Winterlicious

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We called our 10 most clicked Summerlicious restaurants to find out when you can still get a table

Aria’s dramatic dining room (Image: Lisa Paul)

With this year’s Summerlicious festival winding down (the last day is Sunday), we decided to call up the top 10 most clicked-on restaurants from our 67 Best Bets list to see how they were faring. “Winterlicious is crazier,” says Senses’ general manager David Kipis, “but we’re taking more reservations than last year.” Aria reports a similar situation, receiving comparatively less guests than during Summerlicious’ wintery counterpart, but still doing “quite nicely” overall. While this season’s most clicked-on restaurants included some of the usual suspects (Canoe, Aria), there were some surprises as well, like long-time Thai-food fixture Bangkok Garden and Adelaide Street’s Tutti Matti. See below for the full lineup of the most viewed Summerlicious restaurants, and to get the scoop on when you can still score a table:

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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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Winterlicious Lunch Pick: a power lunch for less at Reds

Our main course: roasted sea scallops with a sweet apple-vanilla chutney (Image: Andrew Brudz)

At Reds, the 12-year-old Financial District staple of the power lunch crowd, award-winning chef Michael Steh has created an uncommonly attractive Winterlicious lunch menu ($20). Unlike so many, which require careful planning to weed out the duds, the prix fixe offerings here feel practically fool-proof (in addition to our selections, high praise goes to the spinach salad with duck breast and the bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin). We start with the ham hock and pig’s head terrine, which is formed into a patty, deep-fried and served warm. It’s smoky, salty and crispy, with a sweet apple and pear sauce that benefits from the coarse texture of stone-crushed mustard seeds. We suggest tiny bites; you’ll want to savour this dish. Next up, roasted sea scallops with a sweet apple-vanilla chutney. The plump bivalves arrive perfectly blackened on the outside and are served on a bed of creamy pumpkin risotto, with the added crunch of salt-candied pumpkin seeds. For dessert, the panna cotta tasting is an adorable collection of three flavours: strawberry with white chocolate–covered rice crisps; tart lemon with meringue; and rich Nutella with crushed hazelnuts. You’ll want to hurry up and get here before the prices soar back after February 9.

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the sustainable trout at Pangaea

Velouté with spot prawns; Ocean Wise steelhead (Image: Renée Suen)

Although Winterlicious kicked off last Friday (see our 61 best bets), it’s still possible to secure a seat at one of the city’s top tables, especially if it’s just outside the downtown core. Pangaea’s open dining room typically caters to a well-heeled Yorkville crowd (with prices to match), but during the culinary fest, the restaurant offers a steal of a three-course prix fixe for $20 (we stopped by just before the festival commenced).

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Alternalicious: a roundup of rebel prix fixes outside the jurisdiction of Winterlicious 2012

Every year, some restaurants decide to opt out of the prix fixe madness of Winterlicious and offer their own special menus and bargains outside the strictures of the official program. “We do it to give Winterlicious a bit of competition, to bring people in,” Elle M’a Dit’s Gregory Furstoss told The Dish. “But we don’t have to have the pressure of being under Winterlicious—we don’t have 200 people booked!” Meanwhile, Ross Bonfanti of midtown’s Il Sogno Ristorante launched his winter prix fixe back when it was tough to get into the official festival and now, several years later, feels no need to jump on board. “I have a good thing going,” he told us. After the jump, a roundup of winter prix fixe menus and deals.

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Winterlicious 2012: our food editor whittles the monster list down to a manageable 11

The spectacular view from c5 (Image: Suzanne Long)

It might be hard to believe, but Winterlicious celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. That’s right: it’s been a whole decade of commoners storming the fine dining gates, not to mention mutual bile and suspicion between restaurateurs and diners. And yet, the annual prix fixe event keeps growing. In its inaugural year, only 35 restaurants participated. This year, there are 175 on the roster, making it tougher than ever to choose where to spend your hard-earned $25 or $35 or $45. So we narrowed the choices down, first to 61 Toronto Life–approved spots and now to just 11 of the best. Because we’re slaves to trends, we focused the list this year on the new and improved—places that recently opened, overhauled or changed chefs—and because we like a bargain as much as anyone, we looked for the spots that offer the very best bang for the buck, which is, after all, what Winterlicious is all about. Start making your reservations now (unless you don’t have an AmEx card, in which case you can wait until Thursday like the rest of us).

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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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Winterlicious 2012: Toronto Life’s picks for Yorkville and the Annex

WINTERLICIOUS 2012 | EAST

Winterlicious is typically pretty generous to the denizens of the Annex and Yorkville, and this year is no exception. Here, our 10 picks for the area.

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Winterlicious 2012: Toronto Life’s picks west of Bathurst

WINTERLICIOUS 2012 | WEST

The Winterlicious restaurants west of Bathurst are a mixed bag, from authentic Mexican at Frida to hipster institutions like The Drake. Here, our nine best bets for the west end.

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Winterlicious 2012: Toronto Life’s picks north of St. Clair

WINTERLICIOUS 2012 | UPTOWN

The vast area north of St. Clair is well represented in Winterlicious this year. Here, our 14 picks.

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Winterlicious 2012: Toronto Life’s picks east of the DVP

WINTERLICIOUS 2011 | EAST

This year, like usual, the area east of the DVP hasn’t done too well in Winterlicious. Here, our four picks on the Danforth.

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Toronto Life’s 61 best bets for Winterlicious 2012

WINTERLICIOUS 2011
UPTOWN
WESTDOWNTOWN NORTHEAST
WESTDOWNTOWN SOUTHEAST
choose a region
DOWNTOWN NORTH
DOWNTOWN SOUTH
EAST
WEST
UPTOWN

Toronto’s annual winter prix fixe extravaganza, now in its 10th year, is upon us once again. Restaurants start taking reservations on Thursday, January 12 (January 10 for American Express cardholders). The madness itself—diners exulting over their cheap eats, servers cursing their cheap tips—runs from January 27 to February 9. We waded through the 175 participating establishments to provide you with 61 Toronto Life–approved best bets, divided by region into downtown north, downtown south, east, west and uptown. Of course, snagging a reservation at one of these places is entirely up to you.

Last Call

We called the 10 most clicked Winterlicious restaurants to find out how to get a table

Winterlicious Lunch Pick

A power lunch for less at Reds

Alternalicious

Rebel prix fixes outside the jurisdiction of Winterlicious 2012

Down to 11

Our food editor whittles down the monster list of 175

It’s the (kickoff to the) most Winterlicious time of the year

2012 prix fixe menus announced today

The Dish

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It’s the (kickoff to the) most Winterlicious time of the year: 2012 prix fixe menus announced today

Get those dialing digits ready: Toronto Special Events has just announced the slate of restaurants for Winterlicious 2012. The prix fixe extravaganza has now reached its 10th year, and it’s come such a long way from the winter pick-me-up for 36 Toronto restaurants hoping to draw people out of their homes and into the cold night. This year, 175 restaurants have signed up—up from last year’s 150—and prices have stayed the same: lunch menus will go for $15, $20 or $25, and dinner menus for $25, $35 or $45 (see charts below for a breakdown). The madness kicks off on January 10, when American Express cardholders can start making their reservations. The lines open up to the plebs on January 12, and the menus themselves will be served from January 27 to February 9. Tickets for the associated culinary events—like a meal devoted to sustainable fish or a beer-pairing primer—go on sale tomorrow. Check out the city’s website for the full roster of participating restaurants and stay tuned for our comprehensive guide early in the new year. In the meantime, here’s a pair of pie charts with breakdowns of how many restaurants are participating at the various price points at lunch and dinner (yes, they’re very similar):

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Dear Urban Diplomat: what’s the etiquette for tipping with Groupon?

(Image: Vincent Desjardins)

(Image: Vincent Desjardins)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I used a Groupon recently to get my hair done at an expensive Rosedale salon. It saved me 65 per cent. When it came time to pay, I tipped 20 per cent of the reduced price and got the stink eye from the counter girl. Was I being cheap? What’s the etiquette for tipping with Groupon?
—Tipping Point, DANFORTH VILLAGE

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Introducing: Canoe, the Oliver and Bonacini flagship revamped

(Image: Renée Suen)

After 16 years at the top, Canoe, one of the city’s culinary beacons, closed its doors on New Year’s Day for a renovation. Unlike most restaurants, they actually completed it on schedule. Although we previewed Canoe’s overhauled space during its Winterlicious opening, the Oliver and Bonacini flagship officially relaunched last week with a completed dining room and revamped menu, so we thought we’d take a closer look.

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