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Toronto Cafes you Need to Check Out

There’s nothing like sipping a steamy latte on a lazy Sunday afternoon as you casually people watch or read your favorite book. ¬†This is starting to become a weekend tradition of mine so I’m sharing some of my favorite spots ūüôā

Colette

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A beautiful Parisian inspired cafe right next to the Thompson Hotel on King and Portland. Colette boasts a bakery, bar, and lounge all cleverly divided with different atmospheres and decor. Aside form grabbing a cup of coffee served in a delicate porcelain white cup, you’ll want to try their brunch menu which includes classics like Eggs Benedict on a croissant or their Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

NEO Coffee Bar

NEO
If you enjoy Japanese desserts, you will LOVE this place. NEO makes their desserts and coffees in house. You can watch the pastry chef decorate freshly baked green tea swiss rolls as you sip on your matcha latte. The design of the cafe is also very Japan-esque – clean cut and simple.

Field Trip Cafe

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Just west of Ossington is a a humble little cafe with a generous patio for sun lounging as you enjoy freshly baked treats and a mean cup of coffee. Stay there long enough and you will catch whiffs of freshly baked pastries out of the oven wafting through the air. Their Cherry Chocolate Muffin and Oatmeal Cookies are heavenly.

V-day in Toronto

The moment New Years Eve activity wraps up, retail stores are suddenly decked out in pink and red hearts and boxes of chocolates wrapped in delicate bows. ¬†Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the cheesy and cliche roses and fancy dinner. ¬†Make it fun this year with your significant other or your girl friends with a unique experience!

Chocolate truffles on a brown table

Sweet Tooth Duo
What’s more thoughtful than buying your sweetheart a box of chocolates? Making them together! Toronto offers some fun courses on making your favorite confectionaries from chocoalte to french macarons. ¬†In fact, this would be a perfect girls night out option too for the single ladies.
Purdy’s Truffle Making Class
Le Dolci’s Cupcake making or Parisian Macaron class

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Artistic Couples
This is a great opportunity to get creative with paint cafes! They offer classes or free style options. Just purchase a canvas, and you have access to all the paint and tools needed to create your masterpiece. They usually have a cafe or bar in the lounge as well, so you can sip on your favorite tea or vino in a relaxed setting.
Paintlounge

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Energizer Bunnies
Not the type that likes to sit still? Want to do something active to bring the two of you closer? Release your energy in fun group activities like dancing or rock climbing or even something crazy like how to fly on a trapeze!
Salsa DancingSteps Dance Studio, Toronto Dance Salsa
Rock ClimbingThe Rock Oasis, Toronto Climbing Academy
Toronto Circus School – Arial Arts, Flying Trapeze, Trampoline

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Bartending Course
Valentine’s Day is ubiquitous with loosening up and relaxing with a drink. Why not learn to make your own with a bartending class? BartenderOne offers a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of making a great cocktail. You can learn a few party tricks and sip on your own handcrafted drinks!
Bartender One

skating

Excape
Up for something outside of the city? Everyone’s been talking about this, and it definitely is an ideal weekend excape (Valentine’s Day does fall on a long weekend!). Rent an Airbnb or a room in Muskoka and skate with your sweetheart down the 1.3km skating trail in the heart of the forest.
Ice Skating trail
Deerhurst Resort

Hope these ideas help spice things up for Vday! ¬†Let me know what is your favorite way of spending time with your significant other/friends? ūüôā

7 Fun Things to do in February [Toronto]

DJ-Skate-Nights-2-Photo-by-Joshua-MelesDJ Skate Nights
Injecting your ice skating experience with some live music! Jam out to your favorite tunes on ice.
Jan 2 – Feb 20 at the Harbourfront Skating Rink
Admission – Free
Check out who’s playing

DragonBall-YeeHong-BestofToronto-2015-026-726x476Dragon Ball
Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Yee Hong fundraising Gala.
Feb 6 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Reserve your table

328da033-2f1e-4fdf-8e87-03d02f28d8b0Try something new for Valentine’s Day!
Tired of the same old roses and fancy dinner with your significant other? Does Feb 14 make you cringe? Regardless if you are single or in a relatonship, take the opportunity to do something unique this year. Keep an eye out for my Valentine’s Day post coming up!

bent-toronto-lifeWinterlicious
Between Jan 29 РFeb 11, enjoy a 3 course meal for a fixed price. This is a great chance to try out the plethora of dining options in Toronto. Check out my personal favorites on my previous post here.

poutine-canadaLa Poutine Week
A poutine lover’s dream. Not that you need an excuse to get a Poutine… but now you really need to get one!
Feb 1-7 all across Toronto!
Check out participating stores

a_icefestDSC_5877Ice Fest
Admire 20,000 pounds of solid ice carved into magnificent sculptures
Feb 20-21 in Yorkville
Admission – Free
More info

6617161125_71bb2b629b_b.jpgGreat Canadian Chill
Stopping kid’s cancer COLD! Show your dare devil side for a good cause.
Feb 15, 10am at The East Mall
More info

2016 Winterlicious Top Picks

Between Jan 29 РFeb 11, enjoy a 3 course meal for a fixed price. This is a great chance to try out the plethora of dining options in Toronto. Also a great opportunity to hit up your coveted list of fancy restaurants that you would normally need to sacrifice a paycheck to entertain your tastebuds.  Here are my personal favorites based on past experience.

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Canoe –¬†Contemporary Canadian. ¬†$28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
One of the most highly requested restaurants for Winterlicious/Summerlious, Canoe sits on top of the TD building on the 54th floor. Soak in the bird’s eye view of Toronto as you dine, or better yet, come during sunset for a extra special touch to your meal. The service is excellent and each dish is carefully crafted together like a work of art. Be prepared to experience a variety of unusual textures and tastes that Canoe aims to incorporate in all its seasonal dishes.
Where: 66 King Street West, 54th Floor (TD Tower)

volos

Estiatorio Volos РModern Greek.  $23 Lunch // $35 Dinner
This is no Jimmy the Greek. Volos offers quite the upscale dining experience and their dishes are very flavorful and well prepared. Try the super tender Atlantic Salmon and the deliciously floral Pressed Greek Yogurt with Honey.
Where: 133 Richmond Street West

Bosk

BOSK РAsian-Canadian fusion.  $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Staff at the hotel will be gliding around in elegant traditional Chinese attire and your server will pour your water out of a glass tusk. BOSK ranks solidly across service, food and presentation. Relax in the lounge with a drink or some french macarons after the meal.
Where: 188 University Ave

pommier

Auberge du Pommier – French Classics.
Considered a highly request french dining destination, Auberge du Pommier immerses you in a woodcutter’s cottage complete with cozy wood burning fireplaces. Similar to Canoe, Auberge du Pommier offers a delightful experience for the palette in all of their seasonal dishes.
Where: 4150 Yonge Street

sassafraz
Sassafraz -French-Canadian fusion.  $23 Lunch // $45 Dinner
A clean and elegant restaurant situated in the heart of Yorkville. Sassafraz offers a romantic, dim-lit environment for you to enjoy a delicious meal. Sit by the living wall and waterfall to complete the experience.
Where: 100 Cumberland Street

Road to Hana

Driving to Hana is one of the most popular things to do in Maui. It is a one day mission as there is only one route that will take you to Hana. The bar was set pretty high as everyone we spoke to raved about the amazing scenery and beautiful waterfalls and bamboo forests to behold.  Along the way you will see very lush rainforest-like terrains, scattered fruit stands and hiking paths.
Fruit stand
One’uli is a black sand beach which is a pretty interesting stop if you have never seen one beforeIMG_4877
Some food stands to serve hungry drivers about halfway to Hana.IMG_4873IMG_4860IMG_4861
Arguably the most interesting thing on the drive is Kipahulu National Park where you can hike to see the ‘Ohe’O Gulch and the grand finale which is taking the Pipiwai trail to see the 400 foot Waimoku waterfall. ¬†IMG_4898
The hike to Waimoku is a fairly easy 2.5mile trip one way.  You will see a lot of interesting landmarks along the way including some pineapple trees and this one tree that has trees growing from its branches!IMG_4880
By far my favorite part of the hike was going through a dense bamboo forest.  This part of the hike is very comfortable as there are clear trails and a boardwalk that takes you across the forest.  Bamboo
There are a number of waterfalls along the way that look beautiful against the lush greenery.  IMG_4899IMG_4879IMG_4868IMG_4911IMG_4909
At last, after hiking for about an hour you will reach the massive Waimoku waterfall.  IMG_4922
I would say the drive to Hana to hike this trail was worth it, but wasn’t too impressed by everything else in between. ¬†Be very careful when driving the Hana highway as the roads are very narrow and windy and there are one-way roads every few minutes. ¬†The speed limit is about 10-20mph throughout and limited restrooms and no gas stations once you get into the thick of Hana. ¬†Leave early and take your time to admire the sights along the way ūüôā

Exploring Maui underwater

If water sports are your thing, Maui is the place to do it.  Unlike the Big Island, Maui is a lot more remote and quiet Рperfect to reconnect with nature and take in all the beautiful sights the island has to offer.

Snorkeling

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We snorkeled with Four Winds¬†II and it was an incredible experience. Originally we were supposed to sail to the beautiful crescent shapped Molokini Crater¬†to snorkel, but conditions became rough and we had to head towards another part of the island. Which actually was not a disappointment at all because we saw a TON of tropical fish and even a few turtles! It was amazing how close we got to them… and all the beautiful coral that lived under the ocean. Its another world beneath the surface. Four Winds provided all the equipment, served breakfast and lunch and an open bar.

Paddleboard/Surfing

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This was my first time paddle boarding and it was a lot harder than I thought! It’s easy to get knocked off balance by the waves and because we were in a very rocky beach in Lahaina, it was even scarier to think about falling into sharp coral. We rented equipment from the Royal Hawaiin Surf Academy (where we actually took a surfing lesson as well). We broke across the waves and paddled out pretty far into the ocean and the views of the mountains were amazing.

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No surfing pics unfortunately! ¬†It’s not as hard as it looks and it’s a whole lot of fun! ¬†Maui was an amazing trip, the perfect Excape.

Sunrise on top of Haleakala

At every destination you will be a told a list of “must-do” things. Sometimes those turn out to be tourist traps, other times you walk away with a glorious memory. Sunrise at Haleakala was definitely the latter. This is a trip that is not for the faint of heart. There is a price to pay and I’m not talking about the $15 entrance fee into the summit. Be prepared to wake up at 3am dressed in insanely un-Hawaiian winter clothes and drive up a windy road up to the summit in a half asleep daze. Be prepared to stand up to some of the windiest conditions 10,000 feet above ground that will leave your face and hands stiff from waiting in anticipation for the sun to peek above the horizon.

All of this sounds pretty awful for a trip that promised nothing but bikinis and short shorts 24/7, but let me tell you… Haleakala is a breath taking experience and you will regret nothing. When we reached the top, it was still very early and you can see millions of stars shining so brightly and a clear view of the crescent moon. There is a small glass hut that you can experience the view without suffering from the cold but we stood outside the entire time to take it all in – wind and all.
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You are so high up that you are literally above the clouds.  You can see the whimsical fluffy bits of cotton float over the mountain tops.  IMG_4771IMG_4790
At last after hours of standing in the freezing cold in our winter coats, hats and gloves, the sun finally revealed itself in the distance, bringing a haze of yellow orange across the sky.  IMG_4773IMG_4774IMG_4779IMG_4792IMG_4808IMG_4802
The view from this height was really nothing I have ever experienced.  Most people will dip right as the sun rises to escape the cold.  But stay a little longer and you will have the sunrise all to yourself.IMG_4816IMG_4818
With still plenty of time left in the day, we went down to check out some beaches and pro surfers. ¬†One of the most famous beaches in Maui is called Peahi a.k.a. “Jaws” for its monstrous waves that can exceed 60 feet. ¬†We did not actually get to go to the beach as it is a pretty hard route to find and has restricted access so most people can only watch from a distance. ¬†IMG_4891IMG_4835
Ended the day off with, obviously, another beautiful sunset ūüôāIMG_1988IMG_1999

Paradise Island, Maui

Maui is the all encompassing definition of island life – pristine beaches, tropical palm trees and glorious sunsets. Although K & I planned a good handful of fun activities like surfing and snorkeling, we were determined to slip right into the chill lifestyle of Mauians for the duration of our one week excape. ¬†Maui is known for a few must-eat food items: Macadamia nuts, tropical fruits, and Kona coffee. ¬†On our first day, we had a delicious hearty breakfast made with local ingredients at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. ¬†I had their Banana Pancakes which was like eating the best banana bread in breakfast form. ¬†K had their house Frittata and a side of Coconut French Toast drizzled in condensed milk. ¬†Two thumbs up for this place!

IMG_1870After breakfast we set off to explore the island by driving along the highway that hugs that parameter of Maui. Almost every strip of the drive was filled with views of the dazzling ocean and mighty mountains in the background. There are plenty of spots for scenic views.
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Along the way around the border of the western part of island is Iao State Valley – home to one of¬†Maui’s most recognizable landmarks, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. This iconic green-mantled rock outcropping overlooks Iao stream and is an easy and quick hike.IMG_4695IMG_4704
Past the Iao Valley there is another very interesting landmark known as the Nakalele Blowhole.  A fair hike up and down some rocks takes you to a most fascinating force of water that crashes in from the waves and funneling into a blowhole formed in between the rocks resulting in a huge gush of water that shoot up many feet in the air.  Do be careful not to go too close to the blowhole as it can literally suck you in!IMG_4723
Be sure to take advantage of the many local fruit stands scattered around the island for some fresh tropical fruit.  In the winter months, Papaya was the best and coconuts are a great way to hydrate up.IMG_1994
Seafood is plentiful – we definitely ate our fill of fish! ¬†This one was a little place called Maui Fish’n Chips tucked away in a plaza in Kihei serving a variety of grilled and fried fish at a very reasonable price.IMG_2003
For a solid restaurant experience, I would highly recommend Kimo’s if you are in Lahaina. ¬†Albeit a bit pricy (Maui is not a cheap vacation destination and Lahaina is more touristy than the other parts of the island) but the food and service here is on point. ¬†I was craving a Pina Colada and K had a Mai Tai – both drinks were deliciously refreshing.IMG_1938
The best thing about restaurants in this strip is the amazing view.  An open concept patio that offers an unobstructed view of the ocean Рcome during sunset to dine and watch the sun cast gold and red across the sky.IMG_1945
I ordered their Tuna and Avocado Poke served with crunchy tortilla chips which was so deliciously flavorful and went so well with the chips (they really did not skimp on the tuna!). K had a Pesto Baked Mahi Mahi with fluffy pilaf and a medley of vegetables.  The fish was insanely tender and juicy РI can confidently say it was probably the best baked fish I have ever tasted!IMG_1943
Hard to believe some people actually get to see this view every single day.  Each sunset was so different and beautiful and we would make a trip to the beach in the evening to watch the wonderful colors dancing in the sky.IMG_1923Stay tuned for more Maui adventures!

Gifts for the Foodie

Last installment of the “Last Minute Holiday Gift” series. ¬†Everyone knows a few foodies, here are some great ideas on presents that will impress their palette.

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McEwans
For: The gourmet food lover who appreciates beautiful packaging
Where: Shops on Don Mills, 66 Wellington (The Path)
McEwan’s is like a Whole Foods but arguably even nicer with a fine selection of food packaged up so beautiful you may not want to even open it. They carry products like Sullivan & Bleeker

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Squish Candy
For: The one with the massive sweet tooth
Where: 176 Yonge St. (Inside The Bay, concourse level)
With its whimsical packaging and wide selection of candied treats, it’s like walking into an upscale Willy Wonka store. You’ll probably find some excellent stocking stuffers and gifts that practically don‚Äôt even need wrapping thanks to their adorable packaging.

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Green Beanery
For: The caffeine addict
Where:
This huge coffee store boats an impressive selection of all things coffee including responsibly sourced beans, grinders, French presses and more! The gadgets you can find in this store will probably impress even the most seasoned coffee critic! There’s a caf√© inside too so you can sample some of the products before buying.

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St. Lawrence Market
For: The foodie
Where
You may not have thought of the St. Lawrence market as a likely place to shop for gifts, but it’s a prime location to scout a gift for your foodie friends. Gourmet jams, spreads, honeys would make great gifts.

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Butter Avenue
For: The Macaron connoisseur
Where:
Where: A classy boutique shop selling a beautiful palatte of colorful and unique maracon flavors that rival that of Laduree’s.

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Soma Chocolate Maker
For: The Chocaholic
Where: Distillery District,
You can’t go wrong with great chocolate. In Soma, you can find a lovely selection of rustic chocolates and beautifully packaged ready-to-gift items.

Gifts for Him: Unique Stores for Last Minute Shoppers

Your holiday shopping guide for men. ¬†Last minute hustling doesn’t have to mean boring cookie-cutter gifts that he will never use. ¬†I’ve uncovered a few Toronto based stores¬†that¬†offer a little something special for every man.

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Frank & Oak
For: The man that appreciates the art of dressing well without breaking the bank.
Where: 735 Queen Street West
Sale? YES!
Frank & Oak offers a solid¬†selection of dress shirts, blazers, and men’s accessories. There’s even a coffee shop right inside this store if you need a pump of caffeine to get the shopping started! ¬†They really do offer some great items for very reasonable prices.

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GOTSTYLE
For: Those who want to splurge for that special someone.
Where: 62 Bathurst Street
Sale? YES!
GOTSTYLE doesn’t mess around when it comes to dressing men impeccably. I remember walking in there with my boyfriend to try on some suits and I was very impressed by how knowledgable the staff were about fabrics and clothing production. They have an excellent selection and even a salon inside.

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Uncle Otis
For: The stylish man that appreciates the fine details in his wardrobe.
Where: 26 Bellair
Sale? YES!
Forget about the same old plaid shirts, you’ll have the opportunity to explore much more interesting designs here like color block meets patterns and pebble leather shoes.

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BYOB Cocktail Emporium
For: The man who dreams of dazzling guests with his alcohol cabinet and bartending skills
Where: 962 Queen Street West
With one of the largest selection of all things bartending, you can literally find dozens of different drinking glasses, bitters, and other gadgets to conjure one hell of a cocktail

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Likely General
For: The artistic man with a taste in unique decor. Perfect gift shopping for those who have recently moved into a new space.
Where: 389 Roncesvalles Avenue
Judging by the high ratings on BlogTO and Yelp, you can likely find a special item in there just in time for the holidays. Whether it is a cool shaving brush, a pineapple tumbler, or just some tasteful candles to bring warmth during the winter.