PRODUCT Toronto

This blog aims to celebrate the awesome, the unique, the creative, the positive, and the beautiful that surrounds us. It is also very much an ode to our beloved city; no matter how far we travel and and yearn to run away and rave about cities like San Francisco and Buenos Aires, Toronto is home and number one in our hearts.

While reading the Editor’s Letter in Issue 7 of PRODUCT magazine written by Editor-in-Chief and self-titled “Cultural Curator” Kyle Kofsky it became very evident that PRODUCT and For the Love of Awesome are clearly in pursuit of similar goals. Kyle describes the magazine’s mission as profiling the lives of Torontonians who have found success while choosing to live positively and to better their own lives and the lives of those around them, whatever their backgrounds and pursuits.

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H Project

Kelly took some time this week to introduce you to Roozt, the online marketplace with a conscience. Well, along the same vain, I was recently made aware that notorious upscale and glam retailer Holt Renfrew is taking a step to support humanity, health and habitat through its new in-store shop called H Project.

Opened this year across Holt Renfrew stores, H Project is selling merchandise from over 30 worldwide artists that seek to help something – people, the environment, communities. While not veering from luxury, supporting these brands does something beyond making you fashionable and pretty and putting a few more dollars in the pockets of the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Victoria Beckham. The boutique is led by Brand Strategist Alexandra Weston.

Definitely something to keep in mind as the holidays creep up, here are a few lines that have caught my eye:

WeWood are high quality watches that use the precise Miyota movement technology to keep time. What makes them special is the watches’ prime material: wood, and mostly from scraps. The watches are beautiful and come from a variety of trees and grains. From colours ranging from ash to beautiful mahogany, pat yourself on your back knowing that a tree is planted for every watch you buy, too.

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Aish scarves are just beautiful. Aish textiles are all made using ancient weaving and embroidery traditions of India such as, Jamdani, Ikat and Kantha.  Handwoven, hand-dyed and hand embroidered, Aish finds craftsmen in remote Indian villages to design and create fine muslin scarves. Know that you are supporting small villages in impoverished areas in India with your purchase.

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Introducing: Roozt & Brika

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that Robyn and I are big fans of the e-commerce website, Etsy, the handmade/vintage equivalent of the better known Ebay. Recent Etsy purchases for us include wedding invitations and a vintage bridesmaid dress but have historically included jewelry (LOTS of jewelry), home decor items, art pieces, and custom designed gifts.

Although I will be faithful to Etsy until my dying days, two similar new sites have recently popped up that have my attention.  The first, Roozt, is a platform for socially conscious consumers and mission-oriented brands.  The second, Brika, is a Toronto based online shopping destination offering a carefully curated selection (rather than an open marketplace) of handmade goods by primarily female artisans.  Both sites are beautifully designed, easy to navigate, and are full of inspiring stories and handmade treasures.

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In the words of founder Brent Freeman, Roozt is about “giving sexy back to giving back.” The site showcases cutting edge brands (primarily fashion and accessory lines) whose production and/or sale makes a positive contribution (or avoids a negative impact) on our earth and/or the people who live here.  An added bonus?  For every member who joins the site, Roozt donates a meal to an American in need.  It is free to sign up and members collect “Changemaker” points and credits that can be used towards future purchases.  I’m loving the “Buy One, Give One” section, that functions on the TOMS model: for every featured item you purchase, one is donated to a person in need.  Bonus points for the unique yoga gear and selection of natural beauty products.
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Unlike the fashion focused Roozt, Brika features a wide array of gifts and decor as well as accessories.  Started by two incredibly bright and talented young women, the site highlights and honours its Makers, sharing their stories to help connect purchasers to products and to inspire future makers. I’m particularly loving the Made in Canada category and the curated gift boxes, but I’d be thrilled to be gifted almost anything featured on the site.  Lucky Torontonian’s can check out Brika in person at the newly opened pop-up shop at the Bay, Queen street.  Open now through the holidays.

Good Music on the Radio. Finally.

For all of my car-less “adult” life, my radio listening has been limited strictly to talk radio. My alarm clock has been permanently set to CBC Radio 1 at 99.1 on the dial. On weekdays I wake up to Matt Galloway’s voice on Metro Morning and try to tune into Jian Ghomeshi on Q later on in the day. The weekends vary between This is That, Definitely Not the Opera and Vinyl Cafe, depending on what time I rise. I have big love for CBC, but let it be known that the constant playing of Julie Black, Maestro Fresh Wes and K-OS isn’t what draws me in.

Until lately, what have been my radio station choices in this city? Certainly not 102.1 The Edge, which seems to play a recycled playlist from the 90’s consisting solely of Weezer, Nirvana, Oasis, Sublime and Our Lady Peace.

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The great news is that we now have a great (not just decent!) radio station in Toronto: Indie88 at 88.1 on your FM dial. The station is playing a variety of music and is letting listeners dictate the tunes on rotation. I’ve been listening to the station online in anticipation, and since its launch on September 3rd, it has not disappointed me. The commercial breaks are minimal, idle chit chat from DJs is slight and when it does exist, it is relevant and interesting (read: music news you care about). Remember way back when MuchMusic played actual music videos and it was exciting for music fans? That’s what Indie88 is to radio today. No terrible programming.

Of course it’s awesome, music guru Alan Cross is on the programming team. The station also has Dave Bookman (head of my favorite Nu-Music Night every Tuesday at the Horseshoe Tavern), Matt Hart (of the Russian Futurists, an awesome Canadian indie band) and Raina Douris (know-all in Toronto’s music scene and a Twitter fave of mine) all on board.

Indie88 has found a delicate balance of playing older tunes that you miss hearing and make you go “Awww!”, not “Ugh.” Case and point: we don’t need to hear Radiohead’s “Creep” anymore, but “Reckoner” has yet to be overplayed and is most welcome! The station has an ear for great new Canadian tunes (Austra, Hey Rosetta!, Library Voices), other hot indie darlings (Said the Whale, Atlas Genius, HAIM, Local Natives) and bands I previously thought were pretty obscure and get downright excited to hear over the airwaves (particularly, Louis XIV).

This post may not be news to most of you, but I’d hate to know that even a few of you are still listening to Nickelback-friendly radio stations when you don’t have to be!

Thanksgiving in Toronto: Eat, Pick & Volunteer

No specific plans for Thanksgiving this weekend?  We’ve got you covered.  From feasts to corn mazes, there’s loads to keep you busy in Toronto on what I’m hoping will be another beautiful fall weekend (and a long one at that!)  (Editors note: due to some technical difficulties, we’re not able to upload photos today, so prepare yourself for a text heavy post!)

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

First, and foremost: where/what to eat.  A long list of Toronto area restaurants will be hosting special Thanksgiving meals this weekend.  Below are the places I’d be trying to get reservations, along with a few more casual Thanksgiving-esque take out bites.

Casa Loma

On October 14, eat like royalty in the conservatory and library of Toronto’s famous castle. The Thanksgiving Day Brunch buffet offers traditional breakfast and thanksgiving day foods, along with a pastry bar, seafood options and a variety of soups and salads. After brunch, there’s the option of a self-guided tour or a stroll through the estate gardens.  With the menu on offer, I have a feeling that you’ll need it!  Four seating times are available (11:30, 12:00, 1:30, 2:00) and tickets are $53.45 for adults and $13.45 for children.  Make your reservations by email (info@pegasushospitality.ca) or call 416-533-1573.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek is hosting an 1800s-style Thanksgiving feast on both Sunday and Monday at Half Way House restaurant. The three-course, prix-fixe menu showcases local Ontario meat and produce. Before or after dinner, enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride with your friends and family for an extra $2.  Sunday seatings are at noon, 3:00 and 6:00 and on Monday, at noon and 3:00.  Tickets are $53.99 for adults and $27.00 for children (member discounts apply) and include parking and admission to the Village.  To book call customer service at 416-667-6295.  Note that the Historic Village closes at 4:30, so if you’re having a late meal you might want to plan to explore in advance.

Globe Bistro

If making an event of your meal isn’t your thing, this Danforth restaurant is offering a Thanksgiving Harvest prix-fixe menu at just $35 per person.  The menu is available on both Saturday and Sunday for brunch and for dinner and features free range turkey and all the fixings.

Quick and Dirty

If sitting down to a big turkey dinner doesn’t sound appealing, that doesn’t mean you can’t still eat in the spirit of the holiday this weekend.  A few of your favourite take out joints are offering up Thanksgiving specials.  Start out at Come and Get It on Spadina for a final visit (it’s closing October 25) and a Thanksgiving sandwich, then head west to Roncy to sample the Thanksgiving Ice Cream at the Chocolateria.  I am heading to the burbs for the weekend, but I am tempted to make the trip to pick up a litre of this dinner-themed ice cream (candied turkey bacon, yams, pumpkin & cranberry sauced!) that crams all courses into a cone.   If you’re celebrating early, Beast’s Thanksgiving-inspired Beastwich goes on sale today at noon. $10 sammies come with a festive side and dessert and are likely to fly off shelves, so get there early!  (Beast’s website is currently down, but you can follow them on twitter @BeastRestaurant and check them out at 96 Tecumseth.

Finally, for those Thanksgiving revellers amongst you, end your evenings of debauchery with a stop at any Smoke’s Poutinerie location for their Thanksgiving pouting, the original fry, cheese, and gravy base,  with a festive blanket of turkey, stuffing, green peas, and cranberry sauce.

Whatever you’re eating, be sure to snap a pic and post it on Gourmeats facebook wall for a chance to win a $40 Gourmeats gift certificate. Continue reading