I arrived at the Toronto Food & Wine show (Evergreen Brick Works, September 18-20) early on the first day, before the crowds began to flow in the later afternoon. I had intended to walk around and check out a few of the tastings, seminars and demonstrations. What happened instead, as often does, is that I ended up spending hours in the grand tasting area chatting with producers and restaurateurs that will be familiar to regular GFR visitors, and discovering a few new ones with really interesting food and drink stories yet to be told on this website. Here are few snapshots of the people I found at Toronto Food & Wine.
The big tasting area is where the farmers market usually takes place on Saturdays. Airy and naturally lit bright, the venue was working its usual magic. The vendors were still getting the last details right on their booths, or they were visiting each other before the big rush, trading a glass of wine for a bowl of food.
Strolling around, I bumped into Toronto’s native daughter and US food TV star and author Gail Simmons. Gracious and outgoing, Gail isn’t just there professionally, she was doing the show: tasting, meeting producers and (from what I could see) having a great time. This is one of the cool aspects of the show: the stars hang out on the floor. They want to taste and discover too. Later I spotted Tyler Florence.
All that walking and chatting was thirsty work, so I was very happy to run into Katy Moore, late the head sommelier at Langdon Hall and just recently joined on as a consultant for The Case For Wine. Katy was pouring two lovely quenchers. First a grower Champagne: the Brut from Victoire. At $39 in the LCBO (#190025), it’s a bit of a steal and it’s made in the crisp and light style that I prefer. We followed that with what Katy thinks is the last Chenin Blanc made in Niagara: The 2013 Big Head made by the legendary Andrej Lipinsky.
With a bit of fruity Chenin Blanc still in my glass, I sought out something to eat and discovered Bombay Street Food and met sisters-in-law Seema and Amreen Omar. They’ve just started their catering company and are scouting locations for a restaurant in downtown Toronto. Of course, I made no notes and now can’t remember exactly what I ate, other than it was delicious, complex with spice and great match for the wine.
Man cannot live on food and wine alone, so it was time to drop in on one of Amy Rosen’s Chef Talks, in this case with Roger Mooking and Antonio Park.
And, who should I spot listening intently to the two chefs and seasoned journalist, but chef, author, broadcaster and entrepreneur Trish Magwood. Hardcore!
Apparently listening to a chefs’ seminar is also thirsty work, so it was a good thing that I happened upon the talented and lovely Danielle Giroux from Colio Estate Wines, who was pouring the most amazing sparkler. The Lily Sparkling VQA is only $16.95 at the LCBO (#418657), and is remarkable as it’s made from 100% Riesling. It’s the lightest, crispest sipper you can imagine, with a funny green apple twang from the grape that’s both familiar and strange. I loved it.
More food people: Dorina and Cornel Ceapa were on hand with smoked sturgeon from New Brunswick and, most crucially, their caviar, which is so good. A taste of their Acadian Sturgeon caviar from a spoon comes in three notes that together make harmonious chord: first the taste of fish and the sea, then a hit of salt, and finally the almost buttery umami that resonates across the palate. Amazing.
Time for more wine and food. Luckily, I found Stratus’ booth where Nadia Skorupski (pictured above) was pouring a run of the prestigious winery’s wines including the Riesling and red they make just for the Evergreen Brick Works farmers’ market. Even more luckily, Nadia was pouring next to chef Bashir Munye (pictured above, second from the left) and his team from My Little Dumplings. They were next to each other as part of a row of regular market vendors.
Alexandrine Lemaire and Hannah C. Palmer came up from Montreal to pour gin and tonics made with their amazing artisanal tonic water: 3/4 Oz Tonic Maison. 3/4 Oz is actually a syrop that you blend yourself with sparkling water. It’s really good, not too sweet and a little bitter, and I was delighted to find a Canadian producer of premium tonic water. More on 3/4 Oz at GFR to come!
Time had flown, and I had to move on to other things. But before I left I ran into Backhouse’s Bev Hotchkiss and Ryan Crawford. They were in town from Niagara-on-the-Lake to compete in Cochon 555 that evening and doing a quick tour before getting ready. Ugh. I only wish I could have stayed.