J’adore Winterlicious. It’s one of the few times each year when citizens of our fair metropolis get as excited about our culinary offerings as they should always be. For these few days, people let pretences flitter into the ether and allow themselves to simply enjoy eating course after course of bodacious bounty. You can’t snark at haute food culture because you can involve yourself in haute food culture. You can’t envy those who dine out nightly because everyone could, in theory, dine out nightly. And you can’t dictate trite maladies about Toronto’s food because there are some 2,500 different dishes awaiting the chance to writhe across your palate, and guaranteed at least three of those will live up to the standards of even the most staunch critic.
I took a trip Saturday to Habits Gastropub with a few friends (one of which is stationed sadly in Ottawa, but lovingly compared the restaurant in question to Town in our nation’s capital… a flattering comparison indeed) for the first Winterlicious stop on my tour. (Which this year also includes Canoe, Boehmer, The Shore Club, and Colborne Lane.)
Habits Gastropub is an obvious favourite of mine. Their nachos are treated with the respect one might dote upon a cut of Wagyu beef; the 100+ brown liquors lining their bar are a sight for sore eyes and thirsty throats; and the fact they involve themselves so heavily in our city’s indie music and performance scene is both commendable and a testament to their “everything local” philosophy.
Of course, being as hungover as we were, none of the principles of Habits mattered on this particular evening. We needed a hearty and comfortable meal to subdue the sea-level swells ruminating in our bellies. Or mine, at least. I wasn’t very concerned as to the state of others in my party…
The warm Waldorf salad started the meal on a high note, bringing but a light flavour of blue cheese – which I personally don’t usually enjoy – to the appetizer. Next up, a beautiful piece of oven-roasted pickerel was presented atop a bed of lemon scented risotto and devoured in a heartbeat by “this guy.” [Please point thumbs at chest so as to demonstrate the douchery intended in the previous sentence.] And finally, a mocha chocolate mousse violated my sweet tooth ensuring no desire for confectionery for days to come.
What I love about Habits’ Winterlicious offering is that few of the options appear on their regular menu. While showcasing the best of a restaurant’s kitchen can be tantamount to a successful ROI on the Winterlicious program, allowing a chef to fly creatively away from the norm often presents the opportunity for a restaurant to judge reception of potential new menu items as well as limit stagnation in the every day. Thus, dining at Habits Gastropub without my requisite nacho romp has only made me desire exploring their ever-changing menu, evermore often.
+ Want to sample Habits Gastropub before you go? Click here for a visual appetizer to whet your appetite…