Monday, May 28, 2012

Niagara Wine and Food Expo

I began looking forward to this weekend last year, as I walked out the doors of the first Food and Wine Expo this area has hosted.  It was incredible.  So much truly great food!  My husband and I ate our way through row after row of delicacies and treats.  The most incredible sliders, amazing Asian dumplings, grilled pineapple in cinnamon syrup, Kobe style beef, fresh lobster (which I tried for the first time), as well as a myriad of wine choices and an almost equally dizzying array of beers.  We'd budgeted for a spendy date night, and indulged accordingly.  I'm sure there were things we never did get to, but by the end of the night we were full.

This year my middle sister came with us.  I tried to not build up the show too much.  We've been to a variety of events which, for one reason or another were spectacular the first year, and disappointing the next.  My husband had just come back from a trade show where he experienced that very thing.  Sophomore slump?  Maybe.  I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case this time.

I want to say straight away that I was encouraged to see new vendors.  My dear friends, Roger and Joyce of Mr. Vinegar, were there.  I met them ages ago at a craft show, and their products are truly one of a kind.  There were also a few gadgets, and more than a couple olive oil purveyors.  There were also a lot of chocolate vendors, it seemed.  But there also seemed to be less variety in the savoury foods.  A lot of pulled pork.  I guess it's cheap and easy to keep warm.  No Kobe style beef, no amazing sliders (one booth had some burgers, but "amazing" did not describe their grey appearance).  There were many wineries represented, several of them smaller, which I loved to see.  There wasn't as much beer, and my husband was disappointed that he couldn't get a beer float again this year.  LOL  It was a bit of a highlight for him the last time, though he did enjoy a Mocha Porter this time around.  I briefly contemplated testing my culinary bravery again this year, tackling another never before eaten food - oysters.  But I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I tried lobster and scallops last year, and crossed them off of my list, but the oysters proved to be too much of a challenge.  Maybe another time.

Lots of pineapple for $1, courtesy of a friendly gaucho at the end of the night

We tasted some great cheese at a free seminar, but the seminar itself was a bit like "Cheese for Dummies," so we ate ours and continued to wander the floor.  Some vendors were offering a lot of food for a dollar (one ticket).  Like a thick slab of peameal bacon on a bun, or a mixed plate of tasty bites.  Others offered a tiny morsel for two or more tickets, as though the goal was to make a profit.  Some favourites were there again.  Namely Brasa and their delectable pineapple.  Sliced with a piece of their salty sausage and piled on one of the cheese buns they were serving (all for a single ticket), it was a perfect bite that would have made a great breakfast sandwich!  And there were the exquisite chocolates from Nighs.  Such creative flavour combinations (milk chocolate with fig and almond, dark chocolate with dried cherry and Merlot salt).  We went back to that booth a couple of times.  We were hoping for some Vietnamese nibbles too, but every time we walked by, they were sold out.  Good for them!  We also enjoyed a giant strawberry on a stick, dipped in chocolate and covered in Skor bits.  Simple, but still so tasty. 

All in all, had I not experienced the fabulousness that was last year's Food and Wine Expo, I probably would have enjoyed this one much more.  We were hard pressed to spend all 20 of our tickets, whereas last year we used a lot more.  I'll go next year, with the hope that some of last year's vendors return (Syndicate and Seneca Casino come to mind), and that there is a greater variety again.  Judging by the crowd, it seemed like a success again, but time will tell, I suppose.

And now to climb on my soapbox... I can't close this entry without touching on a pet peeve when it comes to food events.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've gone off about this before.  I cannot stand watching people handle food and money with the same hand.  Even if that "money" is just tickets, it's still something that has been handled, perhaps by unwashed bathroom hands, maybe dropped on the floor... I saw one vendor handling food with no gloves at all, and also handling tickets with the same hand.  She did not wash her hands between customers.  We declined their offerings.  And at one booth where I really wanted to try the food, I asked the girl to change her gloves after watching her not only handle tickets and food for multiple customers in a row, but also wipe sweat from her brow (and then plunge her hand into a container of shredded cheese - I didn't get cheese on my dish).  She didn't seem put out by the request, but she didn't seem thrilled to have to break stride either.  I understand that when things are busy there's a rhythm that develops, but there should be one person handling the currency if changing gloves or washing hands after every customer is an issue.  /soapbox

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