Foodie Districts – The Toronto Christmas Market, and The Charm and History of The Distillery District, Part II

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The Distillery District in Toronto is beautiful and it is my favourite neighbourhood in the city.  It may not be a glamourous, shopping mecca like Yorkville, or trendy like Queen West, but it has history and character, not to mention it’s a photographer’s playground because of its restoration back in 2003.  Every time I go, I lose myself in its charm, quietly walking the brick and pebbled lanes, scoping out good eats and admiring all the beautiful artistry in the buildings that host classes like glass blowing and jewelry crafting.  It opens the mind and is deeply inspiring.  And at a time like Christmas, it makes me feel like a total kid again! *cue excited squeals*

One of the first memories I have of being in this neighbourhood was attending a wonderful artisan’s Christmas market a number of years ago, (where I came home with heart-pumpingly gorgeous handmade jewelry for presents) and after finding out about the Toronto Christmas Market happening this year (thanks CP24 news feed!), I knew it would be an opportune time to snap some nice photos and to indulge in some holiday treats!  The Christmas market itself is set up with a bunch of different wooden house booths all along the streets with holiday candies, chocolates, European pastries, and tea among many others.  I came home with some yummy chocolate covered cake pops and some coconut almond loose tea!

If you know how much I love markets, you know I can’t leave one without coming home with a little something!  The cake pops came from a booth for Leonard’s Cake Company (I picked up two as they had a 2 for $5 deal; a red velvet cake pop and a chocolate one), and the loose tea came from Leslieville’s Steeped and Infused, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic.  I am quite fond of tea and this tea is gooood.  I bought a sample of it for $1.75 and it’s good for about 3-4 cups and you can bet I’m going to skip on over there when it’s not severe icicle weather to get more!

Now, the Distillery District hosts a number of different cafés, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops such as The Boiler House, Balzac’s, the Mill Street Brewery, and Soma, just to name a few.  I haven’t yet eaten my way through them all yet (but rest assured I will, ha!), but I have thoroughly and happily enjoyed both Café Uno and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie and get excited about the prospect of going to both for an afternoon of yummy eats whenever I can. 

The first time I went to Café Uno was back in May for Doors Open Toronto where I had some sweet fruity gelato.  This time though, I wanted to enjoy a nice, warm sitdown meal as opposed to a snack, so I ordered the butter chicken dinner with rice and a side of vegetables, and although the butter chicken was certainly not the kind served in Indian cuisine, it was still tasty (think moist white chicken breast chunks in rotisserie sauce) and my favourite part of it was the chickpeas and vegetables as they just scream warmness and comfort to me.

I’m excited to go back to try their famous panini sandwiches as well as they’re salad, soup, drinks, and oh my goodness, their selction of dessert will have you standing there staring for ages (!!!).  Oh!  And they serve weekend brunch!  I’m writing that into my calendar too.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere too, with the industrial yet homey feel of the café and it’s just a great place to sit down and enjoy a lunch with friends.  They have plenty of seats beside big windows, along with some trendy bar stools and tables in between.  The dessert at Café Uno would have to wait though as I was brimming with anticipation about my cupcake from The Sweet Escape! 

I love The Sweet Escape.  It’s so cute and the desserts are lovely.  A more thorough post about this bakery will come soon, but for now, I’ll treat you to my photos and account from Tuesday.  Not only was I looking forward to my cupcake from there, but I was absolutely DELIGHTED when I saw this sign out front:

Wait, let me get this straight.  A gingerbread house you could play in??  OH.MY.GOD.  So I excitedly went in with Richard and lo and behold, a lifesize gingerbread house made out of REAL gingerbread sat there like something ripped out of Hansel and Gretel  *skips around*.  A beautiful gingerbread house made out of cookies, icing sugar, red and green frosted cupcakes sitting atop on the roof, colourful jube jube candies lining the windowsills, and green and red macarons adorning the doorway as a wreath, just sitting there, waiting to be played in!

And to my delight, The Sweet Escape had gingerbread cupcakes with a little jube jube candy sitting on top of the frosting, waiting to be inhaled by me.  So I did.  And it was delicious.  The Sweet Escape makes great cupcakes and they have a great selection.  On Tuesday, they had about 6 different kinds to choose from and all of them are priced at $2.50 each, putting them at the bottom rung of the cupcakery pricing list, as many cupcakeries in the city price them from about $2.50 to $3.50.  I have to tell you, this particular cupcake had some wicked kick to it (duh, Deb, it’s gingerbread, it’s supposed to!) and it’s made with cinnamon and cream cheese frosting.  DELICIOUS.

It was SO worth it being out in the cold enjoying this Christmas market and I really hope some of you get the chance to check it out.  And if you don’t get around the holiday market, definitely explore the neighbourhood.  It’s my favourite and I can’t gush enough about how nice it is.  It’s historically rich, charming, and entirely pedestrian-friendly, so go! 🙂  

 

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Café Uno is located at 55 Mill St., Building 32, and The Sweet Escape Pâtisserie is located at 55 Mill St., Building 47.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.

A Beautiful Tree, Gingerbread House, and Market Goodies – The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery, Part I

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I am SO, SO excited to be sharing these photos with you all!  If there are 3 things you should know about me, they are: 1) Christmas is my favourite holiday, 2) I am an absolute sucker for markets, and 3) The Distillery District is my favourite neighbourhood in Toronto aside from Kensington Market.  I can’t decide which area I love more, I love them both!  My boyfriend Richard and I went to the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District on Tuesday and even though we froze our tooshies off, I had SO much fun *prances around the room*. 

There was a gorgeous, GIANT Christmas tree, all the shops were decked out in Christmas greenery, wreaths, and bows, there were signs decorated to look like iced gingerbread cookies, and there was even a life-size gingerbread house to boot!  The market was beautiful with an incredibly charming old-town feel to it, selling everything from toys to tea to meats to baked goods to cakes.  The Distillery District is beautiful and a photographer’s dream at any point in the year, but it looked especially magical with all the market festivities going on.  I only wish I could go at night when everything is lit up, but I’m happy that I got to go during the day because at least I get to show you all everything in daylight!

I have a lot to post tomorrow with more pictures and descriptions of everything foodie-related in the Distillery I could lay my eyes on and get my hands (or mittens!) on for that day.  So for now, I leave you with tons of pictures to get us started!  The Toronto Christmas Market is on until the end of Sunday, so you have plenty of time to still make it down and enjoy everything.  And yes, the gingerbread house is REAL, and yes,  you may go huddle inside and play, and no, you cannot help yourself and start eating the wreath.  Or the doorway.  Or the windowsill.  No, not the roof either.  I know, we’ll all have to exercise self-control.  There, there.

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For more info on locations and directions, go here.  The Distillery District is located south of Front St.E, between Parliament and Cherry St.  The Distillery District is the neighbourhood east of the the St. Lawrence Market.  A huge thank you to my sweetie for the last two photos!