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Es Delicioso, El Catrin!

Tacos on the patio at El Catrin.

A few weeks ago, I was told of what was promised to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in Toronto. I was a little hesitant to go, because it happened to be located in the Distillery District, where I haven’t had the best experience with restaurants. During past visits to other restaurants in the area, I have found that the food wasn’t that great, the service was slow and unattentive, and prices were through the roof! With that being said, I was told this place was great and after my arm was twisted, we ended up going.

As we approached the location, the first thing I noticed was the patio. It was big, it was beautiful, and it set the perfect atmosphere for a nice dinner. The patio was decorated with all sorts of lights, making it seem almost festive. Once we entered the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by a wonderful hostess, and taken to our reserved table inside the dining room, which was already set up and waiting for us. Within minutes, our server came over and introduced herself. She was extremely enthusiastic, cheery about having us, and constantly making suggestions and recommendations based on her personal favourite items and restaurant best sellers.

With regards to the food, we ordered a variety of items to share – and everything was delicious! The tacos were delectable, and the guacamole was absolutely heavenly…my mouth still waters just thinking about it!

When the bill came, I was delightfully surprised to note that it wasn’t outrageously expensive (like I was expecting). In fact, I was so impressed with the overall service and food that I personally spoke to the manager to tell him how enjoyable the evening was. It turns out it was only our server’s first week and the fact that she provided such amazing and attentive service spoke volumes about El Catrin’s ability to scope out good, hardworking people and train them well.

Without a doubt, I would return for the amazing food and extremely hospitable service. Whether after a walk in the Distillery District, on a warm summer night, or in the middle of the winter, El Catrin makes for a great dining experience!

El Catrin
416-203-2121
www.elcatrin.ca

 

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Love and Care at MED+ Home Health Care

Exterior of Med+ Home Health Care office in Scarborough, ON.

A few weeks ago, my lovely aunt happened to be returning home after a lengthy stay at a rehab facility. Prior to her discharge date, we knew we had to get some medical equipment for her support, but the only problem: from where?  In addition to finding the specific equipment, we also found out that prices varied, widely, so there was the extra challenge of finding the items at a decent price.

After receiving a list of reputable stores from the rehab facility, we started to do our homework.  We visited some locations and called others, and were very surprised with the lack of customer service provided by many of the businesses.

It was strange, that in such a competitive industry, some places never got back to us, did not have items in stock, had no prices handy, and on top of this, a noticeable disparity in the pricing.

The one place that stood apart from the rest was MED+ Home Health Care.  From the minute we called them, the woman we interacted with was extremely friendly, had all the information on hand, and actually emailed us a written quote shortly after we got off the phone (this was very convenient and helpful in our decision-making process).  To add to the professionalism of this business, the woman followed up with us a few days after the call to ask if we had any questions, or required additional information.

Between the great service and the excellent prices, we decided to purchase the items from MED+, and thankfully, our positive experience didn’t stop there.  MED+ delivered the equipment quickly and at the pre-arranged time.  The delivery person was polite, professional and set up the equipment in the requested areas of the apartment.  He also installed certain items that took a bit more time and effort, leaving only once everything was completed, ending the experience as professionally as it began.

At a time when families are stressed about their loved ones, the folks at MED+ Home Health Care made the process easy and as pleasant as it could be.

MED+ Home Health Care
416-477-5960
www.medplushealth.ca

 

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Dickson Home Hardware Knows the Key to Success!

Storefront of Dixon Home Hardware

A few weeks ago I headed out to one of the big box stores in my area as I needed to cut about a dozen keys.

As one does in many large stores, I found myself wandering up and down the aisles in search of the key section. Once I found the area, I waited for a good five minutes, for an employee to come to help me. Since nobody came over, I continued my search up and down the aisles, looking for someone who worked there, who could cut the keys for me. Once I finally found an employee and returned to the key section, they told me they didn’t have the specific key I needed in stock but offered me a more expensive, fancier key with a logo on it. I’d hoped that, to earn my business, the employee would have offered to give me the more expensive key at the cheaper one’s cost, but they didn’t.

Since I wanted to keep the cost of the keys as low as possible, I left the store, but experienced similar challenges at another store in the same area. Suddenly it occurred to me that I should head to a small hardware store that had never disappointed me in the past, so without hesitation, I made my way to Dickson Home Hardware on Avenue Road. I had been to the store many times before and it amazed me as they always seemed to have what I needed even though the shop is a fraction of the size of a big box store. I really don’t know how they do it!

As soon as I walked through the doors a friendly employee was there to help me and, lo and behold, the keys I needed were in stock and less expensive than what I was planning on paying at the other larger stores!

The employees were polite, knowledgeable and friendly, and they quickly cut my keys and sent me on my way. As I was leaving I remembered I needed some topsoil and, to no surprise, Dickson’s had lots in stock at the same price as most other places I would have purchased it from. I bought the topsoil and without me even having to ask they offered to put it in the trunk of my car. In fact, one of the other great things about this small store is that they work on an honour system. They trusted that when I said I’d purchased five bags of soil that I was telling the truth and simply loaded them into my car, without checking inside or asking for a receipt.

Dickson Home Hardware is a great store that stocks everything the big guys have at the same, or sometimes cheaper prices. In addition to the fabulous staff, the store’s owner, Tony Dickson, is often there to chat with the customers and help out whenever needed. My takeaway from my experiences at Dickson’s is that sometimes you should consider supporting your local retailer. Even though they’re small, they’re just as good as the big guys. Dickson Home Hardware has never let me down. They have taken good care of me over the years and whether you’re looking for BBQ’s (they have a separate store that specializes in this area) or for something from the hardware store, I highly recommend them.

Dickson Home Hardware
416-487-4029
www.dicksonhh.com

 

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Cool cocktails and Awesome Americanos

Voodoo Child a coffee and cocktail bar

Hello again! It’s Clare here and I’m taking over David Lipton’s blog to tell you about a restaurant worthy of a spot on SQM Picks. Last month, I had some work to do and in my classic disorganized style, I left it to the last minute. It was later in the evening than I had planned to get to work, so I had to find a place where I could type into the night.

I stumbled upon Voodoo Child, which is just as cool as it’s Hendrix-inspired name suggests. It is open late and has a very cool atmosphere. The café features dim lighting and low hanging lights, creating a unique feel. Instead of my usual coffee house cohorts, I was surrounded by young people with many different agendas. Nearby, there was a couple that appeared to be on their first date, some young professionals sipping Wu Tangs while typing away and a few folks hanging out and enjoying the live music, which happens every Tuesday night.

During the day, Voodoo Child utilizes a communal table that has a great view of the ever busy and trendy College Street West. On Tuesday evenings, the café moves the table aside, so live performers have a place to play their tunes. On this particular night, there was a trio playing folk tunes that made everyone including the friendly bartender/barista tap their feet.

I knew I’d be in for a long night so the first beverage I ordered was a black americano. The bartender-barista explained I had the choice between two different blends of espresso – this evening, the choice was between a juicy one, with tasting notes of cranberry and stone fruits, and one that was described as syrupy, nutty and chocolatey. I opted for the chocolatey one and was very pleased with my choice.

When it was time for my second drink, I ordered the Wu Tang bourbon cocktail, which is a bit stronger than my chocolate flavoured americano and it tasted delicious. The bartender described it as “not too sweet and pretty strong”. The menu includes everything from a classic Old Fashioned, to the Wu Tang and a drink called the Suffering Bastard.

This isn’t necessarily a place to take the kids, but if it’s early and you’re looking for a great latte (served in a skull glass), an americano, or even a drip coffee, Voodoo Child is the place for you. If you get there before noon, you can purchase an americano and a locally baked muffin for only $5.25. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, the shop offers wood fired bagels with a variety of toppings.

This is definitely a place where you can start your day with a yummy coffee and end it with a strong cocktail. You might even find yourself back there the next morning if you enjoyed one too many Suffering Bastards.

Voodoo Child Espresso and Cocktail Bar
647-748-1011
www.voodoochild.ca

 

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Up, Up, and Away – Beyond Great Service at Buffalo Airport!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Flashback to ten or twenty years ago, and there was a long period of time where it was significantly cheaper to fly out of the US, instead of Canada, due to the difference in taxes and fees.

In fact, the cost savings were so significant, that many people found it more economically efficient to fly out of the US (driving down to the states, go about their travels, and drive back to Canada upon their return). In addition, it really wasn’t difficult to make the arrangements, so for the extra driving time, and slight inconvenience, it was well worth it.

Fast forward to present day, and although the difference in pricing isn’t as significant, I still think it’s worth it for Canadians to consider flying out of the United States.

In my case, Buffalo is an easily accessible city if traveling by car, and is one of the reasons why the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a hotspot for traveling Canadians. My family and I passed through the airport during a recent trip, and I couldn’t help but think of several benefits for using the airport:

  1. When arriving at the airport you would have already cleared customs, as a result of driving down from the Toronto area.
  2. The airport itself has a modern, clean look to it, and while it is a large airport, it is nowhere near as busy as Pearson, meaning shorter (or no) lineups, resulting in far less stress and pressure.
  3. Getting through security seems to be far less of a hassle than in other airports.
  4. The airport has many plugs and open electronic ports to charge laptops, phones, and other devices.

In a nutshell, the airport is a modern facility that supports easy travelling, while providing a variety of features to suit the needs of every traveler.

Aside from the airport, there are an abundance of hotels nearby, with great room rates, and shuttles that take you straight to the airport…perfect for those with an early morning flight. In fact, some of the hotels are so close that you could literally walk across the street in less time then it would take to grab a shuttle. Many hotels also accept Canadian currency at par, and allow you to park your vehicle for up to 14 days.

The only potential drawback to flying out of Buffalo, would be the risk of bad weather in the winter, as there is a higher risk of flights being delayed or cancelled, compared to Toronto.

In more recent times, the airport opened a Tim Horton’s inside the terminal, which tells me they know their consumer base well!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport
www.buffaloairport.com
1-877-359-2642

 

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Thrifty, Nifty, Studio 50

Photograph of household items sold at Studio 50

Every year, as my anniversary approaches, I become increasingly stressed trying to find the perfect gift for Princess Wifey, but this year went much smoother!

My luck began, last fall, when my wife and our friend attended an art show, and came across a unique and masterfully-crafted, functional art piece.

The item was a piece from Studio 50’s Rock Bottom Collection, and consisted of two parts…a glass flask, and a base made of varying types of stone. Depending on what type of beverage it was being used for the stone base could be either heated up or frozen, resulting in the liquid in the flask being kept hot or cold.

After I learned that my wife had fallen in love with the piece, I was on a mission to purchase it in time for our upcoming anniversary, however, the art show only occurred a couple of times a year, and wasn’t going to be in town until after the big day. Fortunately, the products were available online, and while I preferred to see the various choices in person, I wasn’t going to be able to do so.

Enter Kim, from Studio 50, who I connected with first via email, and then over the phone. Kim was more than happy to answer all of my questions, with unfounded patience, and clarified how they shipped the merchandise, and how long it would take to arrive.

My only dilemma was deciding on a colour for the leather wrap that came with the set, and Kim was kind enough to send me samples of a couple colours, with the option of exchanging them if necessary.

At one point, she became so familiar with me, she would ask about the condition of my aunt, who had recently broken her hip. Although a little thing, I was quite impressed that she remembered, and grateful that she cared enough to ask about her.

Of course, I did end up buying the piece for my wife, and the package arrived quickly, and safely wrapped in paper and bubble wrap. Clearly they have their shipping down to a fine art!

Studio 50 also advertises a variety of stunning pieces, including a concrete table, a hardwood mirror, and much more. Prices are reasonable, and the pieces are truly beautifully made and intricately designed.

If you’re ever looking for a unique gift supported by excellent customer service, take a look at Studio 50!

Studio 50
www.studio50.ca
1-226-208-1428

 

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The Senator Restaurant is a Classic for a Reason

The Senator Restaurant in downtown Toronto

Hello there! My name is Clare Jenkins and I am one of the new interns at SQM Inc.  This week, I am taking over David Lipton’s Blog, SQM Picks.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I were debating where we could go for a good breakfast in the downtown core.  We were pretty hungry, so I suggested eating at The Senator Restaurant. For transparency purposes, I am an employee of The Senator Restaurant but have never eaten breakfast there until this day.

The Senator Restaurant is a cool, old school diner, that makes you feel like you are being transported back in time as you walk through the entrance. It is the oldest standing restaurant in Toronto and it is nestled next to the Jazz bistro and situated across the street from the Ed Mirvish Theatre on the corner of Victoria and Dundas.

There is no question as to why The Senator has been around for so long! The Senator welcomes all guests and has an old fashioned charm resembling the diners of the 1940’s. Guests enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, comfortable seating, tasty food, and the quick and friendly service.

The dinner menu provides guests with an array of old-fashioned comfort food including: classic meatloaf, chicken pot pie, liver and onions, and burgers. My favourite items on the dinner menu are the macaroni and cheese and the roasted beet salad with citrus dressing.

Considering I had never eaten breakfast at the Senator, I asked our server what he would recommend and Alan suggested I try the eggs Benedict with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Since I’m a sucker for seafood, I opted for their smoked salmon Benedict. The best part? They smoke the stuff in-house! My benny was served on a homemade biscuit with runny poached eggs and a tangy, yet buttery and smooth hollandaise sauce that made me forget all the times I promised myself my summer body was the most important thing.

The Senator is a fantastic place to take the entire family. The meals leave you feeling warm and satisfied and can be modified for children and adults. If you plan to go in the evening, make sure you book a reservation, since they get really busy catering to theatre goers, students, families, and their regulars of twenty plus years.  If you do have to wait, make sure you check out some of their original menus, which list steak at 99 cents! Tasty food, fast service and an old school charm, definitely makes this place worth the wait.

The Senator Restaurant
(416) 364-7517
www.thesenator.com

 

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