Monday, May 21, 2018

Toronto Bachelorette

We kicked off #FarewellFenton Toronto Bachelorette night two with a photo shoot on Graffiti Alley. I have an affection for street art and this spot was off the charts cool. I wish we had more time to explore the graffiti walls but high heels in snow really do not mix. Plus, our reservation awaited at Bar Chef.
How beautiful and fun are my friends? 
Saturday Night: Bar Chef is wild. It presents as your swanky, dimly lit, hip cocktail bar. But to the insider, you've discovered a world that challenges the conventional notions and boundaries of the cocktail experience. It is one of not only taste but touch and smell, sound and sight. 

I invite you to really read the description and take in the photos of my friend Eden's choice, Geometric Lavender. This was just...beyond. Since Manhattans are my favorite, I chose their signature cocktail the Vanilla and Hickory Smoked Manhattan. The presentation and the aromas were exhilarating and the drink itself, definitely the best Manhattan I've ever had.

This being a rare + fascinating opportunity, most of the gals went all out with something from the molecular cocktail menu. Our waiters were impeccable - their attention to detail and explanation of the cocktails left us all very impressed. The menu has pages dedicated to punch bowls for large format sharing and a sipping page based on classic spirit forward cocktails (i.e. my Manhattan.) 

Grey Gardens
Talk about going all out! I was surprised and in awe of our dinner at Grey Gardens. We had a phenomenal five course meal in their private, ultra luxe wine cellar, complete with table-side Negronis and poppin' bottles of champagne. 
A table full of Negronis is a beautiful thing! Negonis are the only cocktail Grey Gardens serves. They are a wine focused bar but having just the one table-side cocktail felt like such a sophisticated thing to do. They alerted my sister of this fact when she made the reservation to which she replied "well that's perfect because it's my sisters favorite cocktail!" (I realize I proclaimed the Manhattan my favorite above - it's inherently the classics that do it for me!)
We were here until midnight! This was such a memorable event. The girls shared their favorite Kristen stories and we played shoulders (best drinking game ever) for what felt like hours. Essentially, shenanigans ensued and Grey Gardens was more than fine with it....

Grey Gardens describes their food as "New North American." Pictured: Oysters served in the most charming Le Creuset baking dish with mignonette in tincture bottles. Swoon! One of three delicious salads: Green Asparagus w radicchio + stracciatella. One of three inventive pastas: Ravioli w sweet potato, black truffle, sour cream + apple. It was a true feast with much fanfare. 

I would fondly recommend both Grey Gardens and Bar Chef if you visit Toronto. They are conveniently located right across the street from one another in the Kensington Market area. The rest of the night was a good one. We went dancing across the street and kept the party going back at the Sheraton. 
Sunday Day: It was early to rise for a hot yoga class at Yyoga followed by breakfast at Sud Forno on Temperance. We meandered in on a whim and it worked out nicely. The first floor is counter style service - an espresso bar and then a separate space for fancy cafeteria style eats. (Second floor is seated brunch.) The space was architecturally stunning and the food was impressive, especially the Nutella filled bombolini. 
We freshened up and regrouped with the non yogis back at the Sheraton. The rest of the day played out somewhat spontaneously, with a planned start in the Distillery District
I adored this historic brick building neighborhood with peace and love art installations, cute shops and good restaurants. 

It was physically painful to be outside at times. This photo is hilarious and really captures the ridiculousness of the weather! 
We relaxed at Mill Street Brewery for a couple hours. Then we moseyed across the street into El Catrin
The sky high walls covered in gorgeous, traditional Mexican decor left us wide eyed in amazement. We took over the bar and got down with margarita pitchers, tableside guacamole, mezcal and.... crickets. Reminiscing on our trip to Mexico City, specifically our street food tour; Teri, Christina and I got a kick out of making all the girls try the crickets. I had some deconstructed street corn which were fantastic, too! 
We owe the hostess at El Catrin a debt of gratitude for the next stop on our Sunday Funday adventure. When Teri requested a place with a jukebox, a place we could do a little dancing, she suggested Pacific Junciton Hotel. I'm picturing a swanky hotel. In actuality, it's a chill neighborhood bar with a unique, hip, slightly retro interior and a fun spot for 10 girls to crash and have their own dance party all afternoon....and into the evening. (We pushed back our dinner reservation, twice.) 

I loved the lyric chalkboard framed by the Aspen ski. So much randomness in one place. I'm probably over sharing a bit....just having no fun at all.... 
Did I mention how kind and amazing people from Toronto are? I mean, in the last restaurant we had the manager moving tables as we climbed on the back booth to get a good photo with the wall, and now here we are on the bar....after everyone pitched in to move the soy sauce and chopsticks. (Yes, they serve Asian food and yes, I had dumplings and spring rolls, good stuff.)

These moments at Pacific Junction Hotel were a highlight of the trip.

Sunday Night: The practical side of us eventually gave in and decided that dinner was in fact in order. Piano Piano is a whimsical, warm, welcoming, Italian restaurant specializing in wood-fired pizza. In Toronto - they cut their pizza with scissors. None of us had ever seen this but apparently it's a thing. We had a wonderful late in the evening dinner, everything from the antipasti to the pasta to the red wine were excellent. 

Monday Morning: Breakfast at the no frills Canadian chain Sunset Grill - picked for it's location a few blocks from the hotel. 

Then, pictures with the Toronto sign! 
Last call: A Bloody Caesar back at the Sheraton Centre (the lobby bar and bistro - BnB) ..because I realized you can't travel to Canada and not have a Bloody Caesar!
What.a.weekend. 

Also: Part one 

If you need further insight on Toronto, definitely let me know. 

The wedding in FIVE DAYS! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TORONTO

I've been dying to tell you about so many things going on around here. I can't believe my last post was Telluride! In January! My heart longs for travel recapping. Why!? Lately I've been firing off recommendation emails like crazy - a girlfriend headed to Palm Springs, soo many requests for my Bali posts, an old colleague needing my Savannah advice! If someone were to ask me for all my Toronto recs - and there are many - they would certainly feel slighted without a post to reference. 
So, where to begin again? My BACHELORETTE Party! We traveled to Toronto in mid April and it was the best. I'm sure every bride thinks her own bachelorette party is but mine truly was. My MOH (sister) and bridesmaids planned the most kick-ass / comprehensive itinerary in the history of bachelorette trips. Coupled with all our amazing reservations and must hit spots was a spontaneous weekend full of dive bars and dance parties. The weather was messy - snow, sleet, pellets, rain, hail, slush, whipping wind - (The weather app actually reported pellets one morning!) But, we're a group of tough ladies. The weekend was perfect!
A recent text from one of the gals: "Hi Ladies. Was at a work dinner tonight with several of my Canadian counterparts and they were VERY impressed with our Toronto bar and restaurant selection." Nailed it! If you are going to Toronto you should pretty much copy everything we did. 
The majority of us flew Porter Airlines from BOS to YTZ (Billy Bishop Airport). Gals that flew in from SFO and DEN flew into YYZ - Pearson Intl. 
We stayed at the super nice and conveniently located Sheraton Centre Hotel. This was one of those bustling hotels where if you are an early riser but some of the crew is sleeping in, you can grab coffee downstairs and chill in the well appointed lobby, which is a good spot to people watch. (Or hit the gym, or the pool.) I was very happy with the accommodations, 11 of us in three rooms. The Sheraton is connected to the underground shopping tunnels (so COOL!) and our rooms overlooked the T-O-R-O-N-T-O sign which was fun, too!
Friday Night 
Dinner @ Miss Things - a tropical Pan Asian Restaurant + Cocktail Bar located in a funky hipster neighborhood: West Queen West. The interior was so pretty with its Hawaiian tiki culture meets retro mid century modern vibes. We shared appetizers like the Hoke Poke and Tempura Corn Fritters. For dinner I had the Pineapple Fried Rice with sweet and sour jackfruit - you could also get it with braised pork belly which many of the girls did. Inspired cocktails are playful yet decadent - my margarita w Tromba Tequila, contreau, red chili, lime, mint and pineapple juice called Maggie Made Me Do It came in an art deco pineapple with a sparkler. Others were served in real coconuts or ceramic parakeets...

Drinks @ Pretty Ugly Bar - two blocks from Miss Things this cocktail den was our next stop and we ended up imbibing here rest of the night! My drink of choice was Sup Wit Dat made with Mezcal, dry vermouth, lime, cucumber, pretty fir lq and pine salt. There is a funky cocktail on the menu to please everyone. 

Saturday Day. We meandered through the maze of underground tunnels and then through the rain to St Lawrence Market. (This place reminded me of Westside Market in Cleveland, Ohio.) With an array of food stalls everyone could grab what they wanted to eat from smoothies to lobster rolls. Most of us opted for Breakfast on a Bun - a delicious egg sandwich with Peameal Bacon from Carousel Bakery.


Since it was bitter cold and the city streets were a slippery mess, we ubered across town to check out Bar RavalThis tapas bar had a good crowd, a kind and attentive bar and waitstaff, a Gaudi inspired interior, and an unparalleled cocktail and sherry menu. It totally reminded me of Barcelona. 
I was so content here. We tucked into the idyllic corner section of the bar by the windows sipping well made drink, after drink and noshing on pinxtos

We meandered through the snow and did a little shopping. (I believe the neighborhood we were in is Little Italy, even though we were just at a very Spanish restaurant....) 
Some girls went back to the Sheraton to rest up for the night while others came across this gem of a dive bar: Ronnies Local 069
This gritty hole in the wall was right up our alley. They had a deck of cards featuring 80's Lingerie models which we got the biggest kick out of. We played card games while drinking from a solid draft beer selection, snuggled in a tiny wood booth.
Toronto treated us to a ridiculously fun Friday night and Saturday day.
Lots more in store for Saturday night and Sunday day....