Benjamin T. Johnson

Some collected writing.

Semi-important question: what do 2014’s mayoral candidates like to drink?

This originally appeared on Toronto Life’s website on April 15, 2014.

mayoral-candidates

We might not typically judge a candidate for public office based on his or her drink of choice, but considering how much we know about our current mayor’s drinking preferences—whether it be a few beers at a Leafs game, an early-morning bottle of brandy at his office, or just a few Iceberg vodkas and Tropicana grape juices with an old friend in the park—it seems only fair that we ask those who seek to unseat Rob Ford what beverages they turn to after a hard day of arguing about who did or didn’t actually save the city a billion dollars.

Sure, there are far more important issues, but there’s also something to be said for getting the candidates off their scripted talking points. There are few things more personal than how someone chooses to unwind.

And so, with that in mind, here’s what the top contenders for mayor like to drink, along with some wild speculation about what their choices say about how they might govern if they win. Read the rest of this entry »

The foreign brewers who own The Beer Store may be price-gouging Ontario bar and restaurant owners

This post originally appeared on Toronto Life’s website on February 18, 2014

The_Beer_Store

Coors Light, Budweiser and Molson Canadian aren’t particularly pricey brands of beer—unless you own a bar or restaurant in Ontario. For the province’s tens of thousands of liquor licensees, these premium beer brands come at huge markup.

Take a case of Canadian. For a restaurant or bar, a two-four costs a staggering $44.75, about 30 per cent more than its retail price of $34.95. Labatt Blue, inexplicably, costs almost 50 per cent more than the retail price. This would be strange, but not necessarily fishy, if the markups were consistent across beer brands, but they’re not. With few exceptions, the markups apply exclusively to brands produced byMolson-Coors, AB InBev and Sapporo. Those are the three foreign-owned mega-breweries who ownThe Beer Store and have a virtual monopoly on beer sales in Ontario.

 The issue came to light last month, when the Canadian Restaurants and Foodservices Associationraised the price discrepancy to members of Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. The CFRA is determined to keep raising the issue until they get a satisfactory answer. So far, there’s been no answer at all. “CRFA has never been offered an explanation for why the owners of The Beer Store decided to charge Ontario licensees more than the general public for their products,” says Jamie Rilett, vice president of CFRA Ontario. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Rob Ford-inspired Halloween costumes that your hipster friends haven’t thought of yet

This originally appeared on PostCity.com on October 24, 2013

Rob Ford has been the mayor of Toronto for close to three years now, and in that time he’s been lambasted, lampooned and ridiculed by the best of them. So if you’re looking to have a little fun at the mayor’s expense this Halloween, you’re going to need to be original. In short, it’s time to step up your Rob Ford costume game.

The days of buying an XXXL suit off the rack at a second-hand store, filling it with pillows and painting your face burst-capillary red are over. Not to worry though, I’ve got you covered. Here are five great Rob Ford costume ideas that will make you the hit of any martini-sipping lefty shindig.

1. The Missing iPhone

This is arguably the key piece in a long, embarrassing saga that’s brought international attention to the city, so why not dress as the alleged missing alleged iPhone that allegedly contains an alleged video of the mayor allegedly smoking what allegedly looks like crack? It’s a terrifying apparition that might end any number of careers should it some day appear, and it’s surely caused more than a few terrified sleepless nights for the mayor (allegedly). If you really want to go the extra mile, only show your costume to Toronto Star reporters, then disappear forever!

How to reject requests for charity

This was originally published in issue number 5 of Mr. Happy Magazine (NSFW)

Mr. Happy

If you live and/or work in downtown Toronto, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually run into what is surely one of the most stressful and potentially traumatic experiences one can have in a big city, namely, being asked to donate to charity.

Charities are everywhere these days–on street corners, organizing campaigns through your office, and even obnoxiously organizing public runs and walks so they can ram their self-righteous agendas right down your dang throat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for charity, except for when it involves me giving away money and/or things that are mine–because if I give them to someone else then they aren’t mine anymore, and I hate that.

Instead, I’ve developed three foolproof strategies to rejecting requests for charity so that I might be able to hang on to that which I’ve worked somewhat hard at earning instead of giving it to some organization that would squander it on something dumb like a book or a glass of water or a protector that keeps flies out the eyes of small children. In case you too are sick of all the requests for handouts, here are my tips. Read the rest of this entry »

Hey Toronto, what’s up with all the progress?

This originally appeared on the online version of Post City on October 9, 2013.

Progress

Toronto is a vibrant, progressive city, and it’s changing every single day. New tourist attractions like the Ripley’s Aquarium are popping up. Bold, architecturally interesting developments like the Mirvish+Gehry towers are being proposed. And new, innovative urban solutions to the city’s retail and residential needs are seemingly unveiled every day.

It needs to stop.

Indeed, the time has come, with our eyes so squarely focused on the future, to ask if we are losing sight of our past. That’s why I’ve founded the Committee to Keep Everything the Same Forever (CKESF).

Sure, the CKESF understands that the population of Toronto is rapidly expanding, and that the city’s infrastructure must be updated to accommodate the growth. But we’d like to counter by pointing out that hey, old buildings look prettier. Read the rest of this entry »

Seven types of TTC commuters who suck

This was originally published on the online version of Post City on September 11, 2013.

TTC

It’s nearing that horrible time of year when I admit to myself that I am too wimpy to cycle and I hang up my bike in favour of a Metropass. Accordingly, it seems only fair that I issue advance notice to those people who have always made my ever-delayed commute the claustrophobic hell that it is. Offenders, consider yourselves warned: here are seven TTC commuters that I want to punch in the face.*

1. Lollygaggers. Allow me to congratulate you on the fact that you clearly have nowhere to be today. It’s evident, as I rush to get to my office by 9 a.m., that you’ve made better choices in life, affording you either a boss who doesn’t care what time you show up or the ability to spend the day bird watching and/or picking wildflowers. Have a fantastic day, but for the love of God, please consider that the people walking behind you might have to be somewhere. Find second gear or get out of the way. Better yet, just stay asleep for an extra hour in the morning. Surely the non-thing you don’t have to do today will still not be there later. Read the rest of this entry »

10 ways to cure a hangover in Toronto

Originally published on blogTO on July 5, 2013

Hangover cure Toronto

Given that I so frequently provide guidance on how and where to drink in Toronto, it seems irresponsible that I have yet to provide any advice on how to handle the after effects, namely your hangover.

So, while I don’t provide any guarantees that any of these will actually work for you, the following handful of great local options for the morning (or afternoon) after drinking might just help you fight the pounding in your head and the taste of death in your mouth after your next epic night on the town. As for the stains on your shirt and the shame in your soul, well, you’re on your own. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Rose would like you to stop calling his cuisine “comfort food.”

This article was originally published online and in the print edition of Post City Magazine as “Chef Profile: Anthony Rose, the man behind Rose and Sons and the newly opened Big Crow.” 

(Image: Connie Tsang)

Although he’s become known for upscale versions of the sort of simple fare that’s currently enjoying a moment, Anthony Rose, of Rose and Sons, is hesitant to slap any labels on his dishes. The 40-year-old chef-cum-restaurateur confesses that he has simply always preferred serving the food that he most enjoys making. If people find his food comforting, so be it — just don’t call it comfort food.

“It’s such a bullshit term,” he says. “For me, it’s just the only way I know how to cook. I’ll go out to eat molecular food, but I just don’t know how to do it, and I don’t really want to learn.”

Instead, Rose has taken the upscale approach to classic food that helped him make a name for himself for six years as the executive chef at The Drake Hotel. His first restaurant, Rose and Sons, which opened last year, has already made waves — both good and bad. Read the rest of this entry »

In Toronto Pubs, Breweries Battle for Beer Taps With Persuasion and Cash

This post originally appeared on Torontoist on January 2, 2013.

Beer industry insiders say big breweries spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year trying to influence what your bartender decides to put in the fridge.

Photo by The Nexus, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by The Nexus, from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

You may think, when you go to a bar, that your choice of beer is entirely yours. But that decision may have been made well before you even put on your drinking pants—and not by the bar owners. According to industry insiders, it’s often the brewers who dictate what’s on tap.

In fact, insiders say, sometimes it’s brewers, not bar owners, who cover the expense of putting in those very tap lines. Because in Toronto, and across Ontario, keg-fridge space is expensive real estate. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Toronto Sun

August 8, 2012

Mr. James Wallace
Editor-in-Chief
Toronto Sun
c/o Sun Media Corporation
333 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 3X5

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am long-time, loyal reader of your great publication and the reasons behind my writing you today are two-fold: Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on your tireless dedication to the sort of journalism that real Torontonians like me need and appreciate, and secondly, I’d like to ask you for a favour.

I read The Sun daily because I appreciate your devotion to unbiased coverage of those politicians currently bringing some much-needed straight talk to city council. Your refusal to join ranks with Toronto’s more liberal media outlets who continue to slander the likes of the brothers Ford and Councillor Mammoliti just because they frequently speak without thinking and don’t kowtow to the wishes of their own constituency is refreshing. Too often Toronto’s other papers lazily use facts and quotes just to paint an unflattering picture of those politicians with whom their beliefs don’t align. The Sun, on the other hand, never lets facts and quotes dictate the story. Read the rest of this entry »

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