My Night at The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

By: Shelby Morrison

The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo recently celebrated its 22nd year at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This event brought together some of the city's top restaurateurs and food vendors displaying a wide variety of novel culinary dishes and products, as well as international and local wines, cocktails, beers and more. With plenty of craft beer, cider and cocktails available, you could try something new and old favourites, too! 

I was thrilled to attend the VIP Media evening and was eager to get sampling. After taking a walk around, I was able to make a game plan and get a better idea of what I wanted to try. It may seem deceiving when you see such small samples or portions, but trust me, you will end up full and satisfied at the end. This also leaves room to try more items!

Poke is a huge trend that has recently hit Toronto, so of course, I opted for a lazy California mini bowl at Lawai’a Poke Bar. The fresh salmon was paired with seaweed, spicy mayonnaise, cucumber, sesame seeds, green onions and crispy onions, all atop a bed of rice. The fresh fish paired well with the other ingredients for a healthy start to the evening. They were also offering a tuna, as well as a beef short rib bowl.

Next up was a sampling of beef short ribs from Entice Culinary Lounge. The sweet sauce paired well with the rich meat and tang from the kimchi.

Although Magic Oven is actually a pizza joint in the city, they do also cook up samosas, and the menu is Indian inspired. This evening, they were offering a veggie samosa on its own, or topped with butter chicken. I decided to go all out and ordered the latter. The filling was substantial, and the butter chicken topping was the perfect addition. I must warn you, although it was delicious, it was quite spicy.

JaBistro is easily one of the best sushi restaurants in the city, so I was excited to grab a bite from them. They are known for their blow-torched items, so of course I had to try one of each of what they were offering. The ebi oshizushi, also known as tiger shrimp, as well as the salmon oshizushi were out of this world. The soft rice topped with buttery fish was then blowtorched and allowed for a crisp outer layer. It was truly a unique experience for my taste buds.

I am a fan of The Chase restaurants, so I sampled a small lobster roll as well as the seared tuna sandwich from Little Fin. The sweet, soft bun encompassed the creamy and crunchy lobster roll quite well. As for the seared tuna sandwich, the chilli ginger marinade really came through, along with a creamy sauce which allowed for a nice balance of flavours.

Every time I see a pierogi, I remember just how much I really like them. They aren’t something I usually think about, but when I find a good pierogi, you can be assured I am one happy girl! Uncle Jack’s, an Oshawa-based company, was offering cheese and potato pierogies which were one of my favourite dishes of the night. The dough was the perfect thickness, with just the right amount of creamy, flavourful filling. This was also quite a large portion, which I am not complaining about!

After all the savoury snacks, it was time for dessert. The Bake Three Fifty truck caught my eye since I can’t say no to sweets. The concept is a dessert food truck serving up ice cream sandwiches either between a cupcake or a cookie, and your choice of toppings. I decided to get a chocolate chunk cookie, filled with Gold Medal Ribbon ice cream and topped with sprinkles, caramel sauce and cookie dough. Luckily I had a partner to share this with, even though I could have probably eaten it all! It was just the dessert I was looking for since it incorporated cookies as well as ice cream.

The French macaron display really looked appealing and I just had to go there for one last little bite. The crème brulee was my choice, which I was definitely pleased with. The sweet, creamy macaron was the perfect ending to my evening.

I did participate in more than just eating at the Food & Wine Expo. I sampled some of the fabulous drinks on offer and tried a few different ones. Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake caught my eye. I tried the Cabernet Franc, which was elegant, full-bodied and silky with aromas of raspberry, red currants, blackberries and blueberries.

Tromba Tequila is a crafted small batch tequila made in Mexico. The Blanco, which was offered was light with a floral, sweet flavor. It was paired with lime and cucumber juice, as well as agave and topped with soda water. The sweetness really came through and the tequila paired well with the lime and cucumber. I could have drunk many of these (but thankfully I didn’t!). 

If you are looking for a smooth beer to enjoy all winter, I suggest you try the Granville Island's Lions Winter Ale. It has notes of vanilla, cocoa and caramel to provide a comforting, creamy winter drink.

Lastly, I sampled the Canadian SoCIAL LITE Vodka. It is a ready-to-drink sparkling cocktail with no sugar, sweetener, or artificial ingredients. The flavour on offer was lime ginger and tasted crisp and refreshing. Each can only has 80 calories and is the perfect low cal cocktail option. 

The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo gives you the opportunity to try new things and experience many different flavours, cultures and restaurants. I can't wait for next year's event, which is sure to be bigger, bolder and  better!