Earlier this week I was talking about the latest Canadian/American Automobile Association ratings and noted that Canada now has 11 combined hotels and restaurants with five-diamond ratings, the top award they give out.
Now comes another series of ratings, this time from the travel folks at Forbes.
They’ve got a pretty different list. Radically different, actually.
Most notable, I think, is that both Forbes and the Automobile Association folks put the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto on their five-diamond (five-star for Forbes) list. That means the Four Seasons flagship property (in Yorkville) is the only property in Canada to have earned the top rating from both the AAA and Forbes.
That’s something worth crowing about, for sure.
“Four Seasons Hotel Toronto was built to be the brand’s global flagship,” says Dimitrios Zarikos, Regional Vice President and General Manager of the hotel. “Both ratings are a testament to our team’s hard work and the exceptional service we extend to our guests and we are proud to achieve this recognition.”
Four Seasons Hotel Toronto opened in October 2012 and features 259 guest rooms, a 30,000 square foot luxury spa and a signature restaurant Cafe Boulud and dbar by international restaurateur and Chef Daniel Boulud.
What’s also fascinating is the disparity between Forbes and the auto club ratings.
The AAA gave five-diamond status to five hotels in Canada: the Four Seasons Whistler, the Shangri-La Vancouver, the Four Seasons Toronto, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. It gave five-diamond status to six Canadian restaurants; four in Quebec, one in Ontario (Langdon Hall) and one in Alberta (Eden, at the Rimrock resort/hotel in Banff).
Forbes was decidedly stingy, giving out ZERO five-star awards to Canadian restaurants.
ZERO? Really, guys? New York City has seven (which seems reasonable) and Canada has NONE?
At least Forbes thinks we have an idea on how to run a hotel, as they gave five-star status to the Four Seasons Vancouver, The Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, the Four Seasons in Toronto and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto.
Maybe Forbes’ doesn’t like Quebec, I don’t know. But zero five-star hotels in the province and zero five-star restaurants in Quebec makes little sense to me.
In addition to getting the five-star nod from Forbes, the folks at the Trump International in downtown Toronto should be taking a bow today after Trip Advisor named the property to their top 10 IN THE WORLD.
That’s pretty impressive, folks.
FREE TICKETS TO TORONTO STAR TRAVEL SHOW THIS WEEKEND
I have one last group of four tickets to give away to the Toronto Star Ultimate Travel Show, being held Saturday and Sunday at Exhibition Place. Email me at email@example.com for your chance to win.
ITALY TOURISM ON THE MOVE
Tour operators who promote Italy have formed a group called ExpertsITALIA to better market Italy in Canada. They held a lovely reception with great Italian food and wine the other night in downtown Toronto.
The group is finalizing a website that will have dining and shopping tips and other details, and they’ll be able to link directly to ExpertsITALIA members.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Italy. I met my wife there, on a trip from Rome to Florence. My Mom says I was conceived in Rome, which is more than you needed to hear but still what I was told.
I’ve been many times over the years, including a recent cruise that took me to Venice (I loved it), Taormina in Sicily (gorgeous; see photo above) and Sorrento (ditto). I’ve also spent time near Lucca and on the Cinque Terre, as well as Florence and Rome and Naples and Capri. And I had some great food and wine during the Turin Olympics in 2004, which I covered for the Toronto Star.
Someone asked me at the event this week what I love about Italy. I didn’t have time to think so I answered something like this:
“I love the, I don’t know, exuberance. If they’re stuck in traffic and you cut them off, they scream and honk at you. But they’re just as likely to embrace you on the street. If they’re with their loved one, they cuddle and kiss in the piazza. If they just won a World Cup soccer game, they go crazy in the streets.”
You always know where you stand with an Italian, I say. They’re almost entirely warm and emotional and wonderful. A tad exasperating at times, sure, and things can take a while. But you can’t beat the food and the wine and the scenery.
AUSTRALIAN FOOD AND WINE
The Aussies held a smashing event in Toronto this week as well, focussing attention on their food and wine offerings. They seem to think Australian wine doesn’t get enough attention, which I don’t think is quite true. I think any wine lover in Canada knows about the superb wines in places like the Barossa Valley and in the state of Victoria, as well as the Hunter River Valley near Sydney and the growing-quickly area of the Margaret River in Western Australia, where they make excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (and nice mixes of the two).
What I was a bit surprised by at the event was the quality of the Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula (see photo). They were lush and ripe and fruit forward but not too jammy. They reminded me (sorry, guys) of the lovely ones I tried in central Otago in New Zealand a few years ago.
They’re nice in winter with salmon or lighter meat dishes, but also would work with cheeses and, of course, on their own. They’d be super with a ham at Easter or as a backyard sipper, nicely chilled, in summer. Should we ever have another summer in Toronto, that is….
Anyway, the wines were great. And so was the food, including a wonderful butternut squash flan topped with goat cheese and beetroot powder with hazelnut snow. Nice kangaroo burgers and prawns, too,, plus a demonstration on how Aussies take their chocolate Tim-Tam biscuits and bite off the corners, then dunk them into their coffee and use the biscuit as a straw.
I somehow have never heard of this, but it’s called a Tim-Tam slam, and there are websites devoted to the practice. Hilarious.
MIAMI TOURISM TOO
I also have to give kudos to the folks from Miami and the Beaches tourism for braving our ridiculous weather this week and putting on a great show at another Toronto event.
There were folks representing storied hotels such as the Biltmore and Turnberry, as well as representatives of cool places like The Betsy in South Beach and from nearby towns such as Sunny Isles.
Miami is an awesome spot for a winter holiday, with great food and beaches and really fun shopping and restaurants. I love Yardbird for southern food, not far from the Lincoln Road Mall. And Timo’s in Sunny Isles has great meals and incredible desserts. The last hotel I was at in town was the Soho Beach House, which is super trendy and amazing and beautiful all at the same time.
I noticed in the recent Forbes ratings that Miami has three five-star hotels: The Acqualina Resort and Spa in Sunny Isles, the Mandarin Oriental in Miami and the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. They also have two five-star restaurants, NAOE and Azul, located at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.