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Hot Dining: Portuguese and Italian Fare at Cafe Spiga

Pasta is a specialty at Cafe Spiga

Pasta, fish, grilled meats; it’s the best of both worlds at Cafe Spiga, a restaurant in the ByWard Market that fuses Portuguese and Italian fare. Popular dishes include salted cod, almond crusted chicken with figs, chorizo dishes, an assortment of pastas and sauces, and caldo verde, a hearty Portuguese soup. Specially selected wines from both countries round out the meal. It’s a white-linens type of restaurant, but popular on weekends with families for its fresh and tasty offerings. 271 Dalhousie St., 613-241-4381.

Hot Shopping: Affordable and Trendy Fashions at Forever 21

Find Ottawa's Forever 21 downtown at the Rideau Centre.

In September, fashionistas’ wishes were granted when Forever 21 opened its first store in Ottawa (and a two-storey one at that!). Known for carrying runway-inspired fashions, it’s a favourite amongst hipsters, bargain hunters, and girly girls. With a price range that spans $1 to $65, you can try out trendy pieces without breaking the bank, so you don’t have to worry if they only last a season. With plenty of ruffles, animal prints, and vibrant colours in their arsenal, this is just the place to pick up your New Year’s Eve outfit. Rideau Centre, 50 Rideau St., 613-233-0423.

Hot Shopping: Glamorous (and Affordable!) Jewellery from True Bijoux

This pretty piece embodies two current trends: rock and roll chic and vintage-inspired.

You can’t go wrong with jewellery at the holidays, whether it’s for your mom, your sister, or your lady friend. And if it’s eye-catching bling you’re after, then True Bijoux is the way to go. This boutique offers affordable, unique, and glamorous pieces that will fit the bill, no matter who you’re shopping for (especially if you’re treating yourself!). And the store offers all the must-haves for this season: rock and roll chic, bold statement jewellery that’s meant to be remembered, heirloom and vintage-inspired pieces, plus handmade items from the shop’s own studio. (We’re loving this ebony and crystal bracelet, $125.) 206 Sparks St., 613-232-2229.

Hot Date: Feist Comes to Ottawa

Feist rocks the National Arts Centre on Dec. 5.

Dec. 5. Canadian-born, indie-rocking, Juno-winning Feist has got it all — the voice, the passion, and the star presence. Ever since her days with Broken Social Scene, Feist has had that certain je ne sais quoi, but whatever it is, it’s taken her to big places and made her a household name (her songs have played in everything from an Apple iPod nano commercial, to Sesame Street, to the indie film 500 Days of Summer). There’s been a ton of buzz about her most recent album, Metals, and her live shows are said to be electric (her last tour sold out in many cities, including O-town). This December she’s back on stage, so snag tickets while you still can.

Hot Shopping: Cool Coat for Cold Days

ATYRA Bomber from Napapijri.

Don’t let chilly weather get you down — instead, use it as an occasion to dress to the nines with the ATYRA Bomber for men by Napapijri. This down-filled jacket comes with removable sleeves, which means it can be worn as a vest when things start to heat up (though, we admit, that might be a while!). Plus, fashionable features like knit shoulders, Arctic rib-knit cuffs, and badge decals mean you can stay stylish as well as warm. $598. Available at Harry Rosen in the Rideau Centre, 50 Rideau St., 613-230-7232.

Hot Dining: A Taste of the Highlands

Highlander Pub is a favourite for scotch lovers.

Located in the ByWard Market, the Highlander Pub offers something a little different from a traditional pub. Besides a unique selection of microbrews and imported draughts, this Scottish establishment is Ottawa’s only gold level single malt scotch bar (with an entire wall devoted to their scotch selection, it’s no wonder they’ve nabbed this honour). Live music Wednesday to Saturday nights and some traditional dishes like bangers and mash (with sausages made in house) round out the experience. 15 Rideau St., 613-562-5678.

Hot Shopping: Cool Canadian Fashion

Ooh la la, a cashmere travel set from the HBC Collection.

Show off your Canadian pride (whether you’re Canadian or not) with the HBC Collection. This signature line from the Hudson’s Bay Company offers a range of high-end items that boast the multi­coloured stripes synonymous with the brand (we love this cashmere travel set, $350). The collection also features collaborations with a variety of designers, such as Smythe, Steven Alan, Caroline Fur, and Harry Barker, for products that range from apparel to fur accessories to pet products. The Bay, Rideau Centre, 73 Rideau St., 613-241-7511, and St. Laurent Centre, 1200 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-748-6105.

Hot Shopping: Trendy Menswear at schad blü

schad blü carries a host of unique brands.

Men who pride themselves on staying ahead of the fashion curve will love schad blü. The store carries brands such as Diesel, Citizens of Humanity, and J.Lindeberg, as well as other lines from Europe, Los Angeles, New York, and Canada. They’ve also recently added collections by John Varvatos and Denham to their stock, which contributes to the mix-and-match attitude of this posh store. Says co-owner Andre Schad, “You can pair an $85 pair of Levis with a $2,000 Belstaff leather jacket and it all works well together.” 521 Sussex Dr., 613-860-6800.

Hot Attraction: Get In the Know with Guided Tours of Downtown Ottawa

Ottawa Walking Tours are offered year-round, rain or shine. Photo credit: Sabin Munteanu.

Get to know intimate details of the city with Ottawa Walking Tours. With the popular “Historical Highlights” tour, you’ll spend two hours exploring places that have played a part in history, seeing the city’s beautiful architecture, learning about colourful political characters, and even getting recommendations on where to grab a bite to eat. Not only that, but these guided walks also relate important landmarks back to everyday life. Some favourite spots include the Press Corps, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Prime Minister’s Offices, and more. Get your camera ready! Reservations required.

Hot Dining: Great Brunch Spot

Jak's Kitchen has a variety of tasty, fresh brunch dishes.

Anyone who loves brunch (and really, who doesn’t?) should make a stop at Jak’s Kitchen. This isn’t your average pancakes-and-eggs joint though: open Tuesday to Sunday, this restaurant offers a variety of tasty, unique breakfast and lunch dishes daily. Some favourites include the C’est Bon omelette (smoked salmon, goat cheese, arugula, and spinach), banana bread French toast, and the Croque Monsieur (capicola, gruyere, and diablo sauce). Even better, it’s a great bang for your buck, with dishes ranging from $7 to $13. Also open for dinner. 479 Bronson Ave., 613-230-2088.

The Ottawa Style Files

Shopping is an essential part of exploring a new place, so WHERE gives you the scoop on five top shops. Whether you’re from a big city or a small town, Ottawa’s got just the store for you. By Misa Kobayashi.

Pretty dresses abound at Victoire.

At the downtown location, an old dresser displays knickknacks and vintage jewellery, while pretty party dresses line the wall. This girly shop boasts clothing lines with classic designs that flatter a woman’s body, while still offering a bit of edge. Nearly all the stock comes from within Canada, and popular items include Laura Langford leather bags (made locally), Preloved clothing made from recycled materials, and walls of funky jewellery made by Ottawa artists. Prices range from $5 for quirky greeting cards to $220 for a dress or coat.
246 Dalhousie St., 613-321-1590, and 1282 Unit B. Wellington St. W., 613-421-0089. www.victoireboutique.com

Workshop highlights local, female designers.

This is the home of the handmade. Workshop carries more than 180 small designers — half of whom are local, and nearly all of whom are Canadian — with an emphasis on startup women designers. One such brand is Twiss & Weber, a line that features eco-fabrics and great hats and scarves for fall. While higher-end items like dresses could go for $200, you can also find a range of delightful and inexpensive gifts, such as $2 fabric brooches, hilariously raunchy soaps, and cards. Check out the selection of fun print bags, unique stuffed animals, and jewellery (there’s plenty in the $25 to $50 range).
242 1/2 Dalhousie St., 613-789-5534. www.workshopboutique.ca (more…)

Hot Dining: Big Easy Eats

Fat Tuesday's pride themselves on their juicy ribs.

Coloured beads, a decked out Jack Daniel’s statue, and live music make the Mardi Gras atmosphere deliciously authentic at Fat Tuesday’s New Orleans Experience. Their signature dish is traditional jambalaya, which offers four different kinds of meat in a spicy creole tomato sauce. Another favourite is the fall-off-the-bone ribs — smoked in-house for eight hours before being smothered in a Canadian whiskey sauce and put on your plate. The party heats up Saturday nights with a dueling piano set — two pianists sit on opposite sides of a conjoined grand piano and battle for the cheers of the crowd. Reservations recommended. 62 York St., 613-241-6810.