Taste Festivals makes its North American debut with Taste of Toronto

Toronto is slowly becoming a culinary destination. While we haven’t quite caught up with the likes of New York or Paris yet, we’re definitely starting to make some noise. First David Boulud and his disciple David Chang came, and most recently we learned that British boy-next-door Jamie Oliver is set to open up his Italian chain, Jamie’s Italian.

IMG_9771 (640x456)

This past weekend’s inaugural Taste of Toronto hosted at Fort York is another accolade we can now add under our belt. Hosted by the Taste Festivals which now has hosted its festivals in 15+ cities around the world since its London debut, the four-day culinary event featured a roster of the city’s finest chefs including my favorites Anthony Rose and David Neinstein as well as local vendors.

IMG_9827 (640x426)

Admittedly, the cost of admission was a huge hurdle for most, but call it the cost of convenience of having all these great restaurants come to you all in one spot. Items ranged from 6 to 10 “crowns” ($1 = 1 crown) with the proceeds from any unused crowns going to Second Harvest.

First and foremost, I must say that the quality of the dishes is one of the best that I’ve had at a Toronto food festival, though admittedly portion sizes were a hit and miss. The foie gras parfait over at Bosk, a smear of foie, definitely left one wanting.

IMG_9788 (640x426)

Crowd favorites were McEwan’s fried chicken and Barque’s Smokehouse, who were the first to sell-out on opening night of their Barque-Rack O’Bama ribs. I regrettably didn’t end up getting to try either, but persistence prevailed as I returned Friday during lunch hour to get my fix of both.

barque

My ultimate favorite was Ja Bistro’s Oshizushi, blowtorched and pressed sushi with shrimp, mackerel and salmon. The sushi rice was perfectly seasoned, ready to be consumed as is. No wasabi or soy sauce needed, just the way nature intended.

IMG_9801 (640x426)

In addition to the crowd favorites, I would add the Grove’s octopus and fried pork belly on a bed of creamed corn to the list as well as Splendido‘s Australian black truffle ricotta agnolotti.

IMG_9797 (640x426)

Rose & Sons‘ BLT gets an honorable mention, though to confess, I tossed away the bun and just devoured the Dr. Pepper bacon.

roseandsons

As this was its inaugural year, logistics weren’t the smoothest on opening night. The key to a successful food festival experience is to employ a “divide and conquer” strategy. Those who went with a group probably got to sample their fair share, while those in twos probably suffered the same fate as I did – only getting to sample a total of 4 of the 14 restaurants. I, like other Thursday night attendees also had the misfortune of lining up for 40 minutes only to find out upon finally getting to the counter that an item was sold out.

IMG_9836 (421x640)When I went on Friday, a lot of the operational snags from the first night seemed to improve and I heard overall good feedback from other fellow foodies who went over the weekend.

And now for a shameless plug. I had entered Pita Break’s Taste of Toronto contest where contestants were asked to name a flavor for lavash bread.   The winning flavor would then be produced and sold exclusively at the Taste of Toronto. And guess who won? Yup, yours truly – moi!

image (480x640)My winning flavor was sundried tomato and onion, which according to Pita Break staff sold like hot cakes. At first they thought people reached for it because it was placed front and center, but after having moved it to the back, it was still the first flavor people reached for. Glad to hear that people enjoyed it as much as I did. My family devoured an entire package in no time.

I managed to nab some samples of their Morning Rounds (think pita/bread hybrid) and am absolutely in love with the Date + Chia Seed as well as the Cranberry –Orange flavors. Yummy!

IMG_9792 (640x426)

All in all, the Taste of Toronto was an enjoyable experience. There were plenty of tables so that you didn’t have to awkwardly fumble around with your drink, food (and if you’re a food blogger, add a camera to the mix).

For those of you who haven’t already registered your Crown Card, make sure you do so for a chance to win dinner for 2 at one of the Taste of Toronto’s participating restaurants. I have confirmation from at least one vendor that they’ve signed back on for another year, so I guess that mean’s Taste of Toronto will return in 2015. [1]

*Disclosure:  As a media member, cost of admission to the festival was waived.*

[1]  No officials could be reached for confirmation at the time of publication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>