Back in the 6ix: Toronto Attractions

My sister Amanda moved back to Toronto in the fall, and I promised to visit her in the spring. I was finally able to keep that promise in April. It’s no secret I love visiting the city, and each trip allows us to discover (and in some cases, rediscover) our new favourite spaces, places and events.

Toronto Trip

Nathan Phillips Square

Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market

Many years ago, Amanda and I had complained our way through a covered-but-outdoors Toronto Underground Market at Evergreen Brick Works. I haven’t been back since then, but their weekly farmers’ market seemed like a great opportunity.

Evergreen Bick Works

Evergreen Brick Works

We probably shouldn’t have taken her boyfriend Jason’s vehicle, given the number of times we had to circle around, but it did make us wonder why anyone would drive there on a regular basis at all – it would incite road rage in most people. Inside, there weren’t as many produce vendors as we were expecting (recognizing that farmers are now down to their cellared products), and not one greenhouse producer. We did pick up some Best Baa sheep’s yogurt to try (not as tangy as the cow’s yogurt we’re used to), and refilled our supply of my favourite mustard, Kozlick’s.

Evergreen Bick Works

Shipping container vendors

The covered part of Evergreen housed vendors in shipping containers (great idea, though it must have still been chilly for the vendors), and some food trucks. It was our chance to try Eva’s Chimney Cakes, a genius marriage of Hungarian cinnamon-sugar doughnuts (available one year at K-Days) and soft serve.

Evergreen Bick Works

With my doughnut cone

The "cone" had to be cooled in order to not immediately liquefy the ice cream, and lost its chewy doughnut quality in the process. I did enjoy the mix-in of apple preserves though.

Gladstone Flea Market

The Gladstone Hotel is considered (along with The Drake Hotel) the anchor of West Queen West. They host a monthly flea market curated with unique, independent vendors.

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Gladstone Flea Market

Amanda and Jason sampled some sustainable pasta sauce (with mealworms blended in), while Mack and I picked up some Toronto Bee Rescue honey, made from undesired hives rescued from homes or construction projects. Best of all, there was no entrance fee to the market.

The Social

Mack had never been to a television taping in Toronto, but was still a good sport when he agreed to accompany me to an episode of The Social. It’s not something I watch regularly, but on and off if I happen to be home during the day. Still, it’s always interesting to see how they produce the show behind the scenes (set changes, cues, etc.). Mack’s highlight was getting a high-five from actress Arielle Kebbel, who was the guest host that day.

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With The Social hosts Melissa Grelo and Cynthia Loyst

Battle Sports

I stumbled upon the Battle Sports website after learning about their Rage Room on a segment on The Social. They were featuring 50% off their archery dodgeball, and Amanda and Jason were game, so we tried it.

Battle Sports

Our Battle Sports team

In hindsight, even an hour in the arena wasn’t a good idea for our out-of-shape bodies, as we were not used to all of the crouching and quick movements required of us to stay in the game. At any rate, this sport required the use of foam arrows and axes to fell opponents, and between the adrenaline-inducing music and some overly aggressive participants, it was much more stressful than I thought it would be. While I enjoyed the actual archery, I could have done without the format.

New Urbanism Film Festival

I convinced Amanda to join us for the New Urbanism Film Festival, in its second year. It was a screening of a collection of North American short films, ranging in topic from the blight of raised freeways to the failure of pedestrian malls. As expected, some films were more engaging than others, but I would have appreciated a more localized context following the screening. A panel discussion about ideas as they related to Toronto would have been fascinating.

Toronto Blue Jays

Mack hadn’t been to a live Blue Jays game before, so Amanda made sure that was on our agenda.

Go Blue Jays!

Our view at Rogers Centre

The tickets were so reasonably priced ($26), and there was even a giveaway that day – Josh Donaldson bobbleheads. It was great to be in a packed house (46,000+), much different than the last game I attended. And even better, the Jays beat the White Sox, 6-2!

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With our Bringer of Rain bobblehead

Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park

Before our date with Real Sports (a tradition whenever I’m in Toronto), we had the chance to visit Jurassic Park outside the Air Canada Centre before Game 4 during their series with the Pacers.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

It wasn’t as packed as we expected (we learned later that the crowd is smaller for away games), but there was great energy in the square, with a live DJ, a big screen, and alcohol available.

Jurassic Park

Ready to beat Jason one on one

I know there are plans for something similar in Ice District’s winter plaza (if the Oilers ever get to the playoffs), so it’ll be interesting to see how an Edmonton version of Jurassic Park would play out. And yes, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for an Edmonton branch of Real Sports in the District.

Jurassic Park

We the North!

I’ll be back with a food-centric post later this week.

Honest Dumplings: The Pop-Up

Over the last year, Ray Ma and Chris Lerohl of Honest Dumplings have worked hard to build up their brand. The philosophy behind their dumplings sets them apart from anything you’d find at a conventional grocery store – not only are they committed to purchasing local and refrain from using preservatives or artificial additives, but they also focus on unique flavour combinations. In addition, they’ve had a consistent presence at the City Market, as well as at a variety of food festivals and events, including the Mercer Summer Super Party and Hawkers Market. And based on the response to their first-ever pop-up, I’d say they’re in store for an even bigger year in 2015!

Mack and I headed over to Drift’s storefront on 124 Street after work tonight, and encountered a line nearly twenty deep when we arrived. Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold out, and combined with a visit to Duchess across the street to pick up dessert (while Mack held our place in line), the hour long wait wasn’t too bad.

Honest Dumplings

Dumpling anticipation

Given it was their first pop-up, things were really smooth. We paid up front, were directed to a table, and our food was brought out in due time. For $15, diners were treated to an order of eight meat or vegetarian dumplings, a rice hashbrown, lemon pepper tofu, Reclaim Urban Farm sunflower shoots, and a slice of dragon fruit.

Honest Dumplings

Busy kitchen

One of my favourite things about Honest Dumplings is the fact that they always offer a number of tastes with every order – each plate subsequently feels more substantial and value-laden. On this occasion, we were able to sample eight different varieties.

Honest Dumplings

Meat dumplings

Our favourites included the short rib & apple pear and maple pork belly dumplings on the meat side (wonderfully deep flavours in two-bite form), and the mixed mushroom & truffle oil on the vegetarian side. I also really enjoyed the crispy rice cake – I loved the texture, though Mack would have preferred a slightly thinner patty.

Honest Dumplings

Vegetarian dumplings

You can find Honest Dumplings at the City Market every Saturday, or order their product one from SPUD. With party packs for sale ($40 for 32 dumplings plus a dipping sauce), they would be an easy and colourful addition to any appetizer platter this holiday season.

Honest Dumplings

Dipping sauce

Given the popularity of this pop-up (and the successes of the Prairie Noodle Shop), this form of dining is definitely alive and well in Edmonton. Here’s hoping this is the first of many for Honest Dumplings!

Learn more about Honest Dumplings in this Journal article.