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Canada Specialty

Specialty city
Balzac’s Distillery District
1 Trinity St., Distillery District
This space is reminiscent of the kind of café you'd find down a Paris back alley—all the details look timeworn in the best way possible. Old posters line the walls, the checkerboard-tile floor is a little scuffed, and the small round tables make conversation easy. With so many stellar coffee spots in Toronto, Balzac distinguishes itself from the masses with its unique coffee blends, our favorite being the Atwood (named after the Canadian author).
Blackbird Baking Co.
172 Baldwin St., Kensington Market
While this bakery looks fairly nondescript from the outside, rest assured Blackbird churns out the best bread in town. With British chef April Bloomfield (also of NYC gastropub the Spotted Pig) as an investor, no stone is left unturned in the quest for the perfect slice. Blackbird uses only the freshest stone-ground unbleached flour—older flour really does have a negative impact on the taste—made from a heritage Canadian grain called Red Fife. (Traditional fermentation methods are used to give the sourdough that signature sourness.) Lines wind down to the street come the weekend for Blackbird's baguettes, focaccia, spelt, and sesame loaves as well as its flaky pastries. For the ambitious at-home baker with room to spare in their luggage, bags of the custom flour are available for purchase.
Boxcar Social
235 Queens Quay W., Harbourfront
Intended to be a spot to linger over a drink—both caffeinated and alcoholic libations are available—and socialize rather than rush in and out, Boxcar Social offers a menu, décor, and ambiance that make it hard to leave. The tasting flight (three different blends and types of coffee on a tray) is an exciting way to slow down and really taste the nuances in flavor of different blends. Boxcar also offers a short menu featuring breakfast standbys like avocado toast and granola, alongside more inventive items like a particularly delicious ricotta and jam toast for those of us who like our sweet fix before 10 a.m.
Confiturerie Tigidou
5508 Chemin Royal, Saint-Jean-de-l'ile-d'Orleans
Confiturerie Tigidou has one specialty: small-batch jams. And the husband-and-wife team Catherine Trudel and Vincent Paris have honed them to perfection. The duo’s not-so-secret recipe allows the pure, natural flavors of the harvests to shine, unspoiled by preservatives or too much sugar. The season’s offerings are scrawled on a chalkboard; pick up the jars to go or have the fruity spreads smothered over house-made scones in the centuries-old barn with antiques and stacks of firewood.
Dineen Coffee
140 Yonge St., Old Toronto
The Dineen Building is an 1897 Renaissance Revival beauty that now houses the flagship outpost of this popular independent café. Dineen makes a solid matcha latte and macchiato, but really it’s the building itself that’s worth a visit. Double-height ceilings, mosaic-tiled floors, and plenty of natural light and seating means that a quick cortado can turn into a few hours reading and soaking in the warmth next to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Earnest Ice Cream
1829 Quebec St., Mount Pleasant
There’s nothing whimsical or cute about Earnest Ice Cream; instead, the space is clean and modern, with a white tile counter and polished stone floors. While the usual suspects (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) are certainly available, Earnest is where you go to try something unusual, like elderflower-or spruce-flavored ice cream. Each flavor—made in small batches—is creamy perfection, and pints come packaged in returnable (and reusable) glass jars as part of the company’s commitment to zero waste.
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