Catchin a cold at Toronto new surf shop

Aliya N Barnes in front of Elie Landesberg’s photo.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva 

Try on a juicy rash guard, flip through a surf magazine, grab a board of your dream and … go surfing!

Are the Great Lakes too cold for you? Don’t worry, Surf the Greats company got you covered. Their new surf shop and café at 276 Carlaw Avenue offers thick cold water wetsuits, surf booties, and mittens from Rip Curl. While the warmest gear keeps your body comfortable, the beach-inspired events and parties will take care of your mood. For example, until July 29th, Catchin A Cold photo exhibit showcases works from 16 artists who represent all five of the Great Lakes.

Hidden in the labyrinth of the building, the shop became one of many surfers’ favourite spots in Toronto even before it opened. Even while under construction, it hosted Toronto’s premiere of environmental movie Island Earth and welcomed adventure photographer Chris Burkard who was in to Toronto to present his surf documentary Under An Arctic Sky.

Now the shop is officially open and it offers everything surfers need for their soul and body, from surfboards, apparel, sun care, and printed matters to surf and yoga lessons, energizing drinks, and many exciting events like film screenings and live music concerts!

“The atmosphere is totally amazing,” said 20-year-old Aliya N. Barnes, who attended the grand opening party on June 29th. “It’s colourful and bright, but it still has a nice surf chill feeling. I feel like I wanna live here.”

Surf the Greats’ owner Antonio Lennert said that the physical shop is an extension of their online platform that brought many surf enthusiasts together through organizing beach cleanups and free yoga classes and offering surf equipment and lessons for the last three years.

“We started online as a media outlet to connect all different communities of surfers over the Great Lakes using hashtag ‘surf the greats’,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned the community’s trust by giving, and now the community is giving back to us. That’s why now we have a home, and there’s so many people here and so much positivity. It just feels very special.”

Surf the Greats’ sign over the bar table is shimmers in its juicy colours, shifts from pink to blue and from blue to green. Dj Great Lake Shark (Ellie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe with folktronica tracks until the band Gold Complex takes over with their live acoustic.

Gold Complex performs at the surf shop on June 29

Guests sample RISE Kombucha, order beer from Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and explore newly arrived surfboards and apparel. There are a couple of major brands like Vans Canada and Rip Curl, but Surf the Greats tries to stay local as much as possible and carries products from Montreal, Tofino, BC, and Toronto, along with their own brand.

Walking through the rows of beach bags and rash guards, the visitors occasionally stop and stare at the photos of Catchin A Cold exhibit. The sixteen photographs vary from black and white to colourful, and show surfers riding or waiting for waves, walking to and staring at the water. “What you see on the walls is a mix of professional photographers and people who go to beach with their phones,” said Lennert. “We tried to make sure that we represented all the Great Lakes, amateur and professional photographers, male and female photographers.” Surf the Greats announced the photo competition in the winter and, working with Vans Canada, selected the winning works out of 700 submissions.

Dj Great Lake Shark (Elie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe at Surf the Greats’ grand opening party
“I took this photo in Scarborough, Ontario, in a very-very stormy day, and there was one surfer out in very turbulent water,” Elie Landesberg told Novella about his black and white photo. “Because the sky was so grey and the birds were blowing around the sky, I thought it was a metaphor for my life and for surfing to see somebody sitting insulated, so calm among so much turbulence and chaos.”
Lennert said Surf the Greats will host a new event every week. Many of them are free or by donation. Check out a screening of a the surf movie GIVEN on July 20, a wave forecasting workshop on July 29th, and beach yoga every Sunday morning.
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How To Turn Your Kitchen into a Coffeeshop

Do you love your coffee? Do you love your cool local coffeeshop? Is that love emptying your bank account? If you’re trying to save money on your daily coffee runs, or just trying to give your home a cool coffee shop aesthetic, here’s what to do:


For coffee, you can support local Toronto brands like Pilot Coffee Roasters, which offers direct trade coffee (similar to fair trade, ensuring that farmers have been paid fairly for their labour). Other Toronto-based roasters that offer direct trade include Hale Coffee and Reunion Island Coffee. Another Toronto-based brand to try is De Mello Palheta, who have house blends with fun names like Dancing Goats and Butterfly KissIf you want steamed milk, it can be as easy as simply heating the milk in a saucepan (but watch it carefully so the milk doesn’t burn), or even just microwaving it. If you want frothed milk, you can buy a frothing wand like from Amazon for relatively cheap.

Coffee Makers

A regular automatic drip coffee maker (if you don’t already have one) is a great investment, and you don’t necessarily need to get a super-fancy one. I would advise against paying more than $75 for one, depending on how big a pot you want to make in the morning. If you don’t mind the extra effort involved (and purchasing a coarser grind of coffee to go with it), using a french press can produce a more flavorful cup (not to mention, french presses are a bit cheaper than drip coffee makers). Instructions on how to use a french press can be found here. If you want espresso, you can use a moka pot (instructions on how to use them can be found here), or an AeroPress, which works much in the same way as a French Press, but uses a finer grind and produces a pretty different coffee. You can read about how to use an AeroPress here. Moka pots and AeroPresses are usually around the same price, so it’s really a question of taste preference, and which one you feel more comfortable using.


For decoration, I like to create an industrial, vintage vibe, like you’re walking through an old European cafe from a century ago (albeit with updated technology). First, you can get a hanging light (or two) such as this one from Amazon, and a wooden mug rack, like this one.

Be sure to add something to your walls. To continue the theme, I’d suggest impressionist art posters, or old-style maps. If you don’t mind getting a little cliché, you can pick up a poster depicting Van Gogh’s ‘The Café Terrace at Night,’ or something similar. I’d also suggest adding one of Lautrec’s paintings, like ‘Le Moulin Rouge.’ Another decor recommendation I have would be to dry out some flowers and keep them in your kitchen.


I’m typically pretty grumpy in the morning, so I like to have funny mugs to cheer me up. For example, since it’s never too early to fight the patriarchy, you can buy this Male Tears mug, available in three different sizes. Or, perhaps, you’d like a heat-changing mug that reflects how you feel before and after your first cup of coffee. You also may want to think of picking up some containers for milk and sugar. Such as this cute cow-shaped creameror, if you’re also feeling a little crabby, a crabby sugar jar. 

Happy Brewing!

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Hot List: Maman


I recently had the opportunity to experience a lovely prix-fixe menu at Parisian cafe restaurant, Maman. Maman is located in the heart of the Financial District in downtown Toronto. The prix-fixe menu is served out on their patio, overlooking the buildings around the area.

To name a few dishes, their prix-fixe 3 course menu featured Grilled Tomato Gazpacho, Croque Maman with Parisian Ham & Comté, Quiche served with mixed greens, as well as Salad Niçoise. Last but not least, the lunch is finished with mini sweet bites and drip coffee or tea of your choice.

Once you step in, the interior of the cafe gives off a rustic Southern France atmosphere, providing a mini escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.


To start, I went with the grilled tomato Gazpacho with sweet red peppers and cucumbers. It came with a cute glass cup with some diced tomato and celery topping. The best part about this starter is that it’s served cold, which is perfect for the hot and humid summer days we have been having. After every spoonful it gave a spice kick that was just right.


Next, came my main course – Salad Niçoise (tuna, tomato, hard boiled egg, anchovies, green beans, black olives, onions, olive oil). Since the other dishes were available for take-out, I opted for a dine-in exclusive dish. The Salad Niçoise was the perfect choice – the olive oil dressing enhanced the flavours of each element of the dish.


For one, who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, the sweet bites were definitely tasty! It complimented my unsweetened iced tea while balancing out my palette.

Enjoying a delicious prix-fixe lunch out on the patio in the heart of the Financial District really was the highlight of my day. I really recommend you try it out before summer is over! Their prix-fixe lunch happens every Friday on the patio from 11:30AM – 2PM.

Location: First Canadian Place, 100 King St W, Toronto, On M5X2A2

Phone: 416-216-6767

Social media: Facebook & Twitter: @mamantoronto | Instagram: @_mamantoronto_

How to invest in art without breaking your budget


A few weeks ago my friend Amelia was telling me about her plans to go art shopping that day.

Art… shopping?” I repeated as my brain nearly combusted. Both of those words belong to a language that’s far too pricey for most people of my age and income bracket, let alone pairing them together. “Like, shopping for actual original art?”

Amelia nodded. “My mom always told me that once I become an adult, one of the most important things I can do is to invest in one piece of art annually,” she told me, as my eyes probably bulged from my skull. This was like, next-level adulting. I’d never known any of my 20-something friends to have the means to bring real life art into their homes, let alone the determination. I mean, sure, we’d all love to nail a nice painting to the walls of our tiny living rooms, but the odd time we find a couple hundred bucks in our pockets, it’s going towards our poor people expenses, like food, or new bras.

But as soon as Amelia said it, something clicked in my head. How awesome would it be to bring a masterpiece into my home? And do it every year? Not only would I be supporting a starving artist like myself, it would make me feel cultured and inspire me on the daily. Plus, I’ve heard that art increases in value as the years pass, so CHA-CHING.

“Enlighten me with your savvy art-buying secrets,” I breathed, scrambling for a pen and paper.

So, my friends, here are some of the tips I gathered for how to invest in art (like a real grown up!) without breaking your tiny little budget.

  1. You don’t have to go all-out and drop a month’s rent to invest in a piece — there are tons of incredibly talented up-and-coming artists in the city whose prices are reasonable for mere peasants like us. Find a treasure that speaks to you and your bank account by keeping an eye out for indie art shows. If you live downtown, chances are you have at least one artsy friend who can keep you posted on the next showing. If not, find events on Facebook!
  2. Hit up an art fair. There’s still a month of summer left, which means you’ll be able to find some outdoor fairs where you can meet artisans and find a nice little masterpiece to take home. Since art fairs are pretty accessible to everyone, and feature a huge variety of work, it’ll be a lot easier for you to fid something in your budget here as opposed to at a gallery.
  3. Hit up a cafe that showcases art. Even as I write this at El Almacen on Queen West, there’s a collection of creepy-cool creations on the walls that are for sale for like, $300-ish apiece. RSquared at Queen and Tecumseth also has interesting, affordable works of art on display.
  4. Save! Of course you’re going to hunt for a bargain, but you don’t want to cheap out too much on this. Artists have worked hard to earn the prices they put on their art, and as a (probably amateur) art lover, you’ll want to support them by paying that price. So, if you’re serious about buying something they’ve created, find out how much it will be and develop a payment plan. This should be a lot easier if you’re making this an annual thing — save up for 12 months, and then at the end of the saving term, splurge on a masterpiece. Imagine how accomplished and adult-like you’ll feel then.
  5. Some artists might be interested in swapping their work for yours. This obviously isn’t a common thing, but it still happens. For example, if you’re a tattoo artist and a painter likes your work, you could cut each other a deal. Or if you sell cameras or bikes or whatever — maybe you have something than an artist needs. Help each other out, and it’s a win-win!
  6. Go cheap. Like, really cheap. If you’re just too broke but still really want some art in your home, you really don’t need to be all official about it and buy it off an artist. Scour your local thrift store and you just might find a painting or sculpture that speaks to you. Bring it home, maybe invest in a pretty frame, and cherish it. I mean, it could very well be a piece of crap, but who cares? If you love it, it’s a masterpiece. (This is my broke girl logic.)

Happy art-ing!


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.