Restaurant in Review: Odd Seoul

The other day my friend and I decided to grab a quick bite at Odd Seoul. If not for our friends recommendation we would have passed this place by as there was no apparent signage at the storefront. We walked into a small darkly lit establishment with a relaxed vibe. The menu offered Korean fusion tapas style plates as well as a few sharable plates. The dishes we tried were hit and miss but they were definitely interesting. My friend and I both were intrigued and interested to go back to order some of the dishes that we didn’t get to try. Below you will find more details on what we ordered.

Scallion and Avocado Slaw

scallion avocado slaw

This was the first dish, the greens were overdressed with this scallion and sesame oil type dressing and there were only a few pieces of avocado. We were underwhelmed to say the least.

Squash Poutine

squash poutine
Using squash instead of potatoes and the addition of Korean flavours was a creative interpretation of the Canadian dish. This was by far the dish of the night and would definitely order it again.

The Loosey

Loosey slider

A Korean style slider that was flavourful but on the small side.

Kimchi and Pork Belly Fried Rice

Kimchi fried rice
This was the one sharable dish that we ordered and it was packed with the bold flavour of kimchi without being overly spicy. The downfall of this dish was that it was extremely oil moreso than your typical fried rice so it ate really heavy.

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Restaurant in Review: Union Social Eatery

After working up an appetite at Pursuit OCR we dragged/limped our battered and bruised bodies to meet our friends for dinner at Union Social Eatery (21 St Clair Ave W).  In terms of atmosphere, the restaurant was very busy which is likely the norm for a Saturday night and there also seemed to be many large parties there to celebrate different occasions. The restaurant was also equipped with large televisions above the bar so it was perfect for one of my friends who wanted to watch the hockey game. Below you will find pictures and a review of the things that we ordered:

Appetizer: House Braised Short Rib Firecrackers (no picture)

This appetizer had a rich and flavourful filling with pepperjack cheese, cream cheese, short ribs. It came with four pieces and since we shared this appetizer as a group I only had one but this is definitely something I would like to order again.

Appetizer: Smoky Baja Chicken Dip (no picture)

House fried corn tortillas accompanied with a creamy dip with chicken, sweet corn, black beans, roasted red peppers and salsa fresca.  It was good, but it didn’t wow me. However this was definitely an appetizer more appropriate for sharing.

Main: The Cease & Desist Burger

cease and desist burger

A burger topped with braised short rib, smoked cheddar and caramelized onions. I only had a couple bites but the short rib was flavourful and added an extra element of indulgence to the dish. The burger did its name justice.

Main: Special Short Ribs with Sweet Potato Mashed and Vegetables

short rib special

Looking back there seemed to be a short rib theme as it made its appearance on multiple items on the menu and they know how to do short ribs right. This is the first time I’ve seen short ribs cut in this fashion but nonetheless they were tender, moist and full of flavour.

Dessert: Our table tried all of the desserts and with the exception of the Brulee the desserts were of a sharable size.

Dessert: Mars Bar Brownie

mars bar brownie

Dessert: NY Style Union Cheesecake (no picture)

I did not try this myself, but a friend of mine said that it was not her cup of tea and that it tasted more like cream cheese then a cheesecake dessert.

Drinks: Irie Mon Martini and Social Punch Cocktail (no pictures)

The Irie Mon featured Blue Hpnotiq, Parrot Bay rum (yum) and pineapple juice. The Social Punch was a mix of Southern Comfort, Amaretto, cranberry, orange and pineapple juice. Both of these were sweet (but not too sweet) drinks that did not taste like they had a hint of alcohol. I enjoyed both and would order each one again.

In summary, Union Social Eatery is a casual lively restaurant with great food that’s perfect for an outing any day of the week that is also able to accommodate larger groups.

Embracing my inner child at Pursuit OCR

Every so often my friends and I look for something different to do like trapezing, archery tag, axe throwing and bubble soccer. For my birthday, a couple of us decided to break out our inner child and attempt to complete the indoor obstacle course at Pursuit OCR. Pursuit OCR is an indoor obstacle course and training centre that is open to all fitness levels.

The obstacle course reminded me of the show American Ninja Warrior where I was amazed at the strength and endurance of all of those competitors. Pursuit OCR gave me the chance to envision myself in their shoes. I by no way am as strong or have trained as hard as the finalists on television, but I was able to try some of these obstacles at my own pace and level. What’s nice about Pursuit OCR is that some of the obstacles offered modifications for varying levels of difficulty, in addition to the option of bypassing obstacles.

At the very end of the course there were two cove walls (imagine half of a half pipe) that were 11 and 14 feet high. It was very daunting looking at this wall, thinking how do I defy gravity and run up this curved wall? And if I don’t make it up how do I safely make it down. I’m not going to lie, I knew I wanted to try it but I was afraid and scared of injuring myself. It wasn’t until I talked to one of the individuals that worked there and he instructed me some of the safe ways to get down that I started to slightly calm down. One of the first things he had me do was run a little bit up the ramp and turn around and sit on my butt to slide down.   Once I was able to slide down successfully I calmed down even more since I knew I was capable of reaching the bottom again without getting hurt. The second thing he had me try was to run from the halfway point to get a feel for how it would be to run up the ramp. When I did this, I got a hold of the ledge, but unfortunately I did not have enough strength to pull myself up so I let go, turned around and slid back down. My confidence was up, if I could reach the ledge with half of a run then running the full distance should give me the extra momentum I need to make it to the top.

And it did! I made it up the wall.

Below is a video from another one of the stations where you have to try and balance yourself as you walk across a band tied between two poles.

Not so shabby for someone that just turned 30. I often look forward to birthdays, but this year I had some resistance given that it was a milestone year but one of the quotes painted on one of wall really resonated with me, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

PursuitOCR

30 is just a number, it’s really how I feel, what I do and the mindset that I take on that will determine how old I really am.

Healthy Roasted Chickpeas

In the past I’ve found that my busy schedule has taken a toll on my eating habits. As you can probably tell from my previous posts I love food and I enjoy eating out. Some of my goals for the New Year are to eat healthier and eat out less.  Often these two goals can go hand in hand.

Many nights I go directly from work to dance and if I don’t plan my food situation out properly I will resort to take out and snacks on the go. Most of these would work against both of the goals mentioned above. As part of my efforts to achieve these goals I have started to try meal prepping. One of the items that compliments both goals and my busy schedule is roasted chick peas. It is a quick and healthy snack that can be packed for those on the go. Not to mention they are delicious and addicting.

Here is a video that I created with my group for a U of T continuing studies course that outlines the process, tips and some health benefits:

Here is the link to a recipe and directions from Oh She Glows. My advice is to not be afraid to try different variations of spice and flavours. Please feel free to share some of your favourite combinations and healthy snacks.

What type of dancer are you?

From my time in the Latin dance scene I’ve noticed various paths and progressions of dancers. There are different levels of involvement within dance and I have created some definitions and a diagram to help organize my thoughts. There is a progression from when someone starts learning how to dance, to how much they social dance and/or continue to develop their dancing. This path is fueled by each dancer’s own personal goals.  For example, for someone dancing may be purely recreational and they enjoy social dancing whereas others may want to build up their dance skills and potentially perform or compete.

Types of Dancers

There is no distinct path and many dancers can fall into multiple categories at any point in their dance lives. From my own experience, early on in my dance days I was a devout social goer, but because of my goal to further develop my dancing I began training and performing.  Due to the additional hours, commitment and energy required for performance I started cutting back on social dancing. I am currently working on redefining the balance between social dancing and training. I definitely think it’s important to find the proper balance of dance to meet your goals as a dancer and a person in general. Reasons I believe the balance is key because:

  • If it’s not balanced, something that once made you happy can easily make you unhappy and start to feel like work.
  • Social dancing is a key part in practicing and developing your skills as a dancer. True following, leading and free-styling is tested when you are not working on choreography.

What kind of dancer are you? What has your dance experience been like? Feel free to share your thoughts or comments below.

Go social dancing in Toronto any day of the week

[Updated March 31, 2016]

Before I started Latin dancing I had no idea how active the community was or that it even existed. Did you know that you can find somewhere to dance practically every night of the week?  Below I have compiled a list of places that you can dance throughout the week. The below list does not include special events, workshops or congresses. If you know of any other weekly/regular places to dance, please feel free to comment below or email me so that I can add them to the list. Happy dancing!

social dancing

Social dancing at an iFreestyle.ca social. Source: iFreestyle.ca

Sundays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Sunday Salsa Social 6 – 10:30pm Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto) Lessons available before the social starts. Cost includes social admission. $8 w/o lessons 2 floors (Salsa with a sprinkle of bachata, Kizomba)
TDS Sunday Salsa Social 7 – 10pm Empress Walk Studio (5095 Yonge Street, 2nd floor) N/A $7 Mostly salsa
Kizomba Sundays 8pm Alleycatz Restaurant Lounge 2409 Yonge St., Toronto Free lesson, 8 or 8:30pm ? Kizomba night
Zouk no T.O. 7:30-9:30pm Trinity St. Paul United Church, 427 Bloor St West
Toronto
$7

Mondays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Salsa Mondays 8:30pm Alleycatz Restaurant Lounge 2409 Yonge St., Toronto Free lesson at 8:30 $8 Salsa night W/DJ Romantico. No cover before 9pm.

Tuesdays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Salsa at the Den 9:00pm Nest, 423 College Street 9pm $10 2 Rooms (A Strictly Salsa l Bachata Room and a Strictly Kizomba Room)
Bachata Tuesdays 8:30pm Alleycatz Restaurant Lounge 2409 Yonge St., Toronto Free lesson at 8:30 ? Free before 10:30
Tantra Tuedays (Every other Tuesday) 8:30pm – 1:30am Tantra Lounge
1157 St Clair Ave W, Toronto
N/A $5 DJ NS spinning the best Kizomba, Semba, Tarraxinha and Zouk
“Zouk Me” Tuedays 9:15pm – 11:30pm Mazouka Dance, 527 Bloor St West (2nd Floor), Toronto N/A $5

Wednesdays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
TDS Wednesday Bachata Social 10pm – 12:30am Empress Walk Studio (5095 Yonge Street, 2nd floor) N/A $5 Mostly bachata with some salsa and kizomba
Latin Wednesdays &Company Resto Bar, 295 Enfield Place, Mississauga Free lesson at 10pm ? MAIN ROOM DJ MECHON HOSTED BY NICO P (TOP 40 LATIN / SALSA / MERENGUE / BACHATA)
GALLERY ROOM DJ ARISTOTLE (HIP HOP / HOUSE / TOP 40)
COMPLIMENTARY DANCE LESSON AT 10PM
LADIES FREE ALL NIGHT

Thursdays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Mas Thursdays 9pm-2am El Rancho, 430 College Street, Toronto 2 workshops at 9pm $10 3 rooms salsa, bachata, kizomba

Fridays

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Toronto Salsa Fridays 10pm-2am Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto) 9pm ? Toronto Salsa Fridays puts on different events, please confirm on FB for exact dates.
Salsa All Stars
90% Salsa and Cha cha
10% Bachata
Fusion
85% Salsa and Cha cha (from CD and Vinyl, new and old styles)
15% Bachata
The Uptown Loft Salsa Fridays 9pm Uptown Loft, 2464 Yonge St, Toronto 9pm $10 Latin dancing on Friday nights. Primarily salsa. Check for event details.
TDS typically has bi-weekly outings and other Fridays are typically hosted by other latin nights.

Saturdays

Note: Saturdays are typically governed by socials hosted by dance schools that are held monthly/biweekly.

Event Time Location Lesson Cost Details
Dame Tu Bachata 9pm-2am Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto) 8pm $10 Hosted by Araguacu
70% Bachata
30% Classic and Romantic Salsa
Twice a month.
iFS Monthly Social 9pm – 2am Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto) 8pm $10, $8 on guestlist Hosted by iFreestyle.ca Latin Dance School, monthly social. Link to event schedule and guestlist.
CDC Latin Social 9pm-1am 489 Queen St West, Toronto (3rd floor) Free lesson, 8 or 8:30pm 9pm Hosted by City Dance Corps, monthly social
Toronto Salsa Practice 3:30-5:30pm or 5:30-8:00 Trinity St. Paul United Church, 427 Bloor St West
Toronto
$5 per session

Carrots, Carats and Canoe

decorated apartment
Two weeks ago I turned 30, and my incredibly sweet boyfriend spoiled me beyond belief. Before I went to meet him downtown for dinner via the subway, I dropped my car and things at his place. When I opened the door I found his place fully decorated with a banner, ceiling decorations and multiple bunches of balloons. I immediately called him to express my awe and appreciation for the gesture. When I called him he directed my attention to a box on the counter, which I had seen but was unsure if I should open it without him. He directed me to open it, and I opened it to find carrots. He followed by saying, “because bunnies love carrots.” I burst out laughing because this was a reference to an inside joke and it was wildly creative.

 

After I met him downtown, he refused to tell me where we were goin
g until we reached our destination in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, Canoe. I have asked him to go to Canoe during Summer/Winterlicious on multiple occasions, this year included – and now I realize why this years advanced reminders were “ignored.” We were seated along the windows with a view of the south side of the city. It was a nice view being able to eat dinner atop of Toronto amidst the dark sky and city lights.

carddiamondearrings

 

After we placed our order, Dw handed me a card. While I read the card he placed another white box on the table. I opened this box to find diamond earrings, and again he said, “because bunnies love carats.” I was astounded as I started putting it altogether. This was the box that was supposed to be in the original box on the counter and the carrots and carats play on words was ingenious. An amazing start and this was only the beginning of the evening, we hadn’t even got to the food yet. A full review of what we ordered can be found below:

 

cranberry spice

To drink, I debated between the cranberry spice and an olde fashioned winter. I opted for the cranberry spice as our server described the other as having a more boozy taste. The cranberry spice cocktail reminded me of a sweet cider.

cranberryspice

 

Starter: maple salmon candy

The presentation of this dish was exquisite. It looked like a work of art. The salmon pieces were placed on a bed of wild ginger sushi rice adorned with sturgeon caviar, kohlrabi, smoked avocado mousse and fixtures of nori tapioca to add some height and crunch. I can’t recall the exact number of hours our server said the salmon was sous-vide for, but I remember being impressed by the length of time. Whatever length it was, it was well worth it. The maple glaze and taste was present but not overly sweet and the remaining components of the dish were packed with complimenting flavours.

maplesalmoncandy

 

My Main: wagyu tri-tip

Another artistic expression of food on the plate. The beef was framed by the accompanying veggies and popped against the potato puree. I found the tri-tip which I requested medium rare to be cooked perfectly. It was melt in your mouth good and I savoured every single bite.  For me, the braised short rib did not hold a candle when compared to the tri-tip. It did not stand out as special, or any better than other braised short ribs I had. In fact I found the sauce to be salty and over powering that I was looking to pair each bite with vegetables. The molasses onions were a nice touch, I just would have preferred a if it were cooked through a little more. The base which was a little thicker still was quite firm and I have a preference towards cooked and caramelized over raw onions. It was a good dish, the tri-tip was amazing – however at that price point I would want to enjoy all components of the dish so I am unsure if I would order this dish again.

wagyutritip

 

Dw’s main: Ontario lamb saddle

I only had a bite of the lamb, but of the bite that I had was absolutely delicious. The lamb saddle had a thin layer of fat that was not chewy and added a burst of flavour.

ontariolambsaddle

 

My dessert: 64% chocolate mousse

An interesting dessert with unique flavour combinations. The mousse was made with dark chocolate so it wasn’t overly sweet. Dw wasn’t a big fan of it, but I have a preference for dark chocolate so I didn’t mind. I didn’t know what to expect with the spruce tip ice cream but I enjoyed it.

64percentchocolatemousse

 

Dw’s dessert: classic canoe butter tart

I personally haven’t been a big fan of butter tarts, but I was pleasantly surprised with the bite that I had of Dw’s. I found the rye ice cream to have an odd taste, however, if I were to choose between the two desserts I would choose to have this one again.

classiccanoebuttertart

 

I can finally say I ate at Canoe, and after much anticipation I was not disappointed. All in all I had an incredible birthday. Special thanks to Dw for all of his planning and surprises.

Ultimate Surprise Saturday and Brunch at the Drake

This past Saturday my boyfriend (Dw) and I were going to attend the wedding ceremony of one of his co-workers (or so that’s what he led me to believe). After a late night out for a friend’s birthday we had to drag ourselves out of bed and make ourselves wedding presentable. The urgency to get ready finally caught up with me at 9:05AM and we were out the door by 10:10AM.

We arrived at the Humber River area around 10:40AM when I finally ask where the ceremony was being held and Dw responded, “It’s at a yacht club.” We passed sailing school after sailing school and reached the final parking area/dead-end with no yacht club in sight. I asked him if he was sure we were in the right place and he texted his friend and confirmed that we were in the right place. As we were getting out of the car Dw told me that I should leave my purse in the car. By this time I knew something was definitely up. I turned around to see our friend Joey approaching us. And he greeted me saying, “Hello! I’m Joey, your photographer for the day.” My jaw dropped and I’m sure I had a look of bewilderment on my face. I turned again to see Dw taking a bunch of balloons with the #30 out of his trunk.

My wonderful boyfriend surprised me with a photo shoot for the two of us for my 30th birthday.

Below are a couple snapshots my boyfriend took with his phone.

Megan w/30 Balloons

Dw and Meg Selfie

After the photo shoot we had worked up an appetite and decided to go to the Drake Hotel to finally try their famous brunch. I ordered a Caesar and Chicken + Waffle, and Dw ordered Smoked Brisket Rigatoni.

Caesar
This Caesar packed some punch. The spice mix and horseradish definitely give you that kick to wake you up in the morning.

caesar
Chicken + Waffle
This chicken and waffle combination was too die for. The waffle was fluffy and flavourful and I believe I saw some chives within the batter. The chicken was moist and tender and the Niagara cherry jam brought it all together.

chicken and waffle
Smoked Brisket Rigatoni
This was my second choice for entrée (after the Chicken + Waffle) that my loving boyfriend coincidentally ordered. This too was also a solid dish with full bodied flavours and delicious pieces of brisket.

smoked brisket rigatoni
After much anticipation, the Drake did live up to their reputation for brunch and I would definitely go back for their Chicken + Waffle. If you ever end up going to the Drake let me know what you think.

Restaurant in Review: Queen Margherita Pizza

This past Friday, I went to Queen Margherita Pizza’s for the first time to celebrate one of the Bachata Fam’s birthday. (Bachata Fam – what started as the name of a Facebook group message has become what we’ve coined a group of friends that met through dance and share a love for dancing bachata). We went to the Dundas West location (772 Dundas St. West), at first glance I thought we had gone to the wrong location because at street level you could only see a handful of tables, none of which had any familiar faces.  It wasn’t until we strolled up to the front door that I noticed a staircase opening to another much larger floor downstairs.  The restaurant was packed and after eating their delicious food I understand why. Our party sat downstairs where we were able to (if we wanted) watch the chefs work as the restaurant had an open kitchen which featured their wood burning stove.

The restaurant has a Prix Fixe Menu which allows a choice of appetizer, any pizza and dessert for $29. In lieu of buying items a la carte, this menu essentially gives you the a free dessert… and of course I opted to go with the dessert! I had the Arancini, La Scala and Tiramisu and I also sampled what my loving boyfriend ordered: Calamari, The Dominator and a Chocolate Torte. Below you will find pictures and more details about each of the dishes.

Arancini
Classic Italian rice balls with a crispy exterior and a moist and flavourful interior of rice, mushrooms, Parmigiano and caramelized onion. I emphasize moist and flavourful because these were most scrumptious arancini balls I’ve ever eaten.

arancini (Italian rice balls)

Calamari
I’ve had calamari many times, as it’s a go to for shared appetizers with groups. To me a good calamari is one that not only tastes good, but it isn’t rubbery nor soggy, and has a good non-oily breading to squid ratio. QMP’s breading was delectably light and overall the calamari was fresh and tasty.

calamari

La Scala
A white sauce based pizza that features, sweet pork belly, asiago, salmoriglio topped with fresh arugula. I don’t often have white sauce based pizzas but I figured this was the place to try it and the pork belly was calling my name. The pork belly was sweet, soft, and marinated to perfection and all of the condiments worked together to create a harmonious medley of flavours. La Scala was one mouth-watering lip-smacking pizza.

La Scala Pizza

The Dominator
A red sauce based pizza with more familiar flavours but a gourmet version of traditional pizzas with ingredients such as fennel sausage, rapini smoked mozzarella, and fried chili oil. I would recommend this pizza to those who may be less adventurous/prefer to stick with traditional flavoured pizzas.

The Dominator Pizza

TiramisuTiramisu and Chocolate Torte
Tiramisu is one of my favourite desserts, this one was presented in a mason jar and had bold espresso and liquor flavours.

Chocolate Torte
I believe I heard this was a flourless chocolate torte that was full in flavour but not overly sweet. It was accompanied with ice cream and what I think might’ve been chocolate malt flavoured pieces that provided a nice contrast in texture.

At the end of the meal, I was fully satiated with half a pizza to take home to enjoy the next day. In summary, all of the food was exquisite and flavourful – the meal was a steal for $29. I would definitely be a repeat customer and would happily recommend this restaurant for others to try for themselves.

Salsa, the Gateway Dance and the Trifecta Connection

From my experience salsa is one of the most well-known dances amongst non-dancers. For example, when any type of Latin music plays it’s often mistaken for salsa. When I tell people I dance bachata I often get a confused look, then I say it’s a Latin dance like salsa and this is followed by an “ah” of acknowledgement. Even though many people may not know exactly what it is, most people have heard of it and know that it’s a dance.

When people enter the Latin dance world, most do so through salsa. This is why I consider salsa as the gateway dance. Once you’re in the Latin dance world you get exposed to and learn about other dances like cha cha, bachata and kizomba.

What’s the difference between these dances?trifecta connection. Source: Ifreestyle.ca
Each of these dances are danced to different types of music and have their own set of basic steps. Some of these dances more easily lends itself to be remixed with mainstream hits and becomes more recognizable to those outside the dance scene.  I often find that the best dances are when you achieve the trifecta connection between you, your partner and the music. Without getting any more technical about each dance/their music I would say that each dance has its own character.

For me personally, I fell in love with bachata and kizomba early on because of the trifecta. Many songs have the nuances of my favourite genre of music R&B and the dancers are more likely to achieve that connection.  Salsa and cha cha, I find to be the most forgiving dances, all the while being the hardest and most technical. What I mean by forgiving is when salsa is danced in open hold there is a lot of space and room between partners and often tension is not fully transferred between the arms so even if there is slight timing issues the dance can be still go on. For kizomba, which typically requires a closer hold between partners, if there is a miss step you are likely to bump into one another or step on each other’s toes.

Below I’ve included links to some salsa, bachata and kizomba social dances:

Salsa

 

Bachata

 

Kizomba

I’ve been dancing salsa for just over 3 years now and I feel like it is my weakest dance. I know the basics – however the trifecta in salsa often eludes me. Reasons of the elusion could be my own confidence and that I don’t social dance salsa enough and salsa is generally more difficult to get that connection with your partner. My goal is to continually work on my salsa, to be confident and realize the trifecta connection.

I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences or advice about the trifecta connection.