For the 14th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, organizers showcased the wines of France—this year's theme country—with a Beaujolais tasting, samples of French food, and live entertainment in a pavilion known as \"Apéritif à la Française.\"
Sometimes timing really is everything. That was certainly the case Thursday for the more than 5,000 guests in attendance at the opening night V.I.P. preview for the 14th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. The four-day consumer trade show—held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre—is showcasing the wines of France, and Thursday's opening just happened to coincide with the release of this year's batch of Beaujolais Nouveau.
The timing provided show manager Jennifer Campbell with a perfect tie in for this year's theme. "France is hosting a special tasting area [in the "Apéritif à la Française" pavilion] with can-can dancers and a Beaujolais tasting," said Campbell. "Our V.I.P. night is a sponsor thank-you as well as an evening for trade and media.” All four corners of the room had activities, including a demonstration on the Food Network Stage by Roger Mooking (executive chef at Kultura and Nyood and host of Everyday Exotic) and a cocktail tasting for media representatives at the Mott's Clamato Caesar School.
Campbell turned to Decor & More to create “a French thematic" in honour of this year's theme country, whose 2,500-square-foot tasting pavilion includes an entertainment area and seating for 200 people. "Obviously we want it to be different every year. We talk to a bunch of our clients who represent various brands and we take proposals. Its a little bit of we want them and they want us,” she said.
With more than 250 exhibitors, 1,200 wines, beers, and spirits, and food from 50 gourmet restaurants across the city, this year's show is the largest yet, with 50 new vendors. "We are maxed to the rafters right now. I added another row of 30 booths this year," said Campbell, who has run the event for six years.
"It's grown immensely. Fourteen years ago it was a really high-end, very elite tasting event. It has good roots that way. We've just opened it up," Campbell said. "You don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy great wine and gourmet food." However, Campbell—who works with The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life to market the show—said the event continues to attract high-end buyers. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario has a 2,000-square-foot retail store on site, and additional wines are available through private order and consignment in the Fine Wine Tasting Lounge.
Campbell said the planning process for the expo is ongoing. "My theme country just signed off for 2009. So I work on it all year round," she said. Obtaining permits for the event is also a lengthy process. Campbell works closely with Toronto Public Health to secure special vendor permits to enable participating restaurants to serve food on site and with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
This year Campbell introduced a new Smart Serve team to patrol the floor in addition to the show's security and city police officers. "We'll have the team on the floor to watch for any issues of intoxication and to watch for over-pouring. It's a great way to keep some extra eyes on the floor,” said Campbell.
The show runs through Sunday.
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