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For 25 years, Lori Morris has designed fantasy-inducing estates all over the world—a sprawling mountain lodge in Montana, an ancient house in Jerusalem, an oceanfront beach property on the Gulf of Mexico. The hectic, travel-heavy lifestyle made her crave a waterfront retreat of her own. Walking around her Etobicoke neighbourhood in 2003, she came across a terraced neo-Georgian row house on the lakefront and had to have it. Problem was, it wasn’t for sale. She waited five years for it to come on the market and scooped it up the moment it did. In February 2008 she took possession and got to work turning the 2,500-square-foot property into her own private escape. She was inspired by French châteaus she’d visited on buying trips and indulged herself with the same luxuries as her clients: custom furnishings; antiques collected from France, Italy and England; ornate chandeliers; and enough rococo gilding to make Marie Antoinette blanch. She also updated the look to satisfy her 21st-century tastes. She stripped the house down to the studs, added grand archways to open up the space and crowned the rooms with custom millwork she designed herself. The result is an over-the-top hideaway that serves as her own Petit Trianon in Mimico. Her favourite room is her bedroom—she calls the rest of the house “the long hallway to my bedroom.”
Ten years ago, it was yoga. Now, the voguish wellness crazy is meditation—tranquil, incense-fumed, cross-legged sessions that melt frantic millenial minds into a calmer state of being. The latest prescription for strung-out suits is a five-minute breathing session in a Bay Street boardroom turned ashram, or a 10-day silent retreat in a remote rural sanctuary. Here, an essential shopping list for serious serenity seekers.
Somewhere on the spectrum between Mexican fast food chains and hipster taco joints is Wilbur on King West. Diners order at the counter, grab bottles of Mexican cerveza (or craft sodas from a state-of-the-art fountain) and take a seat in a sleek room with floor-to-ceiling windows, subway tile and dark wood accents. There’s a self-serve hot sauce and salsa bar, with house-made condiments like a tart pineapple-habanero salsa—the perfect pairing for a grilled avocado taco layered with feta-like cotija cheese and a smoky-creamy chipotle crema. The pulled pork burrito is dry and under-salted, but grilled Mexican street corn smothered in more crema and cotija is a savoury-sweet winner. No desserts.
Barnboard and burlap give Parlor a cottagey feel. On the menu are the hallmarks of modern Canadian cuisine: maple syrup, smoked salmon and pickerel, and local wines, small-batch spirits and craft beers. Onion tots, served piping hot from the fryer, are crunchy but filled with overly sweet caramelized onions. The accompanying aioli with sumac, coriander and scapes is good, but it can’t save the tots. Lobster carbonara brings perfectly poached claw meat, guanciale and rich egg yolk atop slightly claggy fettuccine. The butter tart brings a small mason jar of undercooked custard and two freshly baked shortbread cookies in place of a crust—it doesn’t work all that well. Instead, opt for buttery apple strudels topped with odd-yet-delicious cheddar ice cream.
Of the many new wave Thai places to open in the last year, this diminutive spot, run by Khao San Road’s gregarious chef-owner Monte Wan, hits the most food stall-by-the-side-of-a-road notes, between the cobblestone floor, red plastic stools, and cases of Chang beer by the door. A line forms early, such is the appetite for Wan’s studiously authentic regional food, which ping-pongs between addictively greasy kitsch (thin noodles with tofu and hot dog chunks fried until they open like pink pork florets) and dizzyingly complex combinations of texture and taste (the khao soi, a rich coconut curry with egg noodles, bean sprouts and slices of chicken). Servers deliver a fulsome selection of fresh chili, chili flakes and hot sauce to your table, in case the already building heat isn’t adequate. To cool down, the bar makes trendily frothy cocktails, like a rum and coconut milk concoction perfumed with lemongrass.
The new casual Italian restaurant in CityPlace’s condo village is the latest project from Toronto’s resto-lounge titan Hanif Harji, who hired chef Ben Heaton fresh off the closing of his critically celebrated—though frequently empty Dundas West Brit pub—The Grove. The place has a posh party vibe, with approximately 20 beaded boudoir chandeliers, black leather banquettes and an affluent condo crowd who seems eager to let loose with ice buckets full of Prosecco and tables crowded with high-priced pizza. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The rustic-meets-industrial decor of this new, massive King West spot will be familiar to those who’ve sampled the city’s trendiest Italian spots, as will the enthusiastic, accented service. Cranked prices reflect the fashion-conscious clientele (Liberty Villagers and King West nightlifers) who arrive in droves. The expert technique of ex-Terroni executive chef Luca Stracquadanio and his kitchen team is highlighted in nearly every intricately presented dish. Lemon and olive drizzle tops lightly smoked, buttery soft swordfish, punctuated with bright and punchy marinated anchovies. It’s a must-order. Gnocchi, prepared with squid ink and served with a generous helping of sweet lobster, are good, if a little doughy. A wood-oven pizza topped with mortadella meets the city’s unusually high standard for Napolitana-style pie. A rabbit secondo really showcases Stracquadanio’s skill, with the meat first cooked sous vide, then rolled with porcini and speck, grilled and served on a cauliflower puree. The wine list offers more than 150 bottles.
With Chantecler, Jonathan Poon proved he could make an ambitious restaurant work in down-and-out Parkdale. His latest project is comparatively easy: a casual snack and drinks place, reached down an alley, smack in the middle of the Queen West bachelorette party district. It’s casual in the extreme: tables are small and closely packed, baseball capped servers crank the volume on Young Americans, and there’s not a mixologist for miles (the drinks list is, for this ’hood, impressively cheap and limited to bar rail and microbrews). Food comes on melamine plates but is coyly posh: smoky shaved ham shoulder and extra-old cheddar with crusty bread, slices of royal gala and a dipping pot of flowery honey; minerally malpeques with a Vietnamese-inspired sauce; and deep fried chicken in a thin, five-spiced batter. His chicken wings, coated with a Szechuan numbing salt that builds with each bite until your mouth burns like a five alarm fire, seems like a cruel joke on the street’s punters.
Jay Carter spent a decade cooking under Susur and two years as exec chef at Centro before striking out on his own. His dad helped renovate a former bar into a cramped but elegantly understated room of polished concrete, softly lit marble tables, and exposed heritage brick that shows the ghostly traces of long-gone beams and staircases. His first menu is only nine items long and betrays a Scandinavian influence, like a salad of smoked trout, oniony cream, dill, microgreens and salty pops of roe, or cubes of confit chicken under a crunchy blanket of toasted rye. Not all of his experiments succeed: a daily special of white fish is perfectly poached but overpowered by a zealous dusting of smoked paprika. Orange zest and a puddle of crème fraiche elevates a humble walnut tea cake into the sublime.
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1 At Fika, his Scandinavian-style café in Kensington Market, Splendido chef Victor Barry makes the city’s sweetest scones, with cranberries studded throughout and Swedish Dansukker sugar across the golden top. $3. 28 Kensington Ave., fika.ca.
Our favourite stinky, small-batch works of art
1 Margaret Peters of Glengarry Fine Cheese makes Lankaaster, a firm, buttery gouda-style cow’s milk cheese that took top prize at the Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, England, in 2013. $6.50 for 100 grams. Cheese Boutique, 45 Ripley Ave., 416-762-6292.
A private school kid gone bad, the night Sammy Yatim died, and how tiny condos became the new family home—here are our most-read features this year
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