Jackson’s Burger

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Jackson's burger

Despite using similar naming conventions as some gum-and-cigarette convenience stores, Jackson’s Burger turns out to be quite an interesting place, at least when it comes to the menu. There are more special burgers than I can remember, but suffice to say there’s a lamb burger, a beef patty covered with peanut butter and jam, and the usual “weird” options such as burgers topped with onion rings or lots of bacon.

 

menu

Just a small sample of some of the menu options

Quirky burger stops are practically a sub-genre in Toronto—like I said—sandwiches with fried egg or secret sauce are the norm. Jackson’s interior is nothing special: a small, downtown location with enough room for four reasonably comfortable tables and a bathroom; at least it isn’t cramped.

jackson's burger

What I found interesting was how the patties are made out of 100% Halal meat, with the option for a gluten free bun. Even the vegan option sounded intriguing: a burger with a chickpea patty that celebrated vegetables instead of making them into imitation meat. Be ye Muslim, vegetarian or celiac (or some cruel combination of the last two) this is a really friendly place.

halal

Alright, alright, we’ve already established the menu’s options are great, aware of people’s different needs and offering a lot of specialties, but that isn’t worth a bowl of gluten-free kale chips if the actual burgers are sub par. While I’m no burger aficionado—as evidenced by how my sandwich looks halfway through a meal—I can tell a juicy homemade patty from a dystopian slop squeezed out of the nearest Burger King. And Jackson’s is definitely the former, delivering savoury, moist patties with the best kind of char I’ve seen from a flat top.

 

Cheeseburger

Burgetta: with bruschetta mix, provolone cheese, fried eggplant, lettuce & pesto

During a family trip here, we got to try three different burgers: a chicken burger (filled with Philadelphia cream cheese and spinach) a Burgetta (Italian cheese, meat and herbs) and the Burgeritto (Mexican toppings, including a so-called “Avocado Explosion”). I found the Burgetta to be fascinatingly pleasant, tasting almost like a wood-oven pizza. With the melted provolone cheese infused with bruschetta. It was delicious.

chicken burger

My Nana’s Chicken Burger

Likewise, grilled chicken mixed with a creamy spinach cheese combo adds a ton of flavour to an otherwise normal sandwich. My order, the Burgeritto, was chosen as it was one of the more unusual options that I was actually willing to eat. That’s me, I’d eat crickets, but not the peanut butter/jam burger. Let’s just say they weren’t lying when saying it was an avocado “explosion”.

 

avocado burger

In case you were wondering where the guacamole was…Inside the brown fritter atop the patty

Avocado and beef go pretty well together; both bring a savoury, slightly fatty taste to the table, and the explosion’s clever breadcrumb shell kept the topping neatly inside the burger. To complement this was were some diced tomatoes and sour cream, adding a bit of tartness, and dusted onions for a little finisher. Pair this with a massive box of delicious, homemade french fries and you’ve got a perfect fast foodish meal.

avocado burger

My burger before the avocado explosion

 

Since Zomato has added a rating system, each review of mine will be paired with a 1 to 5 star ranking. While I understand the reasons for this, I feel it undermines the complexity of certain recommendations for my readers; what one person might consider a 5 star restaurant would be a one 1 star to someone else. So I decided to experiment with a loose pros and cons list.

Zomato

Pros: Jackson’s Burger intriguing burger combos, inclusive menu and the overall quality of the food itself. I’d definitely recommend it to people craving a burger while near or in downtown.

Cons: Really the only problem is Jackson’s small seating. Although I wasn’t fond of the music on the radio, that’s advanced nit-picking for a great burger place. If you live far from downtown—like in North York or Scarborough—you might want a closer establishment, but Jackson’s Burger is definitely a good Toronto meat-on-bread diner.

Jackson’s Burgers 374 Yonge Street

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Eulalie’s Corner Store

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Gerrard_Street,_Toronto

The neighborhood I live in is very interesting, mostly because it’s an experiment of how many different walks of life can fit into four city blocks. For instance, my house is located in a slightly ghetto but still safe and clean part of town, next to an abandoned store, empty used car lot and a sketchy bar. Two minutes away is the vibrant and exotic Little India, mix-mashed with more closed stores and middle class hangouts.

yuppie

Okay, here’s a bit of a problem. My neighborhood is being infused with middle class, local establishments, and that colours my review of a Canadian restaurant right in the middle of Little India. But I really can’t write about this without coming off as racist towards rich white people. What do I call them? Soccer mom and yuppie are common terms, but are derogatory, and I know I’ll get comments for using a word like dink or cracker. I’ve done my best to present things as neutrally as possible, but if there’s a way to talk about middle class Caucasians in an ethnic neighborhood without sounding bigoted, please let me know.

I mention this because local cafes Lazy Daisy and Flying Pony give off a very different vibe than what the rest of Little India gives, and newer places are opening up all the time to appeal to that same demographic. Eulalie’s Corner Store—or Eulalie’s for short—is part of this new trend, and I’ll talk about that later.

My mom and I had decided to sit outside during dinner, to enjoy the summer pleasures of being harassed by wasps and napkin-stealing breezes. An outside patio is the main seating area; the indoor space being cramped. This emphasize on outdoor seating brings up Eulalie’s first problem, albeit it’s one with their business model and not customer satisfaction. Patio dining is great during summer or the milder parts of spring and fall, but when the city gets covered in snow and ice, the novelty wears a little thin.

Oh look at that, three paragraphs in and I haven’t talked about the food, but did mention optimal business approaches and racial tensions. The blog got off course again, d@mn it. Well, at least you know how long it takes waiting for dinner at this place. We arrived at Eulalie’s probably around 7:40 and didn’t get our plates until 8:20, and that’s a conservative estimate. The long wait time gives you plenty to do: get annoyed by the loud customers, wonder what the odds are of a horrific disaster occurring within the next five minutes, or pick a fight with an intrusive wasp (I hate wasps).

 

Weird people and stubborn wasps notwithstanding, the wait time is long for a sandwich and fried chicken on waffles. My personal thinking is that Eulalie’s is intended to be a social place for friends to chat and laugh over booze—like a classy, alcoholic water cooler—and that customers would be so engrossed in loud conversation to not notice how long the food is taking. By that logic, anyone who brings an awkward first-time date might feel something closer to a relativistic effect, but I digress.

If the food was good, I might say the meal is worth bearing through all the time dilation. Spoilers, it’s not. My fried chicken pieces atop potato waffles weren’t bad by any means, but won’t be winning any awards either. The breading was crispy and edible, covering boneless chicken that was neither dry nor succulent. It overplayed thin but soft potato waffles that offered some sweetness and not much else. On the side of this John Smith of a dish was a type of wine sauce, probably the best part of the meal in terms of originality, but still average. It’s a bad sign when the best word I used to describe my meal was edible.

It’s basically the same song and dance for Mom’s fried green tomato sandwich, tasty but one could find good sandwiches at the cafe Lazy Daisy two blocks away, so I won’t go into this too much. There are some good things to Eulalie’s, such as the homemade mayo and ketchup that came with the tomato sandwich, or the wine sauce with my dish. Although anything’s better than store bought condiments, homemade stuff still adds a lot of flavour. Mom found the prices to be good, I didn’t as much because I’m a complete cheapskate. And for those who’d rather an inside pub, there is a mini bar next to a TV screen and three seating tables—like I said, it’s small.

The fact of the matter is, this is not really a place focused in food.  If you’re into the whole beer patio friend hangout thing, that’s fine. Just be sure the conversation will last till dinner arrives. At the least, Eulalie’s is part of an interesting social experiment. The people who visited Little India pre-Lazy Daisy won’t be going here, nor will many of those at Eulalie’s be seen hitting up the local buffets. So there’s a middle class suburban culture of Canadians who go to organic food markets, have evening social events and spend twelve bucks on a sandwich, right next to an Indian bazaar. And I’m not criticizing that by any means—just because I don’t like Eulalie’s doesn’t mean I don’t love going to Flying Pony or Lazy Daisy’s. In regards to Eulalie’s, if it’s all the same, I’d rather eat butter chicken or chana masala.

Eulalie’s Corner Store 1438 Gerrard Street East
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Moti Mahal

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Moti Mahal

What is Moti Mahal? It appears to be one of the more successful restaurants of Toronto’s Little India, a culturally rich but ever changing neighborhood with exotic clothing and jewelry stores, fancy cafes and abandoned buildings. Moti Mahal would look like a simple fast food restaurant to any uninformed window shoppers, but after taking the red pill and eating here, I discovered a hidden gem and secret history. No, this isn’t a rant post, you’ll have to try again next time.

Angry rant

Although I can refer you to Google if that’s what you’re looking for.

What up until the time of writing I thought was a local Indian restaurant, it turned out to have a much more important history. The story of Moti Mahal begins in the 1900s in the Punjab region of Pakistan—which was still India—with a man named Kundan Lal Gujral. Losing his father at age ten, he worked at a restaurant which revolutionized the art of making tandoori chicken.

Tandoor Oven

A tandoor is a clay pot used as an oven, but Gujral was the first to dig a tandoor into the floor of his eatery, making the dish popular and Gujral’s services vey popular. In 1947, The British brought about partition; separating the great country into India and Pakistan. Gujral fled to India, and arrived in New Delhi poor but hopeful. He then re-started his business into what is today Moti Mahal.

Moti Mahal is now a chain with over 120 locations, including the one three blocks away from my house in Toronto, which among other things happens to be the inventor of modern Dal Makhani and Butter Chicken. Wait wait wait, what?! Yeah, that’s right, Moti Mahal invented one of the more popular Indian dishes back in the 50’s. Don’t believe me? Well then check the Wikipedia page, because apparently they have one.

MotiMahal seating
Since I hadn’t learned Moti Mahal’s history until after eating there, my opinion was formed as a regular diner’s experience. The decor isn’t much to talk about, since it appears to be AWOL, and the seating comprises of cafeteria style bolted-down benches and tables. Even though the interior is lacking, the prices are really low in comparison to the food’s quality.
Menu

Decisions, decisions

Upon looking at the wall-mounted menu behind the ordering counter, one notices the large number of dishes. Or in my case, one notices the thing that will keep you staring at the wall indecisively for minutes on end. I eventually settled on the number 7 option from the special menu, a huge plate with naan and a smorgasbord of other dishes in smaller portions.

Butter Chicken Thali

My lunch had butter chicken (rather fitting in hindsight), chana masala, bisrani (rice with flavouring) and an onion dumpling in yogurt sauce. Let’s start with the butter chicken. It had generous amount of tender, boneless chicken marinating in a creamy, fresh sauce. The sweet/savoury combination that characterizes butter chicken was spot on, and very warm. It might not be the best I’ve had, but pretty damn good. As for the chana masala, it was amazing. The well-cooked chickpeas were the ideal vessel for a perfect sauce. Unlike most chana dishes I’ve had, this one had very little acidity and a much richer flavour—a little bit was quite filling. The taste could be described as earthy, or as I like to say, umami, and there was just enough spice to bring it all together.

Kathi Roll

My mom’s paneer kathi roll

The biryani surprised me on the first bite. As opposed to just plain rice, it had been treated with a sweet and herbaceous flavouring, making it more suitable to be eaten alone than as a vessel for sauce—I guess that’s what the gigantic pieces of bread were for. Speaking of which, the naan was pretty decent, could’ve been fluffier in my opinion, but I’m a sucker for flatbread and it filled its purpose. As for the onion dumpling yogurt sauce thing—yeah I forget the Indian name okay?!—it matched the other dishes. The yellow stew gave off a mild sourness, brought down by its smoothness. This worked in tangent with the dumpling—a dense but soft, moist ball meant to be chewed with ease.

Pakora

Their pakora; big as a baseball

Overall, I very much recommand Moti Mahal, it has delicious food for a great price. I can also vouch for the pakora and samosas, two or three of which can make up a lunch for someone on a budget: I order it regularly and I’m a penny-pinching b@stard. If you come here, try it at least once, there’s a reason Moti Mahal is always crowded.

Moti Mahal 1422 Gerrard St E

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The 100th Post

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Well, the title kind of says it all, doesn’t it? After 4 years, something like this was actually kind of inevitable, in spite of the six-month hiatus. At the least, we had better odds of a one hundredth post than the Leafs do at winning a game. Jeez, even if 99 posts isn’timpressive, the stats certainly are. It kind of goes without saying that a lot has changed, both personally and globally, but this blog has been through some of Toronto’s dark days. So why did I start it, or continue to make new posts?

Gta toronto

That’s what 2012 felt like anyways.

I’m an aspiring writer, and blogging was my family’s idea to get me started on practice. I like food enough to write at length about it—sometimes too long—and as the process got easier, it became more fun. As time went on, my writing, hopefully, got better. It has evolved somewhat since I first started. One major change is that my asides are shorter—like this—instead of long bracketed monsters (much more like this(and sometimes like this)). That’s largely because of family who helped me with the blog, I couldn’t have written it without them. I’ve done two things: first was to visit Dangerous Dan’s, my second post, to re-review it, and to list some basic stats about Callumeatstoronto. Stat #1, that was the first time I’ve ever written my blogs name in a post—that was easy.

Funny demotivational poster

Redundant caption on captioned picture

Here’s the hard numbers, which are thankfully not as boring/life ruining as stock prices. Of the 99 posts, 71 are restaurant reviews, the rest are cuisine/other posts. Some will surely be missed, such as the fantastic Dukem, and others were sadly not that much of a loss, like Pauline’s Chicken and Donuts. In all, 11 have gone the way of Stephen Harper’s approval rating. My most popular posts are: 1, Fast Food, 2, Japanese Cuisine and 3, Fancy Frank’s. Apparently I should do more cuisine posts. The number of yearly hits was 4,000 in 2011, rising up to 19,000 in 2014, going up in tangent with the U.S. debt.

US debt graph

Oops.

So, how did Dangerous Dan’s do? I first wrote a post on it in 2011, after my very first post about New Haandi 2000, which isn’t any “newer” now than it was then. Now Dan’s is facing the possibility of closing, if they get sold to a new owner, and we wanted to eat there before it’s gone. And the verdict for me was pretty good.

Dangerous Dan's

 

It still retained its characteristic theme, family friendly yet purposefully crash, complete with car seat chairs next to a Simpsons billboard. And as for the food, just look at this d@mn thing.

Burger

The Big Kevorkian : Fried onion, fried mushrooms, 2 slices fried bacon, deep fried pickle, garlic dressing & mayo

 

Yeah, Double D’s hadn’t changed much in four years, that’s a good thing. For old times’ sake, I ordered the Elvis Shake once again

Milkshake

Circa 2011

That was then.

Milkshakes

Circa 2015

This is now.

I just wanted to thank everyone who has read my posts, especially my subscribers. This blog would’ve been nothing without a readership. It’s gotten all the way to hovering around 85 on UrbanSpoon’s ranking, and while I wrote the blog, it was you who got it there. Thanks so much for all your support!

Bach Yen

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Que Ling

We had originally planned to review Que Ling and had even taken outside pictures, but something… unexpected happened. We were kicked out, within about half a minute of walking in—maybe more like 40 seconds—a record-breaking time regardless. They told us to take a seat, and then claimed the restaurant closes at seven, despite the fact a guy who walked in literally at the same time was allowed to stay. All kinds of reasons went through my head, that they didn’t like bloggers, had all of their tables reserved,  to maybe some kind of prejudice against certain customers. But either, d@mn that was a quick time, even Soup Nazi would be shocked.

Bach Yen

 

The closest other Phò restaurant, Bach Yen, was forgiving in that they actually liked paying customers. I was rapidly overwhelmed by the very bright interior.  As my eyes adjusted to the pitch, they revealed a decor of cheap furniture and one (maybe two) Asian paintings. But in many areas of Toronto, restaurants have an appearance many times worse than this, but have incredibly good food. This was—{breathes}—definitely not that.

Dining chairs

 

Let’s do a Pros and Cons list. What were the pros of the appetizers? There were pretty cheap: we afforded both the veggie spring rolls (order #3) and chicken satay (order #4) with peanut butter sauce, without having to mug someone for spare change! The cons? Everything else.

Spring rolls

 

The spring rolls tasted weird, not the weird flavour of pure genius, but rather the cacophony of bad ideas someone who thinks they’re genius would make. I really shouldn’t blame Bach Yen however, but rather the grocery store they got the frozen boxes from. Same could be said of the chicken sauce, I made a better peanut dish at home, all I did was crack open a jar and spread it on a tortilla wrap. I didn’t even add honey. By the way, the chicken was a bit chewy, and mom felt like it was a frozen product too.

Chicken satay

 

But maybe the appetizers aren’t the chef’s speciality. Maybe it’s a restaurant based off of one or two dishes and the rest are menu filler. The rare beef and beef ball phò (order 327) was going to put that to the test.

Pho soup

 

Unfortunately, we’ll never know, since all I got was a bowl of alien, brown liquid. I’m not saying I could ever make phò—unless stealing a bowl from someone else counts as “cooking”—but I can taste it. I’m on the easier side of the food world, I can’t produce my own stuff, but can judge who deserves praise and money like a dad with too many kids. As a soup, it wasn’t bad, but the only interesting flavour was a flowery back note. In a dish with many tastes mixing together, this would’ve been good, but in a slightly salty broth, it sticks out like a cuss word in kindergarten. This was the only time I hadn’t turned a bowl upside down to drink every last drop of the phò, there could’ve been a prize lurking in the bland depths and I would’ve been none the wiser.

 

 

Bean sprouts

The usual condiments that come with Pho

There’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”, to which I reply, “Shut up you nasally parasite!” I also hear a second voice telling me to go back on the meds, but that’s not important at the moment. In order to be balanced and fair, there are some good qualities to Bach Yen, much like how a graph of the economy has upwards climbs of hope before crashing down into the abyss of Wall Street-esque anarchy.

Tea

 

I liked the tea, there were flowers in the pot which added a meadowy perfume to the drink, although I found myself picking microscopic petal fragments out of my cup like a passive-aggressive OCD sufferer. The service was friendly and quick, shame about the food though. I was thinking if someone wanted to open a can-opener Vietnamese diner, they should’ve have done so far away from Chinatown, where there are a host of better done Phò eateries.

 

Rare beef pho

Bach Yen wasn’t horrible, but it was pretty bad. I understand cooking is hard, but customers—put very nicely—don’t give a flying rat’s @$$. If you have a critic light years higher calibre than me, the kind of guy who exhumes pretentiousness and already had a rare truffle dish today, s/he’s not going to care either. You could go to Bach Yen and pay to have someone heat packaged food for you, or you could go to a better chef, or you could whip up your own experimental disaster at home yourself. Either way, I’m not recommending this.

Bach Yen 738 Gerrard St E.
Bach Yen on Urbanspoon

Sushi Friends

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sushi friend outside
See?  I’m back!  I said I’d still be blogging on this site, I never lie.   I just take writing breaks the length of a human pregnancy, at least it wasn’t as long as an elephant’s term.  The restaurant I’m reviewing is Sushi Friends, which can best be summarized as a friendly sushi place.
Given that I’ve been to a favourite Japanese restaurant prior to eating here, it wasn’t going to be an easy win for Sushi Friends.  But actually, (spoilers) they did pretty good.  

 bento box

My mom ate two servings of Philadelphia rolls, and I had the Queen Bento Box.  That came with miso soup, seaweed salad, 8 pcs California rolls, 3pcs Daily sushi rolls, 2pcs Shrimp Tempura, 5 pcs Vegetable and I chose Chicken Teriyaki out of Beef Teriyaki and Beef Ribs. 

miso 

Miso’s miso, so there isn’t much to review there.  I did notice the outside of the bowl wasn’t fully cleaned, being an expert on badly-washed dishes myself.  This as the only dirty plate I noticed, so it’s completely possible that was the only one out of 100 clean dishes.   So it’s not a problem, but worth mentioning.  

 seaweed salad

The seaweed salad, for those curious, has a texture similar to glass noodles.  Chewy, fresh and clean.  I really liked its refreshing, green taste and sesame sauce.  I could imagine sitting outside with that dish on a bright summer day, whilst getting a horrific neck burn and watching ugly shirtless men walk by.  Now I’ll go onto the least-good dish, worded that way because nothing I ate here was bad.   The chicken teriyaki had a weak sauce, but the meat itself was perfect.  I hadn’t noticed this before, but there’s a certain taste and feel to good teriyaki meat, and this chicken had it.  But the sauce didn’t hold up to the chicken, like pairing a 3-star meal with a bag of Ruffles.  

 philadelphia roll

The sushi was put together well, this coming from the guy who can hardly roll a tortilla wrap without it coming apart.  The ingredients were colourful and fresh, especially the fish.  That’s quite impressive considering how far away Toronto is from either coast—I’ve never caught imitation crab in Lake Ontario.  What really surprised me was the shrimp tempura, it was light and fluffy, kind of like a raccoon before it shows teeth.  The veggie tempura also stood out: the eggplant was really thick and generous.  There’s no pictures because I ate it—this is a me-eating-things blog, what do you expect, photos

 ice cream

So, what is that thing?   That is banana tempura, yes you can read that sentence again to make sure it isn’t an impossibly late onset of dyslexia.  It’s hot, gooey banana covered in a light tempura and drizzle of chocolate sauce.  The ice cream on the side was Green Tea flavoured, because why not?  The ice cream, just to describe it, is pretty mild with a back note of green tea, and isn’t that sweet.  It was perfect with this dessert, a chocolate-covered soft-serve vanilla twist would’ve been a bit out of place.   The banana was delicious, cooking it really brings out the sweetness, and it mixed with the other, maybe slightly random, ingredients perfectly.  This is a great dish to sneak potassium into your kid’s diet.  But if you’re like me you’ll require a skilled group of Japanese chefs to pull off the dish, so shoving bananas down the little brat’s throat works too.  Ah, that’s why I didn’t write a parenting blog, okay.  

 sushi friend inside

In other notes, the decor was fancy enough to be comfortable, but not so classy as to instill the awkward feeling of having to wear a tie at the table.  I liked watching tennis on the T.V., since I’m such a professional critic that stands out in my mind more than things like atmosphere or chef’s technique.  The service was polite, and quick enough that I wasn’t turning the table cloth into an appetizer 2 days after ordering.  I don’t like waiting for food, this place doesn’t make you wait.    On a side note, the bathrooms are clean, so you don’t need to pick between bodily discomfort or a post-modern dungeon of horrors.  Washrooms are part of reviewing a restaurant too, even though they aren’t that appetizing—hopefully that’s not just me—it’s important in my book.   
All in all, is Sushi Friends a good place with tasty food, and solid service/decor.  The prices were great, so you can bring someone here and not rely on the cheap ba$@rd to pay his own godd@mn bill.  No, I wasn’t projecting, honest.  If you’re an easy walk, car ride or subway ride away, Sushi Friends is a local place worth checking out.  
Sushi Friends 397 Danforth Avenue

Sushi Friends on Urbanspoon

Blog Update

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Oh dear, I forgot to post on this thing for moths.  And I left the ‘n’ out of months, but nobody noticed.  I’ve been busy for a long time, and so has my Mom, who did most of the work due to her editing.  I’ve sort of exhausted the whole ‘food reviews’ premise, and decided to quit.  Bye.  What, you expected more?  Fine, who am I to be such a jerk to my subscribers after a such a long dry spell?  


My mom’s been getting a new career, and with our finances changing, eating out at restaurants wasn’t a priority. Somehow this blog has remained active since August, staying at 85 out of 250 on UrbanSpoon’s ranking. There’s probably someone around 260 who posts everyday and is rather pi$$ed at me. But things have changed since when I last posted, Dinosaurs going extinct being a good example. Zomato—a huge restaurant reviewing website with footholds as far away as Sri Lanka—has bought out UrbanSpoon. I don’t know if UrbanSpoon is going to be kept running, or if we’re going to have to move to Zomato’s website.  


But there’s also another thing: I’m starting another blog. It’s really different from this one—more serious too, in parts—but it’s something that I’ve been needing to write for a while. That wasn’t vague at all. I’m going to post once a month in each blog, and I’ll have links in micro-posts for any developments on the new blog or the whole Zomato thing.


Hopefully you’ll check out and like my new blog, although it isn’t up and running yet (micro-post on this blog when it is ) .  I’m sorry for not posting since however ridiculously long it’s been, but I’m going to work on both blogs now.  So—if things go well—see you soon.  Not literally…and now I’ve ruined the ending.  Just read two sentences back to end this perfectly, bye and thanks once again.  Also sorry about the no-posting.  Alright…now I’m done.