Monday, February 1, 2010


I'm extremely lucky to live in a city that appreciates good food....  on a budget. Every January and July, Toronto's most renowned restaurants partake in two-week long festivals called Winterlicious and Summerlicious. The festival offers discounted prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. The meals range from $15 to $45 depending on the establishment and include an appetizer, main and a dessert. Winterlicious, which features 150 participating restaurants this year, runs until February 11, 2010.

I brought my parents out to the west-end near the airport, to a place called Grand (located inside The Doubletree Hilton), because we love our authentic Cantonese cuisine. For $25, we each got an appetizer of Deep Fried Crab Claw; a main of a meaty Half Lobster fried in Ginger and Onion with a side of crispy Egg Noodles and Mushrooms; and a decadent choice of desserts - Almond/Papaya Pudding or Black Sesame Ice Cream with a wedge of sweet Red Bean Crepe.   I realize this might sound obscure to you, but for my parents not to have complained at all during a meal is quite a culinary feat.

I also got together with a few good friends Josh, Habeyah and Maisie and we ventured to the financial district's Jump. This restaurant is owned by the same people who own Toronto's top-rated Canoe, also a part of Winterlicious. Good luck to anyone trying to get a reservation there - it really is the best meal you'll ever eat.  For $35, I ordered a Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Sour Plums to start; Coq au Vin to follow; and lastly, a Dark Chocolate Torte dressed with Dark Cherries. Although the meal was quite succulent and a correct balance of flavours, the finale was to die for. It's very rare that a dessert can eclipse a stellar main course, but it happened tonight. This Dark Chocolate Torte was dense, intensely chocolatey and the liquor-reduced Cherries which accompanied the cake were divine. I would honestly go back again just for that dessert. Moregasmic.

Meanwhile north of downtown, you will find Toronto's priciest Chinese food at Lai Toh Heen, sister restaurant of Lai Wah Heen (Metropolitan Hotel).  The Winterlicious lunch menu includes the choice of a three-piece Dim Sum platter including an Asparagus/Chicken Dumpling, Har Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumpling) and Deep Fried Tofu Sticks in Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs).  The main course includes the choice of Deep Fried Chicken in Black Bean Sauce or Braised Beef Rib; both come with a side of Fried Rice.  For dessert you get a mixed platter which includes Mango Pudding, Deep Fried Sesame Ball and a Milk Custard Tart.  Excellent value for $20.

And last but not least, I was one of the lucky few able to secure a reservation at Canoe, Toronto's top-rated restaurant.  Their Winterlicious lunch menu is hearty and comforting.  I opted for a Mushroom & Smoked Chicken Tartlette and Greens as an appetizer.  To be honest this is very much inspired by the Chicken Pies you get at a Chinese bakery with its Shitake Mushrooms.  Other options included an Ale & Cheddar Chowder which looked decadent.  The main was a Habitant Tourtiere.  Think Meat Pie Deluxe.  I loved the delicate texture of the pastry and its meat filling was divine.  The pairing of the tangy Branston Chutney was a wonderful touch - savoury and sour.  Also on the menu was a Goat Cheese Tortellini and a Salmon/Shrimp Crêpe.  For dessert, I chose a Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta which was delicious (not quite as amazing though as the dessert offering at sister restaurant Jump).  It was a tough choice between this and the Nova Scotia Gingerbread with its side of Sour Cream Gelato.  How unique!  This meal was delicious, although I admit a little under-whelming.  I have tasted Canoe's incredible dinner offerings before and can overlook this meal.  $25 well spent, I'd say still.

To read more about Winterlicious, click here. If you were ever planning to visit Toronto, you might want to time it accordingly with this event.  Totally worth it.


  1. yummmy! I wish I had the time to go Winterlicious this year. Oh well, there's always Summerlicious!

  2. it's still on for a couple weeks. lemme know if u want to do lunch:')

  3. You're right about Canoe - I was there for lunch on the first day of Winterlicious and everything from the staff to the atmosphere to the food was perfect. I wish I'd checked out Jump when I was in the city for it too though - did go to The Rosedale Diner! The Poutine au Canard is to die for...

  4. thanks leanne! i love rosedale diner! haven't been there in ages.

    i have my canoe reservation booked for wednesday. the habitant tourtiere sounds amazing. what did u get?

    jump is great but it's no canoe, let me tell you.

  5. I had the mushroom and smoked chicken tarlett - it was served on a bed of microgreens with a light vinigrette that was perfectly balanced together. For the main I had the goat cheese tortellini served on broccoli pesto with preserved tomatoes and rockets - there aren't even words for how good it was. Finished it off with the warm Nova Scotia gingerbread with lemon curd and sour cream gelato. I've never wanted to lick a plate in a restaurant so much, lol. Plus, I highly recommend the non-alcoholic Stojito. :)

  6. Leanne, the Tarlette was divine. I really wanted to try their Chili Lemonade!!

  7. I was looking at that chili lemonade but I was so intrigued by the stojito that I had to try that instead. :)