June 23–26, 2016


The Distillery District: A must-see neighborhood

Mar 15, 2016
A short cab ride from the convention site, you will find one of Toronto’s most unique neighbourhoods: The Distillery District. National Geographic calls it a “Hip new neighbourhood within the best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial architecture in Canada.”  

As a child in Toronto, I remember driving by this area on family trips to downtown. This was a part of the city that had been virtually abandoned and left to ruin. I always wondered what had happened to have it fall into decline. As a bit of a history buff, the story of the Distillery District always intrigued me. We are fortunate that this has had a major redevelopment!

There is something for everyone in this beautifully preserved area which dates back to 1831, when James Worts opened a grist mill on the site. He was joined by his brother-in-law, William Gooderham, a year later. Tragedy struck and Worts died. Gooderham partnered with James’ son, and in 1837, they built a distillery and began producing their first whiskey. By 1871, they were producing more than half the whiskey made in Ontario. After 153 years of continuous production, the distillery closed. Redevelopment started in the early 2000s, and the site became the number one film location in Canada. Over 1700 films have used this site, among which Chicago, The X-Men or Cinderella Man.

Today, the Distillery District is home to over 80 shops and galleries. 

I confess, I am nothing if not a victim of fashion! I love Gentil Uomo. Beautiful clothing with Italian flair. I especially love the wild socks. I tend to be a bit on the conservative side when it comes to dressing but the socks allow a bolder side to sneak out from time to time! If you have just enough time for a short walk around the District and you’d like a cup of coffee, you have to try Balzac's. Great coffee in the French tradition, this shop has two floors and plenty of space to relax with your favourite hot drink, coffee, tea or chocolate. And speaking of chocolate…

One of our favourite restaurants is El Catrin Destileria. Authentic and modern Mexican cuisine is the specialty. They have a tapas menu that allowed us to sample a variety of their different items. Just stepping into the restaurant is a visual delight. The glass wall mural, the glass panels, the artwork everywhere are an integral part of your experience. There is a beautiful blend of the old and the new that adds to the ambience. Chocolate is featured in many of the dishes.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal for Valentine’s Day. We started with Guacamole En La Mesa. It is prepared at your table. Delicious! Next was Esquites, charred corn taken off the cob and presented in three small bowls with a variety of salsas and lime. From there, we ordered Pollo Con Mole Tacos, shredded chicken with a light chocolate mole sauce. This was followed by Costilla Corta, a short rib braised for 24 hours, served covered in an Oaxacan mole negro sauce, a rich, dark chocolate sauce! Dessert was a Volcan, molten mole cake. Yes, chocolate again.  I think you can see we have a bit of a chocolate obsession.  

In the summer, they have a wonderful outdoor patio where you can enjoy a cocktail, a snack or your dinner as you watch the world go by. 
Most importantly, the food is delicious, presented well and reasonably priced. This is a great spot to visit when you join us at the convention in June! Check out their menu and make your reservations!

El Catrin is an experience to be savoured, not just a dinner.

This just scratches the surface of the Distillery District. When you are in Toronto, there may be several special events happening in the District. Check their website as we get closer to convention time to look at the event schedule. There is always something happening in this very special part of Toronto!  

George Rowell and Laura Somerville are the co-chairmen of the Host Committee for the Kiwanis International convention in Toronto this coming June. Both are members of the Kiwanis Club of East York. They' re enthusiastic travellers who often visit Kiwanis clubs in the places where they travel. They’re looking forward to welcoming you to the convention this year.