La Vie En Ruffian: Toronto Edition

by The Daily Front Row

Ready for another dose of those Ruffian boys, Claude Morais and Brian Wolk? Right this way, dear readers! What’s on the docket this time around: Oh, Canada…

“Ruffian’s proclivity for all things luxurious and affinity for Northern Sojourns are not secrets to our dedicated La Vie followers.  It should then come as no surprise, then, that for our latest jaunt we conflated two of our loves into one 48-hour action-packed adventure in Toronto! The week before Thanksgiving, we grabbed our trusty LL Bean Totes, hailed a cab and dashed off to LaGuardia.

When in Rome, fly as the Canadians do, and we did just that. Air Canada is the official airline of Ruffian when traveling to the world next door. Greeted curbside by our concierge, we were whisked through check-in and security like rock stars and escorted to our gate. Once aboard, our attractive attendants settled us in to our comfy first class seats and served a delightful breakfast at 3Kk feet. No quicker than you can say Sasquatchian (couldn’t resist that one, sorry!) did we arrived at the beautiful Pearson Airport, where another concierge met us at the air bridge and seamlessly escorted us through customs straight to our driver. Never has a travel experience been so flawless. (Note to self: next hire is a personal concierge! #Spoiled)

Being the luxury lovin’ Ruffians we are, we wanted to experience the finest hotel Toronto had to offer. When we saw The Shangri-La’s architectural majesty piercing the downtown skyline, we knew we’d made the right choice. As we entered the grand, light-filled lobby, we were impressed with the thoughtful integration of Asian antiquities in a contemporary yet warm context. We took in the rich sounds of the grand piano with the fireplace roaring in the background.  We couldn’t help but investigate the impressive Asian art and pottery collection. The who’s who of Toronto congregated in the lounge. We were equally impressed with our glamorous suite. Echoes of Chinese deco reverberated against the masculine leather-covered walls only to be balanced by the hand embroidered silk bedding.  We were stars of our own silver screen movie, replete with automatic silk gossamer blinds, cavernous walk-in closets, and two well-appointed bathroom, one of which had a bathtub surrounded by glass and awe-inspiring views of the CN tower and Lake Ontario.

 As hard as it was to leave the Shangri-La, we only had 48 hours and David Bowie was calling our name.  Originally mounted at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO) is the second and only east coast stop for an incredible retrospective entitled “David Bowie is”. Spanning five decades and featuring more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive, this totally immersive multimedia show celebrates the groundbreaking artist’s collaborations in the fields of fashion, sound, theatre, art and film. A must-see for any visitor to Toronto.

 While walking back to the hotel, we called the concierge and asked if it would be possible for them to set up their famous high tea assortment of macaroons, pastries and champagne in the living room of our suite, we were expecting a very important guest. Jeanne Beker is the first lady of Canadian fashion. She revolutionized the world of fashion media and gave millions of her viewers access to runway and backstage coverage with her landmark show, Fashion Television. What she had to say about the future of fashion was utterly fascinating, and lucky for you the complete interview will be in the next edition of La Vie en Ruffian.

The evening was still young, so after a brief disco nap and a little Turner Classic Television we slipped into our dinner jackets and headed down to Bosk for a late supper. We were lucky enough to catch up with chef Damon Campbell, originally from Vancouver. His creative process is remarkably similar to that of many of us design folk. He focuses on heritage ingredients indigenous to Canada and Proustian memories from his childhood and posseses a rare ability to mix comfort foods with exotic delicacies.  His experience living and working in Asia clearly informs his honed in sense of detail, use of color and his connection to nature. His work is prodigious yet his demeanor is humble; he visited us personally and presented all eight of the courses he prepared for our tasting. Some of the highlights included oysters with kimchee granita, dried celery roulades with black pudding served in a birch branch, a caviar-topped doughnut, and a very indulgent and memorable lobster gnocchi. The wine pairings for each course where equally as delightful, but perhaps the most memorable moment was when our sommelier rolled out the Champagne cart filled with the finest bubbly the world has to offer. The evening’s meal will be indelibly etched in our gastronomic memory as one of the most creative culinary events we have experienced to date.

The next morning we were in for a treat at The Miraj Hamam Spa. Inspired by traditions of the Middle East, this one-of-a-kind spa took us on a spiritual journey. The voyage began the moment we walked in the front door. The opulent interior, mysterious long corridors and dark wood rooms did not begin to prepare us for what was to about to come. After slipping into our Egyptian cotton terry robes, we were escorted to a lounge straight out of Casablanca. We sipped mint tea and ate baklava and grapes while awaiting our first treatment. The Hammam and Gommage is a full body steam and exfoliating treatment performed on a slab of gold Jerusalem marble. Using eucalyptus and black Moroccan soap, our treatment therapists performed this ultimate detoxification. Half an hour later we were like new born babies and continued on to our next treatment, which was a 60-minute deep tissue massage. If we came to Toronto only for this it would have been purely worth it. Being spa aficionados, this truly ranks as a world-class experience.

That afternoon we decided to catch up with our friend and fashion photographer Alvaro Goveia. The Annex where he lives and works is a bit like the Williamsburg of Toronto. The neighborhood is filled with trendy boutiques, gourmet specialty stores, and charming restaurants. One cafe we particularly love is Rose and Sons, where we grabbed a late brunch that afternoon. The crowd was beautiful, if a touched frayed, and very sexy overall. As the afternoon turned into evening Alvaro gave us a night tour of Toronto and its own particular brand of cool.  We couldn’t help but call on his brilliant photographic skills to capture some portraits of us. Check out the Gallery for a preview of our night walk shoot!

Our time in Toronto had come to an end, and back to Pearson we headed. As if on cue, our Air Canada Concierge picked us up at the curb, checked us in, and escorted us through customs straight to the incredible Maple Leaf lounge, where the fashionable prep for departure.  We leisurely luxuriated on a Red Leather Barcelona Chaise while sipping cocktails and snacking on home made goodies. Without ever glancing at our watch, we once again were escorted to the plane where we settled into our individual executive first suites, caught up on some independent movies, and sipped some Canadian whisky on the rocks. Luxury does always have to be so far away from home; sometimes the most amazing experiences are in the country just next door. Until the next edition of La Vie…

xxx Your Ruffians, Brian and Claude”

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