The irony was stunning; I was heading out in the worst snow storm of the winter to interview the founders of the Barrielicious Festival, most recently entitled “Barrielicious – The Blizzard Edition”. White knuckle driving aside, the opportunity to learn the inspiration behind this foodie’s favourite festival was well worth it!
I was handed a great cup of coffee to warm my hands, and comfortably settled in to interview number one, with Randy Feltis, who with Ryan Traversy, created Barrielicious. In the winter of 2006, taking their cue from the success of Toronto’s “Winterlicious”, this duo successfully convinced 16 independent privately owned restaurateurs to create extraordinary three course meals, for the bargain price of $20.06 and run a two week festival. Mid-winter, the post-holiday, pre Valentines season is traditionally a slow period in the food industry, but interest in Barrielicious created an outpouring of customers, and all involved were thrilled with the success of the venture, and so it continues, year after year. Barrielicous is a great opportunity to shake off the winter blahs and enjoy the diverse offerings of the finest independent restaurants in Simcoe. While Randy and Ryan were hoping for success, Barrielicious was the biggest thing they had seen in their restaurants. Another upside of the festival was that it brought together a diverse group of restaurant owners, chefs, and staff, sharing a common goal, of impressing the heck out of the influx of diners. They worked hard, had fun and ran a successful event. Barrielicious winter edition was so successful, that a summer version was planned and runs in early July.
Barrielicious is an opportunity for local independent restaurants to showcase their talents, create a cornucopia of delicious feasts and offer them to diners at a greatly reduced rate over a two week period. I highly recommend you bundle up and head out in the snow; foodies will delight in the opportunity to see what their fav chefs are creating, occasional diners will discover stunning independent restaurants and bargain diners will be satiated. Many folks are reluctant to try a new restaurant, but this festival entices and educates, showcasing the extensive variety of fine dining venues and culinary talents in our region.Once through the door, the staff, from server to chef, delight in impressing diners, as they know when there is a special occasion to celebrate, a birthday or anniversary, that well-fed diners will fondly remember their great Barrielicious meal and head back to said memorable restaurant, this time knowing they are in for an elysian delight, which will be well worth the regular cost. These are special event restaurants.Over the years I have dined at a majority of the restaurants involved with Barrielicious, with very few disappointments.
Barrielicious was purchased this year by Andy Wilson who also owns the rights to the popular Londonlicious event, which runs simultaneously. Ryan Traversy remains as the General Manager of Barrielicious. Andy assured me that the integrity of the festival will continue, the focus remains on showcasing independently owned restaurants. Suggestions for you gentle readers; especially for those attempting your first gastronomical leap into Barrielicious. Reservations are a must, some restaurants do three seating’s an evening,others stagger the times so there is no sense of being rushed. While all restaurants abide by the fix price menu, there are many that offer upcharges, allowing you to order from their regular menu.Some restaurants have an automatic gratuity for their servers; it is worth asking when you make your reservation. We hope most diners recognize that the meal they are served is priced well below typical norm and will tip accordingly, rather than just calculating a 15% option. The staff work hard and are deserving of our appreciation by way of a generous tip.
Barrielicious Blizzard Edition 2013 was once again a phenomenal success; mark your calendars for Barrielicious – Heat Wave Edition, coming this summer to Simcoe and prepare to be impressed!
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Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow