Toronto’s West Queen West has been declared as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods by Vogue Magazine.
In the magazine’s September 2014 issue, Queen Street West has been ranked second in a list of 15 neighbourhoods from across the world.
So, what exactly makes a neighbourhood “cool” by Vogue’s standards?
He mentions popular spots in the neighbourhood, like the Drake (one of my personal faves), the Gladstone, SoHo House, and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), as well as Graffiti Alley, which runs south of Queen Street from Spadina Avenue to Portland Street.
When I joined ChowBella founder and fellow Guelphite, Trina Hendry for a culinary tour of Queen Street West, it was evident how hip the area was. The walk takes you through the trendiest area of Toronto to taste anything from olive oil to Poutine, runs Sunday at brunch time, lasts about three hours and can be booked online. It is a unique opportunity to discover the neighbourhood from a culinary point of view taking in authentic experiences not available to the general public, and be treated like a VIP for a few hours.
Our sampling began at The Spice Trader and The Olive Pit, popular amongst chefs and foodies. With bread chunks dipped into oils and vinegars, we tasted our way through Northern and Southern Spain, France, Lebanon, Italy and Portugal. Similar to a wine tasting, comments were made on smell, colour and taste. it was fascinating to hear other people’s descriptions of the tastes, “grassy, very light, fresh, herbaceous.” We tasted five as we were told that if we tasted too much, we would lose our taste. The shop is filled to the brim with spicy gift possibilities. Note to self: visit again before Christmas to stock up on Oils, Spice gift boxes, and vinegars.
The tour continued on to Nadège a chic new Patisserie, stark and modern, featuring unusual flavor combinations. We enjoyed a decadent sample of a Macaron (make mine salted carmel, please) . The Parisian pastries on display were artistic and unbelievably gorgeous.
Still licking our lips for every last morsel of yummy goodness, we walked a few steps to TeaLish, a modern independently owned tea boutique, where we sipped samples while Leslie, the manager regaled us with basic information on Tea including brewing instructions. Part of the tour includes an order of any type of tea, hot or cold to sip while we ambled to the next sweet stop that was Dlish Cupcakes.
Featuring a daily menu with nine different cupcakes , each cupcake at Dlish is handcrafted from fresh, local natural ingredients, the cakes matching the frosting. No hydrogenated oils here, just pure sweet goodness. Red Velvet is their best seller, so that is what I went for. OMG amazingly fabulous…..had to refrain from cramming the entire thing in my mouth. A gift box is an optional extra with a wonderful array of gift tags to suit absolutely any conceivable occasion including ‘over him’ and ‘over her’.
Delight Fair Trade Chocolate was next where we tasted pure, high quality chocolate and organic ice cream which was a personal favourite, as there were seasonly flavoured choices including Honey Lavender, Spiced Plum and Niagara Apricot, and Blue Cheese, all fresh taste explosions. Downstairs we indulged in Canadian artisanal cheese in Le Caveau.
The grand finale was the furthest and the heaviest sampling at Smoke’s Poutine. I had never tasted Poutine before, so warily ordered the “Vegetarian Deluxe” with fresh green peas and ‘shrooms’, hold the onions. As a Poutine newbie, I dug in with much trepidation, and was surprised at how scrumptious it was. Smoke’s is due to open another location in Guelph soon, and I believe I may now be one of their customers!
The tour which takes two and a half to three hours is totally suitable for non walkers, as the distance covered is only 1 km at the most. The tour runs only on Sundays, all year round, and is accessible. $49 covers the price of the tour and all the samples, its up to you to bring an empty stomach and good walking shoes. “From restaurants, food shops, interior design shops and vintage , at least 80 are related to food” says Trina Hendry, president of ChowBella.
For additional information or to book, visit the ChowBella web site at http://www.chowbellaconcierge.com/tours. All tours are subject to availability and are limited to a maximum of eight people.
The cost of the tour includes all food samples and is $49 per person plus applicable taxes and tip.
for more information: http://www.chowbellaconcierge.com/tours