Winterlicious 2015 – Biff’s Bistro

And running the last Winterlicious review in here right on the wire, just as the first day of Summerlicious starts this year xD. The last restaurant to be reviewed during my Winterlicious is Biff’s Bistro, under the O&B restaurant franchise. This one is a bit under the radar as it isn’t as upscale as some of the others, but still at a convenient location in downtown core. It’s also in the style of a French bistro cuisine, and they also have a nifty patio open in the summer months! Biff’s also runs in all the licious events with the rest of the O&B restaurants, and is at a lower price range, so don’t expect it to be as high quality and fancy as some of the others. I had never been to this restaurant before, so this was my first time trying it out with a group. I went with pretty standard expectations for a restaurant and it definitely met it with good quality food. However, I found their presentation to be slightly lacking and not consistent. We had ordered the same plates where the sizing and placements were different. That would be something nice to look for that differentiates them between a restaurant with higher quality chef standards. Nonetheless, here’s the photo reviews!

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Nice comfortable booths in a large restaurant. With some nice French style decor.
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Pretty standard regular bread… not exactly freshly warm, and nothing special to write about.

Bread & Butter
Bread & Butter

Pretty standard looking soup as well. This was full of apple flavour though, almost in a thick apple sauce like texture. A very tasty a different style of soup though for Winterlicious :)

Appetizer - Parsnip & Apple Soup
Appetizer – Parsnip & Apple Soup

Good tasting smoked salmon. Very standard accompaniments plated nicely (yet inconsistent with another plate at the table). Good tasting food, but also nothing too special and also something that you can likely put together similarly from home. Enjoyed the dish for what it was worth though~

Appetizer - Cured Pastrami-Style Salmon
Appetizer – Cured Pastrami-Style Salmon

A very filling salad full of lots of different ingredients and textures. A good mix for a salad :) Exactly what you’d expect from what it looks like!

Appetizer - Mixed Grain Salad
Appetizer – Mixed Grain Salad

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Didn’t get a chance to personally sample the chicken leg, but reported as a good tasting dish with ample flavouring. It was also of a good size, but I felt the accompaniments were pretty normal for this dish, which is what could have changed to bring it to the next level of goodness.

Entree - Chicken Leg Confit
Entree – Chicken Leg Confit

A very heavy, yet soft and tender mix of beef and veggies in a cornmeal-like stew. First time finding out that Carbonnade Flamande is actually a type of beef and onion stew made with alcohol, originating from Belgium. Very interesting flavour-wise, but a little heavy and too mushy for my likes. Quite enjoyable trying out this type of dish for the first time though!

Entree - Simmered Beef “Carbonnade Flamande’
Entree – Simmered Beef “Carbonnade Flamande’

Definitely a different type of item on a Winterlicious menu from the other restaurants. It was done very nicely, with the crepe being the right thickness so the insides did not fall out, while still ensuring it you didn’t have too much “crepe” in each mouthful. Definitely a good vegetarian dish that was very filling but fresh at the same time. Flavour-wise it was what you’d expect as well, but I thought the sauces and mixture of vegetables was picked out to complement everything on the dish nicely. So that it didn’t feel like you were just eating a gross plate of vegetables at all xD

Entree - Stuffed Buckwheat Crêpe
Entree – Stuffed Buckwheat Crêpe

A very generous portion of fish here! Didn’t get a chance to sample it with my picky cooked fish eating expectations =P but it looked to be nicely seared on the outside and still soft in the center. Reported to be delicious, but I’m unsure if the accompaniments and little sauce is enough to flavour the large piece of fish fully. But since I did not sample it personally, I can’t give more info :( But it does look very nice doesn’t it???

Entree - Roasted White Fish
Entree – Roasted White Fish

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First time having a Bavarois as well, which is similar to a pudding dessert. This dessert tasted very… interesting. It wasn’t strongly cherry flavoured, but it did have an egg pudding texture and softness to it. I’m not too sure about that sauce either… apparently this dessert had pork involved in it too? Honestly, the colouring isn’t too appetizing to me, and the flavours were very subtle. Not my kind of dessert for sure… needed to be more powerful.

Dessert - Warner’s Cherry Bavarois
Dessert – Warner’s Cherry Bavarois

This was definitely more of what I’d expect in a dessert. Lots of new food terms in this review, but a Chômeur is a maple-based dessert originated in Quebec! The sweetness in the apples and maple sap definitely put this dessert in the right sugary direction. Loved the soft spongey cake-ness and was a wonderfully filling and warm final dish for Winterlicious xD

Dessert - Amanda’s Apple Maple Chômeur
Dessert – Amanda’s Apple Maple Chômeur

Yaaaaaa… your typical cheese plate. Nothing fancy or special about them cheeses and accompaniments here. Kinda standard supermarket available stuff.

Dessert - Cheese Boutique Selection
Dessert – Cheese Boutique Selection

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A pretty standard downtown restaurant here. Can definitely go in a casual or business casual attire. Dressing up too much would actually put you a little out of place given the crowd dining here.

Dress Style - Casual
Dress Style – Casual

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And all in all, that completes the Winterlicious review series!!! Finally!!! Biff’s Bistro is a nice comfortable restaurant if you’re looking for something a little more budget friendly while providing good quality food and service. But not quite the place if you’re looking for something more unique in flavouring and high-end. This would be a nice spot to stop by in the summer I think, when the patio is open and I’ve seen some pretty nice summer dessert offerings in past Summerlicious menus that would make me drool!

I hope you enjoyed the reviews, and hold on tight because shortly incoming will be this year’s Summerlicious reviews already! Stay tunedddd in!

Foodie loves,
Dreamz*

http://oliverbonacini.com/Biffs-Bistro.aspx
Restaurant: Biff’s Bistro
Winterlicious: $23 Lunch // $35 Dinner
Reservations: Do make a reservation before arriving for lunch and dinner on weekdays even, as it is in the part of downtown where many people can easily get to after work. But they aren’t a top spot for licious, so I wouldn’t be
Attire: Casual / Business Casual

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Winterlicious 2015 – America

America – sounds like a new restaurant to licious? But it’s not at all. This is the restaurant that is in the exact location and became the replacement of STOCK from last licious events. Still located on the 31st floor of Toronto’s Trump Tower and Hotel, the restaurant underwent a 1 week renovation last summer in order to transform from STOCK into America (read about it here). It completed just in time for Toronto’s International Film Festival (TIFF), so you can bet some celebrities (Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch) have already been here.

STOCK was definitely one of my faves for previous licious events, so I decided to try this new replacement as well. The pros – food is still amazing and of utmost highest quality. What would you expect when you’ve got some top tier chefs from around the city like Executive Chef Anthony Walsh, Chef Bill Osburne, and Executive Chef Markus Bestig. The cons – the lighting is the worst for photos! Hence you are going to be bombarded with a bunch of purple photos because they’re all #nofilter =) Sorry for my laziness in editing, but I hope you’ll get a true idea of how the food is like visually! And how even more upscale and hip they have made the new place!

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Yes, this place was very dark and purpley.
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Fancy booths for dining
Fancy booths for dining
America's modern take on their menus
America’s modern take on their menus

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Nicely made cocktails. A strong dose of alcohol and flavours as described!

Drinks (from left to right) - Hazelnut Fashioned, Cucumber Julep, Red Chilli Scotch
Drinks (from left to right) – Hazelnut Fashioned, Cucumber Julep, Red Chilli Scotch

I forgot about this bread because I was too busy with the cornbread below…

Regular Bread with Butter
Regular Bread with Butter

THIS CORNBREAD IS WHERE IT’S AT. It was soooo warm and delicious soft goodness I just wanted to have all of this as my meal. I was worried it would be too spicy for me, but instead it was the best cornbread I’ve tasted with a tiny kick and just a great blend of flavouring. With the butter melting on top the fresh hotness… it was absolutely a divine start!!!

Jalapeno Cornbread with Butter
Jalapeno Cornbread with Butter

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Hmmm… I just remember this to be very soft creamy cheesy. Very strong goat-like taste to it. Didn’t try too much because the flavour was too intense for my liking, but those cheesy fanatics will definitely find this rare and delightful!

Appetizer - Sheep's Milk Quark Cheese
Appetizer – Sheep’s Milk Quark Cheese

The soup was your typical bean soup. Tasted very good but nothing too special about it. There is absolutely no turtle in this soup. And this is how a turtle bean looks like: http://www.organicroad.com.au/media/images/content/detail/turtle_beans-text452.jpg

Appetizer - Black Turtle Bean Soup
Appetizer – Black Turtle Bean Soup

Hmmm, a good dish as well. Also what you would expect though with some nice cold salmon mixed with some veggies and crunchy texture bits and sauce. Not too incredibly memorable either of a dish of its sorts.

Appetizer - Heritage Salmon Poke Ceviche
Appetizer – Heritage Salmon Poke Ceviche

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Mmmm this meat was cooked perfectly. Just like how STOCK always had the best cooked meats, this dish at America also delivers at the same high quality level of cooking and seasoning! The steak was very tender and the cheek was so soft. An absolutely great plate of meat!

Entree - Wellington County Steak & Cheek
Entree – Wellington County Steak & Cheek

I honestly don’t remember too much about this dish other than the fact that it was deliciously cooked salmon as well. I’m not sure it was as perfectly cooked for fish as I’ve had at other places, but I know the flavouring came out very well overall. Nicely seared as well. An excellent seafood dish that would not leave you hungry.

Entree - Pan-Seared Salmon & Clams
Entree – Pan-Seared Salmon & Clams

I very much enjoyed the sauce used for this ravioli. It was very heavy indeed, but I was surprised how well the sweet-tangy lemon flavour was able to come out from this dish without overpowering anything. It also didn’t make the dish sour as you think lemon would in most cases. Definitely done exceptionally for a unique lemon-based ravioli, which would also be my first time trying such a flavour! Presentation-wise could be fancier from this place, but definitely a yummy dish!

Entree - Lemon Ricotta Ravioli
Entree – Lemon Ricotta Ravioli

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I was already pretty full from the very generous quantity of food served in this meal, but this was definitely not something to be missed. In all my fullness, I was still able to gulp down this dessert because it tasted amazing and it would be a waste to not finish every last bit of it! Incredible combination of ingredients and baked to perfection. A soft hot date-like pudding, with the cold ice cream melting atop, alongside a sweet caramel filled sauce and nice sweet soft apples!!! Oh and some candied pecans to add additional crunch! AHHHH *o* I want to eat it again right now! Definitely for those with a strong sweet tooth, but it’s not too sweet at all! Sticky though! The perfect dessert!

Dessert - Granny Apple Sticky Pudding
Dessert – Granny Apple Sticky Pudding

A very strongly flavoured panna cotta (and did I mention it was eggless for a dessert?!). I very much enjoyed it as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but replace the hard chocolate shell with soft jiggly pudding texture! Definitely a panna cotta to be remembered!

Dessert - Peanut Butter Panna Cotta
Dessert – Peanut Butter Panna Cotta

This was a plate of cheese dessert. I have to admit I’ve seen better plates of cheeses with better accompaniments. But this shall do as a plate of savoury cheese :)

Dessert - Cheese (Big Ed's Gouda)
Dessert – Cheese (Big Ed’s Gouda)

And with tradition, they’ve also kept the dessert-along-with-your-bill kind of thing going. This was a nice little marshmallow-ey chocolate bits. Continuing to add to the intense fullness that we were all feeling at this point!

Complimentary Dessert Chocolates
Complimentary Dessert Chocolates

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This place is in Trump! One of the fanciest and richest places! You can bet to be more upscale, especially since they’ve changed the environment to be this modern high end restaurant. Do dress it up rather than down if you don’t want to be frowned upon xD

Dress Style - Business / Formal
Dress Style – Business / Formal

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And with that, my foodies, I leave you with my America review. Very glad that I did end up trying out this place. I was skeptical at first because I loved STOCK and I was afraid this would change my fave licious place. But it has definitely become the second STOCK in terms of freshness and quality, so it will now stand in place of STOCK. Even though I really don’t like the name… could’ve been more creative there… and I’m Canadian… lolol. Definitely hit this place up. It’ll be so worth your time and money (especially during licious if you’re not a millionaire type).

Chowtown,
Dreamz*

P.S. One last review for Winterlicious coming then it’s all summed up finally! And we’ll quickly be on to Summerlicious soon ;D

http://americarestaurant.ca/
Restaurant: America Restaurant
Winterlicious: $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Reservations: Might be a little off the radar from your usual crowd, because it did sound like a newer unknown restaurant. But they definitely filled up for dinner regardless. I would suggest to book at least a week ahead on a weekday, and even earlier for weekend seatings.
Attire: Business / Formal (it’s Trump, get fancy)

Winterlicious 2015 – Splendido

Yesss I’m still alive and working away at this! As promised, to deliver all the reviews before the next licious event rolls around =P

Next up, we have a well known restaurant in the Toronto foodie scene, that is also quite popular on the licious roster – run by Chef Victor Barry. I’ve heard great things about this restaurant so this was the first time I finally got to try them out! I remember it was a Friday night that we had booked ourselves in for a dinner, and I was looking forward to the delicious beginning of the weekend meal after work. I was the last to arrive in our party, and I was told that we had to wait a bit, so we grabbed drinks by the nice bar to chat. Time went on and we were getting a little antsy to get started, but they kept telling us the table would almost be ready. Looking around, the place is not too big. It had an intimately dark and quiet cozy sort of feel, but enough space between tables so that you could have your privacy still. The place was of course fully seated that night, so we waited for our table. And waited. And waited a total of 30 minutes before we were finally sat down at a dining table. Honestly, I understand that it’s a busy time for the restaurant, but I think a half an hour delay is uncalled for with reservations. No other restaurant has had this issue during this event, regardless of how busy or small they were. So this is something I think they really have to work on. And after dining here, I could see why we had to wait for so long… they really really take their time with you during the meal. Although we started half an hour later, in no time during our meal did we feel rushed at all. The waiters and staff were all very polite and kind, and took their time in ensuring we were having a good and comfortable meal. They were incredibly professional and in no way could you tell that anyone was in a hurry or that it was very busy – and this is something you often see at all the other popular restaurants during licious. People tend to drop service a tad bit in order to handle all the extra customers. But this place did an excellent job at not doing that… yet at the expense of other customers waiting it seems. A better balance could be made I think in that respect. But let’s talk about the food too!

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A dim-lit and cozy wooden themed restaurant
A dim-lit and cozy wooden themed restaurant

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Bread and butter
Bread and butter

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The foie gras was very delicate in the sense that it tasted like you got it from a fancy french place. Very smooth and rich, and matched up very well with all the options provided on the plate. An excellent foie gras it was *pinkies up*!

Appetizer - Foie Gras Parfait
Appetizer – Foie Gras Parfait

Totally not what I expected in terms of polenta from all the types I’ve had in the past! I’ve only really eaten polenta at licious restaurants and they’ve ranged from a solid deep fried form to a softer patty-like form. But this one was just straight-up liquidy barely solid. Its texture was like porridge LOL. No kidding, I mixed in all the ingredients presented in the bowl together… and I didn’t bother posting that photo of it because it really didn’t look appetizing AT ALL… especially in dim lighting. Just like a bowl of brown baby food??? …HAHA. Taste-wise though it wasn’t as bad as it looked. It really was sorta like eating some fancy type of porridge/oatmeal. All warm and densely filling. Not my fave way of eating polenta… but interesting enough a new way of trying it… probably in one of its more “raw” forms since it is cornmeal afterall LOL. Not to mention it probably didn’t help me that those olive looking things are actually mushrooms? Heh =P

Appetizer - Polenta
Appetizer – Polenta

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Very small pieces, but very nicely cooked salmon. Not overcooked for the fish, but otherwise there wasn’t anything else special or very different to offer in this dish.

Entree - Roasted Atlantic Salmon
Entree – Roasted Atlantic Salmon

Beautifully plated and nicely cooked. The pork belly wasn’t a show stopper of a meat or anything though. Tasted good – wasn’t too dry but wasn’t very tender either. Nothing to fall off your chair about except for the visual beauty of it.

Entree - Smoked Pork Belly
Entree – Smoked Pork Belly

This was definitely my dish of the night. This is surprisingly probably one of the best sauced pasta on my list because the flavouring is just so perfect for me. It was a SWEET based sauce with stuffed pasta (one of my fave forms of pasta). And oh my my was it done so well. The agnolotti was very soft with a touch of sweet from the ricotta cheese. I have no idea what that brown crumbly stuff on top was but it was sweet with a powdery crunch, mixed in with the sweet potatoes and that killer sauce… it absolutely hit my love for sweetness. The pumpkin seeds added a nice change in texture with a strong crunch. Everything in this bowl of pasta just worked so beautifully together that I am sorta craving it again right now just talking about it. And mind you, it wasn’t overly sweet – still works out perfectly as a main course.

Entree - Ricotta Agnolotti
Entree – Ricotta Agnolotti

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A very unique and tasty dessert that arrived in appearance not how I had expected. It’s definitely more cake-like looking rather than pear-like. But the cake piece was bursting with a delicious soft pear flavour. It was very light and fluffy and felt very refreshing with the mixture of ingredients on the plate (icecream/gelato, mousse, pear jam, etc). The caramel also played nicely without overpowering the main attraction – which is definitely the pear.

Dessert - Bosc Pear
Dessert – Bosc Pear

One of the more rare cheeses to be served for a dessert, but you got it here and I can’t see where you could go wrong with a good cheese (according to my friend because this is prob too strong of a cheese for me to appreciate)! They also provided a bunch of fun things to eat your cheese with, including a small sugar meringue that tasted like it was wasabi flavour! Cheeses are always such a fun dish to experiment with different things :)

Dessert - T & T Stilton
Dessert – T & T Stilton

A fruity cake that focuses more on the citrusy sour flavours. Was a nice little cake but I think the bosc pear still won over this one big timeeee!

Dessert - Mango & Passion Fruit Gateaux
Dessert – Mango & Passion Fruit Gateaux

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A very formally presented restaurant given its status, so I would definitely go a little more business-ey and nice to match with the night environment and the classy and high quality foods. (I know… I also need to start coming up with different outfits to avoid the repeats!)

Dress Style - Business
Dress Style – Business

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The food quality at this restaurant is definitely up to par with its fame. The people are also extra polite and serve you with care, to give you that high-class dining feel. Other than the super long wait, I would recommend dining at this restaurant for sure. It is very nice and intimate, perfect for smaller groups and dates.

Just keep eating!
Dreamz*

http://splendido.ca/
Restaurant: Splendido
Winterlicious: $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Reservations: Very well known restaurant so I would recommend booking ASAP. It’s also not very large so the seatings will fill up quickly!
Attire: Business

Winterlicious 2015 – Hawthorne

Ahh yes, the reviews are coming in later and later but I’m still going at it! With the goal to get all these done before Summerlicious comes around! LOL. Oh my lazy self just always kicks in, rolling around like a useless ball after having a big delicious meal :’)

And next up we have Hawthorne – also a newcomer to the licious scene this year. Picked this place because I literally work right beside this little gem, and so it would be the perfect spot to try for lunch! Been here before for regular meals, so I know they have good quality fresh food, and the licious menu is definitely a steal for that price for the three courses (cheapest price range what what?)! It’s not a very big place, but you can tell they put a lot of thought into their decor, putting together a unique cozy and simple modern setting to enjoy a good meal at. During the day, their full-length wall-to-wall windows allow you to soak in the outdoors environment and people watch, while people also walk by and glance at you eating your delicious food =P. At night, they dim down their interior lights to give a bit of a fancier intimate dining feel. A very cute place indeed.

I also learned that Hawthorne is part of an organization called the HWTC, where skilled workers come in to work and train in order to better their skills in the kitchen and workplace. I think that’s such a great restaurant community and makes you realize it doesn’t require all top tier experts to create amazing food. More info about this can be found on their website. And now let’s get to what I remember about their dishes!

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Small comfy restaurant and completely brightly lit with outdoor natural lighting
Small comfy restaurant and completely brightly lit with outdoor natural lighting

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A tasty warm mushroom soup. It’s flavoured well so that you don’t only get that strong mushroom earthy taste (which is what I dislike about mushrooms). And those fried enoki bits were a great texture and tasteful addition to the soup!

Appetizer - Woodland Mushroom Bisque
Appetizer – Woodland Mushroom Bisque

Wow, this is probably the best form of gnocchi I have ever eaten. It was piping hot fresh on the plate that I had to blow on it a bit before devouring the pieces. But they were so good it was hard not to immediately bite into the very thinly crispy fried outer layer, which leads into this creamy soft innards of sweet potato-ness. Mmmm, this is waaaay better than sweet potato fries hands down! The addition of the creme fraiche and the bit of veggies helps to even it out so it doesn’t seem like you’re just eating fried pub food – not that the quality would ever make you think that anyway. One of my favourite appetizers of the event for sure!

Appetizer - Sweet Potato Gnocchi Fritti
Appetizer – Sweet Potato Gnocchi Fritti

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Didn’t get to personally taste this dish, but my sources say that this was a very nicely cooked and put together dish. Has all the elements of a coq au vin and the meat was tender and well flavoured. Seems to me like a heavier dish – I’d prefer it for dinner rather than lunch. But for those who like their lunches meaty, this is the fancy way to go!

Entree - Mulled Wine Coq Au Vin
Entree – Mulled Wine Coq Au Vin

A very unique type of lunch dish. In fact I found all their dishes on the menu to be rather unique and different and I love that for licious restaurants! The tart looks small but was very dense and filling indeed! That chunk of cheese on top was a little much for me by overpowering my tastebuds, but the tart itself was done very well. The shell was the right flaky softness and there was A LOT of flavours and ingredients going on in the whole plate itself. It was like a little bit of everything thrown in, which is good, but not necessarily fully complementing at all times. I felt I was getting something a little too different depending on how I mixed the bites, rather than a consistent meld of flavours that always worked alongside the main item. However, it was an enjoyable dish indeed… until I got to the salad part xD just kidding! The apples and the dressing made it all good :)

Entree - Rustic Savoury Tart
Entree – Rustic Savoury Tart

The items on the plate seem a little simple and normal, yet arranged very nicely. The sandwich tasted very nice when put together. The brisket was tender and smoked with that bbq goodness in meats. Those crispy onion strings are always welcomed on sandwiches and burgers to take it to the next level. Well flavoured and a very homey feel to a lunch meal.

Entree - Applewood Smoked Brisket
Entree – Applewood Smoked Brisket

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Nicely done creme brulee. Nothing too special about it… did the black walnut stand out or make any differences to this dessert? Not at all, I don’t think I knew that existed… but the creme brulee was a good one nonetheless!

Dessert - Black Walnut Creme Brulee
Dessert – Black Walnut Creme Brulee

Oooo, this was a heavy ending for a lunch dessert, but it was soooo yummy. Soft little pieces of dessert bread pudding drenched in this wonderful sauce and powdered sugar. With juicy plums to give an extra oomph to the dessert. Absolutely lovely~

Dessert - Pumpkin and Spiced Plum Bread Pudding
Dessert – Pumpkin and Spiced Plum Bread Pudding

Awww, such a cozy little dessert that’s also completely different than your typical restaurant offerings. I mean, it’s pretty straightforward I guess, but still a very nice way to end off a meal! *smiling milk moustache*

Dessert - Cookie with Spiced Almond Milk
Dessert – Cookie with Spiced Almond Milk

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Unfortunately I did not get a chance to take my own outfit photo (rush rush rush back to work after a heavenly lunch >__<).

Dress Style – Casual Nice. This restaurant is so chill and cozy that you can walk in with casual clothes and not feel weird about it. I would suggest something a little nicer than mere casual just because the environment is done up nicely (especially at night), and you often get the work crowd in the area in their business outfits in here!

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And that’s it for this quaint little restaurant! Highly recommend coming here for lunch especially, as I think their pricing and portions for lunch are much more worth it for a regular day. Always get top quality and fresh Ontario goodness from this place! If you’re into the smaller and more intimate dining scene, this place is perfect~

Pieceeee (of cake) Outtt,
Dreamz*

http://hawthorneto.ca/
Restaurant: Hawthorne
Winterlicious: $18 Lunch // $25 Dinner
Reservations: They’re very tiny but also not as well known / accessible. Would definitely make a reservation for licious before walking in though!
Attire: Casual Nice

Winterlicious 2015 – Canoe

Ahhh yes, and we’re back to Canoe again! I thought I was going to give this place a break having been here almost every licious event, but I have never tried this place for dinner and we decided to give it a go if there was still room left. Definitely didn’t want to try to dial their reservation number for a whole day, so I actually waited several days before giving them a call, near the end of their phone pick-up hours. Not surprisingly, they literally had nothing left on weekends, but I was interested in a weekday evening. Even then, everything that was left was super late, like past 9:30 pm, but I decided I could take it anyway since I can easily get there after work with some shopping in between. Goes to show how famous and hyped this place still is for licious events!

Luckily, the night we went was cold but clear, and we were seated in a nice booth that was facing out to the windows as well. It’s quite nice dining fancily and being able to look out into the lights of the city below. They definitely have their location and settings right for a fancy / romantic dinner, with dimly lit lights and high end comfortable furniture. Usually, their lunch licious meals are a hit/miss with me, either being very good, or mediocre for their pricing and expectations. However, their service is always on par and top notch formal! Let’s see how this dinner came out~

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Hard to get a good interior shot with the low lighting, and getting some glare from the windows, but definitely very nice to look out into during dinner. Only when there’s no table dining there, otherwise you’d be staring awkwardly at the people hehe.

Night view overlooking the city
Night view overlooking the city

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My favourite Winterlicious cocktail, and probably the best warm cocktail I’ve had! I’m becoming a big apple cider fan and this drink really made everything come together for the winter. Hot and sweet and smoooooth~ Could use another couple of these drinks!

Warm Cocktail - Winter Warmup (apple cider, rum, fruits)
Warm Cocktail – Winter Warmup (apple cider, rum, fruits)

As always, they come up with new dips for breads! This one was very good and hummus-like (duhhhh~). Goes well with the sourdough!

Bread with Lime and Hummus Dip
Bread with Lime and Hummus Dip

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A very what-you-would-expect kind of appetizer. It’s literally small chunks of smoked salmon on a plate! Very nice plating and many accompaniments to add all sorts of texture to the palette though. Nothing else too special here.

Appetizer - Smoked Salmon
Appetizer – Smoked Salmon

The thought of rabbits in my food makes me cringe >___< But but this appetizer was too unique to pass off without trying it out. Soooo, we got it :O And it was made very beautifully. The pastry was soft and light and chewy. The meat was not what I had expected, it was a bit tougher because there was actually pieces of meat rather than it being minced – which is how most other pot pies are served! I have to say I quite enjoyed this appetizer and it was quite filling too for the small size! Included a shot of the inside of the pie below – it was almost like a puff pastry with gamey meat!
Appetizer - Rabbit + Fowl Mini Pot Pie

Inside of the Pot Pie
Inside of the Pot Pie

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Mmm, this chicken was made at top quality, exactly what you’d want to expect from Canoe. Very tender, sliced to perfection. The sauce was genious, and that fezzoletti pasta combined with the green parsley puree sauce was probably my favourite part. Never had that type of pasta before, and it was like eating thin slices of al dente pasta paper. Soft, chewy, and heavenly with the sauce. The roasted squash was just as good as everything else! Definitely had me scraping the plate clean with this one.

Entree - Aurora Chicken
Entree – Aurora Chicken

Nicely cooked and nicely seasoned. The meat was a little on the dryer side for this one, but taste-wise it hit the spot. Combined with everything else, creates your typical fancy meat dish. I think venison is supposed to be little rougher than your usual beef steak, and I could see that in this dish. Although, I can’t say whether I’d prefer this over a perfectly cooked steak… hmmm……

Entree - Wild Rubbed Venison Roast
Entree – Wild Rubbed Venison Roast

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For some reason, I had managed to order a combination of the most filling of the dish choices it seems (pastry pie + pasta + cake?!), with this heavy dense dessert included. I really liked their ganache cream on the sides, as I always do for Canoe’s desserts. Pecans were tolerable for a nut-hater, but I would’ve preferred them to be candied instead. The apple cake itself wasn’t as moist / soft as I had expected. It’s more on a dryer bready loaf cake side, with light hints of apple chunks within. Not too sweet nor sour either. A very delicate simple tasting cake/loaf thing.

Dessert - Niagara Apple Cake
Dessert – Niagara Apple Cake

If I knew their allergy accommodating dessert was going to be a mere plate of “fresh fruits”…. I would’ve just ordered 2 desserts myself and ate them both. LOLLLL. Come on, I at least expected some sort of sorbet or cheese plate or something more creative with a restaurant so fancy. Never has a dessert been this disappointing at a nice place!!! LOL. They sure saved money on THIS one =_=”

Dessert - Fresh Fruits (not on menu for allergy accommodation)
Dessert – Fresh Fruits (not on menu for allergy accommodation)

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Dress Style - Business Formal (Dinner)
Dress Style – Business Formal (Dinner)

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And so, my first dinner at Canoe was very nice and delicious tasting. It wasn’t a perfect out of this world kind of dinner, and it definitely wouldn’t have been a place of choice if I were paying for everything at its original price. But quality-wise and service-wise, they are always up there and hence why they have always been so popular. They aren’t as creative as some of the other restaurants I find, but I can always trust them to use the highest quality of ingredients for their dishes, and have outstanding plating presentation. And finally, now that I’ve had all the Canoe experiences, it won’t be my personal choice to re-visit for a future licious event until a while later (give everyone else a chance at securing a seat!). But maybe if I was invited by others =P (which then I will not be the one furiously trying to make the reservations). If you’ve never dined at this restaurant though, I would highly recommend you at least try it once. And if you have a date to impress for a lovely quiet evening, you can definitely bring them here :)

And so the fooding continues on (halfway through Winterlicious 2015 reviews… only),
Dreamz*

http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Canoe.aspx
Restaurant: Canoe
Winterlicious: $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Reservations: Call early on and be prepared to wait a while to get through if you want the popular weekend times. Otherwise, try a bit later and you’ll get through but will only have really late weekday times to choose from.
Attire: Business Formal (Dinner)

Winterlicious 2015 – Cluny Bistro

Cluny Bistro was one of my last minute picks while I was looking around for newer restaurants to try. Came across a suggestion of this place from a blog, and after finding out they were situated in Distillery District and was a French-style bistro, I decided it was a good new place to try for a cute lunch. This is actually also the first time they were listed for a licious event, so lots of firsts here! Their website actually caught my attention and excitement, then their menu had me jumping up and down so ready to try this place! Needless to say, the novelty of this place and their unique menu definitely made this one of the top restaurants I was looking forward to this whole event. The restaurant was opened not long ago, in the summer of 2014, and headed by Chef Paul Benallick from Ontario, whom worked in many of the O&B restaurants before Cluny. So with little known about this newer place, let’s see how it went!

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I was absolutely blown away by the interior of this place when walking in. I did not expect to be so immersed in an environment that was designed to bring you into a place which is exactly how you would feel like being at a nice fancy bistro in France. The decor everywhere was stunningly intricate and beautiful, and was made to be themed as a comfy bistro situated outdoors in a nice day in France. The furniture, ceiling and walls were all so perfect *o* I was in French bistro heaven!
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The waiters and waitresses would actually go to and from this station to cut up the bread and deliver it to the tables. Loved it!

Neat little bread cutting station in the middle of the restaurant!
Neat little bread cutting station in the middle of the restaurant!

Such a classy, yet modern design for their menus and cutlery!
Such a classy, yet modern design for their menus and cutlery!

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Started the brunch off with some freshly squeezed juices. Very refreshing and smooth, and was just pureeee liquid juice.

Brunch Drinks - Fresh Pear Juice & Fresh Pomegranate Blueberry Juice
Brunch Drinks – Fresh Pear Juice & Fresh Pomegranate Blueberry Juice

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Starting the meal off with some pumpkin soup, one of the few dishes I enjoy my pumpkin in (yes, don’t hate me but I never had a liking for the taste of pumpkin pie)! The bisque itself was a well balanced mix of being not too dense and not too watery either. The nuts added a really nice texture to it. Had a good savoury flavour with a bit of sweetness that went nicely altogether as a solid pumpkin soup.

Appetizer - Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque
Appetizer – Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque

The terrine was very delicious. Nice cold soft chicken meats pressed together with lots of good tasting other stuff! I especially loved the addition of the tomato with what appears to be topped by a soft smooth sardine??? That’s what it felt/tasted like to me, but it was so soft and didn’t have the usual strong fishy sardine taste to it, that I’m not too sure myself. But everything on the plate came perfectly together, giving each bite a wonderful and flavourful super smoooooth blend of tastes.

Appetizer - Pressed Chicken Terrine
Appetizer – Pressed Chicken Terrine

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THIS. WAS. HANDS DOWN. THE. BEST. CALAMARI. I. HAVE. EVER. EATEN. No lie… the first bite I had into this calamari dish, I looked up at my partner before even finishing it and I said “IT’S SO GOOD I FEEL LIKE I’M EATING CALAMARI PILLOWS IN MY MOUTH”. It was the softest and most tender calamari I have ever eaten! I didn’t even know they could be cooked like this!!! My life is forever changed. The calamari itself was definitely the highlight, but the sauce itself was also good because it wasn’t too strong in tomato flavouring, and also at the right consistency for the seafood (not too chunky and not too watery). This was a heavenly dish from the heavenly French bistro.

Entree - Tomato & Saffron Braised Calamari
Entree – Tomato & Saffron Braised Calamari

Let’s see, the meat was super tender, the “slaw”/sauerkraut was good, the pickle was fresh, the mustard didn’t overpower at all (even me the mustard hater could handle it), the bread was like soft milk bun… it was basically just a very yummy meat sandwich! Those fries were also killer addictive! So thin and slightly crispy yet soft, nicely flavoured with salt and spices! The perfect fancy lunch sandwich to be had!

Entree - Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich (braised pork shank)
Entree – Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich (braised pork shank)

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Oh man, such delicious cream puffs (that’s what I call them). Easy to bite into and the creams did not overflow to make a mess. Presented beautifully as well. Carefully stacked with a bit of chocolate and chantilly to hold them together. The centers were filled with a room temperature hazelnut chantilly I believe? The chantilly on the sides were soooo delicious. I was about the lick the plate clean at the end of it all. NEED. MORE.

Dessert - Roasted Hazelnut Profiteroles
Dessert – Roasted Hazelnut Profiteroles

Granita is similar to a sorbet, but specifically an Italian dessert made semi-frozen with water, sugars, and whatever ingredients to give the flavour involved. It’s more icey than regular sorbet it seems. Tasted like a berry/fruity sorbet to me, but a slightly harder texture from the half frozen iciness of it. Was still flavourful though and not icey water tasting at all. A good cold finisher!

Dessert - Pomegranate Granita
Dessert – Pomegranate Granita

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A beautifully decorated restaurant that definitely gives you a nicer vibe. For lunch I would totally come here with colourful nice outfits. For dinner, I can definitely picture a fancier vibe from the decor, even if it’s still very comfortable and bistro-like at its core. Not supposed to be a “fancy” restaurant at all, but the decor can bring dressing it up a notch I feel. I was intentionally dressed for something else that day though, but it worked nicely with the environment for me!

Dress Style - Business Casual / Casual Nice
Dress Style – Business Casual / Casual Nice

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Hands down one of my favourite restaurants this licious event. All the food was amazing with no complaints. The decor still wows me to this day. Definitely a recommendation to all, and I do wish to come back here in the summer. I think it’s the perfect setting being in the distillery district, and I’d love to go back on a regular day just to walk around the area and have their food again. It really was that good and I hear they have amazing brunches regularly as well! Can’t wait to come back to this place and see what great things they continue to offer :) *squeaaaaal*

Absolutely Foodishly Delighted,
Dreamz*

http://www.clunybistro.com/
Restaurant: Cluny Bistro
Winterlicious: $23 Lunch // $35 Dinner
Reservations: Do reserve in advance. Having lots of seats, they were at full capacity for weekend brunch dining already.
Attire: Business Casual / Casual Nice

Winterlicious 2015 – Five Doors North

Ahhh… I’m terrible and it’s true… I’ve completely fallen under on getting these Winterlicious reviews in this time around. Although it is now a little late, and I’m incredibly behind, I would still like to continue my writings and photos to document all the restaurants for future reference! I promise that all 8 restaurants will be talked about, even if they come in slowly. I have all the notes on them still so I won’t forget how the food was! I hope that you do enjoy them still even if the hype is far in the past :)

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So heading a little out of downtown core I’ve chosen Five Doors North as my next restaurant. This is my first time doing Winterlicious here, but NOT my first time eating here. And the reason why I picked this place was because when I ate here for a regular meal before, I remember them making for me the best and perfectly cooked salmon I’ve ever had from a western restaurant. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you’ll know how picky I am with my fish and how every western dining place seems to overcook fish somehow. So my goal here was to have the perfectly cooked salmon I’ve had once before, as it was conveniently also on their Winterlicious menu! Needless to say, I was excited for this dish and wanted to see how they handled it under pressure with the busy event, and whether they were consistent with their food. Nonetheless, I knew they had good food to offer, and for the cheap price they were going at, it seemed like a must-go!

The restaurant itself has a very cozy family-run kind of feeling to it. They source all the goods locally and even list that they get their meats from the local butcher store! Mmmm it’s always nice when restaurants market for Ontario freshness! Though they list themselves as an Italian restaurant, I feel their range is much more than that and they fall into almost a general western cuisine type of category. Even though it is a smaller restaurant, I was quite surprised at how quickly their reservations filled up for being out of the city and not a celebrity chef restaurant. Guess people in the area really do know where the good eats are and they’ve made a good name for themselves! Shall we go ahead now and review the place and their food?

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You may miss the place as a restaurant in the line of similar storefronts and restaurants along Yonge street, but you can’t miss these GIANT COLOURFUL DOORS!

Five Doors North Entrance
Five Doors North Entrance

Interesting cozy decor with hanging lamps on the ceiling
Interesting cozy decor with hanging lamps on the ceiling

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Since they don’t provide bread, we decided to make this order from their regular menu because we’ve had it before and avocado guacamole is always always so delicious. Which this definitely was just as delicious as we had last time!

(Off the Winterlicious Menu) Avocado Bruschetta
(Off the Winterlicious Menu) Avocado Bruschetta

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With the low lighting for dinner, I apologize for the quality of the food pics, but that chunk there is the pork belly. Had a super crispy skin layer, mixed with the soft pork belly meat and fatness. Just makes me want to roll around like a piggy. Cooked beautifully with a delicious sweet sauce and soft mash to go with it. Would’ve gone great as an entree too if they portioned everything larger!

Appetizer - Ontario Pork Belly
Appetizer – Ontario Pork Belly

Meh, it’s beets and I don’t like that thing. I think there’s still only one place that has made a beet dish that I have thoroughly enjoyed and that was the first time I went to North 44 (reviewed here). So yea, it was pretty normal, beets were sliced pretty thinly so that’s nice.

Appetizer - Roasted Beet Salad
Appetizer – Roasted Beet Salad

That 1cm layer on top – all goat cheese. The thing holding it up is the polenta. Totally not what I was expecting because I’ve only had polenta in the fried form usually cut into smaller pieces! Did not know that polenta itself is just this soft mushy substance… like babyfood but with cornmeal! I’m not a big cheese fan, which you’d also know if you follow me, so that chunk of goat cheese was really a bit too much for me! But I did eat them together and try to have as much as possible since it was my order. It was omg waaaayyyy tooooo filling for me! It’s a good and interesting dish but I can’t say I was in love with it. It was definitely a huge portion and I think maybe the cheese fans would like it better =P

Appetizer - Baked Goat's Cheese with Polenta
Appetizer – Baked Goat’s Cheese with Polenta

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THE DEAL OF THE NIGHT. THE REASON WHY I CAME TO THIS RESTAURANT. And the verdict…… I’m so sorry and a little sad inside… but they overcooked it this night. It wasn’t horribadly overcooked for such a thick and large piece of salmon, but they definitely did not meet the standards that was served the last time when I had it perfect :'( . I still thoroughly enjoyed the meal since they have this great pumpkin seed crusting on it and they just work the flavours in right into their food! That pile of mango salad it sat on top was also the star of the night. The mango sliced were wonderfully sweet and soft, just the way I like, and the salad dressing worked well with the fish dish overall. Love their food, just wish it was perfect ALL THE TIME >___<
Entree - Pumpkin Seed Crusted Salmon

Not such a great pic, but that dark mass below all the crisps is definitely the steak. They really know how to pick their local meats, because the steak was cooked medium rare and very tender. The sauces were strong but not overpowering and went well with everything. The avocado mousse was interesting! I had it on its own as it would get covered up in flavour by the heavier black bean sauces, but they all played very nicely with each other. Probably my favourite entree of this night!

Entree - Ontario Chimichurri Skirt Steak
Entree – Ontario Chimichurri Skirt Steak

Another huge portioned dish of pork loin. Very nice cut and had a good meaty pork flavour to it. It was quite thick, but surprisingly still cooked properly throughout. Because it was so large though, it ended up being a little dryer than I would’ve liked in terms of texture. And when you’re eating a dish with that much pork, it really starts tasting the same and becoming too dry if you don’t mix it in with other stuff, which the dish didn’t have too much else to offer. This was probably the most simple and exactly what you’d expect it to taste like kinda dish of the night. Still a tasty chunk of meat though~

Entree - Ontario Pork Loin
Entree – Ontario Pork Loin

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A lot of restaurant do a bread pudding sort of dessert for winterlicious events that I’ve noticed throughout the years. And so far they all do it quite differently most of the time. This one was more bready than pudding if anything. It was almost like eating a banananna chocolate bread muffin, much more dry than you’d expect a bread pudding to be like. The Bourbon Creme Anglaise sauce they used was very light and went well with it as a proper bread pudding dessert sauce though!

Dessert - Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding
Dessert – Banana Chocolate Bread Pudding

Creme Brulee was nothing special as a dessert in particular, but they had a nice thick layer of torched sugar that was fun to crack through and broke apart nicely to make this a beautifully tasting creme brulee. Very flavourful and creamy with the right denseness!

Dessert - Vanilla Creme Brulee
Dessert – Vanilla Creme Brulee

Breaking through the Creme Brulee
Breaking through the Creme Brulee

Don’t think I’ve had much flourless cakes before, so it was interesting to see that this was similar in texture and consistency to a cheesecake. But in the mouth it’s not as dense and had the solid-like features of a regular cake. I thought this cake was going to be one of those overly chocolate-full cakes by the looks of it, but to my surprise it was actually quite well balanced in terms of its density and chocolate flavouring. It was also not too sweet nor too bitter, even though it was closer to a darker chocolate side, so the fruits and sauce complemented it nicely without making any part of your tastebuds scream that it was too much of something. Much better than I expected!

Dessert - Flourless Chocolate Cake
Dessert – Flourless Chocolate Cake

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Very down to earth cozy style of restaurant. Don’t need to look fancy even if the food tastes fantastic and the presentation is excellent! Just wear whatever you like!

Dress Style - Casual
Dress Style – Casual

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Even though the dish that I came for wasn’t up to my expectations, I do have to say that this restaurant serves wonderfully tasting food with very fresh ingredients. I would definitely come back to this restaurant and give the salmon another try on a regular night when they’re not so busy to see if they can do it perfectly for me again. And even so, all their food has been sauced and flavored nicely. And for the price that they go at for Winterlicious??? Totally worth it, such a cheap steal for such excellent high quality food! We definitely think that if they were located in the downtown core, they would surely be able to have their prices at a higher range than what they were listed for. I say this place is a must try for deliciousness at a cheap price! And you don’t have to be all formal to have nice foods with someone :) Definitely a perfect family restaurant!

Thanks for joining!
Dreamz*

http://www.fivedoorsnorth.com/
Restaurant: Five Doors North
Winterlicious: $25 Dinner
Reservations: It is a small restaurant so weekends fill up right away. Weekdays should be easier as it is located further north, but I would highly advise to reserve earlier on.
Attire: Casual