The Taste of Toronto returns to Fort York for the 3rd year and I have been to all of them since they started. This year they moved it a bit closer to Fort York Blvd and changed the layout and provided a lot more seating areas which are always welcome. The only thing they took away was the VIP area with private washrooms. I miss that one. I also missed the Best in Taste Awards presentation on Thursday night where judges Chef Chuck Hughes, founder of Charlie's Burgers, Franco Staltieri and Toronto Life editor Rebecca Fleming who chose the Best Dressed award which was awarded to Mammakas for their Lamb spit next to their booth.
The winner of the Taste Award went to Ted Corrado of the Drake Properties for his massive 150 crown Chinatown platter. During his cooking demo he said it was inspired by the after work trips with the staff to chinatown because that was the only thing open.
Second Place went to Miku for their blow torched Aburri Sushi. I tried this and really loved it. I have heard good things about this new restaurant and they seem to be true. I will have to visit the brick and morter resto soon.
I was really happy to hear from Rob Bragganolo on Thursday night that he won the 3rd runner up Taste Award for his amazing Porchetta pizza which flew out of his booth the rest of the weekend. I shared it with my 2 friends and we loved it. Well done Rob.
Of course the Godfather of Toronto Chefs Mark McEwen was present with his McEwen Group restaurant Fabbrica for more great food. I tried the interesting looking Calamari PoBoy on an Ace Bakery Charcoal Bun. This thing was suprisingly great. The calamari were crispy and perfectly seasoned and had a nice fresh slaw with a fantastic sauce. Very filling and delicious.
Some of the dishes were very filling and even though I went 2 days in a row I didn't try as much as I wanted to. I really wanted to try El Cabalitto's chicken empanada but it was a 20 minute wait for them to cook and I wanted to watch a cooking demo so I skipped that but I did have their fantastic Churro Nest dessert the night before. The first thing I tried on thursday night was Barque's Burnt ends on a crispy rice base. In the first year of the Taste Barque's ribs sold out. I made sure I tried it first this time to make sure I wouldn't have to wait in a long line. I had a chat with the Chef who remembered me too. This thing had the perfect balance of sweet, spice, crunch, fat and topped with pickled onions made it a perfect bite of food. My friends thought it was one of the best things we tried too.
I also tried my friend's sticky ribs from the Drake, oil poached tuna Little Sister and a bite of Alo's amazing butter biscuit. My friends also had Fat Pasha's hummus plates. I filled up on Little Sister's Babi Guling pork salad.
This year most of the food was either $6, $8 or $10 but there were also special dishes that were kind of free for all prices ranging from $15 for Carver's amazing pizza to the $150 Chinatown platter and a bunch of other things at various prices in between.
This festival can get pretty costly with a $29 admission price and then having to load up a crown card with you have to start with at least $1 before you load up. But what you get is all the best chefs in Toronto trying to one up each other and impress their peers and the public to attract people to come to their restaurants.
On the second day my friend brought her friend who was visiting from Singapore and really it was the best way for him to try all kinds of great food from Toronto in one place. He really enjoyed the food.
And as always it was great to see one of my favourite Chef's Chuck Hughes back for a cooking demo or as I always call them, his stand up routine and he also did a Metro Master Class demo. Always great to see him because he is hilarious and always makes fantastic food too.
I was able to bring my friends to the show this year because I won 4 tickets from Nespresso, so thank you to them for fantastic free samples of coffee and the passes so we could all have fun together. Even though a lot of my food blogger friends were all running around chasing food photos it was nice to hang out with my non food blogger buddies too.
A busy table was the Toronto Life Chef's Table, as you can see I couldn't even grab a seat at David Neinstein - Barque and Michael Hunter from Antler filling their tables.
The thursday and friday nights had beautiful skies and perfectly comfortable weather, although it got a little chilly after the sun went down on thursday night but Metro handed out some nice red fleece blankets which my friend Denise wore as her super woman cape around the festival.
The lineups were minimal on most booths but long on a few the first couple of nights but I know they were all busy and some ran out of food on the saturday night when all the downtown condo dwellers are looking for food and something to do in the area.
I saw a lot more families out this year on the friday night and I am not sure if there was an effort to expand that market but it seemed to be more than in past years.
While I don't love the venue and the difficulty in getting there. The first night we got stuck in traffic trying to get there and the second night the streetcar dumped us off the stop before and we had to walk up the stairs and all around. And the porta potties again are my least favourite thing at these food events but it's nice to be outside and have space but I am sure sunday afternoon with over 32 degree weather was a scorcher for the chefs and the people standing in the lineups. I knew better and went early.
I saw a lot of familiar chefs, bloggers and industry people out and about and it's always fun to run into people you see at other food events so I had a great time and really enjoyed the food too. Just wish my stomach and wallet could have tried more.
Hope to be back again next year.