photographs by Stephen Wilson
A hungry man loves festivals, particularly festivals that are all about the only topic that truly matters to the very survival of humanity. That's right, we are talking about food. And having just attended the Toronto Food and Wine Festival, at the very hip it's almost painful Evergreen Brickworks, there is really something to digest for just about every one. Of course, that's entirely dependant on whether the attendee has the time, and the stomach to sample everything there was to offer.
With over 150 food and wine vendors, it is truly amazing to see what happens when people put their heads together for the greater good of food creativity. Besides the vendors on hand, the festival featured some of the top brand name chefs, cooks, bakers in the industry, with a strong focus on Food Network personalities. I loved just casually seeing a known chef wander about and sample some unknown vendors food, or even better, gossiping on the couch while their publicists look on rather anxiously at them. Always a treat.
What I love the most about culinary festivals, is the interaction between you as the guest, and the food and wine vendors. Actually, it's not just wine, there are plenty of liquors and artisan beer to sample too. Let there be no doubt that the festival is designed as a place to not only appreciate some impressive talent that is out there, but it's also a place to truly eat and drink your face off. Seriously. That behaviour is actively encouraged by the many people who are looking at you as much as you're looking at them, and the treats they have on display. I really love that dynamic. It's like the vendors are trying to figure out who their customer is, as much as you're trying to decide whether you want to ingest yet another version of pulled pork (which you do, and end up being happily overwhelmed by the incredible, intensely smokey, real southern BBQ flavour! You know, after my trip to Memphis, I had a personal rule about not mentioning the word BBQ on this blog, until I had the chance to sample something as close to the incredible BBQ of Memphis as possible. I have. The blog rule is officially broken. Thank you Uncle Smoke BBQ, for bringing the intense, amazing flavour of real Southern barbecue to Toronto!).
Our love for all things food knows no bounds these days. We absolutely need food to survive, but we also need inventors to take an ingredient, maybe something we never even thought of as edible, and bring it to the forefront of our minds. We need festivals like this to help already established food and wine artisans to check in with what's happening on the streets - so to speak. We need festivals like this to provide access for up and coming food artists who not only love creating memorable food, but just need a forum to showcase and share their passions with an appreciative audience. Who doesn't enjoy watching complete strangers stop and talk to you about your cooking methods, while at the same time swallowing every tasty morsel you created. And then come back for more.
I think that for me, the ultimate question is just how many of these vendors move from a festival like Toronto Food and Wine, to achieve success? I mean that success could come in so many forms. From wanting and eventually becoming a household name, to just simply saying to someone that you enjoy making whatever is your passion, and it's right here if you want to taste it - oh, and by the way, here's my card to give you more information when you're ready for more. And speaking of being ready for more, I am so glad I got the name of Robinson's Cakery, because I definitely plan on visiting the shop for some more rum cake.
It is truly an art form when it comes to creating and producing original, tasty treats. Not to mention, taking on an already established, beloved food and attempting to turn it into something new to pass on to an unsuspecting, but very hungry, exuberant crowd. The joyous effect of these creations on the stomach and mind is what this festival is all about. A true, culinary learning experience.
Sunday is the last day of the festival. Torontonians, if you have the opportunity and the time, be sure to check it out . Why not support our local culinary artists, while enjoying great wine, food and conversation.
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