Long pointed out we are celebrating an anniversary. It was a year ago that we attended the first Taste of Toronto and wrote an inaugural food blog for the occasion. I went back and re-read what I had written some 365 days and many, many food events ago.
I was impressed by the first Taste of Toronto. It struck me as well organized, well laid out and with very efficient execution. In 2015 I find myself less taken in. Is it my own jaded nature? Or has Taste of Toronto taken a bit of a hit in its sophomore effort?
One of the things that really impressed me last year was the charming tray that the Food Network handed out to every attendee. Not only was it a great promo it proved to be very useful for balancing tidbits for mobile consumption.
Alas, no such tray was in evidence this year. The organizers also changed some of the things that made the event flow easily. Instead of small groupings of washrooms throughout the grounds they were all congregated in one area near the walkway the eastern gate which was annoying limited to exit only. Last year it served as an entrance as well so one did not have to circumnavigate the park to get in as was the case this time. The organizers employed the same crown card billing as last time which is a great system. You are mailed a credit card in advance of the event, load it up on line with “crowns” which are the equivalent to a dollar each, and tap it like a debit card at each of the restaurant stalls to make a purchase. Brilliant if you don’t want to carry cash, though many of the product exhibitors acccept cash only. It seemed like the price point had gone up a bit on the food. Many of the offerings were 10 crowns each which is no small matter for what is essentially a good sized sample.
There seemed to be fewer restaurants and more vendors this time around. Some of my favourites were there (helloooo Ninutik maple products) but some were not (goodbyyyyeee Bruce Cost ginger ale) This year I had not perused the offerings in advance and decided to eat more whimsically. (Either that or I was just lazy. Probably the latter). Long and I started at Barque and tucked in to a delicious BBQ pork taco. It was a good way to kick the event off.
Next up was R&D for some lobster chow mein
Gotta love a lobster, but we forwent about half the noodles. No need to fill up on starches when there are so many things on the offer.
Splendido was next up, but the only thing that caught my eye were the oysters and in the spirit of adventure I decided to pass. I have eaten enough of the bivalves to start my own marine farm and as they are easily obtained I moved on.
The Drake had a few promising seafood themes items – a clam and fish fry as well as a lobster roll. We split and order of each. The clams were delicious – crispy, and neither greasy nor chewy while the lobster roll was clean and fresh with an added bonus of avocado.
Next up … tuna ceviche from Montecito. It was delicate and ever so slightly bland. In the line up I took note of their dessert offering (panna cotta) and vowed to loop back once we decided to venture in to the sweet portion of the day.
That came earlier than expected as Long felt compelled to try the Cornflake Ice Cream popsicle from Rasa. She was underwhelmed and I liked it more so as a gesture of comradeship I finished it for her. I am very generous that way.
I tucked in to Rasa’s truffle gnudi, which was quite delicious but very dense and filling. I have heard much of the Food Dudes and recently attended another one of their events, and I must add Rasa to the list of places to try.
Alas, we were beginning to fill up, in no small part from the variety of samples we were liberally trying and we needed to save room for dessert so we made our way across the park to the final stand of restaurants. Long went in for the burger from Richmond Station which was a favourite last year and did not disappoint.
I had a tuna tartare from Morimoto, which was one of the more highly anticipated establishments in attendance. I am sorry to say it was deeply disappointment – the dud of the festival. The texture was mushy, it was flavourless and only its soy wading pool gave it any heft at all.
I consoled myself with some paella from Patria. It was a favourite from last year and it reliably tasty.
Finally we moved on to the sweets. I looped back to Montecito for their panna cotta, and it was absolutely worth the wait. Fresh berries, caramelized white chocolate on a creamy vanilla base.
Long hit up THR for her selection – a rhubarb, strawberry & pistchio upside down cake with mint ice cream and preserved strawberries. The mint ice cream looked decidedly down market, like it had been scooped from a no name tub but proved to be an inspired pairing with the cake.
My parting thoughts? I was not as wowed by the event as I was last year, but I think I can chalk that up to experience and a snifter of cynicism. It is a great way to sample some of the finer culinary establishments in this town and to taste new and exciting things. The venue is convenient and comfortable and if the organizers bring back some of the elements that worked well the first time I imagine the third time could be the charm. I know I will be looking forward to it.