10 Links You Should Click

One of my bad habits is racking numerous open tabs up in my browsers. It’s something I’ve tried to curb in The 2014 100, but it still creeps in if left unchecked.

After chatting with a friend who misses the short posts I used to put out with 100 Happy Days, she got me thinking on what I could put out that was short and sweet but could still be valuable to my readers.

So in that spirit, here’s 10 Links You Should Click, a (maybe weekly) look at the stuff I come across and think you should check out. It could be things I want to make or do, or maybe stuff I just discovered that made me pause.

May these links titillate and thrill you, excite and entice you — and give me a reason to do this again!

I AM NOT A FOODIE — Four Courses with Scarborough #Dishcrawl!

Somewhere in Scarborough is some sushi with your name on it.

For someone who’d decided to keep west of Victoria Park Avenue, it seems like I’m spending a whole lotta time in Scarborough these days!

In the land of strip malls, beauty salons and more ethnic diversity than almost anywhere else in Toronto,

Welcome to Wexford Heights. On Lawrence Avenue East, an area of town that saw coaching inns and country estates 200 years ago, it now offers foods from a wealth of different global cuisines. Why grab lunch at the local KFC when you have so much to choose from?

But how do you know what’s good? How do you know where to go when you have so much to choose from?

With this question in mind, Scarborough Dishcrawl stepped in to help me answer it.

What is a Dishcrawl?

As Dishcrawl describes itself, it’s all about

Food, Fun, and Exploration! We here at Dishcrawl aim to provide you with a premier culinary social experience by bringing together neighborhood restaurants, local chefs, regional food producers and fellow food enthusiasts. Join us if you’d like to embark on a one-of-a-kind gastronomic adventure!

A Dishcrawl is the pub crawl equivalent for foodies. You pay one price beforehand and visit several restaurants throughout the night.

In order to keep it a surprise, you’re not told where you’re going beforehand — 48 hours before the event’s start, you’re emailed with a meeting point to start the night, but everything else is a mystery from there!

The night would be led by Jennifer, the Scarborough Dishcrawl Ambassador who’d orchestrated the night’s event and set it up to make sure we all enjoyed ourselves as much as possible.

Here’s where we wound up that night….

Gu-Mi

Gu-Mi’s been around for more than 25 years and specializes in Japanese and Korean food (as its owner, Susan — who was very nice and welcoming — demonstrated to us by a short pantomime of PSY’s “Gangnam Style”). They sat us in its newest section, and with a glowing review of the food by a South Korean family that was visiting, we got to sample some of the cooking from Susan’s brother, the restaurant’s chef working his magic in the back.

What We Had:

  • Korean pancake
  • chicken teriyaki
  • California and avocado rolls
  • zucchini and yam tempura
  • miso soup

How it Was:

Largely like your typical Japanese restaurant — the only item that was new to me was the Korean pancake, which was delicious with some soy sauce! Would’ve loved to have some of the spicy food that Korean cuisine is known for, but it was an event trying to appeal to a variety of people and not just me, so I could make do!

Naan and Kabob

Naan and Kabob is just a few doors down from Gu-Mi and offers up Afghan fare. You can immediately tell that a professional interior decorator designed it; many of the motifs, from the lighting to the art and colour choices, give a feeling like many of the dining choices you’d find on Queen or King Street and not Lawrence Avenue East.

What We Got:

  • Naan
  • Mantu, a popular Afghan dish that’s a pasta filled with ground beef
  • Chicken breast from a kabob
  • Basmati rice
  • Salad with a yogurt dressing

How it Was:

I have to admit, I was looking forward to the Indian naan I know (and love — thoroughly), but the meal wasn’t bad. I would’ve liked slightly larger portions, but it was still enough to give me a good idea of what the restaurant had to offer.

L’s Chinese Eatery

Our next stop was a slight walk from the first two, but not a problem with the wonderful weather we had!

L’s Chinese Eatery has only been open a month and serves what you’d expect from a Chinese restaurant, offering up Cantonese and Hakka-style Chinese food. The decor is really nice — the mirrored wall distracted me from the restaurant’s small size (it likely only seats 25-30 people). Our night’s host, John, would apologize for his bad English (which wasn’t all that bad) and tell us about the bites of Chinese cuisine we’d be noshing on.

Quick Caveat — The place is so new that it doesn’t even have a liquor license yet, so I hope you like water and tea!

What We Got:

  • homemade egg rolls
  • hakka chow mein with chicken
  • hot and sour soup

How it Was:

The standout item here was the homemade egg rolls. It was a shame that we were given little packets of plum sauce to put on them, but they were still delicious! Everything else was pretty standard, though.

Damas Mediterranean Grill House and Juice Bar

The night’s final stop was Damas Mediterranean Grill and Juice Bar, a Syrian-owned restaurant on the corner of Victoria Park and Lawrence that’s been in business for more than 25 years.

Not really much to say on this one — the owners weren’t there and we were just there for juice and baklava, but it was a good way to wrap up a night of Dishcrawling!

What We Got:

  • mango/banana/strawberry smoothies
  • baklava

How it Was:

The smoothies and baklava were both sweet. That’s really all I’ve got on this one.

So how WAS Scarborough Dishcrawl?

PROS

  • Great socializing: It’s always good meeting new people you wouldn’t otherwise, and because the Dishcrawl forces you to find new seats every time you change locations, it’s something that you keep doing with each new restaurant. The night’s highlight for me was meeting a Whitby couple who’re just the kind of parents I’d want to be with their approach, their mindset and the relationship they have with their kids. I was definitely taking notes.
  • No choices = no wasted time: With a budgeted 45 minutes per restaurant, it surprised me that we never felt rushed — by taking away the need to figure out what we’d be eating, it left plenty of time to focus on time with the restaurant owners, time for conversation and time for enjoying the pre-set meals that’d been prepared for us.
  • Location: If you live east of Yonge (that’s right — you don’t even need to be from Scarborough to enjoy a Scarborough Dishcrawl), it’s not all that hard to get to the locations in Scarborough. It also offered something that’s a bit of a rarity in downtown Toronto — free parking! Car or no, though, the fact that you just need to get there and then walk to each location is a huge draw for you subway warriors out there!

CONS

  • Same ol’, same ol’: With a few notable exceptions, most of the food was stuff I could find just about anywhere I look in downtown Toronto. If you want something that’s different from the norm for Toronto, it might not be in Wexford Heights.
  • A Tough Sell: Maybe it was poor luck, but some of these restaurants didn’t sell themselves very well. Despite Dishcrawl  bringing in business and offering the spread the word about their restaurants, neither Naan nor Damas had any management on hand to help us learn about their restaurants. Part of attracting repeat customers to a restaurant is creating an unforgettable experience, but in forgetting this it made them seem inexperienced.

Would I do it again? Sure — Dishcrawls are a great way to discover foods in parts of the city that you’re not familiar with, and Toronto has no end of things to discover!

Watch for the next Scarborough Dishcrawl whenever it comes your way! In the meantime, you can see their official rundown of the night’s events here: http://www.dishcrawl.com/blog/community/3626/four-gastronomic-delights-in-one-spring-night-dishcrawl

Until next time, amigos,

–case p.

 [Disclaimer: I was given a free ticket to Scarborough Dishcrawl to write this post, which admittedly turned out a lot longer than I originally anticipated!]

I AM NOT A FOODIE — Lovin’ Lady Marmalade

Lady Marmalade

Seating: 40

Address: 898 Queen St E, Toronto, ON

Location: Logan/Queen

Neighbourhood: Leslieville

Food type: Delicious brunch with an inexplicable Mexican twist

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Brunch is Sarah’s favourite meal of the day. I often decline to tag along when she’s trying a new spot (as it’s often reserved for “girl time”, something I’d only be intruding on), but with a Monday off and time booked with our friends Trevor and Sakshi, we were brunchward-bound!

With its yuppie crowd and a charming atmosphere, Lady Marmalade is a good place to go if you’re looking for a brunch that won’t disappoint.

“There’s no rest for the wicked awesome.”

–Casey Palmer

In a busy city like Toronto, you can forget that it has so much to offer — even in your own neighbourhood! Despite Sarah having lived on the east side for a few years now, we don’t explore it nearly as much as we should, and even without a car, much of it is very well-connected by either bike or public transit — overlooking all its hidden gems is a mistake.

One of the areas I don’t visit as much as I should is Leslieville. Just south of where I live, the more I hear about it, the more I want to visit. A restaurant that specializes in bacon? Somewhere selling fried chicken and donuts in the same place?? Or how about Queen Margherita Pizza which you constantly see on lists for the best pies in town? A neighbourhood full of charm and Mom ‘n’ Pop shops?

Yes, Leslieville has it going on, which is why I was happy that brunch on Easter Monday found us at Lady Marmalade, a restaurant known for a solid breakfast at a decent price with a Mexican twist to it!

The Skinny

Lady Marmalade isn’t sizeable by any stretch of the imagination, and don’t come here starving, because you may have gnawed your arm off by the time you get in — but it is worth it.

I looked at the menu and couldn’t decide what to get because it all looked so delicious (which, by the way, is an excellent problem to have), but finally settled on the huevos migas, which had a slight edge over the huevos rancheritos by including sausages (from Rowe Farms, I assumed, judging from the rest of the menu). The food was definitely delicious, you could tell how fresh the ingredients were — but more importantly, it was filling. I came in hungry, and Lady Marmalade did not disappoint.

Huevos Migas: 3 soft-scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, tomatoes & scallions served with brown rice, smashed beans, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa & organic tortilla chips 12. {sub tofu for eggs 1.}

Complemented by its glass of grapefruit juice, my huevos migas was a solid blend of flavours. I probably could’ve added a little spice to it to make the deliciousness pop just that much more, but I was happy with what I got!

So if you’ve ever considered venturing east of Yonge, but find yourself searching for a reason — or perhaps if you’re already one of us eastsiders and need to know a bit more about what there is off of the Danforth, try Lady Marmalade on for size.

Your stomach deserves it!

–case p.