Just when I thought I knew all the cool spots in Toronto by heart, it took a day with Lexus to discover some new, amazing gems. And I’m so happy to share a recap of my entire experience with you right here on my blog. I’ve always championed Toronto places, people and events, so it really made sense for me to partner with Lexus on their Master Class sensory adventure. I mean, I got to experience some really unique things like tasting one of the rarest cheeses in the world, which to me, is #goals.
I’m learning a lot about Lexus as a brand, from my travels (last year I got to check out the Intersect by Lexus cafe in Dubai) to hearing about Alex’s experiences with the brand – his Ibiza trip with Lexus this Spring was next level. What I’m really starting to understand – and love – about Lexus, is their focus on craftsmanship. Not just any type of craftsmanship, though, it’s almost spiritual. A concept like Takumi craftsmanship, the Japanese way of achieving human perfection, is a philosophy that I can really get behind. I think it’s kind of cool that as I become more spiritual, I’m learning about and working with brands that are in tune with their spiritual impact on the world and their customers.
Let’s chat a bit about the 2017 Lexus IS. The performance, comfort, safety and advanced technology of the Lexus IS is unparalleled for an entry level luxury sedan. Their commitment to the environment is super impressive as well – their plant in Southern Ontario produces zero waste when it comes to the manufacturing of their vehicles. We spent most of our day in the IS 350 F Sport model, with the brand’s distinct spindle grille, electrostatic temperature control, and redesigned seats and tires. What a treat!!!
So what happened at the Master Class? EVERYTHING. It was such a fun day learning from Masters who reflect the core pillars that guide the Lexus brand such as Brave Design, Takumi Craftsmanship, Exhilarating Performance and Imaginative Technology – and every stop just got better and better. We started the day at Le Germain hotel in Maple Leaf Square where we got our “passports” and stuffed our faces with croissants and pork belly (breakfast of champions!).
From there, our first stop was Soho House where we chatted with brave designer Ania Taubenfligel of Triarchy Denim. Putting the environment first, Ania and her brother, Adam, are ushering in a new era of sustainable, slow fashion. One pair of jeans at a time, Triarchy is saving thousands of litres of water without sacrificing on aesthetics. Seriously, as personal friends of mine, I have always been a huge fan of Triarchy – and now their new rebranding to put the environment front and centre is something so inspirational. I anticipate they are going to garner huge success and effect real change in the industry.
We then hit the road and drove in our IS 350 F Sport, it was amazing how the Lexus IS handled the highway. The ride was smooth, and I loved that we were able to change the temperature in the car using the electrostatic controls. We all felt really safe in the vehicle as we tested out the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Our next stop, The Cheese Boutique, is a local gem. Maitre Fromager, Afrim Pristine, showed us around his precious food mecca – from cured meats, to every single cheese you could ever want, to fresh produce and prepared foods, to house-made gelato – the Cheese Boutique is all about quality. We even got to try the famous Aurucchio provolone that has been aging in Afrim’s million dollar cheese vault for over 8 years. Something he doesn’t let anyone do, at all, ever, never never ever. He hopes to start slicing and selling it in, oh another decade or so.
Photo by George Pimentel
After this, we got the opportunity to hang out with esteemed photographer, George Pimentel. On our way to George’s studio, I couldn’t help but notice the Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert safety features while we drove the Lexus IS, which made me feel a lot less anxious behind the wheel. As I get older, it’s nice to know that my car has my back. We arrived at George’s studio, safe and sound.
George has shot my boyfriend and I countless times, and each time, it is such an honour. Starting out on film, working for his dad, George has become the most renowned celebrity photographer in Canada. George showed us around his darkroom, and we all got the rare opportunity to get our portraits done! How exciting. Seriously, his shots of A list celebs are simply incredible. George is relentless when it comes to getting the shot – the anticipation and rush of adrenaline are what propel him to GET THE SHOT.
We made our way from photography to the Spirit of York distillery. We parked our Lexus IS vehicles for the last time as now we were about to embark on an adventure in gin and vodka. We were all given drivers to finish off the tour from that point on. At Spirit of York, we met Simon Ho, mixologist who helped me make my very own bitter from his “Bitters Library.” The premium spirits are something you have to taste to believe – lucky for me, I guessed most of their ingredients and went home with a bottle of my own! How fun!
Our last stop, as we all chilled in the backseat and our personal drivers took over, was Victor Barry’s latest, French Bistro, Café Cancan. And what a way to end the journey! It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Toronto. From white asparagus with morels and preserved lemon, to Nova Scotia lobster paired with the most delicious 2016 Hogwash rose’, that tasted like fresh peaches. The piece de resistance? Roast Muscovy duck that had been marinating since the moment Victor found out he would be hosting us for dinner. He even introduced me to an after-dinner drink: The Jimmy Hoffa. 1 part Fernet Branca; 1 part Branca Menta, which, sounds awful but actually tastes like a fresh mint that just cleanses the palette. Divine! Divine! Divine!
What an amazing way to end a memorable day spent with a brand that is all about Omotenashi – a Japanese approach to hospitality that involves anticipating guests’ needs before they arise. This is one of the cornerstones of the Lexus brand, and I experienced it firsthand during the Lexus Master Class tour of Toronto. I could never have planned to do all those things in one day and it was like the gift that kept on giving.
I hope you all enjoy browsing the photographs from that day and get to check out some of the spots that we visited in your own time… You might even run into me! I know I’m already planning my return to Café Cancan as I write this.
A big thank you to Lexus for inviting me to truly, experience amazing. This post is sponsored by Lexus and the opinions contained are my own, based on my own experience with the brand that day.
Photography by Vyvian To and Evan Bergstra / Ryan Emberley Photography