A beautiful venue, incredible dishes by some of Toronto’s top restaurants, seminars and classes run by experts in the biz and a TON of free swag has this Kook reveling in all things Taste of Toronto!
Overall Experience 4.5
Talk about that amazing VENUE!
Taste of Toronto is held each year at Toronto’s historic Fort York. Out of the hustle and bustle of the city (although very accessible by TTC), this vastly green landscape totes old buildings, plenty of trees for shade and ultimately the perfect spot for this event. The grounds are covered by some incredibly elaborate booth spaces, it often does surprise me that this isn’t permanent and will go back to an open field by the end of the weekend. It is nice not to have a Toronto event in an already crowded area or parking lot.
Live and Learn
Taste of Toronto caters more than just delicious dishes. They also host a wide variety of seminars and classes that event goers can sign up for throughout the day. My friend and I ended up participating in two free events including…
Chef’s Table featuring Chef Grant van Gameren
This intimate talk allows you to ask questions and hear first hand from some of Toronto’s most incredible culinary experts. We had the pleasure of joining Grant van Gameren, owner of several restaurants including Bar Raval and Bar Isabel, and hearing his thoughts about the industry, how he came to be a chef, what inspires him and of course some of the challenges he has faced opening restaurants. If you are looking for a behind the scenes look of the foodie world, this is a great opportunity for you. Completely free of charge, but it is on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want a seat at the table come a bit early.
Metro Master Class featuring Chef Carl Heinrich and hosted by Abbey Sharp
Thrilled that my friend and I were able to scoop up the last two spots in the Fettuccine Mushroom session, this proved to be a very interactive and delicious experience. We were brought to a station for two where majority of the prep work for the meal was done. Strapping on our aprons (which we got to take home to keep) we got to work following the guidance of the chef of Richmond Station – Carl Heinrich and the incredible Abbey Sharp (be sure to check out her amazing blog at http://www.abbeyskitchen.com/). They had practically a fully equipped kitchen including a beautiful induction stove top where we did all our cooking. With a touch and swirl of my finger the heat was on (shocking how quick the water for our pasta came to a boil). After some chopping, frying, boiling and mixing we were left with a delicious dish of mushroom fettuccini and all for FREE!
While we hit up the free ones, some do charge a small fee, but I would say the experience is very much worth it. Other options offered included: Mixology lab (learn to make some cocktails), Pizza Challenge, Grill Skills, Tasting Room and Taste Theater.
Food to Buy & Food to Try
Obviously it wouldn’t be Taste of Toronto without some delicious, mouth watering treats. This year (this was mine and my friend’s 3rd) we found the food samples to be far more generous and ended up spending far less money than we had in years past.
Ace Bakery was pressing down on their “S’mores Sandwiches” which on consisted of a small bun with brie cheese and dark chocolate cooked in a panini press. These small bites were so delicious and the perfect way to start our day.
Ristorante Pizza probably served up the most unique and impressive experience for their guests. Trying to recreate a beautiful trattoria (and achieving it), we were first directed to an gentleman with a tablet for us to choose our favourite pizza out of about 5 different choices of their thin crust line. I was thrilled to see there were so many vegetarian options and my friend and I each picked a different flavour (spinach and veg). We were then seated at a beautiful table and offered glasses of ice cold water (or wine for an extra fee). The pizza came out within only mins of us sitting and we went to work adding our favourite toppings of hot sauce, chili flakes and garlic powder, which was all conveniently placed at the table. At the end of our meal a lovely young girl came up to us with what looked like a bill, but instead was coupons off of their products. Incredible experience and all for free!!
The main part of Taste of Toronto is the many local restaurants that set up “shop” and dish out 3-4 small plates and sometimes a cocktail to pair with your food. These are all at a charge and have a big range in price starting from about $6 and going up to $150 (the high priced items tend to be a full meal or tasting tray). The restaurants try to identify on their menus allergy concerns, but of course due to the space their could potentially be cross contamination (so be wary if you have any major allergies). There aren’t usually a ton of vegetarian options, but typically more than enough to satisfy my hunger. This year I purchased an order for Polenta Sticks from Richmond Station and fully enjoyed the dish. Would love to try and make these myself and would definitely order them if I ever make it to their restaurant.
Be sure to wander to all the booths as many give you free samples of what they have to offer and also sometimes have the option of buying at better prices than in store. There is also more than just food including pans, knives, wine purses and more. It is a culinary experience for all interests! Uniqlo (a clothing shop) was even present offering free t-shirts or tanks to those who signed up to their email list.
Tips to Having the Best Experience @ Taste of Toronto
1 – This is a timed ticket event (yes you are kicked out at the end of your session) so plan your time wisely!
2 – Bring a backpack. I have learned over the years that with all the temptation it is inevitable that I will be buying something to bring home or getting a few free goods, so it is great to have a bag on hand to make the experience more enjoyable.
3 – They steer clear of cash. Be prepared to use your plastic as they make it clear in the entrance way that vendors will NOT accept anything else.
4 – Sign up for the classes/seminars you want to attend first, then walk around. They fill up quick so if you want a spot it is best to get to this out of the way upon arrival.
5 – Come hungry! Don’t go for lunch or dinner beforehand as you are sure to fill up on some amazing dishes here.
6 – Start with the free and work your way to the pay. If you go around to the booths that are handing out their often generous free samples, you might find yourself like me spending very little money!
7 – Before buying your ticket, search online for deals or coupon codes. Closer to the event they seem to put up more discounts.
8 – Prepare for any weather! We live in Canada and therefore the weather can be a bit unpredictable. You might be packing your sunscreen and a sweater for the same day.
June 15-18, 2017
Be sure to visit https://toronto.tastefestivals.com/ for more details!