Monday January 16, 7:28 p.m.
Over the past month that I've been back, I've been hearing from my sister-in-law and another friend about Winterlicious, which along with its sister festival Summerlicious, has been Toronto's version of Oktoberfest. From what I've read, it all came about kinda as a Judy-and-Mickey type of solution to the falling restaurant attendance rates nearly a decade ago when the SARS epidemic made landfall here. I took a look at the official website and found that around 175 restaurants has gotten onto this year's select list chosen by "The City of Toronto".
That stopgap solution has now become a semi-annual pagan to foodie-ism and fine dining. And therein lies the rub. I'm not the sharpest tack in the toolbox, but even I could see a couple of problems. One is that even with the rising number of restaurants being included in the list, 175 restaurants seem to be a drop in the bucket in one of the foodiest cities in the world, especially when the original purpose was to help financially ailing eateries. I recognized a few of those places because they are famous (Canoe, Il Fornello, etc.); perhaps their chefs and ingredients explain the high prices but I just don't get the impression that they are ailing right now. I'm sure there are plenty of other restaurants which serve good food, are located not too far off the beaten path, and could use the publicity. But perhaps the raison d'etre has changed over the decade. Maybe it's now just about the good AND famous. The second gripe that I've read seems to be accusations from patrons about chefs and restauranteurs hedging their bets and using somewhat inferior ingredients in the prix fixe meals. Kinda hard to prove on that one since one person's foie gras is another's rotten wax (I'll have to talk about my stance on "natto" in a later entry). However, if any chef is indeed hedging, then that is poor sportsmanship considering that his/her restaurant was chosen into a supposedly elite group.