Taste of Toronto 2017 Preview

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Okonomiyaki Char Siu Bao from Kanpai Snack Bar
Okonomiyaki Char Siu Bao from Kanpai Snack Bar

Taste of Toronto is back at June 15–18, 2017 at Garrison Common, Fort York! Tickets are available for morning or afternoon slots from Friday June 16 to Sunday, June 18, but please make sure to check the website for details as some days only host either morning or afternoon programming.

The food festival is a great opportunity to sample some of what Toronto’s best chefs and restaurants have to offer, without worrying about reservations or availability. Win-Win! You can expect to see such restaurants as Actinolite, Antler, Isabel & Raval, Bar Buca, Barque, Café Boulud, Carver, Kanpai Snack Bar, Little Sister, Miku, Momofuku, Nota Bene, Piano Piano, Pray Tell, Richmond Station, Drake Hotel, McEwan Group, and U-Feast.

Tasting Room at Taste of Toronto
Tasting Room at Taste of Toronto

Aside from all the delicious sample-sized goods, there are also activities to participate in, and opportunities to learn. You can learn to make some amazing cocktails at the mixology lab, develop your barbecue skills at the Grills Skills event, and participate in the hands-on Metro Master Classes led by popular Toronto chefs. The festival has other fun activities for guests to participate in, and possibly win some fun prizes, so make sure to check the schedule in advance so you don’t miss anything!

A very welcomed change to Taste of Toronto 2017 is the move away from the crown system. No more need to waste time standing in line to reload a card, only to realize that it wasn’t enough and painfully repeat the process. Now each vendor has a point-of-sale machine, and can take debit or credit! With the use of tap cards, guests can easily roam the grounds eating, drinking, and shopping ’til their hearts content!

That’s right, I said shopping! Not only does Taste of Toronto allow you to sample fantastic dishes from some of Toronto’s best chefs, it also gives you the opportunity to fill your pantry with gourmet sauces, snacks, and the occasional eating accessory. Keep an eye out for the following vendors:

Fauxmagerie Zengarry makes delicious dairy-free cashew based cheeses. My favourites are the garlic and herb, jalapeño, and Brie. They’re one of the few vegan vendors, but one of the best nut-cheeses I’ve ever tried.

Ace Bakery has a tent where they sell some of their more popular items at (lowered) festival rates, but they’re also baking up some grilled s’mores bites!

The Pop Stand girls, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the One of a Kind Spring show this year, have come up with some amazing cocktail-inspired flavours for the festival. Although they do have a lot of fantastic pairings, I’d recommend giving their Campari, grapefruit, and mint popsicle a try!

Jamaican Run Cake at Taste of Toronto
Jamaican Run Cake at Taste of Toronto

Barbados vendor serves bite-sized rum cakes that aren’t too heavy on the alcohol, but pack a punch in flavour!

My number one recommended vendor though, has to be the Daneson Ltd. guys. They produce flavoured toothpicks, and after all the great food you’re sampling, you’ll probably need a Ginger honey, classic cinnamon, or Bourbon toothpick. They’re handcrafted, and no detail is missed. Well worth a visit!

Here are some chefs, and restaurants that I would recommend for the 2017 Taste of Toronto lineup:

The Drake, who just opened their Commissary cafe on Sterling road, is serving up their signature hardy dishes, with unexpected twists. I tried their lamb asado: grilled lamb, with a stone fruit mostarda, served with anchovy and charred rapini. The stone fruit softens the flavor of the mostarda, and surprisingly compliments the bitterness of the rapini incredibly well.

Our friends at Miku have brought their aburi sushi to Taste of Toronto! You can grab their salmon and ebi (pressed prawn) oshi, and watch them prepare this delicate dish right in front of you. The salmon is paired with jalapeño, so keep in mind that there will be a slight kick of spice, but also great smokiness from the char.

Okonomyaki fries from Nota Bene at Taste of Toronto
Okonomyaki fries from Nota Bene at Taste of Toronto

The Nota Bene crew were serving up buttermilk fried sammies that were a protein forward option with a delicious crunch coating. The sandwiches are great for sharing and pairing with their Okonomiyaki fries: kasuobushi, kewpie mayo, tempura bits, and nori flakes. I’m not normally a fan of cilantro, but I did find that the greenery added a fresher flavour note to each bite, and counters the heaviness of the kewpie Mayo.

Okonomiyaki Char Siu Bao from Kanpai Snack Bar
Okonomiyaki Char Siu Bao from Kanpai Snack Bar

Other Okonomiyaki dishes at the festival come from Kanpai Snack Bar: steamed bao with char siu style pork, pickled cabbage, kewpie, spring onions, bacon bits, and bonito flakes. This bao bun is served with a lot of filling, so make sure you counter in someone to share with.

Antler Restaurant has a fire roasted venison sliced and served with coleslaw. If you’re a fan of wild game and Canadian comfort food, visit their brick and mortar location, at 1454 Dundas Street West.

Smoked Sausage from Nespresso at Taste of Toronto
Smoked Sausage from Nespresso at Taste of Toronto

Nespresso has teamed up with Toronto’s mezcal King, Chef Grant Van Gameren, to serve guests complimentary coffee and treats. They have a smoky and spicy canapé that is ideally paired with their stronger espresso, and a chocolate and caramel bite that they recommend with the creamier drink.

Top Toronto chefs including Mark McEwan, Cory Vitiello, Rob Gentile, Michael Hunter, Ted Corrado, Carl Heinrich, Trevor Lui, Rob Bragagnolo and others will lead hands-on classes at the Metro Master Class Stage. Chef McEwan will be preparing his refined take on hot dogs – his version is a duck dog with foie gras mousse, Russian mustard, onion jam, and duck bacon. Sign up for the free Metro Master Classes as soon as you arrive at the festival as they are extremely popular since participants get to eat the dishes they prepare. Clearly, there is a lot to try at Taste of Toronto! I would recommend grabbing a couple of friends and making your way over while tickets are still available. The grounds, vendors, atmosphere, and energy of the festival are fun and lively, making it a great weekend event. If there’s a key Chef or dish you’re looking forward to, or somethingm the Torontonicity team should try at this year’s festival, leave a comment and let us know! Enjoy!