It’s a weekend of food fests in Toronto! With fests like Luminato’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto, Taste of Little Italy, Strawberry Fest at St. Lawrence Market, and Albion-Islington’s South Asian food fest, there was (and still is) plenty to check out in the city this weekend. Even though I knew it was going to be a sunny hot one today, there was no way I was going to miss out on a whole weekend of food stuffs. I was so sad last year when I missed out on Luminato’s Wish Come True festival and 1000 Tastes of Toronto, so I made sure my schedule was clear and the weather was going to be nice this time around and thankfully, everything worked out and I headed down to John St. for the $5 foodie smorgasbord!
In a nutshell, 1000 Tastes of Toronto is the food and culinary component of Luminato, Toronto’s festival dedicated to art and creativity in all its beautiful forms. Taking place on John St. from Adelaide down to Wellington, numerous eateries, restaurants, and chefs give new meaning to “street food” by offering gourmet eats and global cuisine (Indian and Thai come to mind) for $5 a pop. With live demonstrations and food and drink samples, it’s definitely worth checking out. Vendors include Delight (vegan and organic chocolates and ice cream), Dufflet (desserts and pastries), Leslieville’s Queen Margherita Pizza, Poutini’s House of Poutine, Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill, Middle Eastern eats from 93 Harbord, Chippy’s Fish and Chips, and Susur Lee’s cheeseburger spring rolls among many others.
I had a good time and I would go again, but I did have one gripe about the festival worth mentioning and it has to do with the execution of exchange. This is the first food fest I’ve been to where vendors do not except cash in exchange for food. 1000 Tastes of Toronto operates using food tickets which need to be purchased at designated ticket selling booths that you can access near the road entrances and exits to the fest. The booths themselves are not difficult to find, that is not what I have an issue with. My issue with this set-up is how it creates a bit of an inconvenience to the visitors and patrons at the festival. All food items are $5, which translates to $5 per ticket. It sounds simple. Here’s the thing though: you cannot purchase food at any of the vendors unless you have a food ticket and tickets are non-refundable.
Do you get where I’m going with this? When you enter a food fest (take Taste of the Danforth, for example), you normally take one of two approaches: 1) you walk up and down the street purusing the eats, contemplating which ones you’ll go back to and which ones you may be potentially interested in, or 2) you eat as you walk along, jumping on whatever strikes your fancy. With this food ticket arrangement though, you can’t just “eat and pay as you go along” because you need the food tickets in order to purchase. However, because the tickets are non-refundable, you can’t OVER purhcase them because you don’t know how much you’re going to eat or if there’s even anything you might be interested in.
On the flip side, if you don’t purchase enough food tickets, you have to go back to the ticket booth to buy more and either lose your place in line (and we all know and expect line-ups at events like these) or go to purchase another ticket only to find that the lineup has gotten longer while you were away! I know this arrangement makes it easy for the vendors themselves to calculate their revenue for the day (simply count the tickets and multiply by five), but from the perspective of a visitor and customer, it was less than ideal.
Despite all of this though, I really enjoyed looking at all the great food that was being offered (gourmet lobster sliders! Plates of freshly shucked oysters! Cheeseburger spring rolls?!) and my brother and I came away from the fest with some VERY awesome, fresh, hot out of the oven (literally!) margherita pizza from Queen Margherita Pizza. Even with the wait, it was really fun watching the guys make fresh pizza with oodles of tomato sauce and delicious buffalo mozzerella cheese and fresh basil. For $5, we got ourselves half a 12″ pizza EACH! SO worth it and very delicious. That would be my recommendation for all of you. Not everything in my opinion was worth my $5 food ticket, so I chose my food wisely and picked out the best bang for my buck. I would highly recommend the pizza (I really didn’t mind the wait at all) as well as the plate of fresh shucked oysters, half a dozen of them.
Aside from my yummy pizza and the fun I had watching the pizza being made, the other highlight of my time here was meeting and chatting with Jamie Gutfreund from CP24! Photographic evidence below 😉 I hope everyone’s weekend has been awesome so far and if you can, get out and enjoy the weather and some of the fun festivals going on around the city! I’m always updating the food calendar and there’s plenty more to check out for the month of June. I’ll be updating soon with events for July so look out for those in the near future!
1000 Tastes of Toronto is on for the weekend, and will be running from 12pm-6pm on Sunday tomorrow. The festival is located on John St. from Adelaide to Wellington. For more info, click here!