[GIVEAWAY] Toronto Festival of Beer’s Spring Sessions

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Toronto’s Festival of Beer (TFoB) announced its new Spring Sessions festival slated for March. Because who needs to wait until summer for an ice cold brew?

The Spring Sessions will take place at the Evergreen Brickworks on Friday March 28 and Saturday March 29. The entire area will be filled top to bottom with ales, lagers and ciders from some of Toronto’s top craft brewers: Left Field Brewery, Mill Street, Steam Whistle, Great Lakes and Brickworks Ciderhouse.

With entrance fee a measly $30 and providing you with 5 sampler tickets and a mug, it’s a weekend date that can’t be missed. To date, the Saturday session is sold out. But fear not, our fellow Fat Girl Food Squad readers! We have tickets… to give away… for free.

As mentioned, we are giving away 1-pair of tickets to the FRIDAY MARCH 28 date of Spring Session. So how do you enter?

1) Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Twitter or Facebook.

2) Tweet the following: Spring is here & I want beer! @FatGrlFoodSquad, please send me to the @TOBeerFestival Spring Session! #FGFSlovesSpringSession

3) This contest will run from Friday March 21, 2014 until Tuesday March 25, 2014. We will announce all the giveaway winners via our Twitter and Facebook, so check back there!

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[VIDEO]: Drunk Cooking with Simon & Ama – Episode 1

Introduction written by Simon Gilbert

“Some of my most liked things on Instagram are just us being stupid,” Ama confided in me one night.
“Well, yeah. We’re kind of hilarious,” I replied, half joking.
“Do you want to film us getting drunk and making food?”
“Um, obviously?”

And that was the inception of Drunk Cooking with Simon and Ama.

If you’ve ever hung out with Ama and me together, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Drunk Cooking with Simon and Ama. If you haven’t, you’re in for a night of bizarre segways, strange noises, and delicious foods.

Basically, on every episode we’re going to be cooking with booze and making some kind of cocktail. We don’t have many kitchen gadgets (we currently don’t know where the corkscrew is), so this is going to be stuff you can make yourself too!

Because this is the kind of stuff we do on a nightly basis, you can expect an episode on the reg. Ama’s day-job is going into crunch time at the moment, so the next episode won’t be until mid-March, but after that you can expect them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Finally, we want you guys to be involved with this. Is there something you want to see us make? Do you want the shopping list before hand so you can cook along with us? Do you want SEXY NAKED COOKING?! Let us know in the comments or on Facebook. It would also help us out if you like/favourite/subscribe, but we don’t want to be those people. So do what feels right!

(For the sake of full disclosure, Sobeys gave us a $25 gift certificate if we talked about their app. That being said, it was pretty easy to use, and that’s where we found the shandy recipe. Give it a shot if you’re a regular Sobeys shopper and don’t like using paper shopping lists. We’ll keep you posted if we get any sponsorships in the future.)

The Dock Ellis and Chef Trish Gill Strike a Homerun on Dundas West

 

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Originally posted to Ama’s weekly column on Toronto is Awesome.

Just when you thought Dundas West couldn’t get any better, a new sports bar has rolled into town with Chef Trish Gill at the helm. That place is The Dock Ellis. And if you’re thinking, is it? Yes, it is named after the baseball player who dropped LSD. So let’s get that out of the way right off the bat.

Located at 1280 Dundas Street W, just west of Dovercourt, The Dock Ellis serves up all the best in craft brews while Chef Trish Gill is giving you high-end pub grub that is clearly doesn’t have any pretentious vibes.

 

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Trish told me about the menu, “I didn’t want to go into it trying to reinvent the wheel. When it comes down to it, we are a sports bar. I immediately looked to what one would expect to find. I knew that if I was going to put nachos on the menu, they weren’t going to be your run of the mill.”

With that in mind, she introduced items such as Wonton Nachos ($10), which include chorizo made in-house, beans, green chilli cheese sauce, salsa, lime, crema and jalapeños. With just the right amount of heat and fresh flavour, this is perfect for kicking back with a pitcher of beer and not feeling too greasy. You’ve got a classic mixed up with some radical creativity.

 

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With that radical creativity in-mind and Gill telling me that the owner’s have given her the “framework to do some amazing work” within, we’re introduced to some next level pub snacks (each $5) such as the Bacon & Eggs (pickled eggs and crispy pig’s ears), Pig’s in a Blanket (morcilla sausage and fruit butter) or the classic Cheese Ball. All of the dishes here popped and Chef Trish tells me, “The owners are amazing in that they’ve given me sort of a framework to work within, but the creativity here is all mine. This means I can highlight some ingredients like blood sausage and beef tongue.” So far the response has been in the Dock Ellis’ favour.

 

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In additional to the fabulous food, there is a wealth of seating options and one of my favourite things of the evening: pool tables, shuffle board, foosball and an old-school video game set-up. What is it like there? Well Trish tells me, “It’s a fun place to hangout! Seriously, it has almost a house party vibe to it. I love the fact that we have a shuffleboard table, my grandparents always had one in their basement. Plus, the food that we serve is stuff that is fun to share, and what you might serve at home on game day, or at a tailgate.” It was so casual and fun, that I saddled up to the shuffle board table and took in a game. Reminded me of my childhood days.

 

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It is true. You can saddle yourself up there on a Sunday (the day that I originally went there with cohort Yuli) for their Tailgate Special, which is $18 per person and includes many offerings from the menu including Beef Short Ribs. But if that isn’t your thing, they have just also introduced a brunch menu, which offers up a Breakfast Burger and Eggs Benny that changes weekly.

The Dock Ellis is still in its infancy but if the food and atmosphere in the restaurant is any indication of things to come, I think it will be doing quite alright. Chef Trish tells me, “The menu will be ever-evolving. I am looking forward to changing it up every month. We have such a small menu that it really is important. I want to keep it small to ensure we are putting out great food.” Thankfully, the nachos are there to stay. New watering hole, here I come!

 

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The (not so secret) Society of Beer Drinking Ladies of Toronto

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I came across a fabulous group of ladies who were taking their love of craft beer and doing something about it. It was a craft beer support system by ladies and for ladies and the group was called The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL).

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With their first event coming up Friday January 31, 2014 – I decided to chat with The Society (including Jen Shute, Erica Campbell, Magenta Suzanne and Jamie) to give me all the “hops” on what people can expect and just exactly who they are and what their take is on the craft beer scene here in Toronto.

FGFS: Let’s start from the beginning, why was the Society created and how did it come to be?

SOBDL: We started because we are a bunch of beer explorers who want to create a community of women in the beer industry and those who love craft beer to connect, network, celebrate and enjoy craft beer and to cheers lady awesomeness. 


FGFS: What kind of potential do you see for craft beer in Toronto?



SOBDL: It has gotten so exciting in the past five years and there is so much to discover. The home brew network has grown so much with Brahaus events and Toronto Brewing opening up a store. We have a female master cicerone living in Toronto and some amazing female beer personalities writing for Toronto publications. 

The Toronto beer bars are exploding and every night of the week you can try something you have never heard of.

From Cask Days, Roundhouse, and Session there are so many sweet Toronto Events and Festivals to bring the craft beer community together. 


FGFS: How did you all get into craft beer?



Magenta: I got into craft beer because I am from the Maritimes and it is in my blood! I am passionate about all things local, sustainable and low impact manufacturing.



Jaime: Through my cupcake company (The Sassy Lamb), I started making beer cupcakes for events and that opened my eyes to all the craft beer out there. I started working at McAuslan Brewery doing tasting events and now I find myself promoting many local breweries at an array of festivals.



Erica: I really started exploring beers while living in Montreal for school. Coming back to Toronto I decided to leave the teaching industry and dove into the wonderful world of craft beer and haven’t looked back since.



Jennifer: It started for me when I realized how much I liked porters. That opened me up to trying different beers at the LCBO. Now I love to try anything new I can get my hands on, the stronger the better!



Renee: I got into craft beer by accident, a friend had come over with a beer that just didn’t taste like what the “big guys” were putting out on the market. After that one beer, I was hooked! Who knew that beer could be that amazing?!?!?!

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FGFS: How are you ladies looking to change the landscape of female craft beer drinkers?



SOBDL: We are looking to take away the stigma that drinking beer is masculine. Women have always played a key role in beer production. We want to explore the possibilities of beer, food and cocktails. We hope to provide a space for women who love beer who wouldn’t have the opportunity to get together otherwise. 



FGFS: What are some challenges people have with craft beers (getting into them, appreciating them, etc.)?



SOBDL: Price, selection and choice. People have to be open to spending a little more money on something interesting and different.

There is a large selection of craft beers to choose from and it can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t have the knowledge about types of beer to figure out which ones to choose from. 

We are hoping that with our group we can introduce ladies to a large selection of craft beer to help them figure out what they enjoy. 


FGFS: Tell us more about your first event and what it will entail!



SOBDL: Our inaugural event will be held on January 31. It is a causal evening to introduce our group to each other. 

In the future, we plan on teaching women about beer through guest brewers, home brewing sessions and plenty of other things. 


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FGFS: How important do you feel it is for women to have their own group to learn and become friends over a frosty glass of brew.



SOBDL: We think it will be great to give women a space to hang out and chat about beer, however with all of our events, men are welcome after midnight.

FGFS: What does the future hold for the Society? 



SOBDL: The events will take place the last Friday of every month from beer and food pairings, home brewing, new friends and a chance to interactive with people in the industry. We have a lot of great ideas so check into our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to find out what is happening next!

Get Hop and Heavy at Jack Astor’s Winter Fling

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Originally posted to Ama’s twice-weekly column on Toronto Is Awesome.

Let’s be honest: who doesn’t love Jack Astors? It was one of my go-to restaurants when I was growing up as a kid. As I’ve grown up, it seems like the cheeky and playful Jack’s has done a bit of that as well.

Just recently, Jack’s introduced their Winter Fling festival (taking place until January 19) which introduces delicious craft beers and three crush-worthy new dishes onto to the menu. This Winter Fling was introduced to get you out of your stay-at-home winter beer drinking mode and come out to experience some new suds.

So off I went to Jack’s to partake in some of these dishes and beers. First up, I decided to partake in a Granville Island Lions Winter Ale ($6.48), which tasted of delicious chocolate. It was like dessert in a glass without being too heavy or overpowering.

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We started off with the Cluckin’ Chicken Dippers ($9.82), which were not your average chicken bites. First things first, we were introduced to the three in-house sauces that came with them: strawberry bacon, Korean BBQ and pineapple ‘boss’. To make the experience even more interactive, we were asked to use different salt shakes of flavours with the sauces as well, which added even more to the taste. They consisted of maple bacon, thai chill and lemon chill. My favourite had to be the Korean BBQ mixed with the thai salt shake. But in a close second was the strawberry bacon with maple bacon on top. I know what you’re thinking: strawberry bacon. But trust me: it works on so many levels.

Next up we tested out the Muskoka Cream Ale ($5.66), which was smooth and had some caramel tones to it. Plus the best part: not too hoppy or overly creamy. It was a great second (craft) beer choice for the evening.

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Which lead to our inhaling of their two main dishes: Creamy Asiago Shrimp & Smoked Mozza Ravioli ($16.74) and Holiday Brie Chicken ($17.97) which is served with mash potatoes and sweet onion gravy. Both had a hearty winter feel to them, with classic comfort twists. The juicy plump shrimp in the Ravioli with the cheesy ravioli were to die for. Whereas the huge chicken breasts glazed in a honey Dijon sauce and topped with spicy pecans, toasted almonds, diced cranberries, apricots and creamy brie cheese were large, in-charge and serving up winter goodness. I am still craving that sweet onion gravy. I wouldn’t be able to choose a clear-cut favourite between the two because they equally left my tummy happy.

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If you’ve saved enough room for dessert, you can always top it off with a Cherry on Top Chocolate Trifle ($3.97) which is very much like Black Forest Cake and which would pair well with the Granville Island Lions Winter Ale.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is nice to see that while Jack Astor’s is still playful and cheeky – it has taken a lot of thought and consideration into their menu selections and beer offerings. Join the Winter Fling and go on and get hoppy!

[CONTEST] – Steamwhistle presents The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival

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Nothing says winter like being warmed up with a solid craft beer. Thanks to our pals at Steamwhistle and the success of the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival (in August), they have announced a sibling event happening on Saturday January 25, 2014 titled the Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival. Break outta those Polar Vortex blues and head on down to the Steam Whistle Brewery to try out some suds.

This outdoor event will feature beer from a number of Ontario’s top craft breweries including Flying Monkey Brewery, Left Field Brewery, Beau’s Brewing, Lake of Bays Brewing and Grand River Brewing – along with many more.

Advance mugs are on-sale for $20 and mugs will also be available at the door for $25. All drink tokens are available for sale on-site. But that’s not all: the first 500 people through the gate are set to receive a signature Winter Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest toque.

So if you feel like getting your craft brew on with some of the finest craft brewers in Ontario, then do we have a prize for you! Steamwhistle has provided us with a pair of tickets to the Winter Craft Beer Festival and it’s pretty easy for YOU to win.

The contest runs from Monday January 13 and closes on Sunday January 19 at 5PM EST.  Winners will be notified of their win 24 hours after contest close.

Contest Rules:
1. Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Facebook
2. Follow Steamwhistle Brewery on Twitter
3. Tweet the following: Warm me up @FatGrlFoodSquad with some craft brews at the RoundHouse Winter Craft Beer Festival. #GetCraftedwithFGFS

Parlour’s winter sharing bites get me off my couch and on to theirs

Written by Leigh Van Maaren

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Tucked in to the basement of one of the oldest rowhouses in the neighbourhood, Parlour at Adelaide and John has turned an old basement in to something great. The actual restaurant isn’t that much bigger than your basement 1-bedroom, but the super cozy furniture and ultra-low lighting give the room a warm feeling that your basement apartment never achieved. It’s impossible not to want to curl up with a stiff drink as soon as you’ve escaped the cold winter streets in to this downtown speakeasy-style bar.

We visited on a Tuesday night to preview the winter sharing menu – which, we were shocked to learn, is created entirely in a kitchen that doesn’t go far beyond that one you’d expect to find in your basement apartment. With no exhaust hood, that means no fryer and no high-temperature cooking, lest the chef fill the entire restaurant with the smell of whatever tasty bite is being prepared.

We settle in to a couple of cocktails – I try the Pink Parlour Martini ($15) and my partner opts for an Old Fashioned ($15). Our drinks arrive promptly and the service throughout the evening is fantastic – far beyond what a couple of mid-20’s OCADU students usually expect. I’m not a huge alcohol drinker, so I’m surprised by just how much I love my little pink drink. The glass arrives, mercifully, without the garish fruit garnish that usually adorns these kinds of drinks. The cocktail is much greater than the sum of its parts – white grape and lychee juice with vodka turn in to a refreshing, not-to-sweet concoction. The Old Fashioned is similarly well balanced; it’s boozy and a bit sweet, with a nice bold kick from the bourbon.

Our food starts to arrive quickly thereafter; we open with the Quinoa Canoes ($7), a chilled quinoa salad in a boat of endive. It’s got a great crunch and makes for a very satisfying vegetarian dish. The balance of flavours and texture reminds me of a spring roll in a lot of ways, but it’s free of the trip to the deep fryer that spring rolls need to make them delicious. This is a dish I liked so much I’ll probably try to replicate it at home, so I can also enjoy it in my pajamas.

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Out next comes out two trays – Beef Tartare ($14) on one, and Albondigas & Sofrito ($13) on the other. We dig in to the Albondigas & Sofrito first – henceforth known by its peasant name, meatballs & red sauce. The meatballs are lamb and beef, which has the benefit of actually having the meatball taste like meat. The lamb gives the beef the flavor that I always wish beef had; so much so that I may have to use this meat blend in my meatball recipe in the future. It’s served up with focaccia studded with beautifully caramelized onion, and we’re happy campers.

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The beef tartare is up next – you can see how a dish like this would work extremely well in their small kitchen, but it’s also excellent for sharing. One of the big priorities when developing the winter sharing menu was food that could be eaten in the variety of different seating setups throughout Parlour; and that means food you can eat while curled up on a period chesterfield or while perched from a bar stool. When it comes to the tartare, I’m an easy sell for uncooked beef, so I’m enthusiastic to dive in. I’m not at all disappointed; it doesn’t have that strong meaty flavor like the meatballs did, but it’s decadent without being too heavy. The truffle aioli and Dijon mustard act as fantastic accents as we scoop up the gems of beef on perfectly toasted bread.

Not long after finishing our tartare, our Kobassa & Mushroom flatbread ($14) arrives. It’s well executed, with little bits of kobassa and sliced cremini mushrooms throughout the perfectly melted fior de latte. The kobassa really steals the show, though – it’s amazingly smoky, and leaves us asking where we can procure such a glorious meat product. It’s sourced from one of the owner’s favourite Croatian delis in Mississauga, we’re told – it’s good enough that we’d be tempted to make the trek there ourselves.

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Finally, our dinner comes to an end with a cheese board for dessert. The board doesn’t offer up anything we haven’t seen before; Oka, Manchego, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. While there are no super soft cheeses, which might be a problem for some, the selection makes it a nice after-dinner snack to work through. The cheese is paired with a delicious marmalade and a house-made truffle honey. We try every conceivable combination, but the consensus is that truffle honey can go on pretty much anything.

The service throughout the evening is exceptional; we felt welcome and well attended to throughout our stay. When I find myself working at an advertising agency instead of slaving away over my thesis and want to unwind in a comfortable place with a drink and some bites, I’ll consider heading over to Parlour rather than heading home with my usual ‘sharing’ snack – a bag of cool ranch Doritos.

Go Local, Go Home: Ottawa and Kichesippi Beer Company

Photo by Luap Redni

Kelly and Stephanie learning about how and when hops are added.

A long long time ago (not really), the Ottawa crew attended their first event as Fat Girl Food Squad. It was a grand opening for a knife store, and along with music and knives and coffee, we were introduced to the Kichesippi Beer Company.

They were slinging their newest product, a soda line called Harvey and Vern’s, and making dark and stormy’s (a new obsession for us). We met with Sheena and Grayson, and chatted soda and beer and had a great time.

Then, suddenly, it was like we couldn’t stop noticing Kichesippi beer. It was everywhere! It was in our favourite restaurants! It was at festivals we attended! It was sold at the LCBO! What was this company?

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M.C., Stephanie and Kelly getting a Kichesippi Beer education.

A little more research led us to find out a whole lot more, and one more kickass thing Ottawa can call its own; Kichesippi Beer Company.

Started about three years ago, Kichesippi is a mom-and-pop organization that now employs about fifteen staff. They started in Ottawa, and have been brewing here ever since; the product is available only in Ottawa and the surrounding area making it a truly local beer. Year round they serve up a natural blonde, and 1855 (the year Bytowne became Ottawa). They also serve up seasonal beers, and do one-offs throughout the year for special occasions and vendors.

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Roasted malts. They were a tasty snack, actually.

Awesomely enough, the brewery does tours on Saturday, so we took a drive just outside of downtown to go try some beer and learn something new. We were greeted by two enthusiastic, plaid wearing, grinning dudes who immediately offered us beer (and soda for our designated driver). Can all tours start like that?

Our tour was in-depth and amazing. We talked a lot about the science of brewing, went through the entire brew process from malt to bottling, and really enjoyed hashing out the minute details of the process. Our guide Chris was clearly enthusiastic not only about the product, but about the people and company. He’s their sustainability guy, too; so we got to hear about initiatives the company is working on to greenify themselves and keep their waste lower. Between looking into vats and fermentation tanks, we talked malt, hops, IBU, water waste, filtration, and liquor laws.

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This is where the malts are soaked.

And we drank a good amount of beer. Confession: I’m not a huge beer drinker, but I’m a big fan of both of Kichesippi’s year-round brews. Both of them are easy to drink, refreshing and appeal to even non-beer drinkers, I think. I’ve also really enjoyed the beers I’ve had seasonally and at festivals or for vendors. The Manx Pub serves a stock ale made by Kichesippi. I’ve tried Kichesippi’s porter at Atomic Rooster and they made a one-off beer for Arboretum Festival this summer that was easily one of the smoothest beers I’ve had.

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Ottawa Squad members Stephanie, Kelly and M.C. show some Ottawa pride with a photo under the Kichesippi logo

No beer is actually being brewed on Saturdays (other than some full fermentation tanks) but the retail store out front was hosting a good amount of traffic (along with merch, you can buy the Harvey and Vern’s soda and the Kichesippi beers in bottles, growlers and kegs). After a growler (who knew that was a thing!) of 1855 and a weekend spent curled up in my Kichesippi hoodie? I’m a convert, for sure. Bring on the beer.

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M.C. rocking her Kichesippi hoodie.

Cheers: The Gourmet Food and Wine Show Wraps Up For Another Year

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Originally posted to Ama’s twice-weekly column on Toronto is Awesome.

On the weekend of November 15, Toronto wine and food nerds converged on the Metro Toronto Convention for the annual Gourmet Food and Wine Show. For three days, visitors were able to sample all sorts of wines and sprits from around Canada and the world.

Upon entry, we were greeted with 15,000 wines and spirits to choose from and didn’t know where to start. So we started where any respectable person would: with Beam’s Whisky Chef Matt Jones who wet our whistles with the Dark Horse Old Fashioned. How can you go wrong with that?

Next up, we made our way over to the BartenderOne station, home to many of the mixologists and flare bartenders at College Street Bar. BartenderOne’s master mixologist Gavin MacMillan talked to me a bit about their new fall/winter line-up of classes (I had previously taken their Vodka MasterClass) and passed me one of their drinks, not before being treated to a bit of a show.

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After much zigging and zagging down the aisles and taking in everything from Sake to Beer, we stopped off at Cupcake Vineyards for a nice glass of chardonnay. What I can report back is that, yes: the wine does have some cupcake flavours to it like citrus and vanilla. Plus, the price point of the bottle: $15.45 in all LCBOs.

After the consumption of many drinks, we decided it was time for food and Fancy Franks was calling our name. Their delicious gourmet dogs are fast and filling. But across from them was the Buick Tasting Taste, which gave those in attendance a chance to gather at a communal table and eat smoked oysters and guacamole with pomegranate and chips. The Buick Tasting Table was a nice touch for the event. Plus, we grabbed one of the holiday inspired macaroons from Le Dolici (Candy Cane) which was simply irresistible.

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Next up, it was time to head over to Bite Bar who were serving up Martinis with a Cupcake garnish. The drink wasn’t the best that I had the entire show, but the thought process behind the drink was incredibly genius! Nobody offered up a food/drink combo, so this was brilliant marketing on their end.

We were treated to some delicious suds from Niagara Oast House Brewers, whose Barn Raiser, which was a perfect country ale. This craft beer company definitely has a delicious product on their hands and I’ve been seeing them out more and more throughout the months. Good job, boys! We also treated ourselves to a Samuel Adams Winter Lager, which had wicked citrus notes and delicious taste.

All in all, the Gourmet Food & Wine Show has everything you could want (and more) under one roof. Don’t miss it next year!

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Gourmet Food & Wine Show is Coming

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Next Thursday (November 14, 2013), the 2013 Gourmet Food and Wine Show kicks off for another year for an entire weekend of all things food and wine. Taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, you’ll encounter everything here from wine seminars, cheese tastings and people walking around in bacon costumes. True story.

But the Gourmet Food and Wine Show is more than just a expo of all thing gourmet: it’s more of a mingling party. Down aisle one you’ll find Caesar Clint from Mott’s but if you’re feeing a bit pretentious you might find the boys from BarOne putting on a mixology show and mixing you up a Cosmopolitan. No matter what you’re looking for: this show has your bases covered and let’s your inner food & drink geek come out.

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Be warned: there are crowds at this event, but the wait times are surprisingly short. You can either make a game plan ahead of time or just play it by ear. Either way, wait times are never more than a couple minutes for sampling tickets.

Most importantly: have fun with it and experiment. Last year at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show, I took a Chilean Organic wine tasting class and also tried a Molson Canadian cocktail, which was surprisingly tasty. Don’t stick to the old favourites. Push your boundaries, make new friends and have fun. There are over 1,500 wine, beers and spirits to choose from – so go nuts.

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Tickets often sell out and are limited to those 19 years of age or over. Pricing ranges from $40 (VIP) to $25 (Weekend). Check the website for more details.

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