Somewhere Spotlight: November 2020
Pictured: Kensington Market
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.
We spent a day wandering through Kensington. Despite not being able to actually go in most of the shops, there are still ways to support the many great businesses. Most restaurants, bakeries, cafés and specialty food shops are open for takeout, and you just need to think ahead to order pickup from retail stores. Some of my favourites spots in Kensington are: Cocktail Emporium (you’ve probably read me rave about this cocktail shop before – they have everything you could possibly want for any home cocktail connoisseur), Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (for pie, of course!), Blackbird Baking Co. (arguably some of the best bread in the city), Kensington Brewing Co. (they’re currently offering free delivery within Toronto – check online for the delivery radius), Ozzy’s Burgers (for sky high burgers), Seven Lives (for tacos), Knockout Chicken (for fried chicken sandwiches), Egg Bae (for egg-based breakfast sandwiches) and Bunner’s (for delicious vegan baked goods). If you head down Baldwin St, you’ll find many specialty food shops for fish, meat and cheese.
I joined a virtual class with Lohn back in the spring and learned to make rollerball perfumes. I couldn’t commit to a scent, so it took me until November to actually make the perfume. You can order an empty rollerball online or from a craft store. Then add 12-25 drops of an essential oil (or a mix of oils, depending on what scent you like). Fill the rest of tube with a carrier oil like coconut oil and add the rollerball cap. Shake and apply to your wrists or neck. A voilà you’ve got yourself a homemade perfume!
If you don’t feel like making your own, purchase one of Lohn’s perfume oils (pictured: Jura perfume oil, courtesy of Lohn).
It may have taken me a number of years, but I think I’ve finally perfected an omelette (at least to my standards). I was binge watching Emily In Paris one afternoon and they seemed to make an omelette every other episode. After searching how-to guides online, I found the trick I was missing – let the egg cook over the full surface of the pan until it just starts to curl around the edges, and then use a fork to gently pull the edges of the egg into the centre and backfill the gaps with the runny egg (by gently tipping the pan side to side). Continue by moving in a circle until you’ve pulled each edge into the centre and backfilled. Then let the egg finish cooking and roll onto your plate! It’s critical to have a lot of butter in your pan so nothing sticks. Here are instructions laid out in more detail.
As a side note, I also learned the best trick to reheat a pizza. After years of lazily reheating leftover pizza in a microwave, only to gnaw on chewy crust (in the worst way) or waiting very impatiently for the oven to heat up, I finally learned that reheating pizza slices in a stovetop pan is the way to go.
I’ve been dying to try a sandwich at Forno Cultura for literally years. I finally made my way over to their Queen St location (they have multiple locations throughout the city), to find out that I came too late in the day and they only had a mushroom focaccia sandwich left. You have to know that while I enjoy most foods, I don’t particularly like mushrooms. Despite that, I found the sandwich to be delightful!!! I almost didn’t try it, but I am so very glad I did. We also bought the most beautiful focaccia (with what must have been an entire bottle of olive oil drizzled into it) and devoured it very intently in the parking lot. They also have lovely sweet treats, pasta sauce, olive oil, and other goodies to take home.
Food & Drink
I enjoyed a lot of excellent food in November. A few standouts are below:
Defina Wood Fired: A pizza night at Defina Wood Fired was the last meal I enjoyed with my girlfriends before the city shut down again. I had picked up pizzas from this spot earlier this year and admired the stunning interior and beautiful side patio. While the pandemic has negatively impacted a lot this year, being able to enjoy a candlelit patio dinner in November was a beautiful silver lining.
Sara: My boyfriend, Dave, and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this November. We spoiled ourselves with a multi-course dinner at Sara, which had come highly recommended from a colleague. Eating at Sara was another stunning November dinner, enjoyed under the heat of patio lamps. It was memorable, delicious and I am now a loyal fan. We ordered: Squash latkes (so delicious, topped with salmon roe), NDuja croquettes, Tocino octopus, Chopped Salad (if you ever eat at Sara or Rasa – another restaurant part of the same group – you must order their salad), buttermilk fried chicken (because I don’t have the capability to resist fried chicken, and it was so worth it), Wagyu sirloin (melt on your mouth, just as it’s meant to be). The cocktails were also delicious. We certainly ordered more than was needed for two, but I can’t help but over order on a menu as enticing as the one at Sara.
While Sara & Defina are closed for on-site dining, they offer beautiful spreads for pickup & delivery.
I also ate 6 burgers in a week and countless slices of pizza over the last few months to facilitate the creation of the Middle of Somewhere Checklists. They’re available to purchase online and are meant to support local restaurants through the pandemic, as you make your way through the lists, check off where you’ve been, and rank each to remember your favourites for later. I won’t divulge my favourites here – buy a checklist and discover some of Toronto’s gems for yourself!
With its speakeasy-like location, tucked away on a cobblestone street, Bar Volo makes me feel like I could be sipping a drink in a cool NYC haunt. I’ve long had Bar Volo on my list of places to visit, and what better time to visit than an unexpectedly sunny Sunday in November, when I was deeply missing travels and NYC. There are countless reasons to love Bar Volo – the carefully curated list of beer, cocktails and wine (and the amazing bottle shop that you can order from for home!), the wonderful selection of share plates, the beautiful wood-detailed interior, the kind and knowledgeable staff and of course, the aforementioned cobblestone laneway.
Bar Volo is easily now one of my favourite places to grab a drink.
Aside from the cacio e pepe pasta (see the Product section below), I picked up some great staples at Eataly to make one of the most delicious pastas I’ve ever made at home: fresh house-made Ravioli Bergamaschi pasta (which has over 12 ingredients in the filling alone), sage, a block of fresh parmesan, and guanciale. I diced the guanciale and created a sage butter with the sage and lots and lots of butter, cooked the pasta for 2-3 minutes in a pot of heavily salted water, and combined for a delicious melt-in-your mouth, arguably restaurant-quality pasta. Fresh ingredients make all the difference.
Sunday’s Company was built based on the concept of celebrating slow living and slow beauty. The brand offers a beautiful selection of botanical and herb-based body care products created using the whole plant. Many of the products are harvested from the founder’s own land and all are handmade. The Under Eye Remedy is perfect for someone who is now spending a lot of time on video calls.
Sunday’s Company also sells their products at one of my favourite shops in Prince Edward County called Field Made Goods.
You’ll find Sunday’s Company featured them on the Middle of Somewhere Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide here.
Colorful Standard is a cool, Danish brand, with products made in Portugal. They make simple, beautiful, long-lasting timeless classics from high-quality cotton. Their cotton is organic, made without genetically modified seeds, and they pay careful attention to ensure their employees are treated well and receive fair wages. All garments have also been pre-washed, which means they won’t shrink when you wash them. So go on, check out Colorful Standard and enjoy cozying up in their loungewear.
Photo courtesy of Colorful Standard.
Clothing & Accessories
Toronto-based Girl Gang Goodies (read our interview with Morgan, the founder here) released a limited edition of sweatshirts in collaboration with Kotn. The sweatshirts are 100% Egyptian cotton, were designed in Toronto and made by Kotn. Kotn, also a Canadian brand, focuses on creating sustainably-made, quality products that are built to last. They’re committed to ensuring ethical labour practices throughout their manufacturing process and give back to communities in Egypt by contributing to build schools and promote education.
The cacio e pepe puck from Stock T.C. may have been the best food product I’ve purchased all year. Simply add to a pan from frozen and once melted, add your cooked pasta and mix. Perfect for easy and delicious cacio e pepe at home.
Psst – you can now shop for some groceries from Stock T.C. online (via their website) and read a behind the scenes post here!
Create the best at-home cheese and charcuterie boards with delicious ingredients from these Toronto hotspots.
Rob and Jen launched the Home Appliances Food Co. food truck amidst the pandemic, as a way to pivot when the restaurant industry was heavily impacted. Read on to learn about their inspiring journey and how they’re making a go of it.
The top 10 places to order from in Toronto for the Super Bowl 2021. Although you can’t leave your house to watch the Super Bowl, at least you can spend it enjoying an elevated game-day spread!