There are so many things to eat, drink, do, and experience in Toronto that we sometimes are overwhelmed by the options. To help us (and you) plan our calendar we're launching a feature called The Monthly Spotlight. Here we'll bring you list of reastuarants to eat at, bottles to drink, events to hit, and cool things to just sit back and take in.
If you have any suggestions for future months leave a comment below or shoot us an email at themonthly [at] spotlighttoronto.com.
Where to Eat
Daniel Boulud has joined David Chang in the category of New York chefs that have recently opened well-reviewed (Globe, Star) outposts for their restuarant empires in Toronto. (Late last month, the Montreal Gazette's fine-Dining Critic, Lesley Chesterman called this positive attention for out-of-country chefs into question.) The menu for the Four Seasons Hotel's flagship is split in four to cover: global cuisine, vegetables, seasons, and French classics. That breadth is even extened to the dessert menu, which features eight desserts with stunningly presention.
Dishes to try: Vadouvan Spiced Quail (accompanied with creamy, spicy avocado chutney), Crispy Duck Egg, Grilled Ontario Lamb Loin (served with nutty Fregola Sarada pasta) and the gorgeous as it delicous Grapefruit Givré dessert.
Hours: Breakfast: Mon – Sat 7 AM to 10:30 AM, Sun 7 AM to 11 AM; Brunch: Sun 11:30 AM to 3 PM; Lunch: Mon to Sat 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM; Dinner Thurs to Sat 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM, Sun to Wed 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM.
60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto
The La Carnita 'popups' took Toronto by storm in the summer of 2011, creating a taco frenzy amongst thousands of hungry foodies. Nearly a year later, Andrew Richmond opened up shop on College street and the restaurant has been a hit since. A daily taco fest, the room is blasting with old-school hip-hop, throngs of socialites, a cocktail menu, and one of the most affordable champagne lists in the city ($132 for a bottle of 1992 Brut Millesime, Ayla), and a tasty new fall menu with daily taco specials.
Dishes to try: Mexican street corn (bathing in crema, and chili powder), and tacos; In Cod We Trust, Chorizo, and Beef cheek.
Hours: Sun to Mon 5-10pm. Tue-Sat 5-11pm
501 College Street, Toronto
Rose and Sons
The space that used to be People's Foods (the one with the red-and-white sign), the Dupont burger-and-souvlaki institution is now Anthony Rose's (ex Drake Hotel) new home. For those keeping track, that's first of three announced Rose and Sons restaurants. Between the classic diner ambiance, good value food, and the kitchen team's history it's no surprise that this place has been lighting up the foodster Twitter lists.
Dishes to try: The patty melt, bread pudding with wild blueberries, and pork t-bones.
Hours: lunch/brunch 10 AM to 3 PM Tues – Sun; dinner 5 PM to close
176 Dupont Street, Toronto
What to Drink
2009 Flat Rock Reserve Riesling
Availability: LCBO Vintages 231266 beginning Dec. 8 www.flatrockcellars.com
This is the first Riesling from Flat Rock to earn the reserve badge and ironically it's also one where the winemaking team did virtually everything you're not suppose to do with Riesling, like partial malolactic fermentation and extended lees contact and stirring. But the gamble paid off with an intriguing textured wine that's anything but your typical Niagara Riesling. Flavours of lime cordial, tangerine and pithy lemon zest draw you in, but it's the rich quilt-like texture, touch of yogurt creaminess and the crushed rock mineral note on the zippy finish that keep you coming back.
2010 Coyote's Run Cabernet Sauvignon
Availability: Winery www.coyotesrunwinery.com
At Coyote's Run you'll almost never see Cabernet Sauvignon grace the front label. The reason is the winery doesn't grow a lot of it, but more importantly it feels Cabernet Sauvignon is just not consistent enough. The warm 2010 vintage was an exception and marked the first ever single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon for the winery as well as the first wine released from it's top-tier Rare Vintage line from that year. It has a pretty floral and bramble nose that invites you to take a sip. When you do, it reveals layers of dark blackberry, black cherry and cassis with a touch of menthol, pepper and spice. There's a nice tanninic structure and acidity, but the best part is that while it's approachable now, it still has some substance behind it like a well-worn leather jacket.
2011 Lailey Malbec
Availability: Winery www.laileyvineyard.com
You don't see much of this under-appreciated Bordeaux variety grown in Ontario. Perhaps it's because it's busy being a huge star in Argentina where it gets a lot of sun in those high altitude vineyards. Relatively flat and cool Ontario is a world away, but this first ever Lailey single varietal Malbec, is making an argument that it can produce some nice results locally as well. It's the kind of gorgeously aromatic wine that you could get lost in without ever taking a sip. There's beautiful purple flowers, sugar-dusted blackberry, plum and wild blueberry. Nicely balanced for those that want a red that's not too light and not too heavy, it's sure to satisfy anyone just like a handful of sun-warmed juicy berries.
2007 Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc
Availability: Winery or LCBO Vintages 315200 beginning Dec. 8th www.henryofpelham.com
This very special wine is a fitting edition to the Cuvée Catharine label, which is perennially one of Niagara's best sparklers. Vintage dated and a Blanc de Blanc, this particular wine is a step-up from the regular bottling and is all estate Chardonnay from the hot, dry 2007 vintage. Just like motorboating a bakery, this bubbly explodes with toasty, yeasty, rich and nutty aromas owing to the 4.5 years (2.5 years is typical) it spent on its lees developing complex layers. Underneath the rich bakery notes is beautiful fragrant lemon zest, crisp anjou pear and a touch of white peach and filberts. It's balanced by an elegance provided by a floral element, crisp acidity and a citrus-limestone mineral undertone. If that wasn't enough the French flare of the new monogrammed packaging should impress guests and provide a classy prelude to what's in the bottle.
Forty Creek Cream Liquor
Availability: LCBO 281378 www.fortycreekwhisky.com
Whisky master John K. Hall never set out to make a cream whisky, but when he found his wife had bought a bottle of the big brand from the Emerald Isle as a holiday essential, he was compelled to add one to the Forty Creek family. Cream whisky lovers will be very glad he did. Made with fresh, top-quality cream from a local dairy and his award wining Barrel Select whisky, it's everything a cream whisky should be—rich and creamy with beautiful layers of mocha, vanilla and butterscotch bending seamlessly with the underlying whisky notes. Just sweet enough, it is equally at home served straight as a dessert nightcap as it is adding some sunshine to your coffee.
What to Do
HoHoTO – December 13th – http://hohoto.ca/
The annual fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank returns with another big bash, bringing together the tech, media, PR, and digital marketing communities. HoHoTO was first launched in 2008 by a group of friends who voiced their concerns for the hungry in Toronto. Tickets are still available ($40) for the Mod Club event.
Toronto Christmas Market – November 30th to December 16th – www.torontochristmasmarket.com
We all know Holiday shopping is a hectic and, a lot of times, uninspiring experience. Why run through the crazy-busy malls, only to find the big brand stores and the same things everyone else is buying. Consid going to the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District and support local artisans. It's safe to say that you will be the most creative of the gift givers in your family.
Handel's Messiah – December 18 to 23 – http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/1198
A Toronto Christmas staple – the full symphonic rendition of Handel's Messiah, accompanied by the The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. A pleasure to the ears and soul.
The Nutcracker – December 19 to January 5 – http://national.ballet.ca/performances/season1213/The_Nutcracker/
The Canadian National Ballet rendition of The Nutcracker is easily a gift for the whole family. This classic is a lively told story, accompanied by a breathtaking Tchaikovsky score.
Foodies on Foot Holiday Shoppng Food Tour - Multiple dates see link – http://foodiesonfoot.ca/upcoming-food-events-food-tours-toronto/
On this tour, you'll get a chance to visit 5-7 shops in various neighborhoods of Toronto (There are West and East tours), and do some holiday shopping for the foodies in their life.
Three Cool Things
Foursquare meal at hawthorne
Eric Wood has rebranded the Square Peg lunch idea that worked for him at Fabarnak, for his new place Hawthorne Food and Drink. The meal, borrowed from Japanese bento boxes, includes a salad, side, main, and dessert for $16 plus tax. This time it's called #FourSquareMeal as a cheeky nod to the social network of the same name and as an added to touch if you check in four times your fifth lunch special is on the house.
Hawthorne Food and Drink
60 Richmond Street East, Toronto
Fried chicken for two at County General
The popular west queen west bar recently put fried chicken back on the menu after a hiatus. "We had to put it on back on, people were going suicidal" said owner and chef Victor Barry. Back with a twist, locally raised chicked two ways. Korean fried chicken, and fried chicken with soy garlic. Plated table side, the chicken is doused with herbs, pickled onions, and avocado. Steamed buns are offered to help clean up the plate.
936 Queen Street West, Toronto
Stratford Bacon and Ale Trail
This self-guided tour in the Stratford Ontario (90 minutes from the downtown core) takes you on a journey highlighting the best shops and culinary gems of Stratford. The $25 plus HST pass includes tickets that you can use at 5 stops on a self-guided tour. Each ticket will entitle you to a "tasting" of a unique bacon and ale inspired treat and the chance to speak to Stratford and area's culinary stars, and visit Stratford's unique restaurants and retail locations. The Bacon & Ale Trail is offered year-round and is valid for three days from date of purchase. Gift vouchers that can be redeemed for a Bacon & Ale Pass by the gift recipient are available for purchase on-line or in person.
More info on the bacon and ale trail here.