In Somewhere Spotlight, you’ll find three sections – Explore, Food & Drink, Products, each with four elements. Hopefully you’ll find something new to try – a brand, restaurant, neighbourhood or sweet treat.
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I’ve been dying to visit Roncesvalles for some time, but I wanted to wait until Phase 3 so that I could pop into some of the incredible shops (continuing to practice social distancing and following safety measures, of course). Safe to say that it was well worth the wait.
The main stretch that extends down Roncesvalles from Dundas St. W. to Queen St. W is dotted with great shops and a couple of restaurants and to-go options. My favourite shops were The Mercantile (gourmet grocer with plenty of incredible condiments, bitters and spices), Scout (the only gift & card shop that I find something to buy every single time I go; they also have a location in Leslieville), Likely General (beautifully curated shop featuring local brands and designers), Alimentari (fresh pasta, salads, and great Italian pantry staples), Brodawka & Friends (gift shop in a stunning space – worth going in even if it is just to admire the high ceilings). I purchased items at each of these stops!
As for where to eat – I picked up perogies from Café Polonez and headed to High Park to eat amongst the lofty trees. Great alternative options include pizza from Pizzeria Defina (featured in the July edition of Somewhere Spotlight) or The Commoner (perfect if you’d rather sit down at a restaurant).
Want to relax with a beer in hand? Head around the corner to the popular Bandit Brewery.
More of a treats person? Meander down Queen St W. and pick up a cookie or six at Craigs Cookies. They’re some of my favourite in the city (and yes, I always get six). Note that it’s a bit further of a walk, but worth it.
Okay, perhaps not an activity that I should encourage everyone to do, but my favourite activity in August was picking out my puppy. He’s home now and we are so thrilled to have him. We had the pick of the liter (literally, we had first pick) and we are undoubtedly incredibly biased, but we think we chose well!
For those wondering, we went with LMT Bernedoodles and the process was great from start to finish. Lisa, the owner, is kind, experienced and responsive. I’m more than happy to introduce anyone (DM or email me if interested), and feel free to follow along our puppy journey @leonardthedood.
After 10 years of dating quite an avid golfer, my boyfriend and I finally went golfing together! The compromise was that we went up north, as I was too nervous to test my swing out at a busy city course.
So, we headed to to Haliburton Highlands Golf Course and had a great morning playing 9 rounds. I can’t say I was very good, but I did hit the best ball once – smack dab in the middle of the fairway! And my best club was a four-iron, which apparently takes some level of skill (or luck).
I also absolutely loved the Mercantile in Roncesvalles. It was one of the best local gourmet food shops I’ve ever been in. So great, that I spent almost an hour in the shop asking tons of questions, and ended up taking home many wonderful products (hot sauces, salsas, olive oils, and more!).
Food & Drink
On a beautiful sunny, summer evening, I got to enjoy an absolutely incredible dining experience: a collaboration between Il Covo x Buca x ēst. Each restaurant put together at least two of the dishes in the multi-course tasting menu, and their chefs presented the dishes tableside. The food was outstanding, and the service was exceptional. Buca has been one of my favourite Toronto restaurants for some time (see The Top Five post here), and I was thrilled to be able to finally get a taste of Il Covo and ēst. The menu was incredible, and each restaurant is worth going to in their own right.
I also had great meals at Fet Zun and Lee. At Fet Zun, the Chef’s Feast Dinner for Two was great for sampling many dishes, and more than enough to satisfy two hungry individuals. Lee is also best enjoyed in a sharing format – be sure to get their famous Singapore Slaw and the cheeseburger spring rolls. Lee is pricier, but I was actually quite impressed by the portion sizes.
August was all about brewery hopping through the west-end. I had previously made my way through many of the breweries of Leslieville & Riverside, but hadn’t yet checked out the awesome spots on the west-end. My first brewery hop took me to Burdock, where I enjoyed their burger and a couple of different beers. Their menu rotates and they always have something new to try. Our next stop was Halo – we picked up some beers to-go and headed to a park nearby. Next, we popped into Loons to satisfy a non-beer drinking friend, and hung out in Muskoka chairs on their cottage-like back patio. Finally, we ended our day at The Commoner for dinner (where of I course, indulged in a delicious fried chicken sandwich).
On my second brewery hop, we began on the expansive patio at Bandit Brewery. After enjoying a flight and some fries, we walked over to Woodhouse Brewing. We taste tested a few beers and unanimously decided we loved the berry sour the most. Heading north, we walked through tree-lined residential streets and arrived at Burdock once again. After a couple of Nula sour beers, we popped over to Bar Neon to end the night with some Greek small plates.
I also did a third brewery hop, up north in Haliburton. We ventured to the same brewery in two locations – Boshkung Brewing at Hwy 35 & 118, with it’s red Muskoka chairs perched by a small lake, and Boshkung in downtown Minden. If you head to the latter, be sure to get poutine from the adjacent food truck!
Read this article for interviews with many of Toronto brewery owners and team members. You’ll get insight into their background, beer recommendations and where to eat along a brewery hop.
We celebrated my boyfriend’s brother’s birthday with make-at-home pizza kits from Ferro Bar Cafe. It’s my favourite spot to order pizza kits from; the kits come with fresh dough (already mixed & risen, ready to be stretched!), delicious sauce, fresh cheese and basil or pepperoni, depending on your kit selection. You can order them via Uber Eats (as long as you’re in the delivery zone) for the perfect make-at-home pizza party!
Use the code eats-alexp1636 for $10 off your first Uber Eats order.
Perhaps not a typical ‘treat’, but Sophie Kitchen in Leaside puts out a mean brunch. The lemon ricotta pancakes are the perfect, sweet brunch treat on a weekend morning. I enjoyed them so much, I returned a couple of weeks later to indulge again. The pancakes are fluffy and have the perfect amount of sweetness without being overkill. Top secret: you can add extra blueberries for a small additional – but worth it – cost.
The restaurant interior and patio are also adorable, with pink and yellow lemons dotting décor.
I have pale skin that burns easily, and a mother who thankfully taught me the importance of sun care, so I’m always on the hunt to find the perfect sunscreen. My ideal sunscreen is protective and moisturizing but not overly oily.
I came across Malu this summer. It is a facial day cream with SPF 30 from a brand out of Hawaii called Honua. “Malu” is the Hawaiian word for protection, and that’s exactly what it does. Moreover, it is completely palm-free, cruelty-free, vegan and free of synthetic fragrances, and leaves your skin feeling nourished, without the streaky white cast that typically comes with sunscreen. I’ve been on the hunt for a moisturizing face sunscreen for some time, and am thrilled I came across Malu. The only downside for me is the funny smell – it oddly reminds me of pickles. In any case, it’s still great and there’s a reason it’s frequently sold out.
Psst – if you know of any great sunscreens that meet the above criteria (especially if they are even higher SPF!), please let me know! I’m always up for trying new brands.
I stumbled across Gray Malin, a well-traveled photographer with a keen eye for stunning aerial shots, on Instagram a number of years ago and have followed him closely ever since. A couple years ago, I purchased one of his photographs, which made its way into a focal point on my first-ever art wall. Since then, I have been gifted his Escape book, and it immediately became a mainstay in my living area (it’s a rare coffee table book that I actually find myself flipping through). In August, I found one of his puzzles in Scout and had to have it. It is double-sided, each side with an aerial shot of Hawaii, and is quite difficult!
His photographs are bright and fun and bring me a tremendous amount of joy. Take a peek at his Instagram and maybe you’ll find so too!
Clothing & AccessoriesI’ve been on the hunt for a delicate, dangly necklace for some time. I came across a gorgeous pearl necklace by Lover’s Tempo when I visited Brodawka & Friends in Roncesvalles. The Canadian brand is detail-oriented and focuses on creating sophisticated, effortless jewelry that is easy to incorporate into a daily wardrobe. Check out their online shop and maybe you’ll find your next favourite piece of jewelry! See more of my favourite jewelry options on the Little Joys page.
On my trip to Roncesvalles, I picked up some great hot sauces. From that haul, our two favourites so far have been Heartbeat Hot Sauce and Smoke Show jalepeño aioli. Both are Canadian brands and both have fantastically reviewed product lines. The Smoke Show jalepeño hot sauce has been a staple in our house for some time. It isn’t really hot, but adds an incredible smoky flavour & is great on tacos. The Heartbeat Hot Sauce definitely packs some heat!
There can be so much pressure with finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. My recommendation is to find something sentimental or with a story, that way, your gift ends up being more than just an object.
The top places to order takeout from in Toronto for Valentine’s Day 2022. These takeout options are certainly meant to impress!
73 Questions with the Founder of Middle of Somewhere