Author Archive

DESBRISAY DINES: Pizza at Les Fougeres

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Duck confit pizza with spinach, goat’s cheese, pear, thyme, and orange zest. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I found myself in Chelsea last week, in search of white snow. Weary of the melting March mounds, crusted black and coughing up doggy detritus, I needed a reminder of how stunning early spring can be.

I found it at Les Fougeres, at a table overlooking the garden and woods beyond, the village of active bird feeders, and the snow maiden, with her mop head and lemon eyes, remarkably robust for late March. A groundhog loped by.

White snow at Les Fougeres. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The snow maiden at Les Fougeres. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

And crouched over a smoker, a chef who wasn’t Charles Part. But someone I knew I knew, from somewhere. Turns out it was Lucas Hornblower — he of the fabulous name! — whose food I so enjoyed at (the late) Bistro St-Jacques, now part of the Part team in Chelsea.  

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SHOP TALK: This spring, androgyny is reborn

BY KYLA CLARKE

Items from Selfridge's "Agender" line

Items from Selfridge’s “Agender” line

For years, androgynous fashion has been all over the runways. Recently, more and more androgynous pieces have been making their way to the streets, which means the closets of couples are starting to look a lot alike. In fact, the British department store Selfridges has recently revamped some of their stores and replaced their men’s and women’s departments with all unisex clothing, as part of their new “Agender” project. This bold move could look towards a trend for the future, not just in the world of fashion, but in our culture as a whole.

“Androgyny” is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics, or a lack of gender. Rather, a sexual ambiguity. There has always been a relationship between fashion and gender: dressing yourself is a way of expressing yourself and how you’d like the world to perceive you, and your gender identity plays a large role in deciding what to wear. With the latest – and possibly boldest – wave of feminism upon us, as well as the growing discussion of LGBT activism, asexuality is becoming more than just a fashion statement.

Jared Leto wears a skirt to the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Jared Leto wears a skirt to the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

It’s always been a bit more socially acceptable for women to wear men’s clothing, but with the inspiration of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Jared Leto, men are doing it too. Some men these days are risky enough to wear traditionally feminine colours like pink and purple, floral pocket squares, or paisley-patterned dress shirts. We’ve also seen men in skinny jeans, adorned like Depp in jewelry, or with long, ombré hair à la Leto.

But women have been wearing accents of men’s clothing for years. Starting with women in the workplace donning male-inspired blazers, dress pants, and collared shirts, the trend has spread even further to baggy “boyfriend” jeans, loafers, and flannel and denim work shirts, leaving the men in our lives wondering where their clothes have disappeared to. If all of our closets begin to meld together, eventually, we might actually stop borrowing our boyfriends’ sweatshirts altogether.

This spring, androgyny’s in Ottawa. You can find genderless trends at Vincent, a women’s boutique on Preston Street. The shop carries high-end brands like Bailey 44 and Ganni. Both brands embody primarily feminine tastes, but they suggest subtle touches of masculinity, making them an excellent introduction into androgynous dressing for those who aren’t so sure.

Looks for spring include collared shirts, tailored dress pants, sporty sneakers, and the continued trend of one-piece jumpers. Colours for spring are subdued: gender-neutral shades of blues, whites, and greys are ubiquitous, and patterns are dainty and subtle. Ganni offers a line of skirts and dresses in a delicate yet distinctive floral pattern that provides a feminine edge to the masculine hues.

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A navy blue collared dress from Bailey 44

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A fun navy patterned jumper from Bailey 44

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A feminine collared dress from Ganni

 

Soon enough, we won’t need to keep stealing our boyfriends’ clothes, but what will we do when they start stealing ours?

 

PLUS: Vincent, and Ottawa-based boutique run by two sisters, will host a charity event for Dress for Success next month on Saturday, April 18. From 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., you can donate your used work-wear for women in need. For donating, you’ll receive a discount on a purchase that day, as well as be entered to win a $250 closet makeover.

APRIL 2015: The Ultimate Event Guide

1_Aprilcover.inddI’ll come right out and say it: I’m a reluctant partier. Maybe it’s the stress of deciding all the little details in advance, or perhaps it’s simply my natural introverted instincts when it comes to crowded spaces, I have never been what one would call “the life of the party.” But I have begun to admire the art of a well-
orchestrated bash. From original personalized decor to entertainment — not to mention food and drink — a great party helps reserved party-goers like me loosen up. And let’s face it: celebrations are integral to the way we experience the passage of time. Whether it’s a birthday party that reminds us our baby is growing up or a memorial service that honours a loved one, these events bring us together to laugh, cry, hug, and recognize what is really important in life. And when I’m raising my glass and meeting the eyes of fellow guests, I’m always glad to be there. So whether you are a seasoned party planner looking for the latest trends or someone who needs to be sweet-talked onto the dance floor, I think you’ll find our “Keep Calm and Party On” guide useful and entertaining.

Also in this issue is Judy Trinh’s story on SWATing. I’ll admit to being a bit behind in the digital age, but when the City of Ottawa’s website was hacked this past fall, I think many of us felt a collective shudder. Sure, the dancing banana didn’t do much harm, but it forced us to ask whether authorities are prepared to deal with hackers. It’s a complicated, creepy story that ultimately points to teen pranksters, but with SWATing on the rise, it seems best to be ahead of the curve on this tech trend.

Meanwhile, Brielle Morgan brings us an insightful article about Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), an international network that helps high-risk sex offenders transition into regular life after time spent in prison. CoSA has an excellent track record, but its funding crisis is reaching a critical level. Just before this issue went to press, the Ottawa chapter was forced to deny support to a recently released sex offender. They’re begging Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney to reinstate the federal funding from Correctional Service Canada and organizing fundraisers so that they can continue to heal and protect society.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Inside the HQ of the Communications Security Establishment Canada

By DAYANTI KARUNARATNE

The view from Ogilvie Road

The view from Ogilvie Road

Last week, we were approached by Toronto’s WZMH Architects with an alluring proposal: would we like to share images of CSEC‘s new east-end headquarters?

Yes, please! This is the closest most civilians like us will ever get to seeing the 775,000-sqaure-foot complex, which was built with a public-private partnership for $867 million. Built to achieve LEED Gold certification, the modern facility is said to be of substantial economic benefit to the community and is expected to generate approximately 4000 employment opportunities. 

The preamble of the pre-approved text that was supplied with the below images notes that the government is “Fully committed to the safety and security of its people” and describes the services provided by CSEC as “acquiring foreign signals intelligence in support of defence and foreign policy; protecting electronic information and communication of importance to the Government of Canada; and, providing technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement agencies.”

A view of the south facade of the CSEC headquarters in Ottawa.

A view of the south facade of the CSEC headquarters in Ottawa.

The design of this facility incorporates a number of creative features — and takes into account the data-heavy nature of cryptology work. 

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GREAT SPACE: A cozy, sunny home designed for a growing Westboro family

On the footprint of a former worker’s cottage in Westboro, a young family has carved out a cozy, sunny home

BY BARBARA SIBBALD
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LORNE BLYTHE

The triptych of alcoves backing onto the central core was prophetic. Jackson likes to sit and read in one; now with the arrival of the twins, Amelia and Penelope, in November, there is an alcove for each child.

The triptych of alcoves backing onto the central core was prophetic. Jackson likes to sit and read in one; now with the arrival of the twins, Amelia and Penelope, in November, there is an alcove for each child. Photo by Lorne Blythe

Economical urban design may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s the zeitgeist behind architect Jay Lim’s new home and office in a burgeoning corner of Westboro. Designed in tandem with his wife, Lucy Hargreaves, the 1,400-square-foot house mimics the luxury feel of most modern houses, with its open concept, high-end fixtures, built-ins, and metal siding. But looks can be deceiving. Jay called on his architectural knowledge and previous work experience to complete this comfortable family home on a tight budget. Inspiration came from the three houses he had previously designed for Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that mobilizes volunteers and the community to build affordable homes for people who otherwise could not afford them. With donated materials and labour, the Habitat houses clocked in at only $67 a square foot. “It taught me what things are worth spending money on versus where to economize,” says Jay.

 

Jay and Lucy paid homage to the original cottage by preserving its footprint, which is clad in vertical white. The new part is in black. Photo by Lorne Blythe

Jay and Lucy paid homage to the original cottage by preserving its footprint, which is clad in vertical white. The new part is in black. Photo by Lorne Blythe

In his own house, he mixed and matched high- and low-end fixtures and built some furniture from construction leftovers and materials scavenged from the trash. He chose a lower grade of reclaimed wood flooring. And he bundled the utilities into a central core to save money. Plus, he wrapped the whole building in inexpensive metal siding — the kind seen on barn roofs. All this netted substantial savings, with costs well below the usual $200 per square foot charged by many developers.

Jay recalls how it was on those earlier Habitat for Humanity projects where he first used leftover wood to make low-cost furniture for a family that had none. That sort of green experiment wasn’t part of the commission, but it is part of his company’s mandate. The moniker 25:8 Research + Design comes from the 24:7 cliché: the three partners wanted to cram more into their busy days, so “we decided to make some more time,” says Jay. Their designs are mostly residential, while their research delves into water, urban conditions, or whatever interests them. Jay met his two business partners in the urban design and architecture graduate program at Columbia University in New York City. The other two still call New York home, while he and Lucy, both Toronto natives, relocated to Ottawa in 2009 when she started a job with the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada as senior program manager. Jay continues to design residences from his home office while also teaching design studio and building technology at Carleton University’s Azrieli School of Architecture. Not surprisingly, given his interests, he’s a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional. Their new house reflects his passions and talent, as well as the couple’s desire to create a space that suits their family’s life.

Light reflects off the walls and white-washed floors in a space that manages to be at once compact and surprisingly spacious. It’s a good thing, given that the family of three became a family of five following the birth of twins in November. There’s an open-concept living space and office on the main floor, while the second level includes two bathrooms and three bedrooms. Generous nooks showcase artwork and objets d’art, and the cut-outs edged with bright orange afford expanded views to the outdoors or hidden interiors. Here, every facet of design has been carefully considered.

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The ingenious “bite” out of the stairwell provides the five-foot-four-inch cook with a view of a favourite painting. The appliances aren’t the highest end, but they work well and blend in with the white Ikea cabinets. “It’s Scandinavian designed,” jokes Jay. Plexiglas covers the risers in the stairs to make them baby-safe. Photo by Lorne Blythe

 

The discovery of this house, tucked away on quiet Winona Street, was a fortunate happenstance. When they moved to Ottawa in June of 2009, Jay and Lucy immediately began exploring neighbourhoods close to downtown for a property they could renovate or tear down. They had been searching unsuccessfully for a few months when, one fall afternoon, Jay missed the Parkdale turnoff to home while cycling along the Ottawa River bike path. He cut south at Westboro Beach and spotted a For Sale sign on a tiny bungalow on Winona Street. The lot was a fair size; the location was perfect. The couple set up an appointment and toured the property that same night.

The house features three decks. While the back deck is primarily for entertaining, the rooftop is a private family area, completely enclosed so that two-year-old Jackson can run around. Thriving on the northeast side is a rooftop vegetable garden, a there's a hammock for napping. The third deck, off the master bedroom, is ideal for a before-bed glass of wine.

The house features three decks. While the back deck is primarily for entertaining, the rooftop is a private family area, completely enclosed so that two-year-old Jackson can run around. Thriving on the northeast side is a rooftop vegetable garden, and there’s a hammock for napping. The third deck, off the master bedroom, is ideal for a before-bed glass of wine. Photo by Lorne Blythe

The bungalow was originally a worker’s cottage, one of several still standing on adjacent streets that were built for workers at Skead’s Mills, a circa 1871 sawmill at Kitchissippi Lookout. The 800-square-foot cinder-block building was cramped and in very poor condition, but the lot was 46 by 90 feet — big enough for an addition — and it was close to the beach, bike paths, stores, cafés, and transit. Jay knew immediately: “This is the house we’re going to buy.”

The couple lived there for 2½ years before renovating. Living in situ gave them a chance to truly understand the space and develop a plan based on the existing house and lot. (“I respected this house for what it was — one of the original cottages in this neighbourhood,” explains Jay.) Though the covered back porch was in terrible condition, they loved that it allowed them to eat outside, rain or shine. “The way we were using the space consolidated the idea for us of having a kitchen that opened up to the backyard,” says Lucy. “We use this space a lot as a family.” Jay began drawing up plans — all told, he would end up doing 25 renderings before settling on a final design.

The process was collaborative. “It worked well because our aesthetic is pretty similar,” says Lucy.

“She’s the best wife ever,” adds Jay. “She trusted me.”

“Make sure you quote that,” she quips.

When Lucy became pregnant with Jackson early in 2012, the couple pushed forward with building. But there was a glitch. They had planned on adding to the existing house, but after a bit of preliminary digging, they discovered that the walls weren’t holding up well and the slab foundation couldn’t support the house. “We realized then that there was no point in spending the money to do all these acrobatics to keep the original house,” says Jay.

Jay and Lucy love to wake up in a bright room, so the master bedroom was deliberately positioned to take advantage of the morning sun which flows in from the balcony doors and slit windows. There's also a small built-in desk for Lucy and an ample walk-in closet. Photo by Lorne Blythe

Jay and Lucy love to wake up in a bright room, so the master bedroom was deliberately positioned to take advantage of the morning sun which flows in from the balcony doors and slit windows. There’s also a small built-in desk for Lucy and an ample walk-in closet. Photo by Lorne Blythe

They made the difficult decision to demolish. On the plus side, this allowed them to put in a basement, which they plan to finish soon. But Jay and Lucy regretted losing the cottage, so they determined to pay homage to it by preserving its footprint. On the new house, the portion clad in vertical white siding is an “echo” of the original footprint, while horizontal black siding demarcates the addition.

“Architecturally, it makes the black elements look like they are ‘inserted’ into the white box,” says Jay.

The bungalow came down in spring 2012, and for the next 10 months, Jay, Lucy and, as of August of that year, Jackson, lived in short-term rentals downtown. Lucy took seven months parental leave, then Jay took five. “When Jackson was sleeping, I’d go for a run with him in his orange stroller to the site,” says Jay. The workers were glad to see them because it meant one of them could take a break and walk the baby while Jay did a site inspection. “They’d do paper-rock-scissors to see who got to walk the baby,” he says, laughing.

 

Jay Lim, Lucy Hargreaves, and their son Jackson hang out in the hub of the house: the kitchen and dining area. Orange accents throughout the house are a tribute to Syracuse University, where Jay did his undergrad. "If you use it in small areas, it can brighten up the space," he says. Photo by Lorne Blythe

Jay Lim, Lucy Hargreaves, and their son Jackson hang out in the hub of the house: the kitchen and dining area. Orange accents throughout the house are a tribute to Syracuse University, where Jay did his undergrad. “If you use it in small areas, it can brighten up the space,” he says. Photo by Lorne Blythe

The family moved into their new home in July 2013, but the original house is never far from their thoughts. “I still sometimes sit in the living room and think, Oh, this was where our bed used to be,” says Lucy. They also integrated a few mementoes from the old bungalow: a small square of the back-door screen now covers a peephole in the guard rail on the back deck that allows Lucy to see through to the back garden when she’s in the kitchen. And prominently on display in the living room is the original coal-chute door, as well as a small brown bottle, once containing Egyptian liniment, dug up during the excavation.

Like the cottage it replaced, this house is very practical. All but two rooms have two or more windows, so there’s cross ventilation and no need for air conditioning. The house is super-insulated with spray foam and boasts higher-end windows and a high-efficiency forced-air gas furnace. But the biggest economy is the inner core — the “tree trunk,” as Jay calls it — occupying the centre of the house. Painted grey, to contrast with the all-white interior, this core houses all the utilities: plumbing, heating, and electricity. That means only one wall contains plumbing, and ductwork is limited. “It saved us a ton of money,” explains Jay. Their frugality and eco-consciousness also extended to leftover wood. As part of their research, they reused framing material for built-in benches and the rooftop deck and furnishings. Plywood was repurposed for tables and desks.

Would they do it again? “In a second,” says Jay. “I think everyone should design their own house. It’s the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy, yet we usually conform ourselves to developers’ ideas. What’s great about this house is that it cost less than a developer’s house because of the way we built it, and it also exactly fits our lifestyle. It’s exactly what we need and want.”

The gleaming kitchen opens up onto a welcoming covered outdoor deck in the same location as the original cottage's covered deck. Jay and Lucy use it, rain or shine, and guests naturally spill out onto it. Photo by Lorne Blythe

The gleaming kitchen opens up onto a welcoming covered outdoor deck in the same location as the original cottage’s covered deck. Jay and Lucy use it, rain or shine, and guests naturally spill out onto it. Photo by Lorne Blythe

DESBRISAY DINES: Taylor’s Genuine Kitchen & Wine

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Coast to coast fish selection. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Coast to coast fish selection. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

“Yep, we’re done,” John Taylor @domuscafe tweeted on May 26, 2014. “Thanks to everyone for the last 18 years, it was a blast! But time to move on … !”

He moved on, as it were, to his second restaurant, the five-year-old Taylor’s Genuine Kitchen & Wine on Bank Street — which is where I had hoped to find him, there in his open kitchen, exactly ten months since that tweet told us he was shuttering his lovely Domus.

So off we went to Old Ottawa South on a frigid February night, and again on an even colder night in mid-March to find the man who had ‘moved on.’ But no luck. He happened to be off both those evenings.

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GREAT SPACE: Rideau River views inspire refurbished family home in Old Ottawa South

This article was a feature story for the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

By SARAH BROWN

Photography by MARC FOWLER – metropolisstudio.com

A chance convergence of circumstances leads a young family to pull up stakes and move to a new neighbourhood, building a delightful home oriented to take in sunny views over the Rideau River

While the front door faces west, the house is oriented toward the south, with three levels of floor-to-ceiling glass designed to make the most of the southern exposure and views of the Rideau River

While the front door faces west, the house is oriented toward the south, with three levels of floor-to-ceiling glass designed to make the most of the southern exposure and views of the Rideau River. Photo by Marc Fowler

This is a house that almost didn’t get built. It took a whole series of connected happenings — some fortunate and some not — to create the conditions that culminated in the decision to build this light-filled family home just off the Rideau River. The sequence of events took place over five years, beginning in 2005. At the time, Michaela and Sean* were living in Alta Vista with their three small children. Though they loved their community, they were feeling cramped in their tiny bungalow. They began exploring the idea of renovating but were put off by the costs of reconfiguring and expanding an older house. “Believe it or not, it was never our dream to build a house,” says Michaela with a laugh, as she relaxes on a burgundy couch in the second-floor family area, sunlight streaming in on two sides through floor-to-ceiling windows. This is where the kids get together to hang out and play, surrounded by colourful furniture, custom bookshelves filled with children’s fare, and a striking piece of hanging wall art that looks for all the world like an overhead view of a hot-air-balloon convention. (Michaela chose the fun fabric and created the piece by stretching it over a frame — voilà, art that’s easy to replace if the kids get bored with it.)

On the second floor, the three children’s bedrooms are arrayed around an open gathering area that encourages interaction. There are no desks in the kids’ rooms; instead, they are encouraged to do homework and projects together at the large communal table

On the second floor, the three children’s bedrooms are arrayed around an open gathering area that encourages interaction. There are no desks in the kids’ rooms; instead, they are encouraged to do homework and projects together at the large communal table. Photo by Marc Fowler

In contrast to most single houses, which are typically wood framed, this one is built of concrete and steel. Nothing creaks. “The solidity of the house was something we noticed about many homes in the south of Germany, where Michaela is from,” notes Sean. “We knew we wanted to emulate this.”

In contrast to most single houses, which are typically wood framed, this one is built of concrete and steel. Nothing creaks. “The solidity of the house was something we noticed about many homes in the south of Germany, where Michaela is from,” notes Sean. “We knew we wanted to emulate this.” Photo by Marc Fowler

The story goes like this: While Michaela and Sean were debating the pros and cons of renovating or moving within Alta Vista, Sean’s father got some unwelcome news about a development property he had bought in Old Ottawa South, just steps from the Rideau River. He had hoped to replace the small cottage-type house on the site with a duplex, but the city denied his application. And so the house sat empty, the property in limbo. In 2007, he offered to sell it to his son, but the couple hesitated, still committed to finding a place in Alta Vista to call home. And then circumstances forced Michaela and Sean to act. Even as they debated what to do next, they discovered that they would have to commit to a major renovation before they could even think of selling their bungalow. “Basically, we got news that the floors were sinking!” says Michaela with a shake of her head. While the construction teams got to work on their house, the young family made a temporary move into the little white cottage in Old Ottawa South. And that’s how a life-changing decision came to pass. “When we actually got to live here, we realized just how special and beautiful the property was,” says Michaela.

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DESBRISAY DINES: The Beechwood Gastropub

Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.

Is a gastropub as straightforward as a nice looking bar with a kitchen that puts out tuna crudo instead of a chicken wings? Must it serve upscale British pub food in order to call itself a gastropub? Or is it just a name for anything goes in the kitchen? No limiting culinary theme: calamari, pierogis, hamachi, lamb bhoona, burgers, bouillabaisse — it all works!

Or doesn’t. In which case, the place may aspire to gastropub-ness, but if it isn’t ticking the right boxes — a convivial atmosphere, an excellent drinks list, solidly good food — it is a gastropub in surname only.

This one, the Beechwood, in the space where Farbs Kitchen used to be, is on its way to deserving the title. It hasn’t all been rosy on my visits — one meal had some hiccups, the welcome can seem muted, and one more warm body on the floor would help service flow — but the space is busy and jolly, there’s craft beer on tap, the wine list has been thoughtfully assembled, and the kitchen — led by chef Colin Lockett — puts up plates that mostly please.

Hot smoked salmon with kimchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Hot smoked salmon with kimchi. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I provided a glimpse of the new Beechwood Gastropub in a lunch pick in December. I also promised a more detailed look, so this is that.

The Beechwood Gastropub is owned by André Cloutier (formerly of Arturo’s on Beechwood, and now owner of the long running Iberian restaurant, El Meson, also on Beechwood). He seems fond of the street and diners seem fond of him. The place has been packed at my every visit.

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SNAPSHOT: Hundreds of stylish shoppers, fundraisers flock to Nordstrom opening gala

All photos by Rémi Thériaut

After months of anticipation, renovations, and media events, the doors to Nordstrom Ottawa were unofficially opened on Wednesday night for Nordstrom Rideau Centre Opening Gala. Over 1,800 peope — including frenzied shoppers, local philanthropists, fourth-generation Nordstrom family members, and new hires — filled the massive high end department store for an evening of drinks, bites, dancing, and shopping.

The event raised over $180,000 for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and United Way Ottawa. Click through the gallery to see glimpses from the bash>>

SHOP TALK: Q&A with Mèreadesso skincare founder Linda Stephenson