All stories by Courtney Shea
Torontonians are spoiled by luxury—an inevitable side effect of living in a city where you can book a private chopper to Georgian Bay, nibble on sustainable sturgeon caviar and moisturize with 24 karat gold–flecked lotions. In the past year, however, the city has truly outdone itself, supplying the kinds of outlandish foods, amenities and products that would astonish even the most pampered urbanite. Our team of seen-it-all critics gorged on ornately plated desserts, scoured fashion trucks and baby boutiques, and subjected their bodies to aggressive Russian bamboo massages, all in the quest to bring you this, our annual roundup of Toronto’s best of absolutely everything.
Rock ’n’ Horse Saloon
250 Adelaide St. W., 647-344-1234
A night at Rock ’n’ Horse Saloon feels like a scene from Footloose: line dancers tap steel-toed boots to Brooks and Dunn, bartenders in 10-gallon hats pour beers, and a rotating slate of heart-on-sleeve country crooners twang their guitars on stage. The bar’s most gimmicky (and awesome) attraction is a mechanical bull that thrashes, bucks and throws riders into a pit of blessedly soft padding—an indignity best cured with another shot of Knob Creek. For saddle-shy spectators, the bull-riding competition on Tuesdays is better than Netflix.
267 Niagara St., 416-745-5656
Homeowners like LEDs because they reduce energy bills; designers like that their slim profile and low operating temperature make unconventional forms possible. At Lightform’s showroom on Niagara, boundary-pushing options range from an Ares light shaped like a giant bulb to a polished aluminum bar by Philippe Starck. The most arresting of the lot: designer Ron Gilad’s series of ring-shaped tubes, which appear to pierce the walls like hooped earrings.
81 Harbord St., 416-477-2361
In a narrow white room, chef-owner Yasu Ouchi delivers glistening sushi, one piece at a time, to 10 guests seated at a marble-topped bar. Yasu is the city’s first sushi-only omakase restaurant, and as at other tasting menu–driven spots, you give yourself over to the chef’s whims. Ouchi and his one sous bring Jiro-like fanaticism to the 20-course experience, offering fresh cuts of fish and shellfish draped over perfectly seasoned rice. One night he served up a plump scallop lightly torched for sweetness and dressed with yuzu vinaigrette, then mackerel with pickled radish and scallion, then salty, foie gras–like monkfish liver with a julienne of shiso leaf. And on and on and on. Seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., reservations a must. $80 per person.
When hip-hop and NBA stars want a good time, they call party queen Mona Halem. Inside a decadent world of $700 champagne, secret guest lists and hordes of beautiful women
On a Monday night last August, half the hip-hop world showed up unannounced in Toronto: Lil Wayne, P. Diddy, Kanye West, Big Sean, French Montana, Mase, TLC. All had agreed to perform as surprise guests at Drake’s annual concert, OVO Fest, which, like all things Drake, has become wildly successful. The ability to produce a roster of acts that reads like a fantasy Grammy lineup speaks to Drake’s clout, but the secrecy involved presented a practical problem: with no advance notice, nobody had organized an after-party. For this group of career ballers, it was a rare case of all blinged out and nowhere to go. Even Drizzy, who lives in Toronto for at least part of the year, was at a loss. Then someone suggested the obvious: call Mona.
Jian Ghomeshi’s climb to the top of the CBC required plenty of ambition, glad-handing, star-chasing, stubble maintenance and serial dating, plus a couple of workplace meltdowns
One day, roughly five years ago, Jian Ghomeshi got a severe headache and felt sharp pains in his chest. “I thought I must have a brain tumour or be experiencing a heart attack—that I must be dying,” he says now. A few days later, he started to feel dizzy, had trouble breathing and headed for the nearest emergency room. The doctor took note of his symptoms and asked if he’d done any coke (he hadn’t). It turned out to be a panic attack, and he was eventually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. He now visits a midtown psychologist once a week. When the demands of hosting Q, Ghomeshi’s CBC radio show, don’t allow him to leave the office, he and his shrink talk over Skype. The sessions help him cope. “I’ve worked through a lot,” he says. “Feeling like an outsider because of my Iranian background, trust issues. A lot of not feeling good enough.”
Q&A: departing National Post columnist Shinan Govani on life with the city’s glitter girls and power players
After 12 years and 6,623 parties, Toronto’s gossip guy of record is parting ways with the National Post. Here, Shinan Govani dishes on on his favourite celeb encounter, why Toronto could totally support a Real Housewives series and whether he’s ever puked into Hilary Weston’s shoes* (*he has not)
You have met innumerable celebs on the job—who sticks out as being the most amazing?
It was pretty groovy when I went to a little party a few years ago and Liza Minnelli sang in my face. There are probably a lot of more au courant movie stars I could name, but…
More au courant than Liza!?
Ha! But really, she was more than a star. She is so iconic—it was like the Eiffel Tower coming to life.
The Toronto “scene” is sort of it’s own beast, wouldn’t you say?
Yes, though there’s been sort of a flat-lining of the things that distinguish one large metropolis from another. Everyone watches the same media and gets information at the same time. Today some kid in his basement in Ajax can see the same things they’re seeing at Milan Fashion Week. This globalization has led to a more acute sense of strutting and peacocking here in Toronto.
But aren’t we a little more reserved here? People say the Real Housewives franchise wouldn’t work in Toronto because our rich people here are so discrete in terms of dirty laundry.
I don’t really buy that. Nobody had heard of Bethenny Frankel or Countess LuAnn before the Real Housewives turned them into stars. It’s not like actual high society types are doing that show in any city and I think it’s overly pious to think that ambitious star fuckery doesn’t exist here. It does.
Penguin suit? Fuggedaboutit. Mark Wahlberg attended the hyper exclusive InStyle/HFPA party at the Windsor Arms last night, and while many of his Hollywood cohorts sported predictably elegant duds, Marky Mark kept it casual in a Nike T-shirt and jeans. The every-dude duds probably had something to do with Wahlberg’s TIFF agenda: hawking the new Toronto location of his burger chain Wahlburger at the Soho Metropolitan on Wellington.
TIFF Party: Webers burgers, foul language and a charitable dunking at the star-studded APJ fundraiser
A hodgepodge of Hollywood elites and local royalty gathered at the Forest Hill home of Michael Budman and Diane Bald (otherwise known as Mr. and Mrs. Roots) for yesterday’s fundraiser for Artists for Peace and Justice, Paul Haggis’s charity for impoverished children in Haiti. To accommodate the concert-meets-cocktail-party-meets-live-auction format, the backyard was transformed into the champagne-and-caviar version of the Molson Amphitheatre: a sprawling concert stage, dozens of food stations and a grassy hill where guests soaked up the perfect sunny weather (apparently Budman even has ins with God). Rufus Wainright and Michael Bolton were the headliners, while A-listers like Colin Firth, Maria Bello, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde and Jason Sedeikus posed for pics with adoring fans. Here, a handful of highlights from the star-studded bash. Read the rest of this entry »
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Where was Liam Hemsworth when on-again, off-again fiancée Miley Cyrus released her super-NSFW music video for “Wrecking Ball”? The answer: here in Toronto, supporting big bro Chris Hemsworth, whose movie Rush deputed yesterday at Roy Thomson Hall. It was a full-on family affair for the lookalike uber-hunks, who hung with mom, dad and older brother Luke at the Rush after-party on the Thompson Hotel rooftop. Later, the Aussie clan swung by the Worldview party at King West pop-up Live at the Hive, where Reese Witherspoon held court along with an impressive mish-mash of Hollywood elites, including Taylor Kitsch, Cindy Lauper, Harvey Weinstein and Eli Roth. The Hemsworth crew hung well into the wee hours. No word if anyone dared twerk in their presence.
TIFF Party: Keira Knightley dazzles and Adam Levine slams vodka shots at the after-party for Can A Song Save Your Life?
Some stars disappoint in real life. Not so with Keira Knightley, whose light-bulb luminosity is the kind that chemical peels and potions just can’t buy (not that we’re bitter or anything). The human swan glided into King West resto-lounge Patria last night to celebrate the screening of her new film, Can A Song Save Your Life? Sporting a dreamy watercolour frock by London designer Mary Katrantzou, she joined co-star Adam Levine (the latest graduate from the Justin Timberlake School of How to Transition from Boy Bander to Serious Thespy) in an outdoor booth, where Knightley sipped a black cherry cocktail and Mr. Maroon 5 went the rock-star route: vodka shots!! Despite the slamming music (note to TIFF DJs: when in doubt, play Michael Jackson), Levine left without breaking out a single move like Jagger. Maybe next time. Read the rest of this entry »
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TIFF Party: Nicole Kidman holds court and Colin Firth is downright dashing at The Railway Man after-party
Sure, confirming that Colin Firth is dashing doesn’t exactly rank high on the revelatory scale (in other news, the sky is blue, tiny tacos are delicious). But still, the man is as dashing, maybe even more dashing, than all of us Mr. Darcy fans ever expected him to be at the after-party for the TIFF screening of his new movie The Railway Man, held at the Live at the Hive on King West and hosted by Moet and Chandon, one of the 2013 film fest’s buzziest party locations (bee pun intended!). Read the rest of this entry »
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