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Hot Dining: Eats and Entertainment

Ultra (photo by Device 222)

What better way to work off your dinner than with a dance or two? You’ll find both food and fun at these Toronto supper clubs. The glamour of old Hollywood is prominent at The Roosevelt Room, with its art deco–styled interior and 1920s-inspired cocktail menu. Savour a sumptuous rack of Ontario lamb ($32.95) or Alberta beef filet ($31.95), then enjoy live jazz or vaudevillian entertainment. For a more contemporary experience, swanky Ultra serves steaks, of course, plus East-meets-West offerings like a baked half lobster with chipotle hollandaise ($21) or miso-glazed black cod ($26), before sending you on to the dance floor. And if you like to do the salsa and eat it, too, then a night at Babalúu is in order. Relish Latin fusion options—entrees, tapas dishes and huge shareable paellas—then partake in a complimentary and caliente dance lesson.

Holiday Happenings: New Year’s Eve Celebrations

New Year's at Nathan Phillips SquareWhether you’re looking to take in a stage show, indulge in a culinary celebration, or dance into the wee hours—we’ve got plenty of party ideas to help you ring in 2010.

Scottish Traditions
Step back in time on December 28 for an evening of Scottish food and music during Hogmanay (the Scots word for “new year”) celebrations at Mackenzie House . The decorated 19th-century row house will be illuminated with gaslight while traditional musical group Gin Lane performs popular tunes, including a musical rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famed verse by Scottish poet Robbie Burns. 82 Bond St., 7 to 9 p.m. $20 per person; call 416-392-6915 to reserve.

On December 29, bring the family to Gibson House for a candlelit evening celebrating the Scottish New Year at the Hogmanay Party for Families. Visitors are greeted at the door by the legendary “First Footer” and are soon immersed in Hogmanay customs through hands-on crafts, stories and sing-alongs. On December 30, enjoy a scrumptious meal at a traditional Hogmanay dinner party.  Wine and dine by the fireside while watching a dramatic re-creation of a New Year from a bygone time. 5172 Yonge St. Hogmanay family party 7 to 9 p.m. Adults $20, children $12.50. Hogmanay Dinner 7:30 to 10 p.m. $50; call 416-395-7432 to pre-register for either event.

Stage Performances
Stand up and cheer for some of the most passionate operatic music ever written as Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits returns to Toronto for a spectacular New Year’s Eve concert at Roy Thomson Hall. Delight in dazzling performances of beloved arias, duets and more from Carmen, Madama Butterfly, La bohème and other classics from opera’s golden age. 60 Simcoe St. 7 p.m., $75 to $155; call 416-872-4255 or click here to buy.

Laugh, cry, and kiss the New Year goodbye as Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin presents the annual New Year’s Eve Comedy Extravaganza at Massey Hall. Hilarious host Gerry Dee is joined on stage by the city’s funniest stand up and improv artists. Special guest performers include Nikki Payne and “That Canadian Guy” Glen Foster. 178 Victoria St.
7:30 p.m. $39.50 to $59.50; call 416-872-4255 or visit here to purchase tickets.

The Toronto Operetta Theatre‘s New Year’s Eve Gala features dinner, dancing and a rousing performance of Countess Maritza, an operetta known the world over for its combination of Viennese elegance and Hungarian passion. This fundraising event, which has sold out for 12 years in a row, includes a pre-performance sit-down dinner and a late-night reception and dance party to benefit the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. 27 Front St. E.
5:30 p.m., $145 and up; call 416-366-7723 or click here to buy.


Weekend Roundup, December 11th to 13th

Escape the holiday stress and mess at the malls! Between a motorcycle show, a craft fair and an icy dip in the lake, there are plenty of options to keep this weekend stimulating and hassle-free.

Friday: Check out the hogs of the Toronto Motorcycle Show

Friday: Check out the hogs of the Toronto Motorcycle Show

Friday, December 11th
Channel tough biker chic as you check out highly coveted Hondas, Harley-Davidsons, scooters and new motor models at the Toronto Motorcycle Show. Ladies can get in for free after 5 p.m. for the special She Rides Night.

Be swept away by the sinuous sounds of Dr. Draw’s violin as he and his band fuse jazz, rock, electronica and classical influences for a highly energetic Holiday Extravaganza at Hugh’s Room.

Flock to the ultra-swanky supper club Ultra for its famous Flock Fridays dinners and lively DJ dance parties. As you sup or spin, Ultra’s elves will decide if you have been naughty or nice.

Embark on a foolhardy, seafaring musical adventure at The Music Gallery, where two Berlin-based artists present The Ship of Fools, an avant-garde multimedia performance based on a 15th-century text.

Saturday: Cuddly sock monkeys are among the items available at the City of Craft sale

Saturday: Cuddly sock monkeys are among the items available at the City of Craft sale

Saturday, December 12th
Browse through limited-edition books, zines, graphic novels and other literary goodies at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, which also features a special reading by 2009 Toronto Book Award winner Austin Clarke.

Help construct a Garbage Dress—one of the installations at the City of Craft sale—by donating old clothes, scrap fabric, buttons and other materials. Then pick up unique, handcrafted goods from the participating vendors while meandering along Queen Street West.

Loosen up with some drinks and enjoy an evening of soul, jazz and hip hop at The Rivoli, as bands like The Breakdown, Blues Underdog and Two Crown King perform their funky musical sets.

Sunday: Brave an icy lake for polar bears' sake

Sunday: Brave an icy lake for polar bears' sake

Sunday, December 13th
Fancy a quick dip in the icy lake? Participate in the 2009 Polar Bear Swim at the Sunnyside Beach. The frigid plunge supports the On Thin Ice campaign, which is dedicated to saving Ontario’s polar bears from extinction.

Sample butter tarts, carrot puddings, fruitcakes and other sweet treats at the Royal Ontario Museum as food experts and lecturers discuss the cultural history of Canadian desserts.

Watch the English-language premiere of The Salon Automaton, a burlesque confrontation between actress Nathalie Claude and three robots playing The Dandy Poet, The Cabaret Artist and The Drinking Patroness, on stage at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

June Editor’s Picks: Dining

Ultra (photo by Device 222)

Ultra (photo by Device 222).

1. One of Toronto’s swankiest dining and nightlife destination just got even more posh. Along the see-and-be-seen strip of Queen Street West, Ultra recently unveiled a new Munge Leung–designed interior that melds candlelit intimacy with cheeky features like a 15-foot-high wall of giant rooster photos and a communal table fashioned by edgy local firm Castor. The menu has been overhauled, too. While steaks ($28 to $45)—a supper club staple with varied accompaniments—remain, chef Chris Zielinski also serves up eastern-inspired small plates such as hoisin-ginger salmon with pineapple-coriander jus ($20) and half-baked lobster with avocado salad and chipotle hollandaise ($19). Don’t forget your dancing shoes—top-tier DJs spin late four nights a week.