On Toronto, Coffeeshops, and Cooking Together

Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbord. A seriously ‘Less is More’ aesthetic and killer coffee.

Travel is always an adventure, right?

While it may have been work travel, it’s still pretty sweet to get out and enjoy a new city when the opportunity presents itself, especially when it’s a gem like Toronto.

I grew up visiting family in this city (I have always been a West Coast girl) and have many fond memories of it.

Toronto is where I got my ears pierced (behind my parents backs), where I first rode public transit on my own, and where the many colorful stories of my immediate family history originated (of which there are so, so many).

Turns out it’s still a pretty cool place. It may not have the hills, the ocean, and the ozonated air like home does (how many great cities actually do?), but it’s got its charms.

Sam James sidewalk.

Having visited a lot of coffee shops in my life (what can I say – it’s my job!), Toronto has a little something special going on as far as the local coffee scene.

Add to that the bustling, gritty charm of Kensington Market, the gorgeous grounds of the University of Toronto, and the many great restaurants that pop up out of no where, and downtown is not a bad place to traipse around.

Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.

~Frederick B. Wilcox

Sitting pretty at Kensington Market.

IPOM is certainly not a travel blog, but it is a place to celebrate the little things, and traveling is a bit of treat (IMO), whether work related or not (unless it isn’t).

Here are just a few of the moments I snuck in between more serious tasks.

Thanks for joining me, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

As always, I am a total nerd for market style food shots. Lettuce and live herbs outside the convenience store on College Street? Why not?

If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

~ Unknown

The same goes for these apples, proving there is always a healthy alternative within reach in big cities.

It’s not Whole Foods, but it might just be as good (or maybe better).

A stroll through Kensington yielded a visit to a very inspiring and beautiful store called Good Egg.

I could have spent a week in there looking at food, cooking, and agriculture (the list goes on) books, drooling over their refined selection of kitchen stuff, and generally trying to memorize everything about it so I could open my own here at home. I am always dreaming.

Listen to the color of your dreams.

~ The Beatles

Seriously. I was so, totally in love.

I’ve said before that grocery stores are my happy place.

Well, I’d like to take that a step further and say that outdoor vegetable markets are my ultra happy place!

Baskets of gorgeous, bright fruits and vegetables are always a feast for the eyes and this stall at Kensington Market was no exception.

My husband thinks I am downright nuts on account of this (always has).
I maintain that’s just a part of my charm.


Cruising the University (cutting through from Yorkville to Little Italy) – I got a nice hit of charm from the gorgeous buildings and green everywhere. All these years I’d never seen this.

It was gorgeous, and a breath of fresh air in the middle of town.

Artisans are everywhere in this city, from behind the espresso machine, to behind the roaster, to behind the glass windows of the local flower shop.

I am a sucker for roses, especially this antique pink. This lovely arrangement stopped my breath at a little shop called Jaiden’s Petals on Ossington, I loved the sparse interior and the taste of the flower selection and merchandising in there.

Are you a sucker for flowers like me?

Catching a spot of sunshine was easy on the patio at Mercury Espresso bar in Leslieville.

Just looking at the seats made me happy. Imagine once I sat down πŸ™‚

We also visited Te Aro, a new roaster from New Zealand doing superb things with coffee here in Canada.

I was so inspired there I bought myself a Chemex coffee maker and risked the trip home in my luggage (not that I couldn’t have picked one up here at home).
It totally made it unscathed – and I am now on the hunt for the right filter (thinking of the Coava cone) and a new grinder (considering a hand grinder for this).

Visiting the Junction, we headed to Crema Coffee, and a stop at a little shop getting a tremendous amount of buzz from locals and folks here at home – Mjolk – I’ll let you discover them here – is a pretty amazing store.

Honestly, I wasn’t feeling rich enough to afford anything in there (and if I could have would not have risked trying to get it home unbroken), but it’s worth checking out if you are at all interested. These guys have a totally cool blog too, that is super styley and worth a look at if you are inclined!

Of course looking at these gorgeous wooden cups now, I am kind of wishing I brought one home after all. At least they have an online store!

The street art is pretty prevalent, and I love the bright vibes and loose feel to this. Kinda makes you want to dance in the streets a little!

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.

– Martha Graham

Me and my buddy dressed identically.

Imagine us looking each other up and down at 8 in the morning. Ridiculous.

There were a lot of super fun highlights. Great dinners with great company at Delux and Gusto, and proof that I am not the only vegetable nerd around that loves a good raw kale salad and shaved brussels sprouts with vinaigrette.

My fave moment of all?

Training for Paris, of course!

Returning home has been fabulous, and the weekend was spent enjoying the pleasures and comforts of home, complete with plenty of time in the kitchen πŸ™‚

On that note – I’m going to leave you with an invitation to a little party coming up!

Annie over at an unrefined vegan has completely blown me away by arranging a blogging feast for this coming Saturday, May 12th.

Many of you are attending, but for those who wish to join us for the feast, there will be 60 bloggers taking part with 60 vegan dishes prepared just for the party – not all of the bloggers are strict vegans (including yours truly) but the deal is the dish for this little shindig has to be.

So watch for it! I am looking forward to it and am super excited to see what everyone has in store (and I am pretty excited to share mine!).

Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?

~ Frank Scully

So thanks to Annie for her amazing effort in putting this all together, and to all the blogging buds far and wide taking part!

Here’s wishing you all a super fab Monday!

Welcome to all the new IPOM readers this week, I am so happy to have you here, and I hope you’ll join us in the conversation too!

  • Are you a potluck fan?
  • What’s your favorite potluck dish?
  • Anyone out there from Toronto (I know a few of you are!)
  • Anyone make the kale salad over the weekend?

Let us know how you all are doing!

Your comments are always welcome here with open arms.

Yours in Less,



57 Comments

Filed under Family, Food, Happiness, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Photography, Travel

57 responses to “On Toronto, Coffeeshops, and Cooking Together

  1. I LOVE your photos! They’re amazing and make me want to visit Toronto again. It looks fabulous. Such a great city.

  2. Somer

    Oh man, I need a vacation! Seriously can’t even go to the bathroom in this house without a child or a dog walking in on me! Thanks for bringing some sunshine to me, at least I can imagine, right? Those outdoor markets are gorgeous! And no I didn’t make a kale salad, but I did put it in a red curry that was pretty smash-bang awesome. I’m doing the potluck too. Annie is amazing!

  3. Beautiful photos. I may not be a potluck fan but almost every social occasion I am invited to involves a potluck. Sometimes it is nice to have a dinner party instead, or just have someone over for dinner. That way, someone gets a cook’s holiday

    • I totally agree Sharyn! Growing up my family pot-lucked a lot, these days I am a big fan of the dinner party too – way more fun for the guests (but a lot of work for me – which I do enjoy!) Happy Monday! πŸ™‚

  4. Alexiasana

    I looooove potlucks! When i lived in london i frequently organized one at my place ( i used to have up to 6 flatmates too) and made a big pot of veggie chili, green thai curry or an african sweet potato stew. miss those days!!

    • Sounds awesome! They certainly are super fun and such a super way to entertain! I bet living in London was super awesome! πŸ™‚

  5. Hmmmmm, I saw coffeehouse in this post and I thought for sure there would be a certain tutorial. But no such luck *shaking head in diappointment* If you weren’t so darn cute with that skull bag over your arm, I’d be really mad. But seeing that you are THE cutest ever, I will let this one pass πŸ™‚ Don’t get used to this generosity though…
    P.S. Where on the west coast are you from originally? Did I know this?

    • Ha – so sorry my friend! I will NOT continue to disappoint you – I promise (hehe)! Glad you appreciate my little ‘throwback’ bag – I HAD to have it – even if it does make me feel 13 again (and just a little skater betty bad-ass)! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the pass!! I live in Vancouver, born and raised in BC! You are in LA right? We are so close…how could you miss that awesome fact? πŸ™‚ The cuteness is full circle girl – you are way too much!

  6. You were in my neck of the woods, or close to it. I love Kensington Market, but don’t get to visit it often. Too funny about the matching outfits.

    • Isn’t it just too funny? And totally unplanned!! I think I knew you were close by….I wanted to buy a chive plant at the market!! πŸ˜‰

  7. awww….i absolutely LOVE toronto!!! i try to go at least once a year to visit! majority of my childhood summer break memories are of toronto! will definitely check out some of the places you mentioned the next i go! lovely post as always! p.s. kickass bag!!!

    • Hey – thanks! I love that bag – it’s a bit out there but the kick ass factor meant it was a must!! I am starting to love Toronto too..! πŸ™‚

  8. I am a suckkkerrr for outside markets with fresh produce. I think they are better than whole foods hands down, and I LOVE WF. This looks like an amazing adventure and you and your friend look adorable. I am whoa jazzed for the pot luck!

    • Thanks Britt!! πŸ™‚ I am so excited for the potluck too! Can’t wait to see what everyone is bringing, can hardly contain myself! xo!

  9. Such a fun post! Your photos are so great – the hidden parts of T-dot. My fave – those antique pink roses. So beautiful! And I love that “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” PS That is So funny about you and you’re friend in matching outfits. i guess you’re regular shopping buddies πŸ™‚

  10. I’m a part of the potluck, for sure! And your photos are amazing. Makes me want to jump on a plane to Toronto right now…

  11. Holla, im a west coast girl too πŸ™‚ Never been to Toronto or East Canada but have always wanted too. Your photos and quotes are very gorgeous. & I’ve only been to one pot luck with my fellow yogi’s, it was so great. Fav dish was a kale salad!

    • Holla! I love your profile pic! Are you in Vancouver? My fave dish is a kale salad too – so that’s two awesome things we share! So glad to have you!! πŸ™‚

      • Thanks, I was in Van in that picture, but now I’m in Victoria. πŸ™‚

      • Cool – I thought I recognized as Jericho or Locarno? – so gorgeous! I love Victoria too, and hope to be back soon as I come there for work from time to time! πŸ™‚

  12. What a lovely collection of photos from you trip! You captured some lovely moments. I loved hearing your take on the city and now am even MORE excited to move there if that’s even possible :).

    I’m a sucker for outdoor markets as well- I love the new discoveries that are made as well as dreaming up all the possibilities while being out in the fresh air! I am so looking forward to having access to Kensington!

    So excited for the potluck as well! My favourite potluck dish- that is a real tough one. While I really enjoy every dish that is made I’m usually all about the simple dishes- the salads, fruit plates, guacamole, etc. I love to have little bits of everything!

    Glad to hear you are doing well and had such a lovely time. Maybe next time you visit the city, I’ll live there and we can enjoy the little things together πŸ™‚

    • Thanks girl! Yes definitely – are you moving there in September? Going to school? I’ll be back at some point this year – we’ll have to hook up for sure! Such a cool town, and so many good vibes these days!
      Can’t wait for the potluck too – made my dish yesterday and now must get drafting! Can’t wait! πŸ™‚ xo!

  13. Howdy from Syders, lovely Shira – I have never been to Toronto, but now I want to go. Good coffee and farmers markets – winning combo’! (And, LM ‘tolerates’ my love of farmers markets because he eats so well as a result! Perhaps a wee something for your man to consider, too? You are definitely only nutty in a lovely, quirky, off-beat and charming way!!!)

    The roses look beautiful, but I have my eye on those divine wooden cups. Swoon-worthy! Another happy Shira-esque post. Cheers!

    Have a great week. πŸ™‚

    • Oh thanks Syders! The hubby definitely likes the benefits – now if I would only cook him a steak!! (hehe) kidding, I bug him the same way about his own geeky ways *speaker cable anyone?*
      I thought you might like those cups – not sure why but I think they are just works of art! TO is worth a visit and I think this is hands down the best time of year, but what do I really know? I am sure it is great all the time.
      Hope your week is off with a bang! πŸ™‚ xox

  14. I haven’t been to Toronto for ages, but recognized some of the places in your pictures. I, too, love outdoor markets and the beauty and color of the food (and flowers.) I’m a tea-drinker, not coffee, but they’re often found in the same places these days; places to relax, refresh and talk. Nice!

    • So true! I love tea too and drink it often! There isn’t much I don’t like as far as beverages, but mostly coffee, water, and wine πŸ™‚ So glad you stopped by – I was so excited to share a little about my trip!

      • I was supposed to be in Costa Rica today and blogging about that…but a canceled flight changed everything. 😦 However, plan are in the works for another time, so I’ll be patient and enjoy some virtual travel in the meantime.

      • Oh -bummer! Glad this helped (just a little) to ease that ouch for you, I’d be soooo bummed (my trip is a far cry from Costa Rica – I’ve always wanted to go!)
        πŸ™‚

      • Well, stay tuned. It will happen, probably mid- to late-summer or possibly in December, depending on everyone’s schedules. And any trips are fun. I love to travel!

      • Perfect! Will do! πŸ™‚

  15. Truly. I loved every single word and every photo of this post, Shira. πŸ™‚ As always. Thank you~

    • Oh! Thanks Deb! I had such a great time – you just never know what photos will end up defining a trip! You know I adore your visits and drool over your wonderful food! πŸ™‚ Xo!

  16. Looks like such a beautiful city…. loving your photos too, I think we enjoy a lot of the same things!

  17. Such lovely photos!! I have only been to Toronto once and it was a very brief visit. I wish I could have spent more time wandering around. Your visit is inspiring me to get back there. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks! Spending time on foot this time was what made it so enjoyable – I had never done that before and highly recommend it! Thanks for stopping in! πŸ™‚

  18. darn i missed the deadline for that potluck! i love bloggie get togethers:) i love your captures.. it gives a hint of what you are thinking at that moment.. πŸ™‚

    Please do drop by fundraiser on my blog, if you have a minute, to bid, or share. I am trying to raise funds through auction of items donated by fellow bloggers for an amazing organization! There are a few items that can be shipped international too.Thanks a bunch! http://hobbyandmore.blogspot.com/p/fundraiser-for-vspca.html

    • Hi Richa! I think there will be another so maybe next time – be sure to check it out this Saturday, there should be a LOT of awesome dishes! Thanks for the link – I’ll have a look for sure, amazing job btw! Hope you are well! πŸ™‚

  19. Sarah

    I haven’t read your blog in a little while and i just stumbled upon this post on Toronto! How fun! Those are my old stomping grounds…Harbord, College, Ossington…and of course UofT and Hart House pics! Did you check out Trinity across the road from Hart House? I lived there for three years…and btw seriously looking forward to some good healthy cooking in Penticton!

    • Too awesome!!! Actually thought of you guys while I was there! Looking forward to catching up too over good eats..! Coming up soon! πŸ™‚

  20. How did I miss this post? ‘If you are not living on the edge, you are occupying too much space!’ Shira – beautiful post:)

  21. Fantastic pics! Did you know you were literally 5 minutes walking distance from where I work? Kensington is where I play most workday lunches! So I can totally understand getting lost in the Good Egg time warp…seriously, it’s one of my favourite stores. I also went to school at UofT but it’s always interesting to see the campus through someone else’s eyes. When you’re back next don’t forget to set aside some time for a quick Americano…with me! It seems that you could give me a tour of indie coffee shops in the T dot πŸ˜‰

    P.S. I’m a HUGE sucker for fresh flowers!

    • Gaaah! I can’t believe we were that close!! I love your hood girl, and can’t wait to come back! We’ll get a coffee for sure … there are so many great coffee shops so close to you – I am sure you must know them! Love that you love the ‘Egg’!! It was amazing, really! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Fresh flowers are the BEST!!

  22. Reblogged this on Digital Diva Lap-Band Blog and commented:
    I fully intend to indulge in a happy helping for each of the recommended Toronto destinations in this post.

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