WHEN THE TEMPERATURE drops, it’s tempting to hibernate and wait out the cold. But food and drink festivals are luring Canadians outdoors, with delicious rewards for those who brave the winter weather. These events have something to please the palate of every connoisseur.
Dine Out Vancouver, Jan. 17 to Feb. 4 Canada’s largest restaurant festival is a favourite, and this year it expects to draw tens of thousands of ravenous diners to 240 participating restaurants featuring prix-fixe menus. Don’t miss the special culinary sessions: last year’s B.C. Sake vs. the World featured blind tastings and Canadian-inspired tapas served with the Japanese liquor.
Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival, Sun Peaks, B.C., Jan. 11 to 19 After a day on the slopes, treat yourself to some of the Okanagan Valley’s finest wines. Try the wine and cheese event, which sees late harvest and icewines paired with the likes of aged gouda and triple-cream brie, or wander through the resort’s village during a tasting event, savouring 24 British Columbia wines in the crisp alpine air.
The Big Taste, Calgary, March 7 to 16 Chow down in Cowtown as Calgary’s best chefs prepare three-course meals at fixed prices. At past festivals, diners have salivated over six-ounce charbroiled AAA Angus Alberta steak and Diamond Willow top beef sirloin. Book early for the wine and cocktail pairings and cooking classes.
Le Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg, Feb. 14 to 23 Known as the world’s largest kitchen party, this shindig celebrates the fur trader with delectable French-Canadian munchies. After checking out the beard-growing contest, sample some caribou — a traditional drink of red wine mixed with homemade whisky. The maple taffy, made with hot maple syrup and snow, is also a can’t-miss.
Icewine Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Jan. 1 to 31 The picturesque town on Lake Ontario becomes even more so in January, turning into a winter wonderland (pictured above) where liquid gold flows — icewine, in this case. Learn the art of icewine tasting or sample delights such as Riverview Cellars Winery’s Belgian chocolate-dipped fruit skewers and homemade biscotti, both of which are paired with cabernet icewine.
Winterlicious, Toronto, Jan. 31 to Feb. 13 Whether you want urban elegance on Bay Street or chic fun on Queen Street West, Toronto’s restaurants have prix-fixe lunches and dinners that are sure to please. Previous Winterlicious menus have included Bymark’s eight-ounce prime burger, topped with brie and grilled king mushrooms. There are also exclusive gastronomic events, such as last year’s Winter Grilling, a demonstration of the best barbecue techniques.
WinterBrewed, Ottawa, Feb. 15 and 16 Extend your Valentine’s Day with a trip to the nation’s capital, where brew lovers gather on Sparks Street to sip a huge selection of regional craft beers (including a few that are hot; it is winter after all) and snack on fine food from some of the city’s best restaurants. Last year’s festival featured a 27-metre-long, 360-degree ice bar, which drew as much attention as the snowman-building competition. Guess which one is better for burning off the calories you’ll drink.
Montréal en Lumière, Montreal, Feb. 20 to March 2 The city famous for its cuisine brightens winter skies with this fete of light, which combines food and fun. Head to Jean-Talon Market, where chefs join local producers for cooking workshops, or stroll to the Place des Festivals for a ride on a 110-metre illuminated slide. Cuisine from different regions is featured each year, with past highlights including delicacies from Belgium and Argentina. Bon appétit!
Dine Around Freddy, Fredericton, March Foodies fill restaurants on the Atlantic riverfront capital’s historic tree-lined streets, drawn by culinary creations at bargain prices. Last year’s delights included crispy-skin Arctic char and Atlantic cod seared in coconut lime sauce. Check the website for specific dates.
WinterDine, Charlottetown, Jan. 23 to 25, Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 & Feb. 6 to 8 Savvy diners who want more bite for their buck should make for Charlottetown, where the city’s top chefs create delectable three-course menus for only $25 or $35. Last year’s feasts featured pan-seared duck breast with sour cherry compote and wild-mushroom- and-provolone-stuffed chicken.