Streetcar Living’s Upper Beach Tour

Bill Miller, owner of The Art of Cheese
Bill Miller, owner of The Art of Cheese

Streetcar Developments is developing The Southwood’s Ravine Collection at the northwest and southeast corners of Main Street and Kingston Road in the Upper Beaches. To higlight the area, Streetcar invited Toronto bloggers to learn about The Southwood’s Ravine Collection and enjoy Streetcar Living’s Upper Beach Tour of local shops and restaurants along Kingston Road.

The Southwood’s Ravine Collection

Streetcar’s boutique midrise condos cater to urbanites seeking a charming, diverse neighbourhood with a close community feeling. This location definitely checks off all the requirements and more.

The units range from one bedroom to multi-level three bedroom with open concept, modern but still cozy designs suited for singles or families. The design takes advantage of natural light and the many exterior green spaces by having floor-to-ceiling windows, which maximize outdoor living by featuring beautiful views of the nearby Glen Stewart Ravine.

I am sure these units will go quickly and that each new tenant will absolutely love their new home and community. The project will begin in the fall of 2015. The sales centre is open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, located at 663 Kingston Road. Find them on Twitter @Streetcarlofts and Facebook: StreetcarDevelopments.

The area is truly a hidden gem and although it is only a 10 minute walk north of the well-known Beach neighbourhood or Queen Street East, many people have not ventured up along Kingston Road between Main Street and Victoria Park. New businesses have been locating along this strip over the last several years, making it a very eclectic and diverse shopping experience.

After hearing about the designs and vision of the project, we then took a walk around the neighbourhood to see firsthand the beauty and conveniences of the area. I have to start off by saying it was an eye-opening, delightful evening walk-about.

We started at the sales centre to view the models, photos, and layouts of the soon-to-be development, hear about Streetcar’s vision and mission while sipping on a glass of bubbly. The first thing one would notice is that right outside the doors of The Southwood’s Ravine Collection condo, you can catch a streetcar down to Queen Street and head westbound or take a bus going north to the Main Street Subway or Go Station located only a few minutes away by transportation.

At the Sales Centre, you can view a map of the area indicating schools, community centres, libraries, parks, daycares, grocery stores etc., all of which can be found within walking distance of the development site.

Next, with our walking shoes on and cameras in hand, we headed east along Kingston Road toward Victoria Park. Initially you will see a Catholic school on the north side and small original homes along the south side for about three blocks. Then for another eight blocks or so, you have a variety of home grown boutiques, artisan shops, culinary shops and restaurants along the north and south side of Kingston Road. Due to time limitations, we did not venture into all the shops and restaurants on Streetcar Living’s Upper Beach Tour, but I would recommend visiting each one at some point.

Yellow House Gallery

Yellow House Gallery, Toronto
Yellow House Gallery, Toronto

Our first stop was Yellow House Gallery, which is new to Kingston Road Village. The gallery is owned and operated by Christina Kostoff, an alumna of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Yellow House Gallery showcases both local and regional artists and offers custom framing. Christina was delightful and knowledgeable in her field showing pride and excitement for the artists being showcased at the time. Check out Yellow House Gallery on Twitter: @YellowHouseGal and on Instagram: @yellow_house_gallery.

Complimentary hats at Art of Cheese
Complimentary hats at Art of Cheese

Art of Cheese

Only a few doors away, Art Of Cheese at 925 Kingston Road, open since 2007, has been a staple in the community along with the well-known, friendly, funny and very knowledgeable owner, Bill Miller. For individuals new to the world of cheese, Bill is the man to see: he is very willing to answer any questions. The shop specializes in artisan cheese, mostly Canadian and European, with a few specialty cheeses.

Bill Miller, owner of The Art of Cheese
Bill Miller, owner of The Art of Cheese

After a brief history of cheese, origins and processing differences, we were given an Italian cheese called San De Oro, a raw cow’s milk cheese made in the Bassano del Grappa of northeast Italy (it was delicious). What is cheese without a sip of wine? Also served was a 2011 East Dell Estates Black Label Shiraz from Diamond Estates, a retail store in the Cliffside Plaza at 2435 Kingston Rd. Bill has been retained by Diamond Estates to do four more tasting evenings due to their huge success in the past. They will pair five different wines with five different kinds of cheese for only $5. To participate, please contact Judy from Diamond Estates at 416-603-0202 or via email The new dates are Sept. 22, 2015, Nov. 4, 2015 and Dec. 2, 2015 & TBD.

Collected Joy on Kingston Road, Toronto
Collected Joy on Kingston Road, Toronto
Gifts from Collected Joy, Toronto
Gifts from Collected Joy

Collected Joy

Next on our evening walk was a delightful artisan boutique named Collected Joy located on Kingston Road. Opened exactly one year ago owner by local resident Sharon Smyl, Collected Joy features original pieces that bring joy to Sharon and her customers. Many of the pieces are from local artists, and include jewellery, cards, stationery, pottery, glassware, preserves, antipastos and much more. It’s a boutique I could spend hours in, discovering all the unique and beautiful pieces to choose from.

We were able to sample a delicious iced green tea while browsing, then Sharon sent us off with a small gift bag of either an antipasto from La Bomba, or a jar of marmalade made by Maggie Fruitman from Riverdale. Check Collected Joy out on Instagram: @collected_joy

Robert Maxwell, owner of The Beech Tree Restaurant
Robert Maxwell, owner of The Beech Tree Restaurant

The Beech Tree Restaurant

Just across the street from Collected Joy is The Beech Tree Restaurant offering English pub fare with a modern twist. Owned and operated by Robert Maxwell, The Beach Tree Restaurant serves everything made from locally-sourced ingredients. This also includes the juices used in their original cocktail creations. We were given samplings of both their Flirty French (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon Juice, house-pureed Ontario strawberries, topped with prosecco and garnished with a lemon wheel) and their Lavender Lychee Martini (house-infused lavender vodka, lychee liqueur and lemon juice). Both were delicious and unique in flavour!

The food menu for the sitting was shortrib skewers with deep fried broccoli, sherry vinegar and roasted king oyster mushroom, topped with a caper and raisin dressing. Can we say YUMMY? The Gnocchi a house made with potato, tossed with sweet corn puree and garnished with marinated zucchini, feta and fennel bread crumble. Next came a charcuterie board with pork rillettes, pork & carrot terrine, air-cured duck ham, and chicken liver parfait, all made in house and served with the two chutneys.

This visit was definitely a delight to the taste buds and I will be returning for more using the $20 gift certificate given to each of us. Check The Beech Tree out on Twitter: @The_Beech_Tree.

Glen Stewart Ravine in Toronto
Glen Stewart Ravine in Toronto

Glen Stewart Ravine

After an hour or so of strolling, eating and drinking on Streetcar Living’s Upper Beach Tour, it was time to go for a breathtaking walk through the Glen Stewart Ravine from Kingston Road and Beech Avenue to Queen Street East. The ravine was listed as one of the best-hidden nature trails in your own backyard by NOW Magazine in 2014. Designated as an Environmentally Significant Area through the City’s Official Plan, the park spans 11 hectares and features a wide diversity of plant and bird life, breathing life into the vegetation from the Ames Creek forming small streams of moving water. The City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto Region Conservation Authority recently completed infrastructure improvements including the reconstruction of two pedestrian bridges, the Balsam staircase and more than ten slope retaining structures. It was surreal walking through and I could hardly believe I was in the city at all. It was beautiful, refreshing and relaxing. Throughout the walk, we met many local residents with their dogs and children enjoying a piece of quiet nature.

The Chopping Block

Once we emerged from the ravine, we headed east along Queen Street East towards the end of the line: the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant at the Neville loop where the Queen streetcar turns around to head back west. This section of Queen Street East is another area not many visit. Here we stopped in at the popular local butcher shop, The Chopping Block, to meet owner Jay McNish and his second in command, Jimmy.

Both were once again friendly and knowledgeable in their field. Here you will find every kind of meat thinkable, all fresh and locally sourced along with a wide selection of marinades, sauces and rubs. I was even able to purchase my favourite crackers, Lesley Stowe’s Raincoat Crisps with cranberry and hazelnut. We were served a variety of meats and sauces to sample and they were extremely good! The marinades and sauces were made from scratch by Jay.

Once again we were given a bag of goodies to take home including dried chorizo sausage, sample pack of Himalayan sea salt and either smoked turkey cold cuts or salami. My sons were very happy when I returned home that evening with all my amazing and generous gifts from each of the locations visited.

Ed’s Real Scoop

Last, but certainly not least, we walked back towards the ravine west along Queen Street to Ed’s Real Scoop Ice Cream Parlor. Founded by Ed Francis, Ed’s Real Scoop specializes in house-made gelato, chocolates and other treats, along with a wide variety of unusual but delicious ice cream flavours served in a house-made, warm waffle cone. Need I say more? Voted as one of Toronto’s best ice cream shops, Ed’s Real Scoop is a favorite stop for many local residents and pretty much always has a line up out the door. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

Ice cream at Ed's Real Scoop
Ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop

Ed allowed each of us a complimentary cone, and although it was tough to decide which flavour, I ended up choosing Carmel Pecan with a fudge swirl and it was soooooooo good!
Check out @Eds_Real_Scoop on Twitter or @EdsRealScoop on Instagram.

What a great evening exploring the neighborhood all by foot. I know who ever moves into one of the beautiful condos at The Southwood Ravine will enjoy discovering the many other locations, shops and restaurants we were not able to visit during this outing.

I really enjoyed Streetcar Living’s Upper Beach Tour, and I would like to thank them for the bubbly, and the beautiful picnic basket and bread given at the end. I’d also like to thank each of the locations who welcomed us into their shops, treated us while there and then sent us on our way with generous gifts. I know I will be back to visit each of you with friends and family in tow.