Monday, July 28, 2014

The Taste of Toronto - Pt. 2. last day

I had a bit of a frustrating experience going to the Opening Day of the Taste of Toronto Festival so I decided to go again on the last day to try and get the things that I missed and see if I would have a better experience.

The first day that I went I took the TTC.  I drove to Wilson Station then subway to St. George, transfer to Bathurst and streetcar to Fort York Blvd and walk around an uphill street to the entrance of the festival.  The weather was warm and then cooled down a bit.  There were very long lines and vendors ran out of some of their menu items.

My experience was a lot different on the last day.  I drove down to the festival by myself from home and met my friend who rode her bike there.  My friend's challenge was trying to find a place to lock up her bike.   My challenge was finding somewhere to park.  I drove through the Garrison Gate and was told the parking lot was full and to drive around and go to another parking lot.  I drove around and found nothing so I went back to the first lot and he said I could look and see if there was a spot if I wanted to.  I drove in and within a minute found a spot.  I wasted about 15 minutes driving around when I could have probably just parked right away and went in.   I still had to walk up the long uphill winding street to the entrance but it took me half the time to drive there than it did taking the TTC.

I went through the entrance and there wasn't a lineup for the media box office and I got my pass right away.  There were only a few people in line to get their Crowns topped up so my friend purchased $20 in crowns and we went in.  The good thing about the pass was that it didn't have to be scanned so there weren't any technical slow downs to walk through.   The first day I used a paid printed out ticket that had to be scanned to get in.

The day,  the last sunday was a very sunny and hot day.  There was a threat of rain but it didn't happen which I am sure the vendors were very happy about.  Everyone was hot and sweaty including Chef Mark McEwan who did a demo in the Electrolux Tent which was very warm because it didn't allow for much of a breeze to get through.  His demo was very well attended.  I stood through the demo as all of the seats were taken.  In my previous post I mentioned that I thought that there should be more seats for the cooking demos as that was the main attraction of the festival.

I didn't sign up for any of the Master Classes because I didn't feel that I needed to do a hands on demo for scrambled eggs and I would have taken the knife skills one but I wasn't sure if it was a beginner or advanced.  I think I have all the basics down and have taken a basic knife skills class already.

My friend had to leave early so we tried to make out seeing as many booths as we could and I tried to check out all the stuff I missed on the first day.

I was disappointed that I couldn't get fried chicken from One but this time there were only about 4 people in line when I walked up and was happy to see Chef Mark McEwan there again dishing the plates out.  I told him I came back just for the chicken.   The chicken was delicious and I really liked the coleslaw and the sauce but I have to say that I can make better biscuits.  They were a bit tough.  But I did feel like it was a nice portion, although my friend got a tiny piece of chicken.   I bet Mark would have made sure I got a decent piece after he knew that I was disappointed that I didn't get one on the thursday night.

The other thing that I didn't get on the first day was the Barque Smokehouse Barque O rama ribs or something like that.  They were very tasty and had a great light rub of bbq sauce on them.  We also sat in on owner David Neinstein's smoked chicken demo in the Electrolux theatre.  I asked him how to make decent smoky ribs at home without a bbq.   I am going to try his suggestion and do another post in the future on that.

The one thing on the last day is that everyone wants to sell all their food and not have to cart it all back or throw it out.   San Pellegrino had cases of canned juice and water and just left them out for people to pick up as they wished.  I saw a few guys carrying full cases of water around.  I thin they were left with a lot because there was an abundance of difference beverages at the festival.

There was a real ginger ginger ale that had difference natural flavours added,  my favourite was the Pure Leaf lemon ice tea and also the Nespresso bar.  I had both a hot cappuccino and an iced latte from Nespresso.  They also had a juice called BLOO which was a blueberry juice.  Very tasty.  There were a number of tea booths as well and there were a couple of beer stations and there were wine tastings set up.  I was happy to see a variety of drink options available which a lot of other festivals don't have.  On a hot day like sunday I was bouncing around trying a lot of the drinks.

Another dish I finally got to was the Ice Cream Sundae from Chef Carl Heinrich's restaurant Richmond Station.  I thought their booth was very cute.  It was craft papered walls and red and white checked table cloths on the booth with paper cut out of the Richmond Station name.   I took a photo of Chef Carl and the booth and the staff member asked if I wanted to take a photo with Carl.  I said no because by that time I had been sweating for about 3 hours so wasn't about to be in a photo.   I didn't get the ice cream on the first night for a few reasons.   First i didn't have time to stand in line, second I didn't think it would be that interesting and I was full by the time I could have eaten it.   On sunday I was so hot that it ended up being the last thing I ate and it filled me up and cooled me off at the same time.  It wasn't super special but it was nicely presented and tasted good.

I would have liked to try the Paella which was an amazing thing to watch them make in the giant paella pans that they had timers on display.

The other interesting thing that I tried was the liquid nitrogen mango ice cream that was demo'd in the American Express tent.  It's a really cool thing to watch the liquid nitrogen fog.

After the sampling I was pretty much done with the Ribs, chicken and the ice cream so I wasn't able to try anything else.

I ran into a friend there and my friend and the one I ran into left at 3pm and I still had crowns so I stayed for a bit longer and that's when I had the sundae.  I was ready to leave at about 4pm and ran into yet another friend who had just arrived.  I gave that friend my last 3 crowns but I don't know what they were able to get with it as I left right after that.

I had a bag full of San Pellegrino and a Bloo juice in the bag they handed out and walked back on the long road to the parking lot.  I have to say I felt a whole lot better on sunday then I did after thursday night.   I was so exhausted after the standing and the ttc haul on thursday that I was too tired to do anything on friday.  I feel fine after the last days visit, although the heat and the ice cream and coffee's didn't sit in my system for too long afterward.   I wish I could have gotten a few dishes to go to take home for dinner.   Maybe I should have picked up some Blue Goose or Baretta farms food to take home but I knew I probably wouldn't have wanted to cook but ended up making some sort of concoction bowl at about 8pm when I finally got hungry again.

So overall I still feel that there are good parts of the show,  the good being the caliber of chefs it attracted and the demos and the sampling was fantastic.  The tents were nice but it wasn't very weather friendly if it's really hot/cold or rainy.

Getting there and parking was my biggest issue.  Out of my 3 friends,  1 drove and had to park near the beer festival, 1 rode her bike and couldn't find anywhere to lock it up and the last one walked over from their condo nearby which is the best way to get there but that's not much of a reach for a festival like that.  On sunday I drove for a half an hour and paid for parking.

I think that they could have set up a free public parking spot just before the entrance since there was a pretty high entrance fee and cost for each dish.   It makes for a very expensive festival.

For me I paid $55 for 2 tickets and received 12 crowns with that and then topped up my card another $30 on the first day and then another $10 on the last day.  I didn't have to pay to get in again because I got a media pass after I had paid for the first night.   I paid $7 for parking on the last day and $6 for TTC on the first night.  I didn't buy anything else at the festival but I also didn't really eat a tonne of food but it does add up pretty quickly.  They were also selling cookbooks from Roger Mooking and Mark McEwan.  I already have the McEwan book and probably wouldn't have purchased it there having to carry it around and juggle food, drinks and books.  

Metro also had a virtual store where you could scan from 3 items and pick it up from a truck on the way out.  I don't think anyone did that.  I didn't see anything worth doing that for.

So if this becomes an annual festival I will be curious to see how it changes for next year..   The location, the logistics, the system or the vendors.  I will be prepared for whatever happens if they do it again next year.

1 comment:

  1. Overall a success I would say. Kind of bummed I didn't go but after reading about your negative experiences maybe it was for the best. You may want to bring a backpack with you next time to put all your swag inside and then you can have your hands free. Or a small suitcase on wheels with a retractable handle maybe?


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