By: Charlene Mani
I am a civic-minded millennial who cares about the community I live in, green spaces and I am most definitely curious. I have been living in Toronto for the past few years and I still enjoy discovering new, charming neighbourhoods filled with hidden gems. Most recently, I had the opportunity to explore the Upper Beach with Streetcar Developments and discovered that the neighbourhood is chock full of splendid surprises.
The tour kicked-off with a visit to The Southwood Presentation Centre by Streetcar Developments, where I was able to view The Southwood Ravine Collection of boutique suites. With the Glen Stewart Ravine in close proximity, Streetcar Development guarantees homeowners the best of both worlds; contemporary units with easy access to nature that is conducive to a more relaxed way of living. Not to mention an array of reputable schools, quaint shops and restaurants galore that surround the area! Prospective owners can choose from one bedroom to multi-level three bedroom suites. Each modern suite features open-concept living spaces and state-of-the-art appliances with a European-inspired kitchen ideal for entertaining.
After leaving the presentation centre, we set off to explore what the neighbourhood had to offer. We paid a visit to the Yellow House Gallery, a contemporary art gallery that showcases works from Toronto’s emerging talent. It is owned and operated by Christina Kostoff, who graduated with an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. Much of the work on display captures the merging of two worlds; modern art that presents new angles to traditional thinking. In the Colours of Lives Once Lived, the artist gives the viewer a glimpse into the living spaces of an apartment building set for demolition.
If you’re looking for a laugh and enjoy artisanal cheese, The Art of Cheese is your best bet around the Upper Beach. Located on Kingston Road, the store serves the community with Canada and Europe’s best cheeses, sans preservatives. Bill Miller, "The Grand Fromage" co-owns and operates the store and happily offered samples of a pale yellow cheese called San de Oro. Originating from North Eastern Italy, the cheese has a buttery flavour and a pleasant tang. A 2011 Black Label Shiraz from Diamond Estates perfectly complimented the unpasteurized cheese.
Next, we paid a visit to Collected Joy, which is a delightful store that carries everything unpretentious. From unique earrings to decorative pieces for your home that reflect you and your interests, this store has it all. Owner Sharon Smyl’s purpose for the store was to be surrounded by the simple things in life. Everything from the antipasto jars to ‘That’s my Jam!’ marmalade is locally made and sourced. The best part of my visit was tasting the refreshing Sloane jasmine iced tea, especially on a hot summer day!
The tour continued with the much-anticipated stop at the inviting Beech Tree restaurant, where everything on the menu is house-made and more than delivers on authentic flavours. Borrowing inspiration from French and Italian cooking, this restaurant is perfect if you’re looking for a great lunch spot or celebrating a special occasion. Having sampled the charcuterie plate, the item that was most outstanding was the chicken liver parfait with its mousse-like texture and oh-so-buttery flavour. Another winner was the house-made gnocchi, which tasted surprisingly light, yet bold in flavour.
After the delicious meal at the Beech Tree, we took a leisurely stroll through the Glen Stewart Ravine. As soon as I walked down the stairs to the ravine, I felt peaceful and truly appreciated how calming and beautiful nature can be. The ravine is not only captivating but is restorative for the mind, body and soul; the perfect place to relax after a hard day’s work.
The residents of the Upper Beach are spoiled with having a meat and butcher shop in their neigbourhood. The Chopping Block features hamburger meat and sausages among their wide array of meats originating from Ontario farms. We had the pleasure of sampling bison sausage with maple and fig, bison burger and leg of lamb with honey-cup mustard and spicy Thai chilli BBQ sauce. Not only did the sauces perfectly complement the meats, but they were all thought of and concocted by the talented owner himself, Jay McNish.
Our final and much-awaited stop for the day, was at Ed’s Real Scoop. The wide variety of classic and new flavours offer something for everyone, young and old. Even on a Wednesday evening, you can find a long line of eager families and couples waiting for Ed's famous cool treats. While I patiently waited for my glorious cone of vanilla ice cream, I was surprised to learn that the ice cream, gelato and waffle cones are all made in-house. A must try during fall is Ed's pumpkin ice cream, which was inspired by Ed's own mother and a customer's need for pumpkin pie flavoured ice cream. Ed caters to his loyal community, so if you have a suggestion, feel free to let him know.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of the Upper Beach and visiting unique places that I was unaware of. I do live in the east end of downtown Toronto, and after exploring the established neighbourhood of the Upper Beach and seeing the strong sense of community firsthand, I would certainly consider moving even further east!
To find out more about The Southwood Ravine Collection, visit streetcar.ca/projects/southwood.
Photos courtesy of Rock-It Promotions.