All stories by Caroline Aksich

The Dish

Restaurants

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Civil Liberties brings cocktails, charcuterie and laid-back hospitality to Bloor and Ossington

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

This week marks the debut of Civil Liberties, a new speakeasy on Bloor West. Housed in a redbrick Edwardian just east of Ossington, the small bar is dotted with antiques, including a 110-year-old piano that may eventually become more than just a showpiece. (Co-owners Nick Kennedy, David Huynh and Cole Stanford are hoping to host live music acts in the space.) The trio, who worked together at Salt Wine Bar, is determined to make their new hangout as unfussy as possible. To that end, they’ve vetoed waiters, printed menus and complicated food items in favour of laid-back hospitality and simple snacks, like charcuterie boards and pâté-stuffed pastries. The drinks list is also pretty flexible—if patrons aren’t keen on the Prohibition-era cocktails scrawled on the blackboard, one of the bartenders will happily concoct something on the fly. Right now, they’re just happy to be opening their doors after a three-month-long renovation process, part of which involved sticking 14,000 pennies to the top of the bar. (Oddly, not the first time we’ve come across that particular decorative statement.)

Civil Liberties, 878 Bloor St. W., @CivLibTO

The Dish

The Ridiculist

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Seven daunting dumpling plates from Toronto’s new all-pierogi restaurant

loaded-pierogi-intro

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

At Loaded Pierogi, a soon-to-open snack shop near Church and Front streets (the grand debut is tomorrow, November 5), all plates start with a base of traditional potato pierogies, either boiled or fried. But that’s where tradition ends and innovation (or sacrilege, depending on your viewpoint) begins. The Eastern Euro dumplings are piled high with all kinds of peculiar toppings, like lobster chunks and hollandaise sauce, or an entire confit duck leg with gravy. Between the melted cheese and goopy sauces, there’s a poutine-ish ring to the whole thing—not that we’re complaining. Here are seven pierogi plates babcia never dreamed of, ranked from least to most unusual.

Loaded Pierogi, 9 1/2 Church St., 647-503-3338, loadedpierogi.com

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Queen Margherita, the new Neapolitan pizza parlour on Dundas West

Introducing: Queen Margherita Pizza

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Queen Margherita Pizza
Contact Info: 772 Dundas St. W., qmpizza.com
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: A paint store occupied the upper floor, while Hard Luck Bar called the basement home
Owners: John Chetti, Rocco Mazzaferro, Tom Mediati and Roberto Scala
Chef: Head chef John Galante creates and executes the menu with guidance from exec chef Jonathan Gushue (previously of Langdon Hall)

The Food: The menu is divided between snacks, starters and pizzas. For $38 you can sample the entire snack section, which includes prosciutto di Parma, cacciatore, olives and hunks of Parm. Familiar QMP starters (like the much-loved potenta with sausage) are joined by octopus carpaccio, ricotta-stuffed eggplant and other new additions. The wood-fired pizzas range from conventional (the namesake Margherita) to straight-up quirky (the “Roberto Scallopini AKA Birdman,” which is topped with kale, garlic aioli and toasted sunflower seeds).

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Schmaltz Appetizing, the Jewish fish shop behind Fat Pasha

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Schmaltz Appetizing
Contact Info: 414 Dupont St. (the carriage house behind Fat Pasha), 647-350-4261, schmaltzappetizing.com
Neighbourhood: The Annex
Previously: A kids’ store called Draw Me a Sheep (before that, it was Indian Rice Factory Chai Bar)
Owner: Anthony Rose, who also owns Fat Pasha, Rose and Sons, and Big Crow
Chef: Rose designed the menu, which is being executed by Drake alum Chris Kirn

The Food: An “appetizing” store is a Jewish food shop that sells fish, cream cheese and other foods commonly eaten with bagels. Schmaltz carries all the standard fishy toppings (smoked salmon, gravlax, gefilte fish), as well as some more exotic options, like salmon caviar, carp and smoked Acadian sturgeon. Most items can be ordered on a Kiva’s bagel, including $45 worth of American sturgeon caviar with sliced eggs and sour cream. (Less extravagant sandwiches run from $8 to $14). Fat Pasha’s Mediterranean salads round out the menu, along with a handful of traditional Jewish pastries.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Tinto Bar De Tapas, a bold new addition to Bayview Avenue

Introducing: Tinto

Name: Tinto Bar De Tapas
Contact Info: 1581 Bayview Ave., 416-485-1581, tintobardetapas.com
Neighbourhood: Leaside
Previously: The Mad Italian Gelato Bar
Owner: Nota Bene alumn Otta Zapotocky, who also owns L’Avenue bistro across the street
Chef: Robert Leonard, who previously worked at Lee and Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

The Food: “Everyone’s calling us Basque, but we’re not,” says owner Otta Zapotocky. He characterizes the food as a mix of French and Spanish, with a dash of Latin American. There are subtle Asian notes, too, like a starter of blistered shishito peppers and a soy-spiked baby octopus dish. Tapas options are divided between hot (chorizo mussels, bacon-wrapped dates, escargot) and cold (ceviche, carpaccio, charcuterie).

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Nuit Social, a new charcuterie bar on West Queen West

Introducing: Nuit Social

Name: Nuit Social
Contact Info: 1168 Queen St. W., 647-350-6848, nuitsocial.com
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Low-key snack bar Happy Child
Owner: Tino Bianchi
Chef: John Rosal, formerly the executive chef at Modus

The Food: The menu is divided between “social boards” (pick-your-own charcuterie, cheeses and olives) and “social plates” (shareable snacks). Meats and cheeses are sourced from all over the world—there’s soppressata from Richmond Hill, salami from Milan and a rosemary-rolled sheep’s cheese from Spain, plus a varied assortment of olives, including a Peruvian option. Traditional Italian plates (arancini balls, crispy artichokes, citrus-braised octopus) round out the menu, which will continue to evolve over time (for instance, chef Rosal is planning to add some Asian dishes, like maple-soy glazed short ribs).

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Essen, a new spot on Dundas West for brisket, smoked salmon and matzoh-ball ramen

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Essen
Contact Info: 1282 Dundas St. W., 416-534-0407, essentoronto.com
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: Quinta
Chef/Owner: Leor Zimerman, who closed his Portuguese-French bistro Quinta earlier this year and reopened the restaurant as Essen.

The Food: Essen serves the kind of food you would’ve eaten at home, if you’d been raised in a Jewish household with a French-trained chef for a mom. Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes are unfussy but prepared with care by Zimerman, who likes to tweak traditional Jewish staples (matzo ball soup gets a ramen makeover, for example). Though à-la-carte options are available, meals are designed to be eaten family style; Zimerman suggests ordering a main (beef brisket, roast Muscovy duck breast), a veg (tsimmis roast carrots, braised cabbage) and a side (duck fat fries, pearl couscous). Essen isn’t strictly kosher, but they don’t serve pork or shellfish, and meat and dairy never mix.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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The Sell: two Blue Jays–mad Thornhillers ditch the burbs for an apartment in the city

The Sell: two Blue Jays–mad Thornhillers ditch the burbs for an apartment in the city

The Sell: two Blue Jays–mad Thornhillers ditch the burbs for an apartment in the cityThe sellers: Michael Belz, a 49-year-old partner at Deloitte, and his wife, ­Melanie, a 45-year-old nutritionist.

The property: A four-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house on a ­Thornhill cul-de-sac.

The story: Michael and Melanie, both lifelong surburbanites, often trekked downtown to shop, eat and see the Jays (they attend at least 35 games a season). Last summer, with their elder son at Laurier and their younger one about to join him, they decided to give city living a try. Rather than leap straight into a condo purchase, they found a two-bedroom rental in the Heathview, a new apartment complex near St. Clair and ­Spadina. The only thing left to do was sell their Thornhill house, bought in 2007 for $810,000.

The prep: After a mammoth purge, Michael and Melanie tackled a five-page list of cosmetic fixes assigned by their realtor. But they refused to ­dismantle their Blue Jays shrine—a royal-blue room full of baseball ­memorabilia—which they roped off with velvet cordons for viewings.

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The Dish

The Ridiculist

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Ten mind-blowing baked goods on display at Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show

Eight bizarro baked goods at last weekend's Baking and Sweets show

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

The Wonut—a cross between a doughnut and a waffle—made its much-anticipated Toronto debut at last weekend’s Baking and Sweets Show, but it wasn’t the only eye-catching treat there. The Redpath-sponsored event (yes, the show was literally sponsored by sugar) united tons of the country’s most talented bakers and cake decorators, and some of their creations were truly incredible—weird, in many cases, but incredible. Here, ten awesome baked goods, ranked from least to most mind-blowing.

The Dish

Coffee and Tea

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A cute Scandinavian-style coffee shop joins the Junction’s café ranks

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

With seven cafes, a juice bar, a CrossFit gym and Diane Keaton visits, it’s safe to say the Junction is at gentrification capacity. Regardless, cafés and specialty shops keep popping up like mushrooms. Last week, Kim Samuelsen opened a one-room, Scandinavian-inspired coffee shop—named Kaffebar—after ditching her corporate financial consulting gig. A shiny La Marzocco espresso machine looms over the six-stool room, formerly a Harley-Davidson service centre. Pilot coffee and Tealish teas conform to the established indie café code; luckily, ubiquitous Circles and Squares baked goods are nowhere in sight—muffins, biscotti, cookies and cardamom-spiced cinnamon buns are all baked by Samuelsen in the little back kitchen.

Kaffebar, 2830 Dundas St. W., 647-388-0188

The Dish

The Ridiculist

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Seven totally bonkers burgers from a new patty shop in Woodbine Heights

Seven totally bonkers burgers from East York's newest patty shop

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Hole-E Burger Bar, a new restaurant on Coxwell Avenue just north of East York, gets its name from the trio of holes stamped into every patty cooked on the kitchen’s flattop. Owners Justin Lebofsky and Sam Gan claim that the perforations help ensure an even cook. Also, the tri-pronged contraption used to make the holes doubles as a flavour injector, allowing sauces to be piped directly into the meat. The ingenuity doesn’t stop there—these teetering stacks come topped with things like crushed nachos, mounds of mashed potatoes and, in a few cases, something called a “cheese skirt.” Here, seven of Hole-E’s most creative burgers, ranked from “slightly out-there” to totally bonkers.

Hole-E Burger Bar, 1050 Coxwell Ave., 647-349-9200, holeeburger.com

TIFF 2014

TIFF Spotted

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Spotted: Diane Keaton shopping for vintage furniture in The Junction

(Image: Firooz Zahedi via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image: Firooz Zahedi via Wikimedia Commons)

Diane Keaton appears to be redecorating. Last Saturday, she spent some time searching for vintage statement pieces in the Junction, which, according to the manager of Dundas West salvage shop Smash, had been recommended to Keaton as Toronto’s it hood for the design inclined. The Annie Hall star purchased a truckload of stuff at Smash, including pine hanging cupboards, vintage wooden crates, an oversize green enamel barn light and a library ladder, whose $300 twin is still for sale, should you want to channel Keaton in your home decor. Keaton capped off her shopping spree with a McCarthy-era sign that reads “Men at Work,” which she reportedly intends to hang on her son Duke’s bedroom door.

You can find where your favourite A-lister was spotted on our TIFF celebrity map. See someone famous around town yourself? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com, or tweet with the hashtag #TIFF14spotted.

TIFF 2014

TIFF Spotted

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Spotted: Adam Sandler eating short ribs at Hudson Kitchen on Dundas West

(Image: Kayla Rocca)

(Image: Kayla Rocca)

On Wednesday night, Adam Sandler showed up with 30 of his closest friends—well, okay, mostly just people who collaborated on his new flick The Cobbler—for dinner at Hudson Kitchen, the restaurant that hosted A-listers like Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Firth during last year’s TIFF. The Happy Gilmore star sported a DuWest-appropriate uniform of sneakers and plaid, and sat at a four-top with his mother, co-producer Allen Covert and co-star Ellen Barkin. As the meal came to a close, the gregarious group gave chef Robbie Hojilla a round of applause. Either they’re great actors or the miso-glazed short ribs really were that good.

You can find where your favourite A-lister was spotted on our TIFF celebrity map. See someone famous around town yourself? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com, or tweet with the hashtag #TIFF14spotted.

TIFF 2014

TIFF Spotted

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Spotted: Robert Pattinson at the Montecito lounge

(Image: Eva Rinaldi/Flickr)

(Image: Eva Rinaldi/Flickr)

On Tuesday night, Robert Pattinson showed up sans reservation at Montecito for a casual dinner with three non-celeb pals. The foursome left their security detail out front and occupied the upstairs lounge area, which was empty save for their table and a bartender. Since the star showed up 30 minutes after the debut screening of David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars began, we’re going to assume R. Patz pulled an Adam Driver and ditched the premiere. Stargazers might want to consider grabbing a cocktail at Ivan Reitman’s swanky lounge, since Montecito seems to be attracting more celebrities than the parties.

You can find where your favourite A-lister was spotted on our TIFF celebrity map. See someone famous around town yourself? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com, or tweet with the hashtag #TIFF14spotted.

TIFF 2014

TIFF Spotted

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Spotted: Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux eating cake on Queen West

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

After walking the red carpet for her new drama Cake on Sunday, Jennifer Aniston, flanked by fiancé Justin Theroux, met up with co-stars Sam Worthington and Adriana Barraza for a three-course meal at Queen West restaurant The Good Son, according to staff at cutesy boutique City of Craft, which is located right across the street. The intimate gathering ended, appropriately, with miniature gold-leaf-topped cakes.

You can find where your favourite A-lister was spotted on our TIFF celebrity map. See someone famous around town yourself? Let us know at tips@torontolife.com, or tweet with the hashtag #TIFF14spotted.

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