First off, let me thank the nice people at Buick for providing me with a pair of tickets to yesterday’s Gourmet Food & Wine Expo VIP night. The Expo, which is in its 19th year, is billed as “..the unique chance to sample from over 1,5000 fine wines, beers and spirits from around the globe, enjoy gourmet foods and signature dishes from Toronto’s best restaurants…” It’s running from now until Sunday evening at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building.
The tickets I won retail for $40. So what do you get for $40? Well, the organizers detail that all out over here but the main things seem to be that you get to experience the Expo first and that you get to, “Attend the Expo before the crowds attend over the weekend.”
Between that line and the fact that little-old-me was able to get free tickets made me think that the VIP night was going to be almost crowd-free. That assumption turned out to be completely wrong.
Okay, it wasn’t as bad as the One Of Kind Show on the weekend, but it was unquestionably busy. Friday-Sunday tickets are only $20 and I felt a bit bad for anyone who bought the pricier Thursday night tickets thinking that they were going to beat the weekend crowds.
But while the expo was packed, lineups at the over 200 vendors were minimal. I don’t think I had to wait more than five minutes to grab a bite to eat while the drink booths were ever quicker. The vendors all seemed to have efficient systems for getting samples out and I think that that, combined with the sheer number of options resulted in the massive crowd being impressively disperse across the venue.
I was impressed with the variety of alcohol available. There were wines, and beers, from around the world as well as plenty of spirits vendors. Even Fireball and Dr. McGillicuddy’s Peach Schnapps had a booth (they weren’t busy; that’s how you know that this is a classy event).
While the crowdedness wasn’t overly conductive to appreciating a glass of wine, it, along with the blaring dance music that many of the spirits vendors were playing, kind of made the place feel like a club, which I didn’t mind. And had I wanted to really learn about the wide variety of wines that were available at the show, I could have signed up for one of the many tutored tastings that the expo offers.
I totally expected the booze to be a rip-off pricewise but no, the alcohol turned out to be a better deal than most of the food items. For two-three tickets (so $2-$3), you could generally get an ounce of wine or spirits, or a mixed drink or glass of beer. And the best deal of the show has to be the Motts Clamato Caesars, which are only $1 and even come with a pickled bean.
Food prices varied a lot more and were everything from a great deal (Husband got a Kobe beef sausage for $4) to not-so-great (for $2 I got a small piece of bread dipped in some cheese fondue that mostly stuck to the napkin it was placed on).
The food options also weren’t as varied as the alcohol ones. I swear, at least half-a-dozen booths were selling pulled pork sandwiches while oysters were also heavily represented.
There were some free food samples (and free, non-alcohol Caesars that were actually really good) but they were few and far between. If you plan on attending this show, do expect to spend money on sample tickets. They are sold in sheets of 20 and the show recommends buying two sheets (so $40). Because Husband and I didn’t plan on drinking much, we bought two sheets between us, which turned out to be plenty. Here’s what we spent our tickets on: A fancy grilled cheese sandwich; a salmon, rice cup; pulled pork sandwiches; cheese fondue; cheese chunks (two of these); a catfish taco; a coconut curry; churroses; the previously mentioned sausage and three alcohol drinks.
The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo definitely is not an event for anyone who hates crowds, having to eat standing up or not getting a great deal. But if you’re okay with all of those things and are someone who loves to try a wide variety of drinks and food, this event might be for you. However, I wouldn’t recommend the VIP night; it just wasn’t VIP-ish enough to justify the extra cost.
For more details on entrance tickets, which can be purchased online, head over here.