By Lory Diaz
Torontonicity was invited to attend the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2017, which took place November 16–19, 2017 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street. Once again, the show presented the opportunity to try new flavours from the wine, spirits, and culinary worlds! This show allows guests to sample over 1500 varieties of delicious mouthfuls, making it a truly unique experience for anyone hosting a holiday party who isn’t sure what to serve friends and family.
If you haven’t attended the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in the past, it’s important to note that exhibitors accept tokens as payment. Tokens are one dollar each, and can be purchased not only on the main floor of the Convention Centre, but also at two booth areas in the main expo space. If you’re interested in sampling drinks along with food, I would highly recommend purchasing forty tokens as most drinks are two tokens, but food items can be around five – with the most expensive one I saw being a nine token Kobe beef hot dog.
I like to start my visit at the expo by walking the aisles and seeing what’s available before selecting anything. You don’t want to fill up on the first two aisles without having seen what’s going on at the other end, as you may miss out on something delicious! I started with a Sid’s Canadian Vodka Caesar made with Walter’s mix and a generous amount of horseradish. This had a delicious acidity to it, and a nice kick of flavourful spice! Definitely a nice way to warm up after coming in from the cold.
The Spain booth had quite the colourful variety of foods, with an entire section dedicated to olives. All the olive appetizers were made by Toronto’s Grant van Gameren and the Bar Isabel team, an instant guarantee they would all be amazing. The black olive, squash, and sundried tomato tapenade on crostini is what I went for: subtle earthy sweetness paired with the tangy notes of the sundried tomato made for fantastic waves of varying flavours!
Another country represented at the expo was Colombia, with Familia Fine Foods and Chef Luis Velasquez. He created mini skewers featuring Colombian golden berries, chorizo, queso fresco, and strawberries. Lovely warm tone colour, with bursts of juicy fruit flavours.
Anyone looking for more substantial bites at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo could try the Kinton Ramen tender pork belly bun that came with a thin cucumber slice, and delicious house-made barbecue sauce. Despite the limited ingredients, the pork belly is moist which goes really well with the fresh cucumber slice that adds a very light crunch.
Chef Castonguay of Provisions Catering offered a vegetarian option (also available as a vegan dish): braised tofu with sesame scallion pancake and ginger slaw. The tofu had a delicious saucy texture that paired fantastically with the ginger slaw – adding crisp bites and textures. This may have been one of my favourite snacks of the night!
I decided to stop at one of the beer vendors, and the Flanders red ale-style Duchesse de Bourgogne caught my eye. If you haven’t had a sour beer before, the smell (think slightly funky cheese) may deter you, but try a bit before writing it off completely. It may be one of my new favourite beers, and definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a more challenging flavour profile.
Cocktail lovers had to stop by the Bombay Sapphire booth though, as their team was helping guests create their own custom gin and tonics! An array of bitters, fruits, and spices were available to pick from, and I decided upon an orange bitters, cinnamon, pomegranate and lemon G&T. It felt like the perfect transition cocktail from warmer to cooler temperatures!
EDO Restaurant was serving up those fan favourite Kobe Beef hot dogs, but I was a fan of their mini Salmon Poke Bowl.
Aside from all the sample-sized goods to feast upon, guests could also purchase products to take home! Uncle Jack’s Pierogies were a big hit with the crowd, as you could hear people recommending them to each other throughout the event. I grabbed a package of Papabubble hard candies in the tropical fruit package, because the adorable guava and passionfruit candies tasted like the real fruit! Amazing!
After all the tasting and sampling, I left the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo quite full. I also left with some new favourites – like the Robert Mondavi Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chardonnay. I would recommend any food, wine, or cocktail lover attend this show to explore not only what Toronto, but what other regions internationally are doing to develop and contribute towards the culinary arts. Attend and you may discover a flavour you never knew you enjoyed!