This past weekend, the wife and I went down to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo at the Toronto Convention Centre. It was our first time attending this annual event – we’d considered it in past years, but because we’re cheapasses, we were scared off by the relatively high admission charge. This year, however, we were armed with a 2-for-1 coupon and decided to give it a shot.
All in all, we were pretty underwhelmed. Sheryl has given her impressions in a post to TorontoBits, and I’m pretty much in agreement with her assessment. As she notes, there was a lot about the event that wasn’t particularly “gourmet” in nature. For example, the wine-in-a-bag pictured to the right certainly doesn’t say “gourmet” to me. And I was especially offended to see Bright Pearl amongst the food vendors, as the food I was served at their booth at the Taste Of Toronto festival back in September was high on the lost of the worst things I’ve ever put into my mouth.
That being said, we did manage to find a few palatable food options, even for finicky pescetarians like ourselves. The grilled sardines and fish cakes from Cataplana weren’t bad, and it’s hard to go wrong with oysters from Rodney’s (although the ones we were served could’ve been cleaned a bit better – nothing ruins a nice oyster more than grit between your teeth). But the highlight was definitely the sushi from EDO which was fresh and tasty, and one of the few food items on offer than wasn’t sitting in a steam tray for hours. Speaking of which: The other item available at the EDO booth was a small Kobe beef burger, but Kobe beef or not, anyone willing to plunk down 7 bucks for a burger that was cooked hours before and kept warm in a steam tray is a frickin’ idiot.
As for the liquids – well, as I’ve stated before, I’m really not much of a wine guy, so I walked past most of the wine booths with a mixture of confusion and fear. We did try a couple of wines that I liked, including this year’s Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais nouveau and some other red wine that made Sheryl feel all melty and fluttery. I also had some fantastic scotch that I completely forgot to write down the name of, but I recall being told that it was a private label release of an 8 year old Lagavulin that sells for about half the price of the regular stuff. It had been a long time since I’d had a scotch, and this reminded me of how much I enjoy it.
On the beer side of things, I started with some Christoffel Blond, a favourite of mine that was being served up the Rubaiyat import agency. At the Embrujo Flamenco booth, I tried a sample of Ambar, a fairly standard pale lager from Spain. And at Black Oak, our pal Ken was serving up this year’s batch of his seasonal Nutcracker Porter which was in fine form – rich and spicey, just how we like it.
The final verdict: This event may be great for wine lovers, but for the occasional wine drinker going more for the food and beer, it’s a disappointment. Especially if you’re paying the full admission price of 15 dollars, plus buying a stack of sampling coupons for a buck each and dropping 2 or 3 of them for each sample. It’s definitely not a cheap way to spend an afternoon.