In case anyone has been hibernating and has not stepped outside into Toronto’s -20 degrees celcius weather, it’s winter out there. I’ll admit, I’m not a winter person. I don’t like snow or the cold and I gave up my dream of being a snowboarder many years ago when I spent more time on my butt than on my board. Thankfully there is a two-week bright spot during Winterlicious, when Toronto’s best restaurants open their doors and offer prix fixe meals. Since taking part in Winterlicious for the first time last year, now it has a regular place in my calendar. Winter/Summerlicious is such a great opportunity to try new restaurants and new dishes. This time of year reminds Torontonians how incredibly lucky we are to live in such a vibrant city with so many culinary choices.
On Saturday, I went to Jump Restaurant with a friend for a much needed girls’ night out. Although neither of us had heard of Jump before, we noticed it was one of Oliver & Bonacini’s restaurants. We always enjoy going to their restaurants and had heard good reviews. It turned out to be a fantastic choice.
During Winterlicious, restaurants typically offer three options for an appetizer, entree and dessert. Depending on the restaurant, prix fixe dinners vary from $25, $35 or $45 — Jump was $35. While perusing the menus online to choose a restaurant to go to I saw that one of the dessert options at Jump included a gluten free cookie and the menu said that they could accommodate allergies. Sign me up! When I asked the waiter which option for each course was gluten free, it turned out that almost all of the entrees were naturally gluten free. It’s always the best case scenario when the menu item is naturally gluten free so no substitutions are required and you can eat the meal just like the chef envisioned it. It was a fantastic dinner. To make the meal even better, we decided to spend the extra $20 on wine pairings. Along with both the appetizer and entree we got a 3 oz. glass of wine and dessert came with a 1 oz. dessert wine. I mean how could we pass that down? Winterlicious is all about trying new restaurants and new foods…why not new wines?
For the appetizer, I had the Dinosaur kale and Ontario ricotta salad served with sweet and sour figs and prosciutto dressing.
For the entree, I had the Sweet spiced braised beef cheeks with chili-sautéed winter greens and white bean ragoût. I have never had beef cheeks before, it was really tender. I will admit that once or twice the thought crossed my mind that I hoped it wasn’t the actual cheeks of the cow, but then again it tasted good! It was nice trying a new cut of beef.
My friend ordered the Warm mushroom and quinoa gratin with Guernsey Girl Halloumi cheese, dates, lemon zest and parsley salad. This was also naturally gluten free and I debated ordering that too since it sounded amazing. Thankfully I was able to sneak a taste of the cheese which tasted incredible. In itself it was like eating a delicious, fancy grilled cheese! (I sincerely mean that as the highest compliment.)
As a dessert, I had a fresh and preserved fruit plate with a gluten free cookie. The cookie was so good, it was soft and chewy and had an amazing taste. I was really glad to have a gluten free dessert option available since based on looking at many Winterlicious menus online, the desserts often are made with flour. This cookie and fruit hit the spot! I just didn’t eat the preserved fruit since it was dipped in chocolate, which had soya in it.
It was a great decision that we got the wine pairings because it allowed our dinner to have an Italian feel. Instead of the restaurant serving each course immediately upon removing your empty plate, they waited until we had finished our glass of wine that complimented the course. Plus, wine pairings really do compliment the food. Usually I just order Pinot Grigio without any thought to what I’m going to eat. This was a great way to not only try new wines but also fully experience the meal. It was a fantastic evening. We ended up being at the restaurant for three hours talking and laughing over our food and wine! I’ll gladly go back to Jump again for dinner after work.