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Dear Urban Diplomat: what’s the proper dinner-guest etiquette for Ramadan?

Dear Urban Diplomat: what's the proper dinner-guest etiquette for Ramadan?

(Image: Rebecca Winzenried/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My wife and I were asked to a dinner party by some neighbours. The invite said 7 p.m., but it will be during Ramadan, when we can’t eat or have a drink until after sunset—so around 9 p.m. I mentioned this, and they said to just come along and they’ll serve dinner late. We don’t want to be the recipients of sideways glances from famished, clock-watching guests all evening. Should we decline, go over after 9 p.m., or what?

—Unfashionably Late, Upper Beach

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Features

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Murder in Muskoka

For three years, Ian Borbely told everyone that his girlfriend, Samantha Collins, had abandoned him and their young son. Then a cottager found a mysterious crate hidden beneath his floorboards

Murder in Muskoka

Murder in MuskokaSamantha Collins met Ian Borbely at a mutual friend’s party in 2003. They came from different worlds. She was 25 and striking, with long black hair and fair skin. She’d been raised by a single mom in Mississauga and never knew her father. She got pregnant in high school, dropped out and gave up custody of her baby. After that, she started selling drugs and working as a stripper at a club near Pearson to earn a living. ­Borbely was three years ­older, a body­builder from Bracebridge, the son of ­doting ­middle-class parents. His friends describe him as a gentle ­teddy bear—the nicest guy in the room. He’d moved to ­Toronto to work as a personal trainer, taking a fence-building gig on the side. He was attracted to Collins, and after that first hookup he invited her to move into his place.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Cold Arts: 10 next-level ice creams and sorbets

Chefs are taking house-made ice creams and sorbets to new heights, goosing them with herbs, spices and savoury flavours to wildly delicious effect. Here, our picks for the city’s top 10 frozen desserts.

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The Informer

Politics

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Q&A: Kathleen Wynne on PDAs, whether she’s pissed at Dalton McGuinty, and jogging, of course

Premier Kathleen Wynne captured enough seats to do just about anything she wants. Revelations, prognostications and a little trash talk from Ontario’s most powerful person

Q&A: Kathleen Wynne on PDAs, whether she's pissed at Dalton McGuinty, and jogging, of course
Q&A: Kathleen Wynne on PDAs, whether she's pissed at Dalton McGuinty, and jogging, of course

Scandals coming out your ears, an electorate that can be hostile to Liberals and lesbians, and you win in a landslide. What in the blazes happened?
We were optimistic, and our big ideas—infrastructure investment, a retirement pension plan and a regional transit strategy—resonated with Ontarians.

Hudak’s platform—“I can’t do math and I’ll fire you”—probably didn’t hurt. How good did it feel to trounce him to the point of resignation?
I know Tim as a dad and neighbour. He had a very rough night, and I don’t take any pleasure from his personal pain.

Yet you’re not dropping your slander lawsuit, which seems like kicking a guy when he’s down. Under what circumstances would you relent?
When he issues an apology and a retraction.

Horwath: where did she go wrong?
She didn’t have a plan. Frankly, I was surprised at her lack of preparedness.

Who would you rather have a beer with?
I’d have a cup of tea—rooibos is my favourite of late—with either one.

The public doesn’t know much about the province’s first lady. How would you describe Jane Rounthwaite?
As far as our political life goes, I’d say she’s organized, determined and practical. At home, I’d describe her as funny, sardonic and a person of substance.

You hugged but didn’t kiss Jane when you pulled her up onstage during your victory speech. Do you have an agreement about PDA?
We didn’t discuss it beforehand. Over the years we’ve developed our own way of being together in public. Ours is an inclusive, accepting province, but Ontarians—whether they’re hetero­sexual, homosexual or other—have different degrees of comfort. We want to respect that.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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What $1 million will get you in Toronto today

Want one of these ho-hum houses? You’ll need seven figures and a stiff drink

In mid-April, for the first time ever, the average selling price for a detached home in Toronto nudged, just briefly, over the million-dollar mark—a surge of 19 per cent over last year. You might argue that the number is an arbitrary data point on a line graph sloping skyward. It’s not. To hopeful house hunters, seven figures is a ­chasmic mental leap and a devastating reminder of the near impossibility of owning four unshared walls in this city. Just a few years ago, the mid- to low-$800s were territory for the excessively affluent or certifiable; today that’s considered a steal. The $900s, given a long amortization and a diet of rice and lemon water, have become tolerable, too. Welcome to the millies, the new new stratum of absurdity.

The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I get my boyfriend off my sports team?

Urban Diplomat: Ultimately Embarrassed

(Image: Nathan Rupert/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
After dating this great guy for three months, I invited him to join my ultimate team. Turns out he’s the John McEnroe of Frisbee. He makes terrible calls and then argues with the opposing players for what seems like forever. He’s lovely otherwise, and I don’t want to stop dating him. How do I jettison him from the team without deep-sixing our relationship?

—Ultimately Embarrassed, Chinatown

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Culture

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Monster Mash

On Guillermo del Toro’s gruesome horror series The Strain, vampires are the new bioterrorists

Monster Mash

A panel from The Strain’s graphic novel edition (Illustration courtesy of Dark Horse Comics)

The vampires on the new series The Strain are a novel breed. When they’re changed, their hair falls out. Their skin turns a vomitous shade of greenish-grey. Their veins fill with white slime. Instead of growing retractable fangs, they get a stinger—a huge, Alien-esque proboscis that shoots sticky, worm-infested bile into all mortals in its path, draining the victims’ blood and infecting them with a virus that mutates their genes. The show’s radical revision of vampire mythology (and physiology) subverts everything we’ve come to know and love about the pop culture anti-heroes. These vamps aren’t brooding, studly teens. They don’t leap through trees. They’re not lustful de­flowerers of virgins. Where Twilight describes its vampires as “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful,” The Strain turns them into indistinguishable drones. Instead of glamouring humans, they’re terrorizing us.

The ghastly creatures—recently seen prowling through Toronto’s downtown core while the show shot its first season here last spring—are the latest in a string of new monsters invading the small screen. Most of these horror series tap into archetypes that have fuelled the genre for eons: the savage cannibal in Hannibal, the Victorian demons in Penny Dreadful, the serial killer in Bates Motel, the asylum patients and witches in American Horror Story.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Fine China: Susur Lee’s Luckee is a crowd-pleasing slam dunk

For his new dim sum hot spot, Luckee, Susur Lee scaled back his signature esoteric fusion in favour of good old-fashioned Chinese food

Fine China

Clockwise: Luckee’s glowing sign is a beacon on this sleepy block of Wellington; Luckee was designed to evoke an old Chinese drugstore, with tiled floors and apothecary cabinets; Diners can perch on red lacquered stools and watch Susur at work in Luckee’s open-concept dim sum kitchen

Luckee 2 star
328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-0400
Luckee 2 star
328 Wellington St. W., 416-935-0400

As weekend rituals go, the leisurely dim sum pig-out is hard to beat. I’ve chop-sticked my way through the encyclopedic menus of Markham strip mall banquet palaces, waited for a table with a lake view at Queen’s Quay Terminal’s Pearl, and arrived underdressed for the crystal chandelier and gold leaf Versailles that is Crown Princess on Bay. For years, I had a standing appointment with a group of old friends at Spadina’s suspiciously cheap Bright Pearl, before it closed in a cloud of steam carts and rumours of sanitation violations. Dim sum is the best cure I’ve found for a hangover—all those greasy dumplings and watery pots of steaming tea, and everyone too busy ­grazing to keep up a serious conversation. In general, I’m not too fussy about where I go—at reputable spots, one siu mai is as springy as the next. I mostly measure the quality of a dim sum place by how frequently the grannies (and they’re always grannies—it must be a law) circle your table with their trolleys.

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The Informer

Features

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David Mirvish on the Edge

David Mirvish wants to dismantle his famous father’s empire to build two giant Frank Gehry towers and a gallery for his personal art collection. He thought Toronto would be grateful. He was wrong. A behind-the-scenes story of mega-monuments and monumental egos

David Mirvish on the Edge

At the end of 2011, David Mirvish was itching for a new venture. He wanted to take on something grand, something unprecedented, a legacy project that would bring together his twin passions: business and art. He wanted to build the greatest piece of architecture Toronto had ever seen.

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The Informer

Culture

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Women on the Verge

In his new book, Seconds, graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley tackles the latest pop culture archetype: the successful, single hapless heroine

The Argument: Women on the Verge

(Image courtesy of Random House)

At a moment of unprecedented female success, when women run mega-­companies like Facebook, Yahoo and GM, the funhouse mirror of pop culture is reflecting a new image: the intelligent, talented, capable, well-respected spaz. Liz Lemon was one of the first. She blerged her way through seven seasons of discombobulated bossdom on 30 Rock. The lovably delusional Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation soon followed, along with the accident-prone, man-crazy ob-gyn Mindy Lahiri of The Mindy Project, and the narcissistic, OCD-twitching ­Hannah Horvath of Girls. Even Mad Men’s Peggy Olson, who ­shatters glass ceilings in plaid pants, seems to have become a 21st-­century punchline of pratfalls and gloomy masturbation.

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Features

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Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: our sixth annual reminder of why we love it here

Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: our sixth annual reminder of why we love it here

(Photograph by Daniel Neuhaus)

Election years have a way of reminding us what we love about our city. Whatever you think of our punchline of a mayor, there’s no denying the energy of the booming downtown, the world-renowned food and the renewed swagger of the Raptors…. Some of us are so proud of our hometown, we permanently tattoo our Toronto-love onto our bodies. We could go on and on about what we love. In fact, we did.

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People

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Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #6. Because Ian Nordheimer Believes We Can Handle the Truth

Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #6. Because Ian Nordheimer Believes We Can Handle the Truth

(Illustration: Ryan Inzana)

In the nervous run-up to a big criminal trial, the courts now almost reflexively order publication bans. The knee-jerk worry: media coverage will poison the jury pool. Which is why we were so impressed when Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer unsealed warrants in the police case against accused extortionist and Rob Ford sidekick ­Sandro Lisi. Lisi’s trial isn’t anticipated until next year, but in the meantime, as a result of ­Nordheimer’s ruling, we are afforded a window into surreptitious late-night meetings between Lisi and Ford, the handover of suspicious packages in a gas station parking lot, and Lisi’s penchant for issuing threats to anyone who crosses him or his good buddy. Nordheimer believes that juries, properly instructed, can render verdicts based on the evidence (trust in juries, after all, is the basis of our legal system), and that the Internet has rendered such bans pointless. Most importantly, though, is the value he puts on the public’s right to know. His simple justification for the sweeping release: “We are dealing with the actions of the duly elected mayor of the country’s largest city…it is hard to conceive of a matter that would be of more importance to the public interest.”

The Informer

Culture

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Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #8. Because Claire Danes Is Just Another Toronto Stroller Pusher

Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #8. Because Claire Danes Is Just Another Toronto Stroller Pusher

(Image: Sean O’Neill/Pacific Coast News)

We thought it was a mirage last fall when we saw Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy having dinner at Woodlot, basking in a beatific glow. Then we spotted them again, walking with their baby down Queen West, and caught Danes head-bobbing to Arcade Fire at the ACC. Danes and Dancy are new Torontonians, living several months of the year here while Dancy films his CityTV series Hannibal, a prequel to Silence of the Lambs. Apart from being the grisliest show on television—in one scene, Dr. Lecter, played by the hollow-cheeked Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, sews together a pile of naked, still-twitching victims—it’s also thrilling and suspenseful, beloved by critics and obsessively anatomized online. Hannibal is one of several Toronto shows contributing to the box’s golden age. Among the new crop of hits is Orphan Black, the creepy Space sci-fi series about a troupe of clones, which films all over the GTA and sells out auditoriums at ComiCon. On CTV, Reign, a moony, Toronto-shot soap about Mary Queen of Scots’ teenage love life, has amassed a rabid fan base who call themselves Loyal Royals. And then there’s The Strain, an apocalyptic vampire show from weirdo director ­Guillermo del Toro, which films near Queen and Church. (Del Toro loves shooting in Toronto so much that he’s made his last three projects here, including 2013’s Mama and Pacific Rim, and next year’s Crimson Peak, a haunted house story starring Jessica Chastain, Tom ­Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska.) The Strain is the summer’s most anticipated series, set to debut in July on FX, a ­network that’s rivalling HBO in quality cable programming. Toronto’s TV industry is finally something we can brag about: last year, TV productions poured nearly $730 million into the local economy. Spotting Claire Danes at the AGO is just an added perk.

The Informer

People

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Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #20. Because a Living Room Charity is Changing the Way We Raise Our Kids

Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #20. Because a Living Room Charity is Changing the Way We Raise Our Kids

(Image: Meri Pera)

Gwen Broda, a North York nurse who had three kids close together, and a few of her friends hatched a plan this year to help new parents. The New Mom Project is based on ­Finland’s famous baby box program, in which the government gives every expectant mom a starter kit of ­onesies, bedding and diapers. The system is often credited for helping bring down the country’s infant mortality rate from 65 in 1,000 to three in 1,000 during its 76-year run. Last ­January, Broda put out a call on social media for donations to help assemble her own first-year packages, which parents can access through a referral from their health care professional. Within three weeks, her home was so full of bouncy chairs, toys and tiny outfits, her kids couldn’t walk through the living room. She and her team of a dozen volunteers have already helped over 100 new families. The baby booty now comes in such huge volumes, she keeps it in a storage locker, and she’s scouting stand-alone space, with the long-term goal of turning the project into a national initiative. “Every mom in Canada should have the essentials,” says Broda. “I’m starting with Toronto.”

The Informer

Random Stuff

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Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #16. Because the Walleye, Pike and Bass Are Back

Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #16. Because the Walleye, Pike and Bass Are Back

(Image: courtesy of Waterfront Toronto)

If you go down to the boardwalk at the foot of Spadina on a sunny day and peer over the edge, you’ll see something that seemed unimaginable even a decade ago: the shadows of darting fish. Both the number and diversity have soared in the past few years because of an underwater structure of boulders, logs and stumps, covered in a thick rug of aquatic plants—an ideal hangout for walleye, northern pike and largemouth bass. The man-made habitats—nicknamed “fish ­condos”—abut concrete walls where Waterfront Toronto built new boardwalks at the Spadina, Simcoe and Rees slips in 2008 and 2009. Underwater creatures adore the murky nooks and cubbyholes, and are thriving due to a recent improvement in the water quality, which has come a long way from the noxious swill of decades past. Should you manage to snag a fish-condo resident with a hook and line, it’s even safe to take home and eat for dinner.

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