Monday, September 21, 2015

Toronto Food & Wine Heats up Brickworks

The Aspen born Food & Wine Show is now a thing in Toronto with the 1st Canadian Show held at Toronto's Everygreen Brickworks on the Bayview Extension.

The Toronto Food & Wine Festival brings in some of the Top Chefs in North America and a lot of the best chefs in Toronto were present with booths or to do Chef talks or food demos.  There was a lot of Chef love in the air and it attracts a lot of high profile chefs because they get to hang out with each other and try each others food.  There was a lot of chef hugging going on all weekend.  It's kind of a nice thing to see them all get along so well since in a lot of other industries they would be competition but in food you can have 10 chefs all doing different things so you really only compete against yourself to produce good food.

The show took place over 3 days from September 18-20th.
I spent 2 days doing as much as I could at the show.

Although the main part of the show takes place at Brickworks it is also broken up into different events at Brickworks and also offsite at different restaurants like a special dinner at Mark McEwen's Bymark with Chef Curtis Stone.  There was also 2 brunches at both Buca and Cafe Boulud.

There were ticketed Chef workshops held onsite but I didn't attend any of those but I did attend the Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ on friday night.   I will do a separate post about that event.

Some of the Celebrity Chef demos that I sat in on included Top Chef's Gail Simmons who hails from Toronto but left at 18 to pursue her culinary career in New York and worked with Food & Wine Magazine.
Gail Simmons
Highly regarded Montreal Chef's Antonio Park and Chuck Hughes were also on hand for informative and entertaining demos.

The handsome and fun Aussie Chef Curtis Stone had the whole audience laughing and shaking their asses in his crazy cocktail, chocolate and salsa and chips demo.  He pulled a few people from the audience to play a hilarious game of chocolate love.
Curtis Stone and friends
There was also ahead of the Tech Curve West Coast Chef Tyler Florence on hand for a demo of the best fried chicken recipe I have ever tasted.  He also introduced everyone to a new recipe app that he is a part of that will be introduced in a couple of weeks that will change the cookbook game.

Tyler Florence
Besides the Celebrity Chef Demos there were Chef Talks where Chefs like Jason Bangertner from Langdon Hall, Matt Dean Pettit from Rock Lobster, and Roger Mooking from Twist and Antonio Park chatted about their careers and their food philosophies.

Amy Rosen & Jason Bangertner
There were plenty of well known Chefs heading up food boths in the Tasting Pavillion too.
David Rocco was on hand to promote his wines and well known Brickworks regular Doug McNish also had a booth.  Other popular restaurants represented included Beast, Cluny Bistro, Dirty Bird, Tabule restaurant, Pizzeria Libretto, El Catrin, Carver and a whole lot more.

David Rocco
The quality of the food was fantastic.  There was a lot of food to try but I couldn't eat as much as I would have like to try.

A few of the things that I did try that I loved included Carver's porchetta sandwich which was pretty popular with the Chefs and food bloggers.

I was also blown away by Tori's bakeshop's smoked beet and cashew cream crostini's.

Gail Simmons was also sampling her bread pudding recipe with little bites of both sweet and savoury bread pudding.  I only tried the sweet apple and it was delicious.

I also shared a Vegan pad thai dish but the vendors name unfortunately but they were set up in the area where the Brickworks regular vendors were.

I got a chance to sample some of Chef Antonio Parks amazing fish demo with a citrusy fresh herb vinaigrette pesto.  It was fish seared with a nice crust on the one side and then raw like sashimi through the rest.  It was sliced like sashimi and placed on top of the citrus pesto.  It tasted like ceviche.  I have never had that fish before but it's a mild light fish. I could have eaten the whole plateful but i got 2 pieces of the fish.

Antonio Park
I also got to sample the unbelievable fried chicken that Tyler Florence made.  He marinates it in fresh herbs and then cooks it low and slow and then breads it in seasoned flour and fries it in herb infused oil.  The result is flavour throughout ever bit of it and a super moist chicken even the chicken breast and that crunchy skin that makes fried chicken so good.  We need a TFC joint in Toronto I think.
This is the second time I have seen Tyler Florence and he really impresses me with his industry savvy on where things are going.  He headed up the food truck craze before there was one.  He shot his last cookbook using his ipad.  He is gearing up to launch a social recipe app and who knows what's next.  And he is a nice guy and handsome too.

Well it was a Food and Wine show but I didn't drink any wine but one of my friends enjoyed one of the tutor tastings.  There were other beverages on hand that were great too.  I had some of Pluck Tea's Ice tea in berry berry flavour.  My friends at Craft Soda were there sampling away.  I also tried a refreshing Milagros tequila cocktail.

There was a huge Magnum ice cream booth that had mini magnum ice creams.  I think that was one of my friends favourite stops.  It was appreciated on the hot and humid days.

There is usually a Farmer's Market every saturday and sunday at the Brickworks but it was held at another location but some of the vendors rotated in a smaller market set up on site.  I'm sure sure it was very helpful as it wasn't really a shopping event but more of an eating event.

The best part of the show was seeing all my blogger buddies wandering around and trying to scarf in as much food as they could muster.  And all the friendly Toronto Chefs like Roger Mooking, Brad Long and more just chilling and having fun.  Even my foodie dentist and his wife were there enjoying themselves.   This show is really for serious food lovers, people that will spend money on a good meal.   If you are looking for a food bargain this isn't the show for you.

Mark McEwen, Brad Long & Roger Mooking
I enjoyed myself but there were a few glitches as there always are in a festivals first year.  Theirs came from the venue and the timing of the event.  The venue is a mostly open structure with a couple of buildings in the middle that are air conditioned but the open ones are not.   So rain, heat and cold can play into the success of the event.   The location.  It's not very accessible because there isn't enough parking on site and the off site bus shuttle locations are very inconvenient.

Also affecting the commute was the TTC shutdown of the subway from Lawrence Stn to Bloor Stn. which didn't help people that live north of the city get there very easily.  

The first day of the show was mostly media types and by the afternoon when they all went back to their offices it was much quieter but on Saturday when the buses and shuttles were more available it was busier.

The cost of the show can get pretty expensive.  You buy a pass to the show and then receive a wristband that has a computer chip that you top up to pay for food and drinks.
Abbey Sharp & Mark McEwen
You also have to pay for many of the extra ticketed events both on site and off site.  Private chef workshops and dinners.  The dinner collaboration with Mark McEwen and Curtis Stone was $350 or equivalent air miles.  It can get pretty expensive if you want to see a lot and go for all 3 days.  There are some samples but most of the food is ticketed at various amounts.

Afrim Pristine -Cheese Boutique
I asked one of the Chefs about the location and he said it was really hot for them and they were having some electrical issues and said it was difficult to have staff get there.  One of the guys helping him was told to go and park at Lakeshore.  It was a friend helping him out so that's a bit off putting to the vendors.   We also talked about how in the U.S. they have much better venues for these types of events.  This has become one of my pet peeves of this city.  We really don't have a great event space where it's easy for vendors to attend and easily accessible for people to attend.    I would love to have the money to design one and build it from the ground up and make it a user friendly flexible space.  I need to win a lottery.

Well unfortunately at the time of writing this the show is now over but hopefully you can check it out next year and some of the venue kinks will be worked out a bit better.


  1. Great coverage and photos of the event. It was fun to see you there.

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