Kerri Henman - winesconstantly.ca

Events,Wine

March 11, 2007

Winterlicious ….. it’s about time ….. !

So, I’ve fallen behind in my posts (as Paul keeps reminding me…..!), but I suppose it’s better late than never.

A month ago (!!!!) Paul and I headed out to enjoy Winterlicious. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a fantastic restaurant promotion in Toronto. Twice a year, dozens of restaurants across the city offer special prix-fixe menus for lunch or dinner. It’s a great way to discover new restaurants, and a cheap excuse to go back to your old favourites.

I actually did two Winterlicious spots… on my own, I did Annona, at the Park Hyatt in Toronto, which was – well, it was an interesting evening to say the least. Very up and down. Annona is very comfortable, and the service started out really well. I have to say, I was impressed by the tray that came with my bottle of water. Lemon, lime, and *cucumber*, which is a nice change.

For dinner, the chef offered an amuse-bouche of what was basically a mini pizza. It was very good – garlic focaccia, with roasted tomato and just a bit of mozzarella and fresh basil. Next was gnocchi in a smoked mozzarella tomato sauce. It was good – the cheese wasn’t overpowering, but the gnocchi wasn’t as nice as Gio’s. A little on the stodgy side. My main was veal scallopini with preserved lemon jus, potato gratin, and sautéed swiss chard. The chard was bitter; I know swiss chard is on the bitter side, but this was *really* bitter. To the point of being inedible. But I’d rather have inedible greenery than inedible veal…. and the veal was very, very edible. Nice and tender, the sauce was and creamy tangy but not LEMON-y, it was good. The potatoes were fine – verging on convention food, but fine. A little more butter, a little more pepper would have done wonders. Maybe a bit of fresh chive.

As dessert approached, I have to say, service really started to slip. I waited a loooong time for dessert, and I had to ask for my bill twice. I was on a timeline, and I wound up being late, which didn’t impress me.

I do have to say that dessert was worth waiting for. I could choose two to taste; I went for apple fritters with mayan chocolate ice cream, and chocolate lava cake with caramelized hazelnut ice cream. I’d have put the hazelnut ice cream with the fritters, and the mayan chocolate ice cream with the cake (it wasn’t very very chocolate), but both desserts made up for the middle-of-the-road aspect of the rest of dinner.

At least the wine was good – I had a glass of Kumala Sauvignon Blanc, which I’d never tried before. Very tasty – fresh, crisp. some good tropical fruit, and a nice limey finish. I’ll have that again!

Our second venture in Winterlicious brought us to the Beer Bistro. It was a close call – I’d left reservations to the last minute, and thought we weren’t going to be able to get in, but the floor manager realized that there was space at – GASP! – the chef’s table!! I have *always* wanted to sit there. I was so excited!!

We love the Beer Bistro, no matter what – the food is great, the service is marvelous, and it’s always an experience. The menu for Winterlicious left us with some tough choices, and we were really looking forward to it.

Paul decided to go for the wild mushroom soup with shallots, London porter & truffle cream; he paired it with an English beer, Sammy Smith’s Winter Warmer. The beer was nice – not bitter, a little spicy. And I have never in my life tasted mushroom soup like this – rich, creamy, and earthy with just a bit of sweetness. It almost made me regret ordering the smoked salmon.

Almost.

I had beer cured & smoked salmon, with white beer cream cheese. They make the salmon right there; it’s incredible!! I ordered the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout – didn’t like it. I found it too bitter, and too heavy, but Paul loved it. The smoked salmon was buttery, flavourful, absolutely out of this world. I will definitely have it again, but I’d like to try Denison’s Weissbier with it – I think the spices and cloves in the beer would go well with the smokiness in the salmon.

For mains, Paul stayed on the mushroom theme. He went for mushroom and goat cheese gnocchi, in a brown ale cream sauce and leeks. Seriously tasty – but again, the gnocchi not a patch on Gio’s. Still and all, creamy earthy smooth tangy goodness in the sauce – awesome.

I had the grilled flatiron steak with caramelized beer onions, redskin smashed potatoes & tarragon butter. It was perfectly medium-rare, one of the best steaks I’ve had in a restaurant. And of course, part of the fun was watching it being made!!

For dessert, we decided to go for a bottle of Quelque Chose – a dark, spiced cherry beer from Unibroue. It paired beautifully with the chocolate mousse I had, and it didn’t go too badly with the apple crumble that Paul went for. The beer is served warm, and it’s really unique. We were given some strawberry Friuli ice cream to have with it, as well. GAWD, I love the ice cream at Beer Bistro – again, it’s all made right there, and it all has beer in it! The Friuli is a Belgian fruit beer, and makes a fantastic ice cream. It pairs really nice with the Quelque Chose; they complement each other well. The only down side of Quelque Chose is that they’re not making it anymore, so what’s left is all there is. Makes me want to go back. A lot.

Another thing that makes me want to go back – a lot! – is sitting at the chef’s table. We were able to see everything going on, talk to the chefs, and the smells were amazing. Seeing the steak tartare being prepared definitely made me want to make plans to go back so that I could try it, and a few other dishes. And beers.

But that’s another post …………!

  1. that kumala sauv blan sounds tasty – will have to try it! and my goodness, it lookds like we need to go to dinner at beer bistro, too…

    Comment by smartygirl — April 14, 2007 @ 5:46 pm
  2. Beer Bistro is *fantastic* … even if you don’t like beer, the wine list is good, and the food is amazing ….!

    Comment by kerri — April 16, 2007 @ 9:36 am

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