BlogTO.com is a Toronto-based blog collective of young, artists, musicians, photographers, politicos, filmmakers, tech geeks, foodies and fashionistas — among other things. In short: They know the city of Toronto like no other. From one style maven’s local objects of desire to a nightlife queen’s favorite after-hours haunts, Daily Variety asked the bloggers for an insider’s tour of their Toronto.
In the past few years, with more stores focusing on locally produced merchandise, more designers are taking chances. Here are my choices for the coolest homegrown items by Toronto designers.
1. Domino Pendant
I have a friend who has the best taste in avant-garde jewelry. When I saw an ivory-colored pendant around her neck, I was instantly drawn to it. Tara Campbell, the designer, paints quirky images like bipedal carrots, cats and mermaids onto dominos, transforming them into funky, whimsical, one-of-a-kind pieces. $38, distillgallery.com
2. Tri Hardwood Handbag
My taste in handbags is unconventional. My pick for Toronto’s IT bag is Tri by furniture designer Britt Olauson. She uses end cuts of luxury wood like walnut and cherry to create a unique handbag with leather sides and aluminum O-rings. This one will get people talking. $181, brittolauson.com
3. Dex Hat
I love hats. My collection is fairly large, but incomplete — it still needs something classic. Designer Karyn Gingras may be the missing link. Her Dex hats are like those beautiful couture hats you see on royalty or at the races — something to wear with black kitten heels while sipping champagne. $225, lilliputhats.com
4. Spike Cuff
The Spike Cuff by Shoshana Farber is truly to die for: hand-forged sterling silver accented with sliding 14k gold spikes that line the anticlastic edges. It pretty much has me pressed up against the display glass — where I remain, transfixed, for quite a while. $468, madeyoulook.ca
Toronto is a veritable cultural buffet — with galleries, bookstores and exhibits to satiate even the most voracious appetites.
1. The Olga Korper Gallery, one of three galleries in the historic Morrow Complex, features important Canadian and international artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Wim Delvoye; but it also doubles as Mrs. Korper’s home. More than a few high-end art deals have been made on her kitchen counter. 17 Morrow Ave., olgakorpergallery.com
2.A choice filming location (“Chicago,” “X-Men”), the historic Distillery District is home to the Corkin Shopland Gallery, which itself is a piece of art with its loft-style architecture. After visiting the mixed-media gallery that regularly exhibits at Art Basel, grab some dinner and live entertainment in the district — there’s always something exciting going on. 55 Mill St., Building 61, corkinshopland.com
3. Spin Gallery on Queen West, one of the most popular galleries in the city after the sun goes down, not only embraces popular culture by carrying work by video director Floria Sigismondi and REM’s Michael Stipe, but the folks at Spin sure know how to host a party. And they do so quite often. 1100 Queen St. W., 2nd floor, spingallery.ca
4. The National Film Board’s Mediatheque, in the Entertainment District, has a massive catalog of Canadian film all available for free viewing in personal viewing stations. I recently caught Chris Landreth’s “Ryan” there. The Mediatheque will be hosting a series of special events and openings to coincide with this year’s TIFF. 150 John St., nfb.ca/mediatheque/
5.It’s fully possible to spend a whole day wandering through the architectural marvel that is the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts, the new home of the Canadian Opera Company. Not too far away, the Art Gallery of Ontario — still working on the new Frank Gehry-designed renovation — hosts the Andy Warhol: Supernova exhibit. Andy Warhol was not your typical artist; so it’s only fitting that boundary-pushing director David Cronenberg is the exhibit’s guest curator.
Four Season’s Center, 145 Queen St. West, fourseasonscenter.com
Andy Warhol / Supernova: Stars, Deaths and Disasters, 1962-1964,
317 Dundas St. W., ago.net
6.One of my favorite spots in the city — and director Lukas Moodysson’s favorite places as well — is just off Bloor in the Mirvish Village. Known as a comic mecca internationally, The Beguiling‘s humble abode can be deceiving: When it comes to comics, if you can’t find it anywhere else, The Beguiling probably has it — or can get it for you. Browse for hours. 601 Markham St., beguiling.com
Dining during the Toronto Film Festival seems to revolve around the same popular and conveniently located places. If it isn’t Sassafraz, it might be Bymark or Susur. But sticking to “the usual” is really to miss out on the diverse, cultural dining experience Toronto has to offer.
1. Swan is a classic 1940s time-capsule located in the arty Queen West neighborhood. A favorite amidst hipsters and filmsters, the atmosphere is laid back and unpretentious. Try the bold and delightful Seared Duck with Squash Griddle Cakes, and the Beef Ribs in Marmalade & Beer. Freshly shucked oysters are also available, brought in from the local specialists at Oyster Boy, one of Swan’s neighbors. 892 Queen St. W.; 416-532-0452.
2. Any true oyster lover should also be paying a visit to Starfish, one of the best oyster bars in city. I could describe the fresh seafood or the modern yet sea-side-classic decor, but perhaps a few words on owner Patrick McMurray will suffice: Dubbed a “walking encyclopedia of oyster lore” by locals, McMurray also has the skills to back up his knowledge. He was crowned champion of the 48th World Oyster Opening Championship in Ireland, where he shucked 30 oysters in 3 minutes, 37 seconds.
100 Adelaide St. E. 416-366-7827.
3. Nestled in the eclectic Kensington Market neighborhood, Torito is a new addition since last year’s Fest. The little Spanish eatery offers authentic tapas dishes and an array of good Spanish wines. The entire menu is fantastic, but be sure to try the Grilled Flatiron Steak with Gallega Chips, Roasted Quail with Pomegranate Glaze and Fresh Figs with Cabrales Cheese and Honey. 274 Augusta Ave.; 647-436-5874.
4. Susur may be King Street’s hottest spot, but its younger sibling, Lee (located next door), another casual tapas-style place, should also be on your radar. Lee is the latest brainchild of internationally renowned Toronto chef Susur Lee; and it offers the epitome of global fusion — there are cross-continental influences in nearly every bite. Thankfully, tapas-sized portions mean you can experiment and order a long list of shareable items. 603 King St. W. (at Portland St.); 416-504-7867.
5. In 2006, Tomi-Kro was named “Best International Cuisine” in Toronto, and it definitely wasn’t beginner’s luck for this young Leslieville bistro. Veteran chef Laura Prentice (formerly of Lolita’s Lust) and partners Johnny Katsuras and John Corionos have 30-some years of experience between them. Don’t leave without trying Prentice’s signature flourless chocolate cake. Legend has it she’s welcomed a couple Hollywood celebrities into her kitchen to try out the recipe. 1214 Queen E., at Jones; 416-463-6677.
6. New Manhattanesque spot the Rushton on St. Clair West is all the rage with its vintage chic interior, large shaded patio and uniquely Canadian-influenced dishes. Try the Rushton‘s Alberta Lamb Sirloin along with a reinterpretation of the French-Canadian classic Poutine — covered here with double-cream brie, shredded duck confit and light caramelized shallot gravy. Bon appetit! 740 St. Clair West; 416-658-7874.
From the hipster bars in Parkdale and Dundas West to the cocktail crowd in Little Italy, Toronto’s nightlife scene is definitely a neighbourhood affair. Here’s a distrcit-by-district tour of what’s not to be missed.
1. Toronto’s posh Yorkville District is film festival HQ, where the see-and-be-seen crowds dominate. When I want to get in on the action, I go to Amber, which gets glam points from me, or perennial party favorite Lobby.
2. Celebs and industry vets seem to love trendy Queen Street, home of the Drake Hotel’s SkyYard, which makes me feel “tropical,” and Drake Underground, where there’s always something cool going on. In the heart of Queen, Ultra’s patio lures platinum-card-flashing platinum blondes. Tori and Paris have their own VIP booths here — on opposite ends of the room, of course — but I’d rather party inside with Tommy Lee, due to make an appearance at Ultra during this year’s fest.
3. The Spoke, a private club in King West catering to Toronto’s entertainment elite, also boasts a stellar rooftop deck. At one film fete, Elle Macpherson proudly showed the crowd she could tackle their signature burger. Not all in one bite, I hope.
4. When my scenester rebel comes out to play, I go to Toronto’s hidden gem, Baldwin Village. One patio flows seamlessly into the next on Baldwin’s quiet and quaint main street. Less tame, Little Italy is one place to count on for a lively evening, especially at Bird, which may be small but is always hopping.
5. When it’s time to hit the dance floor, Reservoir Lounge in St. Lawrence Market has some of the city’s best jazz; while the sugary Brazilian cocktail Caipirinhas gets me in the mood for the sounds of sexy house at the Laurentian Room, a fabulously restored 1930’s art deco resto-lounge on the eastside’s Cabbagetown.
6. Czehoski, in Queen West, is a former butcher shop — and mob hangout — but the place reeks with charm and authentic detail. Beer may be its mainstay, but the wine list, which includes organic options, is extensive too. Not far away is the Social, Johnny Knoxville’s favorite spot in Toronto, which is alive and kicking and guaranteed to pack a raw crowd, like one fan who rumbled with the star there last year. When I want to feel like a regular, I ask for a JagerBomb. Mixed with Red Bull, it’s liquid energy — perfect for the night ahead. Which brings us to after-hours. I’m in disco-ball heaven at Footwork and Sonic, where techno, house and electro fans dance the night away. When revelry takes a backseat and it’s time to regenerate, low-lit 7 West keeps their kitchen open round the clock; but only at Chinatown‘s Rol San can I find fresh lobster in the back room until 5am.
Tim Shore is the founder and publisher of BlogTO. He helped to orchestrate this piece. In his spare time he seeks out stores and restaurants that serve wheat and dairy-free foods. blogto.com
BlogTO contributing photographer Jerrold Litwinenko is a photoholic, blogophillic and creature of the night. photosapience.com