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! 

Dine Magazine's 10th Anniversary

By: Sari Colt

When you want to find out where to enjoy a delicious dinner in South Beach or what it's like to travel through Tuscany to sample the best Italian wines, Dine Magazine is your go-to resource. The publication is known for its stunning photography and insightful profiles in the areas of food, wine and luxury travel. 

Dine Magazine recently celebrated its tenth anniversary issue with a wonderful reception at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. Cheryl Hickey of ET Canada is featured on the cover.  At the reception, editor-in-chief, Sara Waxman spoke eloquently about the hard work and perseverance it took to get the magazine off the ground and was grateful for the encouragement by her late husband in becoming a food writer. 

And as befitting the theme of the evening, there were delicious dishes to taste (catered by The Four Seasons)  accompanied by fabulous wines. We enjoyed: gnocchi pasta with bison short ribs ragout; sweet potato puree baby spinach and tonka bean jus; oven roasted Ontario beef sirloin  with marjoram buttermilk zucchini and grilled asparagus; quinoa and black kale with Szechaun jus; an artisanal cheese board with quince jam, house made pickled vegetables, toasted sour dough bread, walnut raisin crisp and pate en croute, and pate de campagne charcuterie board. 

Some of the noteworthy guests attending the event included  Jeanne Beker, Liona Boyd, Robin Barker, Jaymz Bee, Jenninfer Holness, Sudz Sutherland, and Robert Deluce. 

Congratulations Dine Magazine on the past 10 years!

Photography by Allan Tong.

A Royal Affair: Afternoon Tea at the Omni King Edward Hotel

By: Alison Silveira

My friend and now sister-in-law, Charlene, recently married my brother and it was a very special occasion, as the couple planned their whole wedding themselves. Charlene did not want a bridal shower, nor did she want a bachelorette party. As a bridesmaid, my duties were very minimal, but her sister, Charlotte and I decided that we needed to do something special for Charlene before her big day.

Indulging in afternoon tea with the ladies at the regal Omni King Edward Hotel sounded like the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Just last September, the hotel had its grand re-opening after undergoing a $40 million renovation. Contemporary decor meets old-world charm at the luxurious hotel. The crystal ballroom is also set to be restored to the tune of six and a half million dollars. The re-opening of the ballroom is slated for early 2017 and will undoubtedly be one of the most ornate and elegant venues in Toronto. 

Afternoon tea takes place at Victoria's Restaurant, which has been completely revitalized. Our hostess gives us a warm welcome and as we settle in our over-sized, comfortable purple chairs, we cannot help but feel like royalty. There is no trace of stuffiness in the restaurant. It is bright, spacious and inviting and I especially like that the table is large with fine linens and silverware laid out on it. We admire the delicate teal blue and white floral porcelain cups and saucers that adorn the table. 

Our friendly server brings amuse-bouches of Chinese soup spoons laden with tangy pickled cucumbers. He also explains the tea menus and brings out a collection of Sloane teas for us to choose from. Charlene and Charlotte choose the heavenly oolong creme tea, which comes from the Wuyi Mountains of China. It is a creamy, silky and sweet treat. As a chocolate lover, I just have to opt for the chocolate truffle tea, which is a blended black smooth bodied Assam tea. It is infused with truffle notes and Brazilian cocoa, which creates a rich, dark chocolate finish.

Next up, our server presents a three-tiered serving platter with delightful finger sandwiches for us to sample. These unique, delightful bites are bursting with flavour and we savour each and every bite. Stand-out sandwiches include the zesty chickpea hummus with lightly curried carrots, raisins and sliced almonds and prosciuttini with refreshing compressed melon. Charlene and Charlotte enjoy the picnic egg salad with chives, radish and sweet pickles and the heirloom tomato caprese with torn basil. 

Scones are a staple of any afternoon tea experience and we happily enjoy the classic cream and blueberry scones with delicious accompaniments of Devonshire cream, house-made strawberry jam and lemon lime curd.

Our indulgent experience comes to a sweet ending when we are offered an array of the most decadent and colourful pastries. Tart and sweet lemon mousse, superior carrot cake and coffee cream tarts satisfy our palates.

We pour ourselves some more tea and clink glasses, with our pinkies out, of course! We enjoy girl talk, loads of laughs and the pleasurable experience of escaping the everyday and partaking in luxurious afternoon tea at the Omni King Edward Hotel. Afternoon tea is certainly the perfect way for any bride-to-be to relax, unwind and dine a beautiful setting! 

Afternoon tea takes place at Victoria's Restaurant in the Omni King Edward Hotel from Friday – Saturday at 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 2:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. The hotel is located at 37 King Street East. For more information, visit: https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/toronto-king-edward/dining/afternoon-tea.  

A Festive Feast with Almond Breeze at Richmond Station!

A Festive Feast with Almond Breeze at Richmond Station!

I attended a festive holiday dinner prepared by Top Chef Canada winner, Carl Heinrich and his staff at his ever popular restaurant, Richmond Station. Having previously dined at Richmond Station to sample the famed stn. burger, I knew that whatever was on chef Heinrich's menu, I was sure to enjoy. Six sumptuous courses featured the delicious taste of Almond Breeze, the refreshing non-dairy beverage. I enjoy cooking with coconut milk and dairy products, but it never struck me to use Almond Breeze as a substitute for milk in my culinary endeavours. 

Chef Heinrich showed me just how versatile Almond Breeze can be, as he incorporated it in every one of his delicious courses and spoke about each individual dish. Innovative and unique, chef Heinrich's delicate Peking duck crepes featured spiced almonds and flavourful kimchi. 

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