With some 120 restos to choose from, Winterlicious is a delicious dining deal no matter where you chow down. Here are some of NOW's fave prix fixe menus.
Chef Sam Gassira first made a splash at Focaccia (17 Hayden, at Yonge, 416-323-0179, which is also part of Winterlicious) with his post-Couillard modernist menu, but is now bringing culinary fireworks to relatively staid Bloor West Village at Bloom (2315 Bloor West, at Windermere, 416-767-1315). His $30 spread starts with lime-laced lentil soup, dressed lettuce or chèvre tart; follows with organic 'shrooms 'n' noodles, a trout roulade with sweet pea risotto or braised duck leg with rustic cassoulet; and concludes with pecan bread pudding or vanilla crème brûlée.
Although Grant Parry has replaced David Chrystian in the kitchen, the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West, at Beaconsfield, 416-531-5042 ext 113) continues to focus on indigenous and often organic product. Its $20 lunch special includes a choice of hot 'n' sour onion soup topped with a miso and cheddar gratin, or fresh bitter greens with pecans and pear in blue cheese dressing; meat loaf with gravy, or roasted salmon sided with braised cabbage and French lentils; and sorbets or pastry chef Heather Pollock's formidable cookie plate. The $30 dinner features the same first course selection but substitutes lamb shank with Indo-inspired veggies for meat loaf, and Mexican chocolate cake with chipotle sauce for the brûlée. And look, isn't that Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore canoodling at the next table?
When celebrities want to get out of the spotlight, they head for La Bruschetta (1317 St. Clair West, at St. Clarens, 416-656-8622), an old-school Italian trat plastered with plates signed by stars like Heather Locklear, Margaret Atwood and all-girl hair metalists Vixen. That must have been some party! Other than the portions, its $10 lunch and $20 dinner lineup are identical: appetizers of mussels marinara, salad with house antipasto, soup du jour or Caesar salad; mains of fettuccine with chicken sausage in tomato cream, squash-stuffed cannelloni in tomato-basil sauce, chicken tortellini, wild mushroom rigatoni, angel hair capellini with baby shrimp and Gorgonzola, or spicy penne all'arrabbiata; and desserts of cheesecake, chocolate tartufo, tiramisu, spumoni or canoli. Remember, wherever you go to slap on the ol' feed bag, call first to reserve a table. Or two. For more information regarding Winterlicious, go to www.city.toronto.on.ca/special_events/wintercity/winterlicious.htm.