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Good Eats at the 2012 Food and Wine Expo

A few weeks back I attended the Gourmet Food and Wine show for the second time, in an attempt to continually expand my limited foodie experience.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I grew up in a town where the only ethnic food we had was a Chinese restaurant, with parents who only ever consumed meat and potatoes, so after getting over the culture shock of unlimited options when I moved to Toronto, I eventually faced my fear of foods like sushi and realized all I was missing out on. Now, I am obsessed with trying as much as I can, so long as it doesn’t appear slimy or have eyes.

This year I went to the Food and Wine show on the VIP/media night, thinking it would be less crowded than it was when I went on the Saturday night the previous year. Although they moved to a larger spot in the Convention Centre this time, it was still incredibly packed, but the new location definitely helped with some of the traffic.

I started with Chicken Paella from El Paella which was satisfying but not unique or unforgettable by any means. Word of advice, never start with a plate of rice at a food event where you want to try many things. I didn’t let the fact that I was no longer very hungry after that stop me, though.

My friend picked up a couple Prosciutto and Cheese Sliders that she loved so much she went back for a few more by the end of the night. I had tried them last year, and having a hatred for bread with hard crusts, I decided to pass this time.

Next she went for the Brie, Cranberry and Tarragon Grilled Cheese with the Meatballs Pomodoro from Magic Oven, and apparently the sandwich was great, but I tried the meatballs, and compared to the incredible ones I had a few weeks earlier at Eat to the Beat, they didn’t impress. They tasted like fairly basic meatballs you could easily make at home.

We both have an incredible sweet tooth, so we tried some Gelato next. The vendor had some interesting fruity combos and even a champagne option! But we went more traditional to avoid any disappointment  She had a Dark Chocolate  option, which I didn’t like at all because of the slightly bitter after-taste, so I went back for the French Vanilla which was smooth, sweet perfection.

I also tried the most delicious one bite Chocolate Cake with Raspberries that I have ever tasted, and that has to be the one item I ate that I loved the most and wanted to go back for more of. The same shop was serving a meat appetizer that my friend tried, but she was underwhelmed by the hard and flavourless bread.

I ended my food journey with my current food obsession, Butter Chicken. Yes, more chicken and rice, just what I needed! Sadly it was lukewarm and I was so full already that I really didn’t enjoy it (or finish it). Honestly, you could probably find tastier butter chicken at the Eaton Centre Food Court, but the problem may be that I tried it at the end of the night when it was obviously a big pot that was cooked at the beginning of the evening.

Onto the drinks. It is well documented that I am not much of a beer or wine fan (hard liquor ftw) – if you remember my Beer Festival post, the closest I get to enjoying beer is Fruli’s Strawberry beer option. But, as I get along in my 20s I feel like it is important to appreciate wine (especially if I want to truly understand the foodie world) so I’ve been pushing  myself to try it more often. While most of what I sampled wasn’t doing anything for me, we came across Muskoka Lakes Winery which had a bunch of Cranberry Wines on display. Cranberry always makes for a good vodka drink, so I figured this was my best shot, and it has since become my new favourite thing.

I know you are thinking – fruit wine? That’s not real wine. Believe me, I proudly drank my 6$ Wild Vines Strawberry Wine when I was younger until someone informed me it is akin to drinking “bum wine.” But Muskoka Lakes makes their Cranberry Wines using all the same methods as grape wine, and the alcohol volume and price tell me it’s not a wine I should be embarrassed about loving. We tried the off-dry Blueberry Cranberry option, as well as the semi-sweet White Cranberry option. I loved them both, but the White was definitely my favourite. I think my real issue with wine has been that I’ve been trying it at bars, rather than at dinner. This is obvious but I’m starting to realize just how important it is to drink it with food.

I also had a strange ginger syrup drink that I would never try again, a delicious Strawberry Daiquiri, and a Motts Ceaser that was ridiculously cheap for $1, but too spicy for my delicate palette. I always forget to ask for very little spice when I get ceasars.

Overall it was a great event as expected, and I enjoyed it much more this time around even though it was still quite crowded. The food of course can be hit and miss depending on what you end up trying, but it was mostly delicious, and the drinks were great. I look forward to attending another round next year, and hopefully my wine knowledge will be a lot stronger by then.