Welcome to SQM Picks!

We are very excited to announce the launch of SQM Picks… a feature about the businesses that SQM has grown to know and love. Our President, David Lipton, has years of experience in a variety of industries, and is very passionate about customer service. He is always coming across great businesses, and he believes that they should get the credit that they deserve. SQM Picks will be posted every Wednesday, so be sure to keep an eye out for our latest picks and some of the President’s top recommendations.

Do you know of a business that deserves a standing ovation and a mention in SQM Picks?  We’re always on the lookout for great businesses, and would love to hear about any that you feel should be featured in one of our articles. You can follow us and tweet us at @SQMInc, follow us and send us a message on Facebook at Sensors Quality Management – Mystery Shopping, or email us at sqm@sqm.ca

We hope that you enjoy what SQM Picks has to offer. What are you waiting for? Take your pick!

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The Canada Day Weekend is Almost Upon Us…SQM Will Help You Celebrate!

Another long weekend is coming up, and at the ripe, old age of 151 years old, Canada has plenty of events and activities that will be taking place across the country.

Try one of these ideas for your precious three day weekend:

Camping: With black fly season almost behind us, the Canada Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer camping! Check out ontarioparks.com for dozens of options on where to set up camp, both close to Toronto and throughout the province. Whether you’re going to one of the provincial parks for a simple day trip, or staying overnight, there’s tons of different things to do outdoors. Camping is a great inexpensive trip for a big group!

Fireworks: Go traditional and nab some fireworks from stores like Phatboy Fireworks or Kaboom Fireworks, and enjoy yourself a colourful spectacle in the sky. If you can’t do your own, Downsview Park, Canada’s Wonderland, and Ashbridges Bay will be putting on a lightshow worthy of Canada’s birthday.

Swimming: By July 1st, all of the municipal pools should be open, so check out the schedule and either exercise those muscles with a nice, relaxing swim, or take in some sun followed by a cool dip in the water. Find the nearest pool to you here.

Sports: Love sports and happen to be in the Toronto area on July 1st ? There are three sporting events, with Toronto FC, Toronto FC2 (academy team), and the Toronto Blue Jays all playing.

Day or Dinner Cruising: Whether you’re in cottage country or near the Toronto harbour, you can try taking a day or dinner cruise. One popular cruise is the RMS Segwun– North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. The RMS Segwun currently tours around Muskoka Lake and has afternoon and evening departures (it’s also a beautiful trip to take in the fall when leaves are changing colours – but don’t worry, we will remind you in the fall).

Ottawa: It’s always exciting to be in the nation’s capital over the Canada day weekend! There will be fireworks and festivals- plus, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in Canada’s wonderfully rich culture at a number of art galleries and museums.

Ribfest: For those in the Toronto area, head on down to ribfest at Etobicoke Centennial Park, featuring music, magic shows, fireworks, and of course, ribs!

BBQ: Like the Americans when they celebrate July 4th with a BBQ, there’s nothing like grillin’ some dogs or steaks on the bbq. Looking for some inspiration? Look no further.

Whatever you end up doing over the upcoming long weekend, and wherever you end up doing it, I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

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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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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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