The Distillery District | A Surprising Toronto Arondissement
1 October 2015 | BY ANDJELKA JANKOVIC | Travel
So bright, the flames burn in our hearts
Toronto’s Gooderham and Worts Distillery has undergone several transformations in its 119-year history starting off as the largest whiskey producer in the world in the early 19th century and then becoming one of the most popular film locations in Canada. Since 2011, it has taken on a new guise as a shopping, culinary and entertainment area know as The Distillery District—a reimagining of a legendary Parisian quarter near downtown Toronto.
Food pioneers, local artisans, entrepreneurs and forward-thinking designers have since populated the 47 restored buildings that make up the Victorian Industrial village. Stepping through the grand gates onto a cobblestone street, there is a buzz in the air and impressive details evident in the craftsmanship of a Toronto icon’s metamorphosis.
Push open the heavy wooden green door into Balzac Coffee Roasters and order a Parisian Mist (black tea with steamed milk and vanilla syrup) as you overlook a grand chandelier and sky-high windows facing giant public art works. Make your way to Blackbird Vintage Finds to find a long-lost treasure and try the quince balsamic vinegar at Von Mass Spice Shop next door.
Head to Tank House Lane and be welcomed by a giant ‘LOVE’ wall made out of keyless locks ala the Ponts de Arts bridge in Paris. Heady with romance, step into Laura Slack Chocolate Artist for hand printed artisanal chocolate. The shop makes inventive flavours such as black garlic caramel, smoked sea salt chocolate or peaches and cream caramel filled chocolate (and don’t forget to try a pumpkin chai truffle).
Toronto pride is well preserved in the architecture and in the one-of-a-kind artisanal shops. Distill Gallery showcases Canadian art, craft and design – take home a hand thrown mug, silk printed scarf or jar of bourbon maple syrup and know exactly where it came from. Continue your meanderings down to Gilding The Lily to discover delicate local jewelry creations and poke your head into the antique store Biltmore Domicile for an emporium of relics from yesteryear.
Don’t skip Soma Chocolatier for a taste of salt roasted corn chocolate, candied lemon peel, and the famous Birch Branch – a special take on a HB&J (hazelnut and peanut butter) sandwich carved from a birch branch mould found in the forests of Lindsay, Ontario. Take your enchanted taste buds for a walk down Gristmill Lane and find Susan Harris Design – a cozy wood cabin shop with the upstairs dedicated to local maple and birch syrup purveyors.
Case Goods Lane is a surprise a step – The Saucy Milner for bespoke hats, Dish Gallery + Gallery for perfectly imperfect ceramics, and Eskimo Art Gallery for Inuit sculpture, prints, and art During the warmer months, The Distillery Historic District also hosts a Music City Summer Series every Wednesday evening. Adding to the European ambience, emerging Canadian voices perform free shows in the village square. The sound of live music combined with the buzz of sidewalk bars and eateries filling up for dinner complements the dramatic dusk sky, bringing the century old icon to life.
As the sun sets – make sure to visit Brick Street Bakery (one of the first tenants in the area) for a classic Canadian butter tart or a decadent butter chocolate pecan tart. At night The Distillery is well known to be one of Toronto’s most haunted spots with tales of death and duels in the explosive War of 1812 on its ancient cobblestone streets. If you believe in supernatural powers you can join a group walking tour led by lantern light with The Haunted Walk – or if you prefer to avoid a ghoul sighting, take your sweet slice of Canada home as you leave the gates of a uniquely Toronto arrondissement.