EATS: Taste of Toronto 2016

Hello everyone! This year I was fortunate to attend Taste of Toronto with a media pass and I definitely had a great time! If you missed out and are unfamiliar with Taste, it is an international food festival that takes place in different cities around the world. Toronto is the only North American city to host this great event! Let’s just get this out the way first though because I heard a few people complaining about how it’s a scam because you still have to buy food after paying admission: this is not a place for people who just like food. You have to be a total food-lover or foodie to really enjoy and appreciate all of the amazing restaurants at this event. That is not a slight and I do not intend to sound like a food snob – but let’s be real: it is not a cheap excursion. I still had to buy my own food and I went on Friday and Sunday and spent about $40 each time. I have 0 regrets though because the food was AMAZING! This year, the festival grew and included more restaurants and vendors so it was held at the Garrison Common at Fort York. It was very sunny and warm on both days I attended but who can really complain when you’re surrounded by the most delicious aromas?My favourite item this year was the Crispy Calamari Po-Boy from The McEwan Group. Hands down, the most delicious and exciting thing I ate at Taste! House between a fresh charcoal (yep, you read that right) bun from Ace Bakery was a light and crispy helping of calamari with a citrus-savoury lemon caper aioli. I loved it so much I ate it on both days I attended (unfortunately by Sunday they had run out of the charcoal buns but it was still fantastic!)

Now although I do frequent Kinton and Kinka throughout the year, I couldn’t resist getting some takoyaki (fried octopus dough balls) and spicy pork ramen. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment as my mouth was on fire as the sun was beating down on me, but it was just too good to pass up! It also gave me the opportunity to finally meet Stella aka Food Junkie Chronicles/@foodieyu (Twitter)/@utsukushiibaby (IG) in person! (Small world though – she knows my brother!)I attended alone on the Friday (I wasn’t aware I had a plus one!) and caught one of the demos at the Taste Theatre featuring Chef Elia Herrara of Los Colibris and El Caballito. She made an amazing ceviche loaded with avocado and cilantro that looked absolutely divine.Gorgeous day in the city. I love Toronto! Note: Friday afternoon was not busy at all; I barely had to wait in any lines (but I suppose most people are working during that time lol.)Richmond Station had these 2 superstars shucking oysters all day! They made it look so easy!I couldn’t resist their frozen yogurt that came in a freshly made waffle cone. I got the lemon frozen yogurt that came with strawberry puree and basil which kept it very summery and fresh. The cone was the best waffle cone I’d ever had – light, perfectly sweet, and deliciously crumbly at the end.When I returned for the evening session, I decided to try the Smoked True North Atlantic Salmon from Piano Piano. Usually when I have smoked salmon, the texture is definitely a bit on the drier and rougher side, however their offering felt fresh with a powerful smokey flavour. Enhanced by capers, it was a nice way to kick off the night.After eating all of this delicious food during the day, I ended off my first visit with the green tea opera cake from Miku. It was layered with red bean and also paired with a yuzu-nade which really helped cut a bit of the sweetness from the cake. I love Asian-flavoured desserts so this was a great end to my day.I returned on Sunday and tried out a few more dishes after getting another calamari po-boy. I tried the pressed/torched sushi from Miku – salmon and ebi – and it was amazing! The torchinreally gives it an extra boost of favour and you get that texture of cooked vs. raw fish.The feature pop-up restaurant of the day was The County General and their special “Dish” was their fried chicken. Juicy dark meat chicken was housed in a beautifully seasoned and crispy batter that was not too thick. Combining it with pickled onions and gojchang hoisin espresso BBQ (what a mouthful – literally) made it a fantastic dish with a great mix of textures and flavours.Oh, you better believe I had to indulge in more ice cream from Richmond Station. They were offering ginger ice cream that day with an apple-cinnamon sauce – perfect combination! Aside from the food, one of my favourite things about Taste of Toronto is the opportunity to meet great chefs. Last year I met Chefs Michael Bonacini and Alvin Leung (and met Eric Chong for a 2nd time) as they were there in the official capacity. This year, through Tweet-conversations, I found out that a few of the MasterChef Canada contestants would be attending just as guests so I made sure I was around to meet them. I first spotted Jeremy (season 3 runner-up) in the line for the evening session and he was kind enough to take photos with some fans. Definitely a really nice guy in person!Veronica (4th place contestant) was also in attendance and actually recognized/remembered my Twitter name! I may be a MasterChef Canada Twitter-junkie.Not gonna lie though – I was the most excited to meet the winner of this season’s MasterChef Canada and first female winner – Mary Berg. After tweeting with her throughout the season and sharing our love of gifs, #TeamCheesePillows finally met in person and it was like a dream come true! Mary is exactly how she is on TV – bubbly, friendly, and energetic.Sandwiched between the Top 2! I was also hoping that 3rd placer Matthew Astorga would still be in town after the finale, but unfortunately, he had to return to BC (where I will be visiting next summer to eat at his restaurant!) We totally gave him major FOMO on Instagram though!

Chef Claudio Aprile was at the festival on Sunday so obviously I had to say hello and get a photo. I now have officially met all of the MasterChef Canada judges so my fangirl dreams have come true LOL.

Taste of Toronto will be back again next year – for more information, check out tasteoftoronto.com, or you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram @tasteoftoronto.

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