Toronto's Top Food, Wine & Hospitality Events 2008

Restaurants and wineries across the city hosted dining events for Santé.

Photo: Courtesy of NKPR

1. Wine & Cheese Show
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Wine & Cheese show prides itself on being “Toronto’s most aggressively promoted food and drink show ever.” The wine competition has become a well-known fixture, with more than 500 submissions in 15 categories judged by a panel of experts. The 2008 show took place April 4 to 6 at the International Centre in Mississauga, featuring a sip-and-savour stage presented by the Food Network.

2. Toronto Taste
Fifty acclaimed chefs take part in this charity event, which brought in close to $520,000 last year for Second Harvest, an organization that delivers food to social service agencies. A new live auction was introduced in 2007, with prizes ranging from kitchen gadgets to trips. The auction, featuring one-of-a-kind wine vintages donated by private cellars, returns for this year’s event on June 8 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

3. The Canadian Food and Beverage Show and Hostex
The 2008 show’s name—“Together at Last!”—refers to the new union of Hostex and the Canadian Food and Beverage Show. The show took place March 2 to 4 at a new venue (the Direct Energy Centre), with a roster of celebrity chefs and master mixologist Tony Abou-Gamin. The three-day event included industry seminars, tastings, and cookbook signings.

4. Santé: Toronto International Wine Festival
This year marks the Yorkville festival’s 10th anniversary, and Cat Cora from Iron Chef America attended a special finale celebration. In partnership with Tourism Toronto and Bon Appétit, the 2008 festival took place from May 5 to 10 and hosted 75 international wineries. The traditional Ultimate Winemakers Dinner at the Four Seasons ballroom featured Restaurant Makeover star Massimo Capra.

5. The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo
Featuring more than 1,200 wines, spirits, and beers from around the world, as well as food samplings from local chefs, this expo experienced a boom last year, with 38,000 people attending. A new “art of the cocktail” stage at the November 2007 Chile-themed event was dedicated to concoctions whipped up by mixologists from the Toronto Institute of Bartending. The expo, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in November, is produced by Town Media.

6. Niagara Wine Festival

This 10-day festival includes more than 100 events and drew more than 500,000 visitors in 2007. Among the festivities at St. Catharines’ Montebello Park are tastings, seminars, and concerts by artists like Serena Ryder and Ron Sexsmith. The annual Grande Parade is one of the largest street parades in the country. This year’s festival is September 19 to 28.

7. Taste of the Danforth

Based on the successful Taste of Chicago festival, Taste of the Danforth showcases a wide range of street food and live music, with an emphasis on Greek cuisine and culture. Last year it drew crowds of more than a million people over its three-day run; this year’s 14th annual festival is scheduled for August 8 to 10.

8. Toronto's Festival of Beer
Last year’s four-day festival at Historic Fort York attracted close to 30,000 people and featured more than 200 brands of beer, accompanied by live entertainment and a grilling tent. A new Las Vegas-themed gala event in 2007, the Bowman’s Ball, included a poker run with a grand prize of a trip for two to Germany. The 2008 festival will take place from August 7 to 10.

9. Grand Cru Culinary and Wine Festival
The 2007 festival raised more than $2 million for the University Health Network with an invite-only wine tasting and live auction at Muzik nightclub that more than 1,000 people attended. Also part of the event: private dinners created by the city’s top chefs and served in 25 upscale Toronto homes. The 2008 event is October 24 and 25, and will bring the world-famous winery Domaine de la Romanée-Conti on board.

10. Cuvee Gala

Christopher Waters of The St. Catharines Standard wrote, “It’s Oscar night for winemakers.” The Cuvee wine awards celebrated their 20th anniversary on February 29 at the Fallsview Casino Resort with a red-carpet gala. Attendees are offered tastes from the winning bottles, and proceeds from the gala and the coinciding weekend events go to the Niagara Community Foundation.

11. Eat to the Beat

A host of local female chefs—including the Food Network’s Anna Olson and Lynn Crawford—whip up dinner and desserts at Roy Thomson Hall, with proceeds going to Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada. Last year’s event raised more than $270,000 and included a martini bar and a silent auction featuring designer handbags. The 2008 event is set for September 23.

12. Picnic at the Brick Works
More than 900 people—including Mayor David  Miller—attended the first-ever Picnic at the Don Valley Brick Works last September. Evergreen, a nonprofit environmental organization, paired with Slow Food Toronto to put on the celebration of locally produced food, which included partnerships with Toronto chefs and food producers. The event will return for a second year in September. Dining events were hosted by restaurants and wineries across the city. Staff from New Moon Kitchen handed out gourmet cookies.

13. What's on the Table
The Stop Community Food Centre’s annual benefit raised more than $200,000 last year at the Palais Royale. Ten of the city’s top chefs, including Keith Froggett (Scaramouche) and Lorenzo Loseto (George), prepared small plates at kiosks. A new photography auction, in addition to the Tiffany & Company-sponsored silent auction, included the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky.

14. The Beer & Cocktail Show
With close to 10,000 people attending last year, the show moved from the Distillery District to Downsview Park to accommodate growing crowds. The high-energy event, which takes place this year from May 16 to 18, includes cocktail demonstrations, live entertainment, and a beer garden featuring more than 80 brews to sample.

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