WARM UP WINTER WITH ALPINE APRÈS AT VAL D’ISÈRE in Leaside
TORONTO’S FIRST CONVERTIBLE RESTAURANT TRADES SUMMER TAPAS FOR SKI-SLOPE FARE
As Canadians we’re blessed to have four distinct seasons … okay, fine, maybe blessed is not everyone’s first choice of words, but as Canadians, we make the most of the cards we are dealt. We might whine and groan, but every year we haul out the shovels, sidewalk salt and base layer clothing and just get on with it. Winter may not be the most beloved of our four seasons, but there are fun aspects to winter that are well worth looking forward to … “Après” ranks highly on that list.
After a long and chilly day of tobogganing or skating, there’s nothing nicer than laughing over the memories of the day while enjoying a warm drink or a plate of rib-sticking goodness. And isn’t it written somewhere in the laws of winter that one MUST end a day on the slopes sitting by a fire in cozy winter garb, sipping (okay, maybe not sipping) a Jagermeister or perhaps some mulled wine? Ahhhh! Après! Though it’s most commonly associated with skiing, we Torontonians are lucky to have so many winter activities that offer us the chance to enjoy the art of après … and now there’s one more location that hones that art!
Otta Zapotocky, the brains behind two of Bayview Leaside’s most cherished (& busy!) restaurants, brings us what is quite possibly, his brightest idea yet. Why drive north to ski country to enjoy alpine cuisine when you can have it right here in Toronto during the months when we need it the most. The ever-popular summer destination Tinto Bar De Tapas will now feature a winter alter ego as it becomes Toronto’s first “convertible” restaurant, Val D’Isère at 1581 Bayview Ave.
Always on the lookout for ways to best serve his Leaside clientele, Otta recognized a glaring void in the Toronto restaurant scene and looked to his own heritage to fill that need – with his cherished cuisine of the Czech Republic near the German border. Otta already handles the Spanish classic of tapas with delicious ease and has perfected the accompanying atmosphere, so having a winter menu and a design concept to suit it, provides just the sort of shaking up that Bayview Leaside needs.
“This is honest food,” says Otta, which speaks volumes to those of us who might describe our winter months as brutally honest! Nothing will warm you from the inside out more than a roast pork hock or a rich potato soup served in a gorgeous bread bowl topped with broiled gruyère cheese. It will be a struggle to choose between a thick cut pork schnitzel, a satisfying goulash or a tempting, traditional cheese fondue. Of course it’s not just hearty rib-sticking foods being offered, there are also menu items for those looking for something lighter. A vegetable and rabbit stew is a little less indulgent but is still well able to assuage your hunger. Patrons will also be happy to know that the sharing plates so popular at Tinto in the summer won’t be abandoned entirely. Val D’Isère will also offer a beautiful selection of charcuterie.
Supporting local businesses is a firm belief of this restaurateur so Otta is sourcing as many products as possible for the new Val D’Isère from his local scene. Bread for the bowls is from Epi, cheese for the fondue is from Alex Farm, and the fondue pots are from what is possibly the most fun store EVER, Academy of Culinary Arts: A Store for Cooks – all wonderfully local businesses from the Bayview-Leaside stretch.
It is highly likely that Val D’Isère, under Otta’s direction, will follow Tinto’s lead and become a place where friends and families can enjoy anything from an easy and deliciously satisfying meal to drinks on the patio after fun winter activities. This winter, brave the temperatures, save all those Air Miles points, and pop over to our very own Val D’Isère, right here in Bayview-Leaside.
STACIA CARLTON is a culinary school grad and food writer with a bit of a soft spot for charcuterie and cheese fondue … particularly found in one location. Visit her weekly at www.bestillandeat.com.