Casa Loma: Winterlicious 2017
1 Austin Terrace
Toronto, ON M5R 1X8
There is nothing that makes you feel more like royalty than eating inside a castle. And the only place that could really call itself that in Toronto is Casa Loma.
For Winterlicious this year, Casa Loma offered patrons a chance to have dinner on their premises to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada. To honor the country's many culinary contributions (OK, there really aren't that many...), they had a wide array of offerings that represented Canada from coast to coast. For only $65 a person, you were treated to a buffet style dinner featuring dishes like poutine, Sunday roast, rainbow trout, porchetta, crab claws, mussels, and more. The price of the dinner also includes admission to the castle, and includes gratuity and tax.
We arrived a bit early and were treated to a nice little walking tour of Casa Loma. There is a long history here of how one Sir Henry Mill Pellatt built a castle because...why the fuck not? Long story short... rich man buys land and builds house to move out of Scarborough (because everyone wants to), settles in, goes broke during the Great Depression, and the government takes it away from him. It happens. Regardless, the place is still kept up to this day and it is quite beautiful inside and out.
But because this is a food blog, let's get back to it, shall we?
Our dinner starts at 7:00 p.m. and they really did not let anyone in until 7:00 p.m. The lineup gets real long so it was good that we started lining up 15-20 minutes prior (because we're keeners). You are seated in either the observatory or the library hall. Either is rather nice, and the set up for the buffet was gorgeous, complete with an ice sculpture of a maple leaf and the number 150 on it.
As for the food, we started with a charcuterie and cheese table open. There were a wide array of meats like salami, prosciutto, ham, etc. The cheeses were even more varied, though I never did grab any of that. The salad bar had a choice of 4 different salads varying from pasta salad to your classic caesar. They also had an unlimited amount of crab claws that come in small shot glasses with cocktail sauce. We probably ate a good 20 of them between the two of us. Endless.
The first hot station had a choice of mussels in white wine sauce. The mussels were a tad dry, but the flavor was good. Porchetta sliders were good. None of the crispy skin that you would like in your porchetta, so it was more like a pulled pork slider, but was still tasty nonetheless. The poutine was awful. Dried, overly crisp, stringy fries that had watery gravy and unmelted curds.
Another hot station had this wonderful shrimp pasta with fusilli pasta. Very creamy and so much large jumbo shrimps scattered throughout. There was a good amount of cheese as well. The baked penne was good, but the thin layer of cheese on top goes away quickly when you have a lineup waiting for it.
The final hot station featured Sunday roast beef, rainbow trout, yorkshire pudding, brussel sprouts, and potatoes. The carvery was nice, but the lineup was too damn long. People waited 15-20 min just to get a few slices of beef. It was good, but should have had another carvery station set up elsewhere to accommodate the diners. The trout was meh. Needed more seasoning, while the sides were overly seasoned, but did love me that roast beef with the au jus and horseradish.
After dinner, you can get fresh made waffles with fresh fruit and real maple syrup (another Canadian classic). They were also bringing in maple syrup butter tarts. The dessert was incredible. The waffles were done nicely and the maple syrup was so good. The butter tart was rich and heavy but the crust was flaky so it was done well.
The atmosphere of it all was incredible though and really enhances the experience. Classical music in the background. Light chatter in the dining halls. It all contributed to a rather romantic affair for the wife and I. The service was superb. They were constantly checking on us and everyone around us. Despite the large size, they were still friendly as ever. We had to tip extra because they were so good. An overall wonderful experience and worth coming to when you consider that all your costs are pretty much included in $65 per head. I hope they continue to do this annually, though Canada doesn't celebrate their anniversaries every year I guess?
Ambience: A+ | Service: A | Price: B- | Food: B-