Tag Archives: Foodie

Top Ten Things to Do This Holiday Season

via GIPHY

There are plenty of fun and festive things to do this holiday season. Here is my Top 10 places to check out:

  1. Toronto Christmas Market – Experience the magic of the holidays with carols, hot food, and plenty of handcrafted goods to choose from! Treat your kids to a storytelling session or pictures with Santa himself. You can explore the Distillery Christmas Market until December 23rd. Admission is charged on weekends only, beginning at 5 PM on Fridays.
  2. Skating at City Hall, Harbourfront, or The Bentway Skate Trail – Sharpen your skates and head on over to the shoreline of Lake Ontario, Nathan Phillips Square, or underneath the Gardiner Expressway. If you don’t have your own pair of skates, you can rent them for a small fee. Show off your skating (and dancing) skills at the Harbourfront Centre on their DJ Skate Nights!
  3. Christmas Lights Across Canada 2018 in Ottawa – It’s obligatory to include at least one light festival in every holiday list. Take a trip to Canada’s capital to be dazzled by festive lights across the city and the Magical Winter Lightscapes show projected on the Parliament Buildings.
  4. Day Trips to Niagara  The Falls are always stunning in the winter. There are plenty of casinos, restaurants, and museums in the entertainment district.
  5. Rochester, NY  For a quick overnight trip, visit Rochester, New York. The holiday spirit is very much alive with Christmas Markets and plays such as “The Nutcracker”. I also highly recommend the Minnesota Children’s Museum, as it has great exhibits that emphasize education mixed with fun.
  6. Ripley’s Aquarium  To see amazing creatures from under the sea, there’s always Ripley’s Aquarium. For the holidays they have special events such as breakfast with Santa! The aquarium is open daily from 9 AM to 11 PM.
  7. Eat Out – It’s never a bad time to take your family out to a nice dinner or lunch for some quality bonding time. Of course, nothing beats a home-cooked meal but sometimes it’s nice not to do the dishes. For those lazy mornings, go out for a nice brunch!
  8. Afternoon Tea – Feeling fancy? Head over to Fairmont Royal York for holiday tea and sandwiches at the Library Bar every Saturday and Sunday. A special new year’s day tea is also available on January 1st.
  9. Skiing and Snow Tubing – If you don’t mind heading up a bit north of Toronto, the ski hills are open at Snow Valley and Blue Mountain! For something a bit different, try out snow tubing—it’s easy and fun for the entire family.
  10. Great Wolf Lodge – The Lodge transforms into Snowland for the holiday season. Not only do they have a life-sized Gingerbread house, but they also have daily holiday events. You can also enroll the kids in North Pole University

Whatever you choose to do over the winter break, all of us at SQM hope you have a safe and enjoyable holidays!

 

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A Shout-Out for a Dear Friend

This week’s blog post is a little different, as I wanted to share some information about a close friend who has just taken the next step in his career and business.

Back when I was in high school, I met someone who I became very good friends with: Salim Bardai. Salim has just opened up a Freshii franchise in Barrie north, specifically at 347 Cundles Road East, Unit M2.

Salim and I had bonded in the food service business when we both worked as teenagers at McDonald’s and we have managed to stay in touch over the last 35 years, despite Salim moving up in Barrie several years ago (that said he’s always made an effort to come back to the city to hang out with friends!).

For many years, Salim worked as a store manager for McDonald’s up in Barrie before leaving the restaurant to continue his career in retail. This brings us to 2018, when Salim decided he wanted to strike out on his own. After doing some research, he decided he was interested in becoming the latest franchisee for Freshii.

For those of you who may not know, Freshii is a casual restaurant that serves healthy food options, such as salads, soups, wraps and burritos.

Salim has always been great as a friend and one of the most dedicated people I’ve come to know. Whether it was during his time at McDonald’s, starting other businesses, his willingness to coach others, or his involvement with charitable and community causes, Salim always gives 100%. As a manager and business owner he always tries to build a close-knit, solid team and when it comes to customers, he understands that employee satisfaction equals customer satisfaction.

Salim has always had a dream of running his own franchise and between Freshii having great products and Salim’s dedication to his staff, customers, and the community, I think he’s got a great recipe for success going forward.

For those of you in the Barrie area or passing through, please consider stopping by Salim’s location and supporting a great friend, as well as a wonderful company!

 

Freshii

705-986-0556

https://www.freshii.com/ca/en- 

 

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Who Doesn’t Like Brunch?

We all have those lazy Sundays when we get up late, and look forward to having a hybrid meal that is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch. Here are some of my recommendations of some great places to go to in the GTA for a nice brunch. After all, you have to take a lazy, personal day, once in a while!

Aunties & Uncles – One of the best brunch places around! The restaurant is near College and Bathurst and serves up a perfect combination of breakfast and lunch items. Choose from your good o’l’ pancakes to your basic sandwiches. It’s open from 9 am to 3 pm, and the restaurant only takes cash.

The Stockyards – Located on St Clair Avenue West, The Stockyards is a small, restaurant that specializes in smoked foods, but has a number of other awesome items on the menu. When it comes to brunch, they are known for their fried chicken and waffles as well as their smoked trout sandwich, biscuits and sausage. Of course, you shouldn’t rule out their amazing brisket as well.

Starving Artist – If you’re in the mood for something casual, one person at the office recommended Starving Artist. The whole menu is waffles (even the desserts), but you can get different kinds of waffles like benedict waffles or sandwich waffles. They have a great way of presenting the food, and it’s a fun place to go to!

Rose and Sons – Rose and Sons is a delicious deli place that has a tasty brunch menu, with things like the New York cheesecake pancakes, pastrami, and chopped steak and onion grilled cheese. This small restaurant is on Dupont Avenue and while a bit pricier then other delis, it’s well worth it.

Centre Street Deli – For those of you who can’t make it downtown, there’s a local deli in Thornhill that serves a variety of chicken and beef platters and sandwiches. Although they are known for their smoked meat sandwiches, their breakfast menu also includes eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, and omelettes. It’s an easygoing family-friendly location – perfect for something delicious and casual.

Rol San– If you like dim sum, this is the place to go! The restaurant is located on the east side of Spadina Avenue, two blocks north of Dundas, across from Kensington Market. If you swing by on a weekend, be prepared to wait a little due to its popularity. The dim sum menu is expansive, but you also want to try some of their other dishes from the regular menu. Get a taste of some authentic Chinese food and consider visiting Rol San.

Steve’s Restaurant– Steve’s is a classic restaurant, and while the original location on Bathurst Street closed a couple of years ago, their second restaurant on Yonge Street, in Thornhill, is still very much up and running. Their famous all day breakfast menu is to die for, with things like back bacon and eggs, New York steak and eggs, and a great club sandwich. They also serve up a mean omelette, with pancakes, crepes, and waffles to choose.

Easy Restaurant– In Parkdale, on Queen Street West, you’ll find Easy Restaurant. They specialize in Mexican food and have an all day breakfast menu with amazing omelettes. Choose from breakfast burritos, a breakfast quesadilla, or a guacamole BLT.

Maha’s– If you’re in the mood for something different, look no further then this popular restaurant which serves up Egyptian food. Try the Egyptian falafel, Maha’s award winning lentil soup, or the Cairo classic. The service is friendly, the menu is unique, and I’d definitely recommend Maha’s if you’re looking for something other than bacon and eggs!

 

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Fantastic Fun in Philly

As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).

In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.

When you’re finished with the thrill rides,  there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.

If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.

Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, her and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several.  My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns.  After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.

After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history.  Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!

Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money.  Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.

Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag.  Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter.  An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.

Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks.  As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.

There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.

If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Supberbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.

As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks.  Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a philly cheese steak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.

If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person.  Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for it’s Philly cheese steak.  Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!

Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for they’re spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.

Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours.  We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.

I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.

 

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Orillia: A Place to Visit

A few years back, a close friend of mine moved to Orillia for work.  While he often visits Toronto on the weekends, my family and I have also had the added benefit of visiting Orillia as well.  It is only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, or 20 minutes north of Barrie!   While we often take advantage and spend a lot of time lounging around my friend’s pool in the summer, there are also tons of places to go in the area, with plenty of things to do…museums, parks, and farmer’s markets, to name a few.  Orillia is not a summer-only stop!  There is tons to do in all four seasons!

The pool aside, I love going to the local beaches.  The two main beaches are sandy,  have clean water, changeroom facilities and washrooms,  friendly lifeguards and are never unbearably crowded. The parks by the beach have some great playgrounds.  Of course, with lakes on both sides of the city, there are always people going on leisurely boat rides, fishing or just walking.

Looking for other summer activities?  There’s some great hiking trails, a go-kart track between Barrie and Orillia, and a drive-in movie theatre…perfect for a cozy date!

If you are visiting during the cooler months of the year, there are still lots of things to do:  a trip to the sugar bush for maple syrup and pancakes, great hiking trails, treetop trekking and fantastic tobogganing hills.

If eating out is your thing, there are a wide variety of restaurants to experiment with.  Choose from diners, chain restaurants, great independent spots and if that is not enough choice for you, you could always drive 20 minutes south to Barrie! I have to mention the classic:  when you are up in Orillia, you’re only minutes away from Weber’s, the burger joint on Highway 11 that signifies you’ve arrived in cottage country. Head in the opposite direction and you have Casino Rama – a great spot for dining, concerts, shows and gaming.

After your stomach is full, if you want to flex your retail muscle, at more than just your average chain stores, there’s a very robust main street. Of course, you can’t bypass the main street without going to the Mariposa Market for some delicious pastries and baked goods. In the evening, the area comes alive with some bars and restaurants playing live music to make it a lively and fun atmosphere. An opera house regularly has incredible shows and plays.

I often like watching a movie or two up in Orillia, as there’s only one theatre (a sixplex), but because it’s smaller than those in Toronto, it’s usually not as crowded.


Lastly, when you exhaust all that there is to do in Orillia, there are also little day trips you could take, such as driving up to Gravenhurst, Midland, or Port Carling.


Though it’s only a short distance away from Toronto, if you want to get away from the big city and take a break from it all, make Orillia your next stop!

https://www.orillia.ca

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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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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