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Food and Wine Show: Is it worthwhile?

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Have any Chowhounders been to this show? It's running Nov. 17-20 downtown at the convention centre, and I'm wondering whether I should check it out.

It looks like tickets are $15 per person, and 'sampling tickets' are 50 cents.

For anyone who has been to this: how do the sampling tickets work? Would you return?

Thanks in advance.

Link: http://www.foodandwineshow.ca/

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  1. I went there last year, and it was alright... I was there mostly to sample wines, although the food itself wasn't particularly fascinating (with exceptions).

    1. It was nice to see all the different wines, but I found the event is quite expensive for what you get.
      I can't remember receiving anything free with the admission price, apart from the tasting glass you receive when you walk through the door. Considering how many people attend, it seems like the organizers bring in a lot of money.

      Most glasses of wine cost somewhere between 5 and 10 sampling tickets. This is for usually for a 2 oz sample, however, some wine reps were considerably more generous. It is amazing to see the variety of wines, and it's a good chance to try new wines without buying a whole bottle, but the tasting adds up.
      Most of the "gourmet" food is disappointing. Most of the plates cost at least 8 tickets, and some of the restaurants are stingy.The serving size is about 1/2 the size of an appetizer or small plate, usually served on a bread plate sized paper plate. I hadn't had time to eat before I went,and I tend to be more of a foodie than a winelover,and I was disappointed by the quality of the food. I don't understand why restaurants don't see this event as a chance to promote themselves by being fair,or even generous, to the potential client, rather than trying to make a quick buck.
      The best food I found at the show was the cheese plate from the Cheese Boutique...nice selection of 4 or 5 unusual cheeses with a fig. This is the one establishment at the Show that really left a good impression on me.
      The risotto with smoked chicken (if I remember correctly)Reds served was pretty good. Also, Sintra had nice Portuguese cod cakes and shrimp empanadas. Some brie or camembert fritters with Cumberland sauce were tasty, but I can't remember which restaurant served them. And the chocolate fondue at one stand was a big hit with my friends.
      The worst food I had was the small plate of mushy paella from Babaluu including approximately 1/3 cup of rice,1 ring of calamari and an overcooked shrimp.

      1. No. It was great 10-12 years ago when it was marketing tool and they didn't expect to make money. Like all such shows and exhibitions over the last decade, it has turned primarily into a money making proposition and has mostly junk.

        1. d

          A resounding NO.

          I've attended for the past 2 years, and have always found it difficult to justify paying $15 to taste mediocre overpriced food.

          Mind you, the wine selection is amazing, but I'm already satisfied with the wine tower at the Summerhill LCBO.

          Can somebody from the organizing committee/company tell us what the heck we're paying $15 for?? I don't mind paying money if I get some perceived value back, unfortunately a few cooking demos here and there doesn't do it for me.

          I would strongly recommend against anyone from attending the event.

          2 Replies
          1. re: doctorandchef

            this all sounds incredibly depressing since i do have tickets to go..... oh well! hopefully it'll be better....

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Sorry princessstripe,

              You will still have a good time as the crowds are big and there's lots of opportunities to taste new wines. Some of the cooking demos are good.

              Have fun, bring lotsa money!

          2. Thanks for all the replies. I think I'll pass on this one, and spend my Saturday on my bike before the snow hits.

            If anyone does go, and makes some discoveries, do tell.

            1. I strongly recommend AGAINST going to this pure ripoff. For your $15 you get to walk in and you get a tasting glass. That's it. No free samples anywhere, either of food or wine. And here's the bait and switch: they advertise "50 cent sampling tickets" but the samples cost 10 tickets or more, each. Maybe they should be selling $5 sampling tickets, but that would scare more people away.

              Apparently, in past years some of the restaurant booths wanted to give out free samples of hors d'oeuvres (in Ontario, free liquor samples are illegal) but the show's managers require them to charge for every sample (obviously since they get a cut). Some of the more upset restaurant exhibitors decided to defy this order and gave out free food and then vowed never to return. Kudos to them.

              This show is a ripoff and everybody should stay away until they clean up their act or go out of business. I used to recommend the Toronto Wine and Cheese Show (in late March) as a more reasonable alternative when they had free food samples and more acceptable wine sampling prices, but they seem to be mirrorring the Food and Wine Expo scheme so I can't recommend them anymore. Maybe they're run by the same people now?

              8 Replies
              1. re: TexSquared

                No I agree totaly with TexSquared.
                I made the mistake last year.

                1. re: TexSquared

                  *in Ontario, free liquor samples are illegal*

                  Is the LCBO exempt from that that rule? There's been many a time I've gone shopping in one where they've had booths setup and I got a free shot of whatever they were peddling.

                  1. re: sierramum

                    Interesting! I always thought the LCBO or any other vendor had to charge at least 25 cents a tasting to be legal.

                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      I've had many a free wine at the LCBO's various locations.

                      1. re: xtal

                        I hear good things about the selection at the Summerhill location - are the tastings there free or what are the prices? Is there a best time to go?

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          The tastings I've had at Summerhill were free, but I haven't been there in some time. The store itself is great, but I despise the crowds there. For that reason, head up just before closing on an 'off-night' (Sunday through Wednesday).

                          Here's a good place to start:

                          Occasionally, you'll find wineries visiting the LCBO and setting up a little tasting stand. My local store is Yonge & Wellesley, and has them from time to time on Saturdays.

                        2. re: xtal

                          As far as I know, the rules used to prohibit giving away free liquor (the standard way around the loophole was the 25 cent donation to some charity) but recently I've also noticed sampling in LCBOs with absolutely no strings attached.

                          1. re: egon61

                            I went to the show Saturday, for the third or fourth year in a row. And my last time.

                            What did the trick for me was seeing that Tribal (a sub-ten-dollar wine) was two tickets. I jokingly (half, anyhow) asked the staffer there how they had the nerve to give "tastings" of a ten dollar wine at the equivalent of fifty bucks a bottle. She had the courtesy to look chagrined and mutter that she didn't know how they chose the price, etc. etc. There are any number of modest wines there that I might have tried at a reasonable sample price (like one ticket) and might have bought - I can always use a few nice, well-priced "easy drinkers" in my cellar - but I skipped because the markup equivalent was egregious.

                            The food markups were slightly better in some cases. Rodney's still did 3 oysters for 5 dollars. Hot Mama's peppered pineapple jelly was delicious. The triple-creme part chevre brie was fabulous. And the new operation that'll deliver on-the-ocean-floor-yesterday, at-your-door-today lobsters will likely be getting a call soon.

                            And I saw some restaurants I may end up trying. But for the $55 all told it cost me, I feel mighty ripped off.

                            Oh, and to follow up the "free samples prohibited" discussion, I did get one free sample advertised as such - the staffer was offering them that way. Inexpensive German riesling, tasty for the price.

                  2. f
                    Frances in Toronto

                    This convention feels like I am paying $15 admission fee to be advertised at. They should be paying me to walk in there and look at all the ads as I'm already paying for each of the foods/wines I'm sampling.

                    Definitely a NO!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Frances in Toronto

                      You hit on the head! I agree that it is to be an advertising experience. But people tend to be taken in, witness all the clothing worn by people advertising for FREE, instead of regarding it as in home wear when received for FREE! You pay exceedingly and no matter whatever great or awful product, the promotors treat you like a neophyte, unknowing as if you just have discovered the Midas Touch!!

                    2. Wow, good thing I read this thread before heading out to the expo this coming weekend. Here are this year's exhibitors:

                      1. Unfortunately, the food shows (trade-only shows included) in this city showcase heavily processed foods and the trendy items that are "hot" in the given year. One year, about 75% of the exhibitors were producers or distributors of salsas, relishes, and the like. Pure gastronomic boredom!

                        1. When I lived in Ottawa, the food show I enjoyed most was Bon Appetit at Lansdowne Park. It is a one-evening event, with all food and wine included, but done as a charity benefit. I think the tickets were about $75 with a charitable receipt for part of the cost. Not only was it for a good cause, but much better value than the other shows. The wineries, restaurants, and chefs involved are there to support the community and get some promotion, not to make money. I don't know if there is anything comparable in Toronto, but it's a great format.

                          From the looks of the website for the upcoming Toronto show, I have my doubts about it. They indicate that the Niagara region is being featured this year, but there are only a couple of notable Niagara business names in the exhibitors' list, and none of our significant restaurants are there. If you go, do try the Niagara's Best Blonde ale though!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Gourmando

                            Eat to the Beat fits the charity with high profile chefs description!

                            1. re: Food Tourist

                              There's also the Toronto Taste event that follows that model. I've always wanted to go, but never quite been convinced it was worth the high (circa $175) ticket price.

                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                Eat to the Beat is great... it's a tonne of fun and you get fed until you drop. This past year Lynn from Four Seasons pulled out some truffle spaghettini and I even got a couple of whole shavings topped off onto mine.

                                I've been to the Food & Wine event only once before and found the cost to be rather exorbitant. they did south africa last year and after visiting the country myself.... what a poor poor showing. the wines were absolute swill and all from very young producers who felt the need to label their bottles with animal prints.

                                the best thing i had there was a $7 kobe beef burger the size of my teeny palm. oh and knowing one of the lcbo people pouring a great amarone and letting me get away with only giving him 2 tickets instead of the requisite 5 or so.

                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                  note: Truffle spaghettini has been the signature dish for Truffles for the past 15 yrs. Anyway.. Went to the food and wine show but didn't have time to stay long. From what I experienced, it was just ok. If you are looking for something amazing,(usually around the end of October) you must try the free flowing port and douro tasting at the Le Meridien King Edward Hotel. There was plenty to taste--Warre's, Taylor Fladgate (tawny 40yr was my favourite),Graham's,Quinta do Estanho,Quinta de Ventozelo,Quinto do Infantado,Quinta de Ventozelo,Ramos Pinto, just to name a few. Some even had some private imports. The hotel provided an amazing cheese table. All for the low low price of $25. Amazing!! It's a good thing I live downtown so we were able to walk (or slightly wobble) home!!

                            2. I go every year. I love it. The food is not spectacular, but I don't set high expectations. It's the type of event where you can go with a few friends and have a wonderful time...
                              I've also learnt a few things about wines that I didn't know prior to each visit.

                              1. Good to know...you can get a $3.00 off coupon in the Food & Drink Magazine at the LCBO right now!

                                I really liked it even though it was mostly a drink fest. There really wasn't a lot of great food but tons and tons of booze. I would have to recommend it as I am going again this year with anticipation.

                                1. I work for a local wine agency and we go every year. I'll be pouring wine this year on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. It does tend to become a drinkfest but only on Friday and Saturday nights. That tries my patience a bit, especially with people asking for larger pours. It's a sample, people! And from my experience, wine samples start at 3 or 4 tickets (about $2.00) and range upwards depending on the retail price of the wine, with most being 4-6 tickets. That prevents most people from drinking their asses off.

                                  Just for comparison, at most proper wine tastings, people will spit most samples into the provided spittoons. I can't remember if this show provides the spittoons, but even if they do, I expect 95% of the crowd to swallow every drop ("I'm paying for it, I'm drinking it!"). So, even though I have to stay until the bitter end, if you don't want to be surrounded by drunk people, come early. The pourers are also in a much better mood, earlier in the day, understandably!


                                  1. I understand that this year's show is under totally different management. That said, it could be better....or worse!

                                    1. The Royal York is havings special Wine & Cheese pairing package which includes admission and tix to this show


                                      1. You're probably going to go anyways...so why not just go, and let us know what you thought!

                                        1. Went yesterday to the VIP event, mostly to schmooze with friends etc.
                                          - The german wines were surprisingly good, (esp. Kostel)
                                          - enjoyed the french Georgesdubeouf Beaujolais (sp?)
                                          - Pisse Dur was probably the worst wine in the building
                                          - The kobe burger at Edo was overhyped, and too busy with flavours
                                          - The mini pork burgers at Far niente were juicy, but too much of a tease
                                          - hands down the best appetizer in the building seemed to be the spicy jelly/cream cheese concoction (The name slips me now, to early in the morning)
                                          - The apple beer at Brock was very refreshing albeit it tasted like apple juice mixed with champagne
                                          - Fireball shooters totally ruined my palate

                                          The event was much busier than last year's VIP event...I preferred last year's as it actally was casual and quiet. Last night I felt like I attended the show on the weekend.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: HarryLloyd

                                            Also, The show is actually from Nov. 23rd to Nov. 26 and drink tickets are a loonie each.


                                            1. re: Suresh

                                              Hot Mama's gave out free tiny pastry cups of hot pepper sauce (cranberry, pineapple or another flavour) with cream cheese - this might be the booth you're thinking of, Suresh.

                                            2. was at the vip event last night too, all in thanks to some tickets au gratis from www.spotlighttoronto.com, and found it entertaining.

                                              i didn't like how the prices of the sample tickets have risen to $1 each, it made some of the tastings pricer than i would have liked. there was a bottle of opus one at the vintages table going for 15 tickets, i seriously considered it.

                                              i noticed that wineries were heavily pouring chardonnays and cab sauvs more than anything else. i was quite happy with the chardonnays overall, they weren't over oaked and most of them had notes of butterscotch in the nose with a lovely butter finish and fruit balance. enjoyed the wente and toasted head via rh phillips the most.

                                              wolf blass had their own chard and cab reserves available... in plastic bottles with screw caps no less. still pretty good but i'm curious to see how this does long term, easy drinking right now although i'd give the cab a bit of air.

                                              at the specialty beer booth they had absinthe beer and an xo cognac beer. we tried the xo cognac and it was quite nice, all rasperries in aroma and a sweet fruity beer flavour, comparative to other berry based fruit beers around.... and really, better.

                                              i only really sampled a significant portion of food from coca - czehoski's other culinary adventure. it was ok... cracker with grated cheese, chorizo, and sundried tomato on top. there were also a few other items in dishes to take as free for all.

                                              all the wines and beers are available at the lcbo, i tried a few more but you get the hint ;


                                              biggest complaint.... some of the rudest service ever! the woman behind taittinger practically refused to look in my direction when i was trying to pay for a tasting and get a little info. most of the exhibitors had to be coaxed to get some information from them or seemed dumbfounded when asked a question. there were many great people too, but the overall disinterest was frustrating. they also only had 2 glass rinsing stations on either side of the seating area, beware.

                                              all in all there were tasty items available, but i could have done without some of the attitude.

                                              some photos of beverages and cocas dish are available here:

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                The man at Taittinger was nice enough to accept 3 tickets for the normal 8 ticket tasting at closing time. I suspect many vendors gave away free drinks or food with enough coaxing.

                                                Coca's free olive empanada was decent, and their assorted seasoned olives were quite tasty.

                                                Thoroughly enjoyed Anthony Sedlak's (Food Network Superstar Chef challenge II winner) demo of beef tartare at 8:30 pm Friday night. He is informative and genuinely charming and the dish was tasty.

                                                Enjoyed free chocolates from the chocolatier on Netherby Road in Stevensville (at the Niagara booth) with 10 year old Taylor Fladgate tawny, my favourite drink of the night (which just goes to prove a whole whack of stuff about this event). Liqueurs such as Starbucks and Voyant Chai failed to impress. At least we got free soup on the way out.

                                                Wouln't go back, but it was a somewhat entertaining though very expensive way to spend time with some wine-loving friends and loads of drunk people! By the way, 2 for 1 admission was available with the code TOLIFE on the ticketmaster website, but through a friend's error, I got stuck with the $15 admission fee.

                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                  I have been to Opus One in Napa, and, after paying a huge amount for a tasting there, I can say with confidence that you would have been underwhelmed. In fact, I wasn't impressed with any of the big name wineries in Sonoma or Napa and couldn't figure out how they justified the $30 US (average) price tag on most Cali wines. I think most of their profits go into building stunning tourist centres at the vineyards!