Rave: My ‘hood: Christie Station

By Abby
I live near Christie Station, which is home to Christie Pits Park, Koreatown, Fiesta Farms and is just a quick jaunt from Honest Ed’s. It’s a pretty awesome part of Toronto to live in – close to The Annex, TTC and even close to cool stuff north of Bloor (who knew?).

One of my favourite places is this little Korean restaurant on the corner of Bloor and Clinton. It’s orange, and that’s how I let people know where to find it, since I’m not exactly sure how to pronounce the name, which is Buk Chang Dong Soon To Fu (according to BlogTO).

Anyway, the service is quick and friendly, and the food is fantastic. It’s also pretty inexpensive – around $25 plus tip for two dinners and two drinks. The Bibimbap is delicious, and served piping hot. Fresh veggies (love the pickled daikon), beef and steaming hot rice, with a perfectly cooked fried egg perched on top make this an amazing one-bowl dinner. The stone bowl its served in is hot, so the rice gets crunchy midway through. I’m not a vegetarian, but will sometimes opt for the veggie version of this dish too. Yum.

Another great menu item is the bulgogi – beef served sizzling hot with onions and rice. I have a hard time deciding between the two – it usually has to do with how healthy I want to eat that night. The beef wins a lot.

I love the Korean condiments served with each meal – two kinds of spicy kimchee, pickled bean sprouts and soy beans in a sticky sweet soy sauce. My fiancé and I always get a bottle of the Korean liquor to go with, and leave the restaurant full, warm and slightly intoxicated by good food, smooth alcohol and great conversation.

Photo credits:

Yum, yum: The Dakota Tavern’s Mint Julep

From time to time, we like to get down to some live music. One of the best music spots in the city is The Dakota Tavern, known for Sunday Bluegrass brunch, The Beauties, surprise musical appearances by Ron Sexsmith, Serena Ryder, and members of The Barenaked Ladies, and just generally as a place for good, ol’ fashioned fun. No BS, no club beats, no frilly drinks (motto: “Unless Malibu comes in a bottle of Wild Turkey, we don’t have it.”).

Aside from a massive beer selection, they boast some great whiskey and bourbon cocktails. One of the best is their Mint Julep. Simple, refreshing and makes you feel right at home with the guitars and banjos.

Insider’s tip: The Dakota Tavern has an amazing menu. They make their own sausage and burgers from different types of game (like venison), use local fish in their fish tacos, and have a mean three-cheese macaroni dish. Nearly everything is housemade, and they use as few pre-mixed ingredients as possible. Go early enough for dinner – you’ll be glad you did. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to midnight, daily.

The Dakota Tavern’s Mint Julep

1½ oz. bourbon
½ oz. simple syrup
10 mint sprigs, muddled

Mix all in a tall, thin glass. Top with crushed ice.

To get into the true Dakota spirit: pour 1 oz. bourbon in a short glass. Drink. Repeat.

Rave: Lexus Live at The Distillery

To fully enjoy one of the last weekends of summer, we’re going to rock out at an amazing indie concert series, presented by Lexus. The Lexus Live event will be held all weekend (Friday, August 27 to Sunday, August 29) at the Distillery District (55 Mill St.), with four fantastic Canadian bands, for free!

The purpose behind pulling together this great concert? The worldwide launch of the tour for the new Lexus CT200h. This hot new hybrid car makes its debut in Toronto, with a prototype and “sophisticated virtual setting”, including an interactive iPad and digital display. 

We’re très excited for Montreal-based, Juno-winning The Stills tonight from 7 to 8 p.m.

The other bands are equally thrilling: Lily Frost and her lovely voice will take the stage Saturday afternoon, from noon to 1 p.m. You might recognize her as the singer and songwriter of the Being Erica theme song, All I Ever Wanted To Be.

The Midway State, who infamously leaked a Peter Gabriel cover with Lady Gaga last year, will perform Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m.


Finally, Paper Lions close out the concert series with a show on Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m. The P.E.I. band has won an East Coast Music Award, and we hope they’ll perform their tune, Travelling.

A cool car and hot bands? See you there! Be sweet and tweet – #lexuslive.

Photo credit: 
The Stills: themiddledistancerunner.wordpress.com
Lily Frost: lilyfrost.com
The Midway State: last.fm
Paper Lions: http://www.myspace.com/paperlionsmusic  

Media, Darling: Noreen Flanagan

Noreen Flanagan has been with ELLE Canada since its second issue back in 2001. In April of this year, she was named editor-in-chief. She has covered arts, entertainment, fashion and beauty for the magazine. Prior to working at ELLE Canada, Noreen worked at FLARE magazine.

Twitter: @elle_canada
ELLE Magazine online

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
I always appreciate it when a publicist has taken the time to customize their pitch for our publication. It shows they’re attentive to our needs and genuinely familiar with our magazine and its audience. The subject line on an email pitch is essential. If it doesn’t grab my attention, I don’t even open it. When I’m going through my emails in the morning, I’m all too keen to quickly weed out the ones that aren’t essential.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Open, straightforward discussion of what’s on offer and what the expectations are. Also, when possible, a prompt reply to interview requests, or at least updates as to the status of interview requests.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
They aren’t familiar with our audience, and hence make pitches that reflect a lack of understanding about what we’re after. If it happens repeatedly, I conclude it’s either a lack of respect for the publication or genuine lack of interest in their work.

Your pet peeve?
Follow-up phone calls with messages: “Just calling to see if you received our email…”. I can appreciate that some emails don’t make it, but for the most part, if an editor doesn’t nibble after receiving your email, it’s because he/she isn’t interested or it isn’t relevant for the book.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
I always appreciate humour! Either in the pitches or just the banter back and forth.

A visit from…Michelle Bilodeau

Since rock-it promotions is mainly an office of women, it goes without saying that we love shopping. Our rad office on Queen West only fuels that addiction. When our long-time friend Michelle Bilodeau popped by the fourth floor the other day, we knew it meant we’d get some dish about hot spots for buying the latest and greatest. Our chat turned to buying online (especially with recent group-buying chatter!) and she shared her top spots to click and purchase.

As a fashion and entertainment editor for almost 10 years, Bilodeau began her career at FLARE magazine. She left her position as the associate copy editor in 2005 to become assistant features editor at Weekly Scoop, a much-hyped but short-lived celebrity and entertainment weekly. After a year of freelance writing and public relations work, Bilodeau landed at FASHION magazine as the associate managing editor before becoming senior editor at Gardening Life. After only four months, Bilodeau was back on staff at FASHION as the acting managing editor for a one year contract, which ended in the summer of 2009. Bilodeau, a Toronto-native, is continuing her freelance writing and editing career and she lives downtown with her five-
year-old min pin, Carter.

Front Row Magazine
Twitter: @FrontRowMag

My five favourite online shopping sources:

With creative collaborations with designers such as Gareth Pugh, Viktor & Rolf and Jean Pierre Braganza, LuisaViaRoma.com is a haven for online shoppers. Not to mention their killer accessories sales, and free shipping to Canada.

Jonathan + Olivia
I fell in love with Jonathan + Olivia when they first invaded Ossington Avenue. Even more so now with the addition of TopShop (though it’s not available online). Jackie O’Brien has a very keen eye when it comes to style.

The only major online retailer dealing designer duds in Canada, SSense.com has an extensive list of designers I love, including Alexander Wang (and his T line, from which I’ve purchased a few tanks and dresses), Elizabeth and James, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen’s McQ.

The American site for Topshop now delivers to Canada, and if an item is not at J+O, this is the easiest way for me to get it. I can literally get lost for an hour skimming through this site.

Net-a-porter.com and Theoutnet.com
The site that started it all, Net-A-Porter.com, cannot be left off this list. While I’ve never had the luxury of buying directly from this site, I visit Net and younger sister TheOutnet.com at least a few times a week to peruse what’s going on online. And I love that this is a female-run business that’s made millions!

Fashion-able: Your bag goes on your back for fall 2010

OK, so we have to eat our recent words about how much cooler messenger bags are than knapsacks. Immediately after posting, we started to notice that backpacks were hot for this fall. Some amazing designers have taken the old school standby and made it cool for those of us that have made the transition to working girl (or guy). They did a good job. Sigh.

We hate when we’re wrong.

Here are some of the coolest bags from the fall 2010 collections:

Alexander Wang

The darling of the fashion world has created a very chic felt, velvet and wool backpack collection. We love that these three are unisex, cozy and luxe enough to differentiate us from the students. 
  Sydney bags in grey felt, black velvet and grey and black striped wool. Price upon request.

Louis Vuitton
Another man-friendly option is the classic LV pack. You know it’s high quality. It’s gonna wear well. The warm browns are spot-on for fall. ‘Nuff said. 

Louis Vuitton Bosphore bag. $1,410
Tory Burch 
The lovely Tory Burch has updated the childhood nylon sack to a sleek adult version, complete with funky gold hardware and striped straps.
Palma Small backpack, $295
Free People
Sometimes, Free People errs a little on the hippie side with lots of unusual prints and flowery embroidery. But this gorgeous backpack blurs the line between country and urban. The rich-looking leather is a great burnt sienna, which we just love. There are some clever little details, like the key hanging from the strap to the right. Drool.
  Free People leather and canvas backpack, $298.54
All these hot backpacks are making us nostalgic for the days of fresh new notebooks, squeaky white gym shoes and schoolgirl crushes.We’ll have to make do with slinging one on our backs and bringing a bagged lunch to the office.

Yum, yum: Our favourite ways to drink beer

Admittedly, most of us weren’t the biggest beer fans until we became well acquainted with various university beer promos: Toonie-Tuesdays at the campus bar, beer pong tournaments and $25-four-litre pitchers at an infamous Toronto pub. Beer used to be a means to an end, but years of enjoying this beverage have led to true love of that refreshing combination of hops, barley and bubbles.

Here are some of our favourite ways to consume brewskis, with a summer spin:

The Beergarita
A lovely combination of lime, tequila and Mexican beer that is delightful when enjoyed on a patio.

1 can frozen limeade
1 pint tequila
3 to 4 Corona (or other similar beers)

Combine one cup of tequila with three to four beer in a large pitcher. Stir in limeade and serve over ice with a slice of lime and dash of salt. Mmmmm. 

The Beer Float
Josh Rubin of The Toronto Star opened our eyes to the possibility of beer as a dessert beverage. It’s a tasty, sweet snack that’s perfect for a warm evening. 

Vanilla ice cream
Dash of maple syrup
1 bottle Rickard’s Dark (or other flavoured beer – we are keen to try the Nickel Brook Apple Pilsner with a scoop of vanilla and dash of cinnamon, and Mill St. Coffee Porter with a scoop of chocolate).

Toss a scoop (or two) of ice cream in a tall glass. Slowly pour in beer and add maple syrup to taste. Best enjoyed with a spoon. Whipped cream optional.

The Ice Cold Pint

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Head to your favourite pub, patio or bar, grab some pals and down a frothy glass of your favourite brew. Top picks: Alexander Keith‘s, Mill St. Lemon Tea, Steam Whistle and Stella Artois.

Photo courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk 

Bonus points for appropriately branded glassware and a smooth pour.

Bottoms up!

We’re Not Just Pretty

Working in public relations has its perks. There are invites to hot parties, exclusive sneak previews of films and products, and rubbing elbows with the occassional celebrity. Generally though, PR is not about glitz and glam. Our lives do not resemble Whitney Port’s or Samantha Jones’. There are regular 18-hour days, delicate situations to be negotiated and smiling despite the bad news – all the while working at a pace that gives the Molson Indy racers a run for their money. We love it and it’s often fun, but we’re not just bubbly blondes that chat about Angelina all day long, while dashing from party to party.

We’re Not Just Pretty” is our latest regular feature. We’ve asked some top PR professionals to give us the inside scoop on their work lives, and clear up any misconceptions that exist about what it really means to work in PR.

We’re thrilled to feature Tara Wickwire, Director of Public Relations for Gap Inc. Canada. She oversees PR efforts for Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap Outlet, Banana Republic Factory Store and the upcoming Gap Inc. e-commerce launch.

Tara graduated from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science, then moved to Toronto to complete the Public Relations post-graduate program at Humber College. She began her career at The Bay and later joined Gap Inc.

Outside of talking about jeans for a living, Tara loves to play tennis, wax poetic about Nurse Jackie, visit the library, enjoy the great outdoors with her family, cook successful recipes and converse with Gwyneth Paltrow about the merits of vacationing in Nova Scotia.

How long have you been in your current position?
I have led the Gap Inc. PR team since 2006.

How does your company leverage PR?
The function of the PR team in Canada is certainly multi-faceted. It’s up to our team to execute PR campaigns that reflect our product and marketing focus. We are the means through which the brand’s messages are communicated, so we need to keep it distinct among the brands and also find new ways to tell our brand stories from season to season. Obviously social media is an exciting new dimension and it enhances the PR function in such a challenging new way.

What do you love most about your job?
Each day I come to the office and work with a fantastic and inspiring team. It’s a real joy to be able to think and work creatively in support of the brands I feel very passionate about. I love the challenge of finding new ways to tell our brand’s stories and to ultimately engage the customer.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
Obviously, credentials and experience play a role in finding the right team member. But for me, it’s very much about a vibrant work ethic and a personality fit with the entire team. It’s finding the right combination of enthusiasm, warmth, polish, curiosity and relevant experience.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I have a bank of many fond memories of working with my previous boss and mentor, Jane Shaw. She taught me a lot about perseverance and understanding your own strengths and opportunities. A mentor can teach you what it takes for success–but this starts with self-awareness and confidence.

I also really admire Mark McEwan’s leadership style. I love how he interacts with his team and keeps a very calm aura during intense moments.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows (Melrose Place, Sex and The City, The Real L Word, The City etc.)?
Aside from the misleading melodrama, it’s great. I actually think it’s fantastic that PR has developed such a high profile in pop culture because it’s an incredibly positive career path, full of opportunity and great experiences. But with these shows, there is a drawback that people are misguided about what the job entails. So many classic moments – it’s pretty much an enduring Facebook status of “Really??????”.

I would love to see a show following White House interns. Now that would be good.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
It sounds basic, but read as much as possible, for both inspiration and research. You can achieve greater success with your message once you are thoroughly familiar with what your reporter, publication, blog, etc., has covered. Soak it all in and add it to your arsenal of information. It’s one thing to talk about a trend, but it’s quite another to use context and how it relates to cultural and societal shifts.

But most importantly, be absolutely genuine.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: Style.com, The Huffington Post, Vogue.com, Flare.com, Fashionmagazine.com – and more!
Designer: A.P.C., Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Miu Miu.
Store: Aside from the obvious- A.P.C., Barney’s, Holt’s, Jeffrey, Alexis Bittar and West Elm.
Book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
Snack: Let’s just put it this way: not carrot sticks.
Season: Fall.
Inspiration: My parents.
Drink: Orangina.
Motto in two words: Be grateful.
Idea of perfect happiness: Sitting on a dock looking at the ocean with my boys.
Indulgence: HBO, designer shoes, Whole Foods mac and cheese, roasted marshmallow ice cream, Diptyque candles. Shall I continue?
Celebrity crush: Tim Riggins.
Favourite tweeter to follow: (Other than @GapCanadaPR, @OldNavyCanadaPR and @BRCanadaPR of course!) – @thesulk, @3rdand10, @tiyanagrulovic is a wit at the tweet, @Flarefashion, @Seacrest. And love the stream of consciousness from @dkny, @lakebell

Media, Darling: Corey Mintz

Fed is a column in the Toronto Star written by Corey Mintz about his experiences of cooking for people in his home. Guests have included Toronto Mayor David Miller, lawyer Clayton Ruby, director Sarah Polley and the troglodytic Mole People that live in the basement apartment. Before this spoiled lifestyle, Mintz was a restaurant critic for the Toronto Star. Before that spoiled life, he worked for a living, cooking.

He always has Tic Tacs on his person and looks both ways before crossing the street.

Read him online
Read his blog
On Twitter: @coreymintz

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Write cogently. The relevant information needs to be up top. I once received a pitch that began with “since the dawn of time …”. If your information is good, there is no need to disguise it with jibba jabba. For my column, the guests could be anyone, as long as they’ve got something interesting going on. But in 45 installments, so far only one guest has come from a PR agent. Nothing takes the place of knowing and trusting the PR source. But for me that’s a short list. There’s only one name on it, Debra Goldblatt, and she never pitches me anything.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Timeliness and truthfulness. If a story is good, exclusivity is a bonus.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
I can only apply this to my area of food. The mistakes I see again and again are: 1) Not understanding the subject you are speaking about. 2) Forgetting that your clients represent you as much as you represent your clients. If you are asking writers to write about, and eaters to eat at, a crappy restaurant, you’ve lost your credibility.

Your pet peeve (pertaining to PR)?
Nonsensical lead paragraphs attempting to associate every vodka cooler, rib festival or pair of solar-powered jeggings with Mad Men or Sex and the City. It oozes vapidity. Also, a lack of humanity, sincerity. A lot of the people I deal with only want to be seen as communicating their client’s message (with permissible asides about shoes, Glee, cupcakes, jogging or cats/children). Without having a personality, it’s hard to believe anything a publicist says. Why not contact writers to make an introduction without pitching anything? That’s how I got my job.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
It’s criminal to presume that your audience is dumber than you. It was either Roosevelt or Churchill who said, “Talking smart to a pimp, you done broke the first rule.” For me, that’s never a problem since I am not very smart. Still, I always read my work out loud before filing it. If the author thinks it sounds like a con, so will the audience.

A visit from…Gifted

Buying the perfect gift can be tricky, no matter who we have to buy for, or what the occasion. Luckily, we have some shopping-savvy friends who come to visit us on the fourth floor. Alison Lawler-Dean from GIFTED knows exactly how to find the perfect gift for every occasion, “thank-you” or milestone.

We were stuck on what to get some friends for various upcoming celebrations (lots of birthdays and weddings this month!), so we invited her up to the fourth floor to give us some fresh ideas.

Here are Alison’s top picks:

My 5 favourite types of gifts

1. Memories – Collecting memories into a custom photo album or family tree makes for a personal gift that people will look back on time and time again.

2. Problem Solvers – Tools of all types make for great gifts. Reflect on a person’s interests or current life situation and choose something that can assist their endeavours, such as a beautiful chef’s knife for an aspiring cook or a tool kit for someone setting up a new home.

3. Charity – Most people have more “things” than they need, so instead of another trinket, give a gift that keeps giving. Make a donation in someone’s name to a cause close to their heart, such as Kiva or the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

4. Humour – Knowing what someone will think is funny shows you really know them. Create a custom t-shirt with a message they will chuckle at or give a perfectly cheeky card.

5. Experiences – The memories from experiential gifts outlast most store bought gifts. It doesn’t have to be extravagant like a Nile boat cruise. Inexpensive, thoughtful activities around your own city, like a fun scavenger hunt are sure to please.

P.S. I use this awesome new site to aggregate gift ideas and more – check out Gifted on Pinterest.

Find Gifted
Website: http://www.givegoodgift.ca/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/givegoodgift
Twitter: @givegoodgift
Pinterest: pinterest.com/allield/givegoodgift