Tag Archives: Canada

The Olympics are over…but the newfound appreciation for Korean Cuisine goes on!

A few weeks ago I was getting together with a former SQM employee and for a bit of fun I gave her the challenge of picking the restaurant. She asked me if I preferred better food or a fancier place and I responded that I’d like better food. I don’t care how fancy it is as long as the place has good food and a good atmosphere. Since her background is Korean, she picked a popular Korean restaurant near Yonge and Finch in Toronto.

Huh Ga Ne is a traditional BBQ restaurant that is open 24/7. They have your regular tables and the more traditional ones where you sit on the floor. I’ve been there three times now and it has always been insanely busy! The restaurant offers authentic, ethnic, and delicious cuisine!

The staff are very friendly, helpful, and are happy to make recommendations. I’ve tried both hot pots and barbecue…both options are excellent and filling. They have a nice selection of beers and drinks to choose from. Other than one small television that is usually tuned to CP24 and the news, all of the other, large screens are constantly playing kpop, which I personally find adds to the fun atmosphere. It truly is a relaxing, casual place, with a great Korean atmosphere.

Given the amount of business, the products are certainly fresh, and even though I’m cooking some of it myself, it has always turned out to be tasty and flavourful. Even better, it’s reasonably priced….two to three people could eat for $40.00 -$50.00 depending on what you order. If you want something not too far from midtown Toronto, and a fun, authentic experience, I suggest this cozy Korean spot.



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March Break Madness!

Looking for things to do for the upcoming March break? You need look no further than the SQM Picks list!

  • Pop by Bruce’s Mill in Stouffville or Kortright in Woodbridge for the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival! Observe the process of tapping and boiling sap to turn it into maple syrup. Dive into Canadian culture, ride a horse-drawn wagons, and get a taste of that delicious Canadian syrup while you’re at it.
  • Take in the Broadway production of Come From Away, the smash hit  musical that has landed in Toronto! The show follows the true story of what happened when 38 planes were forced to land in Newfoundland and Labrador following the attacks of September 11th. Tickets are on sale online!
  • Rediscover your childhood love for hockey at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Take a peek at the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world, view old hockey footage and photos, and observe the records left behind by some of the world’s greatest players. It’s a must-see for hockey lovers of all ages!
  • Want to spend all of March break admiring world-renowned pieces of art! Yes, you can! The March break camp at the Royal Ontario Museum lets kids ages 5-14 work on their own pieces of art and learn about history right at the museum.
  • Visit the Evergreen Brick Works for a refreshing taste of nature. Learn to ride a bike, visit the garden market, or get a taste of some organic and locally grown foods. Take advantage of the spring-like weather while you’re at it!
  • March break is the perfect time for a trip to the zoo when it’s not too hot and not too cold! Make sure you get a chance to see the giant pandas before they’re sent off to the Calgary zoo.
  • Head off to Niagara Falls for some great weather and a fantastic view. There are some amazing waterparks there including the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Great Wolf Lodge.
  • Pack your bags and head north to get in some spring skiing, or to simply relax at a resort. Get away from the city life, recharge your batteries and take some time for yourself.
  • Hit up an escape room! Immerse yourself in a life-size puzzle in which you have to use your wits, brains, and intelligence to escape. It’s a great teamwork activity, and will test the mettle of your friendships like nothing ever has. Some can even be done with kids!
  • Ottawa is an excellent place to visit for a trip focusing on Canadian history and culture. Visit the National Gallery of Canada in which the stories of Canadian artists are shared, or pop by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum to learn about engines, aircrafts, and the international space station itself.
  • Visit Science North in Sudbury and view their many exhibitions, including flight simulators, the gravity well, and the human fitness lab. Science North has an excellent range of activities for all ages, and can be educational to people at all stages of life.

Whatever you choose to do from skiing to an escape room, or simply just relaxing, I hope you and your family have a safe, eventful, and happy March break!


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Spice Girls Are Not the Headliner Anymore!

If you’re an avid baker, you may have realized that there is a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans. Not only is the price of supply skyrocketing, but it’s also making it difficult to find good quality beans. Since my wife had a recipe that required several vanilla beans, I went on a search looking for beans at a reasonable price. During my research, I came across a store that I used to be familiar with when I lived downtown. House of Spice located in Kensington Market in Toronto on Augusta Avenue.

I called up to find out if they had the product I was looking for, and much to my surprise, they stocked a few different varieties of the bean. The most popular is the Madagascar vanilla bean and while other places quoted as much as $12.00 a bean, House of Spice was selling them for $6.95. My wife and I decided to go down there to check out the quality. Much to her excitement, the beans were fresh and of high quality!

While we were there, my wife started looking around and found a number of different and unique ingredients that she had been searching for. Items like pickling salt, Ethiopian spices, and several different types of coffee were all right there, tucked into the little store. In addition to the wide selection of products and reasonable prices, perhaps what was just as important, if not more, was that the staff were extremely friendly and very knowledgeable.

When it comes to something like simple salt and pepper (this store had 4 different varieties of specialty sea salt and truffle salt!) you don’t need an expert, but with other products you need someone who understands what they are for, and how they should be stored. The employees at House of Spice were helpful, and clearly know their business! Although it is a small store, they manage to stock a lot of different items, so I would plan on browsing the shelves. In fact, why not make an afternoon of it? There are lots of other food stores in the neighborhood, as well as great restaurants to grab a bite.

House of Spice is definitely a worthwhile place to check out for anyone interested. Enjoy your cooking and shopping and remember to invite me for dinner!

House of Spice


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Keeping Great Customer Service Up and Running

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog highlighting my great experience at The Running Room. At the same time I was dealing with The Running Room, one of the SQM employees directed me to another shoe store that she’s been dealing with for years, known as Running Free, and in particular the Ajax location.

The owner, Steve Ockrant, immediately called me to introduce himself and while he suggested it was best if I came in, due to his schedule and distance he offered to bring some shoes over to my office, for me to try on. Realizing he was doing me a favour, due to our mutual friend, I must say I’ve never had such special service for a retail product!

Steve came, we chatted, and he brought six pairs of shoes for me to try on. Based on the sizes and styles he brought, he was able to narrow down the shoes that would work best for me, and then a few days later he returned with more shoes. He even left me with a couple of pairs for me to walk around the office in before I made my final decision.

Although I returned both of the pairs that made it to the shoe finals, I eventually made it out to his store where two of his amazing employees found the perfect pair for me.

If you are ever looking for great shoes, at a great price, but more importantly amazing and knowledgeable staff go to Running Free, ask for Steve, and mention my name.

Running Free

(416) 410-3733



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An “Amped Up” Amazon Experience

Whether for pricing, selection or convenience, I find myself more frequently turning to Amazon to make a variety of purchases. While I’ve always felt they provide great customer service, my most recent experience re-enforces this….

Back in mid-December, my wife purchased a Bluetooth speaker to give to a friend as a Christmas present. Since she was very excited about the speaker and our friend loved it, I decided to surprise her and recently went online to purchase another one. When I looked at my order history, I realized that the speaker was now less than half the price that it had been selling for a month earlier. I decided to put Amazon to the test, and called up customer service to see what could be done about the difference in pricing.

While I thought it would be easier to simply credit my account, the Amazon customer service representative indicated that their system works differently and that I would have to return the item and reorder it. When I explained I didn’t have the original item because I gave it as a gift, he allowed me to order two items, and give one back with the return label he was providing me. To minimize my inconvenience, he even allowed me to order the new items with the fastest shipping method. To me, this sounded great!

I placed the order on Saturday afternoon, and much to my surprise, on the Sunday, I received an email that Amazon had already attempted to deliver it to my office (I didn’t think they would deliver on a Sunday as they indicate “business days” for shipping times). My item was received the very next day and a day later I received confirmation of the credit reimbursement.

Given how Amazon stood behind their lower price and made it quick and simple for me to return and receive the item, it truly was an amazing experience. I still love going out to the stores, but this is another example of why mortar and brick retailers really have to step up their game.

Hats off to Amazon!



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What’s Hip and Happening around the Holidays


December is always a cheery time of year! With the holidays just around the corner, more and more holiday-themed activities seem to be popping up around town. Many stores are taking part in holiday festivities, and with no shortage of holiday cheer going around, it’s always nice to engage in one or more activities. Some of the more popular activities, which I enjoy, include:

Toronto Christmas Market – Down in the Distillery District, the iconic Christmas market is on until December 23rd! Enjoy Christmas music, magical lighting, singing, dancing, visits with Santa, and everything to get you into the holiday spirit. Though the experience is purely magical, it’s $6.00 to get in on weekends and lineups can be lengthy.

Starbucks Holiday Cups – I always enjoy the little things that add bits of holiday spirit. Starbucks offers some cool and interesting holiday drinks with a fun design on them. It’s a great pick-me-up, and a great way to warm yourself up. This year’s design encourages customers to colour and draw on the white background of the cups.

Skating at the Harbourfront Centre – Want to do something active, fun, and festive? Skating is the perfect way to engage in holiday cheer while burning some calories at the same time. Visit your local skating rink and rent a pair of skates – or bring your own. The Harbourfront Centre has a beautiful, scenic outdoor skating rink and best of all – admission is free!

Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square – At the heart of downtown Toronto, celebrate winter by shopping in the market, skating, or simply enjoying the view at their annual holiday fair. Until December 23rd, experience different foods, find that perfect gift, and listen to some live Christmas music!

The Nutcracker – Experience the magic firsthand when you see The Nutcracker live in theatre! As an all-time classic, and world-renowned play, the National Ballet of Canada has been performing every year since 2005. It’s an amazing and entertaining family activity, and suitable for all ages. Catch it now until December 30th.

Get Involved with A Charity – Whether it’s helping out at your local food bank, preparing meals for the homeless, running a toy drive, or collecting clothes and personal care products for those in need, getting involved with charities is something that should not be overlooked during this busy and hectic time of year.

Whatever you choose to do, and wherever you choose to go…from all of us at SQM, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!


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Leisurely Shopping at Lee Valley


Many years ago, I was introduced to Lee Valley Tools when I required some specialized equipment and supplies for a wood working project. Since that time, I have often returned to their stores for specialty items, but quickly realized that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

Not only does the store have fun and creative little stocking stuffers (it may only be November, but the holidays are just around the corner), but these tools are practical and useful – for things you never knew you needed help with.

As an example, my wife once received a portable can opener at a Secret Santa event. It’s small, safe, and easy on the hands, using a butterfly-shaped crank design instead of the usual handles that require great strength and effort. She loved it so much, we immediately ordered a new one when it inevitably broke years later.

Ever since then, she’s loved the place. She told me that any and all types of gifts she was in search of, she could get at Lee Valley. We were recently going through the website and commenting on the cool and practical things we had found on there. It may be important to note that not all items online are available in-store.

The folding phone holder, for example, makes every outlet your personal charging station with a simple, albeit ingenious, solution. Hang it over your charging plug, and create a small shelf for your phone while it charges. Your phone is kept safely out of the way!

The people who work at the store are very helpful, knowledgeable, and polite. In fact, they’ve helped me with my own specialty projects in the past.

For those looking for good quality service and unique items – be it for a gift or a project, I highly recommend checking out Lee Valley Tools.

Lee Valley Tools


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