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The Ultimate Toronto

FOOD, FOOD, FABULOUS FOOD
OUR GREATEST GOURMANDS
Susur Lee is world renowned, considered by many to be the innovator of Asian fusion cuisine. He could work in any kitchen in the world, but lucky for us he chose Toronto as the location for his eponymous restaurant, Susur. A fusion of nouveau cuisine and Indian flavours, Brad Moore’s much-lauded Xacutti is inspired gastronomically, its white and chocolate interior is chic, and its waitstaff are equipped with handheld computers so ordering mix-ups are virtually unheard of. The new resto by esteemed chef Mark McEwan of North 44º, Bymark is so exclusive that you have to be in-the-know to know where it is. Described as “on the concourse level of the TD Centre,” it’s actually located outside the building in its own separate structure identifiable with just a tiny sign. You call this a food court? Oliver Bonacini’s new Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill (Bayview Village Shopping Centre, 416-590-1300) takes in-mall dining to a new level and is a complement to the shopping centre’s recent revamp.

THE WORLD’S BEST OYSTER SHUCKER
Patrick McMurray, proprietor of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill (100 Adelaide St. W., 416-366-7827), is the first Canadian to win the World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway, Ireland. He doesn’t just shuck for sport though. If crustaceans are what you crave, Starfish offers several varieties, not to mention other savouries – tuna tartar, crab, Arctic char and shrimp – from the sea.

SEE AND BE SEEN SCENE
Holt’s Cafe’s stylish minimal decor reflects the exclusive menu offerings. Comprised mainly of tartines, these tiny open-faced sandwiches are made from slices of famed French Poilâne bread, which is flown in three times a week from France exclusively by Holt Renfrew. When the weather warms up, the patio tables hugging Sassafraz afford the best on-the-street view of the fabulous people in Bloor-Yorkville.

COFFEE TALK
Queen Street coffeehouse Tequila Bookworm (490 Queen St. W., 416-504-7335) offers more than just mean soy lattés and comfy chairs in which to enjoy them. Patrons are allowed to pick up a magazine from the fully-stocked in-store newsstand and read while they eat. But browsers beware, if you muck up your mag you have to buy it.

THAT’S NO BABY DILL
The Pickle Barrel Grand (1 Yorkdale Rd., Yorkdale Shopping Centre, 416-785-8881) spent $3.5 million to make this location the biggest and the best Pickle Barrel in the area. The enormous new restaurant also features an equally expansive menu featuring old favourites and new items like lemongrass-coconut steamed mussels, smoked salmon eggs Benedict, and spiced Hanoi chicken stir fry.

GREAT BREWS, SWEETS TOO
Fresh Start Coffee Co. (655 Bay St., 416-599-6180), a fave of WHERE staffers, isn’t just a great place to pick up a light lunch, it also offers an extensive collection of loose leaf teas and dense, flavourful scones. Sample one of the many caffeine-free flavoured rooibos teas, a tasty and aromatic leaf that soothes that mid-afternoon headache. With more than 30 handmade bonbons to choose from, JS Bonbons (163 Dupont St., 416-920-0274) has no trouble luring in its sweet-toothed clients. Opened in September 2001, the charming boutique is a favourite of chocoholics, torn between such delectable and unique truffle choices as milk chocolate with chai tea and white chocolate with lemon thyme. After a tiring day prowling the shops along Queen Street West, escape the street and the city itself at the quaint and quiet Red Tea Box (696 Queen St. W., 416-203-8882). Head to the hidden coach house to enjoy an Asian-inspired lunch or afternoon tea with a divine selection of exotic leaves to choose from. Don’t miss the fabulous housewares for sale in the back and the take-home tins of tea on your way out. The Little Pie Shoppe (3147 Yonge St., 416-485-6393) has been making mouths water for 60 years, serving up classic pies-cherry, apple, blueberry and coconut cream, to name a few-and other temptations such as cookies, sweet bars, pastries, breads and delicious doughnuts.

BRUNCH CRUNCH
Some of the city’s most beloved brunches can be found far afield from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Two highly recommended haunts are Bellevue Diner (61 Bellevue Ave., 416-597-6912), two blocks south of College, between Spadina and Bathurst Streets, with its tried-and-true breakfast special and a large selection of sandwiches, egg dishes and more. Saving Grace (907 Dundas St. W., 416-703-7368), west of Bathurst, offers upscale and inventive market fare, including poached eggs on toasted crumpets with gruyère cheese, and waffles with chocolate hazelnut butter and fresh fruit. Completely on the beaten path is Over Easy offering a delectable assortment of egg dishes, pancakes, and the ultimate sweet-tooth plate: waffles with chunks of banana in a caramel sauce. After perusing the many decor shops along King Street East, drop by the Hot House Cafe for a delectable Sunday brunch, complete with live jazz. In the North end of town slide into one of the vinyl booths at ’50s-style diner Good Bite (2463 Yonge St., 416-483-8432), in the same location for more than 30 years, and sink your teeth into the classic breakfast special-bacon, sausage or ham, eggs, homefries and toast-or enjoy an old-fashioned milkshake at the counter.

BAGELICIOUS
Carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Torontonians can’t get enough of that doughy breakfast treat, the bagel. Here are four hot bagel shops that’ve managed to create their own distinct flavour: What a Bagel (558 Yonge St., 416-924-9646; 2279 Yonge St., 416-489-2166; plus five others) and Bagel World (336 Wilson Ave., North York, 416-635-5931) both guard their signature bagel recipes; recent addition Kettleman’s Bagel (542 Danforth Ave., 647-777-0114) has upped the ante by offering authentic hand-rolled Montreal-style bagels straight from the in-store wood-burning oven. The faithful line up as early as 6 a.m. on a Saturday for the fresh circular treats from Gryfe’s Bagel Bakery (3421 Bathurst St., 416-783-1552).

RARING FOR RIBS
A hearty crew, WHERE staffers have grazed at many of Toronto’s best rib joints-and take it from us, there are many. Our current pick for succulent slabs, however, is Armadillo Texas Grill‘s smoked baby back ribs with the kitchen’s own trailblazing sauce.

VITAL ATTRACTIONS
THE TALLEST, THE LONGEST, THE FIRST TO FLIP IT’S LIP
The CN Tower is the ultimate freestanding structure-the tallest in the world at 533.3 metres. Yonge Street, our main drag, is the longest street in the world, maxing out at 1896 kilometres at Rainy River on the Minnesota border, and SkyDome was the first sports stadium in the world with a retractable roof. Whew!

BOOGIE DOWN, SWOON AROUND
The ultimate in baby boomer nostalgia is Casino Rama‘s 5,000-seat Entertainment Centre, the venue of choice for many of yesterday’s superstars such as David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, Gladys Night, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons, America, Air Supply, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Three Dog Night.

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY…
Toronto is clearly committed to going green as it has recently added the only downtown wind turbine in North America to the waterfront skyline at Exhibition Place. Visible from all parts of the city, it is a reminder to be environmentally friendly and protect the planet, plus it’ll power 250 houses this year.

BEST RED CARPET TREATMENT
With the recent opening of The Grande (4861 Yonge St., 416-590-9974) movie complex at Sheppard Centre, uptown movie-goers cheered with Hollywood hysteria. The eye-popping theatre features 10 auditoriums with wall-to-wall screens and the latest sound systems, making a night at the movies feel like a private Hollywood screening.

WARM AND FUZZY
Tour the world on two feet and make your heart happy. Walk the pathways and trails that extend across the Toronto Zoo and you’ve completed 10 kms-nothing to scoff at in the exercise department-which includes visits to the African Savannah, a gorilla rainforest, a bat cave, the Canadian Wilderness and the Malayan Woods.

PARADISE FOUND
A Toronto landmark, and a poignant reminder of the area’s more gracious age, the domed roof of the Palm House greenhouse at Allan Gardens Conservatory (19 Horticultural Ave., at the corner of Jarvis and Gerrard streets, 416-392-7288) is a much-beloved sight. In all, Allan Gardens comprises 16,000 square feet of greenhouse space, showcasing seasonal, rare and exotic plants. The conservatory grounds are enlivened by a number of exhibitions throughout the year including the Spring Preview Show, which continues to April and the Easter Display, which begins early April.

THE ULTIMATE TALL GUY HANGOUT
The Air Canada Centre houses two of Toronto’s top attractions, the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to suit the needs of the NBA and NHL’s best, the 665,000-square-foot complex made some peculiar adjustments. Showerheads and doorframes have been raised to eight feet to accommodate the exceptional height of most NBA players, while no less than 11,000 square feet of space, including locker room, hot tub, cold tub, state of the art stationary lap pool, training and medical facilities, is allotted to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tours of the Air Canada Centre, which also include a look at the set of Hockey Night in Canada, run from May to September (416-815-5500).

CULTURE VULTURES FLOCK HERE
FROM REALLY OLD TO KINDA WEIRD
Concealed in the University of Toronto’s enormous Robarts Library complex is bibliophiles’ mecca Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library (120 St. George St., 416-978-5285). The library’s large and varied collection, which ranges in subject matter from Canadiana and maps to theological and religious texts, includes a 1789 BC Babylonion cuneiform tablet from Ur, an eleventh-century Greek text of the Four Gospels and manuscripts of contemporary Canadian writers. All materials must be read in the supervised reading room, however, and in order to register as a reader, you must present identification that clearly states your permanent address. Registration is free and lasts for one year. Moses Znaimer, founder of Citytv, Muchmusic, Muchmoremusic and Bravo, is also responsible for one of the city’s unique attractions, the MZTV Museum of Television. The small, second-storey space belies its significant collection, which includes the Lucite RCA TRK-12 Phantom Telereceiver-a set specifically made for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. And speaking of specialization…Toronto has many other niche museums, some downright quirky: The History of Contraception Museum, Toronto’s First Post Office (260 Adelaide St. E., 416-865-1833), Redpath Sugar Museum, Toronto Aerospace Museum (65 Carl Hall Rd., 416-638-6078) and The Textile Museum of Canada.

THE ULTIMATE RENOS
OR, CALL ME WHEN IT’S FINISHED
Two of the city’s most distinguished cultural institutions, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, and one of Canada’s most esteemed art colleges, the Ontario College of Art and Design, are embarking on ambitious and innovative renovation plans that will re-shape Toronto’s architectural horizon. Each venue’s plan represents the marriage of practical concerns with fantastic ingenuity. The ROM’s controversial Crystal Design, courtesy of architect Daniel Libeskind, will not only stop traffic along busy Bloor Street it will add 40,000 square feet of new gallery space to the museum. Directly opposite, the Gardiner Museum also intends to make its own startling visual statement with a 10,000-square-foot addition that includes a glass third- floor facade, new exhibition gallery, reception area and terrace. OCAD’s daring table-top structure will hover 26 metres in the air on eight-storey high stilts of steel (shaped into pencils), increasing its campus size by 40 per cent and adding 90,000 square feet. To see a work completed, check out Roy Thomson Hall, which debuted its $20 million interior reno in September. The overhaul included the replacement of the concrete to blond maple hardwood and the addition of a terraced floor. The effect is beautiful but more importantly the acoustics are stellar.

SPORTING MATTERS
FEEL LIKE A PRO
Golf like a pro at Glen Abbey Golf Club (1333 Dorval Dr., Oakville, 905-844-1800). Designed by Jack Nicklaus, Glen Abbey has been the site of 22 Canadian Open golf tournaments and is home of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, which is currently being refurbished and is set to re-open in July.

HAVE MAT, WILL STRETCH
Muscles feeling tense and stiff? Release some tension with a visit to Downward Dog Yoga Studio (735 Queen St. W., 416-703-8805). If you’re new to the exercise, check out the New to Yoga class, which is free of charge to beginners. An entire menu of yoga forms, from Ashtanga to Iyengar, is offered in classes throughout the day. If you want to look the part, head across the street to Lululemon for a huge selection of yoga gear including clothes, mats, books and music. To get the ultimate chi alignment: walk the Labyrinth-a 4,000-year-old meditative tool-at Sage Yoga and Meditation Studio (5 Shuter St., 416-530-0039). The labyrinth’s winding path is a metaphor for life and walking it supposedly brings perspective and inner-peace.

TOO COOL FOR THE Y
Nightclub meets New York-style fitness spa at Diesel Fitness (99 Spadina Ave., 416-595-9900), which offers state-of-the-art equipment and a DJ spinning groovy tunes in a swanky loft setting. Coming soon, valet parking and the detailing of your wheels while you work out.

GET OUT THERE!
Harbourfront’s skating rink (Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W,. 416-973-4000), Natrel Skating Rink, is Canada’s largest artificially refrigerated outdoor rink, which seems weird since we are the frigid North, after all. Open until March 16, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., skate free of charge with music, rentals and sharpening while you wait. Take out some aggression with a day of harmless warfare at Sgt. Splatters (54 Wingold Ave., 416-781-0991), Canada’s largest indoor paint ball field. For $29.95 get all the gear, including face mask, goggles, paint gun, 100 paint balls, unlimited carbon dioxide and four hours of field time.

FISH STORY
Drop your line in Lake Ontario for the ultimate salmon score. The Great Salmon Derby (in Mississauga, 416-695-0311; www.sportsmenshow.com) takes place from July 12 to August 30 in the waters of Lake Ontario from Hamilton in the west to Wellington in the east. Touted as the world’s largest freshwater fishing derby, it boasted more than 25,000 participants in 2002. Could the derby’s popularity be the $1 million prize for catching the specially tagged fish or the bragging rights that come with reeling in the big one?

DEDICATION BAR NONE
More than just a hobby, the players of the Toronto Rock, Toronto’s team in the National Lacrosse League, show the ultimate commitment to the sport-many of them hold full-time jobs while enduring the league’s gruelling schedule.

SHOP TALK
THE ULTIMATE OF ULTIMATES
Toronto fashionistas and their stylin’ partners pick up their fabulous gladrags at three Bloor-Yorkville style staples: Andrew’s (women’s apparel only), Holt Renfrew (men and women) and Harry Rosen (men only).

TWO TEMPLES TO FEET
Temple number one: The Bata Shoe Museum‘s five-storey structure boasts 10,000 shoes and chronicles footwear since the beginning of civilization. Temple number two: Zola Shoes, presided over by Debra Anissimoff, carries select labels, all of which are well know to shoeaholics, including Sigerson Morrison, Cynthia Rowley and Edmundo Castillo.

VINTAGE RULES
Vintage is considered the new hot-to-have status item and the ultimate designer vintage gear is available at Holt Renfrew’s new Vintage Couture section. For a comprehensive look at what Toronto’s style mavens were wearing in the ’50s check out the Elite Elegance: Couture of the 1950s exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. On March 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., The ROM hosts Chanel, Dior & Balenciaga: Fabulous Fifties Flash Forward, a show featuring some glamorous clothes from The Paper Bag Princess (287 Davenport Rd., 416-925-2603). Proprietor Elizabeth Mason is a vintage fashion guru with a flocked-to store in L.A. and her new local digs opened earlier this year. Second Nature Boutique (514 Mt. Pleasant Rd., 416-481-4924) offers three levels of new and used clothes-many under two years old)-plus accessories. The store receives new arrivals daily and carries everything from Armani to Versace, with prices as low as one-third the original price.

DIDN’T SOPHIA RIDE ONE OF THESE?
The Vespa, so dolce vita, so hyper cool and until now so unattainable here in Canada. Spin on over to Motoretta (554 College St. W., 416-925-1818), a slick multitasking spot on the hottest street in Little Italy. Feast your eyes on the ageless scooters, have a cappuccino, and ponder your needs: a gleaming ready-to-ride model at $3,200, a fixed-up-pretty-good number at $2,500 or an oh-my-God-I-have-a-new-hobby version at $1,500.

SIZE MATTERS
As most women are well aware, finding the perfect foundation garment is not easy – or fun for that matter. Upscale fine lingerie shop Avec Plaisir (573 Danforth Ave., 416-466-5011; 124 Cumberland Ave., 416-922-7702) offers a stellar collection of European lingerie and a knowledgeable, friendly and definitely non-confrontational staff.

IF YOU WERE NARCISSUS…
you’d make Legacy Mirror and Decor your home away from home with its huge selection of mirrors that run the gamut from gilded and Venetian to art deco and contemporary styles; sizes range from tiny to gargantuan.

CUTTING EDGE KIDS
For great new kids clothing, check out Bubbleface (874 College St. W., 416-535-8506), where owner Sylvie Mongé designs and sews colourful and supremely comfy children’s fashions for tykes from three months to four years old.

DON’T FORGET FIFI
The Prada set loves Princessfield (178 Avenue Rd., 416-966-2933, a new boutique offering stylish accessories for the pint-sized pooch. Find dog carriers, chenille sweaters, cashmere coats, Les Poochs Fragrances and jewelled collars for your favourite furry friend.

SOUVENIR TO SIP?
Canada Maple Cream Whisky Liqueur (Kittling Ridge, Grimsby, 1-905-945-9225, www.kittlingridge.com), a blend of cream, Canadian maple syrup and Canadian whiskey, is sure to warm you from the inside out. Available at Loblaws Superstores (650 Dupont St., 416-533-3979; 5970 McLaughlin Rd., Mississauga, 905-755-0573); try it over ice, ice cream, or in a piping hot cup of coffee.

IF MARTHA WERE HERE
Owner and founder Nancy Jacobi was so impressed by the Japanese art of papermaking that she decided to bring it to Toronto-and we couldn’t be more pleased. For elegant handmade Japanese paper in a variety of colours, patterns and designs head to The Japanese Paper Place. Ribbon and trim connoisseurs are tongue-tied by the spectacular selection at Mokuba Ribbon (575 Queen St. W., 416-504-5358)-56,000 products (half available in-store, the rest through special order) in fabrics like ultra suede, nylon, silk, taffeta, grosgrain and satin, and ranging from 30 cents to $226 a metre.

BEST MYSTERY BOOK STORE
Since 1979, the Sleuth of Baker Street (1600 Bayview Ave., 416-483-3111) has been providing whodunit buffs with stack after stack of page-turning suspense. The store carries a huge collection of mystery fiction-with hot authors such as Jasper Fforde, Stephen Booth and Eric Wright – some nonfiction and a choice selection for younger readers.

I LOVE THE NIGHTLIFE
MOST DECADENT COCKTAIL
sleek new addition to the ever-cool College Street neighbourhood, Sutra offers a heady menu of champagne cocktails with inspiring names such as Zen, Karma and Mantra, perfect for sipping in cosy banquettes while chillin’ to a smooth blend of jazz and funk.

ULTIMATE LATIN EXPERIENCE
For a taste of Cuba without getting on an airplane, head out for a night of authentic Latin music and dancing at Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St. W., 416-588-0307). There’s a tempting menu of Cuban specialties and regularly scheduled live music acts, making it one of the most unique venues to show off your salsa. But leave the big fat Cubans behind, there’s no smoking allowed!

STILL KICKIN’ AND KICKIN’ HARD
Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dead at the Hard Rock Cafe. Quite the opposite: a recent reno of the location includes the addition of an upstairs live music club and concert venue called 279 (279 Yonge St., 416-362-3636). The club, which fits 300, has 52 plasma screen televisions embedded into a wall that also features rock memorabilia, and yet another showcases different guitars. An apt setting for such performers as Nickelback and The Tragically Hip.

SO HIP IT HURTS
Where do the beautiful people go to rub shoulders with other beautiful people and the rich and famous too? Get these into your vocab and you’ll be hobnobbing with film festival alum in no time: Braisserie Aix, 2 Cats, Red Drink Boutique (225 Richmond St. W., 416-351-0408), Mint et Menthe, Jaibar (214 Adelaide St. W., 416-977-5252 ), Rain, YYZ, Hotel Boutique Bar (77 Peter St., 416-345-8585), Ice Lounge (222 Richmond St., 416-599-5683), Hush (457 Richmond St. W., 416-366-4874), Shmooze (15 Mercer St., 416-341-8777), Avenue Bar and Lounge, Sequel Lounge (69 Yorkville Ave., 416-927-9929), Airport Lounge (492 College St, 416-921-3047), Amber (119 Yorkville Ave., 416-926-9037), Eau (609 King St. W., 416-203-9399) and Ricochet (112 Avenue Rd., 416-324-9174).

THIS AND THAT
YOU ARE FABULOUS
Hair guru Jie Matar, whose client list includes singer Brandy, model/actor Shalom Harlow and Canadian TV personality Arlene Bynon, has opened a new ultra-luxe salon, Jie Avenue in the exclusive Prince Arthur Condominium complex. If you can’t afford the $250 price tag for a Jie coiffure, one of his stylists is more than willing to make you over at a price in keeping with your bank balance.

ULTIMATE AMBASSADOR
Hard not to know Trish Stratus, the ultra-fit buxom blonde bombshell from the World Wrestling Entertainment conglomerate. This two-time women’s champion, a former pre-med student at York University, battles it out in the ring week after week, but you can take her home in the form of limited edition trading cards and posters on her Web site www.trishstratus.com

THE ULTIMATE HAUNTING
Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society, www.torontoghosts.org, is Ontario’s oldest established society devoted to collecting data on ghosts and hauntings. Check out the Web site for a list of sightings and experiences from ghost researchers. Tales and tidbits are included about both private residences and very public places. Big scares can be had at these 10 places, just to name a few: Osgoode Hall (Corner of Queen and University Streets), Gooderham and Worts Distillery (Mill Street, east of Parliament), Historic Fort York, The Grange at the Art Gallery of Ontario (behind Art Gallery of Ontario), Colborne Lodge, Hockey Hall of Fame, Massey Hall (178 Victoria St.), The Keg Mansion, The Old Mill and The Paddock.

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OUR FULL Toronto COVERAGE

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