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Sometimes we forget what’s right in our own back yard. Toronto is just a short trip east that offers so much.

I was reminded of what a great city Toronto is on several recent visits.

Below are a few words about restaurants, foodie destinations and where to stay:

For the Food shopper:

Eataly is a stunning marketplace that has just about everything Italy has to offer. Like its other locations around the world, the Toronto store (the first location in Canada) is well laid out and filled to the brim with food and some housewares. You can visit their butcher counter, wine store, bakeries, cooking school, produce counters and all manner of prepared foods and sweets. To dine in you can eat at several restaurants and counters. Don’t forget the gelato. I’ve been to four other Eataly locations around the world, and they manage to maintain similar standards at all their locations.

I had the pleasure of being invited to a small cheese tasting with Afrim Pristine of The Cheese Boutique on Ripley Street. This cheese lover’s mecca is a feast for the eyes and the senses. The immediate aroma of hundreds of cheeses as you walk in the door is intoxicating. Pristine’s father and mother started the original store on Bloor Street 52 years ago. The operation is now run by the brothers. Not only will you find hundreds of cheeses, but it also has a butcher shop, produce counters and so many other ingredients for the food lover. They’ve opened a bakery and coffee shop just down the street.

At the tasting, I was particularly taken by Cow’s Creamery clothbound Avonlea cheddar. Luckily, I was able to source it and now have it available in our fridge along with their fabulous butter.

Where to STAY:

While I often stay with family when I’m in the big city, on a recent visit I stayed at the Kimpton Saint George. I’m a big fan of this San Francisco-based hotel chain.

They generally take older buildings and refurbish them into lovely boutique hotels. They also put extra effort into their onsite restaurants. The complimentary coffee in the morning in the lobby is welcome, as is their wine tasting for happy hour. Toronto has two locations.

Another spot with old world charm is One King West (at Yonge Street), just a short walk from Union Station. This hotel was formerly the Dominion Bank and boasts a 40-ton vault in the basement. The halls are graced with historic photos of Toronto. The décor blends modern touches with old world charm. It houses a particularly good coffee shop.

WHERE TO EAT:

Mandy’s first Toronto location on Ossington Avenue is a big success. Originally from Montreal, this salad restaurant opened in Toronto in March 2022. The Jill’s Table team was excited to visit recently, since we are a huge fan of their cookbook and the prepared salad dressings that we sell at our store. We tried a wide range of their healthy and delicious salads in their pretty dining area. Mandy’s has a second cookbook out in September 2022.

Bar Isabel on College Street is like a visit to Spain. This bustling restaurant has a great food and wine menu. Be sure to try the Basque cake.

Momofuku on University Ave. is another popular place to eat. The noodle bar is always packed and the menu is interesting. Owner David Chang has launched an entire line of private label foods that are readily available.

Pai now has four locations in Toronto. From Thailand Nuit Regular is the chef and also has an award-winning cookbook Kiin. The eclectic décor and bustling atmosphere made for a fun evening. It has an extensive menu that includes vibrant fresh salads, savory and spicy curries and a particularly good pad Thai.

Sugo is one of those neighbourhood restaurants that warms the heart. Small, but well thought out, the Italian menu is written on a chalkboard. The boisterous servers make you feel welcome, and you’ll see them waving to their customers and neighbours who are walking by. I was particularly fond of their meatballs and glad that they had Lambrusco on their wine list.

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