Dr Dre Beats After a couple months of relatively mild winter, at last there’s snow on the ground and a chill in the air, which leaves us once again looking for ways to escape it. Short of hopping on a southbound plane, there are a multitude of inexpensive ways to unthaw right here at home. Here are a few to get you warmed up.Contained fires: There’s something innately comforting about a gently crackling, roiling indoor fire, so much so that we’re willing to tune our televisions to a recording of a burning log. Restaurants, looking to amp up the urban-log-cabin vibe (and the temperature), know this, and the result ranges from high romance (Auberge de Pommier) to high design (Oddfellows). For a non-food experience, there’s hardly a toastier place to warm up with a good read than the University of Toronto’s Hart House library.Fiery food: Feeling ice in your belly? From now on, whatever food you order, ask for “10 chiles,” “suicide sauce,” “Dante’s delight,” “habanero hell” or whatever euphemism is used to describe lip-meltingly spicy. Yes, that includes your morning bran muffin.
Flaming food: Cooking at your table does double duty, warming your meal and your frosted paws at once. (Also gives kitchen staff a break.) There are many places to accomplish this, including an array of Chinese hot pot restaurants on Steeles and Highway 7, or the new, swankier outpost of Mississauga Korean BBQ shack Miga on Bloor St. W. For another potential eyebrow-singeing experience, order flaming saganaki cheese at just about any Greek restaurant on the Danforth, and stand back.Feel all warm inside: Make a charity donation. Out in the world, though, we nominate Toronto’s hottest drink, the steamy and spicy Mayan cocoa with ground chilies at Soma in the Distillery District. For ambiance, try one of the city’s growing legion of indie espresso dens with communal sofas. Or indulge in South America’s invigorating yerba mate, sipped from a gourd through a metal straw, at the new El Almacen (1078 Queen St. W.).
Dessert included: Make hot drinks (and fattening food) an afternoon event at one of numerous high tea services at Toronto hotels. Everyone, it seems, has their preference on where to indulge in this colonial tradition, so we dare not pick a favourite among the Four Seasons, Windsor Arms and the King Edward. But if you can make it out to Cambridge (Ontario, that is), it’s worth the drive to Langdon Hall.Indoor “rainforests”: You know that fantastic feeling you get when you head out on a Caribbean vacation this time of year, that slap of warm, fresh air you get when you first step off the plane? That’s what you get when you walk through the glass doors into the Science Centre’s Telus Rain Forest, a little area just off the Living Earth exhibit. Plus there’s a rope bridge, a waterfall, fish, poison frogs – a tiny Amazon. Other humid green respites: Allan Gardens; the Toronto Botanical Garden; and the Cloud Forest Conservatory, a most unlikely oasis in the shadow of Bay St. towers.
Beats By Dre Skimpy yet steamy: It’s almost Valentines Day, so it’s little surprise there are burlesque shows aplenty this weekend, which means body temperature rising in everyone present except perhaps those shedding down to their lacy underthings. warm up the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom (1214 Queen St. W.) Saturday and Sunday. Les Coquettes bring their Love Story to the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave.) Saturday. Up the street at the Lakeview restaurant (1132 Dundas St. W.) the Harlettes present an homage to a racy past, and ask patrons to come dressed in their best `50s duds. If that’s not enough, try the Jezebel burlesque club across the street (227 Ossington Ave.).Hot Moves: If doing, rather than observing, is more your thing, we have an idea: Get yourself over to Danforth Collegiate (800 Greenwood Ave.) on Friday night, strip off all those layers until you’re down to shorts and a T-shirt. Don’t worry, by the time zumba instructor Edgar Uribe leads you through mambo, cha cha, salsa and other dance steps, you’ll be throwing the windows open to let some of that cold air in. The temperature is kept at 29C, warm enough for babies and seniors and anyone else in between during these frigid winter months. Besides the huge pool, which has a beach-like access point, the complex in Mel Lastman Square (5100 Yonge St.) has a sauna and Jacuzzi that are even hotter, plus Tarzan ropes and water slides. Birthday parties are encouraged, if you phone ahead.
The Bath Cave: If you prefer bathing solo (and aren’t prone to claustrophobia), there’s the sensory-deprived float tank at Tranquility Tanks (717 Bloor St. It’s saltier than the Dead Sea, ensuring buoyancy, and the experience is positively womb-like. It goes without saying: this is not everyone’s cup of butter tea.Work up a Sweat: Cramming into a piping-hot room with two dozen other hot yoga practitioners and proceeding to strike a tree pose on slippery feet might be someone’s idea of hell. But hell is warm, after all, and that’s what we’re going for. It also makes a wondrous endorphin high when you step out of the heat after 90 minutes knowing you worked for your sweat. Outposts of Bikram and Moksha and others have proliferated almost as much as plain old lukewarm yoga. The Bikram’s at 43 Colborne St. is especially hot when musical theatre actor Paul McQuillan is leading the classes.
Rest up a Sweat: By this we mean places that are so hot and steamy, all you have to do is lie there and your skin will have a healthy glisten in under a minute. Spas and gyms across town offer your typical array of saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs. Then there’s the Spa Scandinave at Blue Mountain, which does a reasonable job of approximating an actual hot spring. We’re looking at you, Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W. Bonus: salsa dancing!). There are many more homages to a tropical, far-away home – from the North Indian comfort of Host (14 Prince Arthur Ave.), to the North African flavour of Walima Café (1450 Danforth Ave.). Sometimes quaint, sometimes cheesy, always inviting on a brisk night.Dress for the occasion: A windbreaker and a turned-up collar is a recipe for hypothermia from December to March. Get yourself a proper Arctic uniform of a Canada Goose parka and a sturdy pair of Sorels to insulate your central heating. Don’t forget the long johns. For a personal heat emergency, pick up some hand and foot warmers at Mountain Equipment Co-op (400 King St. W.). Just try not to overheat when you step back indoors.Overdressed: Ride the subway during rush hour or visit a food court in the PATH system at lunchtime. You’ll be longing for the sweet relief of outdoors.