As I was sipping spicy pork ramen under a blazing sun I overheard someone say “You know this really is the year for Toronto”.  I looked around me at the hundreds of foodies all gathered together to celebrate our city’s cuisine and I realized that it really is. After hosting World Pride we’ve now been graced with a food festival born on the international stage. Taste Festivals seeks out and showcases a city’s top talent and gives its diners the chance to menu-hop like nowhere else.  Toronto is on the map, baby!  IMG_8674 (Small)

In historic Fort York we have welcomed something new to the city. While we have any number of food festivals throughout the year the overwhelming focus is on street food. There is nothing wrong with that – street food endures because it is amazing, cheap, and satisfying.  But we still go out to brick and mortar restaurants because we want to experience a different sort of craft.

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Carefully planned menus from culinary experts, delicate and dazzling techniques, and ingredient innovations bring us back to Restaurant Row again and again.  Taste of Toronto is the marriage of small bites on the go with a high-end dining experience.  As the organizers say, “Wherever it is in the world, Taste represents foodie heaven: stunning food prepared by the city’s greatest restaurants, world famous chefs, superb drink and outstanding entertainment, set in stunning outdoor surroundings.”

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The festival also showed us technological advancement. Rather than paper tickets that are easily lost, you instead load your money onto a card that carries your balance for you in the form of Crowns (1 Crown = $1). Items were then priced as either 6, 10, or 12 Crowns. To purchase you tapped your card on a tiny terminal (which could also provide your balance) and it was debited for you. Quick, painless, and easy to do with one hand while the other grabs at your food.

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Tents popped up on the fort grounds, and our chefs got to work Some items were from the regular venue menus, while others were unique offerings inspired by the event.

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Thanks to the amazing generosity of the great gals at Fat Girl Food Squad I was able to bring some guests. It was lovely to share the day, and also made it possible for me to try that many more things! Those ladies sure know their Toronto food!

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Metro presented a cooking masterclass for foodies that want more confidence in the kitchen. The class booked up fast, so if you want to attend next year be sure to go early.

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There was a tasting room to build on wine knowledge, and of course cooking demos from our chefs of honour, like Mark McEwan. There were even historical cooking classes offered by Fort York, offering a look back into our gustatory history.

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And if you had any money left to spend after you tried everything, there were tones of vendors on hand to tempt you with take-aways – from craft Caesar mix, to fresh cheese, to exquisite knives, everyone’s kitchen was definitely enriched by the week’s end.  Do be advised that the vendors do not accept crowns, so hold on to some cash when you load your card.

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I left Taste of Toronto swimming in amazing flavours. My only quibble would be that the vegetarian among us found a few things to try, but unfortunately he doesn’t eat seafood and actually found the veggie-only selections fairly restrictive.  That said, he did find an heirloom tomato gazpacho from The Harbord Room that blew my mind.

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My last bite of the day was an unreal scallop ceviche from Valdez, which incidentally was one of the dishes prepared in the Metro Master Class. It’s days later and I’m still dreaming about it, which means a future visit to Valdez must be in order. I think it’s safe to say that this festival has inspired me to go out to more restaurants, and keep tasting Toronto.

See our full mouthwatering gallery from Taste of Toronto 2014

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