Snow is falling, the weather is frigid and the ubiquitous jingles are all tell-tale signs that the holidays are upon us.
Whether you're throwing a massive holiday bash or hunkering down with family and friends for low-key reflection, here's how to get holiday-ready with everything you need in Toronto's east side.
HOLIDAY GIFTS AT HOME JAMES
The shop for one-of-a-kind home decor, Home James is an ideal destination for thoughtful gifts and interesting accessories. For hosts and hostesses, the shop carries wine bags, charcuterie boards, candle holders and bar and entertaining accessories starting at $6.75. Love the hood you live in? Show your local pride with one of Home James' custom neighbourhood signs ($72). For the true local, grab a copy of Diane Walton's photo book, A Day in the Life of Leslieville, for $50. Her 2017 Leslieville calendar also makes a great stocking stuffer at $20.
998 Queen St. E
CHRISTMAS GEESE, BEEF RIB ROASTS AND SIDES AT OLLIFFE
Queen East butcher shop Olliffe has Christmas Geese coming in fresh from Upper New York State. "It's unusual to find fresh geese this time of year," says Olliffe's Sam Gundy.
The shop is also featuring beef rib roasts that are prime grade but selling at AAA price, a savings of $5.99/lb. The local beef is raised without antibiotics, and sourced from Bar Five Farms, a group of Ontario family farms within the Artisan Farms working group, that Olliffe deals with exclusively.
Beyond fresh meat, the shop also carries sides, side and more sides — from vegetable dishes to stuffing options and sauces and gravies.
1378 Queen St. E
ORGANIC PRODUCE AT RAISE THE ROOT
For the plant-based crowd, Raise The Root is stocking Gardein Vegan Holiday Roast, an alternative taste of cranberry wild rice stuffing with homestyle gravy. The shop is also the place for all of of your local, organic egg nog needs. They even carry a variety of nog for the non-dairy crowd. Just drop in rum, and you're merry. And, as always, the shop is known for shining in the local and organic vegetable department. For the holidays, find local Brussel sprouts from Pfenning’s Organic Farm, Ontario root veg and tubers for days — parsnip, rutabagas, beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, potatoes. Fresh herbs including rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley, as well as fresh cranberries from Spring Brook, NB. are also stocked.
1164 Queen St. E
Raise The Root on Facebook
PARTY PLATTERS AT SANDY ALEKSANDER
Across the street at Sandy Aleksander, the friendly folks here will help you wow guests at your holiday get-together no matter how big or small the affair. Piece together a premium charcuterie board with the shop's spectacular selection of specialty cured meats and pate to go along with their artisanal cheeses. They'll arrange a platter for you or you can pick and choose a la carte. The shop also preps ready-to-cook meals free of preservatives — pop them in the oven and done. Bring home sides like their roasted root veggies or mac 'n chese with double-smoked bacon.
1183 Queen St. E
ENTERTAINING ESSENTIALS AT CRY IF I WANT TO
From serving dishes to drink garnishes and and all manner of home and party decor in between, since 2008 Cry If I Want To has been the neighbourhood destination for merrymaking. Unfortunately, the shop is closing its retail business at the end of 2016, but there's a closeout sale with almost all items marked down 50 per cent, so lots of great deals for the holidays. A few highlights: Nuance bar tools $7.50 to $25, Nuance cocktail shaker is $25, table linens are $5 to $50. The shop has ivory hemstitched 120-in. tablecloth (table for 10) for $49.50. Rebeer beer glasses (beer glass made out of recycled beer bottles) are now $15.
1175 Queen St. E
LOCAL CRAFT BEER FROM RADICAL ROAD
You might be familiar with neighbourhood newcomer Radical Road, the micro brewpub pouring seasonal beers and serving eats, but did you know they have an on-site bottle shop? Indulge in the season with hyper-local beers like Radical Road's signature brew, Slingshot, or more seasonal varieties like Django Doppelbock, a German-style dark ruby red lager with notes of plum, chocolate, and fig. Now stocked is also Entropy Stout, $3.50 for 500ml bottle with toasted chocolatey notes.
1177 Queen St. E
DECADENT DESSERTS AT SWEET BLISS
Sweet Bliss is perhaps best known for its scones and cupcakes that fill the outside air with delicious scents, but right now the Queen East bake shop is in full-on holiday mode taking orders on Christmas goodies. Highlights include all-butter shortbread cookies (6 pcs for $9.95) and brandy mincemeat tarts made with cranberries, raisins, currants, apple cider, honey and brandy ($4.50). Eggnog lattes are $3 during the holidays. The showpiece? A gingerbread cake with bourbon toffee sauce, topped with brandy eggnog cream cheese icing for $30.
1304 Queen St. E
FRESH-CUT TREES AT EAST END GARDEN CENTRE
All things green and festive can be found at East End Garden Centre, with a full-on holiday display that spills onto the Queen Street sidewalk because it literally can't be contained within the store's own walls. It's here you'll find everything from fresh wreaths to poinsettias and chopped firewood to decorative urns. East End Garden Centre is the local holy grail, of course, for Ontario-grown Christmas trees in sizes ranging from table-top to 18-feet (starting at $45). They'll even help you load your car and give you a candy cane for the kids.
1395 Queen St. E