY
                                                                                Seared Itoham Kobe Beef Striploin
                                                                                Braised Cheeks, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Consommé
                                                                                2005 Langhe Rosso DOC, "Long Now" PELISSERO, SUPER Piemonte - ITALY
                                                                                Cashew Praline and Meringue Torte
                                                                                Mangosteen, Coconut Caramel Ice Cream
                                                                                "WHITE NUN" - Vecchia Romagna Brandy
                                                                                Sweet Gifts
                                                                                Buffalo Milk Bonbons, Purple Yam Truffles, Rice Cakes

                                                                                18 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Squeakycheese

                                                                                  Just got that same invite...
                                                                                  seems interesting, don't know if I feel like dropping $150 and not get a nice cheese to taste...

                                                                                  1. re: flying101

                                                                                    Yeah, I just e-mailed them back to get taken off their list, what an utter waste of time.

                                                                                    1. re: Squeakycheese

                                                                                      this is twice as much as their original range.... i'm glad i got to go to the one i did, i think the setting was likely the best thus far and prices just keep going up...

                                                                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                        I was really disappointed to see the price make another big jump. The original concept was something I would occasionally spring for - I don't mind spending $70-80 for a night's entertainment - but this one is definitely in too-rich-for-my-blood territory. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to get on their list until now. I'm holding out hope that interest will wane at the higher price tag and it'll come back down to earth, but something tells me it won't.

                                                                                        1. re: Wahooty

                                                                                          Wonder if the price is a function of the guest chef rather than the quality, ingredients and number of courses served? Guess being the executive chef of a 'Relais Gourmand' establishment has its price?! Thus the $150 price tag?! If they manage to persuade a celebrity chef like Daniel Boulud to cook for the function, will they be charging $200 for his 'Foie gras/truffles/kobe burger alone?!

                                                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                            @Charles Yu
                                                                                            he is a sous chef not an executive chef.
                                                                                            Not trying to discredit him in anyway I am sure he is very skillful

                                                                                            but I can't find him listed here

                                                                                            but here is a small bio

                                                                                  2. re: Squeakycheese

                                                                                    For those of us who haven't yet bothered to "ask" for an invite, do they indicate who the guest/host chef(s) will be?

                                                                                    1. re: tuttebene

                                                                                      OMG OMG an invite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I answered 10 minutes after the email, but I don't know if it's good enough....when do they reply and tell you if you got in??
                                                                                      I'm drooling over the menu already...this is so exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                      nevermind...10 minutes after it appeared on my blackberry, which didn't factor in the hour my blackberry spent in an underground garage :(
                                                                                      useless blackberry

                                                                                        1. re: Squeakycheese

                                                                                          Thanks for the info. I'm quite familiar with the pedigree of ratings and the menu looks tempting, but.....I guess it's no more of a gamble than dropping $150 at any other eatery in T.O., but I'm not ready to risk the $ just yet. Report back, please!

                                                                                          (what happened to the posting with the menu?)

                                                                                          1. re: tuttebene

                                                                                            It is still there, it's Squeakycheese's 8:47 pm post.

                                                                                        2. re: tuttebene

                                                                                          That information is provided on the invitation. Menu looks interesting. Price: $150.00/person cash.

                                                                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                                                                            I replied late, with the rugrats overrunning the computer. Dang. Curious about the perfect location for a last meal location. Don Jail?

                                                                                            1. re: Snarf

                                                                                              I was wondering the same thing. In a subway station?

                                                                                            2. re: Full tummy

                                                                                              Yes the menu looks very interesting. It's probably too late to reply now but I'm starting to think I should go to this one.

                                                                                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                I'd bet that CB won't be using the first replied, first on the guest list approach anymore, so maybe it's not too late, foodyDudey;)

                                                                                                If CB sticks to the early bird approach, the guestlist would be primarily Blackberry or iPhone owning food enthusiasts, and my guess would be predominantly Blackberry/iPhone owning Chowhounds based on interest in this thread. NTTAWWT, but I would think CH would leave some spots for industry types, media types, and food enthusiasts who don't own Blackberries and iPhones.

                                                                                                1. re: phoenikia

                                                                                                  I can't log into my account any more and it seems that my previous post was removed. Any one else having problems with Chow?

                                                                                                  I had said that it looks like they have gone down a different route than they originally had and now it isn't a tempting event. Looks like price guaging with an experimental sous chef who has just discovered fusion!

                                                                                                  RSVPs are not first come first serve, you're just falling for their clever premise foodyDudey.

                                                                                                  1. re: syrahc2

                                                                                                    I know it's not first come first serve, but I was at the last event so I assume that the newcomers will be given higher priority to this one.

                                                                                        3. I'll pass on this one. The perceived QPR just isn't there. A lot of contrived menu items, and young Italian wines. And shouldn't the dessert be called a tarte rather than torte?

                                                                                          1. The recent beerbistro Danish Craft Beer Dinner at $120 outshines this by miles.

                                                                                            1. I just got in! anyone else? who will i see there?


                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: HarryLloyd

                                                                                                i responded within 15 minutes of the e-mail invite. Just received notification that my RSVP was received after the event sold out. How quickly did you respond Harry? Just wondering if it is first in or whether patrons are being selected?

                                                                                                1. re: cynalan

                                                                                                  I was 90 minutes after the invite, and didn't make it in. I'm guessing you received the same "sold out by the time you responded" email. Sounds like it's first come first served. Maybe they'll rethink that when they try to converse with crackberry addicts for multiple courses.

                                                                                                  1. re: Snarf

                                                                                                    strange, i responded yesterday morning. i guess they like me more!


                                                                                                    1. re: HarryLloyd

                                                                                                      I got the sold out email too :( But I responded mid-morning yesterday, so not too surprised. Glad to know that it's not first come first served though.

                                                                                                      1. re: HarryLloyd

                                                                                                        Don't get too excited HarryLloyd, based on my experience at the March event, you're in for an expensive disappointment.

                                                                                                        1. re: Hello Clarice

                                                                                                          Can you elaborate.. no one else has expressed disappointment...

                                                                                                        2. re: HarryLloyd

                                                                                                          I'll just have to console myself with dinner at Blacktree. :)

                                                                                                      2. re: cynalan

                                                                                                        Me too! CB is going to be the reason I give in and finally get a blackberry/iphone ;)

                                                                                                        1. re: cynalan

                                                                                                          based on Harry's response, it sounds like it isn't truly first come first served. i know someone who responded around the same time frame as you (15-20min) and yesterday got the same 'sold out' message.

                                                                                                          1. re: auberginegal

                                                                                                            It's good to know there are so many people that still don't mind spending $150 pp on dinner these days. I was thinking of responding but my wife can't make it that evening and we are going to a few expenive dinners shortly after. I'm sure you will all have a great time.

                                                                                                            1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                              We actually took our time responding because of the cost. But, we finally decided to throw caution to the wind and accept the invitation. We got turned down because it was "sold out" before we RSVP'd. In all honesty, we are sort of relieved that we got turned down and won't have to spend the $300 just now. Apparently we will be invited to the next one and hopefully the cost will be less and we will respond in time and be accepted. I do look forward to hearing from all those attending how they enjoyed their meal and the experience in general and especially where the event was held!

                                                                                                              1. re: farmgirl1836

                                                                                                                They are having their last meal so probably won't post where it was held. :-)

                                                                                                            2. re: auberginegal

                                                                                                              it's definitely not "first come first serve". I thnk I responded a minute after I got the email...I was in a taxi and missed my turn off because I was emailing CB back!Anyway, I'm disappointed but I plan on making an amazing Sunday dinner complete with wine pairings!

                                                                                                        2. A very interesting thread that I've been following for a while now.

                                                                                                          The concept is interesting (though not novel) and in recessionary times, what appears to be an ingenious way of gauging dining preferences, budgets, and personal information. To me , it lends an air of exclusivity to those "accepted" diners. The whole "pick me-no please pick me" thing really reeks of grade school, but whatever. My problem with this concept is really nothing to do with the food itself-which may be good and even great value, but with the risk in sharing a meal with strangers where I may not enjoy their company (nor mine in reverse).

                                                                                                          In addition, I think I can honestly say that I prefer to give out my personal info when I make a reservation at a restaurant in my name-and those restaurants that I love know who I am and will continue to garner my support through tough financial times.


                                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                                            Great comment..

                                                                                                            I have refrained from jumping into Charlie's because of my Grouchoist inclination to not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

                                                                                                            1. re: JamieK

                                                                                                              Make that 3 of us. Anything that smacks of the velvet rope holds no appeal. I don't line-up for anything.

                                                                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                                                                I totally agree. Seems like a lot of effort, and I'm not a fan of giving away personal information. My privacy is worth more to me than a hyped meal (although it may be delicious) that I'm going to have to pay for anyway.....

                                                                                                                1. re: tochipotle

                                                                                                                  they only ask for contact info.. nobody is collecting Credit Card info (you pay in cash) so really you are giving less info then you give to Open Table.. unless you feel that your top 5 resaturants are a state secret...

                                                                                                                  1. re: OnDaGo

                                                                                                                    I don't use Open Table. I don't have any 'state secrets', but I do have a healthy suspicion of anybody wanting my information. It's my choice, and I don't enjoy spam.

                                                                                                            2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                                              Interesting comment, SWS.

                                                                                                              (My) general misanthropic tendencies have definitely been a deterrent factor re: CB. I'm just not so sure about spending 4- 5 hours in a forced social situation. It sounds potentially exhausting regardless of how freely the wine is flowing.

                                                                                                              1. re: Rabbit

                                                                                                                My wife said pretty much the same thing. She had an empty seat across from her, someone who was rather odd to the left of that empty seat, two people to her left who barely spoke to her, and someone beside the weird guy who figured you should clean your plate of the syrup from dessert with your fingers, then lick them. Then after it was obvious I was not going to eat the last 30% of my pear, (because I had eaten so much of the other courses) wierd guy comes over and asks if I felt threatened by the pair. WTF??? I hadn't even exchanged a word with weird guy until that, and he hadn't even talked to my wife during the whole dinner even though she was across and one seat over from him. It would have been better if we could switch seats for each course. The people across from me and to my right wer friendly but really you have no idea until you are already seated.

                                                                                                                P.S. the wine flows, but not fast enough for me. It flows better at the GLOBE BISTRO winemaker's dinners.

                                                                                                                1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                                  but you must've enjoyed it enough if you're ready to jump on the wagon again.

                                                                                                                  once was enough for me. i was very happy with my social experience and found the food to be lacklustre instead. so unless there is something infinitely tempting about another event they advertise... i'll leave it to those who seem desperate for intrigue.

                                                                                                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                    "desperate for intrigue" is a little condescending dontcha think? Especially considering you were apparently "desperate enough for intrigue" to have gone in the first place.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                      no i don't. i think there's the value proposition i mentioned before where i felt the meal would be worth the $75 i paid, any mystery aside. i went mostly because i like unique dining experiences and it just so happened they picked us. i want to see what sous chefs can do when given carte blanche and am happy to pay small fees for it.

                                                                                                                      i think at $150/head one is seriously looking for intrigue and the original premise of sous chefs is lost.

                                                                                                                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                        Fair enough, but maybe "interested in intrigue" is a little less judgemental than "desperate for intrigue."

                                                                                                                        1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                          ah, the age old problem of forums. yes, i should filter which words i'm using more carefully.

                                                                                                                    2. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                      I am not desparate for intrique. I've got enough going on in my life. I went because the idea sounded interesting, especially when I expected the meals to be in the $85 to $100 range pp.
                                                                                                                      At $150 pp, and even less there are other choices. But if people are interested, they should try it out once. This April menu looked interesting and I was slightly interested to attend, but my wife can't make it so I'd be on my own...

                                                                                                                      As I have said previously, the GLOBE BISTRO winemaker's dinners are exceptional. I don't know why I've never heard any of you mention them.

                                                                                                                      1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                                                                        globe bistro winemaker dinners tend to be focused around ontario wine or no?

                                                                                                                        i usually find it is ontario wine and cannot fathom paying that much for it. the only wine i've enjoyed tends to be $40+ and even then only a couple of them. reds tend to be quite difficult for the region and so that leaves me with whites... which i love but certainly don't pair with everything.

                                                                                                                2. re: redearth

                                                                                                                  I think many of us wanted to have the option to attend, as we generally have the option to eat at restaurants of our choice, so long as we can pay the bill. My "on paper" acceptance doesn't even give me this, however, and it's not "first come, first serve", so your attendance is still at the whim of the organizers. I'm not up for that... I think that their pick and choose way of accepting participants, while hiding behind a "too late" excuse, is not right. I also don't relish the idea of sitting, for four hours, and then in a social environment I may not be comfortable with... Well, the price and the menu will have to be just right for me to risk all of that.

                                                                                                                3. Very good comments, SWS. Especially in these times. I think that's why "projects" such as Spoke Club also weren't as popular as they'd have everyone believe...

                                                                                                                  I don't know ME, I'm still a little on the 'this is manufactured hype' bandwagon. A friend, who shall remain nameless, says he saw one of these people at his dinner http://inkwellendeavours.com/story.html Also, a quick Network Solutions search brings up this company as the owner of charliesburgers.ca Perhaps they just bought it, but it reeks? reaks? of a manufactured idea. I'm all about genuiness, so while I receive their menus, I will also NOT be attending.

                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: FoodyGirly

                                                                                                                    Can you explain more about inkwellendeavours? My work computer is blocking that site for me.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                      It's basically an ad/design agency.

                                                                                                                      1. re: FoodyGirly

                                                                                                                        And why would an ad agency invent an underground dinner club exactly?

                                                                                                                        1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                          Perhaps they are foodies and have foodie/wine friends and wanted to try it out and see how far they could take it. I said before and maybe my post got deleted, but I get sucked into good advertising and branding all the time. There's nothing wrong with this, but I like to call a spade a spade.

                                                                                                                          I applied. I got in. But I had no intention of ever going. The only thing I wanted to see were the menus they were coming up with. If I want to eat a certain chef's food, I will go (or have already been) to their restaurant. Sorry, maybe I'm in the miniority, but I also did NOT whatsoever enjoy my dinner at Stadtlander's Eigensinn Farm. I actually found it disgusting because his dog kept roaming through the dining room (if you can call it that) and kept rubbing up to our table. Not only that but we had to treck through mud, which came into the dining room. And we had to bring our own wine. All that for the "privilege" of being served his food? And paid a few hundred? It might have been great ingredients but the dirty atmosphere ruined it for us.

                                                                                                                          1. re: FoodyGirly

                                                                                                                            So how is that some insidious marketing campaign? If it is just a group of foodie friends who happen to work in advertising how does that make it anything other than what it is? How are people being duped?

                                                                                                                            1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                              Did I say "duped". Did I call it an "insidious marketing campaign"? Methinks you're wanting to fight too hard on this.

                                                                                                                              I called it "manufactured". And I stand by that.

                                                                                                                              1. re: FoodyGirly

                                                                                                                                Well, I'd say that being wary of the event because you have "gotten sucked into marketing and branding all the time" qualifies as feeeling like you might be duped.

                                                                                                                                I just don't understand what people are expecting when they say that's manufactured. Because the people doing aren't motivated by purely benevelont and altruistic impulses? I can't imagine there's much profit to be made, so what is the motivation? Maybe they just like food and cooking and thought this would be an interesting dining experience. Occam's Razor: Is that not as likely an explanation as the conspiracy theories?

                                                                                                                    2. re: FoodyGirly

                                                                                                                      can we seriously stop with the cynacism? these guys started up an event with paying guests after having a few similar events between friends... likely without all the secret locations but all the food and wine.

                                                                                                                      of course this idea is a little manufactured but i don't think it is the way you seem to think it is. there is a huge popularity of underground supper clubs in many other cities (apparently the american south is really huge on this and having a resurgence) and so why not do it here too?

                                                                                                                      inkwellendeavours is likely just who they've bought hosting space, graphics and a little website creation from. so they let the guys who work on their website have first dibs on a seat at a meal, big whoop.

                                                                                                                    3. Folks, this thread is really getting out of hand, in terms of personal insults and arguments. We're going to lock it now.