DSC08861-3Kōst | 80 Blue Jays Way | ★★★★ | $$$

The warm weather has finally arrived to Toronto, meaning all of the winter hermits (read: me) are crawling out of their hibernation dens, stretching their stiff limbs, and are ready to reconnect with old friends and explore the city’s gems once again.

Kōst is the BISHA Hotel’s 44th floor rooftop restaurant. The food is Baja-Mexican, and the space is absolutely beautiful. The hotel itself is still relatively new, having opened last September. In the warmer months, the doors to the patio open up to the pool and bar, offering unreal views of the city and the CN Tower. I can’t stress how valuable it is to begin your meal here while the sun is still shining so you get the full experience of the restaurant’s design and great location. Kōst is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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Kōst has “sunset hour” every day from 4-7pm – buck a shuck and half-priced wine. Our reservation was at 6:30pm, so when our server came around and told us to act fast, we acted fast. Who can say no to dollar oysters and cheap wine!?

The interior design of this restaurant is every Cali-lover’s dream. Bright and airy, filled with light warm wood and punches of white, green, and blue. It’s the perfect aesthetic. The restaurant also opens up to a beautiful full-perimeter patio in the summer months, featuring the BISHA Hotel’s Instagram-famous pool and a bar. The Thompson Hotel has some stiff competition here.

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After the oysters, we started with the ahi tuna ceviche (very refreshing) and the littleneck clams (made with a mezcal broth). For our shared mains, we split the dry-aged ribeye (the truffle crema is to. die. for.), the ricotta agnolotti, and a side of broccolini. My only wish was for the agnolotti to come in a bigger portion. I could have eaten four plates of that alone.

For dessert, we shared the tres leche cake and the chocolate molten lava cake. As expected, the lava cake was extremely rich and decadent, but the tres leche cake was a masterpiece. I could have eaten a whole 16″x24″ pan of just that cake.

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Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the service was very friendly. We had so much catching up to do after not seeing each other for so long that our meal spanned 4 hours. It was a perfect night.

I absolutely can’t wait to come back soon in the warmer months – both for the food and the incredible views of the city.

Every month, my friends and I try a different restaurant in Toronto that we’ve never been to before in search of great food and delicious drinks. Have a recommendation for us to try? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, Yayoi Kusama

Last week, I had the chance to check out Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. These tickets had been hard to come by; my opportunity to attend was only thanks to a good friend at work. Otherwise, I was always 492,915th in the queue every time a new block of tickets were released online.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Kusama’s work and Torontonians have spent months eagerly awaiting the exhibit’s grand opening. I had only ever spied Kusama’s work from the lucky few who had visited The Broad in Los Angeles and shared their mystifying images of The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away on Instagram. More than anything, I wanted to know if standing in the middle of a dark room surrounded by what really seems like an infinite number of twinkling lights would be as magical a feeling as I’d imagined. (Spoiler alert: it was.)

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Our timed entry to the exhibit was late on a Friday afternoon, but you are guaranteed to wait 15 to 20 to 30 minutes in line for each infinity room, regardless of the time and day of week you went. Once inside, you’ll have 20-30 seconds. Most rooms only accept groups of 3 at a time (never just one person), so get ready for a single-rider-style line and to make new friends for about 30 seconds at each room.

This is my only criticism of the exhibit, which has absolutely nothing to do with the exhibit or the AGO, and has everything to do with the power of PR and buzz-worthy art. 30 seconds is not enough time to truly absorb a piece of work. I envy the AGO employees who have almost certainly snuck into the rooms after closing and spent more than a minute in each one.

My recommendation is to carve out at least 3 hours to experience the exhibit in full – this includes the infinity rooms and assorted art pieces hung on the walls throughout the experience. Plus, once you’re in, you’re in until closing. If there’s a room you really love and you’re not in a rush to leave, why not line up again to experience the room once more?

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Still, when you’re in good company, the waits never feel too arduous. And the exhibit provides small snippets to read and quotes to ponder over as you stand in line, learning about Kusama’s life, her inspirations, and her complicated relationship with sex (read: fear of). My friends and I were surprised by the amount of phallic imagery in Kusama’s work (granted, this was only a surprise because we hadn’t done much research prior to the trip). It did bring to the forefront that everybody’s relationship with sex is different. And we thought “tubers” was a funny word.

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Phalli’s Field, Yayoi Kusama

My favourite rooms were definitely the dark cosmic ones, which literally transport you into space and onto a different plane. I could feel my soul expanding beyond the reaches of the room and into the deep depths of the mirrors. The real sense of endlessness was freeing.

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Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, Yayoi Kusama

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Life (Repetitive Vision), Yayoi Kusama

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Love Forever, Yayoi Kusama

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Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots, Yayoi Kusama

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Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots, Yayoi Kusama

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At the end, you’ll have a chance to make your own mark on an infinity room. Each guest is given a sheet of polka dot stickers and you have free reign to stick them anywhere you’d like. You can even sit on the dotted furniture. As someone who’s always compelled to touch things in museums, this room really tickled my fancy.

DSC08832-2The Obliteration Room, Yayoi Kusama

Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit is on at the AGO until May 27th, 2018. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, it’s worth the fantasmic pop art stimulation to the senses.

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Going to the Toronto Christmas Market is an annual tradition for Amanda and I. Now in its seventh year, what I love most about the market is its uncanny ability to get me into the Christmas spirit, even though it’s still November. The light canopies, the music lightly drifting through the air, the vendor stalls selling decorations, the Christmas tree! It fills my heart with joy and cheer, and after the week I’d had, spending Saturday afternoon at the market was a sweet experience.

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I love browsing through the vendor offerings. The round-up slightly changes every year, but there are always a few familiar ones, like the candles from La Vela Bella (the pear candle smells so good). 

There are also a few good food options if you’re feeling hungry, from grilled cheese sandwiches to chimney cones. My biggest disappointment was not seeing the Wafel Bar stall. I have had a craving for waffles for months and I do not own a waffle iron. Christmas gift, anyone?

The market is also a good chance to visit some of the shops and restaurants in the Distillery District if you don’t often get to stroll through. Peruse a gallery, do some shopping at the specialty stores, and grab dinner at the Mill Street Brewery.

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Amanda loves the red noses they give you when you enter the market. I thought about not taking one, but just knew she’d want a photo like this one.

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We had the good fortune of visiting the market on a relatively warm afternoon, but as the weather gets chillier, be sure to layer up! On this afternoon, I opted for a cozy sweater and leggings (Black Friday steals from Express), a peacoat, and heeled boots.

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A visit to the Christmas Market (or just the Distillery District) mandates a warm drink from Balzac’s. My go-to order is a Parisian Mist with nonfat milk, especially comforting on these chillier days. In the mood for something with a kick? Visit the various beer gardens for mulled wine, cider, beer, or a variety of other holiday beverages. The options are endless.

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Seriously, she loves the noses.

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My favourite part of the market this year was the addition of the pink trees. So pink! So twinkly! It’s a small maze (there’s only one turn) you can line up to walk through and take a few photos. I wish there had been a full forest of them. My love of pink has never blazed so hard as it did amongst these trees.

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The market runs until December 22nd, so don’t miss your chance to peruse the shops, sip on a warm beverage (alcoholic or not), gaze at the lights and installations, and feel that lovely holiday cheer. Entry is free on weekdays (closed Mondays) and only $6 on the weekend. The countdown to Christmas is on!

Featured Outfit //
Peacoat: Primark; Sweater & Leggings: Express; Necklace: Forever21, Rings: H&M; Shoes: Spring; Lip: NARS

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Mamakas | 80 Ossington Avenue | ★★★★ | $$$

Over the last year, Mamakas has been repeatedly named as the best Greek restaurant in Toronto. That comes as no surprise, as the stretch of Ossington between Dundas and Queen hosts some of the city’s best restaurants (looking at you, Union and Pizzeria Libretto).

This taverna has been building its name on its offering of classic Greek fare against a “contemporary canvas”, which is to say that each dish has a lovely authentic, yet fresh and modern quality to it. The space is designed to feel like you’ve been transported to a family restaurant in Greece, where all of the dishes are meant to be shared and the seafood comes from the bustling open air fish markets earlier that morning.

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One of the best feelings this time of year is seeing everyone getting into the Christmas spirit. The twinkling lights go up, the trees are trimmed, and everyone is bustling to prepare for the season’s numerous parties and shop for gifts. I love seeing the city come alive with the holidays.

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Toronto’s Christmas Market in the Distillery District is one of the city traditions that I love to take part in. This year, Amanda and I visited the market on a surprisingly warm Saturday afternoon. After picking up our weekend entry tickets (it’s free on weekdays!), we queued in a relatively short line, grabbed our free Rudolph noses, and headed into the fray.

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