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The Goods

Homes

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Great Spaces: a starkly beautiful haven above a furniture shop in the Junction

John and Juli Baker, owners of the cultishly popular Mjölk, built a home that’s as starkly beautiful as their shop below

John and Juli Baker met by chance seven years ago at the Cloak and Dagger pub on College Street. She was studying art curation and photography at OCAD. He played guitar in a folk-rock band. They were both obsessed with modern design, and they sparked immediately. Their first collaboration was a blog where they gushed over graceful chairs, well-­proportioned teapots and other striking examples of Japanese and Scandinavian design. It proved so ­popular that, in 2009, they bought a Victorian storefront in the Junction and started selling the rarefied products they’d been blogging about. They ­married in the showroom a year later and set about gutting the two-storey living quarters above the shop. The couple’s ­minimal aesthetic—all white or wood, with no ornamentation—is the kind of thing that looks great in Dwell, but can seem impossible for people with pets, kids or both. And yet they’ve made the look work in a busy household that includes a two-year-old girl, a newborn baby boy and a cat (Elodie, Howell and Isha, respectively). Working with architects Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong of Studio Junction, the Bakers chose durable materials—copper, soapstone, white oak—and used them throughout the 2,000-square-foot space. The cohesive palette helps to maintain the streamlined effect. So does having really nice stuff: when the kids’ shaggy rocking sheep gets left out, it looks more like a sculptural statement than clutter.

The Dish

Drinks

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Pretty in Pink: six quality rosés to bring to the barbecue

Rosés are the thing to drink this summer—they’re dry, refreshing and a great match for the ’cue

Pretty in Pink: Rosés are the thing to drink this summer—they’re dry, refreshing and a great match for the ’cue

Now that rosé is fashionable, it’s time to raise a red flag. Pink wines require no aging, so they’re a cash cow for less reputable winemakers, who routinely use tricks (like blending red and white wines, using grapes that don’t make the cut for red wines, or adding sugar) to increase profit margins. The best, however, use quality red grapes to create dry, soft and elegant wines that are often paler in colour, with complex red fruit, faded rose, and spicy and earthy nuances that linger. Here are some classics.

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The Informer

Features

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Best of the City 2014: The ultimate insider’s guide to food, drink, fashion and fun

Best of the City 2014: This year's guide to all things excellent

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.

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The Informer

Best of Toronto

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Best of the City 2014: Fun

Best of the City 2014: Fun
wild ride

Wild Ride
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.


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The Goods

Best of Toronto

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Best of the City 2014: Home

Best of the City 2014: Home
Showstopping led lights

Lightform
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.


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The Goods

Best of Toronto

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Best of the City 2014: Style

Best of the City 2014: Style
Everything Bag

Want Apothecary
1070 Yonge St., 416-924-8080
True to its name, the new storefront from the Montreal brand Want Les Essentials de la Vie is styled like a Victorian drugstore—albeit one that carries bergamot-scented Swedish lotions and myrtle-infused face balms. Beyond the cosmetics counter, however, is a collection of exquisitely crafted goods: Swiss-made rose gold watches, shredded Acne moto jackets and some of the city’s finest handbags. Our summer favourite is a tote in cobalt waxed cotton and white leather—a statement bag that’s still hardy and roomy enough to withstand a day at Ward’s Island. $575


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The Dish

Best of Toronto

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Best of the City 2014: Food

Best of the City 2014: Food
Modern raw bar

Yasu
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.


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The Informer

Columns

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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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The Informer

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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The Informer

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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