• [Fitness] ClassPass Toronto

    ClassPass is a fitness subscription service that gets you "unlimited monthly classes at the best fitness studios and gyms in Toronto. With just one monthly subscription you can work out at Studio Lagree, Track Fitness, Barreworks, Quad Spinning, Hard Candy Fitness, IAM Yoga, Body Harmonics, Barre3, Yoga Tree, Spynga, Core Studio, and over 80 others all over the city!" for a low price of $99 per month."

  • [Food Post] Bar Isabel

    Bar Isabel is a popular restaurant known for their Spanish-influenced tapas dishes. Its location on College and Ossington is easily accessible, and there's a paid parking lot nearby.

  • [Food Post] Trattoria Mercatto

    Trattoria Mercatto is a casual-fare Italian restaurant located inside of the Eaton's Center on the second floor of the mall. I was invited to attend the "Antipasti With Us" event in late August along with several local food bloggers.

  • [Food Post] Han Ba Tang

    Han Ba Tang opened up earlier this summer, and is one of the latest additions to the Yonge and Sheppard area. The name translates to meaning "one full round" in Korean and is like a Korean-styled izakaya (or pojangmacha). I was invited to their bloggers' media tasting to preview some of their menu items.

  • [Food Post] Jacobs and Co.

    Jacobs and Co. Steakhouse has a very sizable steak selection which are visibly displayed in a glass container at the front. The glass contains dry-aged beef with information tags on them (name, date, etc ...) for customers to choose from.

  • [Food Post] Sake Bar Kushi

    We were provided with a few items from their regular menu and June specials menu. Not only do they serve kushi (skewered poultry and non-poultry), but they also offer a great variety of tapas styled dishes that are meant to be shared

  • [Travel] Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro

    My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 animated production written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It's a childhood favorite of many people and I have seen many shops dedicated to selling Totoro merchandise while in Japan.

  • [Food Post] Canoe Restaurant + Bar

    Canoe is one of Toronto's critically acclaimed restaurants offering upscale Canadian cuisine. It is located on the 54th floor of Toronto Dominion Bank Towers in the financial district. As it is relatively high up; its beautifully designed dining room offers a spectacular view of the city's skyline.

  • [Food Post] Au Pied de Cochon

    One of the great appeals of the restaurant is their extensive menu. The menu at Au Pied de Cochon offers concoction of dishes that entails the uses of animal parts that are not always found in other restaurants.

  • [Travel] Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan]

    A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple.

[Upcoming Event] Toronto’s Halal Food Festival 2015 (enter the giveaway)

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Event: Halal Food Fest TO 2015
When: May 30th - 10AM - 10PM and May 31st - 10AM - 8PM
Where: The International Centre at 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga, ON L4V 1E8, Canada (Entrance 5)
Entrance Fee: There will be an entrance fee of $5 for ages 16-64. There is no entrance fee for children 15 and under and seniors 65 and over.
Sampling Tickets: There will be food booths that will be sampling their foods in exchange for a sample ticket. Sample tickets are $10 for 20 tickets. 

Did you know that Canada’s halal food market is currently estimated to be a $1 billion industry? It's no wonder that there's a food festival dedicated to halal food. The Toronto Halal Food Fest 2015 will return for its third years on May 30, 2015 - May 31, 2015. Notably, it is the largest halal food festival in North America, and the festival aims to showcase the best halal restaurants, along with other halal vendors in the city.

"Exhibitors include The Holy Grill, a halal food truck launched by Toronto chef Aleem Syed, halal burger joint Burger Factory and a chef collaborative with Sargent Farms. Some notable and diverse offerings from vendors include Belgian Waffle S’mores, Virgin Masala Margaritas, and Jerk Fried Chicken. In addition to food there will also be stage shows, workshops, and seminars on the booming halal food industry." [source: halalfoodfestto.com]



 What is halal? It's meat (excluding pork) that has been prepared according to Islamic guidelines.
 The two day event will take place at The International Centre (entrance 5), which is located at 6900 Airport Rd, Mississauga. Last year's event was attended by over 27,000 visitors, and the number is expected to be higher this year. Additionally, there will be more than 75 exhibitors on the show floor showcasing their delicious halal food and products. Both established and aspiring chefs can be found at the upcoming The Halal Food Fest 2015, so it's a great place to spend a weekend if you love food.

Some notable dishes from this year’s Toronto Halal Food Fest vendors include:

  ** The Holy Poutine (Spanish fries made with in-house halal chorizo, Spanish olives and other Spanish inspired ingredients from The Holy Grill, a halal food truck launched by Toronto chef Aleem Syed)
   ** Jerk Fried Chicken and Belgian Waffle S'mores from Chef's Life, sponsored by Sargent Farms
    ** The halal Lollypop Juicy Lucy from Burger Factory.

I will be on hand this year to recap all of the festivities, so be on the look out for my post after the event.

Social Media:

Website: http://halalfoodfestto.com/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/HalalFoodFestTO 

GIVEAWAY

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[App] Grabb Mobile (enter the $50 giveaway)

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Grabb is a free Toronto-based mobile app that allows users to pre-order and pre-pay for food.  The app is easy to use with its user-friendly interface that allows users to browse through the list of restaurants and their menus, select their order, and then securely pay for their order with just a few clicks. Additionally, the app also features a virtual queue, where you are able to see how many other people using the Grabb app are ahead of you.



Grabb wants to "revolutionize the way people interact with various industries", and never have to wait in line at quick serve restaurants and cafés in downtown Toronto. The company aims to help customers avoid long lines during the busy lunch rush with their mobile app. The Grabb app launched in June 2014, and has since partnered up with several restaurants in the Queen St W or King St W areas.

People normally get about an hour for lunch, and they definitely do not want to waste any time waiting in long lines. This is where Grabb comes in, as they offer an easy solution to minimize the amount of times that customers need to wait in line. In regards to sensitive information, Grabb uses the same payment gateway company (handled by Braintree) as Uber, and AirBnB. Thus, ensuring that all users' credit information are safely stored and protected. Paying for food just got simpler.


The app's interface is very user-friendly, and easy to navigate. Paying with Grabb can be done in 5 steps.

Step 1: Choose your restaurant.
Step 2: Browse the menu.
Step 3: Order and pay (your credit card information is saved)
Step 4: Live updates of your order can be seen on the app (real-time notifications).
 Step 5: Skip the line & pick up!

  Grabb currently works with 26 restaurants in Queen West and King West core. Some of these restaurants that are accepting Grabb as a form of payment are Fresh Off The Boat, Aroma Espresso Bar, Hero Burgers, Mean Bao, Bacon Nation, Amaya Express, Busters Sea Cove, and more.

Bonuses:

Download the Grabb app, and use my promo code FOODAHOLIC for 25% off your order @ any participating Grabb restaurants.

Download: App Store
Download: Googleplay
Twitter: http://twitter.com/GrabbMobile
Instagram: http://instagram.com/GrabbMobile
Facebook: http://facebook.com/grabb.ca

About: Grabb was developed by Grabb Mobile Inc., a mobile marketing start-up based in Toronto. Grabb Mobile Inc. revolutionize the way consumers interact with the food and beverage industry.

My Personal Experience With Grabb

I was invited to test out the mobile app earlier this month. I was intrigued by the convenience of not having to wait in long lines for takeout orders. I really liked that the app provided real-time updates (push notifications) of the status of my order. The text message confirmation was helpful as well. Similarly to many other apps, they also provide e-receipts sent to your email with complete breakdown of your order.

I decided to get takeout at Fresh Off The Boat using Grabb since I was seeing a client in the area. I opened the app, and easily browsed through FOTB's menu (description of the item and price are clearly indicated). I ended up creating two separate orders to test out the functionality of the app. For my first order, I got the softshell crab sandwich ($15.95) - our famous softshell crab sandwich served with fresh cut fries and broccoli house slaw. Just a note that there's a small service charge (about 4% of your total order before tax) for the convenience, but it's not a huge amount. Don't forget to use my promo code FOODAHOLIC for 25% off your order.

I completed the transaction, and was quickly taken to the "Final Review" page where I was able to check out the queue time, prep time, and the time that the food is ready by. With the real-time notifications, I was able to estimate the time of when I should start walking to the restaurant. As expected, my order was ready for pick-up by the time I got there. It was a seamless transaction, and I did it all on my phone - without needing to take out my wallet. Lastly, there was an area in the back of FOTB solely for Grabb pick-ups, which I thought was a good idea. Grabb is an app that I will be keeping on my phone, as it will come in handy when I'm in the mood for pick-up at any of the participating Grabb restaurants.

It's a convenient app, especially for those who are often on the go, or can't afford long lunch breaks away from their offices.




                

My second order was the lobster roll ($13.95) - Maine style served with fresh cut fries & broccoli house slaw.



ith the food and beverage industry.

Giveaway Time

Enter to win $50 in Grabb credits to spend at any participating Grabb restaurants. Contest is open to all Toronto and GTA residents, and will end on 06/01/2015 (Monday) at midnight.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Disclaimer: The food and giveaway provided in this post was completely subsidized by Grabb. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.
 

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Masamune Japanese Restaurant

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 I don't find the cuisine in Mississauga to be all that great, as there are way too many chains and AYCE. This is my SO's go-to lunch place since he works up in Mississauga, and he recently introduced it to me. Masamune Japanese Restaurant is a small restaurant hidden away in a nondescript industrial plaza. Just a note that the place is a little harder to find if you're not actively seeking it out. The prices are slightly pricier compared to the average Japanese/Korean restaurants in the area, but the service and quality of the food was good.

We were quickly served a delicious array of bachan (side dishes) that is rather standard with Korean meals. 


 I also got an order of salmon maki roll ($5.95)  

 

They have an extensive menu offering both Japanese and Korean dishes. One of my favorite dishes from here is their soon du bu - soft tofu stew with vegetables and seafood in a spicy broth served with rice ($11.95). The dish arrived steaming hot in a stone pot, and they were generous with the portion of vegetables and seafood.


Masamune Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Paramount Fine Foods

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Paramount Fine Foods is a popular Middle Eastern and Mediterranean chain of restaurants with several locations in Ontario. Their newest location on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Bay Street in Yorkville just opened up yesterday. Additionally, the new 4,500 square feet location is the first full-service halal restaurant in the Yorkville area. This location of Paramount Fine Foods features a more upscale dining experience with an open concept kitchen and a wood-burning oven. I was invited over the weekend to attend their soft launch at the new location. This was also a charity initiative, as all tips collected over the weekend were tallied, and generously donated to the nutrition program at Jesse Ketchum Jr. & Sr. Public School.





The new space is both modern and inviting with wooden underlying tones, vaulted ceiling, a wall fixture of a cascading waterfall, and bright light. John and I were quickly seated by the hostess, and our server, took our drink orders. Along with our drinks, she also brought us a plate of two large pieces of pita bread. Most impressively, the pita bread is freshly baked in the stone oven throughout the day, and served hot. The pita bread is complimentary and served to all patrons.

Customers can also order a smaller portion size of hummus ($5.49) - chick peas paste, tahini sauce, drizzled with virgin olive oil. The hummus is great by itself, but even better when paired with the fresh pillowy pita bread.






We decided to start with an order of falafel - mix of ground chick peas and sesame seeds, golden fried with a side of tahini sauce ($.99/each piece). Falafel is a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas, and is a common dish eaten through the Middle East. It's commonly served in a pita, but it can also be eaten on its own as an appetizer. The falafel balls were served hot, and had a nice crunchy exterior. I found the inside to be quite moist, and full of flavor.





Despite its prime location in Yorkville, Paramount Fine Foods continues to offer a wide choice of quality and healthy dishes at reasonable prices. Deciding on a main dish was difficult, as I was impressed with the variety of Middle-Eastern dishes that they offered such as sandwiches, meat platters, and manakeesh. In the end, I opted for the Chicken & Beef Shawarma ($14.99) - a mix of chicken and beef shawarma served with garlic sauce and tahini to make for a perfect meal. Each shawarma platter is served alongside rice, but customers have the option to substitute it with fries or salad. As I had already ordered a plate of fries earlier to start, I decided to change my side dish to a garden salad, which was an extra $1.50.

The portion of the dish was pretty substantial, and was a good value for the price. It came with a giant pita bread topped with a large mound of meat, and a healthy dose of greens. I thought that the thinly shaved pieces of chicken and beef offer a great mixture, and the meat was flavorful. Only a few pieces of chicken were slightly on the dyer side, but it still tasted good. Additionally, the creamy and garlic sauces worked well with the chicken and beef shawarma.





J got the lamb ($19.99) - two skewers of in house marinated iamb. char-grilled to perfection and served with a side of hummus





French fries ($3.99) - fresh cut daily from whole potatoes.





Paramount Fine Foods is pretty much providing a taste of the Middle East in Yorkville, and based on what I've seen, they're very passionate about their food. Overall, this new location of Paramount Fine Foods offers an extensive choice of fresh, healthy, and high quality halal menu items. I enjoyed my meal, and definitely left feeling full and satisfied. The food was solid, and the restaurant is a great addition to the thriving cultural district of Yorkville. Paramount Fine Foods is open Sunday - Thursday : 8:00am - 10:00pm, and Friday - Saturday : 8:00am - 11:00pm.

Thank you to the staff of Paramount Fine Foods for the amazingly warm and great service that night, and Stav for the invitation. I had a wonderful night trying out the new Paramount Fine Foods location.

Address: 1250 Bay St, Toronto,ON, M5R 2B1
 
Social Media:

Website: http://www.paramountfinefoods.com/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/paramountfoods

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

Paramount Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Click to add a blog post for Paramount Fine Foods on Zomato

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A la Carte Bistro

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A La Carte at the Gardiner Bistro is a great lunch spot perched on the third floor of the Gardiner Museum. The restaurant is open for both brunch and lunch, and offers a Bistro inspired menu. Additional, the dining room was lovely decorated with an elegant atmosphere. The space used to house a cafe run by Chef Jamie Kennedy until 2013 when Toronto caterer, À la Carte Kitchen, was handed control over it. Since then, they have transformed the space, and serving up delicious food. Please note that if you are a member of the Gardiner Museum, you will also receive 10% off on food items. 

I was invited to a private event titled "Best of Toronto" held at the Gardiner Museum a few months back. The event was attended by museum patrons and donors, members of media, and food bloggers. The evening presented a great opportunity to sample the food items catered by À la Carte Kitchen, and to see how an event at A la Carte Bistro was like. The successful event was catered by the team behind À la Carte Kitchen, and they did a fantastic job. At times, it can be a little difficult to evaluate a restaurant based on the food that they serve at an event, since the portions are sample sizes. However, I did enjoyed the food items that we got to sample that night, and it gave me an idea of what sort of food they serve at the restaurant.

The event definitely did showcases how an event held at A la Carte Bistro was like. I thought that the overall atmosphere was lovely and classy, as there was even an experienced live pianist centered in the room. The  flow of conversation emanating from the party was loud, and I could tell that guests were enjoying their night. Lastly, I have a huge sweet tooth, so I was largely impressed by their dessert table. A la Carte Bistro sure knows how to throw a successful party. I want to thank the team behind À la Carte Kitchen, and A la Carte Bistro for the invitation and warm hospitality as I had a great time!







Address: 111 Queens Park Toronto, ON, M5S 2C7 (Gardiner Museum, 3rd Floor)
 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alacartebistro 
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/alacartekitchen

Disclaimer: The food provided in this post was complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.

a la Carte at Gardiner Bistro on Urbanspoon

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[ClassPass Review] Toronto Studios

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ClassPass is a fitness subscription service that gets you "unlimited monthly classes at the best fitness studios" and gyms in the Toronto, Mississauga and Midtown areas for $99 a month. You can read my introductory post on ClassPass here. There are over 80+ gyms and studios in the ClassPass Toronto network, so there's something for everyone. I love food, but I have always disregarded the need to workout. However, I was presented with an opportunity to try ClassPass (complimentary for one month) when it first launched in March 2015. I tried a few classes, and I really enjoyed the flexibility of the service, and I definitely felt more energized. I liked it so much that I renewed my ClassPass subscription, and I am now paying for the monthly subscription.

PROS:

- There are over 80 studios participating with ClassPass, so there are a variety of workouts to choose from.
- You can take an unlimited total number of classes per month.
- Perfect for those who like trying new things (yoga, barre, dance, pole dancing, Pilates, etc ...).
- There is no long contract. It's a monthly fitness subscription service, so you pay month to month.
- It's cost-effective if you work out at least 5-6 times a month. I'd say that ClassPass is cheaper than several monthly studio fees as most are upward of nearly $99 as well.
- The flexibility as there are early morning classes (before work) to late evening ones (after work) too.
- The online reservation system is very user friendly. The search function allows you to search through their database based on the date/time, location, studio, and the type of workouts.
- If you live downtown, there are plenty of studios in the core areas.
- You can make reservations for classes up to 7 days in advance. 
- Email reminders when you sign up for a class, and when the class is near. 

    CONS:

    - There is a 12 hour cancellation policy, or else you will be charge an additional $15 if you cancel later than the required time.
    - You are limited to 3 visits per studio per month. It's not so bad though, as there are plenty of other studios to choose from.
    - If you're loyal to one particular studio, then this is definitely not for you.

    You can sign up now here.

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    Hard Candy Fitness @ 382 Yonge St, Toronto, ON

     

    About: Hard Candy Fitness is a "global luxury fitness brand" created by pop star, Madonna. The 42,000 sq. ft. facility has the largest cycling facility in Toronto with stadium seating, surround sound system and one of a kind Spinner Blade Cycles.
     
    Class: For the ClassPass launch, bloggers were invited to try out the Hardrive class - drive longer and harder by adding high-intensity loading on the bike to burn maximum calories. The class is a 60 minute workout on the Spinner Blade Cycles bikes, and it was a lot more intense than I anticipated. As this was my first time working out in a while, I found cycling rather difficult. I definitely struggled to keep up with other fitness bloggers, and I don't think I maintained the proper form on the bike.

    Price: Membership at the studio/gym is $99 a month with a $69 enrollment fee, and a day pass costs $50.


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    Yogaspace @ 148 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON


    About: Yogaspace is a lovely small yoga studio in the heart of Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods neighborhood. It's very easily accessible by both foot if you live downtown, and by TTC.

    Class: I took the Classical Hatha (All Levels) class which works with active and restorative modes of Hatha Yoga practice. This was a long class, as it took 1.5 hours to complete. The class aims to strengthen the body, and promote a level of both calmness and meditative state of mind. I thought that the yoga teacher for the class was very friendly, and helpful.

    Studio Cost: A single class is $20, 5 class pass is $90, and 1 month unlimited class is $150.


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    Misfit Studio @ 761 Queen St W Toronto, ON


    About: Misfit Studio is a Pilates studio, but they do offer a few yoga classes on their roster as well.

    Class: My class with Misfit Studio was appropriately called Spring Equinox, as it occurred on the first day of Spring 2015. The class was co-taught by Amber (owner) & Bryonie, and was accompanied by live music which provided a very relaxing atmosphere.The studio is located on the third floor of a renovated church, and it was both large and bright. The class wasn't exactly for beginners, as it flowed along pretty quickly.

    Studio Cost: Drop-ins are $20, 5 class pack is $95, and 1 month unlimited class is $175.


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    Barreworks @ 625 Queen St W, Toronto, ON


    About: Barreworks is a fitness studio that is dedicated to barre based workouts. They are committed to developing effective workouts that help to develop long, and lean muscles.

    Class: I decided to opt out of the beginners class, and took the Barreworks Mixed Level instead. I am glad that I did as I had an intense and amazing workout. I realized just how effective barre was when it comes to working out areas such as my stomach, legs, and arms. The 1-hour class used resistance bands, weighted balls and the barre. Overall, I thought that the class was a little fast paced, but it was a great workout. I also returned to Barreworks last week to take their bAAArre class. This class is designed for maximum sculpting and chiseling. It's a lot more fast-paced than the mixed level one, but it's still considered as a reduced cardio/non-impact workout. Both certified instructors for the classes were friendly, and energetic which created a fun atmosphere.

    Studio Cost: A single class is $21, 5 class is $95, and 1 month unlimited is $199. 


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    MuseMovement @ 180 Shaw St #204, Toronto, ON


    About: MuseMovement Studio is a studio on the second floor of Artscape Youngplace building. The studio itself is an open concept one, and it was just a very clean and bright space with natural light.

    Class: I took the Pilates Deep class which is an hour class that focuses on breathing, control, and precision in movement to work the smaller muscle groups of the body. The class was an intimate one with about 9-10 students which allowed the teacher to walk around, and give correction to those who were doing the postures incorrectly (like myself). I also liked that they provide loaner mats, so that students don't have to lug theirs to/from class.

    Studio Cost: Drop in is $18, intro month mat membership is $45, and monthly mat membership is $155. 



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    YogaTree @ 140 Spadina Ave #201, Toronto, ON


     About: YogaTree is a popular fitness chain with 5 studios across the Greater Toronto Area. The dressing room is large and equipped with a self-combination system which is always awesome.

    Class:  I actually took two classes at the studio, Ashtanga L1, and Reduced Heat L1. Ashtanga Level 1 is a class where we were taught the teaching of Ashtanga, which involves synchronizing the breath and movement. The Reduced Heat L1 class is very similar to hot yoga, but the temperature is set to 28 degrees. This is 10 degrees lower than hot yoga, and helps to prepare for the much hotter classes.

    Studio Cost: 1 class is $17.70, 10 classes are $150, 30 days unlimited yoga intro package (new students only) is $40, the auto-renew monthly unlimited is $99, and one month unlimited is $160.  


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    Moksha Yoga Downtown @ 577 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON


    About: Moksha is a yoga studio in the heart of downtown Toronto. All of their classes are rooted in the Moksha Yoga series.

    Class: I took an early morning Pilates class. Pilates is "a system of controlled exercises that engage the mind and condition the total body". To be honest, I had a little bit of difficulty keeping up, as the transition of the poses were pretty quick. However, I liked that the teacher made an effort to walk around the class to help correct our posture.

    Studio Price: Single class is $18, introductory 30 days (first visit only) is $40, basic monthly unlimited is $95, 10 class card is $150.


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    Barre3 Toronto @ 325 King St W #201, Toronto, ON


    About: Barre3 is a studio that mixes movements of ballet barre with both yoga and Pilates. The studio was bright and large, and the washroom was stocked with complimentary clean towels, soap, and even dry (hair) shampoo.

    Class: The class that I took at Barre3 was a high impact workout called barre3. I would have to say that I enjoyed the total-body workout that this class provided, as it was designed to burn fat, and build muscle. They also offer a variety of classes, from beginner to advanced.

    Studio Cost: Single class is $20, unlimited month (one time only/new client) is $99, and unlimited classes (1 month) is $190. 


    Disclaimer:  I was offered an one month complimentary trial of ClassPass where I took the first 4 classes. However, all of the opinions expressed in this blog post are of my own.

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