481 Church, 416-923-5600; 1636 Bayview, 416-485-5620, www.cumbraes.com
Somehow, despite all this dead flesh, Cumbrae's feels comforting. The Old-World shtick is not just window dressing. Informed staff parcel out naturally raised beef, lamb, pork and poultry for discerning customers willing to pay for quality. If you want to go beyond the typical cuts, check out game fowl, wild boar and venison.
Best cheese shop
ALEX FARM PRODUCTS
St. Lawrence Market South, 93 Front East, 416-368-2415, and three other locations, www.alexfarmproducts.com
The chain's little mouse cartoon emblem informs you that you're about to enter into an adventure in cheese. If choosing various forms of curdled milk is your idea of a wild ride, then Alex is the place. The many varieties of imports and domestics are well presented, and all are up for a nibble preview. Each store has its own atmosphere, from the polished calm of the Manulife to the shouts of 'who's next' at St. Lawrence.
SOMA CHOCOLATE MAKER
Distillery District, 55 Mill, building 48, 416-815-7662, www.somachocolate.com
This ain't your grandmother's box of Laura Secord creams. David Castellan starts with raw cocoa beans and roasts, refines and conches them into some unexpected combinations like the Dark Fire bar: chocolate, chili, ginger, vanilla and spices. Singularly fine.
Best health food store
THE BIG CARROT
348 Danforth, 416-466-2129, www.thebigcarrot.ca This recently renovated institution on the Danforth is all things to all people who don't like GMOs, chemicals or just any old crap in or on their food. You can take a prepackaged or frozen approach to healthy eating or you can cook from scratch, taking advantage of the Carrot's large bulk section and organic produce and meats. Don't forget, to feel good you have to look good, so check out the healthful beauty and self-care products.
Best gourmet supermarket
57 Yorkville; 1539 Avenue Road, 416-785-9100, www.pusateris.com
Never mind about a loonie for the shopping cart -- this place has valet parking. Imagine your local supermarket, only everything is twice as fancy and twice as expensive. Class under glass beckons: ridiculously plump pickled peppers, 2-inch thick AAA T-bones and champagne-marinated lamb chops get the juices flowing. Worth it just to watch rich people try to figure stuff out.
Best local brewery
STEAM WHISTLE BREWING
255 Bremner, 416-362-2337, www. steamwhistle. ca
The origami ingenuity of those green beer cases alone deserves recognition. As does Steam Whistle's ongoing work to restore their historic roundhouse brewery facility. Running contrary to North American brewing culture, Steam Whistle only produces one kind of beer, a creative and delicious take on a traditional Pilsner. Seems the brewers got it right the first time.
Best organic food store
87 Avenue Road, 416-944-0500, www.wholefoodsmarket.com
If it doesn't bother you that people arrive in Land Rovers at this upscale food store to buy sustainable products that are making the world a better place, Whole Foods does stock an excellent, high-quality range of organics, providing everything you need in the kitchen. The takeout and deli section might render your oven obsolete. Incredibly helpful staff.
215 Madison, 416-926-0303
Claudia Egger has achieved what many only dream about. She quit her lucrative job, joined the CIA (the Culinary Institute of America) and opened her own bake shop. It's been a success from the get-go, a perfectly formed jewel stocked with tempting tarts, breathtaking tortes and exquisite cupcakes. She makes it all look so easy.