Comfort food garbs your tongue in luxurious velveteen knickerbockers of flavor, as opposed to discomfort food, which clings to the face like an overtight ascot. Avoid the embarrassment of culinary crampers with today's Groupon: for $25, you get $50 worth of fine, eco-friendly dining and wines at Epic Restaurant in the Fairmont Royal York.
Inspired by Chef Timothy Palmer's passion for environmental sustainability and wildlife conservation, Epic Restaurant culls regional ingredients from area farmers and its own rooftop garden to sprinkle plates with solid Ontario classics. Locally smoked salmon ($17) keeps waterways sustainable as it curbs 100km watercress on a plate with aged balsamic, fennel, avocado, and dill-aquavit crème fraîche before diving into a Jacuzzi filled with polka legends. An organic Fenwood Farm chicken breast ($34) frolics with pureed potatoes, white and green asparagus, and a light porcini cream sauce until a butter-poached Atlantic lobster ($58) stomps through the poultry's play-house kicking around local vegetables, Yukon gold potato puree, and warm gazpacho sauce.
Epic is one of a smattering of restaurants nestled within the Fairmont Royal York and separates itself from the horde with swank décor and a plush lounge. Its wine list earned the VQA Award of Excellence and stocks pours from Niagara and further afield, such as Henry of Pelham's non-oaked chardonnay ($32) and Vina Tarapaca's Natura, a fine Chilean libation.
Toronto Life featured Epic Restaurant, OpenTable reviewers give it an overall average rating of 4.1 stars, and 84 per cent of Urbanspooners recommend it. TripAdvisors give the establishment an average of four owl eyes.
The buzz surrounding the Fairmont Royal York doesn't just come from reporters or bloggers. It comes from the bees—as many as 350,000 of them—that reside in six carefully managed hives in the hotel's rooftop garden. Every year, beekeepers here harvest an average of 450 pounds of honey, some of which ends up a few floors down in the kitchen of Epic Restaurant. There, sustainability-conscious chefs bake the sweet local syrup into pastries and drizzle it onto artisanal cheese plates, a testament to their commitment to eating locally.
That commitment doesn't stop with honey. From organic chicken raised at nearby Yorkshire Valley Farms to ramps foraged in the Ontario woods, most of the savory ingredients on Epic Restaurant's seasonal menus are sourced from within 100 kilometers of the hotel. Some herbs, such as the chili that flavored a recent seafood pasta, are also harvested from the rooftop.
The chefs attend to ocean sustainability by using seafood approved by the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program, including Vancouver Island spot prawns, Atlantic halibut, and Nova Scotia sea bream.