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
Glas Wine Bar
With an all-Ontario wine list, all available by the glass, and a seasonal menu that changes weekly Glas Wine Bar is the kind of restaurant every neighbourhood could use. The diminutive space is just as chef-owner Danny Pantano likes it, allowing for an intimate atmosphere where he can cook all dishes and interact with patrons throughout their meal. He sources his ingredients from the Leslieville Farmers' Market and seafood and meat from local spots Hooked and Sausage Partners letting what's fresh be the inspiration for what he prepares that week. The menu is small plates, simply and beautifully presented with a Northern Italian influence from his family heritage and near decade spent in Italy working at top restaurants. The highlights include: the crostini, the fish dishes and if it's on the menu rabbit.
Hours: 5pm-close Tues.-Sat.
1118 Queen Street East, Toronto
Toronto has ramen fever. No seriously, judging by the number of ramen shops that have opened up in the city's core in the last 6 months, it's safe to say that we're crazy for umami-rich noodle broths and stringy soft meat. Santouka Ramen, one of the first ramen shops to open east of Yonge is king right now. This is the Hokkaido-based ramen chain's first Canadian shop with lineups that quickly amass for lunch and dinner reminiscent of the early Guu days. Santouka does ramen very well using a tonkatsu pork-based broth showcased in a variety of different ways—shoyu (soy), shio (salt flavoured) and miso. Highlights include: Shio Ramen, Toroniku Ramen, Negi Meshi.
Hours: 11am – 11pm Daily
91 Dundas Street East, Toronto
Ten years ago the city of Toronto launched a prix fixe initiative to boost tourism in the city to recover from the effects of SARS. This year's winterlicious is back with the biggest roster of restaurants yet – 191. We've got our staff picks here, highlighting some perennial favourites and new players in this year's festival. Here's a chance to dine on a budget and check out some new restaurants (and neighborhoods) in our beloved city.
January 25th to February 9th
What to Drink
2010 Pillitteri Cabernet Franc
Availability: LCBO Vintages beginning Jan. 19th 013763 or at the winery
This is a very nice Cabernet Franc from the warm 2010 vintage. A pleasant confected cherry note draws you in where you're greeted with waves of black plum, raspberry, graphite and a finish of vanilla, warming oak spice and berries. At just under $18 it also has a very nice post-holiday wallet-friendly price.
2009 Foreign Affair Sauvignon Blanc
Availability: Select LCBO Vintages beginning Jan. 19th 307587
At The Foreign Affair winemaker Ilya Senchuk has been quietly crafting one of Niagara's most interesting Sauvignon Blancs. Using both dried grapes (25%) and barrel aging (five months in older oak), he's created a hybrid style that bridges the gap between the tropical-green Kiwi take and the smoky-citrus signature of the Loire. Expect freshly grated lemon zest and white grapefruit alongside starfruit, gooseberry, passion fruit and just a touch of grass, smoke and cream on the finish. The coolness of the vintage really helps capture the aromatics and lively freshness that makes this wine so exciting to drink right now.
2010 13th Street Cabernet Merlot
Availability: LCBO Vintages beginning Jan. 5th 056598 or winery
This is a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (64%) Merlot (36%) blend that embraces and speaks to Niagara's cool climate. There's ripe bramble, blackberry, black raspberry and plum along with a pleasant undercurrent of roasted herbs and cedar that keeps things interesting. It's also tasting nicely with the right balance of acidity and tannins for heartier winter fare like braised lamb shanks or ratatouille.
2010 Southbrook Whimsy! 'Tall, Dark & Spicy' Syrah
In the past few vintages some of the hotter Niagara sub-appellations have produced some very compelling Syrah. Southbrook's estate vineyard is blessed with a lot of Niagara-on-the-Lake's summer heat and the winemaking team has a managed capture that here in one very elegant Syrah. There's layers of ripe wild strawberry, pure sweet cherry, perfumed pink peppercorn and a touch smoke and licorice which give it an intriguing savoury edge. Although it's drinking wonderfully right now with the lush feel you'd expect from a blockbuster warm vintage, it possesses the structure and freshness to lay down for a couple of years and perhaps reveal even more layers.
Nøgne Ø Brewery Tiger Tripel
Price: $6.55 for a 500 ml bottle
Availability: LCBO 296871
The retail availability of the world's greatest beers in Ontario is a bleak landscape, but the LCBO's featured brewery programme is one bright spot. The current producer of choice is Norway's top craft brewer Nøgne Ø, and five of their beers—a Porter, Two Captains Double IPA, Underlig Jul, #100, and the Tiger Tripel—can be found on shelves across the province. It was hard to pick a favourite from the five. I wrote about the #100 on PostCity.com, but the Tiger Tripel also stands out from the crowd. It has a light yellow-gold colour that is set-off by a firm, white cap. The sweet aroma is made more interesting by hints of resin and petrol and its spicy-fruity elements are continued onto a palate bright with clove and banana. In the glass the nine points of alcohol provide a lively and choppy background and in the cellar will help it age for at least a year.
What to Do
IDS Show - January 24th to 27th – www.interiordesignshow.com
The Interior Design Show (IDS) is Canada’s design fair. The newest and most innovative in international and Canadian products are annually presented by 300 exhibitors. Inspirational exhibits feature both emerging and established designers and highlight international interior, architecture and industrial design trends.
Canada's Top Ten - Jan 4th to 13th – www.tiff.net
This Canadian film festival features the year’s top 10 best features and top 10 short films including: David Cronenberg, Deepa Mehta, Sarah Polley and Phillip Barker.
SIO Winter Warmup Warm Sake Seminar and Tasting – January 21st – http://kampaitoronto.ticketleap.com/SIO–Winter–Warmup/
The second of Sake Institute of Ontario's Seminar & Tasting Series, where you can taste a plethora of sake styles. It's a great chance to learn what styles are best enjoyed warm, the most appropriate methods of warming, how temperature changes the palate characteristics of a sake, and to sample many current offerings from SIO Member importers plus Ontario's own Izumi.
Winterlicious – January 25th to February 7th - http://www.toronto.ca/special_events/winterlicious/2013/index.htm
Winterlicious 2013 is Toronto's biggest winter culinary celebration to date. Discover unique culinary events and exciting local restaurants offering prix fixe menus. A total of 191 restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe (fixed price) lunch menus priced at $15, $20 and $25, and dinner menus priced at $25, $35 and $45.
Death Row Meals – Various – https://www.uniiverse.com/users/joel-solish-V9XYM
Death Row Meals is back for 2012 with a slew of events planned in January. The 2013 series kicks off this with a molecular cuisine focused event hosted by John Placko. Two tea themed events, a coffee cupping seminar with none other than Sameer of Fahrenheit Coffee, and even a chocolate and coffee tasting. DRM will also be hosting the Taco Throwdown, a followup to last year's successful event featuring a variety of chefs and their unique creations.