Dates: January 31–February 13
Winterlicious, foodies' favourite annual winter festival, is back in town with more than 200 restaurants offering mouth-watering three-course, prix-fixe menus. Toronto's seasonal food festivals have become a popular tradition since 2003, serving more than 4.3 million meals during Winterlicious and Summerlicious. These are perfect opportunities to try new restaurants and discover the diversity of Toronto’s cuisine.
The 12th season of this culinary festival starts on January 31, and participating restaurants are already finishing their preparations. They can't wait for WInterlicious to start. As Hellen Leon, owner of Celestin Restaurant, told us,
We are already set up for Winterlicious, no special preparations aside of inside advertisement within our regular and new patrons, e-blasts, et cetera. We offer a modern French cuisine utilizing mostly local products; our menu also offers exquisite vegetarian options for those who don’t eat meat.
Reservations have been accepted since January 16, but they aren't required. However, keep in mind that the popularity of this event is growing, and it might be difficult to get a place in some of the most prominent restaurants. Visitors can create a list of favourite restaurants and share it with their friends using the sort list tool. Plus, as the festival grows each year, the City of Toronto has prepared a map where you can zoom in to your neighbourhood and find the closest participating restaurants. Prices for lunch range from $15 to $25, while a Winterlicious dinner costs from $25 to $45 per person. The meals include a starter, an entrée, and a dessert.
The first two weeks of February are usually worse for restaurants than the rest of the year, but thanks to Winterlicious, attendance in restaurants significantly grows. In 2009, the economic impact of Winterlicious amounted to $12 million in the City of Toronto. Ossian Fadi Ghazal, event planner and communications coordinator of á la Carte Bistro, explained to us,
It is always a great opportunity to draw in new clientele and to showcase our menus and ambiance. During Winterlicious, there is always a chance for a higher than usual volume of guests and possibly a quicker turnover, so naturally we ensure that we have more staff in the front and back of the house to ensure that we can accommodate without any delays.
In addition to prix fixe menus, Winterlicious features 16 special culinary events offering unique and interactive food experiences. Here are some of the many events worth visiting.
Guilty Pleasures Strolling Brunch
Drake Hotel—1150 Queen Street W
Guilty Pleasures is celebrating its tenth anniversary with The Drake Hotel and Toronto Fashion Incubator. It's a lovely combination of a strolling brunch with tons of delicious foods to try and a fashion show where models display the latest trends available from more than 40 vendors present at the event. If you haven't quite had your fill of “guilty pleasures“ after the brunch and fashion show, you can stop by the on-the-go beauty and nail bar. This isn't all, as the Toronto Fashion Incubator has prepared a special treat for all guests. Tickets for this event cost $49 plus taxes and gratuity.
Warming Winter Braise
Ciao Wine Bar—133 Yorkville Avenue
What could be better in this awful weather than to relax in front of stone ovens, learning the art of the warm winter braise while tasting authentic osso bucco, short ribs, cacciatore, and pollo al mattone? Chef Saverio Macri will teach you the secrets of traditional Italian braising in a fun and interactive way. You'll receive a custom Ciao apron so that everyone will see you've mastered the art of the warm winter braise. Tickets are on sale for $50 plus taxes and gratuity.
Arcadian Studio & Arcadian Loft—401 Bay Streeth, Simpsons Tower, 8th
Master Gnocchi is a hands-on workshop led by Chef Paul Brans where you’ll learn how to effectively roll, cut, shape, and boil the petite potato pillows—as well as how to prepare a delicious sauce for them. After the hard work of gnocchi crafting, you'll be rewarded with a three-course meal and two glasses of wine. Plus, participants can look forward to receiving an O&B apron, a recipe card for gnocchi and three sauces, as well as an O&B Artisan treat. The price of this event is $125, including taxes and gratuity.
The Perfect Finish: Wine, Cheese & Chocolate
Rosewater—19 Toronto Street
Experience a lovely evening learning the art of pairing fine wine with savoury cheese and exquisite chocolate at Rosewater’s exclusive Supper Club. The event is led by Rosewater’s executive chef and sommelier, who will prepare all the delicacies and present unique wines from Rosewater’s cellars. You'll receive a printed guide featuring recipes, cheese tasting notes, and suggested wine pairings. Tickets cost $50, including taxes and gratuity.
The Art of Antipasto
Cibo Wine Bar—522 King Street W
Cibo’s executive chef, Saverio Macri, will demonstrate how to prepare traditional Italian antipasti and cured meats with wine and aperitivi tastings. You'll learn how to marinate olives, make caponata, and pair wine such as Primitivo “SUD“ Feudi San Marzano 2011 with capocollo and parmigiano-reggiano. You;ll receive a pack of delectable takeaways. Tickets sell for $50, including taxes and gratuity.