Taste of Toronto – 2014

I still wasn’t feeling 100% when I woke up on Sunday morning, but there was no way was I passing up my last chance to experience the first edition of “Taste  of Toronto”. Though finances and dietary restrictions limited my tasting experience, I still got a “taste” of what everyone else experienced and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

One of the great joys of living in Toronto is the abundance of amazing, epicurean offerings available. From 5 star restaurants headed by up  famous chefs, to local neighbourhood eateries and watering holes, to annual ethnic street festivals in every neighbourhood, to an ever expanding and epic food truck culture.

If there is one thing that NOBODY complains about when visiting Toronto, it’s a lack of food choices

TOR_9236So when I heard that Toronto had been chosen as the first “Taste of…” destination in North America, I was thrilled and not surprised in the least.

From it’s humble beginnings as a single festival in London ten years ago, Taste has grown into a worldwide foodie phenomenon, with “Taste of ” festivals now running annually in cities throughout the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

It was only a matter of time before it infiltrated North America, though quite honestly I would have expected one of the food meccas south of the border  to debut first (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc…) But when you look at the description on the website, it makes sense that Toronto would be in the mix (and ultimately the chosen one)

“Taste represents a gourmand’s dream come true: delicious food created by the city’s greatest restaurants, world famous chefs, superb drink and outstanding entertainment, set in stunning outdoor surroundings”TOR_9275

It was certainly a who’s who of Toronto’s top chefs and restaurants, and was a great opportunity for those who may not have the means for an entire meal at those establishments to experience the quality and flavours on a smaller scale.

David Chang, Momofuku
Stuart Cameron, Patria, Weslodge, and Byblos
Damon Campbell, Bosk
Lachlan Culjak, Yours Truly
Ben Heaton, The Grove
Carl Heinrich, Richmond Station
Elia Herrera, Los Colibris
Geoffrey Hopgood, Hopgood’s Foodliner
Ippei Iwata, Guu Toronto
Mark McEwan, The McEwan Group
David Neinstein, Barque Smokehouse
Gerry Quintero, El Caballito
Anthony Rose, Rose and Sons, Big Crow and Fat Pasha
Chantana Srisomphan, Khao San Road
Koji Tashiro, JaBistro
Aki Urata, Kinton Ramen
Cory Vitiello, The Harbord Room and THR & Co.

Things that worked:

The Venue – Historic Fort York provided an intimate, charming event space, that was easy to get to, capably handled the crowds, and enjoyed the backdrop of our beautiful city. Lots of tables and chairs, and even some picnic mats were provided. And it was very clean. This was a very well run event that took pride in appearances, and it paid off.

The Crowns – The re-loadable Crown Card ($1 = 1 Crown, no math needed!) allowed participants an easy way to purchase their tastes, with the POS terminals alerting patrons of their balance with each transaction. Much more dignified than digging through your pockets for cash each time, or keying in a pin number. Added bonus: any left-over,  unused crowns were automatically donated to Second Harvest.

TOR_9284The Menu Cards – Dietary Restrictions? We’ve got that covered!  As someone who has a severe wheat allergy and follows a strict celiac diet, it was nice to not feel like the three-headed monster at this event. In fact I felt very welcomed and taken care of.  In addition to the printed Menu Cards/event booklets, each restaurant had a large menu card posted above their booth, which clearly distinguished Gluten-Free and Vegetarian options. In fact other than the confused lady at the Oka booth, everyone of the vendors was accommodating and knowledgeable. I didn’t waste any time in lines only to discover there was nothing for me to eat. A quick glance at the menu card told me everything I needed to know.

The Vendors – in addition to the restaurants, there were several rows of vendors sampling and selling their products. *note to other shows & vendors: there should always be samples! People who have received something in “kind” are more likely to purchase*
Some products I was already familiar with, but some were deliciously new to me. I came home with a full belly, and a bag full of free and purchased stuff. (oh and a list of products to seek out!)
I truly appreciated the quality of the products featured, many of which were local, organic, and non-gmo.

Some stand outs for me: Ninutik Maple Products, KRAVE Jerky, Bruce Cost Ginger Ales, Carmen Creek Gourmet Bison

What would I change? 

I would probably cap the price of the tastes at $7-$8 max, making them $4, $5 & $6 or $5, $6 & $7.  With the $6, $8, & $10 breakdown this year, I was only able to enjoy a limited sampling, and I felt a bit taken advantage of looking at the price vs plate ratio for the $10 tastes…

Perhaps I would offer a “weekend pass” of some sort as well.


I loved it. So did everyone who I spoke with in attendance over the weekend. I think in a city obsessed with all things food & drink, that the Taste of Toronto will easily become one of the “must do” foodie events of the season for many years to come.

Enjoy the gallery!


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