Sunday, November 25, 2018

The best of the 2018 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

This year’s Gourmet Food & Wine Expo seemed to have fewer exhibitors than in the past, but there was still more than enough to sample over three evenings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

I largely focused on one beverage type each night, with Thursday dedicated to beer, Friday to wine and Saturday to spirits and cocktails. Drinking was more of a priority than eating, but I also tried a bit of food to soak up all of the alcohol.

Here are the highlights:


Muskoka Pair of Wise Guys Weizenbock, part of Muskoka Brewery’s Moonlight Kettle Series, was the clear winner. Germany’s Schneider Weisse Aventinus is one of my favourite beers, and this dark amber brew reminded me of it. The 7.5 per cent alcohol content isn’t evident and there’s a pleasant banana aspect to the flavour.

Goose Island’s Even Weissbiers Get The Blues is billed as a pilsner, though it’s not as crisp as most good pilsners. The 4.5-per cent alcohol beer is brewed with magnum and kolibri hops and has a floral aroma with banana bread notes in the flavour. It has a smooth finish.

While the above two beers stood out from the pack, of the 15 other beers I sampled, I’ll also give honourable mentions to BrewDog Clockwork Tangerine Citrus Session IPA and BrewDog Vagabond Gluten-Free American Pale Ale.


Don’t Poke The Bear Cider is made in Caledon with seven types of Ontario apples. It’s semi-sweet and refreshing and has an alcohol content of 5.8 per cent. A 500-millilitre can sells for $3.25 and a portion of the proceeds from each one goes to an anti-bullying campaign.

McAuslan Brewing’s McAdam Urban Cider pours pale gold and has a rich apple aroma. It’s primarily made with McIntosh apples and is somewhat dry, with just the right amount of sweetness. With an alcohol content of 4.7 per cent, it’s quite sessionable.


I much prefer white wines over reds, so that was my focus for the 20 wines I sampled. My favourites are described below.

Baden Gewurtztraminer has a nice floral bouquet and pours pale yellow. It’s slightly sweet and off-dry, with elements of melon in the flavour and a pleasant finish.

Pelee Island Lola Gewurtztraminer is semi-sweet with a rich mouth feel. It was my favourite of the four wines I sampled from the winery.

Thierry Delaunay 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, France is an extra dry, pale gold-coloured wine with a complex citrus aroma and a fresh and fruity flavour. It has an alcohol content of 12.5 per cent.

The 2016 Clarendelle White from Bordeaux, France is a blend of 70 per cent sauvignon blanc, 25 per cent semillon and five per cent muscadelle grapes. It’s very pale in colour but rich in its fruity aroma and flavour. It has an alcohol content of 12.5 per cent.

Cornerstone Strawberry Festival is in your face as soon as you see the rich red liquid pouring out of the bottle. It has a very big strawberry aroma and flavour, and there was even a strawberry seed in the glass I sampled. It may be too sweet for some people, but I liked it. I also liked Cornerstone Estate Peach, which is even sweeter, but not sugary. Both of these fruit wines from Beamsville, Ont. have an alcohol content of 12 per cent and sell for $16.

Don’t Poke The Bear Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc presents a nice blend. It’s mellow and medium-bodied and sells for $14.95.


Muskoka Gin and Tonic Docker is a very pale straw-coloured cooler with a very fresh cucumber aroma and flavour profile. It’s very easy drinking with a four-per cent alcohol content and has no added sugar, so a 500-millilitre can has 160 calories.


The most interesting spirit I had was Von Schoultz Vodka from King’s Lock Craft Distillery, which is made with garlic. It’s bold and very evident in both the aroma and flavour. I also enjoyed King’s Lock’s Smugglers Gold Rum, which had a nice vanilla element to smooth it.

Murphy’s Law Apple Pie Moonshine, made with apple cider, is delicious on its own served over ice. It’s also excellent mixed with cranberry juice. The Elmira, Ont. distillery makes other moonshines as well, and I enjoyed its White Lightin’ mixed with grape juice and its root beer mixed with A&W root beer.

Kavi is a cold-brewed, coffee-blended Canadian whisky that sells for $29.95 a bottle. It includes vanilla from Madagascar and that’s the flavour you get up front before the coffee kicks in. I enjoyed its smoothness when I drank it straight over ice and particularly liked it mixed with egg nog. It has an alcohol content of 36.2 per cent.

Rheault Distillery’s 24-per cent alcohol Sinful Cherry liqueur is very good on its own and excellent when mixed with San Pellegrino Clementina.


The Don Julio Grapefruit Ginger Margarita made with Don Julio Blanco Tequila, grapefruit syrup, lime juice, ginger beer and Inferno Bitters was spicy and excellent.

The Tanqueray Ten and Tea made with Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, green tea simple syrup, lemon juice and soda water was light, fruity, refreshing and very good.

Mojitos Lounge served me a blueberry and raspberry tropical mojito that was divine. It’s a fruit and rum explosion in a glass.

A chocolate martini made with E.T. 51 Premium Vodka and McGuinness Creme de Cacao, and served in a chocolate-rimmed glass, was lovely.

A whisky sour made with two ounces of Collingwood Whisky, a half ounce of simple syrup and a half ounce of lemon juice, and served at the Good In Every Grain booth, was good.


The pulled pork parfait from Pig Out layered creamy garlic mashed potatoes, pulled pork and barbecue sauce and was topped with crispy onions. It was delicious.

JP’s Barbeque served me pulled pork, beef brisket, salmon and egg rolls with three sauces. I was pleased.

The Fancy Franks Frankie Goes to Buffalo hot dog featured a panko-fried wiener, chicken bacon, blue cheese dressing, carrots, celery and Buffalo wing sauce. It might seem like an odd combination, but it’s great.