Friday, April 27, 2007

Good Food Festival

Today, Jane and I played hooky from work (well, I had permission -- thanks, Marcelo!) and went to the Good Food Festival at International Centre. Jane happily got free tickets as a member of the Women's Culinary Network.

We had thought that it would be relatively uncrowded since most people should be at work, but there were hundreds of people waiting to get in. The line-up moved pretty quickly, but once in there it was packed. I thought that the One of a Kind show was congested, but that was nothing compared to this. In addition, a lot of people had brought rolling grocery carriers and wheely suitcases to carry their purchases so navigation was tricky. Darcy would have hated it.

The difference between this show and the One of a Kind show is that most of the vendors were well-known, large companies (whose products are available at major grocery stores), such as Egg Farmers of Ontario, Pita Break, Tchibo, Kikkoman, Patak's, POM, Redpath Sugar, Tupperware, etc. The One of a Kind show had only small-scale production, artisanal, gourmet-type vendors.

As soon as you walked in you were handed a huge Whole Foods brown shopping bags with lots of free things (Weetabix, Beano [hee hee], Lipton mint green tea, Thinsations shortbread cookies) and pamphlets. Pretty much every single booth had samples and we tried almost everything, including : cranberry orange pitas, whole wheat bread, acai juice, sparkling water, flavoured water, organic vanilla yogurt, chocolate, vegetable curry, chicken curry, pro-biotic cheddar cheese, regular cheddar cheese, chicken, chocolate cashew buttercrunch, soy milk, mexican corn chips, lime hot sauce, curry dips, chipotle grilling sauce, hot pepperoni, kielbasa sausage, Genoa salami, hemp seed butter, pomegranate lychee green tea, whipped soy mousse, sauteed portobello mushrooms, blueberry juice, maple red wine vinegar, samosas, plain parathas, onion parathas, chicken and mushroom dumplings, and veggie chips. Whew. I'm so glad I didn't each lunch before we came.

The greatest thing about this show was that, unlike the One of a Kind show, you could buy food at excellent prices. Check this out:

  1. Box of 8 Punjabi samosas: $2
  2. Package of 6 plain parathas: $2
  3. 1lb tray of Chinese dumplings: $2.50
  4. 100g bag of Japanese rice crackers: $1
  5. Bag of Mexican tortilla chips: $1
  6. 75g jar of curry masala: $2.50
  7. 250ml bottle of hot sauce: $3
  8. 6 pepperoni sticks: can't remember, but it was really cheap.
I probably spent no more $25 and I had so much stuff that I could barely carry it.

The woman at the Arvinda's booth where I bought the curry spices was very helpful and gave me lots of advice on which spice mixture to use with what dishes. The curry masala mixture, she said, was for things like aloo gobi, chicken curry, and chickpea curry. The garam masala is drier and is usually sprinkled on top of things while the tikka masala is supposed to be used in marinades for meats before grilling. Immediately after I came home I made a chickpea and potato curry using the curry masala and it was delicious and really spicy. Darcy loved it. I served it with the parathas (flaky, buttery, fattening, and to die for) and samosas that I bought from Shana Frozen Foods.

Darcy loves pepperoni, so I bought some mild and hot from 'European Meats...' (that's their actual name. With the ellipsis and everything). He really liked it, but we looked at their business card and they are all the way up in Cookstown. We'll have to rent a car sometime and load the trunk with the stuff.

A big thing in food these days seems to be the 'antioxidant' juices, like acai, blueberry, pomegranate, cranberry, mangosteen, etc. Also big are the soy products (milk, smoothies, puddings, beans, tofu) and vitamin supplements. Health is a huge driver in large scale production food today, it seems. The One of a Kind show artisanal food was decadent and expensive while the Good Food Festival stuff was more mainstream and affordable. I enjoyed both.

I took lots of pictures today and since the One of a Kind show, I've given up on asking people for their permission. No one batted an eye, with the notable exception of the mangosteen juice guy. He seemed pretty ticked about it, but he didn't confront me. He just gave us very strange looks while we were in the area. I wish one of these touchy people would just tell me straight out what the problem is. I still don't get it. Jane suggested that maybe he thought I was a very obvious spy from a competing mangosteen juice company. If you'd like to see my paparazzi pictures, click here.

We whipped through everything pretty quickly, so we had an hour and a half to kill before GO bussing it back to civilization. We sat at the Food Network cooking demonstration and watched some mother-daughter duos who won a contest for 'Why my mother is a kitchen goddess'. Well actually, we chatted rather than watched, but it was so loud in there that it didn't make a difference. Earlier, I could have sworn that Anna Olson was there giving a demo. See picture, what do you think?

I'm glad I got to see this show and thank you, Jane, for the free ticket. I would definitely go again to see what new products are coming out as well as take advantage of the great deals on samosas and dumplings.

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