Another Food Festival in Toronto? It sometimes feels like we have more food festivals than people in this city, but Taste of Toronto is a little bit special. I was so excited about this event that I actually came twice already (and the weekend is still young!) so I can give you a little bit of an inside scoop on the best to eat and see. Just as a preamble, if you don’t have one of the VIP packages, you will need to purchase “Crowns”, which are the officially currency of #TasteofToronto and are the equivalent of a dollar each and are the only accepted currency at any of the restaurants and bars. The lines inside may be even longer inside the gates than outside, so plan accordingly, and try to think a bit beforehand about which dishes you may want to purchase. Exhibitors will accept cash, debit or credit.
Without further ado, I will just launch into a few highlights for you.
First, make sure to check into what is happening under the yellow and white exhibition tent! Here is Executive Chef Marcus Monteiro of Brassaii Restaurant and Shereen Arazm of Top Chef Canada, whom I had the pleasure of watching give a demonstration on how to use coffee in and pair coffee with food, in partnership with Nespresso.
From Chef Marcus, we were served a few different appetizers, including these succulent deep fried bananas on a coffee mascarpone base.
The Nespresso Machine in action is a beautiful sight to see, and I would definitely recommend checking out the black Nespresso lounge for a hit of caffeine. Warning: entering that place will make you want to own one of those machines for yourself!
Upon Shereen’s recommendation, I gave the Aranciata, a cold brew made with San Pellegrino blood orange soda, a try. It was surprisingly good, though I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (if you like Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, you’ll probably like this!)
My favourite dish from Thursday evening was definitely the True North Atlantic Salmon with Crisp Rice, Avocado and Nori from Splendido Restaurant.
The winner for Friday was the Rose and Sons BLT served up by Chef Chris Sanderson of the Fat Pasha/Rose and Sons/Big Crow group. The hearty, hearty bacon is braised in Dr. Pepper, and topped with tomatoes, lettuce, feta, a herb mayo, and a nice pickle. Trust me, you will want to eat this! The Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Coleslaw and Biscuit from The McEwan Group was also great.
Another highlight from the restaurant list were the Smoked Dry Rub Chicken Wings from Barque Smokehouse. They ran out of ribs halfway through the service and there was quite a hilarious uproar, but I am sure they will have more for this weekend!
Then, it came to the vendors. Most will either offer samples or a discount on full-size product. A must-try is the Liquid Nitrogen mango ice cream from Ice Volcano Ice Cream (A13), who are also launching their premium yoghurt at Taste of Toronto! The Nutella one is also delicious (if not more)!
Of the alcohol + food gourmet selections, I would highly recommend giving the artisanal all-natural Caesar Mix from Walter a try. You won’t want to go back to your local bar when you have this at home!
Momofuku and Momofuku Milk Bar also have a large presence at this year’s event, with a pop-up restaurant, exhibitor booth, as well as a mini book store (with other books too, including one from Roger Mooking). Here I am with the great Chef and Founder David Chang of Momofuku, as well as Momofuku cookbook co-author Peter Meehan, of Lucky Peach magazine. Christina Tosi, who wrote the Milk Bar book, also gave classes and was around for a book signing. Even if you miss them, the books will still be available, and many are autograph-able!
Above all else, an incentive to come early is being able to snag a coveted spot at the Metro Master Class, which offers festival go-ers a unique opportunity to do a quick 30 minute class with some of the city’s leading chefs with ingredients provided by Metro. Hana and I were lucky enough to get a spot to learn how to make a prawn salad in lime broth from Damon Campbell, the awesome new Executive Chef at Bosk Restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel.
Andrea, Sean and I showing off our support for the Food Network, and their awesome food plates.
Thanks to the organizers of Taste of Toronto (special shout out to Janna!) for putting on such a great event. Though I do say this quite a bit, this is definitely something you don’t want to miss!