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The Dish

Restaurants

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Cure All: five wild alternatives to everyday charcuterie

Flavour of the Month: Cure All
It wasn’t so long ago that artisanal, specialty butcher shops were a rariety and outlier restaurants like the Black Hoof were only beginning to prove how delicious weirdo proteins can be. Bolstered by our craving for dishes we can brag about on Twitter, daring chefs are running wild. Here, five exciting alternatives to garden-variety capicolla.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: my barista’s first name offends me—what can I do about her?

Dear Urban Diplomat: my barista's a real Nazi—what can I do about her?

(Image: Mr. TinDC/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
A barista at my local Starbucks, near Yonge and Bloor, is a Persian woman named Nazi, and she wears a name tag. My parents died in the Holocaust, and I don’t need to revisit the memory every morning. Would it be reasonable to complain?

—Latte With Two Sugars and Some Emotional Trauma, Yorkville

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The Informer

Features

33 Comments

The Man Who Would Be King: inside the ruthless battle for control of the $34-billion Rogers empire

Edward Rogers expected to run the family empire after the death of his father, Ted. But the board squeezed him out

The Man Who Would Be King

Suzanne and Edward Rogers in their Forest Hill house. (Image: Getty Images)

O

n a grey December day in 2008, a thousand people gathered at St. James Cathedral on Church Street to remember Ted Rogers, the legendary founder of Rogers Communications. The business icon had died of congestive heart failure at his Forest Hill home a week earlier, after months of declining health. Rogers’ funeral was a rare event in the city—a ­coming-together of high society, business titans and politicians that was the lay equivalent of a state funeral. Stephen Harper shook hands with his on-again, off-again friend Brian Mulroney, former premiers David Peterson and Mike Harris were in attendance, along with then-mayor David Miller, and members of such big-business clans as the Westons, Jackmans, Shaws and Péladeaus walked solemnly side by side in and out of the church.

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The Informer

Politics

10 Comments

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell on phone bills, nice cars and “smear campaigns”

Susan Fennell’s poll numbers have plummeted over allegations of reckless spending. The Brampton mayor, running for her fifth term, is crying foul

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell on phone bills, plane tickets, and "smear campaigns"In Toronto, you’re known as Brampton’s spend-happy, ultra-entitled mayor. Care to challenge that characterization?
Yes, I would. I’m the victim of a smear campaign by a collection of councillors and by the Toronto Star, which has a clear vendetta against me.

According to a Deloitte audit of your expenses, you have an on-call limo service that costs taxpayers $45,000 a year. Isn’t that a tad lavish for a public servant?
Well, it’s a sedan, not a limousine—it’s just rented through a limo agency. It’s an important service that allows me to get where I need to be safely and, if necessary, to continue working in the back seat while we drive.

Why do you also lease a Lincoln ­Navigator, which costs taxpayers an additional $1,400 a month?
Because I drive myself to many events. I need both options, depending on the circumstances.

Over seven years, your office has spent $134,847 on non-economy flights, sometimes for passes that are upgradable to business class, in violation of the city’s travel policy, which permits only economy fares.
Those passes allow me to change or cancel tickets with no fee or penalty.

They were on average twice as expensive as a normal economy fare bought on an as-needed basis.
I buy passes so I can have better control of my day and time, should I need to stay later or what have you. It’s akin to taking the 407 instead of the 401.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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California Dreaming: Montecito delivers grown-up food to the Entertainment District

Celebrity chef and farm-to-table pioneer Jonathan Waxman and his director-pal Ivan Reitman bring a grown-up restaurant to Adelaide Street West

The Critic: California Dreaming

Ivan Reitman, who owns a condo in the TIFF tower, wanted a good restaurant nearby—so he opened one. Two signature dishes: roast chicken and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man–inspired baked Alaska (Image: Reitman by Raina and Wilson)

Montecito 2 star½
299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299
How our star system works »

The staff at the newly opened Montecito restaurant escort a statue of the Stay Puft marshmallow man, forever associated with Ghostbusters, from table to table, so everyone gets a chance to meet him. He’s pasty and portly, his lips frozen in a clownish grin. He must be the most photographed food celebrity in the city. On the nights I ate there, couples posed for phone pics in mock horror, as if a blob of exploding marsh­mallow was about to land atop their heads.

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The Goods

Homes

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Great Spaces: a Haliburton cottage that turned a die-hard city slicker into an amateur woodsman

Great Spaces: a Haliburton cottage that turned a die-hard city slicker into an amateur woodsman

Stephen Grant is one of Toronto’s top divorce lawyers, the man one-­percenters like David Thomson and Michael McCain go to when their marriages ­falter. He’s also a city guy who never dreamed of owning a cabin in the woods. That is, until he met his wife, Sandy Forbes, in the early ’90s. She’s a lawyer too, a partner at Davies who specializes in commercial litigation. She yearned for a ­weekend escape from their frenetic schedule. “Sandy wanted a cottage,” says Grant, “and like any sensible husband, I said yes.” (His line of work has made him an expert on matrimonial arbitration.) Their decade-old retreat is on a forested lot in ­Haliburton facing a quiet lake. But its design, by architects ­Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe, is thoroughly urban. The structure is encased in Shim-­Sutcliffe’s signature rusting steel, and the burnished concrete floors belong in a downtown loft. In these modern surroundings, Grant has learned to enjoy the relaxed pace of country life: while Forbes lounges for hours with a paperback, he passes ­leisurely afternoons trying out recipes from Saveur and Bon Appétit.

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The Informer

Columns

11 Comments

Dear Urban Diplomat: my wife wants to give out toothbrushes on Halloween—should she?

Dear Urban Diplomat: my wife wants to give out toothbrushes on Halloween—should she?

(Image: sarkasmo/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My wife is a dentist and wants to give out toothbrushes instead of candy for ­Halloween. I told her this is a lame idea and that our house will likely get egged, but she’s digging in. Is trick-or-treating the right time to make a statement about dental health, or should she just let kids stuff their faces with chocolate?

—Tooth or Dare, Liberty Village

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The Informer

Politics

5 Comments

Costume Drama: Olivia Chow’s many vote-courting fashion statements

Costume Drama (Olivia Chow's costume-y pandering)

Sartorially speaking, Olivia Chow has the edge this election season. Fashion is one of her shrewdest political weapons: she goes all out to stand out, dressing the part at every event she attends. Over the years, that’s meant Starfleet uniforms for Trekkie conventions, bedazzled bustiers for Caribana, traditional Punjabi dress for South Asian festivals and rainbow headdresses for Pride. When it comes to seducing voters, no fashion crime is too risky. Here, a look at her most outrageous, ingratiating ensembles.

The Informer

Culture

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See the COC perform opera whiz Robert Carsen’s fancy Falstaff

(Image: Rudy Amisano)

(Image: Rudy Amisano)

Only in a Robert Carsen opera are the backgrounds as exciting as the music—the Toronto-born director is known for creating majestic Metropolitan Opera sets that rival Valhalla itself. This fall, his ornate production of Verdi’s Falstaff, starring Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, arrives at the Canadian Opera Company after stints at La Scala, the Met and Covent Garden. Carsen updates the action from the first Elizabethan era to the second: 1960, a time of upward mobility and materialistic splendour. The sets are sumptuously adorned with period-appropriate tchotchkes, textiles and furniture—there’s an upscale restaurant, a woodsy hunt club, a bedroom modelled after a Mae West movie and, our favourite, a bright, busy kitchen (pictured above), for which the props team reproduced authentic 1960s British food labels.

Oct. 3 to Nov. 1. $49—$349. Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W., 416-363-8231, coc.ca

The Informer

Columns

6 Comments

Memoir: growing a few pot plants in the basement seemed like a great idea—until I got busted

Memoir: growing a few pot plants in the basement seemed like a great idea—until I got busted

On the evening of July 25, 2007, I was trimming the drooping branches of the weeping mulberry tree in the garden of my house in a quiet Scarborough neighbourhood. It was a warm evening, and people were out for after-dinner strolls, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, working in their gardens as I was. Suddenly a voice shouted out behind me: “Step away from the tree! Drop the garden shears and put your hands where I can see them!” I turned to watch a short, paunchy man with a brown handlebar moustache, wraparound shades and a blue baseball cap charging across the lawn with a Glock pistol pointed at my head.

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The Informer

Columns

3 Comments

Dear Urban Diplomat: can I get my lefty tenants’ Olivia Chow sign off my lawn?

Dear Urban Diplomat: can I get my lefty tenants' Olivia Chow sign off my lawn?

(Image: Paul Henman/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I rent the upper floor of my semi to a young couple and was dismayed to find an Olivia Chow sign on my front lawn. I’m ardently opposed to her politics, though I’ll spare you the ideological screed. My question: can they use my property to promote their views? If so, how might I persuade them not to, short of stealing the sign in the night?

—NIMFY, Roncesvalles

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The Informer

Culture

28 Comments

Is Strange Empire good enough to save the CBC?

The CBC’s new feminist western is as gripping and gritty as any premium cable drama. But can it help reverse the beleaguered broadcaster’s fortunes?

The Argument: The Final Frontier

Melissa Farman as the unlikely doctor, Tattiawna Jones as the enterprising madam, Cara Gee as the Métis sharpshooter and Aaron Poole as the murderous pimp (Image: courtesy of the CBC)

The new series Strange Empire is a richly produced western set in 1869 on the unkempt Alberta terrain. It kicks off with a dark, propulsive premise: when the men in a small frontier camp are mysteriously slaughtered, their once-helpless wives and daughters are forced to buck up and take control. Every shot is a swirl of artfully dusty browns and tans, every costume and set piece a bedraggled beauty. The plots are full of brothels, sex and violence. The show bears every trademark of a premium cable drama, with morally ambiguous characters and an irreverent point of view. The strangest thing about Strange Empire? It’s on the CBC.

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The Dish

Drinks

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In Absinthia: where to sip the strong stuff in Toronto

The legendary wormwood liquor of green fairies, severed ears and global bans is in the midst of a revival. Here, three excellent places to sip the strong stuff.

Where to Drink Now: In Absinthia

Geraldine
564 Queen St. W., 647-352-8815
Stepping into the 20s-themed Parkdale parlour is a like taking Owen Wilson’s Midnight in Paris taxi to the belle époque. The pomaded and mustachioed barkeeps shake the most serious absinthe cocktails in the city, like The Lew Field, which muddles Le Clandestine (a blue-hued, Swiss-distilled brand born in 2000), fig syrup and fresh mint with crushed ice in a frosty copper cup. The anise-powered slushy makes a bracing contrast to a plate of briny oysters. $18.

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The Dish

Drinks

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Globe-Trotting Whiskies: fermented grain mashes from everywhere but Scotland

Where to Drink Now: Globe-Trotting Whiskies
Everyone knows that Scotland produces some of the best whisky on the planet, but the British isle isn’t the only country making excellent grain-based spirits. Distilleries from unexpected locales—including India, Taiwan and South Africa—are barrel-aging brown liquors infused with flavours and aromas that are distinct to those regions. Here, five world whiskies worth sampling.

Circle Red 1
Amrut put India on the map as a bona fide producer. The Fusion single malt is spicy and tropical with bold peat flavours typically found in a scotch. $78.25. LCBO 220756

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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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