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Best Pho in T.O.

Hi everyone, glad to see this discussion alive and well.

Regarding MSG, I have an MSG allergy and am very sensitive to it. I can eat only a small amount of MSG before I break out in hives. All pho broth contains MSG, but how much depends on where you go (see below for why). The places I'll list not only make great soup but don't cause my MSG allergy to be an issue.

Downtown: Pho Tien Thanh (Queen/Ossington) is still the best soup in the GTA, IMHO. On Bloor, Pho My Duyen near Landsdowne is the best.

East of DVP: Near Riverdale Pho House (Gerrard/Broadview) is amazing and Pho Metro (Lawrence/Warden) is the best of Scarborough, the latter I learned of thanks to a good recommendation here.

North of 401 and also Mississauga: Pho Dau Bo (a bit more MSG but usually a very good bowl) and Pho Mi Asia (like Pho Dau Bo but not as consistent)

Enjoy your bowls.

Why is there MSG in pho broth?
MSG is a glutamate replacement. Glutamate gives the umame flavour which blesses all great soups. Naturally glutamate is found in bones, which is why all great soups use lots of beef and chicken bones to make the stock. Most pho places only use beef bones, the really good ones use both and you can tell by looking at the fat droplets.

Large fat droplets in the pho broth are from beef bones, smaller fat droplets are from chicken bones.

Even soups brimming with bones in the stock need a touch of MSG to top up their umame. Soups lacking bones in the stock need a lot more MSG to get the same umame impact.

May 05, 2013
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)
1

Can you recommend an affordable wedding reception venue with great food?

My better half also says $15,000 is too much.

We are trying to spend around $100 per plate, hopefully including open bar. Original post updated.

Sep 22, 2011
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Can you recommend an affordable wedding reception venue with great food?

My fiancée and I are looking for venues for our wedding reception, and would really appreciate the advice and recommendations of everyone on this forum.

We are modest people who aren't as much concerned with spectacle as our guests having an amazing experience, especially concerning food. We both love well-made food, but not to the point of food elitism.

We are planning on around 80 guests and will need a large dance floor as my culture does folk dancing in a large circle. As I am in the entertainment industry, we will likely have a band and a DJ performing.

Here are our criteria:
Guests = around 80.
Cost = $100 per plate
Open bar.
In Toronto with convenient access to highways/transit and nearby accommodations (for out-of-town guests). Parking should be convenient, as well.
Delicious food.

We are open to outside catering brought into a venue, as well.

As I've worked many banquet hall/hotel events, I have had enough of dry meat doused in a bland sauce served with tasteless vegetables. We want something our guests will remember as being delicious.

We would like a venue that could host an hors d'oeuvre and cocktail reception before dinner, so guests have something to do between the service (in a church) and dinner. We are willing to spend a bit over $100 per plate, if necessary, to ensure our guests won't be hanging out at various Tim Horton's in their nice clothes before the dinner.

While we seldom drink, and will leave the reception before midnight, we would like the party to continue until 1:30-2:00am for our guests to enjoy themselves fully.

A bonus would be a venue where we could also take outdoors photos, although this isn't a necessity.

Any advice or recommendations you would provide will be most helpful and appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help, I hope we are able to provide our guests with a wonderful evening of food and entertainment.

Sep 22, 2011
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Dutchpot on Queen E

I tried the Caribbean Dutchpot yesterday.

I had the oxtail entree and my gf had the curry goat entree (both small) and ate in. The food was excellent, all around. The sides, crisp coleslaw with a vinegar dressing and rice and beans with the entree which were both moist and delicious. While curry goat usually comes with white rice (an option), we didn't mind the rice and beans as it was perfect.

The mains were jaw dropping and mouth watering. Curry goat which was tender and moist with a delicious curry sauce, melts in your mouth. The oxtail didn't wait until my mouth to fall apart, it simply fell off the bone; the knife provided completely unnecessary. Except for homemade, this is among the best oxtail I've had anywhere, including the islands.

I'll have to return for the jerk and stewed chicken as well as the fish (ackee and saltfish as well as snapper are on the menu).

Service is friendly but not attentive, we bused our own tables. Prices are fair, most small entrees are $6.50 (oxtail and saltfish/ackee are $9.50) with large
entrees $2 more. Most items are available as a roti for the same price. Daily lunch specials for $5 (not oxtail or saltfish and ackee).

Along

Jul 04, 2011
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Pho in T.O.

Although I find Pho Mi 99 and Pho Hung in Mississauga to have very bland broths, they are both very clean restaurants. 99 seems to be very popular among local non-Asians.

-----
Pho Hung
350 Spadina, Toronto, ON M5T2G4, CA

Nov 29, 2010
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Pho in T.O.

Charles, I'm disappointed to hear that Pho Tien Thanh didn't deliver. I've even had only-average bowls there. Overall the consistency is very good and broth excellent, and I accept the occasional dud. It's one reason I won't write a review typically without at least a couple of visits.

I did visit Pho Metro today. One of the proprietors started chatting with me when he saw my order. Unfortunately, no Ngo Gai (culantro) as only a single request per month occurs, finacially it doesn't make sense.

His chef did indeed come from Rua Vang. The broth was light and fragrant, similar to Pho House on Gerrard. After I commented about it, the proprietor said they went with the light broth to attract the local population of Chinese and Filipinos. He admits to using a small ampunt of MSG, but contends every Pho needs at least a bit.

The Cha Gio was nice and meaty with chunks of pork and shrimp.

A good bowl, way better than the mediocre Pho at Warden/Eglinton. Pho Vietnam on Kennedy is very strong competition. While they have Ngo Gai they don't have any Vè Dòn, a big letdown for me.

Pho Tien Thanh is still my favorite followed by Pho Dau Bo (Dundas & Finch; not out of town locations) and Pho My Dyuyen on Bloor W.

Pho House on Gerrard is my favourite light, fragrant style pho, and Pho Metro has potential in this style.

Nov 29, 2010
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Pho in T.O.

Thanks for the Pho Metro tip, I'll try it out.

I have lengthy reviews elsewhere, here is a summary:
Best Pho in Toronto - Pho Tien Thanh
The pho curls my toes. Susur is a regular, "The Boss" is his nickname there.

Honourable Mentions (in order):
Pho Dau Bo - tried the Dundas/Dixie location
Pho My Duyen - great decor

Regional Favourites (in order):
Downtown - Pho Tien Thanh, Pho Pasteur
Bloor West - Pho My Duyen
Gerrard/Broadview - Pho House (special mention for Pho w/BBQ chicken), Que Ling, Hanoi 3 Seasons
Mississauga (also Downsview) - Pho Dau Bo, Pho Mi Asia
Scarborough - Pho Vietnam

Once good, now mediocre - Pho Hung, Pho 88, Rua Vang (Golden Turtle)

What I order:
Phõ Tái (Rieng) Vè Dòn = rare beef (on the side), brisket w/fatty tendon
Nuóc Béo Hành Tràn (Rieng) = green scallions in fatty broth (on the side)
and Ngò Gai (sawtooth herb/culantro) is a must!

-----
Pho Tien Thanh
57 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Y9, CA

Oct 07, 2010
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bo 7 Mon - Seven Courses of Beef - The best "non-Pho" Vietnamese meal

Bo 7 Mon is a meal for 2 people usually, sometimes 3.

Kim Bo = $25 meal + tax/tip
Pho My Duyen = $35 meal + tax/tip

When you go to Kim Bo you MUST order the spring rolls. That adds another $5 to the price of the meal. In fact, with groups of friends who have all been to Kim Bo before, everyone usually gets their own order of spring rolls.

Jul 26, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bo 7 Mon - Seven Courses of Beef - The best "non-Pho" Vietnamese meal

Make sure to try out Kim Bo's fried spring rolls. My favourite spring rolls anywhere.

Jul 26, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bo 7 Mon - Seven Courses of Beef - The best "non-Pho" Vietnamese meal

Sounds about right to me. My descriptions could use clarification by someone who is familiar with the dishes.

Jul 26, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Good and reasonably prices Butcher Danforth area

I'll check Royal Beef out, but typically the offerings along the Danforth are few.

Blackstone's Butcher which is just east of Broadview has nice organic and free-range meats. Sticker shock over prices as some things are expensive. I particularly like their organic mild Italian pork sausages (despite preferring spicy sausages) which are very tasty.

Lately, my family has given up on the Danforth. We are going to St. Lawrence Market for our meats. Brown Brothers have been selling good ribs and sausages lately.

Jul 25, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Pho

Hanh Tran is green onion (scallions) roots cut about two inches long. Asking for Nuoc Beo Hanh Tran gives you the cut onions in fatty Pho broth. The Hanh Tran themselves are not mind blowing or extremely tasty, I just love how well they compliment the Pho when I add one to my fully loaded spoon.

Just be careful they don't give you Nuoc Beo as your Pho broth with Hanh Tran inside. The fat in the Nuoc Beo really overpowers Pho soup and upsets the delicate balance of flavours, it is best left on the side with your Hanh Tran.

When I went to Pho Pasteur, that is how they interpreted my "Nuoc Beo Hanh Tran" order (there was a visible layer of fat on the surface of the Pho). The happily replaced the Pho with the proper order and the Hanh Tran on the side.

Jul 25, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bo 7 Mon - Seven Courses of Beef - The best "non-Pho" Vietnamese meal

My first ever Vietnamese meal was when a friend took me for Bo 7 Mon (Seven Courses of Beef) at Kim Bo (Bathurst just north of Dundas), and I have been hooked on both Vietnamese food and the restuarant's Bo 7 Mon ever since.

If you haven't tried it before, do yourself a favour and do it. Bring a friend and an appetite, the meal is quite a feast.

I was wondering if any fellow Chowhounds have tried Bo 7 Mon, and want to post their thoughts on the meal.

I only know of three restaurants in Toronto that serve Bo 7 Mon.

1) Kim Bo (Bathurst north of Dundas) - the original restaurant serving the dish, IIRC, as well as a favourite of many other Vietnamese restaurant owners when they want to go for a special meal. I am surprised how many servers in other Vietnamese restaurants mention Kim Bo is a favourite of theirs when Bo 7 Mon is discussed. $25.

2) Pho My Duyen (Bloor west of Landsdowne) - I haven't tried the Bo 7 Mon here, and although I didn't see it on the menu, the servers tell me it is available for $35. If you've tried this restaurant's Bo 7 Mon how did you like it?

3) Kim Po (Hwy 7 and Leslie) - the landlords to Kim Bo downtown, Kim Po also serves Bo 7 Mon for $25. Not nearly as good as Kim Bo, however, the meal is a bit disappointing.

I would recommend this as a meal for two or three. Although once, when very hungry, I ate it all by myself.

The courses at Kim Bo are (without exact names):
1) Beef Fondue - with fish sauce fondue and rare beef slices this course is a highlight for most diners, especially those who have never tried Bo 7 Mon before.

2 + 3 + 4) Beef wrapped in Tropical Leaf, Grilled Beef stuffed with Onion, and Ground Beef with Herbs - the next three courses arrive on one plate (two pieces for each course). The Leaf wrapped Beef and the Grilled Beef with Onion are excellent, the Ground Beef with Herbs is okay.

5) Stir Fried beef with Diced Carrots and Celery - A decent course, it can be a bit bland. This seems like the least Vietnamese of all the dishes, feeling more like a Chinese or Thai dish. The beef, while marinated, can be a bit bland.

6) Steamed Beef Ball with Herbs and Noodles - What looks like a simple ground beef ball mixed with glass noodles, is not. It is sensational. While appearing heavy, this course is the opposite. The Beef has a very light taste, with an amazing blend of herbs. Always tastes great, and all my guests have loved this course.

7) Beef Congee - I don't like this course at all, and most of my guests don't either. Compared to the rest, it is bland with boring texture. The good news is, at Kim Bo, you can replace this course with extra of another course. Given the popularity of the fondue among my friends, we usually get more rare beef for the fondue, although an extra Steamed Beef Ball is usually very welcome as well.

Are there any other restaurants serving this meal? And what are your thoughts on them and the dish?

Jul 25, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Toronto - Best Pho recommendations?

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374112

Another good chowound thread (more recent reviews as well) including my rundown of about a dozen pho places this year.

Jul 25, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Pho

Hey sorry for the late reply, but you can't post onto this site with the iPhone, one gets "stuck" on the mobile version of the site, with no posting ability... which sucks.

Que Ling - I've tried going a couple of times, but each time they were closed. Anyone know their hours? Much like Hanoi 3 Seasons, it is hard for me to go anywhere other than Pho House when in East Chinatown. Every bowl I've eaten at Pho House has been great, so it is tough to go try the unknown when a personal favourite is staring me in the face.

Pho Pasteur - Tried it out a couple of weeks ago, want to try again before posting a review to test consistency.

Peach Garden - Did not hear of or try this restaurant before now. I saw a location on Spadina, so when I'm in the area I'll drop by. Are there any other locations?

Pho Phuong - Forgot about this spot... I've have never tried this restaurant ever, so will post a review after a couple of visits.

Tien Thanh - I have returned a few times since my review, and left very happy each time. Probably my favourite bowl of Pho in the city today. Still haven't been to Rua Vang in a long time... Like Pho House in East Chinatown, when on Ossington it is tough for me to walk up the street to Rua Vang when every bowl I've had at Tien Thanh has been outstanding. What can you say? I'm a weak man.

And what is with the two Pho threads on Chowhound? I picked this thread to post in as there were more 2009 postings (and more detailed reviews) than the other thread. I've noticed since bumping this thread, the other Pho thread popped up with quick reviews. Is there a competition between the threads? It just seems strange the two threads weren't merged.

Jul 25, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Pho

Davedigger, thanks I will be sure to check Pho Linh out shortly.

Onto my ongoing "research" into the current crop of Pho restaurants, I've tried to go to each restaurant at least twice, but where I haven't I made note. Pardon the length, I am commenting on a lot of Pho restaurants.

Chinatown Downtown: Pho Hung, Kim Bo, Pho 88;
aka: "Out with the Old"
Pho Hung: was my go-to Pho restaurant while on the Spadina strip or in Yorkville. Over the past couple of years I have been very disappointed in how the quality has slipped at Pho Hung. In fact, being very disappointed on recent visits led me to find new Pho restaurants as a replacement. Sadly, I can no longer recommend this one-time Pho favourite. The Pho lacks depth and complexity: it is a neutered version of its former self.

Kim Bo: although I know this restaurant more for the Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses/Styles of Beef) which is excellent, I used to have good bowls of Pho here. Again, like Pho Hung, their Pho has slipped, and is no longer that tasty. Like Pho Hung it lacks complexity and depth in the broth, with the current version paling in comparison to the Pho from several years ago. The Bo 7 Mon is what this restaurant is famous among the Vietnamese community for, and that is still an excellent meal for two. Kim Bo also has my favourite Vietnamese Spring Rolls anywhere: pricey, yet unbelievably delicious.

Pho 88 (Spadina location): I haven't been here in a long time, last time I visited I was very underwhelmed by the food which was not nearly as well made as it used to be many years ago.

I still have not tried Pho Pasteur, but am very disappointed at the lack of quality Vietnamese restaurants in the Chinatown area. I once took for granted that Pho Hung and Pho 88 were good Pho destinations on Spadina, but now I miss that level of quality in Chinatown. Kim Bo is still great but not their Pho.

Chinatown East: Pho House (formerly Pho House 88), Xe Lua, Hanoi 3 Seasons;
Pho House: What used to be the Pho 88 restaurant on Gerrard, East of Broadview, now has new owners. And a new name: Pho House Vietnamese Noodle Restaurant. The quality of food has also gone up. The Pho was good before, and now it is excellent. Living nearby, this has become my local go-to Pho restaurant. And I am not alone, as this is one of the hottest neighbourhood restaurants in the area. Pho House is getting more regular business from locals than any other Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown East.

The broth, although not as heavy and complex as some, is wonderfully tasty with amazing aroma. It is one of the more fragrant broths in Toronto. The rare beef slices could be thicker, but overall the portion size is good. They even have Ve Don (well-done brisket) as a Pho option, which I enjoy but is not available everywhere. As a fan of Culantro (Ngo Gai) I had to ask specifically for it initially (now they know me), the owners told me they don't serve Culantro to non-Asians automatically as often it is unused and goes to waste. Sometimes the Thai Basil not as fresh as other Pho restaurants listed here, overall it is not a problem. Be aware that they often microwave their spring rolls before serving, which makes them mushy and not that pleasant. I have criticized them for it, and when I have received fresh spring rolls they were very good.

Xe Lua: I was very unimpressed by my recent visit. Although I only visited Xe Lua once, I was so underwhelmed by the Pho that I have little desire to return a second time. The broth was bland and lacking depth and fragrance. I was also not impressed with the noodles they served with the Pho, which were much thicker than I like. A very boring and uninspired bowl of Pho, I really don’t care to return to try them out again.

I visited Hanoi 3 Seasons, but was a bit under the weather. I think my palate was affected so I have to return and try the Pho again, as I was not impressed by my experience. I will return and post a better review.

Toronto (other): Pho My Duyen, Pho Tien Thanh, Pho Vietnam;
Pho My Duyen: A very complex broth in their Pho, it is very rich and has lots of depth. Overall a very good Pho choice, with very nice decor. I am unsure about the MSG content of their Pho. When I ate Pho in the early afternoon I think there was MSG, but not in the evening as I didn’t get the same feeling in my gut after eating.

They also serve Ve Don but when I ordered a "Pho Tai Song, Ve Don" I got so little brisket, and the pieces I did get were paltry, I sent back the soup for a better portion. A bit disappointing that they would try and serve paltry Ve Don portions as overall the portion size is very good at Pho My Duyen. The "Tai Song" (very rare flank) was already cooked in the broth, if you want very rare just ask for it on the side. Bonus points for extremely fresh Thai Basil and Culantro (served automatically) on every visit. Negative points for the $35 (!!) price for the Bo 7 Mon meal (as compared to the $25 Bo 7 Mon at every other Vietnamese restaurant that serves the dish).

Pho Tien Thanh: A simply amazing bowl of Pho. During my recent (and only) visit to Tien Thanh on a Saturday afternoon Rua Vang sat nearly empty up the street while Tien Thanh was filled to capacity with Vietnamese and Chinese diners. Clearly the locals have their preference, although I have not been to Rua Vang in many years. The Pho itself was wonderfully fragrant with good depth and complexity to the broth. The portion size was generous and the garnishes very fresh, Culantro provided automatically. They do charge 50¢ extra for the Hanh Tran, however. I had a chance to talk to the owner while visiting and he actually thought I was a reviewer for Toronto Life . The mag had recently contacted them about doing an upcoming story on the restaurant. I politely denied any association with the mag, and did not mention this review. I will be back as the Pho is excellent.

Pho Vietnam: A single visit while working in Scarborough left me with a very good impression. Excellent broth that was very fragrant with good depth. Not as complex as Pho Dau Bo, the broth is more similar to Pho House in East Chinatown, forsaking some depth for a very tasty and fragrant broth. The noodles were also excellent with a unique (almost delicate) consistency. Although I can’t remember all the other Pho restaurants I’ve visited in Scarborough, Pho Vietnam has quickly become my favourite Scarborough Pho spot. They thought I had Vietnamese parents based upon my order, which I’ll take as a compliment. No Ve Don option, however, and I had to ask for Culantro.

I have to return to Rua Vang (Golden Turtle). I have had good experiences many years ago, but will investigate to see if Rua Vang can still deliver a good bowl of Pho.

GTA: Kim Po, Pho Dau Bo, Pho Mi Asia;
Kim Po: Like Kim Bo, their tenants downtown, Kim Po has slipped considerably in the quality of Pho. Although never spectacular, the Pho today is simply mundane. A lack of complexity and depth in the broth as well as relatively meagre portions, mean I no longer look forward to Kim Po while visiting Richmond Hill.

Pho Dau Bo: A very complex and deep broth in their Pho. They have one of the heaviest Pho broths around, along with Pho My Duyen. I find Pho Dau Bo to have a better balance of flavours compared to Pho My Duyen, and no hint of MSG either. The Pho is excellent with generous portions and very fresh garnishes (Culantro automatically). They sometimes serve a lot of Cilantro (not Culantro) in the soup, which I tend to take out for balance. The service can also be rude, but the Pho makes up for it. This is a favourite among Mississauga locals, and while in Kitchener I found that many locals also knew of their local Pho Dau Bo as well. Although not nearly as well made as the Mississauga location, the Kitchener location’s Pho was decent.

Pho Mi Asia: Just down the block from Pho Dau Bo in Mississauga, Pho Mi Asia is a strong competitor. Featuring much better decor and friendlier service, it is a more inviting restaurant. The Pho is excellent as well. The first time I went, I was not blown away, but on recent visits I was very impressed with the quality of Pho. The broth is both fragrant and complex with good depth. Portion sizes are generous, and they also serve Ve Don option with good size pieces of brisket. The garnishes are fresh with Culantro automatically served. Pho Mi Asia barely edges out Pho Dau Bo for quality and taste, although it is a very close decision. Both restaurants offer excellent Pho.

Jul 07, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Post Bar/Late Night Eats

In Chinatown I definitely prefer The Garden on Dundas St. East of University Ave. over all other Chinese restaurants. Since the renovation it also has the best decor and atmosphere. Of course, I prefer the food over other Chinese spots. Not a fan of Swatow.

I also like Pho Pasteur for late night Pho.

In the Club District, Burrito Boyz and Burrito Banditos hit the spot.

Mel's Diner us my diner of choice over Vesta and Fran's. 7 West is a good spot for a light snack and coffee, although expensive.

Along the Danforth, Messini has great gyros, not sure of how late they're open, however.

Jun 05, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Pho

Hello everyone, longtime lurker first time poster. I have been a fan of Pho and Vietnamese food for around 12 years. This past year, in an effort to eat better while eating out, I have been eating Pho and Vietnamese cuisine regularly. But being out of circulation has left me a bit disappointed with some of my old standbys like Pho Hung, Kim Bo, and Pho 88, so I have been searching around. Including on these forums. ;)
I have been making a tour of Toronto/GTA sampling as many good Pho restaurants as I can. Over the next month or so I hope to visit them all a couple of times. Here is a list of restaurants I have visited or will visit in my (hopefully) comprehensive review:

Chinatown Downtown: Pho Hung, Kim Bo, Pho Pasteur, Pho 88;
Chinatown East: Pho House (formerly Pho House 88), Hanoi 3 Seasons, Xe Lua;
Toronto (other): Pho My Duyen, Rua Vang, Pho Tien Thanh, Pho Vietnam;
GTA: Pho Mi Asia, Pho Dau Bo, Kim Po

My list, though extensive, is far from complete. If you know any other restuarants I should visit, please let me know.

When I eat Pho, here is how I like it:
Regular Size: Pho Tai, Chin Nac (Rare beef, with sliced well done brisket); Nuoc Beo Hanh Tran (cut shallots in hot fatty Pho broth) on the side which I eat with the meat; I first smell and taste the broth and then I like to add Thai Basil (Rau Que), Culantro (Saw Leaf Herb)/(Rau Ngo Gai), and Lime to balance the taste. I will add Bean Sprouts to the stock shortly before eating (sometimes I order blanched Bean Sprouts (Gia Chin) these days). Hoisin and Sriracha I keep in a small sauce bowl and sparingly use them to flavour my meat just before eating. I usually forgo the sauces in favour of biting into the raw Chili Peppers as I eat.

I like a complex stock with good body. I also prefer restaurants that have Culantro and cut shallots (Hanh Tran) available. When I order the Nuoc Beo Hanh Tran, I taste the fatty broth (Nuoc Beo) to sample the Pho stock on "steroids" as well.

I like to order Pork Spring Rolls (Cha Gio) when I go to a new Vietnamese restaurant. I'm trying to find the best Vietnamese Spring Roll too. :)

I hope to post the first set of reviews shortly, I sure am enjoying the research.

Jun 04, 2009
VooX in Ontario (inc. Toronto)