As we ring in the new year, let’s take a moment to look back at all the delicious highlights and wonderful achievements in the food and drink scene that graced T.O. over the last year. From award-winning chefs to the city’s first-ever cider bar, here are the best of the best in 2016.
Rosen's Cinnamon Buns
Toronto’s first artisanal cinnamon bun shop opened its doors back in October to enthusiastic patrons anxious to get a first taste of the sticky sugary comfort food fresh from the oven. The fervour has not died down and Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns has fast become a regular neighbourhood drop-in for a tasty breakfast treat or a hefty dessert. Owner and chef Amy Rosen offers a (very) pared down menu that makes ordering sweet and simple: cinnamon buns, bread pudding and coffee.
Her Father’s Cider Bar + Kitchen
Another first for Toronto is Her Father’s Cider Bar + Kitchen, the city’s only cider bar—finally! Cider enthusiasts now have a place to call their own at this Harbord Street spot, which offers more than 75 ciders from Ontario and around the world. This restaurant bar isn’t just for the after 5 p.m. crowd, though you can expect full dinner service. Brunch is available throughout the week featuring down-home fare.
Propeller Coffee Wins Award
In just a few short years, this homegrown brand has risen to become one of North America’s top speciality roasters, winning the 2016 Micro Roaster of the Year. It’s no surprise then that business duo Geoff Polci and Losel Tethong are passionate about quality speciality beans—but did you know that they place an equal importance on sustainability as well? Propeller Coffee uses 100 per cent renewable energy and works in partnership with Autoshare’s energy-efficient vehicles to deliver its supplies. Good coffee and environmentally minded? Now that’s a brand we can get behind.
Alo Restaurant takes the cake for biggest buzz in Toronto this year, topping multiple best-eats lists including enRoute 2016 Best New Restaurants and Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. Reservations can get booked up months in advance, as locals and visitors alike eagerly wait to sample Chef Patrick Kriss’ well-conceived high-end French fare: foie gras mousse with maple and walnut; Anson Mills grits with maitake and smoked cheddar; beef rib-eye with cipollini onion, spinach and Bearnaise, to name a few.
Chef Amanda Ray Wins for Canteen
Gold Medal Plates recently announced the Ontario champion who will go on to compete in February 2017’s national culinary competition. Amanda Ray of O&B Canteen won gold in an intense competition against eight of the province’s best chefs, winning with a milk-braised St. Canut porcelet with hay-smoked Tamarack Farms squash and choucroute, paired with Cave Spring Cellars’ 2014 The Adam Step Riesling. Congratulations Amanda and good luck in the nationals!
This year’s Luminato Festival had people excited for more than awe-inspiring installations and performances during the city’s largest multi-arts celebration. Frederic Morin (Joe Beef) and John Bil (Honest Weight) combined forces to create a restaurant pop-up in Le Pavillon. Open for just 15 days, the dining experience was housed in the control room of Toronto’s former power plant, Hearn Generating Station. The dining experience was one to remember, inspired by the 1939 New York World’s Fair and classic French bistro style. We hope the pair team up again to create something just as spectacular in the future.
Sorelle and Co.
The gluten-free movement has made leaps and bounds in shaping the food scene in major Western cities around the world. This past November, Toronto caught up to the evolution with its first-ever gluten-free bakery, Sorelle and Co. Their goodies are not just limited to the gluten-free variety, but also cater to a variety of dietary restrictions, including dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and more. Sorelle’s flagship cafe is located in Vaughan, but it also has shops at Pusateri on Avenue Road and at Saks Food Hall in Eaton Centre.
Toronto’s New Breweries
Torontonians sure love their craft beer and 2016 welcomed two new craft breweries with open arms. Halo, a brewery located in the Junction, offers a strong selection of IPAs, ales and fruit-flavoured brews in its taproom and bottle shop. It’s a small, contemporary space to cozy up with pals. Bandit Brewery is larger, reminiscent of a German beer garden with long communal tables and located inside a former auto shop. It’s no surprise you’ll find at least a couple Belgian-style ales amongst its (growing) selection of brews.
The closing of Splendido in 2015, still very much in its height of excellence, had gourmands wondering: why now? It seemed that owner and chef Victor Barry had a plan — and it was called Piano Piano, the new Harbord Street restaurant featuring Italian dishes. The 80-seat restaurant, designed by HGTV’s Tiffany Pratt, is a lot more casual than its owners’ former establishment, and Barry has even included a kids menu and family-friendly space downstairs where little ones are free to play.
O&B added another restaurant to its list of successful enterprises this year. What was once a space owned by Hudson’s Bay has transformed into a seriously stunning multi-floor restaurant. The gorgeous interior design dazzles, while the Argentinian-inspired cuisine created by chef Anthony Walsh delights the appetite. Think breakfast empanadas with chimichurri, small plate of salt cod fritters, and rabbit and snail rice with artichokes and tomato for a dinner entree.
Chabrol, a spinoff of the midtown Iberian restaurant Cava, opened in early 2016 on an inconspicuous street off of Yorkville Avenue. The dining space is small, as is the open kitchen where chef Doug Penfold flourishes in creating delectable French cuisine. There’s something very charming about this place, perhaps the close quarters creates a kind of intimacy amongst staff and patrons you wouldn’t normally experience elsewhere in the city.