Toronto’s sweetest spots
After working for years in the hospitality industry, owner Melanie Clancy decided she wanted to create something “more community orientated; a place where people could bring kids (hence the dress up box and vintage rocking horse).
Drawing on fond memories of her first job serving ice cream and embarking on something she wanted to be “real and Canadian”, the unassuming and increasingly busy scoop shop, opened in 2011 feels just that: friendly, not too flashy, eschewing style for substance and demonstrating a strong commitment to principles, one of them being environmentalism.
Furnishings include a jumble of reclaimed materials: the serving counter is fashioned with wood from an old factory down the street, and a dining room cabinet that belonged to her grandmother has a new life as a garbage receptacle. She also ensured that the biodegradable packaging, made from potato, corn and sugar cane, would, in fact, decompose, by testing it in her own backyard. “Boreal is Latin for forest, and the name is an homage to the Canadian north,” Clancy explained.
Although trained at Carpigiani Gelato University in New York’s Little Italy neighbourhood, Clancy emphasises that she makes Canadian-style gelato and sorbetto rather than traditional Italian flavours. Her creations are inspired by Ontario’s distinct seasons, drawing on local ingredients whenever possible. In winter, reach for maple walnut or a delightfully mellow sweet potato with candied sage. For a uniquely coniferous Canadian experience, tuck into a creamy scoop of balsam, a delicate flavour infusion derived by steeping balsam needles in milk. Spring and summer months find cones piled high with flavours featuring local berries and Ontario peaches. And at any visit, invariably some customer will be ordering a scoop of salted caramel, Boreal’s most popular flavour.
Glory Hole Doughnuts
The North American west has always signified new frontiers, and boundary-pushing is definitely the case at Glory Hole Doughnuts, further west along Queen Street. Step into the shop for a retro blast with mint-coloured walls, an orangey-red countertop and a huge blackboard menu. Souvenirs (besides a well-earned additional kilo of body weight) include T-shirts and mugs.
Clearly a creative soul, with training in art, fashion, sculpture and chef school, the “CEO of doughnuts” Ashley Jacot de Boinod explained she has loved making bread and eating doughnuts, enjoying several cinnamon-sugar ones growing up in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood. She started off filling corporate orders, finally raising the money she needed for her own shop in August 2012 with the help of Indiegogo, a crowd-sourcing website that garnered 6,000 Canadian dollars of start-up money from supportive individuals, all recognised on a big thank-you board in the shop.
The doughnut display incites kid-in-a-candy-shop eyes and difficult decisions. Purists might opt for the classically Canadian maple or cinnamon and sugar doughnut, but creativity is king at Glory Hole and taste buds will be given a workout with the Elvis: a sweet and salty topping combination of peanut butter, cream cheese, banana chips, peanuts, bacon and marshmallow; or the more prosaic but no less inventive Toast And Butter: an airy, yeast-base doughnut with brown butter frosting finished with sweet breadcrumbs and cinnamon.
The menu changes four times a year and this may be the only doughnut shop on Earth that features a monthly bacon doughnut. Only in Canada, eh?