Conscious food festival - 2011 (August 13 and August 14) - Fork York, Toronto
This festival is happening again at Fort York:
Here is the thread from last year:
I am debating whether or not to go this year. There is a deal on Groupon today (2 for 1 admission) which would mean tickets would be around $7.50 a person.
I am thinking that organizers would have hopefully picked up on the issues the first time around and fixed them. Not a huge list of vendors but still could be interesting.
If anyone goes on the Saturday please post up review of tasty dishes for people going on the Sunday.
We attended the Festival yesterday but before I share my report, let me share some news. . .
Admission to the Conscious Food Festival is FREE today – Sunday August 14th. There’s an announcement on their website and Facebook page.
So, even though we paid for our admission yesterday, I’m not bitter because we thought this year’s show was much better than the 2010 event and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
There were more vendors at this year’s event so a greater variety of food and beverage options to choose from. Tickets must be purchased for food & beverages. Tickets were $1 each and items ranged in price from 1 ticket to 5 tickets. Most items were good value for your money. More tables and chairs were provided for dining this year (more about that later) and, were set up in tented areas there also seemed to be more washrooms and, garbage/recycling/composting areas set up this year. The venue is lovely, beautifully maintained grounds in a breezy open area of an historic setting. Most vendors were passionate about their product, exceptionally friendly and happy to talk about their food, beverages or concepts. We attended early in the day so crowds were at a minimum and there were few instances where we had to join a line up for anything. Live and recorded music was ongoing and, audible from most everywhere at the event. It added to the festive atmosphere and was an improvement over last year where music was sporadic and not always audible.
There is a lovely farm stand set up just inside the gates so folks can purchase fresh produce as they leave.
Reif Winery/Stoute Catering: Chef Darren Stoute had prepared 2 great food options that were perfectly matched to Reif’s two featured wines. Stoute’s sausage with peach salsa was our favourite dish of the festival. The portion size was generous, the sausage was fresh tasting, juicy and flavourful w small pieces of (roasted?) peppers mixed into the meat. The peach salsa had a subtle ginger flavour which was a perfect compliment to the flavours of the sausage. It also had onions and peppers mixed in w a sweet sauce that included a reduction of Reif’s featured red wine, a Merlot/CabSauv blend (sadly I can’t say I figured this out by myself, I asked!!). The red wine was served slightly chilled and was very nice on its own on a hot day but it really shone when enjoyed along w the sausage dish. These guys were super friendly and ready to serve folks when the event opened. Top marks all round!
Chocosol: We passed this by last year thinking it was a chocolate vendor. Thankfully we didn’t make the same mistake this year as the pedal-powered, stone ground corn tortillas topped w black beans, tomatillo salsa and micro-greens were another favourite at this year’s Festival. A right-off-the-grill, perfect little bite of fresh, flavour-packed heaven. Hospitality and an authentic passion for their craft came through loud and clear at this booth.
Hey Meatball: A huge, tender and juicy meatball smothered w a San Marzano tomato sauce and served on a fresh bun . . . just fabulous. We washed this down w a glass of red wine from:
Southbrook Winery: We love visiting these guys in NOTL, such a lovely winery w a terrific pizza patio in the warmer months. Yesterday they brought 2 wines to the show and we thoroughly enjoyed their red, an organic blend that I believe they said would be available at the LCBO this coming week. This wine had great depth of flavour w a lingering, leathery finish.
Marben (@ The Stop booth): The Stop is a terrific community food centre and yesterday Marben was manning their booth and serving up some of their own tasty dishes. Sadly, I was full at this point but mr bc indulged in a hefty portion of their potato salad which he proclaimed to be delicious! Sorry no details on ingredients or flavours, mr bc is a man of few words, he just knows what he likes and he declared this a winner!
Sidecar: A super-friendly vendor/executive chef w a passion for his restaurant and ingredients. On the menu was a Ontario lamb served over a fava bean mash topped w walnuts and shaved Pecorino. Mr bc loved his whereas I found mine to be a little on the rich and dry side. I thought it would have benefited from an acid or, something sweet to balance the flavours.
Spencers: Last year this Burlington eatery wowed us w their fingerling potato poutine with cheese curds, bacon jam and onion thyme gravy so imagine our excitement when we saw they were serving up poutine again this year. Yesterday’s version was a vegetarian option that also featured fingerlings but this time they were topped w a grape tomato jam, caramelized onions and maybe leeks and a creamy white cheese. The dish was finished w a sprinkling of green onions. Great well-balanced flavours and very tasty. I still prefer last year’s version though. These guys also were serving a good size portion of salad that looked terrific and seemed to be getting great reviews from the folks around us who were enjoying it. I’ve posted a couple of pretty terrible cell phone photos of each dish, w apologies for the poor quality below!
Spearhead Beer: We both tried the Spearhead beer and unlike chocabot, we really liked it. We didn't find the beer to be bitter at all and loved the subtle pineapple finish. This isn't a fruit beer though. I can imagine this would be excellent w bbq'd ribs or pork or, even a curry. Sadly it's not available in the LCBO or beer store yet but it is being carried in restaurants and the super-friendly, passionate owners are happy to let you know where you can find it at the moment. We went back for seconds and, mr bc actually saved his last ticket for a final sample of this beer.
Simple Fish and Chips: I believe these were the guys serving up the fish tacos. While I agree that the overall dish was tasty, I did think that the texture of the fish was a bit off-putting. Our fish was “mashed” . . . almost “mushed” really and definitely not flaked. Perhaps ours was the bottom of the batch but the taco was plated w the fish on top so the fish mash also detracted from the visual appeal. The fish was served on a flour tortilla that was topped w a cabbage slaw before the fish was added. The dish was finished w some guacamole and sour cream. Tasty but the texture was a bit off for us.
A Trio of Bruschetta – sorry, I don’t recall the name of the place where this dish was served. It’s nearby to Spencer’s though. This was a miss for us. First of all they didn’t have any plates or utensils. Just cocktail napkins on which to balance your 3 toasts. Luckily I still had some larger serviettes from somewhere else. While the toppings on this trio were pretty tasty, the toasts were soggy and falling apart. I’ve posted a horrible cell phone photo below w apologies for the poor quality! The one w the lemongrass flavoured slaw on top had the best flavour and perhaps I’d have enjoyed it more if I’d had a fork to eat the topping on its own but w the soggy toast, I just couldn’t be bothered finishing it.
Tomato Tart: I see chocabot’s post above says this was served by The Grid. I couldn’t remember where we got it but we thought it was poor value for the # of tickets (3 I think), the pastry was underdone and, the vendor was distracted and, disinterested in his customers when we stopped by.
Pizzeria Libretto/Enoteca Sociale: These folks weren’t even unpacked, let alone ready to serve when the event opened. They did have a bowl out w some basil in it. We were told they planned to serve a mixed herb salad at the event. Really? . . . yawn! We didn’t bother going back.
All The Best Fine Foods: Love the store, love Jane’s cookbook, not so happy w what we saw of these guys yesterday. While we waited patiently in the shade for the gates to open, ATBFF were one of the vendors just backing their truck up to unload. Thanks for the fumes guys! When we did make it to their booth the only thing they had on offer for coupons was a cheese plate. Oh and you could buy merchandise from their store. We did see them unpacking endless foil pans from the truck so we can only assume something else must have been on offer later. Very disappointing.
Vegetarian Association: No food at this booth, just info and we found the guy doing the pitching to be a bit too “preachy” for our tastes. He put us off.
We were sorry we missed: Fishbar’s smelts and the Fish Stew from Panagea. Both dishes were getting rave reviews but we just couldn’t fit in another bite at that point. There was also a booth serving one piece of bruschetta that looked fabulous and, everyone that tasted it seemed to really be enjoying it.
Areas for improvement: Organization. This event still seems to struggle with logistics. Once again they were unprepared and, unwilling to admit guests at 11am, the advertised opening time. Attendees were instructed to wait “over there in the shade” and to “stay out of the way of the gates” so tardy vendors could schlep their wares to their booths on foot and via golf carts. Some of the security folks or “gatekeepers” where fairly rude when folks were enquiring about things including why they weren’t being admitted since it was after 11am.
Once we were finally given the privilege of entering, there was further disorganization as folks who needed to purchase tickets were admitted first while those of us who had purchased tickets online waited for the 2 women w bar code scanning devices to figure out how to operate them. No program or, maps of the grounds were provided at the gate. There were some grounds maps posted inside but, not everyone knew about them and we were not told about them when we entered. No apologies were ever made for the delays or, inconvenience. I felt they could have offered up a couple of food tickets as a gesture of good faith but, no one seemed to care they’d kept us waiting. Like last year, a number of the booths were not set up or, prepared to serve guests when we were admitted (approx 11:15). Tables and chairs for dining were not set up either. It was probably about noon by the time someone started to set up tables and chairs in one of the tents. Clearly the guy tasked w this job felt no pressure to get the job done as we watched him slowly and awkwardly assemble all the tables with one hand while talking w his cell phone pressed to his ear. Tables and chairs were provided by Chairman Mills and, seeing their condition was enough to convince me never to use their service. Tables were filthy. We sat at the first table to be assembled and it had a big dried coffee stain on it, we switched to another once it was set up and it had a pink, sticky residue covering about ¼ of the tabletop.
Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and we hope the organizer appreciates any feedback he receives and is able to offer an even further improved event next year. While light attendance is great when you're a guest and happy not to have to wait at booths, we really felt for the vendors who undoubtedly were hoping for a better turn out on day one. We did miss Second Harvest this year, last year they were selling cookbooks and All Clad utensils and it would have been terrific to see them again and support their wonderful charity.
Again, my apologies for the poor quality cell phone photos!!
Edited to add: Oops! I forgot to mention we picked up some tarts to take home so I'll photograph those and post a review later. I do agree that they do look like there's a disproportionate amount of crust to filling though.
Arg, I just typed up a long review and somehow deleted it :(
So a briefer summary. I was down on Sunday. No rain, overall a good day. I was there most of the afternoon.
They had various chef challenges:
Cold soup - won by Hey Meatball - Watermelon soup topped with feta - btw, restaurant to be open in about 2 weeks
Fish dish - won by Pangaea for a fishcake, Fishbar's raw salmon was good too
Blueberry Pie - won by Sidecar - they made their crust with duckfat
Overall, it was definitely worth it for free. A fun day including a talk by Michael Schmidt (raw milk) and various other talks. Music was good too even if it seemed it was under appreciated. Oh, also got samples from the various chef challenges without using a voucher which was nice. I am not sure if there was a challenge before the fish one that we maybe missed.
On the way out they were giving away ontario peaches for free too which was a nice added touch!
For next year - hopefully more vendors and cheaper/free admission for the whole weekend. Parking was also expensive (I think $15) but we parked further away and walked.
went today at 5ish...
nice spacious venue, perfect weather and helpful staff. large compost/garbage/recycle containers too.
the live music was good
the event itself wasn't too busy and the washing/toilet facilities were clean w/o lines
food tickets were $1 each and most places offered stuff for about $3 and up. $1 for taste size samples.
hey meatball, meatball slider for $4 - nice sauce and juicy pork sausage
hooked, fried smelts, 2 for $3 - fresh from the fryer in a super crunchy beer batter
the grindhouse, smoked beef taco for $4 - not much smokiness for all the smoke coming from the tent but meat was good and they fried the hard tacos shells.
forget the name...cajun fish tacos for $4 - good combo of flavours. fish wasn't fried but rather flaked and mixed with seasoning.
lemonade w/ stevia, small for $3 - meh
canadian pie co, pies for $2 each, wild mushroom pie (pretty bland and boring), spinach and goat cheese pie (ok), portuguese egg tart (much fluffier than a nata but the best of the 3). overall way too much crust to filling ratio.
yogalicious, $1 sample of frozen kefir (icy texture and unpleasant watery sourness)
forget the name... pineapple beer $1 sample, truly awful and bitter. neither of us wanted anything to do with this.
enoteca sociale/libretto was MIA according to the info staff and apparently I wasn't the only one disappointed.
Didn't see Marben - rather it looked like Pangaea had 2 booths from the signage (steamed halibut on ratatouille and a smoked salmon crostini).
The Mapleton Ice cream looked good but didn't try.
Didn't try the free wine taste as we were a minute too late.
Other vendors included Chocosol, a farm vegetable vendor, Hippy Chips, Buddha Dog, All the Best (hors d'oeuvre and tarts), The Grid (tomato tarts), someone had turkey sausage, a salad booth, Vodka and beer booths...
Water wasn't free. That bothered me.
We attended with a Groupon deal. While I enjoyed the outing, I think the $20 at the door price plus the cost of food would not have been worth it.
488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA
163 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R2L3, CA
We're going tomorrow and I'll definitely report back. We attended last year and I echo your comments ylsf, I hope they took the feedback they rec'd into consideration. That event was plagued by lack of organization and planning.
I debated whether to attend this year when I read the organizer's reply to a review from last year's event on the CFF website. They have more vendors this year so I can only hope that when we arrive those vendors will actually be there and, ready to sell food.
I'll let you know how it goes. Let me know if there are any places in particular you're interested in.