Articles Tagged ‘David Lawrason’

SEPTEMBER 2014: Living in the Downtown Core

1_cover_final.indd

Cover image by Christian Laldone – Photolux Studio.

Gentrification is a loaded word. As Mark Bourrie writes in “Change Is Good?” (page 40), when a neighbourhood goes from gritty to trendy, there are some who do very well and others who lose out. But I’d say there is one thing it’s good for, and that’s opening our eyes to the corner stores, green spaces, and other hidden gems that give an area character. For some people — we’re calling them neo urbanites — those observations shape their lives in fascinating ways. 

It’s precisely this act of taking neighbourhood love to the next level that fuels our 40-page cover story, “Living in the Downtown Core.” From the voices speaking out about gentrification to the people who invited us into their stylish homes, we can’t talk about urban renewal without shining a spotlight on the folks who are behind the movement. That’s why we broke with tradition and featured people on our cover (you can read more about Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe, and their beautiful deck in Centretown, in “Family Values,” page 61). In fact, while the “Urban Study” series showcases stunning interiors, the stories are more about how a house works to accommodate the downtown lifestyle and why the inhabitants choose to live where they do. Because it’s people like Patrick and Erin — people who frequent mom-and-pop stores and loiter at the cash to shoot the breeze — who are helping to shape the downtown core. And these so-called neo urbanites are savvy: they know about the power of the purse, and they walk the downtown talk. That’s why they volunteer with community groups, frequent independently owned shops, and walk so much! 

Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.

Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.

For me, one of the most interesting projects to watch right now is the Bell Street Towers. Apparently it’s one of the city’s oldest apartment buildings, and it’s one of the first places I heard about when my sister moved to Ottawa in the late 1990s. She saw the sign from the highway and, with vacancy rates low and few ties to the city, took a chance. She told some nasty pigeon stories, but she also spoke of the diversity of her fellow tenants, of children playing wildly in the stairwells, of spontaneous clothing swaps in the laundry room. Years later, when I was living in the shadows of the Towers, I came to appreciate the street-level retail. Yes, the pizza at Calabria was pretty good, and that Polish grocer got us through some busy weeks, but it was the familiar faces that made us loyal customers. Like many neighbourhoods in transition, the future of the Bell Towers is unknown. Hopefully, the facelift will allow room for a few blemishes, for it is the gritty details that catch our attention and call us to take part in the act of shaping our city.

I would be remiss if I let this issue go by without noting a big change happening at Ottawa Magazine. Our veteran gossip columnist, the affable and hard-working Michael Prentice, has decided he would rather go on the occasional cruise and spend time with family than track the comings and goings of the upper crust. And because no one can replace Michael when it comes to this sensitive subject matter, we’re welcoming long-time journalist Chris Lackner, who will skewer all levels of government in a new column, “The Jester.” 

Dayanti Karunaratne, editor
feedbackottawa@stjosepmedia.com

THIS CITY

Reason to Love: Lusk Cave
Chinatown Museum in FOUND

• Chris Lackner is The Jester
Sarah BrownDoubleSpace at MacOdrum Library

Ottawa Is a Place — the story behind the t-shirt and the city’s civic pride
by Tony Martins

In Tune With the Times at Ottawa Folk Fest
by Chris Lackner

Secrets to Tell
Author Frances Itani mines her family history in new novel
By Paul Gessell

Living in the Downtown Core:
Ottawa’s downtown is changing. It’s moving quickly from a big town
to a small city. These are the people, places, and spaces amid
the core’s changing landscape

Change is Good?
A look at the positives — and the pitfalls — of gentrification
By Mark Bourrie   Photography by Dwayne Brown 

My ’hood, Your ’hood
Newcomers and old-timers dish on favourite haunts
Photography by Tony Fouhse

My Story
Vanier’s orphaned landmark
By Mike Steinhauer

Family life in Little Italy
By Nichole McGill

My Guilt Trip
By David McDonald 

Urban Study
At home with four committed downtowners

A Day in the Life
Minute by minute, hour by hour — at work and play with four urbanites
Photography by Rémi Thériault and Jamie Kronick

Photo by Luther Caverly

Photo by Luther Caverly

MOST WANTED
Alpaca is the new cashmere. Find it at Magpie Hill.

MY LOOK Talking life + style with Matt Carson

FOOD

Connecting farm to fork by Shawna Wagman

Quest for raspberries by Cindy Deachman

Plus City Bites — foodie gossip and other juicy bits

WINE

David Lawrason picks top Greek wines

RESTAURANTS

Spotlight on Erling’s Variety

New reviews of Ginza Ramen, Mamma Teresa Chelsea Ristorante, and The Rex

CALENDAR
Carp Fair, Folk Festival Favourites, plus See, Hear, Read with Paul Gessell

OTTAWA JOURNAL

The Examined Space by rob mclennan

TASTING NOTES: David Lawrason raises a toast to Merlot, that great forgotten grape

Merlot has become the great forgotten red grape since being mercilessly panned in Sideways. David Lawrason believes there may be a resurrection in the offing

Illustration by Kyle Brownrigg

Once a wine hits mainstream success, it tends to fall out of favour with wine critics, sommeliers, and even some winemakers themselves. This has been the fate of merlot, one of the world’s most widely planted red grapes.

When mellow merlot became so widely popular in the 1990s, the wine opiners began to look down their collective noses at it (it happened to chardonnay too).

This gave rise to a famous line in the 2004 Academy Award-nominated movie Sideways in which the lead actor threatens to leave a restaurant if his companion orders “a fucking merlot.”

Since that low blow, merlot has wallowed, bruised and dejected, in the shadow of pinot noir (the star of the same film) and, to some degree, syrah. Merlot is still out there on the shelves (so someone is buying it), but wine pundits continue to ignore it.

Read the rest of this entry »

BEAT THE CHILL: 10 cold-weather wines guaranteed to warm you from within

With the depths of winter upon us, David Lawrason profiles 10 cold-weather wines guaranteed to warm you from within

Maybe you’re planning to take advantage of the cold to spend some quiet cuddle or reading time beside the fire — or perhaps Mother Nature is about to unleash a blast that forces you to do just that. Either way, the key is to be prepared. And this season, being prepared means considering tippling some fabulous winter wines instead of the heady single malts or cognacs usually associated with the season. Winter wines are lightly fortified (up to 20 percent alcohol), sweet, and most definitely rich, complex, and concentrated.

There is a wide world of such exotica — ports, sherries, tokays, vins santos, and vins doux naturels — that rarely get attention nowadays because they don’t fit the fast-paced, calorie-counting lifestyle that yanks us away from the table too soon and sends us to bed too early.

But the fact that these wines are currently less popular is also keeping their prices ridiculously low, given their quality.

Read the rest of this entry »

FESTIVAL PRIMER: Wine expert David Lawrason’s top picks for the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival

Drink up: David Lawrason and his fellow 13 judges tasted more than 300 wines as part of the Ottawa Wine Challenge. Illustration by Kyle Brownrigg.

After tasting their way through 337 wines as part of the Ottawa Wine Challenge, the experts have their say on which wines you should seek out at this year’s Ottawa Wine & Food Festival

By David Lawrason

This story appears in the Winter edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.

The task was a pleasant one for an autumn Saturday — find the best wines out of 337 bottles submitted to the Ottawa Wine Challenge. The purpose? To guide visitors attending this year’s Ottawa Wine & Food Festival (Nov. 7 to 11 at the Ottawa Convention Centre).

Yes, one of the big joys of browsing the show is making your own discoveries, but with hundreds of wines, beers, and spirits on offer, it certainly helps to have some direction. And so 14 judges — sommeliers, wine writers, and LCBO product consultants from the capital region, along with a handful of interlopers from Toronto — assembled a few months before the festival for a blind-tasting competition.

Pourers dealt out over 50 flights of numbered glasses among four panels. Here, collected in one list, are the best white and red of show, plus six other gold medallists and two silver medallists that I personally think are of particular interest. The ratings out of 100 are mine, as are the tasting notes. The unveiling of the gold medallists at day’s end revealed some great surprises — all of them, of course, pleasant.

Read the rest of this entry »

TASTING NOTES: How about gamay for Thanksgiving this year? David Lawrason gives gamay its due with 10 suggestions

Floral, fruity, and silky, it’s about time gamay received some love By David Lawrason

This story appears in the September edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.

Illustration by Anthony Tremmaglia.

Poor gamay! The thin-skinned grape that makes those juicy, fruity reds of Beaujolais, France, has long struggled for respect. Yet when it works, it is one of the most satisfying, easy-drinking, versatile, and inexpensive reds on the market. And I see glimmers that it is bouncing back.

It’s not as if gamay’s problems are a new phenomenon. The disrespect began way back in 1395 when it was kicked out of its namesake village of Gamay in Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or district by a local duke named Philip the Bold who considered gamay an inferior ruffian compared with princely pinot noir.

Gamay took root in warmer Beaujolais’s granitic soils to the south, and there it languished for centuries, known as the cheap, easy-drinking “country wine” that fuelled the taverns of Lyon. In modern times — the 1980s, to be exact — someone got the bright idea to create Beaujolais Nouveau, an overly perky, gassy, barely fermented grape juice released every third Thursday of November, just weeks after the harvest. Nouveau, which is now in decline, was so successful that it obscured the fact that the Beaujolais region was capable of so much more.

Read the rest of this entry »

TASTING NOTES: Argentinian wines are gaining elegance — and momentum — try these good-value picks from the LCBO

In the wake of the huge success of Fuzion, the versatile wine country strives to move beyond the bold malbecs that made it famous  By David Lawrason

A few years ago, Argentina’s bold malbecs swaggered into town, offering bags of flavour at unbelievably low prices. And they caught on like wildfire, with the now ubiquitous Fuzion — a malbec-shiraz blend priced at just $7.75 — becoming the largest-selling brand in LCBO history. With the LCBO shelves now bursting with dense (though often coarse and simple) malbecs priced under $12, it seemed that a visit to Argentina was in order to find out what’s on the horizon from the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation.

With about 30 percent of Argentina’s vast, arid Andean vineyard planted with malbec, it’s obvious that this variety is not going away anytime soon. But there is a reservoir of upgraded malbecs — plush, creamy, and more complex wines that still offer great value in the $15-to-$30 range. These wines come from more narrowly defined regions, with differences in style based on vineyard altitude. Though Argentina is dragging its feet on the creation and marketing of appellations, within Mendoza (the country’s largest region, with over 75 percent of the production) the malbecs of higher Uco Valley areas such as La Consulta, Tupungato, and Altamira display a more floral character, better acidity, and greater elegance. Conversely, malbecs from medium-altitude Luján de Cuyo and the lower altitudes of Maipú tend to be dense, soft, very ripe, and a touch earthier.

Read the rest of this entry »

LAUNCHING! Ottawa Magazine’s Eating & Drinking guide hits newsstands April 19

It’s an ever-changing dining landscape out there. Why, just a year ago, if you’d said you were planning to head to Hintonburg for an evening of fine food and drink, your friends would have wondered what you were talking about. And just three or four years ago, if you’d floated the idea of joining the gang for small plates, few would have understood the concept.

Trends change fast. Chefs move around, restaurants revamp their menus and dining rooms, and the city’s ever more cosmopolitan diners are always on the hunt for restaurants — and food shops — that reflect their evolving tastes and knowledge. Older notions of fine dining have given way in 2012 to a more casual approach to eating. Though we still respect the great cooking techniques, we’re also looking for food that offers comfort and whose provenance can be traced to local producers.

The premier issue of Ottawa Magazine’s Eating & Drinking Guide regales you with a list of 300+ enthusiastic recommendations — food shops that stand above the crowd, new restaurants we hope will prosper and older ones we’d recommend to our best friends, and great wines from near and far. Think of this book as your culinary go-to guide for the city — a compendium to inspire your eating, drinking, and food sourcing choices for 2012. Bon appétit!

Read the rest of this entry »

TASTING NOTES: Wine writer David Lawrason discovers some lesser-known reds on a trip to Spain

What reigns in Spain: Heart-warming Spanish values for the dead of winter

By David Lawrason

One of the great revelations on a recent trip to lesser-known wine regions of Spain was the value of the wines I encountered. At every price point, I found shockingly good wines selling for much less than wines of equivalent quality from France or California. Being known as a “value wine region” can be a double-edged sword, attracting the budget-conscious consumer but often, at the same time, pigeonholing a region as cheap or somehow incapable of producing top-quality wines. Spain continues to walk that thin edge, with many of its wines currently at the LCBO selling for $10 or less. That said, in my view, Spain has recently become much more focused on making fine wine.

Illustration by Alan King.

Most of Spain’s quality red wine comes from the north, with Rioja being the best-known and largest region. As Bordeaux is to France, Rioja is to Spain — both having huge market presence and a deeply rooted tradition of aging wines a long time in barrel and bottle. But modern tastes have moved to fruitier, earlier-drinking wines, and while Rioja has embraced this trend to some extent, lesser-known regions such as Navarra, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Bierzo, Penedès, Priorat, Montsant, and Cariñena have moved faster.

Of those, Ribera del Duero (on the banks of the Duero River, which flows west into Portugal, where it becomes the Douro) is the best established, with some big-name houses, such as Vega Sicilia, Alion, Pesquera, and Aalto, commanding luxury prices. But elsewhere, countless small, new wineries are blooming on the arid steppes, many of them boasting young but well-travelled winemakers at the helm. In each of three small appellations I visited last fall — Rueda, Toro, and Bierzo — the number of wineries has grown from about a dozen to over 50 in the past decade. These new wineries are focused on the export market and are making very good wines styled for international tastes.

Read the rest of this entry »

FROM THE WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL: Checking out the WineAlign booth

WineAlign.com's David Lawrason (who also publishes reviews in Ottawa Magazine) is at the Wine & Food Festival all weekend

Stopped in at the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival to do a little sipping and schmoozing. Ottawa Magazine (and Toronto Life) wine writer, David Lawrason, is running tutorials and manning the www.WineAlign.com booth (Booth 522). So stop by, say hi, and ask about all the cool wine stuff on the website. We came straight home after the show and watched the site’s fun series of videos, in which the experts (Lawrason, sommelier Sara d’Amato, wine educator Steve Thurlow, and master sommelier John Szabo) face off in a series of blind “taste-offs.”

WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Expert David Lawrason on events to attend — and some don’t-miss wines

DAVID LAWRASON sits in as a panellist on the Ottawa Wine Challenge, rates the
competition, checks in on a speed dating meets wine tasting event, and highlights some don’t-miss wines to look for at the
Ottawa Wine & Food Festival

As the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival moves into the fabulous new convention centre, it also promises to take it up a notch this year. The festival, which now takes place over a full five days (Wednesday, Nov. 9 to Sunday, Nov. 13), offers up hundreds of wines. Indeed, more wines than one palate could possibly assimilate over such a short time frame. So check out the website, see which events intrigue you, and plan your tastings.

Read the rest of this entry »