Nothing warms the body like putting something in your tummy. Here are some tasty tips on where to get the most out of the season.
HEARTHS OF FIRE
Snap, crackle and pop. Come February and Valentine season, tables near the massive roaring fireplace at Auberge du Pommier (4150 Yonge, at York Mills, 416-222-2220) are literally some of the hottest in town. Couple haute comfort cuisine like supernal multi-mushroom soup with the room's soft-lit French country decor and even the coldest hearts will melt. Other romantic wood-burning boîtes: Waterside (255 Queens Quay East, at Sherbourne, 416-203-0470), Everybody Eats (557 Parliament, at Winchester, 416-923-0100), Le Select (328 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-596-6405).
No winter walk through Koreatown is complete without a visit to Ho Do Kwa Ja (656 Bloor West, at Manning, 416-538-1208), the fascinating automated bakery that turns out toasty nugget-sized doughnuts made of sweet red bean, almond and walnut. Don't miss the hot-from-the-griddle pancakes either, with their crunchy caramelized brown sugar centres.
During winter months, the snow-covered picnic tables out front of Harbord Fish and Chips (147 Harbord, at Borden, 416-925-2225) are usually deserted. But they make the perfect perch for scarfing a $2.50 takeout order of newspaper-wrapped hand-cut fries. Rip open the bundle in the cold, bracing air and inhale salted vinegary spud perfection.
Technically, fiery foods cool the body, but many reach for spicy tropical fare to inject some needed heat into cold-weather diets. There's nothing like the thermonuclear meat 'n' veggie stews found at long-running Ethiopian House (4 Irwin, at Yonge, 416-923-5438). Forget the fork, prince - instead, use a hunk of sourdough injera to scoop up every ounce of cranium-melting heat.
Gay Couillard takes winter baking very seriously. For 20 years, her Vienna Home Bakery (626 Queen West, at Markham, 416-703-7278) has been turning the best of Ontario's fall fruit harvest - tart Matsu apples, cranberries from Muskoka bogs - into old-school crisps and crumbles. Don't miss her ever-evolving vegan soups and stomach-warming chili.
Grocery shopping in Kensington has never been more chaotic, especially now that the city's foodies descend on these narrow streets and crowded shops every Saturday. Take the edge off market rage with a soothing cup of made-to-order hot chocolate at Chocolate Addict (185 Baldwin, at Augusta, 416-979-5809). Amaretto and Irish Cream custom cocoa brews, too. Now, if only they used soy milk.
The only folks on patios once the thermometer plunges are usually those sneaking a quick butt. But Southern Accent (595 Markham, at Bloor, 416-536-3211) allows diners to soak up its antebellum charm year-round on its tented - and heated - curbside terrace. The martini set lounge on lucite chairs on Wish 's (3 Charles East, at Yonge, 416-935-0240) casbah-style awning-covered front deck, while downtown scenesters swill in Squirley's (807A Queen West, at Manning, 416-703-0574) eclectic backyard grotto. And Kensington's Hot Box Café (191A Baldwin, at Augusta, 416-203-6990) has turned part of its outdoor designated pot-smoking patio into - what else? - a greenhouse.
winterlicious We're liking the Winterlicious culinary festival, when 80 Toronto eateries offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at way discounted prices. Events and restos are located throughout the downtown area. 416-338-0338, www.toronto. ca/special_events