Gourmet Food and Wine Expo – Review

As I was tuned into the Food Network on Wednesday watching an episode of Chopped, I saw a commercial for The 17th Annual Gourmet Food and Wine Expo. I felt like the ad was talking specifically to my husband and me, since we love gourmet food and wine. Seeing as we had never been to the Expo, we decided that it was necessary to go. I immediately went to www.foodandwineexpo.ca and ordered two tickets, and right after started to feel a little worried. Being a vegetarian is hard enough when it comes to eating at restaurants; I figured I might be faced with no food choices at the Expo because of my diet. My husband reassured me that, worst case scenario; we would just use the sampling tickets to test wines.

On Friday the 18th, we took the subway to Union station and made our way through the skywalk and into Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Once we got there, checked our coats and got inside we were surrounded by people holding mini wine glasses with “Gourmet Food and Wine Expo 2011” etched on them. So we each grabbed a glass as well and headed to the sampling ticket booth and purchased some tickets. (This reminded me of the “Taste of Chicago,” an annual 10 day festival held at Grant Park, and although admission is free, you still have to buy tickets to sample all sorts of food.)

At the Expo, I sampled white wines from New Zealand, Chile, Portugal, France, California, Spain, South Africa, and Ontario. Almost all the exhibitioners had a decanter or a pitcher filled with water to rinse the guests’ glasses after they sampled wine and a small bucket to discard the dirty water afterwards. There were also rinsing stations scattered around the vicinity.

While I was searching for something to eat, I spotted vegan Chef Dough McNish, making vegan tempeh sliders. I had read about tempeh being a nutritious meat alternative, but have never tried it, so I thought: “hey, vegan, tempeh, slider, 2 tickets, why not?” and gave it a shot. Besides looking like a fish fillet, it tasted delightful, and was filling too. I let my husband (a carnivore at heart) have a bite and even he was crazy about it. I asked the chef a few questions about the slider and where I could buy tempeh from and he was nice enough to answer my inquiries and continue a conversation with me.

This station did it for me, no longer did I feel less fortunate at this event, I felt a sense of comfort, someone was looking out for us vegetarians. My stomach was happy and ready to continue the exploration of the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo. I tried the Appenzeller cheese from Switzerland which was cut up into about 10 little cubes and plastic wrapped in a little bag, for 3 tickets, it was out of this world! I sampled a medley plate of hummus and other dips from the Fontaine Sante station, one of the featured sponsors, and even though I make my own hummus at home, I actually enjoyed this brand. My husband savored caviar from the Caspian Sea, a scallop presented beautifully in its shell and other meat varieties.

After a few hours of food tasting and finishing our tickets, we stopped at the LCBO inside the Expo, purchase three bottles of wine and headed out. As we were walking, this lady started talking to us, (Canadians are so friendly) asking us how we enjoyed the show and began telling us that she comes every year. She mentioned that she tried the Kobe beef, and had a lesson, accompanied by tasting of French wines at the LCBO. Because this was our first year, these were things that we missed; we stumbled inside the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo with no experience, no direction. We had no idea what would be offered at the Expo, and although we picked up a guide when we walked in, our mistake was we didn’t actually take time to look at it.

Knowing what I know now about the annual Expo, I understand that I have to be prepared next time I go. I (and everyone else planning on going to the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo) must do my research before I march in; find out who the exhibitors are, where their stations are located, and in what order I want to sample them. The guide and website offer a floor plan, along with a list of exhibitors, but they are on separate pages. I think it would be helpful to have a floor plan on the website that is enabled with a mouse over hover box, such as Lightbox, so when you scroll over, say station 216, a little bubble lists the name of the vendor next to the location, without going to another webpage. This would make it easier on the user, saving them time instead of finding a vendor from the list, then searching for their location on the floor plan.

Overall, I had a great experience at The 17th Annual Gourmet Food and Wine Expo, and will certainly return next year. I am looking forward to experiencing exquisite food and delicious drinks. Hopefully, the team takes my suggestion and transforms the floor plan into something more interactive and user friendly. Until next year, cheers!

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