The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2018 took over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from November 22-25, 2018, and Torontonicity was invited to check out all the new wine, spirits, and flavours this popular Toronto food show had to offer! I decided to approach this year’s expo differently than in the past, and really focus on intriguing new items hitting the market, as well as attending the demos featuring some of Toronto’s top chefs and mixologists. I learned, enjoyed, and ate so much!
First off, if you’re not familiar with the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, it’s an annual event that brings together mainly Toronto and Ontario vendors that are looking to showcase their latest products. It’s an opportunity for cocktail lovers to see new items arriving at the LCBO, food lovers to sample quality ingredients being introduced to the market, and to learn how some of their favourite restaurants and chefs will introduce these ingredients on their menus. Another great introduction to the expo is my coverage of the 2017 expo, which you can read here!
So I started the evening by grabbing a drink at the Chic Choc station, which is always packed! They offer spirits and cocktails featuring Quebec vendors, and I asked for their Cabot Trail Maple Cream on ice. I immediately thought of so many friends who would love an Irish cream alternative! Still creamy, still deliciously comforting like dessert in a glass, but maple. The perfect addition to any hot coffee during our cold Canadian winters.
I then ventured over to check out a very simple station featuring Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky and met creator and Master Blender Mike Riley. Mike was happy to answer any and all questions that guests had regarding his product, which was absolutely delicious! The maple flavour was the clearest, and the bacon accentuated the smokiness in the whisky, which rounded out all the edges. I haven’t tried a spirit quite like this before, making it the ideal item for that picky name on my holiday shopping list.
I grabbed a small sample platter from the Foods from Spain station, and enjoyed all the naturally vibrant flavours: tomato soup, chorizo sandwich, manchego cheese, green olive, sweet guava square, olive oil, and a little dipping bread.
Guests were also raving about the Saffron potato mousse with chorizo crumble: silky base from the potato, with just the rice punch of flavour and spice from the chorizo.
It was time for the first demo of the evening, and it was a cocktail making session with Toronto’s own Frankie Solarik of BarChef! Frankie demonstrated how to create an ice sphere by hand, which is essential to their signature Toasted Old Fashioned; he explained that the single sphere melts slower than individual ice cubes, ensuring that the flavours of the cocktail aren’t diluted as the ice melts.
Watching a Toronto legend like Solarik is just one of the educational benefits of attending the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. LeftField Winery had an extensive table set up with various material explaining how regional temperatures effect grape flavour year by year, allowing guests to learn more about the wine they were sampling.
I also learned how to make cheese flowers thanks to the lovely team at the Swiss Foods station. They are flowers made with Tête de Moine cheese from Bellelay, Switzerland. So creamy, with just the right amount of funk – which I love in cheese.
I noticed a station featuring a product from Dubai, and a very striking bottle resembling crystal. This was a date syrup making its debut appearance in Canada! The viscous syrup had a deep and rich colouring, with a slight red tone, and the sweetest flavour. It was like the drinking the essence from the most perfectly ripened date. This item checked off another one of those tricky shopping names off my holiday list. Amazing!
The show gets quite busy, so if you see something you like, make sure to try it as sometimes vendors can run out. I grabbed a spicy salmon sushi burrito made fresh at the show to keep me going!
Alright, so I still ate and drank quite a few great things at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2018, but I also learned so much! I think the greatest part of this show though is that you get to speak directly to farmers, chefs, bartenders, brewers, and other food lovers alike to expand upon your knowledge of the culinary world. Make sure to check the 2019 schedule of demonstrations in advance so you can catch some pro tips on how to prep cocktails or meals. It’s a great way to get inspired before the holiday entertainment season starts! Enjoy!