Winterlicious 2010 Preview

Winterlicious 2010 approaches!

Love it or hate it, another 'Licious season is upon us as the 2010 installment gears up this week with reservations starting this Thursday January 14th (or this Tuesday January 12th for Amex cardholders).

For those Torontonians sick of the whole 'Licious phenomenon there seems to be little relief in sight. The summer and winter resto prix-fixe festivals are now in their 8th year and are still going strong with 150 local restaurants now participating.

Indie 'Licious spin offs are popping up at places like Pizzeria Libretto, Il Fornello and Marben. 'Licious fever is even spreading into the non-food world with events like Beautylicious happening this past fall.

But there are a group of food heads out there who love the 'Licious and are willing to put up with bad service and hit-or-miss food in order to get out and experience restaurants they may not have tried yet or simply can't afford normally. And when participating restaurateurs and chefs see it as a way of promoting their establishments and food rather then an annoying way to boost otherwise slow post-Christmas sales, it can be a really good experience.

What does Winterlicious 2010 have in store? Here is a round up of the highlights for all the lovers and haters out there.

First off, the pricing structure has changed yet again this year. Overall prices haven't increased, but there is a little more rigidity for the participating restaurants. They must choose one of three pricing options: $15 lunch and/or a $25 dinner, $20 lunch and/or $35 dinner, or $25 lunch and/or $45 dinner.

Winterlicious veterans like the OB restaurants Canoe and Auberge de Pommier, McEwan's North 44 and Bymark, and Sassafraz are back again this year and will carry the highest of the price brackets with $25 lunches/$45 dinners - which represent good value for money at these high-end eateries. And they generally deliver well-executed food with good service.

Also carrying the $45 dinner price tag, Chef Marc Thuet is back at it with the third incarnation of his space on King West. In case you haven't caught the reality show on CityTV, Conviction is a restaurant where both cooks and front-of-house staff are former criminals who have been given a second chance by making it in the restaurant biz.

Mid-range places like Globe Bistro, Zucca Trattoria, Mildred's Temple Kitchen, The Rosebud, Tutti Matti, and The Drake will be safe bets for good food and go-to options for many.

Most places are going for the higher brackets, but in the $15 lunch/$25 dinner category The Rosedale Diner, Oliver & Bonacini's Cafe Grill & Biff's Bistro, Midi Bistro, Black Skirt, Amaya's Indian Room & Bread Bar, and 93 Harbord are solid options. George Brown's student run restaurant, The Chef House, will also be in this bracket and is taking part in Winterlicious for the first time this year.

Aside from eating out, back again in 2010 are the Winterlicious Culinary events. For the fweeples (food loving twitterers) out there, Nyood will be hosting a dinner event where diners' tweets will be projected onto the walls of the restaurant while they eat. For the Julia Child devotees, Bonnie Stern is hosting a Julia-themed cooking class where you can learn to make her famous Boeuf Bourguignon and more. Other dinners, cooking classes, brunches, and a good ol' fashioned cook off are also in the line-up of ten events.

So whether you plan to get into Winterlicious this year or not, with 150 restaurants officially participating, various events being held in conjunction with Winterlicious, and the indie 'Liscious scene there is lots to see, do, and most importantly eat out there in Toronto.

Winterlicious runs from January 29th to February 11th, with reservations being taken from Tuesday January 12th for Amex cardholders, and January 14th for non-cardholders.

To make browsing and selecting partiipating restaurants a little easier, blogTO reader Kevin Quan created and shared a handy Google map that plots all of the restaurants participating. It's even filterable by pricing scheme!

winterlicious map

Lead photo by Vic Shum from the blogTO Flickr pool.

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