Toronto Gets Crafty

Welcome to the City of CraftI love how crafty and entrepreneurial people in this city can be. Really. I am always inspired by the level of craftsmanship and art that goes into so many one-of-a-kind pieces produced by local artisans. That’s why I have a soft spot in my heart for the City of Craft fair that takes place twice a year in Toronto. When I moved back home at the end of 2008, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this fantastic event. You can definitely find those one-of-a-kind gems at the fair which will pique your interest to return year after year.

The Spring edition of City of Craft was held at the Trinity St. Paul’s United Church on Bloor Street at Spadina. It is much smaller than the Fall fair (which now encompasses 3 buildings along Queen West), but was still packed with vendors (and a photo booth thanks to Have & Hold Design!). Inside the actual Church, the event volunteers did a fantastic job decorating the space with lovely pink cut-out flowers taped to twigs that hung overhead. Very crafty indeed! (Although I wouldn’t expect any less).

What I absolutely love about the fair are the actual conversations you have with the people that are selling their crafts. You learn about where they create, what inspires them, how long they have been doing this for. It is just a fantastic setting to get to know local artisans and to give support. And really – look at how adorable some of this stuff is?

So after reading all of this I know you want me to get to the juicy details – what on earth did I end up buying? At previous shows, I have been notorious for lingering around the booths of various screen print artists including Raymond Biesinger and Jacob Rolfe. However, seeing as though my tiny condo walls are already completely filled with art and prints, I did my best to refrain from purchasing any new masterpieces (and believe me, there were definitely some prints I had my eye on). Instead, I purchased the most lovely little card holder from the wonderful ladies at Falconwright. I don’t know how I have functioned this long without having this little beauty hold all my stuff in my clutch. This purchase was WAY overdue (and will probably be the gateway bag into a slew of new purchases from Falconwright).

Don’t fret if you missed your opportunity to check out the fair this Spring. There are plenty of craft fairs and art crawls in the city all year ’round (you just have to be on the lookout for them). And better yet – there is always Kid Icarus to find local, hand-crafted merch. A good handful of the vendors at City of Craft have collections in stock at the Kid Icarus storefront in Kensington. It’s kind of like a mini/permanent City of Craft. If you can’t wait until December to check out the next show, it’s your next best alternative!

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Massive Party GOLD

Who knew that Spring smells like fundraising? I guess it kind of makes sense though. It’s a great time to shed those winter layers and celebrate the arrival of warmer weather by getting all dressed up while supporting some great Toronto organizations. Two weeks ago I attended the annual fundraising PROM at the ROM event. This past week I attended the AGO’s Massive Party. After going to the PROM, I wasn’t quite sure how the AGO’s event was going to stack up. I had attended previous fundraising events at the AGO (some better than others), and was a little skeptical how this year’s event was going to play out (SPOILER ALERT: It was pretty awesome).

The theme for this year’s Massive Party was GOLD. The golden theme was infused throughout various installations in the gallery, as well as in people’s attire for the evening (check out the gold beauties in the pic below). Some installations included live performances such as an interpretive dance piece we caught on our way in. I am not really sure how this piece had anything to do with the GOLD theme, but I am sure there was a story somewhere…I just didn’t get it.

Once we made it inside (and got our first round of drinks), we noticed a very colourful photo booth set up and just had to take a picture (really it was just me that wanted to take the picture…I love peer pressure!). While waiting in line for our pic to be taken, we noticed this rather interesting looking fellow (he kind of looked like the Mad Hatter) posing with everyone in their pics. We weren’t exactly sure what was going on – but were intrigued none the less. As we got closer to the booth, we noticed a large table filled with candies and Wonka bars and soon discovered that this was a Willy Wonka inspired photo shoot. It was a pretty cute way to tie in the golden theme by having a golden ticket inspired photo opp.

After wandering around the gallery for a bit to check out some of the installations, we headed upstairs to hear the live band featuring Maylee Todd (and never made it back down until the lights came on at the end of the evening). It would have been interesting to see what was happening on the different levels though (I heard that there were some hurdle races going on with various obstacles as an installation), but we were having too much fun dancing the night away we didn’t want to leave.  Plus we were served some delicious mini-grilled cheese (and who wants to leave a party where they serve mini-grilled cheese? Not me!).

By the end of the evening, I was pretty happy with my decision to give the Massive Party another go-around this year. While I can’t say I feel particularly cultured for attending the event (it was more of a party than an evening of appreciating art), I had a great night hanging with my friends and enjoying the fantastic atmosphere created by the golden theme in such a beautiful building. If there was a battle between the PROM and GOLD – I think GOLD would have taken it.

Brunch and the City

Now that Spring has finally arrived (and mother nature is not teasing us anymore), I have noticed the streets of Toronto start to get a little more crowded on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Yes, there are definitely more people out and about shopping and basking in the sunshine, but there are also many more people hanging outside on the sidewalk waiting…waiting in line…waiting to be fed. There are an abundance of brunch spots in the city so it amazes me why there are always line-ups no matter where you go. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE brunch, and I am occasionally one of those people outside eagerly waiting for my table to be ready…but as I see some of these line-ups sometimes, I have to wonder…is it really worth the wait?

I ventured out to 4 brunch places in my ‘hood over the last few weekends to try and answer that question: Are these spots really worth the 10, 15 or even 45 minutes it will take for your table to be ready? Again, I am no foodie..I am just a girl that loves her brunch (and who hates waiting to be fed), and wanted to share my thoughts and experiences on my last few outings.

The Old York

One of my most frequently visited brunch spots in the city is the Old York (probably because I can literally roll out of bed and magically appear inside). This quaint little resto maybe seats about 30 people inside, but another 20 or so on the patio. Prices are very reasonable for brunch – they range between $10 and $14 – and with that you typically get some tasty potatoes, toast and a side salad. I have never had to wait for a table (I’m an early bird, so I am typically one of those dorky people waiting outside before a place even opens), but I have seen line-ups start after noon (and I think to myself…suckas! as I have already eaten). What I love most about this place is the Mados sauce that comes with your meal. Now I’d be careful with this stuff if you aren’t into spicy foods as it does have some kick. I typically mix mine with ketchup to dip my potatoes in. It is quite the tasty treat and definitely makes this meal a little more ‘special’.

Is it worth the wait? I’d wait 10 minutes. Any longer and I’d probably head over to the Foggy Dew just up the street.

Beast

Another small resto in my ‘hood is Beast. Being a vegetarian, I had always stayed clear of this place as I didn’t believe they would have anything on the menu that I could eat (I mean, with a name like ‘Beast’, would you?). However, I thought brunch was maybe one meal that I would be able to test there (unless everything on the menu was coated in bacon…in which a lot of it was…but they still had a couple of options for me). To start off, we felt the need to test a couple of the homemade doughnuts. Bacon glazed doughnuts? Not for me – but they were definitely ordered at the table. The doughnuts were fresh and tasty and were devoured within moments of receiving them. While nothing on the menu really stood out as being super unique as far as brunch options, the menu item that did catch my attention was “The Labatt 50 Breakfast”. It is your standard brunch menu item with choice of meat, eggs and potatoes…BUT comes with a bottle of 50. Beer with breakfast? What is too early anyway?

Is it worth the wait? I don’t think I’d wait more than 5-10 minutes for a table. The service was definitely awesome (the wait staff was super attentive and friendly), but it did take some time for us to get our food. The food was tasty, but I don’t think it is necessarily worth waiting for with so many other brunch spots to choose from that are so close by.

Delux

Moving out a little further from my home territory (a girl has to explore a little), is the restaurant Delux on Ossington. A friend had recommended this place to me a couple of years ago, and it surely did not disappoint. Delux offers a “cuban brunch”, which I am not sure is a real thing – but it sure is tasty. Instead of getting potatoes as a side with your meal, you get very flavourful rice and beans. I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich and ate every last bite of it (Avocado + Cheese = HIT in my books). Delux used to only be open for brunch on Sundays (in which I had to learn the hard way by showing up on a Saturday several years ago only to learn that they were just opening up for lunch), but has recently made the switch to be open all weekend now. Yay!

Is it worth the wait? I would wait 15 minutes at most for a table. Line-ups probably start closer to noon, so I would just know to get there a little earlier next time ’round if I was really craving that breakfast sandwich. 

Saving Grace

The brunch spot in the city that I had been meaning to try for years is Saving Grace on Dundas. This is the place that kind of spawned the whole “is it worth the wait?” mentality. Every time I walk by this stretch of Dundas on a Sunday morning/afternoon, there is a crowd of people hanging outside. Regardless of the weather, people are lined up and patiently waiting to feast inside. I decided to bite the bullet with my friend and wait the 30 or so minutes it took for our table to be ready. When you get inside, you realize how tiny the space is and how they cram as many tables as possible to fit (we especially liked the two men that were squeezing next to one another on a bench to turn a two seater into a three-seater). Needless to say, I had really high expectations for this place based on all the hype and long wait times, so this food really had to be worth it.

I ordered some sort of vegetarian open-faced omelette, and looking at the image right now, my stomach just started grumbling. The omelette came with the most delicious baguette style bread, salad and a baked potato. After waiting the 30 or so minutes to get a table, I quickly learned why this place always has a crowd on Sunday mornings – the food is that good! Ambiance is quite lovely as well – Lots of natural sunlight beaming in and very cute decor.

Is it worth the wait? I think I would wait up to 45 minutes for a table at Saving Grace (weather and hunger dependant). The food actually lived up to the hype (which I find isn’t always the case in this city), and I am already wondering what I am going to try next time I visit.