November 15th, 2012
Croatian capital Zagreb is fun, walkable and getting ready for EU membership –and prices are as friendly as the locals. Here are some highlights from a recent visit.
Walking into the second-floor apartment that houses raw-food restaurant Kredenca (pictured) is like stepping into an Anthropologie catalogue, except it comes with flowing wine and perfectly styled dishes like sushi rolls with daikon rice and chocolate palačinke – that's Croatian-style crepes – with a fresh berry sauce. Other favourites included a poppy seed pastry from all-natural bakery Ivica i Marica and fresh roasted chestnuts bought from a street vendor.
Wine lovers will want to stop in at Vinodol to sample its extensive list of Croatian wines. Or head to brewpub Mali Medo on a pedestrian street in the upper town for its five varieties of locally made beer, classic central European food (think sausages, noodles and breaded fried cheese) and, as the night goes on, to sample its homemade medica, or honey brandy.
Stock up on local wine and olive oil at Vinoteka Bornstein (pictured), where you're bound to pick up an education in Croatian wine from the expert owners while you shop. For a purchase that'll last longer, visit gallery Likum to browse the selection of Croatian art. Fragrance addicts will want to pop around the corner to the Institut Parfumeur Flores, the country's first niche parfumerie, which sells scents from more than 90 brands as well as other products that, well, smell good.
Head up the funicular to the upper town and two small but must-see museums. The Croatian Museum of Naive Art showcases local and international artists of this so-called "primitive" – but beyond gorgeous – style of untrained artists. Down the street, the ubercreative Museum of Broken Relationships collects objects and stories from the world's love affairs gone wrong, like this red coat once received as a gift – "I never really cared for red," the caption tells us.
Zagreb's patio scene is crowded with umbrella-shaded tables and chairs where you can order local favourite kava sa šlagom – espresso with whipped cream. But for the city's best coffee – the New York Times said so! – be sure to stop in at microroastery and espresso bar Eliscaffe, which even has locally scarce takeout cups and whose owner prepared us the perfect cappuccino while singing the praises of Toronto's coffee scene. How could we help but love him?
April 29th, 2011
Seven grams—what is that, the weight of an Americano's soul? Actually, yes. Kinda. It's the amount of espresso used to make one drink at this welcome new Av & Dav coffee bar.
Heretofore, options in or near Yorkville have been limited, to put it mildly. But now! Thank heaven for Seven Grams. The independent cafe is sleek, airy and two-storied: espresso bar above, plentiful seating (for now) and local art (for that Queen-Westerly flavour) below.
Servers are attentive and Wi-Fi is free. Order a few items—like crumbly baked goods by Circles & Squares, organic juice and fruit—and they'll hand it all over on, literally, a silver platter.
Oh, right: the coffee. You can get it six ways, from classic French press to the connoisseur's favourite, cold-drip (brewed and steeped for half a day, so it's never burnt or acidic). Every espresso drink is made with two shots. Iced lattes or teas are served in handled glass jars to keep cold and look cute.
Soon, too, Seven Grams will open its patio. As if you needed another reason to linger. —SNP
131 Avenue Rd., Toronto, http://sevengrams.ca
February 18th, 2011
Café Pamenar could just be the next watercooler of Kensington, where locals stop in to drink coffee and kvetch.
The beans are courtesy of B.C.’s Discovery Coffee Roasters and with your latte come freshly-baked pastries from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and Circles and Squares.
Warmer days will take everyone outside to a patio, but for now the stylish space, with its large communal back table, cement coffee bar and minimalist lighting, will keep us warm—and in the loop with all the neighbourhood gossip.
Café Pamenar, 307 Augusta Ave. (at Oxford St.), Toronto, 647-352-3627, http://cafepamenar.ca
September 11th, 2009
It’s the first thing we think of when we wake up and the one thing we can’t live without.
These days we’re getting our morning fix at Sam James Coffee Bar. Smooth and sublime, we’re addicted to his java. Sam James is a bit of coffee legend in this town, having culled his talent at places such as Dark Horse and Hank’s. This is his first solo venture, and the coffee crowd is piling in.
Pick from ‘old school’ (cappuccino, macchiato, espresso) or ‘new school’ (chai latte, vanilla latte) options and knock it back with a tasty pastry or two.
Sorry honey, we love you too, but our heart belongs to Sam.
Sam James Coffee Bar, 297 Harbord St., Toronto, 647-341-2572, www.samjamescoffeebar.com
April 17th, 2009
You made it through Easter without a morsel of chocolate or sip of coffee? Celebrate with a visit to Isabella’s Chocolate Café.
Sharing space with the Music Hall on Danforth, this tiny new café is dedicated to all things chocolate and fair trade. While the café offers a small lunch menu, it specializes in velvety chocolates, truffles and bars. The coffee is fair trade and the chai lattes are some of the best we’ve ever had.
Try the delectable handmade chocolates (10 for $9.95) or indulge in the house specialty, Isabella’s drinking chocolate ($3.25).
What’s life without vice?
Isabella’s Chocolate Cafe, 147 Danforth Ave., Toronto, 416-778-8163, www.isabellas.ca
March 13th, 2009
It’s not yet spring but already the denizens of Yorkville are perched outside people-gazing and sipping espressos in the sun.
These days the hotspot seems to be Zaza, a new espresso bar run by two gregarious Neapolitans.
The coffee is superb, “the best this side of Milan!” insists one regular. Beyond the usual fare, (espresso, latte, cappuccino, macchiato) Zaza plans to add affogato, espresso granita and gelato to the roster.
Don’t miss the delicious biscotti, homemade by an elderly signora and delivered fresh daily. And if it’s something cold you crave, try any one of the Italian aperitivi cooling in the fridge.
Zaza, 75 Yorkville Ave., Toronto, 416-823-4719.
September 27th, 2008
When a barista almost refuses to pour your macchiato into a takeaway cup, you know he’s serious about his coffee.
“You need to drink it on the spot, and it has to be hot,” he insists, gesturing to a little black ceramic cup.
While Daniel Cohen is serious about coffee, his business partner Eldad Jungreis is serious about gelato, making Wild Thing a seriously good pit stop for anyone who loves either.
Homemade, organic ice cream flavours ($2.75) include pineapple and basil, Mayan chocolate, and vodka and grapefruit. The coffee tastes delicious and they’ll make you an affogato (gelato with espresso) if you ask.
Wild Thing, we think we love you.
Wild Thing, 169 Harbord St., Toronto, thewildthing.ca