We weren’t up early on Saturday morning. No, all that beer made us a bit…sluggish…the next morning. So, we got a late start on our trek to the eastern parts of Toronto.
We took the Queen streetcar and got off in Leslieville for brunch and the continuation of our yarn crawl.
I don’t recall this as a neighborhood when I lived here *cough* 20 *cough* years ago. [Damn, it's hard to admit I was older than a wee child that many years ago!] It seems to be coming along, though, as there were several newish looking shops there.
After breakfast, we wandered along Queen Street East until we got to The Purple Purl. And here we paused for quite a while.
When we walked in, we were happy to see a good-sized seating area with cushy chairs, a case full of goodies (including truffles and pastries), and an espresso machine. But before we gave in to the urge to lounge, we walked around and fondled the yarn.
The Purl has a great selection of “Canadian content,” as they say. There were yarns such as Indigo Moon and other special items such as hand-carved buttons. I fell hard for the buttons (tagua nut, antler, and maple) and a single skein of Canadian Quiviut. Then we settled in for a nice cup of tea and a chat with some friendly knitters and one of the shop owners, Jennifer. We could have stayed far into the afternoon, but realized that we were sitting inside on an incredibly lovely day. So, we managed to lever ourselves out of there and hop back on the Queen streetcar.
We exited at Kew Gardens Park and continued down Queen on foot in search of healthy carry out for lunch. We also made one more stop at The Naked Sheep to complete our yarn crawl. A sweet shop with a good selection of basics and luxury yarns, we nonetheless didn’t linger too long as we were itching to hit the boardwalk along The Beaches.
With some Thai carry out in hand, we parked ourselves on a comfy bench where we ate, knit, and watched all the people and dogs walking by.
The sun was out most of the time, but we did feel a bit chilly when it was briefly covered by a cloud. However, it was a fabulous, relaxing way to spend an hour. There were cormorants fishing in Lake Ontario, kite-fliers, swimmers (!!), and many happy people enjoying the weather on their bikes, rollerblades, and their own two feet.
Eventually, we had to head back to the room and plan out what to do for dinner. After two nights of less than stellar food (no complaints, but pub food and airport food aren’t exactly memorable in a really good way) we wanted to splurge. After a little bit of web browsing, we found a great place: Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar.
The “foodies” on Chowhound may have some issues with Jamie Kennedy’s menus, but Rachael and I had a fabulous dinner. The menu is tapas-style, which allowed us to try several different different dishes of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. I enjoyed all my selections immensely: celery root soup; smoked pickerel with fennel salad; and duck confit with soft polenta and dried fruit compote.
With each plate, I enjoyed a different wine pairing of just 3 oz each, so I didn’t repeat my over-indulgence of the night before. Although, when we ended our meal by splitting the plate of artisanal cheeses, I went for the larger pour of port. We stopped for some gelato as we walked back to our hotel and then turned in for a decent night’s sleep.
The next morning was our last, and we were desperate to enjoy a decent breakfast. The previous two mornings we had eaten mediocre breakfasts, where the only thing that really stood out was the peameal bacon. The night before, we had found out about Jamie Kennedy’s newest venture, Gilead Cafe, and since we had such a fine dinner the night before we decided to try it. Since we had to check out at noon, we got up for an early start to Corktown (another newish neighborhood). We didn’t realize the subways didn’t open until 9 AM on Sundays, so we ended up taking a cab instead.
When the cab dropped us off on King at Gilead Court, we were a bit perplexed. It looked like an alley and we didn’t see any large signage from King Street. A few steps later, though, and we were reassured to see some folks inside setting up for the day.
This was a divine breakfast: fresh-baked croissant, fresh coffee, and a bowl of yogurt with granola and hazel nuts. The yogurt was the best I’ve *ever* had: handmade on the premises from whole, raw milk then blended with homemade blueberry jam. The texture was thick and creamy, and the taste was tangy and rich. The server said they “hang” the yogurt a bit to let more liquid drain off, resulting in a thicker yogurt. All I know is I’d eat this every day quite gladly!
We still wanted to do a bit of exploring before heading back to the hotel, so we walked the few blocks to the Distillery District to look around and take in the offerings. Here we had our second fabulous cup of coffee at Balzac’s Coffee Roastery.
This gem of a place served up outstanding coffee in a beautiful setting. Even the latte was beautiful.
We also stopped at a yummy bakery in the Distillery where I picked up a fresh scone, but I missed the name of the place because as I was paying for my scone, I got a call from United Airlines that my flight had been cancelled. Thus ended our time in the Distillery, as we caught another cab back to the hotel to plot out how I was going to get home and then check out.
The flight cancellation was actually not something I was too worried about. After all, I still had half the day left to get onto another flight and, if it was really necessary for me to stay an extra day, I had my laptop for work. So, I made the best of this bonus time.
Rachael had planned to take in a movie after I left at midday for the airport. She wanted to stick to her plan and I wanted to take in more of Toronto, so we parted ways and I was once again wandering on my own. I headed to Chinatown to take in the sites and enjoy the cheap lunch I had missed a couple days earlier.
I found that the barbeque pork over rice is still the best deal in Chinatown. When I lived here, we used to stop in Chinatown for this steal of a meal where we could both eat for a total of $5. The price has gone up, but not by much. I paid $3.25 for the bowl of rice and barbeque pork, which also included a hot pot of tea. I actually splurged a bit and ordered a plate of gai-lon (Chinese broccoli) for an extra $4 since this is one of my favorite veggies.
Wandering up Spadina towards College, I stopped at a Chinese bakery where I picked up a couple sweet red bean pastries for snacking on the way to the airport, and then caught the streetcar back to the hotel where I picked up my bag. Then it was off to the airport for a long wait to get on a short, but highly unpleasant flight home.
All in all, I had a great time and it felt good to get back to a town for which I have so many fond memories. I don’t know why, but the people in Toronto just seem so much more happy and secure and the vibe is reassuring. The transit was superb and the size of the city is very manageable compared to Chicago or New York. I started off my trip with a streak of nostalgia and ended up ready to return again and again. As long as it doesn’t involve flying United Airlines, that is.