Taste of Toronto is one of the best food events Toronto has to offer in my humble opinion. Between a great venue (Fort York), amazing seminars/classes, plenty of incredible Toronto restaurants to “taste” and lots of unique food based vendors, it’s really a foodie’s paradise! Now I am going to get my 2 criticisms out of the way before I continue on to the finer details of my experience
1 – Ticketmaster: Taste of Toronto uses Ticketmaster as their ticketing supplier of choice. I found this option to be frustrating as their “service” fees are usually quite high and they did not allow us to print our tickets or have them downloadable to our phones. Instead they insisted on mailing out the tickets, which ended up taking over a month to arrive and caused me great anxiety since they were so late. I hope that next year the organizers rethink this option.
2 – Timed Entry: Taste of Toronto is not a cheap food event by any means so you really want the most bang for your buck. They sell the tickets in 2 timed segments (afternoon and evening). It ended up being a hard stop when our segment ended, even though I still had tons more I wanted to see and do. Having been a vendor at many trade shows myself, I can appreciate their need to unwind for a moment, reset their food stations and perhaps fix any issues they were experiencing, so I get the appeal from a vendor standpoint of having it come to an end. From a consumer standpoint, however, I found it extremely restricting as 4 hours gave very little time to attend seminars, stand in line for food, explore and talk to vendors and also relax and enjoy myself. Had the event continued on, I would have easily spent another $30 there if not more.
Now for all the good stuff! Here is my take on the few food vendors that my friend and I got to visit
Nota Bene – I was really excited for this booth as it was one of the few that had 2 vegetarian options for me to choose from and both sounded interesting. I went with their “Soyrizo” Vegan Tacos, which was extremely flavourful, had a great kick of heat, good texture and lots of cilantro which I enjoyed. Compared to some other booths, their decor was a bit sparse, but I think their restaurant might be all about subtle elegance, in which case they represented themselves well.
Miku Restaurant – What an amazing show it was to watch them prepare my friends Aburi Oshi Sushi (Salmon and Ebi). With a blow torch in hand, they seared the top portion of fish giving it a beautiful flavour. Also the Ebi Oshi had lime juice squeezed on at the very end, which my friend said gave a great fresh acidic flavour. More creative cooking coming out of Toronto restaurants…I love it!
Antler – This restaurant was a DAILY SPECIAL meaning that they were only there for a limited time (kind of a play on a pop up restaurant). Unfortunately no vegetarian options for me, but my friend did get the Harvest Salad and Smoked Salmon, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Light, fresh and the cheese (which was a fresh Portuguese goat cheese) really brought the whole dish together.
Rasa – Was really looking forward to this as I love brussel sprouts and fried food so how could I go wrong with a Brussel Sprouts dish that was covered in cauliflower cheddar sauce, scotch bonnet vinaigrette, and topped with fried shallots. The acidity from the vinaigrette was nicely balanced by the bitter brussel sprouts and rich cauliflower cheddar sauce. If they have this in their restaurant as part of their regular line up I would definitely order it again!
Little Sister Indonesian & Noorden Food Bar – It was fish day for my friend as she decided for her last menu option to be the Olive Oil Poached Tuna. She said it was poached perfectly and enjoyed the dish very much. Having eaten in this restaurant before, she knew the food was going to be good.
Seminars were plentiful at the Taste of Toronto and the only challenge was finding time to fit them all in, or getting to them before they filled up. My friend and I decided to check out 2.
American Express Lounge – I am lucky to have an AMEX card via work, so we were able to get into the American Express Lounge, which offers it’s guests free waters and coffees, a unique cocktail menu and some nice shaded lounge seating. We saw at 1pm there was suppose to be a live demo/sampling of “Drink from a Fruit”. We waited for 40 mins and finally it began at around 1:30/1:40pm (didn’t love how late it was as we could have gone to many other things). It was very disappointing as the demo’er seemed to not really know what she was doing, there was no ice so she couldn’t even make the drink itself and to top it off the blender wasn’t even working, so we watched her essentially cut up fruit. A waste of time in the end, so we quickly left.
The Tasting Room – We were lucky enough to get into the blended wine tasting seminar with Sommelier Jamie Drummond. It was 4 glasses of of different blended red wines from around the world in a beautiful seated tent. Jamie was great and gave us some good background on the wines and for only $5/person it ended up being well worth the money. My only criticism is that my friend and I loved one of the wines, but we discovered it is extremely difficult to source (not at LCBO). Seemed not the best to sample things that we couldn’t buy again ourselves. Good Tip: Be sure to sign up for a seminar early as they fill up quickly. We were lucky and ended up getting in on the wait list.
Few vendors I want to highlight include:
Nespresso – Had a huge booth with free coffees/lattes for all (you could order one hot or cold) and amazing to go cups as well
Ace Bakery – Had amazing ARTisan breads (literally they had art from flour on their bread) and a spread station of flavoured butters. You got to choose your bread (white, sourdough or multi-grain), if you wanted it toasted or not and 4 different flavoured butter to generously spread on…I went with red wine/shallot butter, which was amazing!
Maille – This amazing mustard company had a beautiful booth with tons of products to purchase, but even more exciting was their “Make Your Own Mustard” station. For only $2 we got to work with many different ingredients (curry powder, basil, raspberries, maple syrup, pepper, rosemary and so much more), crush them together in a mortar and pestle and add Maille mustard (grainy or dijon) into the mix to give it a unique kick of flavour. I added curry powder, siracha, maple syrup and pepper into mine and loved how it turned out. Perfect takeaway.
Soup Girl, The Spread and SapSucker – Soup Girl puts out incredibly flavourful and delicious soups (in either a mason jar or their new bag) that are extremely easy to make as all you do is throw it all into a pot, add water and cook away for an hour. They sell at Evergreen Brickworks so I was so excited to see them at Taste of Toronto and make some purchases. Sapsucker was selling maple water which added a great sweet boost (although not to sweet). I received the carton for free since my friend and I posted an Instagram shot of us and their product. The Spread is a spicy sesame base spread that would work great with many different meals including pizzas, asian cuisine, charcuterie boards etc. Can’t wait to try it out at home as I love spicy and sesame flavours.
Woolwich Dairy Goat Cheese – I not only love the product, but the girls behind the product as well! They are so sweet and come out with a damn good goat cheese lineup. They were sampling their delicious new Spreadable Goat Cheese that can be found at Loblaws. If you haven’t had this brand of goat cheese before, run out and get some!!
In conclusion, if you didn’t get a chance to check it out this year, be sure to buy tickets next year. Also make sure you go with the understanding that you will end up spending around $40-50/person easily above and beyond the ticket price.
Check out http://tasteoftoronto.com/ for more info
Happy Tasting Toronto!