Alex von Thorn
In an infamous shopping trip during the 1998 Worldcon, we filled the bottom of two shopping carts with (mostly sugared) soda, and then piled up packages of cookies, candy, and baked treats as high as we could. We were pressed for time, so our method of shopping involved having two people push the carts and a third person grabbing and throwing stuff into the carts as quickly as we could go. Horrified matrons glared in disgust. One native of Baltimore asked what we could possibly be buying so much junk food for. "We're throwing a party" was the excuse we offered. "You're gonna have a lot of really bouncy kids at that party," she said. She was right, of course.
So having traveled the globe to raise the blood sugar and cholesterol levels of fans in dozens of cities, it is now our turn to relax and let people come and throw parties for us. Many have asked the question: where do we shop? Fortunately, in one of the world's gourmet capitals, it's pretty easy.
Four blocks east of the Royal York is St. Lawrence Market, which in 2003 will be celebrating its 200th year as a working farmer's market. It's a tad upscale now, but it is still an excellent source for very fresh fruit, vegetables (including organic), meat, seafood, cheese, baked goods, coffees, prepared foods of the highest quality, at prices much more reasonable than similar items at a typical grocery store. (You have not really tasted chicken until you've been to an authentic Portuguese churrasco.) You are guaranteed to find a unique treat at St. Lawrence Market that you didn't know existed before. St. Lawrence is a tourist destination in its own right, with the Market Gallery in the North Hall housing art and photo archives of the City of Toronto. This is a very easy walk from the Royal York, or a very cheap cab ride if you are burdened with grocery bags on the way back. If you go on Saturday, go very early, as it gets really busy by 9 AM.
Across the street from St. Lawrence (next door to the North Hall) is A&P's Front Street Market. This is the flagship store of the A&P Canada/Dominion grocery chain. In any suburb, this store would be highly regarded for its great selection. In this neighborhood, the A&P suffers a bit by comparison to its competition. But it does have the great advantage of being open 24 hours, it has a good selection of fresh produce, cheese, and bulk foods at better prices than many other places. This is 800 meters west of the Royal York (about a nine minute walk).
A couple blocks south at Queen's Quay and Jarvis is the massive Loblaw's Queen's Quay Market, the main store of the best grocery chain in North America. In all my travels across the continent I have compared every grocery store to this one, and all have failed the comparison. It's got, really, everything. Loblaws "no name" products are better quality than most brand names, and their President's Choice line, well, we never threw a bid party without some of their cookies. The store is only open until 10 PM every day, but they have free parking in downtown Toronto (which is almost science fiction around here), so you can fill the big party vans here. It's got a photo lab, a full service drug store, discount banking, a kitchen supply store, flowers, and so on and so on. Eye Magazine (a Toronto entertainment weekly) rates this the best grocery store in Toronto. If you don't find what you need elsewhere, you will find it here.
Even closer than these is Rabba Fine Foods. It's about 600 meters due south of the Royal York (got down York Street) at 252 Queen's Quay West in the Harbourfront area. Rabba is a large convenience store which is also open 24 hours. It's expensive, in a location which caters to the lakeside condos and tourist trade, but it has a pretty good selection.
For some, though, it isn't a party without the alcohol. A Liquor Store is located in Union GO Station (that's the regional train station which connects to the train station and the subway). It has a full selection of wines and liquors. (American readers may now be asking "but what's it called?" During Prohibition, while the US tried to ban alcohol, the Canadian governments simply nationalized the industry, so now all liquor and beer stores are in Ontario are owned by the province or a collective of brewers, and they are simply called the Liquor Store and Beer Store.) The Liquor Store is located below street level under the southwest corner of Bay and Front (that's across the street from the Royal York). The Liquor Store is open until 9 PM on weekdays and Saturdays, until 5 PM on Sundays and holidays. There is also a Liquor Store in the Loblaws on Queen's Quay, in St. Lawrence Market, and in First Canadian Place (two blocks north and connected underground).
If your party has to have beer by the truckload, the nearest Beer Store is at 350 Queen's Quay West, south of the Skydome. This store has one of the best selections in Ontario of domestic and imported beers. (Note to travelers: domestic [Canadian] beer is better than most imports.) There is a good selection of microbrews here, as well as all the regular brands.
But the true vice is candy, and the Mecca of candy is Sugar Mountain, which started the recent wave of candy shops across the continent back in 1995 from its storefront at 320 Richmond Street West, about nine blocks (1.8 kilometers) northwest of the Royal York, just past the popular Paramount Theatre. They have over a thousand different kinds of candy, served in bulk or packages; their web page lists so many items in a single run-on sentence that it has to continue onto the next page. Where else can you go for a complete collection of Star Wars Pez dispensers? If your group is known for having strange things at parties, there's a lot of quirky stuff here. And for diabetics who wish to die and go to heaven, this is the place to come. Now, if you're looking for a better class of chocolates, the Nutty Chocolatier at 144 Yonge Street, south of Richmond (five blocks north and one east of the Royal York) is closer and a much nicer place, with a great selection of milk and dark chocolates and truffles.
But your efforts will be in vain if nobody knows where the party is. The Printing House is a good copy shop; the nearest one is located at the southwest corner of Bay and York Street in the Citibank building in the concourse level (below the street); it is connected to the train station. It's open until midnight on weekdays, until 4 PM on weekends. There are other Printing Houses in the Canadian Pacific building one block north at York and Wellington and in the TD Centre and First Canadian Place bank towers. There's also a Kinko's at 505 University Avenue, less than two kilometers straight up York Street and then University.
Finally, if your party has audiovisual requirements, there's a Radio Shack in Royal Bank Plaza, which is connected to the Royal York. They'll have any stereo or computer cables, portable speakers, or similar components you might need.
So you can find everything you'd need to buy convenient to the party hotel. All you need to complete the party is money, people, enthusiasm, and imagination. You'll find all these in good supply at the Worldcon as well. So let's bring it on and begin the festivities! It is, after all, your turn. :)
Alex von Thorn
Deputy Head of Programming, Torcon III http://www.torcon3.on.ca/
Vice-Chair, Seattle in '05 NASFiC bid http://www.seattle2005.org/
2002 Aurora Award: Fan Writing http://worldhouse.com/alex/
Last updated: 21 August 2003
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