Chilly weather is unavoidable when it comes to winters in Toronto. Thankfully, the city’s dining scene is offering up a number of belly-warming reasons to embrace the season. From an elevated take on chicken soup to a decadent, indulgent hot chocolate, here are five dishes that are sure to lift the spirits and give snowbirds one less reason to fly south.
The Parisian gnocchi at Bacchanal. The boisterous, fun-loving space off Queen West is known for its contemporary interpretations of traditional bistro classics. Epitomizing this theme is the Parisian gnocchi, an irresistible combination of pillowy gnocchi tucked under a blistered layer of gruyere and bathed in a lush French onion soup base. To make this dish, chef and co-owner Luke Donato pan-fries the tender Parmesan cheese and grainy mustard choux paste dumplings in clarified butter with cabbage before placing them over a bed of confit onion that’s been cooked down with veal stock, brandy, and red wine. The dish is share-friendly—but who would want to?
The zampone from Bar Altura. Braised meats are a low-and-slow-cooked cold weather staple, but chef Marco Zandona takes it one step further with his refined version of zampone, a traditional New Year’s Eve dish. The show-stopping Modenese dish stuffs the skillfully deboned skin from a pig’s trotter with a sausage mixture made from jowl, skin, and shoulder meats seasoned with fennel seeds and pollen, coriander, clove and pepper. Rather than being boiled, the sausage is cooked sous vide for 18-hours and then sliced, glazed with its own unctuous juices and served over toothsome lentils on a plate dressed with Campari gel, homemade apple mostarda, preserved cherries and onion jam. While this unique-to-Toronto dish first debuted at the inaugural pop-up dinner for world renowned anti-restaurant Charlie’s Burger, you can now try it at Bar Altura.
The pumpkin patch course from Frilu. Derived from the Norwegian term friluftsliv for being one with nature, co-owner and chef John-Vincent Troiano and his team are responsible for the inventive and whimsical dishes served at contemporary Canadian restaurant, Frilu. Driven by local and seasonal ingredients, the Thornhill restaurant’s cuisine is heavily influenced by Asian sensibilities as seen on its tasting menu. The seasonally appropriate pumpkin patch course features a baked mini-pumpkin brimming with a molten bone marrow soufflé core. Chock-full of warm spices, the savoury pumpkin mixture is best enjoyed with the crusty homemade pumpkin seed roll it’s accompanied by. Served on a bed of hay, the course is almost too cute to eat. Almost.
The stella di ricotta in brodo from Il Covo. Few things embody comfort like chicken soup and at Il Covo—known for serving Italian classics not commonly found in Toronto—chef and co-owner Ryan Campbell offers an elevated take on the classic with his Sicilian-inspired stella di ricotta. Elegant in both appearance and execution, the cicchetti-style course features a roasted flower-shaped dumpling made from ricotta di bufala and thyme. Finished with an aromatic hen’s broth poured tableside, every spoonful of the delicate cake-like dumpling and golden brodo is like being enveloped in the warmest, gentlest hug.
Chocolate chaud from Ladurée. There’s thin and saccharine powder-based hot chocolate, and then there’s Ladurée’s velvety smooth chocolate chaud. Made from melting the luxury French patisserie’s own chocolate blend in whole milk, the popular drinking chocolate achieves ultimate indulgence when crowned with a dollop of Chantilly cream. Try it in the 18th century–inspired, colonial-style Parisian tea salon—cozy up in the pastel pink room’s contemporary velvet-lined banquettes, alternating with bites of Ladurée’s famed rose raspberry French toast.
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter.