Buy Local: Toronto Is A Trendy Food Shopping Goldmine

 If you think of Canada as purely a frozen tundra where everyone eats venison jerky, then you've clearly never been to Toronto. This vibrant, design-conscious, style-driven city has so much to offer: hippies and couture fashionistas, diverse and expertly executed cuisine, chic accessories shops and vintage tattoo parlors. Here are some of Toronto's best local businesses selling one-of-a-kind housewares and local products. If you're traveling, take advantage of the exchange rate and leave extra room in your suitcase. Take my word for it: You will fill it.


Neighborhood: Queen West

This self-proclaimed "cocktail emporium" is one of the most eclectic and thorough barware shops I've found anywhere. Boasting great style and a hip, vintage-chic vibe, BYOB stocks everything from gold-plated cocktail stirrers (presented on fur rugs) and Japanese ice picks to porcelain conch shells from their sizable tiki section. There are ingredients, too, including tonic concentrates and a staggering variety of bitters. It's a great spot to find funky souvenirs or stock a home bar with top-notch tools of the trade. 972 Queen St, West, Toronto, ON M6J 1H1, and 20 Kensington Ave,, Toronto, ON M5T 2J7; 647-727-3600;


Various neighborhoods

Cumbrae's is a small Toronto butcher-shop chain selling high-grade cuts of grass-fed and free-range meats. The Queen West location boasts a bustling sandwich counter and a refrigerator stocked with premade meat-based dishes (all made in house) like bolognese sauce and short rib ragu along with frozen quarts of house-made stock and rendered duck fat. The real attraction, though, is the impressive array of vacuum-sealed charcuterie and cold cuts. On any given weekend there are well over a dozen different kinds of domestic and imported cured hams and aged salamis, thinly sliced turkey roasted in house, and jars of homemade pâté and terrines. It's a one-stop shop for picnic baskets and hors d'oeuvre spreads of the highest order. Multiple locations;

Good Egg

Neighborhood: Kensington Market

The winding streets of Kensington Market are reminiscent of Los Angeles's Venice Beach. Brimming with corner bodegas, weed dispensaries, local fashion shops, artisanal coffee brewers and bakeries, it's an ideal place for lazy midday wandering. Good Egg is a local housewares store that sells small kitchen accessories and gifts — or "tchotchkes," as they call them — along with an impressive collection of cookbooks. Unlike mega-retailers, Good Egg offers more than celebrity chef tomes, stocking unusual and harder-to-find titles spanning culinary history, different ethnic cuisines and food science. 267 Augusta Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2M2; 416-593-4663;

Tosho Knife Arts

Neighborhood: Bloor Street, near Yorkville

Limited-batch, hand-forged Japanese steel is hard to find, and Toronto is certainly not where I expected to find it, and then I wandered into Tosho. Located in the sublevel of a small retail storefront, this tiny knife shop is easy to miss. Run by a team of three or four guys who personally cultivate relationships with and source every single blade from knifemakers in Japan, all sharpening is handled in house, by hand, using ceramic steels and old-school stones. The knives come in very limited quantities, meaning you won't find these pieces at your local Sur La Table. Every knife is personally vouched for, as evidenced in the price. The cheapest options start at CAD $300 (USD $231.50) and quickly reach CAD $1,000 (about USD $771). 602 Markham St., Lower Level, Toronto, ON M6G 2L8; 647-722-6329;

Soma Chocolatemaker

Neighborhood: Fashion District

Part café and part store, the main attractions at Soma are the divine hot chocolate beverages served in a coffee-shop setting. Soma's chocolate factory is located in a former whiskey distillery on the east side, and the truffles and other treats are not to be underestimated. At the store, they dole out unique truffles and other confections including cookies, super-high-quality chocolate bars and "tree parts." Yes, their standout items include birch branches (filled with hazelnut butter crunch and black currant jelly), various kinds of bark, and "twigs," which are miniature versions of their larger chocolate logs. All are divine, but if the soothing chocolate elixirs are what you pine for, those too are available as DIY powders. 443 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 2Z4; 416-599-7662;