Novellahoods: Amanda’s Guide to Dundas and Ossington

This Novellahood is my hood. Ossington is a strip of pure hipster madness, which has its ups and downs (the pretentiousness is real, but so are interesting bar concepts and cool boutiques), but if there’s one thing you can count on here, it’s that you’ll never experience a dull moment in this corner of the city. Spend a day, spend a night, and have a blasty-blast with the help of my personal guide to Dundas and Ossington!

CAFFEINATE: Sam James Coffee Bar

As a connoisseur of mochas, I can attest that Sam James’ mocha is the absolute best in the whole wide city. The recipe (which I won’t disclose here) is so simple, but so genius. TRY IT. Hot or iced. Of course, everything else they make here is perfect, too, from the lattes to the conversation.

Sam James' iced mocha — image via @samjamescoffeebar on Instagram
Sam James’ iced mocha — image via @samjamescoffeebar on Instagram

EAT: The Lakeview

This diner has been here for so long I’m pretty sure it qualifies as a historic site. I love this place because it has that classic diner feel without being too gritty, the food is good and nicely priced, and they have MAD drink specials ($4 mimosas, all day, every day!). They’re also open 24 hours, so feel free to come here for a burger in the middle of a drunken night.

PLAY: Get Well

If any of my friends ever have a birthday, it is celebrated here. Why? Because Get Well is not only a bar, but it’s also an arcade and has an in-house North of Brooklyn Pizzeria. Most of the vintage arcade games are free to play, so you can challenge yourself to a game of Dig Dug with a drink in one hand and a slice of pepperoni pizza in the other.

Photo via whyilovetoronto.tumblr.com
Get Well — image via whyilovetoronto.tumblr.com

SHOP: Red Canoe

Being inside this Canadiana shop feels like chanting Oh Canada and drinking maple syrup while riding a moose that’s wearing a Mountie uniform. Check it out if you want to bring home some cool, all-Canadian stuff.

WATCH: Lower Ossington Theatre

‘Tis the season for play-watching, and this theatre has all your nostalgia planned out for the summer: buy your tickets to Rocket Man: The Music of Elton John, Always Abba, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Mary Poppins and other gems.

SHOP: Victoire Boutique

The shop window displays are always so cute, it’s nearly impossible not to step inside this tiny shop. They sell the perfect blend of girly-girl and hip, and the clothes never lack in both imagination and sophistication. Find your next wedding season dress here, or a punchy statement piece for your summer festival-going.

Victoire Boutique — image via victoireboutique.com
Victoire Boutique — image via victoireboutique.com

DRINK: Bellwoods Brewery

This is a Dundas and Ossington go-to. Even if you’re not a fan of beer, Bellwoods Brewery is always a good time. I personally love this place because on holidays, when the LCBO and Wine Rack are closed, Bellwoods is usually open, and my drinking plans are saved.

 

 

Novellahoods: Amanda’s Guide to the Beaches

For a west-ender like me, the Beaches are a beautiful little escape from the crunched-up downtown areas. It has a slight Niagara-on-the-Lake feel, making it a quaint spot to for a refreshing walk, bike ride or picnic, and it’s home to an abundance of local business that keep residents looking and feeling sharp.

Wunderland in the Beaches
Wunderland in the Beaches

STYLE: Parlour Salon East

I can personally attest that this place is the bomb. If you’re thinking about putting pastel in your hair (or making any other dramatic colour-related change to your locks), come here and ask for Megan, who often brings her tiny but well-behaved chihuahua Olive to work. The bright, sunny salon is a fun place to be while you undergo your little makeover.

CAFFEINATE: Wunderland Gallery & Espresso Bar

There’s never been a more romantic love affair than that between art and coffee, right? Immerse yourself in both at Wunderland, where you can soak in locally made art and sip on a latte at the same time. Heaven.

LISTEN: Beaches Jazz Festival

Ah, a summertime classic. The Beaches Jazz Festival is happening this July 10 — 26, so bring your dance moves because it’s going to be a hoot.

EXPLORE: Kew Gardens

Making the Beaches even more nature-centric is this busy 6.5 hectare park that stretches from Queen St. East to Lakeshore Blvd. It’s the perfect spot to curl up on a picnic blanket with a book, but if you’re up for more adventure, go for a jaunt to check out the wading pool, tennis courts, trails, playgrounds and other fun stuff.

EXPLORE: R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

This is more for you history buffs, or you CanLit lovers: This famous plant played a big role in Michael Ondaatje’s Toronto-based novel In the Skin of a Lion. The landmark is definitely worth a visit, if only to take in the opulent grounds, which are now open to the public.

SNACK: Ed’s Real Scoop

A must. All the treats here are inspired by Ed’s mom’s homemade candies, and the results are breathtaking. Stop here for a sweet escape from the heat and a sugary pick-me-up.

NOVELLAHOODS: Amanda’s Guide to Leslieville

Leslieville is like a less try-hard-ish Queen West (I live on Queen West so I’m allowed to say it!). Everyone has fallen for this east-end ‘hood for its great brunch spots and lovely little antique shops. It’s the perfect spot for young, working couples, new families — you know, morning people. Here’s my take on a perfect day in this quaint little neighbourhood of new beginnings.

Photo via thehousefly.wordpress.com

 

SWEAT: Anchored Social Club

Sure, you’ll be working your butt off at this unorthodox gym, but you’ll be so distracted by all the awesomeness that you might not even notice the pain. These guys use odd but fun fitness techniques (like, using huge bags of rice and lentils as training equipment), reminding us what getting into shape doesn’t have to involve any technology whatsoever. If you hate the gym, give this place a try.

EAT: Rashers

BACON. Yes. This place is “North America’s only bacon sandwich shop.” All their meat is sourced locally, and their breads are made with no preservatives. So that should make you feel a tad less guilty as you devour a Bacon Butty, Bacon-on-a-Bun or Brie & Bacon sandwich. They even have a picture of Kevin Bacon on their wall.

SHOP: Arts Market

This year-round market sells unique wares of local artisans, so if you’re one of those great people who likes to support the makers in your city, get your bum over here. Lots of artists are based out of here, letting you claim neat (and often one-of-a-kind stuff) for your home, your wardrobe — basically anything.

EAT: Bobbette & Belle

This place! You probably already know all about it, but I couldn’t not include it. It’s not only one of the best places to go for sweets in Leslieville, but in the entire city. Everything is as gorgeous as it tastes, and make sure your phone is charged because you’ll definitely want to be that annoying person who Instagrams all the things.

SHOP: Raise the Root

Raise the Root is a tiny organic market that’s worth a visit if you’re into using genuinely good food in your recipes. It’s small but perfectly stocked, and it doesn’t take too long to navigate.

CAFFEINATE: Te Aro

Te Aro makes really good coffee. The baristas can act a tad pretentious, but the drinks are fantastic and the atmosphere is cool. Stop in here for an energy boost in the middle of your Leslieville exploration.

SHOP: Matter of Time

You can’t spend a day in Leslieville without visiting an antique shop or two, and this one is my recommendation. Stuffed with old oddities, it’s like you’re stepping back in time — and then stepping out with an armful of antiques.

Blitz Facial Bar – The city’s newest, coolest beauty concept has landed in Toronto

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Founded in 2015 by sister-entrepreneurs, Laura and Rena Polley, Blitz Facial Bar is an extension of Body Blitz Spa. Continuing the practice of beauty through health, Blitz Facial Bar is committed to servicing convenient and affordable facials, with a mission for everyday people to incorporate skin treatments into their regular beauty routine. To ensure the highest-quality skincare, registered estheticians use Body Blitz’s in-house product line featuring natural elements from the earth, sea and various botanicals to help cleanse, nourish and hydrate the skin.

Enjoying a facial on the fly has never been easier now that one of two Blitz Facial Bars is open. The founders of Body Blitz are thrilled to announce that the east end location (1133 Queen St. E) of their new beauty concept has opened its doors and on June 12, the west end location (803 Queen St. W.) will also be open for business. Torontonians looking for a facial treatment while under a time crunch will enjoy the new express facial concept that includes four distinct facials starting at $48 with the option to customize the experience with add-on boosters for $10.

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With the arrival of the brand new beauty concept to Toronto, Blitz Facial Bar will also introduce an extension of its line of products that will be used in all treatments as well as available for purchase at the two locations. Blitz Facial Bar skincare products combine natural elements from the earth, sea and various botanicals to help cleanse, nourish and hydrate the skin. Some of the new products (ranging in price from $38 to $50) will include a plumping serum and an Argan renewal serum.

We’re so excited to introduce our new beauty concept to Toronto. We have set out to offer high quality facials for those who may not be able to take a whole spa day,” said Laura Polley, CEO of Blitz Facial Bar. “We will offer a range of services that can be amped up with boosters so that everyone can customize their facial to suit their personal needs.”

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A sleek and modern space, Blitz Facial Bars have no private rooms and none of your typical spa-like luxuries such as robes, slippers and soft music. Estheticians will get right down to business in an open-air concept, providing efficient, quality services with no undressing required. The facial bar concept will appeal to both men and women who want to maintain the highest standards of skincare but wish to do so in a short amount of time.

On Our Radar: Sloane Tea’s Hoda Paripoush

We sipped some tea with the Toronto woman who’s turning everyone over to the steeped side

Stepping inside Delysees, I immediately find the person I’m looking for, despite the bubbling crowd that’s formed inside the small King West bakery. I’ve never met Hoda Paripoush, but I can tell that’s her over right there, chatting animatedly to a group of starry-eyed event goers, each of them sipping scrumptious tea from delicate china cups.

Persian Palace by Sloane Tea
Persian Palace by Sloane Tea

Paripoush is the woman of the hour. We’re all here to celebrate her adored Toronto-based tea brand Sloane Fine Tea Merchants, which is officially launching its macaron collection, over which the entire city — and beyond — is already losing its mind.

I eventually manage to steal Paripoush away to introduce myself, and the young entrepreneur immediately dives into the fun sort of chitchat one reserves for their best girlfriends. In a matter of minutes, I feel as though I’m simply out for tea with someone I’ve known for a long time.

“I’m a tea hustler,” she jokes, looking sweeter than one of her tea-infused macarons in a bright pink blazer. Tea has been in her heart for a very long time, and it shows: since its conception, Sloane’s been met with wild success — success that’s blossomed from Paripoush’s passion and genuineness, both of which she’s thoroughly steeped into the brand.

You’ve probably heard of Sloane, or at least scrolled past a few breathtaking pictures of its products on Instagram. Loose leaf lovers all over the city have fallen hard for the brand, which beautifully packages its products in ornate tin containers, making it near impossible not to snap a few photos. And, of course, the teas inside are tasty enough to convert any coffee addict.

A few weeks after the launch of Sloane’s macaron collection, Paripoush and I continue our chat over the phone, and she reveals her recipe for finding entrepreneurial success in Toronto. As it turns out, all it really boils down to is following your instincts.

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Hoda Paripoush, founder of Sloane Tea

“Tea is in my blood, so to speak. Because my Persian parents lived in India for over a decade, and given the ritual of tea is such an innate part of Persian culture, I was surrounded by it,” says Paripoush, who was born in India but moved with her family to Brockville, Ont. when she was three. “I actually ended up going to school for naturopathic medicine here in Canada. Eventually I realized that’s not what I wanted to do with my life — so I finally listened to my calling and pursued this dream.”

And we’re glad she did. Ever since Paripoush first sparked the idea of creating Sloane, she’s been traveling the world in pursuit of finding the ingredients and techniques to craft the perfect cup of tea. By blending her own vast tea-related knowledge with all the things she learned while jet-setting, Paripoush’s brand is both proudly local and very well-travelled.

When asked what she thinks about Toronto’s tea industry, Paripoush says she’s proud and excited about how far it’s come. More than just a fad, tea has been an increasingly prominent part of the city’s culinary and lifestyle scenes over the past decade or so, and Sloane plans on keeping that trend alive and well. Tea is a healthier alternative to coffee, a cosy little journey that gives good vibes only — and it’s what people want.

 

Sloane Tea recently launched its macaron collection
Sloane Tea recently launched its macaron collection

That’s another success secret that Paripoush reveals to me over the phone. Listening to the city’s demands and desires is key. She’s designed Sloane in such a way that it gives tea drinkers their perfect cup, but it also gives them another thing they want desperately: transparency between consumer and brand, which she says Toronto’s businesses are getting a lot better at.

“The space between company and consumer shouldn’t be so mysterious and confusing. There shouldn’t be much of a space at all,” says Paripoush. “Toronto has made great progress in this department, and although we have a ways to go — every city has — we have indeed come a long way.”

Maybe it’s the too-pretty-for-words packaging or the fact that the flavours have us constantly coming back for more, but it looks as though Paripoush practices what she preaches: she’s listened to Toronto’s tea addicts, and she’s not only given them what they want — she’s persuaded even the skeptics to hop on the tea bandwagon.