Somewhere Spotlight: December 2020
Pictured: Glen Stewart Ravine
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.
Each weekend, we typically take our pup somewhere outside of our neighbourhood to walk. Leonard has provided us with the encouragement we need to get out of the house, on the days when we least want to. In December, we finally explored the Glen Stewart Ravine, which had been on my list for many many months. The ravine is beautiful, with incredibly long wooden staircases extending from the base of the ravine to the surrounding neighbourhoods way above and a river running through the middle. The only disappointing element was that the ravine trail was much shorter than I anticipated. As such, after walking the ravine, we drove down to the beaches, parked at Queen St E at Wheeler Ave and wandered through Kew Gardens to the beaches boardwalk. Note that you can also walk from the Glen Stewart Ravine to Kew Gardens in less than 15 minutes. The boardwalk offers a wonderful, long path to follow adjacent the water. I recommend you go on a day that isn’t too windy to avoid the extra chilly gusts off the lake. Sit in the giant red adirondack chair or visit the Kew Gardens dog park if you have a pup in tow.
After a stroll along the boardwalk, we picked up brunch at Maha’s, which serves up an incredibly popular Egyptian brunch. We’ve tried to go to Maha’s many times before, but always encountered a line that was a block long. We ordered pickup and resisted the urge to eat it on the way home, as the incredible smell filled the car. Once home, we devoured the “mind blowing chicken sandwich” and boy was it mind blowing. It exceeded all built-up expectations that I had. I highly recommend checking out Maha’s.
On our way home, we made a couple small detours to pick up beers from Saulter Street and Left Field breweries. Read the interview we did with Saulter Street Brewery here! I am highly looking forward to the days when we can visit in person once again, but in any case, it’s been great taste testing a variety of local beers at home.
December seemed to be the month of virtual cooking classes. Here’s a round-up of companies & dishes:
- Fēst: I organized a virtual class for my mom’s birthday. We learned to make dumplings and nigiri. It was a ton of fun and I feel like I walked away with not only a great dinner and a fun virtual experience with my family, but also the skills to make dumplings again on my own. While Fēst is an American company, it is one of the best priced if you are looking to have a private class with multiple screens dialing into the same Zoom. I highly recommend Fēst, and have already planned another class in January with my girlfriends. There are plenty of menus to choose from!
- Airbnb Experiences: A group that I am part of at work organized a virtual cooking class using Airbnb Experiences. We made Italian wine cookies with Giuseppe. Airbnb Experiences are particularly neat because you can find so many different types of cuisines and can cook with chefs from around the world. Giuseppe is from Italy and was in Dublin at the time of our class, and we had team members join from all over Canada. Airbnb also offers experiences outside of cooking – like magic shows, tarot reading, scavenger hunts and more. Browse the virtual experiences here.
- Elle Cuisine: Elle Cuisine used to do the catering for my office, so for our work holiday event, we made Donairs as part of a virtual cooking event. The great thing about Elle Cuisine classes is they ship the ingredients to your door (vs. most other companies, you have to purchase your own ingredients ahead of the class). On top of virtual cooking classes, Elle Cuisine also offers excellent dinners and make-at-home kits. Their events are best for larger groups or corporate events, as there is a minimum spend requirement.
I learned how to launch my first product! In an effort to help encourage people to support local restaurants during this time, I launched three checklists – Fast Casual Burgers, Pizza and Desserts. Each checklist will help you discover some of the city’s best spots – for burgers, pizza & desserts. They’re part guide & part checklist – each card includes a list of 12 great restaurants along with descriptions that will ignite your cravings, checkboxes to mark off as you try each spot, and a scale to rank each location so you can keep track of your favourites. Love a spot that is not included on the list? Add it to the space at the bottom!
You can purchase them from the online Shop!
For those wondering, I worked with a designer to bring my vision to life and I print the cards at The Printing House. They have a location fairly close to me, making it pretty convenient and the service and quality has been excellent so far.
Three excellent food shops that I purchased from in December include:
- Henrietta Lane: this cute café-bar turned grocer has excellent house-made and local products. I originally placed an order for their beer advent calendar, but ended up also ordering Blackbird Baking Co. focaccia and Henrietta Lane’s house-made salsa, meatballs in marinara sauce and genoa salami. Everything was incredible. They even offer delivery!
- Salt Gourmet Foods: Salt Gourmet Foods have so many great restaurant-made products that help fill the void from not being able to go out to eat. We ordered a lot of goodies, with some favourites so far being: Gertie’s peanut butter pie (I am obsessed), Brodflour granola (I genuinely never want to eat any other granola again), and Mercatto’s Diavola chicken (I almost ordered this the last time I was at Mercatto, but instead opted for their delicious carbonara. Naturally, I was thrilled to see this available to make-at-home & it was delicious!).
- Toronto Market Co.: Toronto Market Co also offers a lot of great restaurant-made items and other local products. We ordered Pizzeria Libretto pizzas (they come frozen and you finish baking them at home), frozen lentil and barley soup from Raw Carrot, Mad Mexican frozen chicken tinga taco filling, and the Real Food Kitchen chickpea chowder.
In case you missed it, read this post for an article about Toronto’s great gourmet food stores, featuring a Q&A with the owners of Salt Gourmet Foods and Toronto Market Co.
I also did plenty of local holiday shopping, largely making purchases from the shops listed in this post. Two notable additions: Pretty Clean Shop (for sustainable products) and Muddy George (an excellent curation of men’s clothing and accessories).
Food & Drink
Between the buns: I enjoyed a lot of burgers and sandwiches this month. You’ll have to get your hands on the Middle of Somewhere Fast-Casual Burger Checklist for my roundup of the best fast-casual burgers, but here are a few favourite restaurant (i.e. not considered fast-casual) burgers and other notable sandwiches:
- Union: This Ossington St. staple has a burger that has long been on my list to try and boy did it live up to everything I hoped for and then some. Their breakfast sandwich is equally as delicious. Both items are a little pricey, but worth the splurge. Note: they’re also selling Union staples via their market as well as wine and homecook boxes.
- La Salumeria: This little deli on Yonge St. just north of Davisville not only has the kindest staff but they also serve up a mean deli sandwich. Ask for their special or craft something specific – either way you’ll surely be satisfied (the sandwiches are both tasty and massive!).
- Gold Standard: their breakfast sandwich is one of the best in the city. Two locations: Parkdale and Roncesvalles.
A few other notable meals include:
- A glorious spread from Fat Pasha. I was introduced to Fet Zun by a friend some time ago and loved it. Since then, I’ve been wanting to try it’s sister restaurant, Fat Pasha – also by Chef Anthony Rose – and I am so glad I finally did. Both Dupont St. gems serve up superb Middle Eastern food. Order several dishes and dips and make yourself a stunning at-home spread.
- The mind blowing chicken sandwich from Maha’s. Yes, it’s huge and indeed, mind blowing.
- (Almost) too many pasta dishes to handle from Il Covo. I went to a collaboration dinner between ēst, Buca and Il Covo in the summer and had been longing to return to order pasta from Il Covo. I ordered more than I should have, but everything was incredible. Favourites included: dinner rolls (the accompanying olive oil is incredible), rigatoni all’amatriciana, gnocchi, and rigatoni alla carbonara. Note: they also offer make-at-home dinner kits which are bound to be excellent.
We thoroughly enjoyed making our way through the beer advent calendar from Henrietta Lane. We got introduced to some breweries and new favourite beers. There were a lot of brews from Left Field, which we enjoyed so much so that we later popped by Left Field to stock back up! We’ve particularly enjoyed Eephus, Bang-Bang, Squeeze Play and Go-Ahead.
When we were on Ossington picking up the burger and breakfast sandwich from Union, we also stopped by Bellwoods Brewery to grab some of their Jelly King beers – some of our favourite sours in the city.
I’ve been really getting into make-at-home kits over the last few months. It means I can get restaurant-quality food and have fun while finishing cooking the meal at home. December standouts included: Enoteca Sociale’s cacio e pepe kit (order form Salt Gourmet Foods or Toronto Market Co.), Ferro Bar pizzas (we’ve made these countless times & I highly recommend them! Order online for pickup or delivery), and croissants from Spaccio (shop in-person from their Corktown space or from Stock T.C. at Yonge & Eglinton).
December was the month that I discovered Knockout Ice Cream. Their caramelized banana flavour just might be the best ice cream I’ve ever had. I only permit myself to eat a couple of spoonfuls each time, so that I can savour the tub. It’s truly game changing. You can pick up the ice cream in person or do what I did and order it for delivery, which I acknowledge is a tad bougie.
If you like peanut butter in any capacity, you must order Gertie’s Peanut Butter Pie, made by Chef Ryan Campbell (former Head Chef at Il Covo). You can find retailers on this page. They’re individual sized, but could certainly be shared between two people.
Three Ships is a Canadian beauty company (formerly Niu Body) that focuses on creating natural and affordable products. The brand was launched in 2017 by Laura – a chemical engineer – and Connie – a business graduate. The brand was born out of a frustration for how expensive high-quality skincare is. Every product is made with 100% natural ingredients and is certified cruelty-free. Nothing goes to market unless it has been scientifically proven to work. And, all products are under $40 USD. I absolutely love their vanilla lip scrub – it is excellent any time of year but particularly useful in the dry winter months.
Leze the Label is a Canadian clothing brand that I happened to stumble across via Instagram. I decided to give them a shot and I am so glad I did. They describe their collection as “recycled workwear that feels like pyjamas”, and frankly, in a year where I’ve struggled to put on real pants, I welcomed their products with open arms. So far, they’ve lived up to how they’re described – sweat-free, PJ comfort, super stretch, and easy care (no dry cleaning!!). My only negative is that the sweaters aren’t super cozy – the stretch material makes them a little more boxy and they hang off my torso a bit, rather than hugging me snuggly. But heck – anything that manages to be incredibly comfortable and stylish is a winner in my books.
Clothing & Accessories
We spent some time searching for dog boots that would protect Leonard’s paws from salt and protect our house from his muddy paws. We landed on Canada Pooch’s soft shield boots and are very happy so far. They are super easy to put on and stay on his big paws during long walks (the boots are tall which helps, and have a cord pull at the top and velcro strap to keep them snug). He also got used to them pretty quickly, which was great.
We also wanted the rain boots, but unfortunately, the biggest size that Canada Pooch offers in the rain booties were too small for him. If you are unsure about sizing, I suggest emailing them!
One of my favourite finds while I was searching for holiday gifts was Lot 8’s Linen Bread Bag, described as “a bread bag for bread lovers”. Hailing from French tradition, storing preservative-free, crusty bread in breathable linen keeps your bread fresher than storing it in plastic (which typically makes the bread moist, causing it to lose it’s crust) or paper (which typically dries out the bread quickly). The bags are handmade in Canada, and are available In three sizes and two colours.
It’s easy to #shoplocal this season. You’ll find gifts for everyone on your list and these Toronto gift shops!
No matter who you are shopping for this season, you’ll find great ideas to help you #shoplocal with these cookbooks from Toronto’s great chefs!
No matter who you are shopping for this season, you’ll find great ideas to help you #shopsmall in this gift guide featuring products from Toronto restaurants!