All stories by Emily Landau

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Must-Try: junky movie snacks get an elegant upgrade at Richmond Station

(Image: Jackie Pal)

(Image: Jackie Pal)

No one has more fun in the kitchen than Farzam Fallah, the wildly inventive pastry chef at the Financial District hangout Richmond Station. To wit: the cryptically named Movie Snacks dessert, which turns out to be a quenelle of crunchy, buttery popcorn-rippled ice cream surrounded by weightless Coca Cola meringue, sticky almond brittle, fudgy chocolate cake and a tart cranberry-Pernod purée that tastes uncannily of Twizzlers. Like all Fallah’s plates, it comes arranged like an artful crime scene, splayed with pools, smears and crumbles that blend into a superfecta of salty, sweet, spicy and tangy. The dish is a refined riff on those nostalgic, junky flavours—yet somehow cheaper than a Cineplex Combo. $9.

Richmond Station, 1 Richmond St. W., 647-748-1444

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Features

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In Lurv With Lainey: Elaine Lui’s rise to the top of the gossip pantheon

Elaine Lui became one of the world’s most influential celebrity gossips by exhibiting a bratty disregard for the pieties of showbiz. What happens now that she’s nearly as famous as the stars she skewers?

In Lurv With Lainey: Elaine Lui's rise to the top of the gossip pantheon

Elaine Lui, who has cultivated a vast network of Hollywood sources, claims she’s never paid for a tip

Elaine Lui is 40 but has the bearing of a 16-year-old, boundless and brash, her body language filled with aggressive eye rolls, giggles and wild gesticulation. Sitting in a green room at the CTV studios on Queen West, writing a post for her blog, ­LaineyGossip, she takes a long drag from her e-cigarette, a bejewelled bauble that looks like a tube of lip gloss and emits a trail of vanilla-scented vapour. Then she resumes clacking away at her keyboard. It’s a busy day for Lui. The Golden Globe nominations have just been announced, and she’s struggling to keep up with the ­Sisyphean celebrity news cycle. In an hour, she’s scheduled to shoot an episode of her daytime talk show, The Social, and tape interviews to be banked for eTalk and CP24. She takes another hit from the e-cig as her stylist douses her with hairspray, engulfing Lui in a toxic cloud of chemicals.

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The Informer

Culture

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Sondra Radvanovsky’s current obsessions: five things the superstar soprano is loving right now

Sondra Radvanovsky's current obsessions: five things the superstar soprano is loving right now

Technically, the virtuosic Verdi soprano lives in Caledon, but she spends 10 months of the year travelling to the Met, La Scala and the Paris Opera. In April, she’ll sing in Toronto for the first time in four years, making her debut in the role of the aging, angry Queen Elizabeth I in the COC’s production of Roberto Devereux, an opera by the Italian composer—and Verdi progenitor—Gaetano Donizetti. We asked Radvanovsky what’s inspiring her, culturally speaking, outside the opera house.

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The Informer

Politics

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Six things we learned from Olivia Chow’s new autobiography, My Journey

(Image: Olivia Chow/Facebook)

(Image: Olivia Chow/Facebook)

The best way to declare your mayoral candidacy without actually declaring it? Write a political memoir. My Journey, the new autobiography from Toronto MP Olivia Chow, doubles as a campaign pamphlet, articulating her key issues—women and children’s rights, the environment, immigration—and recounting her very public personal life with late husband Jack Layton. Much of it covers familiar territory, but Chow manages to drop in a few genuine surprises along the way. Here, the most tantalizing tidbits.

1. Chow came from a troubled family
While she was growing up in Hong Kong, Chow’s father, Wai Sun Chow, used to beat her mother and brother regularly. Olivia, the favourite, was spared, but almost hit her father with a lamp once to protect her mother. Wai Sun also kept a second household, with another woman and a daughter Chow’s age. When Chow’s family got to Toronto, Wai Sun suffered a nervous breakdown and was temporarily committed to a psychiatric ward.

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Features

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Mommy Porn Goes Global: with 50 Shades of Grey and Gabriel’s Inferno, BDSM-tinged bodice-rippers are changing the way we read

Mommy Porn Goes Global: with 50 Shades of Grey and Gabriel's Inferno, BDSM-tinged bodice-rippers are changing the way we read

In September 2009, a serialized novel called The University of Edward Masen debuted on Twilighted, an online fan fiction forum devoted to the teen fantasy franchise. The author, an unknown Toronto writer who goes by the frilly pseudonym Sylvain Reynard, had airlifted Twilight’s two main characters—the moody, marble-jawed vampire Edward and his timorous teen girlfriend, Bella—into the department of Italian studies at the ­University of Toronto. He reimagined Edward as a brooding Dante professor and Bella as his mousy grad student, and transformed their chaste YA courtship into an X-rated affair. It was a bizarre premise, but the novel became a fan fiction phenomenon, garnering more than a million hits.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Flavour of the Month: The holiday season’s eight best sweet treats

Flavour of the Month: The holiday season's eight best sweet treats

Christmas cookies make fun party snacks and charming gifts, but not everyone’s cut out to be a baker. With Toronto’s pool of professional talent, it’s easy to throw together a slaved-all-day style cookie spread without breaking out the mixer. Here, eight holiday treats that are scrumptious and readymade—not that anyone has to know.

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Must-Try

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Must-Try: Rhum Corner’s surprisingly autumnal sno-cone

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Jen Agg, best known for her eye-glazing bourbon cocktails at The Black Hoof, has switched liquors at Rhum Corner, her new Haitian spot next door. The place is styled like a Port-au-Prince patio, with lights strung across the ceiling, Jimmy Buffett on the boombox and a short, rum-centric drinks list. Our favourite is the Fresco, a blend of Wray and Nephew rum, pomegranate juice and falernum (a traditional Caribbean syrup made from cloves, ginger and lime), all poured over a mountain of crushed ice and served in a chilled pewter mug. The drink is an ingenious hot-cold hybrid that delivers fruity sweetness, core-warming spice and a Sno-Coney texture. Sipped in the summery room on a cold night, it’s just about perfect. $10.

Rhum Corner, 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356, rhumcorner.com

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Culture

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Edward Burtynsky shares the stories behind his giant new photographs of dams, wells and other drippy things

Rice terraces in Western Yunnan Province, China, 2012

(Image: © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto/Howard Greenberg and Bryce Wolkowitz, New York)

Edward Burtynsky: Water 
Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W.
To October 12

For Edward Burtynsky, bigger is always better. The Toronto photographer has shot vast Carrara quarries in Italy, collapsing factory ruins in China and cavernous mines in Australia. For his gallery shows, he blows up his photos as large as the Bayeux Tapestry, magnifying each speck, crag and shadow. It’s an approach that’s earned him international stardom—his photos hang in the Tate, the MoMA and the Guggenheim, and sell for as much as $40,000 apiece.

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Features

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The Real World: how Toronto is cashing in on the reality TV boom

Reality television is booming in Toronto; nearly 100 shows are made here every year—some of them drawing more viewers than (gasp) hockey. Call it an affront to good taste or appointment TV, it’s the future of Canadian entertainment

The Real World
Every Wednesday last fall, a friend of mine invited a bunch of us over to her Front Street apartment to watch The Bachelor Canada. The star was Brad Smith, a broad-shouldered himbo tasked with choosing a wife from a harem of 25 tanned, bleach-toothed beauties, including a former Playboy bunny and a Miss Universe contestant. We rated the questionable appeal of the contenders and cringed as they performed awkward cabaret routines or competed in lumber­jack competitions to prove their marriage potential. During the solemn rose ceremonies, when Brad sent home our favourites, we shouted expletives at the TV. My friend also hosts parties for a handful of other reality series. We consume these shows the way sports fans watch Leafs games—screaming “Oh my god!” in glorious, cathartic unison.

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The Dish

Must-Try

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Must-Try: spicy tuna ceviche to swoon over at Bent

Must-Try: spicy-sweet ceviche to swoon over at Bent

(Image: Michael Graydon)

Ceviche is usurping sushi and sashimi as the raw fish dish du jour. At Bent on Dundas West, Susur Lee marinates tidy blocks of tuna and watermelon in lime, cilantro and rocoto chilies (a couple of notches hotter than jalapeños). On top, he sprinkles scallions, basil, nasturtium leaves and crunchy croutons made of youtiao, the Chinese equivalent of churros. It’s a dish best enjoyed one cube at a time: chili-blazed tuna followed by a sweet watermelon chaser. 777 Dundas St. W., 647-352-0092.

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Must-try: The Grove’s chilled pea soup packs a sweet, herbaceous punch

The Grove Pea Soup

(Image: Renée Suen)

For a few short months at The Grove, Ben Heaton does magical things with simple, peak-season peas. On the current menu, he blends them into a weightless emerald froth and pours it tableside over tangy pickled rhubarb and coral slabs of poached lobster. On top, he sprinkles tart sorrel leaves and fragrant purple violets plucked from the restaurant’s rooftop garden. Each spoonful is light, fresh and herbaceous, like the sweetest-smelling summer nights. And, like summer, you should enjoy it while you can. Available on prix fixe menus, from $45.

The Grove, 1214 Dundas St. W., 416-588-2299

The Dish

Features

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Field Guide: a handy glossary for identifying the foraged weeds and seeds on Toronto menus

Field Guide: a handy glossary for identifying the foraged weeds and seeds on Toronto menus

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The Dish

Features

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Hinterland Who’s Who: the Canadians who farm, fish and forage the food on your plate

Wild Things: a who's who of Canadian foragers, fishers and farmers

(Image: Anya Chibis)

Paul Tobias, Freelance Forager
When Paul Tobias was growing up in the Philippines, he spent hours picking water spinach and yams on his great grand­father’s rice farm. He moved to Scarborough when he was 12 and spent his weekends foraging in the Morningside woods for berries. Since then, Tobias has turned his pastime into a profitable gig by word of mouth (he’s an un-Googlable enigma) with a client list that includes Yours Truly, Chantecler, Ursa, The Harbord Room and Nota Bene. On picking days, he sets out at dawn for the Niagara Escarpment, where he wades through swamps, hunting for cattail hearts. The biggest thrill comes when he finds a patch of morels, rare fungal unicorns, since they never show up in the same place twice—kind of like Tobias.


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Restaurants

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Flavour of the Year: five desserts with a delicious, savoury twist

Dessert has gone savoury with celery on ice cream, marrow in pudding and parsnips with pastry. Here, five salty-sweet ways to finish a meal.

Flavour Craze: Bitter Sweets

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Flavour of the Year: Five twisted takes on steak tartare

The steak house app has gotten freaky lately, with everything from raw beef heart to pine bark and elderberry mustard. Here, the top five.

Flavour Craze: Twisted Tartares

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