Trekking through the great and vast space that we know and love as Instagram, I came across #fromonlinetooffline and then the Digital Nomad? Culinary Artist? Creative Entrepreneur?... Let’s go with Creative Genius, behind it… Alexa @ajfernando. We’re stoked to have her perspective around this week - it doesn’t take long to see that she has really embraced the potential from Instagram and encourages others to also! "I am from Manila, grew up in Taipei, did exchanges in Ecuador and Chile, and lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. I consider myself a local in these cities, and who I am is a sum of all of these experiences, and more. My academic credentials include a BA in Spanish and Chinese, a Certificate in Culinary Arts and a Master’s Degree in Digital Media. I am a self-taught photographer with over 11 years of practice. I enjoy bringing people together whether it is through language, food or digital media.
I moved to Toronto almost 3 years ago for culinary school. I started documenting my food adventures with my hashtag "#findingTO" but eventually became about my discoveries of the city: the food, the places, the people, the stories. The hashtag has become a movement on its own.
Toronto is a place where ideas happen. It's a good place for someone to get creative because the (start-up) bubble is small enough to test the market but big enough to launch internationally.” Instagram Wanderer, Brianna @campwilson
Hello, Monday! This is @ajfernando and I’m taking you around one of the cities that I’ve grown to call my home. Toronto! We’ll start in my neighborhood, Queen West, which emanates a hip vibe and adds an eclectic touch to the city’s art, design and food scene. I like to go to @sudforno for a double shot Americano, black, while I have my sugar in the form of a freshly baked Italian pastry. A cornetto con frittata, a slice of occhio di bue (white pizza with poached egg) or a nutella-filled bombolone, take your pick!
For lunch find your way to one of my favourite intersections, King and Portland, where there's an array of restaurants, bars and cafes. It's Tuesday (and Valentine's Day!) so I suggest going to @wilburmexicana which brings a modern and funky twist to the traditional taco joint. Inside feels more like a contemporary science lab with white tiles, apothecary-styled shelves and beaker-shaped light fixtures. The menu isn't overwhelming and everything is easily customizable. Here #onthetable I have the Chicken Tinga, Baja Fish, Grilled Avocado on corn tortillas and a Quinoa Salad. They also have a salsa bar and a hot sauce collection which customers can help themselves to. Happy #TacoTuesday! - @ajfernando
What I love about Toronto is the different characters and cultures you'll encounter within each neighbourhood. From King St. walk north on Spadina and you'll reach Chinatown. Despite passing by this Chinese restaurant so many times, I always take a moment to stop and look at how they make dumplings from scratch. There's just something about observing people behind the scenes that makes me feel like I'm part of the process too. - @ajfernando
When it's a cold winter evening I'm all about comfort foods! Keep walking north on Spadina until you find Pho Hung. Warm up with family and friends over XL bowls of Vietnamese pho and spring rolls. The dishes are simple but quick, tasty and reasonably priced! (Don't forget to bring cash as they don't accept cards!) - @ajfernando
I hardly go shopping unless we are talking about groceries. Nonetheless, I do find pleasure browsing inside quirky emporiums like this one. Next to Chinatown you'll find Kensington Market. Wander into @bluebananamarket and get lost in their one of kind gifts including local hot sauces to magic wallets to funny greeting cards. There's also @good_egg_toronto right across which is a book shop for cooks and food lovers. - @ajfernando
I may be off alcohol for the time being but that doesn't mean you have to be! @bar_raval is one of the most beautiful bars not just in Toronto but I've ever been to. The interior is reminiscent of Gaudi's and truly elevates the bar's Spanish theme. The food menu includes a great selection of pintxos, tapas and canned specialities, but the cocktails list is where it's all about. You don't get bartenders but artists, and each drink is crafted like a piece of artwork. Price is on the higher end but definitely worth it especially with the chill vibe and unique atmosphere! - @ajfernando
The few instances when I feel like having milk in my coffee (and latte art) it'll have to be a cortado from @boxcar_social. They opened the Habourfront location last summer and it has been my favourite by far. It overlooks the harbour and in the winter there is a public ice skating rink that you can observe from the deck. The space inside is huge, one of the biggest cafes/bars in Toronto, with lots of natural lighting and several long tables. It's the perfect spot for a bigger group, and I myself have hosted #fromonlinetooffline instameets here. Something worth mentioning is their soup and sandwich combo which is the BEST lunch deal in town. In the evenings, they offer charcuterie boards that pairs well with their extensive selection of wine, beer or whiskey. I come here often enjoying the view, the coffee, the croissants, but most of all, the culture. Because @boxcar_social is not just a cafe/bar. It's a community in itself. - @ajfernando
It's Saturday which is the BEST day to visit @stlawrencemarket. (It opens at 5am!) Whenever I enter this Toronto hub, I feel a buzz. The past, the present and the future all together. There's so much culture and tradition that you can't help but immerse yourself into everything you pass. You'll find wine, cheese, meats, seafood, chocolates, pastries, spices, kitchen supplies, souvenirs, clothes, and more. There's an abundance of food vendors but I always save my appetite for the Peameal Bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery. (World famous and also recommended by @anthonybourdain.) It's hard to miss it--just find the stall with people wearing lab coats. 😎 - @ajfernando
I'm picky about brunch since as a culinary graduate I can easily make an omelette and fry up some bacon at home. Then I remember sometimes it's about sharing an experience with my friends. @schoolresto in Liberty Village was one of the first restaurants I tried when I moved to Toronto and every time I visit it's always been a good memory. Come in, and as they say, get schooled. 😉- @ajfernando
Let's end this guide back in my neighbourhood. @typebooks is a quaint independent bookstore right across Trinity Bellwoods Park. People come here for different reasons: to browse, to buy, but most of the time I'd say it's to get inspired. From featured titles, to local stationary to modernized board games, to travel guides, and to Toronto-themed products, you'll leave feeling creative and filled with possibilities. Here in Toronto and beyond. - @ajfernando