Best of the City: our indispensable list of all that’s excellent in 2013
City hall is a circus, our roads are chronically clogged and the Stanley Cup continues to elude us, but our economy is booming like never before. By almost every measure—condos, five-star hotels, restaurants, population—we’re seriously flush, and the competition for our cash is heating up. There’s a dish for every craving, a service for every crisis, a product for every whim. Restaurateurs one-up each other with 20-course tasting menus and foie gras everything. Clusters of new boutiques have materialized in the Distillery District and the west end, selling rare Japanese labels and ethical selvage denim. Facialists treat our skin with diamonds and sapphires, and our malls have received makeovers befitting Versailles. We want for nothing—except maybe a little guidance on what to do with all that expendable income. The following pages comprise the absolute best of dining, drinking, shopping, pampering and carousing in the city—an exhaustive guide to all the things you never knew you needed.
Pink Eye Optical
1030 Queen St. W., 416-534-2235
Drift sunglasses are handmade in Chicago using sustainable American hardwood (certified by the venerable Forest Stewardship Council) and planks reclaimed from urban construction sites or harvested from riverbeds. Even the acetate fronts—a nice design touch—use plastic derived from the wood-pulping process. More to the point, they look great. From $398.
The Monocle Shop
776 College St., 647-694-2626
The newly opened Monocle Shop—an extension of the hyper-branded magazine for the rich and mobile—is full of such fanciful goodies as wooden cups and $240 children’s blocks. There is one item, though, that has practical value: the Mark’s Travel Wallet. Made in Japan, it’s designed to keep passports, travel notes and other important documents together and dry. The wallet’s aesthetic might be described as utilitarian, and it’s pricey for a glorified Ziploc, but it’s the best travel accessory we’ve come across all year. $55.
80 Ronald Ave., 416-785-7885
Jamie Metrick, the man who runs Elte’s vaunted rug department, first became obsessed with the vibrant colours and soft touch of saris while on a buying trip to Jaipur. Naturally, he wondered if the fabrics could be rewoven into rugs. They can. Elte’s shops amass piles of vintage saris, unravel them and weave them—by hand—into a breathtaking final product. The Silk Orchid rugs look like gallery-worthy pieces you’ll feel guilty about walking on—especially since they start at $3,000.
Tiger of Sweden
56 Ossington Ave., 416-588-4437
Summer in Toronto is fleeting. Almost before your first barbecued burgers are cooked all the way through, it’s time to start thinking about fall. When it comes to jackets, the form-flattering mohair and alpaca Aima moto jacket from Tiger of Sweden, the upscale fashion label that just opened up shop on Ossington, is our pick. $589.
2949 Dundas St. W., 416-797-1290
The great debate—black belt or brown—is finally resolved. The answer is neither. Natural vegetable tanning is the least abrasive way to treat leather, using tannins derived from plants instead of chemicals. The result is leather that really looks and feels like leather, and that ages gracefully as it’s exposed to the sun, the indigo dye of blue jeans and the wear and tear of everyday life. Our favourite, by Toronto-based menswear label Outclass, is one of the best-crafted on the market. $85.
863 Queen St. W., 647-351-0724
Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson, the designers behind the popular label Ace and Jig, have solved the cookie-cutter sundress problem with their Boardwalk design. They’ve collaborated with textile specialists in India to create a yarn-dyed woven fabric that’s light and breezy on scorching summer days—and the stripes are placed at random, meaning no two dresses are exactly alike. Chances are no one at your office picnic will be wearing the same thing. $199.
66 Bloor St. W., 416-920-1000
The neon accessories trend is hitting its apex this summer. If you’re going to invest in a pair of eye-searingly bright designer sandals that can be spotted from a block away, you want them to be ultra-flattering on the foot. Our pick: these four-and-a-half-inch Jimmy Choos. $795.
674 Queen St. W., 416-681-0368
We still haven’t quite forgiven Australia for introducing the world to UGG boots, but the adorable Flatout teddy bears could go a long way toward improving Canadian-Aussie relations. They’re made from the purest Australian sheepskin and, as the name suggests, are flat on two sides (and still surprisingly cuddly). They even have their own celeb fan base, which includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Garner and, er, Tom Cruise, virtually guaranteeing their status as a baby shower no-brainer. From $44.
77 Bloor St. W., 416-929-1800
The Porsche Design store opened about a year ago in Yorkville and has since become a destination for over-the-top awesomeness. Case in point: the TwinBag, this year’s best (okay, only) handbag designed to the same exacting specifications as a German performance car. This Porsche is made in Florence, not Stuttgart, but it is a convertible—it goes from handbag to shoulder bag with a tug of the straps. It’s roomy enough to hold a tablet and comes in a wide range of colours, materials and finishes, from the relatively simple (Italian leather, $1,750) to the downright ridiculous (crocodile and 18-karat gold, $28,900).
678 Bloor St. W., 416-572-2593
Ten years ago, super-bright fixies were strictly the domain of King Street bike couriers. Now, single-speeds are ubiquitous in Toronto, which is why Tony Mammoliti and Jason Wood launched Gallant Bicycles, an Annex boutique devoted to them. The bikes pair lightweight tubes made in China with modern flourishes applied in Gallant’s Junction factory, including sleek saddles and eye-popping powder coatings. After fretting over your choice of stem, wheels and handlebars, the simplest part will be riding the damn thing. From $700.
55 Bloor St. W., 416-964-2900
The Kenwood Cooking Chef is the culinary equivalent of the iPhone—the reigning champ of tech consolidation. The handsome machine is built to satiate the needs of Toronto’s space-starved condo chefs. It looks like an extreme KitchenAid stand mixer—a mad hybrid that mixes, blends, purées and even heats food in one go, effectively rendering half your other appliances obsolete. $2,000.
Toronto Brewing Co.
Toronto is experiencing a craft beer revolution, and our small-batch obsession has sparked an interest in DIY brewing. The Toronto Brewing Co.—which will soon swap its midtown HQ for a 4,000-square-foot space near Yorkdale—offers the best kits available, complete with easier-than-IKEA instructions, siphons and compact fermenting buckets. They also carry a great selection of upscale hops and malts. From $66.
21 Trinity St., 416-260-9696
We’re not in the habit of endorsing things just because Beyoncé wears them, but these awesome hats by New York–based designer Eugenia Kim (Bey’s favourite brand) might have to be the exception. After years of sporadic availability (sucks to be Canadian sometimes), they’re finally in stock at Gotstyle’s new women’s store in the Distillery. They come in a variety of styles and shapes, with vintage feathers in lots of colours. $235 to $305.
1010 Queen St. W., 647-748-5155
Rivieras has been churning out these perforated slip-ons for years, selling them mainly to a clientele of laid-back Europeans and a niche North American following. But this year, they seem to be everywhere. The canvas and cotton are the highest quality, and the leather-lined soles will weather Toronto’s pavement just as well as the beaches these kicks were named after. From $85.
This mail-order beauty kit is a surprise selection of upscale cosmetics that arrives on your doorstep bundled in a silk bag. Members fill out a questionnaire that covers skin tone and type, hair texture and daily cosmetic regimen. Then, every three months, Luxe Box sends out a package of seven or eight specially chosen product samples. The picks change every time; past goodies have included Nina Ricci perfume, L’Occitane lotions and Lancôme makeup. From $24 per month.
Klaus by Nienkamper
300 King St. E., 416-362-3434
Sectional couches were a staple of 1970s basements, and they’re just growing up now. The Mell sofa by Jehs and Laub takes all that’s great about sectionals—they’re comfortable, they can be customized to fit into nearly any space and everyone gets a good view of the TV—and adds the furniture trend of the moment: metal frames, which make the hulking pieces light and easy to move. And the Mell can be configured in any number of variations, with matching tables, ottomans and chairs. From $7,500.
Ziggy’s at Home
794 College St., 416-535-8728
The Acapulco chair was born in the 1950s in, well, Acapulco, Mexico, where sitting in regular chairs—ones without the signature airy string backs—got to be way too hot in the warmer months. The trend caught on over the next couple of decades and—sweaty Torontonians rejoice—it’s back this summer. The chairs, which come in 10 different colours, are currently gracing fashionable porches all over town. From $395.
110 Bloor St. W., 416-921-6453
Fitness trackers are all the rage right now, and our pick is the Nike+ FuelBand. Working in conjunction with a smartphone app, the FuelBand measures everything about the way you move: how much you walk, run, dance, shoot hoops, skate, whatever. Then it cranks up your regularly scheduled workout by setting fitness goals—and tracking your progress with LED lights on its futuristic band. The best part? You get to start thinking about all your activity in “NikeFuel,” the brand’s own measure of daily activity. $149.
The Emmet Ray
924 College St., 416-792-4497
The College Street whisky bar is best known for gypsy jazz jam sessions, not food. So it was a happy surprise to find the place makes incredible fries. Justin Van Ditzhuyzen uses a triple-cook method honed by the British chef Heston Blumenthal who discovered a counterintuitive rule: the softer the potato, the crunchier the fry. So Van Ditzhuyzen simmers russets until they’re almost falling apart, then flash-fries them twice to create a bronze crust that shatters when you bite through to the fluffy middle. With kosher salt, they’re potato perfection. $6.
Glas Wine Bar
1118 Queen St. E., 647-351-4527
In this, the golden age of nose-to-tail, Glas’s four-course vegetarian tasting menu is almost revolutionary. And, unlike the non-chick’n nuggets and cheatloafs that have come to pass for vegetarian food, here the options are unfettered by gimmicks or soggy deep-fried breading. Plates like sautéed celeriac ribbons sprinkled with truffles and Parmesan, and airy whipped corn soup with sea asparagus, are each paired with Ontario wines. Vegetables (and vegetarians) have never gotten so much love. $60.
190 University Ave., 647-253-8000
Umeboshi are salt-cured Japanese plums that have double the citric acid of lemons, which means your whole face—eyeballs included—puckers up when you eat one. At Noodle Bar, umeboshi paste is blended with sake, a hefty dose of ginger, lime juice and syrup, then fed through a slushy machine. The resulting mix is tart, yes, but also sweet, salty and hot from the ginger—an unexpected combo for an icy drink. They’re served with extra-fat straws, which compel you to suck back the four-ouncer in one ecstatic pull. Splurge for the super-size. $10.
Bushi Udon Kappo
1404 Yonge St., 416-323-9988
A Japanese udon machine turns out thick buckwheat noodles made from a special blend of flours designed for optimal elastic chew. In summer, they’re best enjoyed cold with a bowl of chilled dashi broth, infused with dried mackerel, anchovies and bonito flakes. The dish is light, yet packs a powerful umami hit that rivals ramen without the heaviness. $7.50.
164 Ossington Ave., 647-343-4698
Unless you’re soaking up a few pints, no good comes of ordering chicken wings. The meat-to-bone ratio is infuriatingly 1:2, they’re usually shrivelled from the deep fryer and they require wet naps. Not at Hawker Bar, where plump morsels are soaked in soy sauce, sesame oil and Shaoxing rice wine, burnished with Sichuan pepper and Chinese five-spice, then fried for exactly six minutes so the outsides crackle and the meat stays juicy. $6.50 for a half-pound.
5 Brock Ave., 416-516-8286
Everyone seems to be a barbecue purist today, with adamant opinions about regional rub variants, applewood versus hickory, saucy versus dry. This Parkdale smokehouse isn’t for everyone. It’s run by the nonconformist pair behind Grand Electric, the neighbouring taco and bourbon den. Their sticky pork ribs are tender from a long spell in a Southern Pride smoker, and glazed with chili and tamarind. As a final unconventional touch, they’re sprinkled with scallions and crushed peanuts. $14.50 for a half-rack.
45 Colborne St., 416-214-9918
Dessert is a chef’s last chance to make an impression, and Bruce Woods seizes the moment with his dainty sea buckthorn pavlova. He fills a meringue shell with milk chocolate ganache and custard made from sour sea buckthorn berries. He adds a scoop of black sesame ice cream, a sesame tuile and a tiny chocolate tree—the most refined sugar rush we’ve had this year. $11.
Mengrai Gourmet Thai
82 Ontario St., 416-546-0331
Husband-and-wife Sasi and Allan Meechai-Lim host a lively, two-hour Thai cooking class at their romantic Old Town restaurant. Sasi, the soft-spoken chef, delivers a lesson on Thailand’s famous sweet-salty-sour-hot flavour formula, while Allan pours potent lycheetinis. Each student mans a wok station and makes three Thai staples, including the hard-to-master pad Thai. Afterwards, the staff plate the dishes and deliver them to a private table for a DIY feast. $105.
Aft Kitchen and Bar
686 Queen St. E., 647-346-1541
Riverside’s new barbecue spot serves Texas-style cowboy beans so luscious and rich they steal the show from the mains. The beans are mixed with chunks of brisket and slathered in molasses-thick house barbecue sauce. An extra squirt of side sauce, made from the smoker’s drippings, gives the gooey mess a concentrated smoke wallop. The only downside? They come in cruelly tiny pots. $3.
1120 College St. W., 647-352-7322
The Persian spreads at this sunny new brunch spot are lovingly made with splashes of olive oil, sprinkles of pomegranate seeds and punches of garlic—a welcome change from the bloated breakfast burgers all over town. The Guisavah brings two runny sunny-side-up eggs dotted with sautéed dates and walnuts, and sided by a creamy feta cube and a forest of fresh basil. It’s best enjoyed with warm flatbread and orange blossom jam. $9.
The Happy Hooker
887 Dundas St. W., 647-769-4243
The Dundas West fish shack feels like a beachside concession stand—one filled with Bellwoods bocce ballers instead of surfers. They’re queuing for top-notch shrimp tacos that easily best pricier versions in the rapidly expanding tacoverse. Springy shellfish are dusted with toasted cumin and seared just enough to imbue them with flame flavour without turning them into chew toys. They’re topped with lime crema and mango-habanero salsa. Each one is gone in two mouth-burning bites. $3.50.
28 Kensington Ave., 416-994-7669
The new bakery-café in Kensington Market sells ice cream sandwiches for grown-ups. The filling is a creamy concoction of goat’s milk yogurt, meringue and lemon zest that’s smushed between two chewy vanilla-pistachio cookies painted on their undersides with lemon curd. They’re tart, light and, best of all, taste homemade. $4.
88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788
Adore or abhor it, foie gras is still the ingredient of choice at luxurious Toronto restaurants. At Splendido, it’s infused with a boozy cocktail—port, brandy and madeira—whipped into mousse and layered with strawberry gelée. The top is dusted with feathery foie gras snow, white strawberries and roasted pistachios, and it comes with warm brioche to scoop up every ethereal bite. $18.
372 Bay St., 647-352-3211
Toronto has so many patty artisans, it could well support a burger guild. The Gabardine sets aside artisanal trickery and commits to the elemental simplicity of meat, bun, BLT. The sirloin-chuck mound is two inches thick, pink in the middle and draped with old cheddar. On top, there’s double-smoked bacon, ripe tomato and a Boston lettuce leaf. The sturdy sesame seed bun soaks up the free-flowing juices. $18.
797 College St., 416-532-2222
Say goodbye to Pizza Nova: it’s now possible to wander, tipsy and hungry, into a College Street bar at 1 a.m. and get terrific food. The tapas bar from Grant van Gameren is a spasmodically fun place to end an evening with one last cocktail and a snack to soak it up. Our favourite: a dazzling plate of vinegar-cured anchovies fanned into a silvery starburst beside pickled piquillo and jalapeño peppers, and tortilla chips fresh from the fryer. $9.
480 King St. W., 416-274-8766
Pre-mixing cocktails and sealing them up in wood barrels to develop layered flavours has become an art among the city’s serious booze-hands. At this King Street saloon, the negroni (gin, Campari, vermouth and orange oil) ages in oak for two weeks until it turns into a super-saturated amber elixir that tastes like liquefied orange zest and vanilla. It’s poured into a cut-crystal glass over a single heroic ice cube to be nursed one slow-savoured sip at time. $14.
1095 Yonge St., 416-925-4020
The 150-seat sun-and-shade rooftop in the heart of Rosedale is Italy by way of South Beach. During the day, gaggles of Lululemoned moms sip pinot while their tots snack on hand-rolled gnocchi. After dark, strings of white lights twinkle over the bar, a DJ spins dance beats and post-dinner party posses order bellinis.
Chung King Garden
4394 Steeles Ave. E., 905-513-8788
Heritage ducks have taken over downtown menus, but no matter how you sous vide them, none can compete with the crackling skin and melting meat of the Peking duck at this restaurant tucked behind the Pacific Mall. A paltry $44 buys three courses for two people: tawny skin shards with juicy breast clinging to them, served with scallions, cukes and crêpes; minced meat stir-fried with black bean sauce and wrapped in lettuce leaves; and rich soup made with the rest of the bird and soft tofu.
First Thursdays at the AGO
317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648
For one night every month, hundreds of culture-craving revelers descend on the AGO for an after-hours bash. Every party is an ingenious amalgam of high- and lowbrow: past evenings have featured DJ sets from Austra’s Katie Stelmanis, croaky poetry readings from punk goddess Patti Smith and art demos from sculptor Evan Penny. Frank, the AGO restaurant, serves booze and carnival snacks like Polish sausage, fried chicken sandwiches and spiked snow cones. Best of all, visitors are allowed to tipsily traipse through the gallery with their drinks, raising the question: can club soda clean canvas? $12.
Edible Wild Food
The current wild-everything craze has spawned a city full of grizzled hunter-gatherers and culinary adventurers. For those looking to join their ranks, Karen Stephenson’s foraging expeditions through High Park or the Rouge Valley are the ultimate crash course in extreme locavorism. Stephenson, who has degrees in herbal pharmacology and nutrition, schools her acolytes on which plants to cook, which to pickle and which to avoid lest they break out in unsightly rashes. Some of her favourite foraged finds are tart wood sorrel, pungent garlic mustard and Dryad’s saddle, an enormous mushroom that looks like a sea anemone. $20 for a two-hour tour.
Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park
45 Esandar Dr., 416-421-4567
In elementary school, dodgeball is the game for kids who hate gym. In the grown-up world, it’s the game for people who hate the gym. The new 28,000-square-foot trampoline park in Leaside offers a bounce-off-the-walls workout that requires no skill whatsoever; an hour of jumping can burn as many calories as a 20-minute run. Diehards can drop in for a pickup game on Sunday and Wednesday nights or join the co-ed intramural league that plays every Monday. For the less competitively inclined, there’s a separate space for freestyle hopping and a cavernous pit of squishy foam cubes for frolicking. $12.50 for an hour.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123
In 2012, the Annex’s 100-year-old movie house received a $3-million makeover from Hariri Pontarini and a documentary-focused lineup from the Hot Docs film festival. In keeping with its newly fancified status, it’s now the city’s only large-scale movie theatre that doubles as a cocktail lounge—patrons drink old-fashioneds and Kensington Brewery beers instead of watered-down fountain soda and blue raspberry slushies. Special occasions bring special drinks: flutes of prosecco and pomegranate juice on Oscar night, Dude-worthy White Russians for a recent Big Lebowski screening and, for summer, fresh sangria and kegs of Steam Whistle. The libations are best enjoyed in the air-conditioned auditorium while a Werner Herzog doc flickers onscreen. Think of it as the ultimate covered patio. Movie tickets $11, drinks $6.50.
724 Bathurst St., 416-901-7489
On Sunday afternoons, the comic shop behind Honest Ed’s is the city’s busiest high school hangout, filled with teens creating their own manga comics in Eric Kim’s weekly workshops. Kim, a veteran comics artist, educates kids on the finer points of the Japanese drawing style, including how to make the widest saucer eyes, tiniest mouths and hair that stands on end. Their strips are collected into an anthology at the end of each workshop series; the latest edition featured witches, dragons, love potions and the adventures of a flying moustache. Ages 13–17; $250 for eight classes.
55 Colborne St., 416-901-9990
The Financial District’s latest and most lavish adult playground comes from Harif Harji, the nightlife impresario known for cocktail-fuelled resto-bars like Weslodge and Patria. His new spot, a Prohibition-styled club, hides its biggest draw in the basement: a sprawling man-cave adorned with shag carpets, vintage boxing gloves and framed sports jerseys. Suits shed stress over arcade games like Street Fighter and Pinball Monopoly while inhaling veal hot dogs and truffled popcorn. For high-powered Bay Streeters, it’s the ultimate nostalgia hit: an update of their parents’ rec room with a stocked bar and better toys.
Backyard Axe-Throwing League
213 Sterling Rd., batl.ca
The quirkiest tenant on Sterling Road’s warehouse row is the Backyard Axe-Throwing League, which has become a heraldic destination for the city’s ever-growing urban lumberjack population. The tattoo-sleeved founder, Matt Wilson, commences each session by sounding a two-foot ram’s horn, and players with names like Arm and Diamond hurl hatchets at a wooden target, earning points for bull’s eye proximity—it’s like darts for the Neolithic set. $40 per person for groups of 10.
The Four Seasons
60 Yorkville Ave., 416-964-2301
The 30,000-square-foot spa in the new Four Seasons Hotel has raised the city standard for blissed-out beauty days. Bay Street strays pop in for treatments like gold-plumping and sapphire facials, or take a plunge in a sunlit indoor bromine pool that glitters with Italian glass mosaic tile and pulses with music from an underwater sound system. It’s the city’s best refuge from the stifling summer heat—and it isn’t three hours of cottage-bound traffic away.
945 Bloor St. W., 416-551-6540
Humour has always been a natural outlet for urban neurotics. Every Thursday night, aspiring comedians dreaming of their own podcasts and eponymous sitcoms gather at Comedy Bar for the Bad Dog Theatre Company’s amateur improv classes. In the eight-week foundation program, beer-buzzed students learn how to build a scene, incorporate audience suggestions into their act and adapt to the first rule of improv: never say no. Classes cost $30—plus your inhibitions and dignity.
Shannonville MotorSport Park Driving Academy
7047 Old Hwy. 2, Shannonville, 613-969-1906
If you’ve ever spent time in Forest Hill, no doubt you’ve seen the parade of shiny Ferraris and Audis lurching, revving and jerking their way up the strip. For those who don’t yet know how to handle their speedy new toys, we suggest a spin at the Shannonville MotorSport Park Driving Academy. The program is led by Hall of Fame Formula 1 racer Bill Brack, who instructs new owners on how to use racing techniques in their daily driving. It’s a full day’s (and a full tank’s) worth of hard turns and hard brakes—the summer’s most heart-stopping thrill ride. $275.
213 Sterling Rd., Unit #107, 416-364-6663
Mark Gomes and John Broere transform urban rooftops from barren lunar-esque landscapes into lush Arcadian retreats. On a 400-square-foot terrace, for instance, they produced a mini- Muskoka with rugged stone outcroppings, pine trees and climbing hydrangeas. They also built a Zen garden over a 1,500-square-foot Yorkville penthouse, with a reflecting pond, fountain and stepped planters of Japanese forest grass, Hinoki cypress and sumac. For the black-thumbed and lazy-boned, Gomes and Broere can help arrange simpler services like watering and weeding.
Darling & Ninth
These days, a parent-to-be practically needs a physics degree to pick an ergonomic stroller and a private detective to run background checks on prospective nannies. For such trepidatious tasks, former marketing exec Claire Kilgour Hervey has founded the city’s best baby concierge service. As part of her bump-to-birthday package, she’ll hunt down the most luxurious prenatal massage, the best night nurse and an evening gown that’ll accommodate an eight-month belly. Post-stork services include sleep training (for baby) and fitness regimes (for mom). Pricing available on consultation.
Edge of Your Seat
224 Wallace Ave., 416-302-5520
Donna Kim specializes in the art of chair caning and seat weaving—a lucrative pursuit when Hans Wegner wishbone chairs are the most coveted perches in town. Private collectors and high-end vintage brokers like INabstracto and the Paisley Shop entrust her with refurbishing their Nordic treasures; she’ll repair torn and frayed seats, or hand-weave patterns from scratch using Danish cord, rattan, seagrass and fibre rush. Kim has a two-month waiting list, but impatient DIYers can participate in her BYO-chair repair and canoe seat workshops. Prices available upon request.
Bay Dermatology Centre
790 Bay St., 416-515-8808
The secret to eternal youth is the ominously named but pleasantly non-invasive vampire facelift, which uses the platelet-rich plasma from your own blood to rejuvenate the skin. Dr. Sandy Skotnicki draws a vial of blood from her patient’s arm, spins it in a centrifuge until the red cells strip off, then injects the plasma into the skin. The fluid—which Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant have used to repair athletic injuries—is said to contain healing agents that promote cell growth and collagen production, making it the perfect remedy to tighten sagging flesh under the eyes and chin. $1,200.
Any enviro-slacktivist can screw in an LED light bulb and call their home green. For those truly committed to cutting their air pollution and energy bills, a consultation with eco-whiz Candice Batista is a prerequisite. Walking through a house, she itemizes all the offenders—everything from uninsulated attics to chemical-filled cosmetics—and commissions room-by-room air tests. Her fixes are smart, practical and easy to implement: replacing a toxin-packed shower curtain with a PVC-free version, getting rid of dust-and-dander-trapping carpets and installing the Nest, an ingenious thermostat that helps reduce heating costs by up to 20 per cent.
Coutts Art Restoration
196 Major St., 416-277-5588
When it comes to the rarefied luxury of art conservation, only a Caravaggio expert will do. Alicia Coutts studied at Florence’s vaunted SACI Institute before working under one of the world’s top Caravaggio specialists. She uses the same materials as the Florentine masters: she mixes her own resin pigments, re-stretches canvasses using a wheat-based lining and mends chips and tears with rabbit-skin glue. Coutts handles many works from the Renaissance and beyond, but she’s equally adept with pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries—and her time-tested techniques ensure they’ll look just as good in the 24th. $35 per hour.
435 Spadina Rd., 647-352-2775
Extreme Pilates from LA-based trainer Sebastien Lagree is the torture workout of the moment, as the sculpted posteriors of Jennifer Aniston and Hayden Panettiere can attest. Francis Greco and Carm Perrelli, refugees of Wall and Bay streets respectively, opened the first Canadian gym devoted to the program in Forest Hill this winter. Each 50-minute class combines strength, core and cardio training. Participants balance on souped-up Pilates Reformers and perform Twister-worthy moves with names like “catfish” and “wheelbarrow,” working every muscle in their bodies until they’re reduced to quivering piles of Jell-O. $35 per session.
102 Ossington Ave., 416-533-0443
Renee Kaylor, owner of this couture consignment boutique on Ossington, is a veteran personal stylist and the city’s most skilled in her field. She’ll conduct a half-hour consultation to determine your sartorial needs, then roll up her sleeves and get real with your closet. The process involves some tough love (expect to try on all those items you haven’t worn in forever, including your Grade 10 semi-formal dress), but the end result is a clutter-free collection of outfits that work. An audit also includes a colour reading, a personalized shopping list and at least 15 extra minutes of sleep—time you no longer spend at war with your wardrobe. $250.
Animal Rehabilitation Centre
920 Yonge St., 416-964-9346
Toronto is a city for the dog-obsessed, with one hound for every 42 humans. We express our affection with tiny parkas, organic kibble and pricey medical procedures that would’ve once been handled the Old Yeller way. For dogs in need of post-op TLC, vet tech Tracy McKenzie runs a booming therapy centre in Yorkville where dogs run on underwater treadmills (to strengthen muscles without impact), relish 30-minute massages (to increase circulation) and squirm through cold laser treatments (to speed healing time). McKenzie even makes house calls and offers tips to make rooms more accessible for your furry, four-legged invalid. Prices vary.