From just one show in London, England in 2004, Taste Festivals have rapidly grown over the last ten years and is now held in 20 cities around the world including London, Sydney, Cape
Town, Milan, Dubai and Moscow. On July 24 - 27, the global outdoor restaurant festival made its first ever North American debut in Toronto. Sponsored by American Express Canada, Taste of Toronto brought together a selection of the city’s greatest and hottest restaurants and top local and international chefs, as well as local artisan exhibitors, live food demonstrations, chef Q&As, interactive cooking classes, expert wine tastings, live music and other entertainment.
Held at Fort York, the inaugural four-day festival was comprised of six half-day sessions to give guests time to enjoy their pick of restaurant dishes, browse the artisan stalls and enjoy some of the many attractions. Crowns were the official dining currency at Taste of Toronto (i.e. if you wish to purchase a dish from the restaurants or drinks from the bars, a pre-loaded Crown Card was the only accepted method of payment, and 1 Crown = $1). I thought this was a brilliant idea - all the transactions were quick and efficient, and there was no need to fumble for cash or change.
As a result of Amex Canada's sponsorship, there were numerous access perks for Amex Cardmembers and their guests at Taste of Toronto (@tasteoftoronto, #tasteoftoronto). The two perks that I enjoyed the most were:
1) The Priority Line Entrance - This was great because I'm way too impatient to deal with lineups; and
2) The American Express Lounge - I took full advantage of the comfy chairs at the Lounge because I'm not sure if you realize but digesting all that food can be quite exhausting. Besides the comfy chairs the Amex Lounge also offers complimentary water bottles, table snacks, beverage for purchase, as well as special tasting sessions throughout the festival.
I spent all my time going from one restaurant to another but for individuals interested at feature events held at the Electrolux Taste Theatre, The Tasting Room and Metro Master Classes, know that Amex Cardmembers have access to Reserved Seats at all the above venues.
I ate a lot at Taste of Toronto, but how can anyone resist when you have chefs continuously shoving delicious looking food in front of your face? I can't say no.
Chef Ippei Iwata (Guu Sakabar), Chef Elia Herrara (Los Colibris)
First stop: Guu Izakaya / JaBistro / Kinton Ramen. LOVE these guys so much I needed a picture with them.
I even got a kitchen tour.
Now let's get down to business. My epic foodie journey at Taste of Toronto begins here...
KINTON RAMEN'S SPICY GARLIC RAMEN (8 crowns)
Kinton pork ramen noodle soup, pork shoulder, garlic, green onion, corn
JABISTRO'S OSHIZUSHI (10 crowns)
Blowtorched & pressed sushi w/ shrimp, mackerel, salmon
Jicama tacos, cod, mango, coriander
THE MCEWAN GROUP: ONE'S FRIED CHICKEN (8 crowns)
Buttermilk biscuit, housemade slaw and chipotle BBQ sauce
THE MCEWAN GROUP: BYMARK'S LOBSTER POUTINE (10 crowns)
SO MUCH BACON! Oh and take note of this limited time offer: Chef Anthony Rose for 50 crowns! Any takers?
ROSE & SONS' BLT (10 crowns)
Dr. Pepper bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, feta and herb mayo
FAT PASHA'S FALAFEL PITA (8 crowns)
Cabbage slaw, sour pickles and tahini
PATRIA'S SEAFOOD PAELLA (10 crowns)
Bacalao, mussels, shrimp, bay scallops, fish, peas, crispy serrano
HUDSON KITCHEN: CHICKEN ADOBO (10 crowns)
Heirloom carrot, rice
HUDSON KITCHEN: ZUCCHINI SALAD (6 crowns)
Buffalo ricotta, mint, almond
HUDSON KITCHEN: ALBACORE TUNA CRUDO (8 crowns)
Lime, pear, cassava
View from my makeshift chef's table at Richmond Station LOL! Thanks for setting this up :)
RICHMOND STATION CHARCUTERIE WITH PICKLES (8 crowns)
RICHMOND STATION BURGER (10 crowns)
Milk bun, OKA sliced cheese, beet chutney
RICHMOND STATION ICE CREAM SUNDAE (8 crowns)
THE GROVE: DUCK SCOTCH EGG (6 crowns)
BOSK: COCONUT TAPIOCA PEARLS (6 crowns)
Passion fruit, lime, pineapple
BOSK: FOIE GRAS PARFAIT (8 crowns)
Strawberries, pistachio, melba toast
Oh wait, is that Chuck Hughes?! Sure is! Chef Hughes at the Indigo Book Signing.
Oysters at Splendido.
SPLENDIDO: AUSTRALIAN BLACK TRUFFLE RICOTTA AGNOLOTTI & PARMIGIANO REGGIANO (10 crowns)
Saturday Pop-up: Hopgoods Foodliner.
HOPGOODS FOODLINER: ALBACORE TUNA (8 crowns)
Preserved summer tomatoes, basil and crispy shallots
ROAD BLOCKA RUM COCKTAIL (12 crowns)
KHAO SAN ROAD: THAI TEA SHAKE (6 crowns)
Black tea, ice, condensed milk, spices
KHAO SAN ROAD: SPICY SHRIMP SALAD (10 crowns)
Shrimp, onion, red pepper, fish sauce, chili, garlic, cilantro
KHAO SAN ROAD: CRISPY RICE SALAD (8 crowns)
Rice, ginger, cilantro, sour pork sausage, lime leaf, fresh roasted peanuts
Spicy pickled cucumber, avocado, crispy bacon and old bay chips
BARQUE SMOKEHOUSE: BARQUE RACK O'BAMA (10 crowns)
Baby back ribs (rubbed, smoked, basted, basted....) served with a potato, corn, and candied smoked bacon salad and finished with pickled vegetables.
BARQUE SMOKEHOUSE: SMOKED DRY RUBBED CHICKEN WINGS (8 crowns)
Served with pickled watermelon
I was asked by several people to pick one favourite dish but it's really difficult to just pick one! Here, I'll give you my Top Ten instead (in no particular order): Rose & Son's BLT, JaBistro's Oshizushi, Hudson Kitchen's Chicken Adobo, Richmond Station's Station Burger and Ice Cream Sundae, Bosk's Coconut Tapioca Pearls, Splendido's Black Truffle Ricotta Agnolotti, Khao San Road's Thai Tea Shake, The Harbord Room / THR & Co's Crab & Prawn Roll and Barque's ribs.
Thank you, American Express (@AmexCanada, #DineWithAmex), for bringing Taste to Toronto. I'm already looking forward to Taste of Toronto 2015.
*Both Taste of Toronto experience and blog post is sponsored by Amex. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*