Toronto Urban Excursions

Foodies On Foot
Hungry? Eat Toronto and discover the city through food. As the name suggests, these folks are serious about food, and provide “taste of place” experiences that make my feet move a lot faster. How do you express your culture creatively? Neighbourhood food tours, dinner crawls, communal dinners, and chef series dinners are social, active and illuminate the culinary scene. Driven by passion and patriotism, the Foodies have discovered a much more fun way to explore the city, and enjoy a day or evening on the town. From organizing supper clubs to teaming up with Gone Sailing Adventures for private sailing and feasting, it’s about piecing together different elements to create something truly dynamic and unique.

Tea is a special experience. Those steeped in its enjoyment know that its popularity is picking up steam. With its baroque interior, Alice in Wonderland-inspired patio, chocolate boutique up front, and savoury menu within, MoRoCo is daring enough to offer Afternoon Tea, High Tea, and a Mad Hatter’s Tea for under-12 crowd. In the afternoon, we linger over Champagne, tea, sipping chocolate, and a tower of finger sandwiches, scones and mini pastries. For High Tea, add to that a Truffled Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a golden blend of aged cheddar, parmigiano-regiano and béchamel beneath a rustic, bubbly Gruyère crust, crunchy Croque Monsieur or hearty quiche. Decadent chocolate teas like Mayan chocolate truffle, artisanal blends like goji acai sencha, and kid’s flavours like Gimme S’mores, confirm that nowhere else in Toronto can we find such varied and playful options for tea.
99 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON, 416-961-2202

The Beer Lover’s Tour
The best kind of class is the one taught through beer. In a small group we learn about beer, brewing, heritage, architecture and the development of Toronto. We tour Steam Whistle Brewery, Fort York, Six Pints Beer Academy, Mill Street Brewery, Amsterdam Brewery, the Granite Brewery, and various neighbourhoods in between. The entire time we learn about our city, because it’s not merely a tour – it’s an experience. Eye opening, we’ll never look at a building the same way again. Our ambassador for craft brewing provides us the opportunity for memorable experiences we otherwise might not have had – and in a safe, fun environment. It’s about Gemütlichkeit, being happy together. Something unusually fun and beautiful happens: the conversations and the insights flow. What a great way to spend the day – with friends or as a company event. Our host is an amazing storyteller, and we cling to his every word, even after our 20-plus tastings and a smorgasbord of pairings.

“Where did you learn to do that?” I’m asked as I shake, swirl and blend like a pro. “Oh, its just a little something I picked up on my travels,” I respond with a passing shrug. But here’s the truth: Martini Madness, Fear No Beer, Divine Wine and Buena Barista Coffee at BartenderOne, are the most fun workshops offered to mixologists and home enthusiasts of all levels. Hands-on classes are informative and interactive, and we love to experiment and taste our own creations. Get certified as a bartender, master molecular mixology, and take that newfound knowledge on the road when you travel, or at home when you host a party. It’s not about memorizing recipes; this is reality-based. While we have a good time, we know that each class is geared towards working in the hospitality industry, and so the teaching is professional. Behind a real bar, we learn to create custom cocktails in each of the five main spirit categories; gourmet coffee beverages; the differences between lagers and ales and how to pair with food; how to pour and distinguish aromas in wine; and even dare to Flare for showstopping tricks. On a date, with friends, or going-it alone – BartenderOne is a unique evening activity to add to our repertoire of tricks and experiences.
95 King Street East, Suite B101, Toronto, ON 416-461-4441

Habits Gastro Pub
Jazz, swing, folk, comedy, cabaret, open mic jams and taco mania. Every night of the week there seems to be something going on at Habits Gastro Pub. It’s a great venue that reflects the fun and passions of its owners. And would you check out the menu! In addition to light, creative snacks, how about an Angus beef burger stuffed with smoked Brie and layered with puttanesca relish, pancetta, crispy onion and spicy aioli. Grilled cheese sandwhich bubbles at the seams with triple-creme Brie, and house-cured and smoked bacon on raisin bread. Mac ‘n’ cheese with woodland mushrooms, double-smoked bacon, black truffle, asiago & Parmesan is worth grabbing the open mic and jamming about it. With 173 single malt scotches, music, and a solid chef, they’re serious about having fun, and serious about dining well throughout.
928 College St, Toronto, ON, 416-533-7272

Koerner Hall
Stretched out in spacious comfy seating at The Royal Conservatory of Music, I sit back and watch Mavis Staples perform in this intimate setting as though we, the audience, are in her living room. “Koerner Hall’s acoustics and aesthetics have a way of enveloping singers’ voices, giving them a warm blanket of sound, and a clarity of sound at the same time,” executive director of Performing Arts, Mervon Mehta, tells me. Designed in the tradition of the classic “shoebox” venues of Europe, this is acoustic perfection. Layered ribbons of wood, an acoustic reflector, performance lighting and technical bridges form a floating ceiling canopy for the 1,135 seats below. Classical, jazz, pop, opera, and world music are all showcased here. Watch for the inaugural 21C Music Festival, running May 21 to May 25, where fearless musicians and composers deliver fresh new sounds and ideas.
273 Bloor St West, Toronto, ON

Cocktail Crawl Social Club
After having lived in Europe, Natasha Semone missed having her aperativo. “I missed the after-work culture of Europe,” she tells me, and says she felt the need to recreate that cosmopolitan atmosphere in Toronto with the Cocktail Crawl & Social Club. Both a club and a social event, but always at a different venue, this is a way to bring people together, to network. “You don’t know when and where it will be until you get an invitation,” she teases. The venue is chosen for its ambience and design. Past events have been held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Troika Vodka Bar, the Thompson Hotel’s rooftop and The Spoke Club. There is always a complimentary glass of wine and a cocktail like a caipirinha, mohito, or a specialty cocktail to match the theme of the evening. It begins at 7 p.m. and lasts until the mood of the crowd says it’s time to go home. Don’t forget to collect a bag of gifts on your way out!

L is for…
Pop-up restaurants rode a wave, but now we’re interested in more intimate dinners like L is for…. Every month, Eyel Liebman’s chocolate dinner event generates more and more buzz. For “love” or “Liebman,” I only know what my palate tells me. Wine pairings with some of the most renowned winemakers in Ontario; and chocolate used in the most inventive ways to showcase that it’s not merely a sweet ingredient. The experience is social, cultured, and even didactic. Liebman challenges himself, stretching his repertoire, and inviting us along for the ride. Passionately preserving the fundamentals of classic French cuisine, chef, sommelier and servers team up for unique dining experiences or event bookings that are fun culinary happenings. Each month is a different menu, winery and location to excite our taste buds and our imaginations.

La Casa del Habano
La Casa del Habano is much more to cigar aficionados than a place to buy their Cuban cigars. In the winter, they lounge on the patio under the warmth of outdoor heaters. In summertime, they sit comfortably as they would in a private club, and the only rule of membership is to appreciate a good Cuban cigar: Montecristo No.2, Partagas Series D #4, Romeo and Julieta Churchill, and, of course, the renowned Cohiba Siglo VI, among many others. Cigars run from $3 to $150 each, and there are about 1,000 sold every week. Isabel Linares, an occasional cigar smoker herself, is the manager of La Casa del Habano, with its displays of beautiful humidors, lighters, cigar cases and accessories from France, England and Germany. There is a Casa del Habano in 60 countries. This is the only one in Toronto, and offers the largest selection of Cuban cigars in the city. Despite anti-smoking legislation six years ago, cigar smoking has steadily increased, and it seems that trend will continue. Isabel knows what the regulars smoke, provides private lockers, and graciously offers a nice Cuban coffee with your cigar.
111 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON 416-926-9066

It’s not summer without Summer’s. For owner Ron Tokey, there is an emotional attachment to being a third-generation ice cream maker. Family always comes first, and they always have ice cream together. It’s in his heritage. Back in Czechoslovakia, his grandfather used to go up into the mountains to collect ice so that he could make ice cream for the town folk. Summer’s has become an institution in Toronto, serving the highest-quality ice cream in the city, loved by all those who scream for ice cream, from locals to Hollywood celebrities. The bottom line is quality ingredients without compromise to provide an elevated level of texture and chewiness. The distinguishing ingredient is love. “I want my customers to have an ice cream experience that they haven’t had before.” Ron tells me. “It’s about that sensation of having ice cream for the first time – every time.” I have my personal favourite: Chocolate Peanut Butter has been my go-to pick-me.up since 1984, but there are new scoops this summer: Apple Cinnamon; Birthday Cake; Blueberry Dream; and Almond Butter Toffee. Watch for organic ice creams, and “super” ice creams with added omegas, antioxidants and greens. In addition to the perfect swirl in every homemade small batch, that wonderful wafting aroma is Summer’s own waffle cones made from scratch.
101 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON, 416-944-2637

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