Biff’s Bistro

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Holiday Feast Recipe: Citrus salad from Porzia’s Basilio Pesce

Basilio Pesce’s Citrus Salad

Basilio Pesce’s Citrus SaladThe chef who made Biff’s a power destination is opening Porzia, a more relaxed Parkdale room where he cooks the Italian food of his family matriarchs. Pesce’s mother, for whom the restaurant is named, used to serve this tart citrus salad between heavy courses at family dinners, including the Catholic Christmas Eve feast of seven fishes. He added hot chilies to complete the trifecta of sweet, sour and spicy.

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Restaurants

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The Black Hoof is Canada’s fourth best restaurant—according to Vacay.ca’s inaugural poll

Vij’s was named best restaurant in Canada (Image: Mack Male)

Shrewdly piggy-backing on the S. Pellegrino list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (which comes out on Monday), new-ish travel site Vacay.ca conducted its own poll to determine the top 50 restaurants in Canada, the results of which were released today. At the top of the list is Vij’s, the much-lauded Vancouver haute-Indian restaurant, followed by Cambridge’s Langdon Hall and Montreal’s Joe Beef. The top Toronto restaurant is The Black Hoof, which took fourth place, followed by Canoe (5), Sushi Kaji (11), Splendido (14), Guu (18), Ruby Watcho (19), Scaramouche (28), Buca (31), Acadia (37), Biff’s (39), Origin (44), Wine Bar (45) and Pic Nic Wine Bar (48). The rankings were determined by the ballots of 15 judges (regular Dish contributors Renée Suen and Gizelle Lau among them), who ranked the 10 best Canadian places they’d dined at in the past 30 months. See the whole list [Vacay.ca] »

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Restaurants

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Forgot to make a Valentine’s Day reservation? Here are 10 restaurants that still have space

Above: Plan B. Or maybe Plan C (Image: Pizza Pizza)

Hoping to take your sweetheart to Splendido, Scarpetta or Auberge du Pommier for Valentine’s Day? Well sorry, it’s too late. However, we did find some restaurants that have both romantic prix-fixe menus and a few tables left for procrastinators. It helps if said sweetheart doesn’t mind eating a bit early or late. And if all else fails, there’s always Pizza Pizza, which will be serving up heart-shaped pizzas until next week (because nothing says “I love you” like gooey cheese, delivery boys and cardboard boxes).

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Licious

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We called the 10 most clicked Winterlicious restaurants to find out how the festival’s going (and how to get a table)

Hoping to squeeze into Canoe this Winterlicious? You’re out of luck (Image: Jen Chan from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

With the end of Winterlicious in sight, we got curious about how this year’s prix fixe madness was going. “Stronger than last year,” said Pangaea owner Peter Geary, who credits social networking with driving last-minute reservations throughout the festival. “Even last night, you could see people taking photographs of their meals and tweeting,” he told us (apparently phones at the dinner table are no longer a faux pas). The folks over at Canoe also noticed the impact of word of mouth, saying, “As soon as we change our voice message to say we have some availability, the phones go crazy.” While quick-fingered foodies have snapped up all of Canoe’s remaining tables, there’s still hope—the people at Scarpetta, Biff’s and Jump all advised diners to call last-minute, since no-shows are still very much a Winterlicious tradition. We also talked to the 10 restaurants whose menus got the most hits from our list of the 61 best bets to find out whether and when tables are still available.

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Restaurants

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Where to Get Good Stuff Cheap 2012: bar snacks that are as lip-smacking as they are cheap

Where to Get Good Stuff Cheap | Posh Nosh
Where to Get Good Stuff Cheap | Posh Nosh

Gourmet junk food
Toca Bar
181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500
Done up in corporate neutrals and colonized by Seven Sisters partners, the Ritz-Carlton bar serves the kinds of cocktails that come with lotus root garnishes and elderflower infusions—and cost $16 each. Sounds steep until you factor in the freebies delivered with the drinks: sticky, maple-glazed bacon, pan-fried capers and corn nuts. It’s gourmet junk food that’s impossible to stop eating, which is okay because the bartender replenishes the supply without judgment.

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Licious

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Winterlicious 2012: Toronto Life’s picks for King West and the Financial District

WINTERLICIOUS 2012 | DOWNTOWN SOUTH

The dining scene in and around the Financial District has seen a lot of changes since last year’s festival, with new restaurants (Aria, Estiatorio Volos) and new chefs at existing restaurants (Lucien, Brassaii). Here, 24 Winterlicious picks south of College.

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Restaurants

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Toronto’s five best house-made breads

Best house-made breads
No. 1
An obscene amount of butter goes into Lucien’s brioche—it’s like a Parker House roll from heaven. Also great: the restaurant’s crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside pretzel bread, made by cold fermenting and a pre-baking lye bath. 36 Wellington St. E., 416-504-9990.

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Features

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Chris Nuttall-Smith on Keriwa and Bannock, two restaurants riffing on Canadian culinary traditions

Chef Joseph Bear Robe works the stoves at Keriwa, the city’s only Aboriginal restaurant

Chef Joseph Bear Robe works the stoves at Keriwa, the city’s only Aboriginal restaurant (Image: Emma McIntyre)

In the basement hallway of Keriwa Café, there’s a row of photographs showing an Ojibwa man dancing through Paris in feathered powwow regalia. From the Louvre to the Champs Élysées, the stomping, rattle-shaking man appears in hyper-saturated colour, while the City of Light behind him is rendered in muted sepia, as if to invoke a noble past. But in the final image, the dancer leans over. As you look more closely, you see that he’s fiddling with something, an iPod connected to a ghetto blaster—Sitting Bull meets the b-boy crew. “You think you know me?” the photo seems to say.

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TIFF Talk

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Where to get a TIFF drink: the film festival’s 44 spots with 4 a.m. licences

The arrival of TIFF always demands answers to three crucial questions: which celebs are coming to town, what are the best flicks to see, and where can we get inebriated at ungodly hours of the night? The first two we’ve taken care of here and here, and now we have the nearly complete list of venues with extended hours for TIFF. The news is good: last year, around 25 bars and restaurants were approved for extended hours; this year, about 44 will be serving late. The selection is more varied, and with spots like Gabby’s and Hey Lucy on the list, it’s decidedly more casual. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario tells us that the list could expand as more venues get last-minute approval. Here, the 44 bars officially licensed to stay open until 4 a.m. »

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The Dish

Openings

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Just Opened: Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill. We take a peek inside the empire’s new downtown outpost

(All images: Catherine Hayday)

Calling dibs on a bit of real estate at Yonge and Front is a savvy move. The restaurants of Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver keep popping up here like rabbits. (Succulent braised rabbits.) Within a five-minute walk are Canoe, Biff’s, Jump and now the latest incarnation of Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill. This is the land of the expense account, overflowing with suits in search of posh versions of comfort foods that don’t skimp on the cheese and cream—like, say, O&B’s pancetta and mushroom pizzetta ($16) and macaroni and cheese with Balderson cheddar ($15). Chef Michael Bonacini, however, sees the area as more than just a financial district: “Clearly, we love the lower Yonge and Bay Street area. It’s got a great mix of business, residential, sports and theatre, and visitors. It’s a heartbeat.”

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