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Thursday, 31 January 2013

I Can Azure You

Winterlicious, the Toronto food festival which features restaurants across the city offer discounted “prix fixe” three course lunch and dinner menus, kicked off it's tenth year this past Sunday (January 27, 2013).
The idea of a great meal at a reduced price makes my heart flutter.  Throw in a shoe sale and it’s the trifecta that would make make my heart pound similar to a bona fide cardio workout. 
The ‘licious festivals, (Winterlicious in Jan/Feb and Summerlicious in July), offer a great opportunity to try out new restaurants.  Some restaurants that I now frequent are a result of discovering them during a ‘licious festival.
Yesterday,  work mates Audrey and Sarah and I had reservations at Azure, the sleek, open concept restaurant located inside the Toronto Intercontinental Hotel.   We were greeted with a hostile reception by the hostess who apparently was doing us a massive favour by confirming our reservation and seating us at our table.  When I informed her that we were there for Winterlicious, you would have thought that we had just pulled up in the Jed Clampett mobile, fired our guns in the air yelling “YEE HAW” and asked for three glasses of their finest moonshine.  It was clear from the hostess’, and subsequently the waiter’s, attitude that Winterlicious customers were second class citizens to them. 
Here’s the thing – the lull between the December holiday season and Valentine's Day in mid February is not a great time of year for restaurants. Winterlicious is a great vehicle for restaurateurs to make money during a very slow period.  The City of Toronto chooses which restaurants get participate in the event.   Those who are not chosen feel the economic impact of not being included.  I’m sure that being located in a large hotel keeps business steady for Azure and if Winterlicious is so beneath them, why do they take a spot away from another restaurant that could use the cash flow?


The three of us chose the Organic Leaves salad with olives and fried goat cheese as our starters, which was the best dish of the three courses.  Based on the simplicity of the salad, this isn't saying much. 

Audrey chose the braised lamb pappardella as her main and said that it was tasty.  Sarah and I had the grilled flat iron steak sandwich with truffled fries.  Well colour me red neck, but the steak tasted like it was cooked by a hair stylists flat iron and the fries tasted like A & W's.  They were definitely frozen fries and they were not dressed with truffle oil as stated on the menu.   The waiter snidely asked us if we wanted ketchup for them.  I refrained from asking why he didn’t offer up any possum juice for the likes of us hillbillies. 
"That there is s'pose to be some fancy city food Jethro."

For dessert, we all finished with the upside down apple cake with sour cream ice cream, which was apparently like us – it had no taste.

Please do not let this put you off Winterlicious.  This is probably the first bad experience that I have had in the six years that I have been going to ‘licious.  It has grown from 35 restaurants participating restaurants in 2003 and now features 191 restaurants on the bill along with a host of other cool culinary events.  Winterlicious runs from now until February 7, 2013.

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