Hill & The Sky Heroes Release EP Dark Days

Award-winning songwriter and producer, Hill Kourkoutis has established herself in the music industry with having toured with fellow Torontonian Serena Ryder and The Weeknd. On top of that, Hill has directed music videos for Mother Mother, Sass Jordan and even produced and wrote for Eh440 as well as the notable Canadian rock band The Cliks. Since 2011, Hill has been performing and recording under the band name Hill & The Sky Heroes. With having an array of experience under her belt, she released a new EP Dark Days on iTunes today.

The multi-talented singer brings an alternative pop sound adding in electronic elements to steer away from the mainstream pop we hear on the radio today. Each track pulls you in to the hard-hitting lyrics contrasted with an upbeat electronic-pop melody that come together so naturally. Hill’s vocal ranges add a unique and versatile element to the EP. A personal favourite track ‘I Do I Do I Do’, Hill delivers softer vocals adding a mellifluous touch, while ‘The Flame’, Hill uses more powerful vocals during the chorus. Dark Days is the exciting pop sound I’ve been waiting for.

Dark Days - EP Artwork (Hi Res)

Stream Dark Days HERE and keep up to date with Hill & The Sky Heroes on their website for upcoming shows, new music and more.

Levetto: The Wolf of Liberty Village

As the Novella team sipped on a red wine chosen by Executive Chef of Levetto, Shahir Massoud, we were deciding whether to get the delicious Carbonara or the mouthwatering Bucatini pasta. During this time, Massoud joked around with us, struck up conversations with Levetto’s regulars and created a down to earth atmosphere while people enjoyed their food. It was in that moment we understood the success of the restaurant, which opened its fourth location in Liberty Village.

The New York trained Egyptian chef explained Levetto’s unique quality, “You know, the food, the price, style, the whole concept is unique,” gesturing to the menu which features several dishes under ten dollars. “There’s lots of good Italian food in the city, but not for this price. You can get a scratch made bowl of pasta, a couple beautiful salads, a Romana style pizza and we can get out of here for forty bucks without skimping on quality, without skimping on flavour. Everything is made in house.”

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“A lot of people aren’t doing fresh pasta and a lot of people aren’t doing this style of pizza as well. Romano style is a finicky recipe. It’s about 90% water and most pizza dough is maybe 55% water. Over forty-five minutes, you gradually give the dough more water and fold in pockets of air, and then you get this delicious, soft and light crust.”

The choice to move into the up-and-coming Liberty Village was a conscious move by Massoud. The restaurant was designed by Toronto-based designer Henry Lin. After showing his successes in other regional markets, it was time to make the move downtown into the dense location with a different personality and community than that of his other restaurants. The Roman focused authentic Italian food, from spaghetti carbonara to the bucatini all’amatriciana, allows the guest to experience the cuisine’s  different flavours.

“It’s not easy to train someone on how to make a simple dish like Carbonara properly,” he explains. “It could end up a nightmare. When I train someone to make a dish using rendered bacon fat, yolk, and some of the cooking water, they acquire the technique and the appreciation for the dish.”

Growing up, Massoud taught himself to cook through reading cookbooks and watching chefs he idolized, cultivating his love of food through his appreciation of the creation and what it means culturally to feast with others. Later in his twenties, he spent two years in New York training under a head chef. The first few months he was only allowed to prep vegetables, then later moved up to the protein station and eventually moved into the hot kitchen, where he was mentored in the skills he has now passed down to his Levetto staff. Massoud will change the menu according to location, season, and experimentation that the guests request.

“Actually later tonight, there’s a lady coming in named Nancy, and we named a salad after her,” he laughed.

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Levetto’s name was ignited over a few glasses of wine and the playing around of words. “It started with the legend of Rome being founded by two wolves and the Roman word for wolf is lupa”, Massoud recalls. With the first location in Vaughn opened in September 2013, and three more last year – two in Waterloo in the former part of 2014 and Liberty Village this past December – Massoud is only looking forward to more restaurant openings in the GTA with the fifth restaurant set to open at College and Dovercourt next month.

Novella recommends trying out the Carbonara pasta (smoked bacon tossed in cracked black pepper with egg, scallion and grana padano). Then for dessert, you must ask for his warm brown butter and coconut semolina cake with pistachio, a secret recipe passed down from his Egyptian grandmother.

Show us what you had at Levetto by tagging us @novellamag and @levettoresto with your favourite dish and follow Chef Shahir Massoud @shahirmassoud.

Profile: TOM* Founder Jeff Rustia

I got to have an intimate one-on-one interview with Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOM*) founder, Jeff Rustia, at the glamourous Trump Hotel/Residences, who has partnered with TOM* as a platinum sponsor for the upcoming TOM* Fall/Winter 2015. Even though we sat down in the magnificent suite sipping on a glass of champagne, Rustia projected a down to earth persona. He is simply a man who lives and breathes fashion, appreciates his hardworking staff who has contributed to TOM*’s success and treasures every waking moment with his family, who constantly inspires his craft.

TOM* has become an international sensation since its first show last year. It’s created a global platform for establishing and emerging menswear designers and has put Toronto on the global map in the fashion industry. Unlike any other fashion week, TOM* carries a charitable element, Men’s Fashion for Hope, that’s close to Rustia’s heart. His late son inspired him to give back and works with Sick Kids for the Kol Hope Fund to raise money through fashion.

Rustia talks about the success of TOM, the charitable aspect it brings and reveals his first fashion memory.

Novella: Toronto marks fashion history with the launch of TOM*. Can you describe how you felt after the final day?

Jeff: It’s interesting because I knew TOM* was going to be an incredible initiative but I had no idea it was going to be epic. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But you know the overall mission statement of TOM*, I think we accomplished everything we set out to do which was to provide a global platform for the menswear, both establishing and emerging, we put Toronto in the global spotlight and we were also able to give back to the city. We recently donated $10 000 to the Sick Kids Foundation as a result of the charity fashion show. So with all of this said and done and garnering almost 25 million worth of exposure, its needless to say, the feeling after that was absolutely surreal and I think I slept for a week after [laughs]. It was definitely much needed rest.

Novella: When was the decision made for TOM* to return in February?

Jeff: It was pretty much immediate. Our team of directors alongside our board of advisory was served based on the epic response and the success. It was a no brainer. We knew that this was something that we made history in Canadian fashion. We knew this was something that Torontonians and Canadians were embracing whole-heartedly and that it needed to come back so I believe within days after the first TOM*, we made the announcement that we’d be back in February.

Novella: We were really touched by your story about your late son. Why was having a charity component at TOM* just as important to you?

Jeff: Thank you for asking that. Actually people are always saying it’s fashion week and you really didn’t need to have a charitable element to it. But I think that in many ways, my late son who passed three years ago also inspired my journey towards men’s fashion week. So I thought it’d be really important to have at least that one special fashion show, in this case it was the Men’s Fashion4Hope – a celebrity fashion show, of which I’m so happy that we just donated $10 000 to Sick Kids as a result to that Men’s Fashion for Hope show. It was important to me because I feel that it was important to have an event that had heart. Toronto’s Men’s Fashion Week’s mission is not only to boost the city, its economic impact and to help the fashion industry but it was important that we also showed the world that Toronto man, and man in general, probably wear their heart on their Burberry sleeve [laughs]. And at the same time, what better way or what more personal it is to me, it is for me, that we hold this charity for the Kol Hope Fund at Sick Kids, very much like the Herby Fund at Sick Kids, but Kol Hope Fund is specifically aimed at disabled children very much how Kol was. I owe Sick Kids a lot, our family does, because of the fact that Kol was diagnosed to live only three months and he lived for fourteen years and he wouldn’t have without the help of Sick Kids. So I’m really proud to say that on top of the $10 000, our accumulative total now is $95 000 to Sick Kids. It was a really beautiful day when I was there with the Vice President of Sick Kids Foundation, Heather Broll, and her team, and I had an opportunity to thank Sick Kids for what they have done to not only help my son but also help children very much like the little Kols in the world. So it was a very emotional time for all of us and I’m happy to announce that we’re going to be back with men’s fashion season 2 with more male celebrities, the who’s who from business and politics. I’ve actually just seen the VIP list that’s walking down and it’s really impressive and it’s a great feeling to see all of these accomplished and successful men walking for charity and though they didn’t know Kol, I just feel like Kol’s legacy of love, charity and hope continues through everything that we do and through these men who are walking for Sick Kids.

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Photo by Celia Fernandez

Novella: Why do you think menswear is continuing to gain momentum?

Jeff: Well you know, I truly believe that there’s been this global cultural shift among the millennium man today and I think the modern man isn’t ashamed to look good and love fashion because they know it’s linked to success. It’s linked to dressing up to success, getting suited up for your job and looking good benefits you not only professionally but personally as well. I think that it’s environment that we live in today. I think social media plays a big role about men caring about how they look from the rise of the ‘selfies’.  Normally you’d go to serve a business cocktail and go unnoticed and now with everybody being a paparazzi with their own iPhones, people call you out on wearing the same outfit [laughs]. I’ve been called out for wearing the same outfit, which I even put days a part, but people see that and would be like “I’ve seen that on Facebook”. Also the red carpet phenomenon seeing your favourite athletes, actors dressed to the nines for the met ball or a Hollywood event. I think in itself too inspires a lot of your average professional man who feels that looking good is part of being successful.

Novella: What is your first fashion memory?

Jeff: It’s interesting because I was just sort of flipping through old pictures with my family and my mother would actually dress me and my brother in the exact same suit. Whether it’s summer we’d be in the same safari suit and these would be handmade suits by my mom and it was quite a riot. Back in the 70s me and Mike [Jeff’s brother] would have matching blue suits with bellbottoms and big lapels, which by the way is back [laughs]. The 70s are back. Fashion has always been a part of my life. I would say that’s one of my first fashion memories. I mean my father is a very well dressed man so his closet is a go-to personal shopping experience for me. I’m definitely inspired by all of the clothes; my father had great style.

Novella: What inspires you?

Jeff: A lot of things inspire me actually these days I look at everything. My ears and my eyes are wide open. I’m very in tune with everything that’s happening and I feel that the tiniest sound, or the font on a poster can really inspire me because I think everything is interconnected or interrelated to what I’m doing. For Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, obviously what inspires me is the city. This is an initiative that I’m so proud to be Torontonian to have grown up here I love the city. This is something that I feel like we deserve and we’re ready for and to see all of those Torontonians come to the event, it felt good because I felt that this was something that we were doing, giving back to this amazing city that we love. So right now I’d say that I’ve always been a big menswear enthusiast, so I’d say men’s fashion is absolutely inspiring and also to have all this opportunity to work with such great talents and to see what they’re creative minds are brewing and to have that sneak peak before we unleash it to the world is also a great privilege. Finally once again children inspire and I think that at the end of the day when you think the world is caving in you look at life through a child and a child’s perspective on life through their lives, and everything is awesome [laughs].

Novella: The EDMA prize was great way to help emerging designers. Who have been instrumental throughout your career?

Jeff: You know I would have to say, I mean I’ve been lucky. I always tell people that in your lifetime if you have the opportunity to have a mentor, that is actually one of the best gifts. I have a lot of mentors that have had an opportunity to work with on a professional level but at the end of the day I think my biggest mentors would be my family. So I would say, my mother, my father and also in many ways my late son Kol is a great mentor for me. He’s taught me a lot.

Novella: What would be your theme song and why?

Jeff: I have 2 songs [laughs]. I would say for the longest time one of my theme songs is Rihanna’s Diamonds. It’s about shining bright and I find that song inspiring. Right now my theme song is, and don’t laugh, Everything is Awesome [sings it]; it’s the Lego World song [laughs]. I think it’s so positive and very inspiring and I think that if you listen to the next line of that song ‘Everything is good when you work as a team’ [sings it]. I think that was one of the biggest key to TOM*’s success is that it takes an entire village to create an epic event like this and I’m amazed at our volunteers, our directors and advisory and patrons and donors that come together to make this event truly work. So maybe there’s a reason why I love that song [laughs].

Photo Credit: Cover Photo by Celia Fernandez

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and this means it’s another great opportunity to show someone your love and sincerity. Honestly, V-Day shouldn’t be just for couples- anyone you love could be your lovely valentine. We have rounded up some great gifts for ladies and the gift guides for gentlemen is on its way.

SONY DSCLACC Nail Polish

La couleur couture (LACC)’s nail polishes are not only toxic-free, cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, but they also offer a wide variety of colour options. How cute and romantic is this pink shade?

LINE KnitwearPhoto Credit: George Pimentel / Getty Images

LINE Knitwear Jacket

Founded by two Toronto Designers, Line Knitwear offers high quality knitwear with affordable prices. We are in love with this pink ombre jacket. It just looks so cozy and stylish.

N23383SMagnolia Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver Pendant Necklace

This two-heart necklace from Magnolia definitely stolen our hearts. Buying a necklace for girls might be tricky, but this simple design won’t go wrong. It can simply be dressed up or down. 
TrinitaeTrinitae AROMATHERAPY SOAP

The rich scent and nourishing properties of this Aromatherapy soap will bring your loved ones the ultimate spa-like experience.

Recap of Toronto’s Annual Do Design Event

Dundas West’s sidewalks were filled with Torontonians for the annual Do Design event this past weekend. Between Bathurst Street and Grace Street, Do Design hosted Do West Trinity Bellwoods BIA, an all hours gallery showcasing contemporary designers’ work in various storefronts of the eclectic neighbourhood during Toronto’s annual design week. In its fifth year, the event featured In Context, a special video series on Canadian contemporary architecture. Created by Raja Moussaoui and Canadian contemporary designer Andrea Lacalamita, the video gallery was composed of seven venues along Dundas Street West, and allowed people to view projects in the surrounding area and how it impacted not only the community but our environment as well.

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Khalil Jamal – Column Side Table, Felt and aluminum

One of the reception venues, MADE Design, was hosting an exhibition by a group of artists called Untraditional featuring Liz Eeuwes, Jeremy Hatch, Andrew Reesor and Jamie Wolfond. Coming from different design backgrounds, from textiles to woodworking even to ceramics, the work of these artists explores how tradition is perceived and the idea of tradition in untraditional objects. Owner of MADE Design, Shaun Moore, discusses Hatch’s work through porcelain and the intricateness of his design used in his project. Through Hatch’s work, Moore explores the world through young Jeremy’s eyes in order to create something new and “untraditional”, such as the water fountain featured in MADE Design’s window gallery.

Do West’s twenty-five exhibit walking gallery finished up on Sunday, January 25th. Until next year!

Works Credited: Photo 1 by Matt MacDonald – White Ash Barstool, Solid white ash; Photo 2 by Jenna Stanton – Pour me, self medicating seriesPorcelain bottles with silkscreened enamel decals and underglaze; Photo 3 (cover photo) by Nathan Clarke – A PrioriEuropean beech solids and veneer; Photo 4 by Tobias Cavan – Sled BarstoolMaple, baltic birch, latex paint, water based lacquer