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Jones Soda gets in on the Canadiana trend with its intense new poutine-flavoured pop

Jones Soda, the Vancouver company known for its wacky flavours, is bringing a poutine-flavoured drink to Canada. The beverage is supposed to taste strongly like cheese with a smooth potato finish (we have yet to try the stuff), but a pair of Halifax radio hosts who got hold of a couple bottles last week noted that the drink tastes a little too much like the classic Quebec comfort dish: very rich, very salty, very starchy. Still, 12-packs are already going for $40 on eBay.

The Goods

Shopping

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The Find: Jennifer Lawrence’s Canadian-made talisman necklace

Everyone wants a piece of Jennifer Lawrence (even it’s just her sweaty sports bra). No wonder Pyrrhas Vancouver-based designers Wade Papin and Danielle Wilmore were chuffed that the actress wore one of their talisman necklaces mere hours after taking home the Oscar for best actress. The pair makes their silver and bronze pendants by hand using 18th- and 19th-century wax seals, each of which bears a heraldic message. J.Law’s reads “jamais arrière which roughly translates as “never behind”—but if getting the exact same necklace as her feels  just a bit too creepy fan-girl (or boy), the company makes more than hundred other options too. $202 (U.S.).

Available through pyrrha.com »

The Goods

Stores

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Used House of Vintage on Queen West merges with t-shirt store Bang-On

Used’s Queen Street space has been revamped into a Bang-On t-shirt store (Image: Facebook)

Used House of Vintage, the only Toronto location of a hip, Vancouver-based vintage retailer, has merged with Bang-On, a custom t-shirt store with the same owners. The lease on Bang-On’s Yonge Street store recently ran out and the owners were unable to find a suitable replacement space, so they opted to move the stock of tees and irreverent accessories into Used’s bright storefront on Queen, just west of Spadina. The resulting hybrid—a classic Bang-On shop with vintage pieces peppered throughout—opened today.

Bang-On, 489 Queen St. W., 416-596-8443, bang-on.com

The Goods

Stores

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Zellers is keeping one Toronto store open

In January 2011, trendy low-cost giant Target took over 220 leases from not-so-trendy low-cost giant Zellers, and ever since, the latter has been winding down operations. However, it seems Zellers isn’t actually going extinct. Parent company HBC says that three Canadian stores are staying open under the Zellers name, including the store in Toronto’s Kipling Queensway Mall. That location, plus a pair of stores in Vancouver and Montreal, are shifting toward more fashion apparel and higher-end home products. With the first four Toronto-area Target stores opening this spring, we’re curious to see if the refresh is enough to keep the Zellers name alive. [The Now Newspaper]

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Kingyo Toronto, the Cabbagetown outpost of Vancouver’s celebrated izakaya

Introducing: Kingyo Toronto

(Image: Renée Suen)

Kingyo is the latest Japanese restaurant to make the move from Vancouver to Toronto, following the success of Guu, Guu Sakabar, Kinton, Hapa Izakaya and Ramen Raijin. Helming the Cabbagetown restaurant, which took over the space that previously held Stonegrill on Winchester, is Koji Zenimaru, formerly head chef at the original Vancouver location, who is joined by a team of former Kingyo and Guu staffers. The 120-seat room is full of whimsical design touches: tables with tree-stump legs, a bar inlaid with an antique matchbox mosaic, blinking Pachinko machines on the walls. There’s also plenty of goldfish paraphernalia; after all, kingyo is Japanese for goldfish.

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The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Ramen Raijin, the new Toronto outpost of a Vancouver ramen pioneer

Introducing: Ramen Raijin

(Image: Renée Suen)

In the city’s ongoing ramen revolution, the two most recent players are both long-standing Vancouver favourites: Santouka, which opened two weeks ago, and Ramen Raijin, owned by Daiji Matsubara, who’s known for his Vancouver ramen emporiums Kintaro and Motomachi Shokudo. Named after the Japanese god of thunder, Raijin occupies the 3,500-square-foot former Creasians space—it’s much bigger than most noodle joints—on Gerrard Street just east of Yonge. Designed by the same team that outfitted Motomachi, Raijin’s decor blends Japanese and Western styles with warm woods, cool slate tiles, bright splashes of painted accents and ample lighting (as well, a six-foot statue of Raijin is at present on its way from Japan). But of course the restaurant’s raison d’être is found in the back stock-boiling kitchen, which prepares up to 300 litres of salty, fatty broth every day.

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The Informer

Features

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What Toronto Needs Now: Richard Florida offers a manifesto for a new model of leadership

The city’s great period of growth won’t continue if we don’t enlist the best and brightest minds from Bay Street, the universities and the public sector

Richard Florida: What Toronto Needs Now

Richard Florida believes Toronto should take a cue from innovative city-building strategies in Silicon Valley and Chicago

In 2007, when my wife and I moved here from Washington, D.C., Toronto was ascendant. I’d been offered a job at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank investigating the competitiveness of cities. Toronto, it seemed to us, was an open, tolerant place offering a superb quality of life for its wide range of citizens. It was a destination of choice because of its thriving, stable economy, world-class banks, medical centres and cultural institutions, safety and livability, and diverse neighborhoods. It appeared a model of social cohesion, where people from across the globe were attracted to the prospect of a better future. Toronto’s best days were ahead.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Chef swap: Jesse Grasso replaces Brandon Olsen as chef at The Black Hoof

Grasso’s Twitter profile pic (Image: Twitter) 

In a note posted on The Black Hoof’s blog, owner Jen Agg announced today that chef Brandon Olsen (who took over from Colin Tooke, who took over from founder Grant van Gameren) was leaving his post after a year and a half “to travel and take a little break.” (Olsen told the Dish’s Renée Suen that October 29 is his last service, after which he’ll be “driving across America for a while. Then heading back to TO.” In other words, Toronto is, thankfully, not losing the man who brought it Foie and Nutella.) His replacement: Jesse Grasso, who previously worked at La Quercia and “modern Chinese brasserie” Bao Bei in Vancouver. Agg writes that the young chef “knows his offal” (surely a requirement for the gig), and that he has the “requisite tattoos, beard and hipster glasses, but don’t judge him on that.” [The Black Hoof]

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Hapa Izakaya, the Little Italy outpost of Vancouver’s popular Japanese pub

Introducing: Hapa Izakaya

(Image: Renée Suen)

Toronto’s gone gaga over all things boisterous and Japanese of late, so it’s no surprise that news of the impending arrival of Vancouver’s Hapa, one of North America’s best izakayas, had the city’s Japanese food lovers buzzing. Justin Ault founded the chain with his wife Lea nearly a decade ago, hoping to recreate the Tokyo-style izakayas they’d frequented while living abroad in a way that was polished, friendly and accessible to patrons not fluent in Japanese. “We wanted a place where our friends would feel comfortable to visit and eat at,” Ault tells us. Although many backers had tried to entice the popular mom-and-pop operation to open in Toronto, it only became reality when siblings Maaji (general manager), Jiena (assistant manager) and Mackenzie (bar manager) Isobe—who share 20 years of experience working at the original Robson Street location—expressed their interest in starting a Hogtown branch earlier this year.

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The Dish

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Maclean’s anoints The Grove Canada’s best new restaurant

Maclean’s is getting into the restaurant ranking game: as a prelude to its first special edition covering the best restaurants across the country, the magazine announced yesterday that Dundas West’s The Grove is Canada’s best new restaurant of 2012. Normand Laprise of Montreal’s Toqué was named chef of the year, while the Maclean’s restaurant of the year accolade went to Vancouver’s Hawksworth Restaurant. The list was compiled by a team of critics led by Jacob Richler, and the the 132-page issue hits newsstands October 1.

The Dish

Food TV

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Top Chef Canada champ Dale MacKay shutters his Vancouver restaurants

Dale MacKay with Rob Rossi after winning Top Chef Canada (Image: Top Chef Canada)

The notoriously competitive Vancouver restaurant scene has swallowed up Ensemble and Ensemble Tap, the two restaurants launched by Top Chef Canada champ Dale MacKay just before and just after he took the title for season one. According to an interview in the Vancouver Sun, MacKay made some rookie mistakes, like launching a second location without building up sufficient startup capital, and locating them right downtown, surrounded by chains like Earls, Joey and Cactus Club, which dominate the area with their clockwork service and comparatively lower costs (speaking of costs, MacKay was apparently paying $40,000 a month in rent between the two restaurants).

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Hapa Izakaya to open in time for TIFF

Hapa’s Kitsilano storefront (Image: Carolyn Coles)

A note has been posted on the doors at 602 College Street informing passersby that the official opening date for Hapa Izakaya, the latest in the string of new Vancouver-style Japanese restaurants to open in Toronto, will be September 6. Let the izakaya wars continue.

The Dish

Openings

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Introducing: Red Fish, a new West Coast–inspired seafood restaurant on College

Introducing: Red Fish

(Image: Megan Leahy)

Ever since brunch favourite Mitzi’s on College closed late February, Little Portugal residents have been crossing their fingers for a worthy replacement. Enter chef David Friedman and sommelier Jamie Duran, who recently left their gigs at Fishbar to open Red Fish, a new seafood restaurant, earlier this month.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Real Estate Cheat Sheet: condo sales are down (but one section of the market is thriving)

(Image: Neil Ta from the Torontolife.com Flickr group)

In the debate over whether Toronto’s condo market is headed for a collapse, expert opinions range from gloomy to chipper. The latest stats from Urbanation score another point for the pessimists, suggesting Toronto’s love affair with condos—at least with the brand new ones being flogged in sales centres—is starting to cool.

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The Informer

Sports

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CBC wins the domestic rights for 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games, saving Canadians from having to watch NBC

(Image: Canadian Olympic Committee)

After much uncertainty and several failed bids, CBC has wrangled the TV, radio and Internet rights for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. That’s a relief, considering there was a chance Canadians would be stuck watching the (very unpopular) NBC broadcasts after the International Olympic Committee shut down a pair of joint bids between CBC and Bell Media, and Rogers Communications withdrew from the race in September 2011. The details of how much CBC paid have not yet been released, but the rights for the Vancouver and London games cost a Bell-CTV-Rogers consortium $153 million. Not chump change. [CBC]

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