A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

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Rose and Sons: All grown up….and delicious!

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the revamped Rose and Sons to take my wife out for our anniversary lunch. Rose and Sons was the first of a unique set of restaurants, such as Big Crow, Fat Pasha, and Schmaltz Appetizing -all owned by Anthony Rose.

Rose and Sons is a tiny hole in the wall, that when originally opened, could best be described as an upscale diner. It was a licensed establishment, with amazing dishes and high-end comfort foods. The location at Dupont only fits about 20-25 people, but it’s always busy and popular.

Back a few months ago, restless for change, Rose and Sons revamped their menu, and instead of a diner, it’s now an old school delicatessen. I was a little skeptical at first, but I’ve heard nothing but good things.

Chopped liver was our appetizer and was absolutely amazing. This was followed by my wife and I both ordering pastrami sandwiches…which is the house specialty, brined in house and smoked at Big Crow. As a funny aside, it was a tough choice for my wife, choosing between that and the smoked turkey, so I jokingly mentioned to the server that if any turkey fell onto the plate, I wouldn’t complain if they left it there. Low and behold, the cook overheard this and put a few pieces of turkey on the side for us to try.

Aside from the sandwiches, we also tried the thick cut french fries, which were served hot, crispy and perfectly salted. Lastly, how could we not share a dill pickle?

All of the food came out hot and fresh and the chopped liver was not only attractively presented, but delicious! The portion sizes were generous and we left stuffed.

Though there were only a couple of servers due to the size of the restaurant, the service was fast, friendly, warm and the employees were very knowledgeable and excited about the new menu. The cook was also extremely friendly and clearly strives to provide customer satisfaction.

The price is a little north of your typical delicatessen and you may end up waiting for a table as it can be busy on weekends, but it’s worth every penny and every minute of your time.

For those that know me, even though there are a lot of restaurants I enjoy, there are very few restaurants that I really look forward to going back to. This is one of them. While I will miss the diner (the patty melt remains on the menu!), I am happy to welcome a superb deli experience!

Rose and Sons
176 Dupont Street
647-748-3287
http://www.roseandsons.ca

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A Valued Shopper at Shoppers

Before I actually moved to my neighbourhood, I had the opportunity to deal with a particular pharmacist, in the area. His name is Jatinderjit Dhaliwall, and he is the owner of the Shoppers Drug Mart which is located at 3874 Bathurst Street at Invermay. When I first met Jatinder, many years ago, he owned a smaller Shoppers Drug Mart, located a few blocks away. This original store, focused mainly on filling prescriptions, as it had very little retail space. It was truly a hole in the wall.

One day, I went into the original store, needing something quickly, and got the prescription filled in a matter of minutes. Given how amazing Jatinder and his colleagues were. I always remembered the great job that they did. Years later, I moved into my current neighbourhood, around the same time that Jatinder took over an old gas station and built a much larger Shoppers Drug Mart. Since that time, Jatinder and his team have taken care of myself, my family, and even my extended family.

Whether it’s for prescriptions, health and beauty items, or their grocery section, the store always seems to have what we need. That said, perhaps even more important than the food, toothpaste, or shampoo is the amazing pharmacy team! The pharmacy team is always willing to review medication instructions with me, and in fact, go a step further…..if they think there’s a concern with the medication, they will bring it to your attention and recommend alternatives; however, they always do suggest you speak with your doctor.
The team fills prescriptions as quickly as they can and they always seem to accommodate special requests.

When I’m dealing with the needs of my family members, some of the stress is taken off of my shoulders because of the quick and precise work they do. For seniors, they even put the medication in blister packs and deliver them on a weekly basis. They truly have been an integral part of my healthcare team.

In more recent times I’ve learned that Jatinder not only owns the store on Bathurst, but also owns locations at Dufferin and Lawrence and Dufferin and Eglinton.

I realize most people aren’t going to come across towns to get prescriptions from one particular pharmacy, and this will only apply to people in the immediate area, but I highly suggest Jatinder and his team for your prescriptions and other healthcare products. If you do come from further away – you will find it worth the trip!

Shoppers Drug Mart – Bathurst and Invermay
416-635-5601

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Leela will show you a great night on the town!

Recently, when my wife was out with a friend, they went to an Indian restaurant in The Junction area. When my wife returned home, she said she had a great meal and that it was a little different from most Indian restaurants she’d been to.

The place is called Leela Indian Food Bar and they describe their restaurant as “a journey of old Indian streets, with dhaba-style food”. The menu covers all regions of India, but has some different and authentic Indian dishes.

My wife has been wanting to go back for a repeat visit, so this past weekend, we made a reservation and headed there for dinner.

The restaurant is a small, rustic, but modern place, with approximately 30 seats. It has an open kitchen so you’re able to see the entire cooking process. When we arrived, we were greeted right away warmly and seated at a table that was already set for us. We were quickly approached by the server, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable about the menu items. Unlike most servers who don’t make recommendations until you ask, he told us all of his favourites and recommended items according to our tastes.

Even though they prepare all of the dishes as they are ordered, the food arrived quickly. All of the dishes were hot, fresh and everything was really beautifully presented.

During the course of the meal, the server was extremely attentive and made sure our water glasses were always filled. We received the bill soon after we had asked or it, and the payment was taken promptly. As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, we were thanked for coming, given multiple coupons for a return visit (good for any night of the week….no restrictions!) and headed out for a walk in the neighbourhood.

Whether it’s just a night on the town, a first date, or a family function, Leela has great food, great atmosphere and is something a little different.

Leela
416-769-7777
http://www.leelaindian.ca

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Things to Do on Victoria Day Weekend

It’s finally that time of year again! What are you planning to do this Victoria Day weekend? Don’t worry if you don’t have any plans yet, as we have some great ideas for you.

1. The long weekend is a great time to travel up north to take a step back from life’s busy moments. While it’s still too cold to go into the lake, it’s cold enough to avoid black fly season. Hit the road and travel to Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie to visit national parks and a wonderful view.

2. Drive In movies are always a magical experience! Places like 5 Drive-in and The Stardust Drive In Theatre are a blast from the past. Cozy up in your car with some snacks and popcorn. No need to sit uncomfortably close with people you don’t know.

3. Fireworks are always a fantastic display and fun for the whole family. In our area we always do a block barbecue, complete with a bbq and fireworks. It almost seems like the perfect way to announce the arrival of the warmer weather.

4. The Blue Jays are in town this year! Catch a baseball game on the long weekend. Games are on May 18th, 19th, and 20th. Baseball games are always a pleasure to watch, and can be an inspiring and enchanting memory for kids. Baseball is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s still much fun and entertainment to be had at games.

5. It’s the perfect weather to take a leisurely bike ride in a park. Dust off your old bike and head to your nearest park to take in all of that vitamin D. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent a bike downtown, and then ride around the heart of Toronto or along Habourfront for a fantastic view near the water.

6. The Artfest at the Distillery District is happening throughout the long weekend. Take a look at some paintings, photography, clothes, jewelry, and more to see if anything tickles your fancy. As well, the Distillery District is known for its unique restaurants, so be sure to grab a bite while you’re at it.

7. Junior is Harbourfront’s new international children’s festival. Head on over for some magic tricks, storytelling, and music. It’s a great way to entertain your kids while making the most of the nice weather.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you have a great long weekend!

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Picturing the Perfect Customer Service

I discovered Picture Picture about three years ago, when I needed to have several pictures framed. I went in on a weekend and I met a very pleasant, friendly gentleman by the name of Benny. The operation is actually quite a big facility, including hundreds of different frames to choose from. They also have different types of glass and material to use, and on top of that, they can do dry-mounting. Additionally, they also sell ready-to-choose framed items, including anything from landscapes to sports posters, to cityscapes, (including lots of photos and paintings of Toronto), to objects like food or flowers.

While I’ve been in numerous times to have different items framed, a couple of weeks ago I gave Benny and Co. a bit of a challenge. I had a poster that I had purchased from the Grand Ole Opry, and I had a vision on how I wanted it framed, so I brought him a couple of pieces of barn board (thick wood from the side of a barn) and wanted to somehow affix the poster to the wood.

First, Benny had to figure out a way of attaching the two pieces of wood together…neither of which was smooth. After he solved this challenge, he needed to figure out how to attach the poster to the wood. Lo and behold, he came up with a solution that was inexpensive and relatively simple. When my wife and I saw the end result, it was exactly as we pictured and better than we could have hoped for!

Benny and his colleagues, did such a great project with this one, we decided to throw another curveball at him with some other unique and challenging framing projects. Again and again, Benny came through with flying colours.

Whether it’s as simple as a diploma, a treasured family photograph, or a piece of expensive art…where the frame has to be just perfect, Benny and his colleagues have your back. I highly suggest him for all of your framing needs.

Picture Picture
(416) 787-9827
http://www.picturepictureco.com/

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Great Customer Service from Great-West Life

I realize that many people don’t always look at insurance companies in a positive way; however, on several occasions I’ve written about my experiences dealing with these organizations – all of them being quite positive. As a result, I wanted to continue the trend and speak about yet another one that I’m very pleased with.

SQM’s benefits program is presently handled by Great-West Life Assurance Company. While I am also the employer, thankfully my contact with them is generally limited to when I’m submitting a claim for prescriptions, massages, physiotherapy, etc. On the odd occasion I’ve had to reach out and speak to someone to get more information, or for help completing the claims process, and I find that their call centre staff are very friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. When the call is completed, I have always hung up with complete confidence in the information provided, or that my issue will be quickly addressed.

In addition to their call centre, the company has a great online claims submission system. Unlike the old way when you hadto mail something in and photocopy the receipts, all you have to do is fill out the forms online. If there’s no snags, the money is placed in your bank account within a few days. On some occasions, when a receipt is requested, all you have to do is take a photo and email it off to them. When it comes to claims, they really have made the process as simple and seamless as possible.

Putting on my employer hat for a minute, when choosing an insurance company, it often comes down to price and product. However, it’s great when you can do business with a company that also provides outstanding customer service.

While I often recommend dealing with the companies we highlight in this blog, I recognize that when it comes to insurance companies, there’s a number of individual requirements and specifics to be met. However, I highly recommend considering Great-West Life.

https://www.greatwestlife.com

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