Pan Am Games: Eat, Play, Stay

With the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games coming to the Greater Toronto Area this week and bringing with it almost 8,000 athletes, sports fans the world over will focus their gaze on Canada’s biggest city.

Even if you’re not into sports, we’ve got plenty of games you can play. Fortunately, when it comes to hosting, Toronto has hotels that offer up more than just a place to lay your head.


For easy access to the Gardiner Expressway and the QEW to Hamilton venues; University/Spadina subway line to University of Toronto’s Varsity Centre venues; Yonge line to Ryerson University venues, streetcars to Exhibition Place venues; quick taxi ride to Billy Bishop (island) Toronto City Airport.

As we were going to press, Starwood Toronto hotels, The Westin Harbour Castle and the Sheraton Centre Toronto announced joining as proud supporters of the Games. So what does this mean? Well, if you want to rub shoulders with Pan American Sports Organization dignitaries, the Americas Paralympic committee members and see what it’s like to be in the hot bed of a press centre during a world-class sporting event, then these are the two hotels to head to. Besides, the CAA/AAA Four Diamond ranked Westin Harbour Castle now has the Food Network celeb chef Corbin Tomaszeksi at the helm of all of its food offerings, including a very chic, private dining chef’s table. Yum.;

Thompson Toronto

Location: In walkable King West Village, near Bathurst and King Streets

Eat: Multi-culti flourish in a nod to the city’s tapestry of nationalities (see recipe below) at The Thomson Diner or Parisian flair at Colette Grand Café.

Play: Cocktails in the Lobby Bar, dancing in the Wildfire Nightclub, a brand-new disco on the lower floors or book the private screening room for a movie

Don’t miss: the Rooftop Lounge, for a 360-degree view of the big city’s bright lights, Lake Ontario and that famous needle in the sky, the CN Tower. The rooftop also features a pool – we’d call that taking a dip with a view (Forbes and CNN have ranked it as must-do in Toronto, too). 416-640-7778;

Recipe: The Thompson Diner’s Thai Cucumber Chia Salad

Serves 2

60 ml white wine vinegar

40 ml rice wine vinegar

250 ml canola oil

4 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp sugar

3 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

3 oz butter (or Boston) lettuce

4 oz cucumbers, peeled and cut in 1-inch coins

½ Thai chili, diced

3 leaves mint, chopped

2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

In a metal bowl, whisk together vinegars, oil, chia seeds, sugar, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste; refrigerate to allow the chia seeds to hydrate in the liquids.

In salad bowl, combine lettuce, cucumbers, chili, mint and feta. Dress with vinaigrette to taste and serve.

Recipe: Rooftop Lounge’s Pendragon 
Serves 1
¾ oz sake
¾ oz Lillet Blanc
½ oz Beefeater 24
¾ oz pineapple sorbet
½ oz lime juice
2 basil leaves

In mixing glass, combine sake, Lillet Blanc, Beefeater, sorbet and lime juice and shake vigorously. Strain onto ice-filled old-fashioned glass and garnish with basil.

InterContinental Toronto Centre

Location: On Front Street, within walking distance of Union Station, the city’s main transit station and where the new express train will arrive from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Eat: Azure Restaurant and Bar, featuring Canadian flavours created by chef de cuisine Grace Di Fede (recipe below). To honour the games and their athletes, the restaurant will also be serving up smoothies.

(For the recipe, go to

Play: A 10-minute walk to dozens of TV screens at Real Sports Bar & Grill; a tunnel through a tank of tropical fish – and sharks! – at Ripley’s Aquarium; or a beer tasting at Steam Whistle Brewing in Roundhouse Park.

Don’t Miss: Close to the city’s main pro sports and concert venues, such as the Air Canada Centre, the Rogers Centre (for Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Argos action) and a quick cab or streetcar to BMO Field (FC soccer) and Exhibition Stadium (Pan Am rugby matches). 416-597-1400;


Recipe: Ontario Organic Rainbow Trout

With lemongrass & ginger quinoa, arugula and blood orange cream sauce

Serves 4

Blood Orange Cream Sauce

1 tbsp butter

2 shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

½ cup white wine

2 cups blood orange frozen fruit purée,

2 cups whipping cream

Salt and pepper

In saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter; sauté shallots and garlic till translucent.

Deglaze with white wine and reduced by half. Add blood orange purée; bring to a boil and reduce by half. Blend in cream and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Purée with hand blender; strain and season to taste.


Recipe: Lemongrass Ginger Quinoa Pilaf

5 cups vegetable stock

1 cup coconut milk

4 cloves garlic

½ piece peeled whole ginger

½ carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 celery rib, roughly chopped

½ onion, chopped

1/2 piece of lemon grass

2 bay leaves

3 cups quinoa, rinsed well under cold water and strained (use a fine mesh sieve)

Salt and pepper

In large pot, combine vegetable stock, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, carrot, celery, onion, lemongrass and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain into a clean pot (you should have about 6 cups).

Add quinoa, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid has all been absorbed. Season to taste.


Recipe: Organic Rainbow Trout

4 rainbow trout fillets (about 6 oz each)

Salt and pepper

2 oz garlic

2 oz arugula

Season fish with salt and pepper.  Cook garlic in olive oil for two minutes; add arugula and cook for a minute or two, just slightly wilted. Pan fry skin side down, turning once. Sauté garlic in olive oil, add arugula and season to taste. Cook fish skin-side down until slightly crispy, then flip and cook for 2 minutes longer.


Shangri-La Hotel Toronto

Location: Adelaide Street and University Avenue, around the corner from Queen Street West, a neighbourhood ranked by Vogue, among others as a hot spot, and across the street from the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts for ballet and opera.

Eat: Bosk, for Canadian-Asian inspired cuisine – and champagne, by the glass; High Tea and live music in the Lobby Lounge.

Don’t Miss: The Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris Spa round the world in three treatments: Moroccan body exfoliation, Thai yoga massage and finish up with a classic French facial, using Caudalie’s Vinotherapie products. [For a review of the treatment, go to


The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto

Location: Wellington Street, just south of the King Street West theatre district

Eat: Head to DEQ, the outdoor terrace-patio, which backs onto Simcoe Park, a nice bit of green space in this part of the city.

Play: The Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales Theatres showcase the best of NYC’s Broadway and London’s West End productions. Roy Thomson Hall is the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Don’t Miss: The cheese cave at TOCA (named for Toronto, Canada), the hotel’s Italian-Canadian fusion dining establishment. The only cheese cave in a Canadian restaurant, it’s said to house thousands, yes, we said thousands, of dollars worth of cheese!


For walking access the Varsity Centre events; walk or public transit to Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre events.

Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

Location: On Gerrard Street, a five-minute walk from Yonge-Dundas Square, with its Toronto Eaton Centre shopping, Cineplex Cinemas and Ryerson University.

Play – with the family: This member of the Langham Hospitality Group features the only indoor water slide in the city, perfect for multi-gen families; the main restaurant (Market Garden is elevated cafeteria marché-style dining, so everyone eats what they like.

Don’t Miss: The mixologist’s homemade Bloody Caesar has been touted as the best in the city. And for the wee ones, the Pan Am Games Corner in the Market Garden, where there’ll be competing countries-themed, colourful cupcakes to suit every palate.

Four Seasons

Location: In Yorkville on Bay Street, one of Toronto’s classic shopping and dining districts.

Play – and Eat: The hotel’s dbar features Monday Charcuterie Night, where you can nosh with the locals on a charcuterie board and a glass of wine for $35.

Don’t Miss: Anything. It’s the only hotel in Canada to earn both Forbes 5 stars Travel Guide Five Star rating and AAA 5 Diamond ratings.

Uptown and North

Easy access to Toronto Pearson International Airport and York University venues; highway to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus events and beyond in the east: Ajax, Oshawa; highway access to the west: Hamilton, Welland; and north, where you can catch equestrian events in Caledon.

Aloft Vaughan Mills

Location: Across from the Vaughan Mills shopping mall with easy access to Hwy. 400.

Play: The lobby has purposefully set up like a lounge for a socializing, with cocktails at wxy z bar, pool tables, free WiFi, music and a self-serve snack bar. It’s child- and pet-friendly, too.

Don’t Miss: The Backyard, the outdoor party and retreat space.

Element Vaughan Southwest

Location: Just west of Hwy. 7 and Hwy. 27

Stay: All the rooms here are suites, with full kitchen facilities. It is also a “green” building, with eco-friendly LEED certification; the indoor saltwater pool and the outdoor patio and terrace with barbecues for grilling the way you like it.

Don’t Miss: Monday to Thursday, the hotel hosts a complimentary evening reception with appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks.

For more hotels and how to book,

Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, July 10-26. The Parapan American Games, Aug. 7-15. For more information, go to