To help inspire you to explore the Middle of Somewhere, this list will be updated each week of 2021 with things to do in Toronto. Follow along on the adventures, or look back on past weeks when you are in need of inspiration.
If you’ve been following the @mdlofsomewhere Instagram account, you’ll know that I’ve been enjoying my fair share of #betweenthebuns food (sandwiches, burgers, you name it). This week, you’ll be spoiled with a round up of some of my favourite foodie spots as of late. After the restaurant and hospitality industry was severely impacted by COVID-19, a few people still managed to brave a launch mid-pandemic. So this week is all about supporting these wonderful entrepreneurs as they make a go of it, with their delicious #betweenthebuns options.
Mattachioni – East
This week is all about featuring pandemic ‘essentials’ that give back (essentials is a loose term here, but I’ve tried to cover some of the trending buckets: masks, puzzles (did you know that puzzle purchases have skyrocketed?), and bread (because we can all use some delicious sourdough). If you’re stocking up on these essentials regardless, you may as well pick brands that are giving back! Read on for some favourites.
- IZ Adaptive: Headquartered in Toronto, IZ Adaptive creates clothing for wheelchair users and people living with limited mobility. Their masks are made in Canada and for every mask sale, 20% of the purchase goes to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation or Canadian Hearing Services. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to finding treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders and the Canadian Hearing Services is a hearing clinic that provides services for individuals with hearing loss. Shop here.
- MOJI: All of MOJI’s masks are manufactured in Toronto. They’ve partnered with Canadian fashion start-up, Sprout Collection, as well as other local designers to create stylish & unique masks. If you purchase a Pink Ribbon Mask, 100% of proceeds will go to the Canadian Cancer Society – Canada’s largest national cancer charity and largest national funder of cancer research in Canada. Note that they also have plenty of other masks – ones for sports lovers, beach lovers, bold patterns, solids and everything in between. And while the proceeds of those masks don’t go to the Canadian Cancer Society, MOJI hired seamstresses who were directly impacted by the pandemic, so you know you are directly helping drive down unemployment. Shop the full collection here.
- Roots: During February, Roots is donating a portion of mask proceeds to The Black Academy. The Black Academy is dedicated to celebrating Black talent across Canada and inspiring generations to come through education, mentorship, and recognition. And of course, coming from Roots, you know the masks will be made out of super comfortable material. Shop masks here.
Bonus: Not a mask, but worth a shout out nonetheless as not everyone has the ability to cozy up at home this season. For every pair of socks purchased, Province of Canada donates a pair to a Canadian homeless shelter. Shop socks here. The slipper socks look devine!
- Toronto Public Library: By purchasing this 200 piece puzzle offered by Page & Panel, you’ll be providing a $20 donation to the Toronto Public Library. Shop here.
- Piecetogether: Piecetogether offers puzzles with pictures of local business and artists in an effort to “help support the small local businesses and artists that we cannot visit right now”. How does it work? Local business and artists submit photos that represent them and Piecetogether turns them into puzzles available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds cover the cost of making the puzzle and the rest go to the local business/artist. Shop here.
- Bread & Better: Bread & Better was my inspiration behind this post. They’re baking sourdough in support of @momhalo‘s effort to raise $1M for SickKids. The Hospital for Sick Children, or SickKids, is a pediatric teaching hospital in Toronto. The $1M is meant to build a Parent’s Lounge within Sick Kids Hospital, providing parents with a haven to rest, to process, and bond one with one another. Order sourdough by direct messaging Bread & Better via Instagram.
Enjoy A Film Festival
Watch some films from the comfort of your own home, brought to you by the Toronto Black Film Festival. The 9th annual Toronto Black Film Festival is running from February 10th to 21st. You can purchase individual tickets ($12) or an all-access package ($69). There are 154 films from 25 countries available, as well as additional programming – like panel discussions. The festival was started in 2013 by Fabienne Colas with a vision described as, “Cool, international, independent, politically incorrect and eye-opening, the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) is about discovery. TBFF will showcase the most outstanding and most powerful Black films while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues”. Buy tickets here.
Furthermore, Cineplex has partnered with The Black Academy for Black History Month. Rent a film in February and $1 from every transaction will be donated to The Black Academy to “foster opportunities for young and emerging Black talent in Canada’s entertainment industry”. They’ve curated a wonderful selection of films with the intention of “[elevating] Black history, artists and filmmakers and spark discussion”. Rent here and don’t forget that you can also order Cineplex’s amazingly buttery popcorn straight to your home!
Another option is to rent a film from the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival. It runs from February 12-15, and also includes several events. Choose to watch brand new films, engage in a chat with Finn Wolfhard, or connect with film gurus for advice and inspiration. Films are released daily, on February 12, 13 and 15, at 10AM for virtual viewings (free for anyone under 25, otherwise pay a small fee for a rental once released). Read more here.
Participate in Frost Bites
Frost Bites is a winter performance festival hailing from Hamilton. The event features a diverse array of Canadian artists who present performance “bites”.
This year, Frost Bites is offering virtual shows that are participatory-based interactive experiences, sure to shake up your regular weekly activities. Their focus is “on building a sense of community and connectivity, bringing us together at a time when we must remain physically apart”. The shows are brought to you by five artistic companies and they all focus on using technology to engage audiences in unique ways. They run 15-40 minutes in length from February 11 – 14th. Four of the offerings are virtual, giving you the ability to participate from your own home (be sure to read the descriptions to understand what is required, with respect to technology and physical abilities). I am particularly curious about the Escape event. I am part intrigued, part intimidated, but need to know more!
See all shows here.
For week five, you’ll find three spots featured with Valentine’s Day goodies. No, I don’t have my weeks mixed up – the menus are expected to sell out quickly, so consider this your advanced heads up! The below list includes delicious items for one or two, perfect if you’ll be celebrating self-love or with a partner or roommate. This list highlights restaurant chefs that launched their own businesses out of their home after the pandemic hit. I will forever be amazed at the hussle and the ingenuity demonstrated by so many after the onset of the pandemic – and there are so many worth celebrating and supporting. Be sure to give them a follow, regardless of whether or not you place a Valentine’s Day order – they offer great food all year round!
Justin was working as the Sous Chef at Toronto’s downtown Buca Osteria & Enoteca until the pandemic hit. He then quickly pivoted to offer pasta classes and make-at-home kits out of his home. His pasta kits were the first that I tried – I drove to his house to pick up my order off his front porch and fell in love with his homemade pasta sauces (shout out to the spicy vodka sauce!). For Valentine’s Day, he is offering a box that includes:
- Ingredients to cook a Margherita pizza for two
- A bottle of red wine from Italy
- A pizza cutter
- 100ml bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A custom hand-tied flower arrangement of ~20 pink/white flowers
- 2 pieces of The Cheesecake Factory cheesecake (2 pc)
The box also comes with a YouTube link to follow along a video of Justin making the pizza.
Place your order by Feb 4th via the link in Justin’s Instagram bio.
22-layer olive oil chocolate cake. Normally I would tell you that’s all you need to know. And just to go order this. Now.
But this time, I’ll encourage you to stick around to learn about the founders behind Adobar. Adobar was launched by a brother and sister duo after they were laid off from their jobs post-pandemic. They were quick to pivot and began cooking up Filipino dishes in their home and making them available for pickup and delivery. Their food has been described as “sinful”, “decadent”, “adventurous” and “delicious”.
For Saturday, Feb 13th (because yes, it’s okay to celebrate on the Saturday instead of the Sunday!), they’re offering their 6″ full cake (no savoury items that day). If you’re also dying to try their savoury items – order for a timeframe outside of Valentine’s weekend via their web platform (pickup & delivery available). Alternatively, if you’re keen on celebrating ON Valentine’s Day, check out their collaboration with Tala, Thyme Studio, Soft Dough Co here. They’re offering Valentine’s Day Kamayan Kits that include food, dessert and flowers. Their kits come in three different sizes, because as they put it “who knows how everyone’s celebrating this year. Together? Apart? With baby boo? With the whole pamilya? Third-wheeling? Or just wheeling period.”
I just can’t stop dreaming and talking about Gertie’s Peanut Butter Pies. They’re pure deliciousness and anyone who remotely likes peanut butter will be in heaven. Each pie is certainly shareable between two, but don’t be surprised if you end up devouring it all to yourself!
Outside of the pandemic, Second City serves up excellent Improv & comedy shows in downtown Toronto. If you haven’t been in person, do yourself a favour and visit once it’s safe to attend in-person events again. Until then, catch a virtual show – purchase tickets here for their weekly Happy Hour special, which occur every Thursday at 8PM EST (note: there are a variety of other shows in subsequent weeks).
Looking for something more hands on? Second City also offers virtual classes for adults and kids/teens.
For those of you that weren’t sold on the Dry January post from last week – I’ve got you covered with cocktail kits and pre-made cocktails for delivery! Maison Selby offers bottled cocktails that you can purchase individually or in a larger size. They’re one of the few restaurants that offer individual sizes, which is perfect for anyone who wants to add one drink to their food order. If you’re looking for more cocktail kits – we have you covered on this page (just scroll down a little!).
Speaking of food, Maison Selby offers their regular menu along with chef kits to cook at home, should you want something more interactive. You’ll find kits for their famous french onion soup, french onion burger, truffle tagliatelle, boeuf bourguignon and more.
You can even pre-order their Valentine’s Day menus – and there is plenty to choose from! Options include: a four-course dinner for two, chocolate fondue kit, cheese & charcuterie, shrimp cocktail, duck & goose terrine for two and a few more cocktail options.
Participating in Dry January or are simply interested in taste-testing no-alcohol cocktail alternatives? Try out Salty Paloma’s Non Alcoholic Cocktail Kit featuring Seedlip Spice (a non-alcoholic spirit), Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade, Fresh Sour Mix, Grapefruit and Pine Cordial, Fever Tree Lemon Tonic, Cashew Orgeat (Syrup), Chai Tea, Lemon and Dehydrated Fruits. The kit also comes with three non-alcoholic cocktail recipes.
Salty Paloma also offers a newly launched subscription kit – check out the In-The-Know Toronto page to learn more! I’ve previously ordered one of their kits and attended a virtual cocktail class, and thought both were excellent.
If you like the idea of Dry January, but didn’t start this month – opt for Dry February instead and consider participating in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Dry Feb campaign to raise money.
Join Rasa – a Toronto restaurant by the Food Dudes – for a virtual dinner in collaboration with Event Circle. The event runs on January 23rd at 6:30PM. Purchase your ticket and you’ll receive all of the ingredients for a three-course meal and access to a virtual class to cook with Rasa’s chefs.
The meal includes Rasa’s amazing chopped salad, truffle gnudi, the famed Rasa burger, and a dessert. It costs $90+HST / person.
Early in the pandemic, several chefs, restaurants and home cooks came together to contribute to Toronto’s very own open source cookbook. Contributors include: Canoe, Woodhouse Brew Pub, Drake Devonshire, Alimentari (see our interview with the owners here!), Chef Rocco Agostino (of Pizzeria Libretto and Enoteca Sociale), Chef Craig Wong (of Patois and Bar Mignonette), Shori Imanishi (of Imanishi Japanese Kitchen) and many more (see the full list of contributors here). Cook up something that might be a bit outside of your wheelhouse – everything in the book is meant to be approachable and as described by the creators, “It is meant to be shared so that we can learn from each other, inspire one another and at the very least, derive joy from each other.”
Order yourself some delicious, limited edition zaa from a new kid on the block: Sohmers. One rectangular pie feeds two hungry people. Order via the link on their Instagram feed (keep an eye on their Instagram for the new weekly drop dates – this week, they’re opening orders on Wednesday. Check back weekly if you miss the boat this time!). Pickups are on Saturday’s between 4:30 – 8:30PM.
Also be sure to order the Middle of Somewhere pizza checklist and make your way through some of Toronto’s most popular pizza joints!
What was once a happening waterpark now offers great walking trails and plenty of stunning views of the water and CN Tower. There is paid parking onsite and is also accessible via TTC with a bit of a walk. Make your way around the West Island – taking the trail as far to the west as possible and looping around the island – then head out over the peninsula that looks like a ship. Circle back and head over to the East Island for some more great views of the city.
Despite the province shutting down almost every activity this winter, I was thrilled to learn they kept skating rinks open. That excitement quickly dwindled when I learned it was near impossible to book a slot on the city’s website. Luckily, the Bentway’s booking system opens up every Friday at 10AM with new slots. Pop onto this site, promptly at 10AM to secure your rink time. The Bentway is always a great loop to skate in the winter, but will be even better with fewer people (there is a fixed capacity of 25 people)!
Eat at the DaiLo Popup
DaiLo is extending their pop-up at midtown’s Hot Black Coffee for the next few weeks (just north of Yonge and Davisville). They’ll be serving up a small menu of delicious items like bao bun burgers & wings. Follow their Instagram for the latest dates & info. Of course, I’ve taste-tested and it’s well worth the hype. Order in person at the front window.
Tip: If you are unfamiliar with DaiLo, the restaurant serves up New-Asian cuisine with Chef Nick Liu at the helm (you may have seen him on the Food Network). The food is delicious and one of the few tasting menus in Toronto that I’ve returned to multiple times.
Explore Crothers Woods
Crothers Woods is over 100 acres of woodlands, meadows and wetlands in the Don River Valley. It makes for a perfect hike in the middle of the city.
Depending on which trail you take, you may come across the Redway Road staircase, thought to be a neat hidden gem inside the woods. The stairs were originally built as an escape route from the employees of the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant, which was built in 1929 (I know what you’re now thinking, but no worries – I couldn’t smell the plant on the trails in the winter, which makes it an even better time to go for a walk in the area!).
Follow the directions to here (or just type in Crothers Woods into Google Maps) and you’ll be guided to trail entrance and a parking lot beside the Loblaws off of Millwood.
Tip: The trails can get pretty muddy and icy, depending on the weather. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear!
Secure your spot at stackt market’s crokicurl
Okay first off, what the heck is crokicurl?! The game is played on ice and is a large scale hybrid of curling and the board game Crokinole. It was invented by Canadians Liz Wreford and Leanne Muir and was first played in Winnipeg.
Why should I care? It’s one of the few activities that hasn’t been shut down in Toronto this winter and it still has available time slots to book, unlike Toronto’s skating rinks (note – you may have to look a few weeks ahead, and there are only a few spots remaining so book swiftly). You’ll have the rink to yourself, so it’s a great, safe outdoor activity. I’ve booked my slot in Feb and am looking forward to it!