There are two city-sponsored food festivals that are held in Toronto each year: Summerlicious and Winterlicious.
Winterlicious is coming up starting January 27, 2017 and ending on February 9, 2017. Over 220 restaurants in Toronto are participating by offering three-course meals at set prices. Depending on the restaurant, lunch costs $18, $23, or $28 per person and dinner costs $28, $38, or $48 per person. There are also Winterlicious Culinary Events with tickets ranging from $55 to $105 per person.
Winterlicious is a foodie (a person with a particular interest in food) favourite and provides a great opportunity to sample delicious cuisine prepared by top chefs. It's a very popular event and many Torontonians participate every year.
The downside of Winterlicious is that even with the discounted restaurant prices, it may not fit in everyone's budget. You might not have money set aside for restaurant dining, have a hard time justifying the expense, or simply not be able to afford it. As a result, you could end up skipping Winterlicious altogether.
But what if there was a more affordable way to join in the Winterlicious fun? A way to sample delicious cuisine on a budget? I bring you "Winterlicious: DIY (Do It Yourself) Style".
Winterlicious: DIY Style
If Winterlicious does not fit into your budget — or you find DIY fun — why not just do it yourself and host your own Winterlicious-style dinner? You can dine alone, make a meal for the entire family, cook a romantic dinner for two, or even plan a fun Winterlicious-themed party for a group of friends. The only cost to you is the price of groceries, with the result of some very lucky guests who can enjoy a delicious meal without spending a dime.
All you need to do is to pick out some new recipes that you (or your guests) haven't tried before and there you have it... Winterlicious: DIY style.
Let's start with the most important part of Winterlicious: DIY Style... the food. Winterlicious is known for its three-course-meals. If you look through the Winterlicious Prix Fixe Restaurant List and click on any restaurant, you can see the Winterlicious menu. Menus typically consist of three courses — starters, entrées and desserts — with multiple options to choose from. Many restaurants offer at least some choices that are vegetarian.
When you host your own Winterlicious: DIY Style dinner, you may want to pick one starter, entrée and dessert to serve. Make sure you find out if your guests have any allergies or dietary restrictions beforehand.
Winterlicious provides a great opportunity to sample food from other cultures. If you're new to Canada, you can prepare some recipes from back home. Invite friends who haven't tried your culture's food to your Winterlicious: DIY Style dinner. They can enjoy authentic cuisine from across the world; plus, next time, they might host and you can try some of their favourite recipes.
If you're cooking for family, or friends from your own culture, this can be a great opportunity to make food from another part of the world. You can borrow a cookbook from the library and try making cuisine from a country of your choice. Try cooking Iranian, Italian or Mexican, for example, or even give cooking Canadian a shot.
If you're comfortable in the kitchen and have the time, you can try preparing dishes from one of the Winterlicious menus on the Prix Fixe Restaurant List. You can find recipes for those (or similar) dishes online, or in a cookbook from the library.
You can also try making something completely unique. There's a Pokémon cookbook with Pikachu ramen or mashed Meowth potatoes that are sure to wow your guests!
And if you don't like to fuss in the kitchen, "The Minimalist Entertains" by Mark Bittman has recipes for simple, yet elegant, dinners divided by season. Winter has some wonderful options, from 'A Cocktail Party' on page 194, to 'An Informal Italian Dinner' on Page 214, to a 'A Leisurely Midwinter Dinner' on page 226.
There is so much more to a perfect meal than just food, which is why ambiance is a big part of Winterlicious too.
If you want your Winterlicious: DIY Style dinner to feel special, look great and be 'insta-worthy' (when a picture is good enough to be posted on Instagram), you have to set the right atmosphere.
You can get tons of ideas from books at the library. I looked through a few and here are some basic suggestions.
Simple Stunning Parties at Home by Karen Bussen has a section on ambiance that talks about how to transform everyday spaces. A centerpiece such as a tray of glowing gold candles, can transform a table. Plus, the author suggests music and decor to go with each themed menu to help transform your Winterlicious: DIY Style and take it to the next level.
If you're looking for some background music for the evening (or afternoon) you can borrow music CDs from the library. If you prefer to listen online, Naxos Music Library has classical, jazz, electronic, and world music; Hoopla has all sorts of music CDs that you can stream in your web browser or enjoy offline on your smartphone or tablet.
I also leafed through the library's copy of "The Elegant Napkin Folding" by Joanne O'Sullivan, and the napkin folds are colourfully illustrated in very easy-to-follow, step-by-step diagrams. You can easily master them in minutes and the library has plenty of other napkin-folding books to help you pick the perfect one.
If you don't have napkins or gold candles lying around the house, improvise with what you've got. You can impress your guests with Super Simple Origami or use Mason Jar Crafts for centerpieces. You can also create items inspired by different countries from around the world, using household items and things you can buy at the dollar store (the book Craft It Up Around the World can help).
Some Final Thoughts
Just because you can't make it to a Winterlicious restaurant doesn't mean you have to miss out. You can host your own Winterlicious: DIY Style without breaking your wallet, and enjoy trying new, delicious recipes. When your friends talk about Winterlicious, I can guarantee your Winterlicious: DIY Style will steal the spotlight.
If you don't have the time to host, give your foodie friends a nudge by sending them this blog. Next thing you know, you'll be getting an invite to their Winterlicious: DIY Style dinner, and everybody wins!
Plan on attending (or hosting) Winterlicious: DIY Style? Have any delicious recipes you can't wait to try? Are you brave (and awesome) enough to give the Pokémon cookbook a shot? Or do you have a unique theme? Comment below! Oh, and don't forget to come back and tell me how it went!
I'll be hosting my own Winterlicious: DIY Style for a few close friends. Wish me luck?