A few weeks ago my daughters and I decided to try something different. We went on a guided culinary tour of the Riverside and Leslieville neighbourhoods of Toronto.
Let me start by explaining that Toronto is made up of dozens of unique and interesting neighbourhoods. Many of these are distinguished by the ethnic population that inhabited them like Little Italy and Greek Town, while others are described as the up and coming places to eat out, shop and live.
The Riverside and Leslieville neighbourhoods sit side by side along Queens St. East between the Don Valley Bridge and Leslie Street. Until recently, these were areas that we passed through on our way to the Beach without giving them a second thought.
In the past 5 to 10 years the area has undergone a wonderful transformation. What was once a row of second-hand shops, seedy bars and corner stores, has become a trendy enclave of antiques shops, gourmet food markets, interesting bistros and fine dining locations.
Young professional couples are snatching up the older homes and renovating them into their dream cottages, while celebrity chefs are opening unique restaurants and markets. Local foodies flock to Queen St. East to pick up wonderful treats for their dinner.
The Culinary Adventure Company runs this tour on Saturdays led by Chef Scott Savoie. The participants are taken to a variety of food establishments and are treated to tastings by shop owners, bakers and restaurateurs. The tour was a food lover’s delight, filled with sweet and savoury treasures. There was a wine tasting and a lesson in olive oil tasting. We visited a bakery that feeds the homeless from its profits. We tasted the best butter tarts in the city, fine cheeses and spicy olives, fresh oysters and relaxed over a lunch of Panini washed down with champagne cocktails. To top it all off the tour ended with a gelato from Toronto’s best Ice cream maker.
Although the food was amazing, the best part of the day, was listening to Chef Scott recant historical events and describe the local folklore. He knew all of the stories of local businessmen and how they got started. We learned of the historical importance of Toronto’s culinary creations. He told us about how Dangerous Dan got his nickname and showed us the Toronto Veterinary Hospital, the city’s first large animal hospital, famous for treating horses earlier in the century.
If you are looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, I suggest trying one of these Culinary Adventures and hearing the stories first hand. If you are visiting Toronto, it would be a fun way to explore our diverse food culture.
The Culinary Adventure Company runs tours of several different Toronto neighborhoods as well as wine tours of Prince Edward County. I think I will try a few more, for the fun of it.