Summerlicious: A Gastronomical Adventure

Summerlicious offers Torontonians and its visitors the opportunity to sample foods from 130 of Toronto ’s top eateries. Restaurants create unique, 3-course, prix-fixe menus for lunch ($15-$20) and dinner ($25-$35 per person). Reservations begin in mid-June and many popular venues fill up almost instantly. If you don’t hold an American Express card, it might even be worth getting one for the various perks—including ‘front of the line’ ticket access for the Toronto Film Festival, concerts and yes, Summerlicious reservations. Restaurants like Canoe, North 44, Bymark and Lobby were booked before reservations opened to the public. Rob and I made reservations on the very first day and were disappointed to find that these venues were already out of reach. We perused the culinary candidates on www.toronto.com and came up three finalists for our own Summerlicious experience this year: Crush Wine Bar, La Maquette and 5th Elementt.

Before we review our personal experiences at these beautiful venues, we’d just like to preface the scenario by admitting that neither of us feels remotely qualified to rate restaurants. We LOVE eating and try new foods as often as we can, however we could never justify spending hundreds of dollars on a dinner for two, it’s just not in our budget. We would much rather hit that local Thai bistro around the corner where we can fill our bellies for under 30 dollars. On a rare, special occasion, we have been known to splurge… the most lavish being our Sultan’s Tent experience (multiple courses, romantic ambiance, and a belly dancing show!). All this being said, we can’t resist the opportunity to check out Toronto ’s trendiest and most upscale places on the cheap. What we do feel qualified to talk about is our personal, general experience— here we go!

Canoe
Canoe Restaurant
UPDATE! CANOE- Summerlicious 2009

This year, it seemed like the clouds parted, the angels sang, and we were finally able to make reservations at Canoe! It started like any other Summerlicious (or Winterlicious for that matter) event: we called the restaurant on the first day reservation lines were open, only to be told they were already totally booked.

We had decided to use what little spare money we had this summer on other adventures, when I heard a panicked, yet excited, yell from Nancy . Canoe had last minute reservations available! She had been reading up on local events on Toronto.com when she

came across a Summerlicious update page announcing what dates/times were still available at the most in-demand restaurants. Apparently, there were still some lunch dates open so we dropped everything and immediately called.

While the lady on the phone was certainly cordial, we started sweating when date after date we inquired about was full. Finally, she was able to fit us in for a 2 p.m. late lunch (I think the desperation in my voice was starting to make her nervous) on a Thursday afternoon. Since Nancy ’s on summer vacation and I have flexible hours, we booked it!

Finding affordable parking in Toronto ’s financial district can be a challenge during the work week. After scouring the block a few times, we opted for an underground lot for the low price of $20 flat rate! The area is an architectural zoo—if you are a building gawker like myself, then you are in for a treat. Take a walk in this area of town and you will realize first-hand just how short you are in comparison to the mammoth skyscrapers in the city centre. Unfortunately, my neck breaking glances above led to my cracking my ankle at the ground-level—watch out for those uneven patches! The TD Centre is among Toronto ’s elite business addresses and is home to 21,000 office workers. The TD Tower is among the highest buildings in the Toronto landscape, boasting a whopping 56 floors! Canoe Restaurant is located on the 54th floor of the TD Tower with a view of lake Ontario to prove it!

The interior design and décor was stylish and classy, not overpowering so as to place the focus on the breathtaking view. From the 54th floor, people look like little ants and even some of the buildings below look extraordinarily tiny. It was simply stunning see the boats sailing about the lake and then to be reminded of where we were when helicopters would cruise by under our eye level! The service staff was incredibly nice and very knowledgeable of the food and wine selections. We enjoyed our food and appreciated the unique choice of offerings (e.g., Thunder Oak Gouda or Capon breast). Overall, we can say that though we loved our food, that it was not our favourite Summerlicious experience in terms of menu. Our two-person jury is still out on that decision but we don’t feel that Canoe’s menu will win top honours. The view, however, definitely takes first prize!