This assignment was quite ambitious. “You get to go to two events on the same night!” Wow! How great is that? Cool factor, pretty high up there. Entertainment value: mid-range. Actual experience: not so great. This is how it all went down…
According to my scheduling, this was the plan…
6pm: arrive at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo (GF&WE) right when they open in the South Building of the Convention Centre to browse around, pick up some tickets and determine which good eats and drinks I would want to try later on.
7pm: head over to the North Building of the Convention Centre, to catch the introduction by Bob Blumer (currently the host of “Glutton for Punishment”).
7:30pm: Jamie hits the stage for some cooking action along with friendly banter.
8:30pm: Q and A session with Jamie.
9pm: Return to the GF&WE because there wasn’t enough time to wine and dine with my buddy Jamie to indulge in a variety of foods and libations.
10pm: Be completely satisfied with the night’s events, and have oh-so-wonderful experiences to share.
This is what really happened:
6:20pm: the line up was insane to get into the GW&FE after coat check. Very slow processing of tickets. I picked up a glass at the entrance and started walking row by row, making sure I didn’t miss out on anything. Sheets
Being a newbie at this event, I was quite surprised by all the NON-gourmet food that was on offer. “Spring Rolls” the restaurant? Are you kidding me? “M and M Meat Shops” as a vendor, I wouldn’t exactly associate them with the word “gourmet”. If anyone is familiar with M&M’s, they know they sell frozen meats along with pre-cooked frozen meals and other frozen food products.
Something that caught my eye was a Japanese importer “Ozawa Canada Inc.” (also the importers of Asahi beer). Lots of sake displayed for tasting. I tried the Choya ume Liqueur 23. It was introduced to me as “Japanese ice wine” and it was delicious. Made with Japanese plums, it was sweet, fruity, and addictive. Don’t equate it with Chinese Plum juice, that’s a totally different flavour. I will definitely be picking up a bottle next time at the LCBO, which sells for only $29.45 for a 750mL bottle.
7:05pm: I started t head back to the towards the north building for the Art of Cooking show. Upon my arrival in the lobby, there was STILL a line up to get in, which was a bad sign. They were off schedule. I made my way upstairs, wandered aimlessly to find a seat since ushers were pretty much non-existent, and all the seats seemed to be filled. The good thing about attending any event solo, is that you can sometimes find a single seat closer to the front (which I did, but not in the first 10 rows as those were reserved for VIP ticket holders).
7:15pm: (maybe even 7:20pm): Bob Blumer hits the stage and tells some amusing stories about his experiences, his travels, and his current show. Blumer is a likeable guy who is truly engaging to watch. There was even challenge put out for an audience member, to go up on stage to heat up a canned pasta “meal” in the same time 5 minutes it would take for him to cook a fresh pasta meal. There was an egg cracking competition during the wait time for the pasta to heat/cook but at this point I was sitting in my chair wishing for this to be over because I was still anxious to see Jamie. When you’re on a tight timeframe, you don’t really want to watch filler and this was is exactly what it was. Filler.
7:45ish: Now I know for most people in the audience, there was no real rush to go anywhere and this was a production but I was shocked to hear Bob announce a ten-minute break. What?!?!? Are you kidding me??? This whole thing is already behind schedule and now we have a “break”? It was torture.
8pm: Jamie finally hits the stage (half an hour late mind you) with a huge smile and is welcomed with a thunderous applause by his fans. Jamie intermittently answers written questions from the audience, as read by Bob, that were handed in earlier in the evening, while cooking up two dishes. Both of which were from his latest cookbook, “Jamie’s America” and also from two episodes of his show “Jamie’s American Roadtrip”. One was a Peruvian-styled whitefish ceviche, and the other was a steak made with an East L.A. Mexican-twist.
Jamie seems so genuine, and is a true family man. He even displayed a picture of his new son and the love for his family emanated from his voice as he talked about them. Although some of the questions were completely a waste of time “What was Oprah REALLY like?” (give me a break). I really enjoyed the moments when Jamie talked about being a social entrepreneur with his early challenges and successes. Jamie really does a lot to give back to the community where he brings children from harsh backgrounds into an environment rich in learning and potential. He helps families learn how to live healthier lifestyles and that they can make a well-rounded meal and not have to rely on fast food. Jamie was just as genuine as he is presented on TV and was inspiring and so down to earth, probably the main reason why he has such a huge fan following (me included).
As much as I wanted to stay longer, time was ticking and I had a whole bunch of tickets that I needed to use before the clock struck ten. As Jamie plated his dishes, I noticed a lot of stirring from the audience so I took that as my cue to make my exit back the GF&WE.
9:20pm: Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who was on a schedule as a steady stream of people started making their way to the doors too. This mass exit looked really bad and I felt really awful for Jamie as he was still talking and his audience as we all made our exit. This was like leaving a hockey game at the Air Canada Centre early after the Leaf’s take a beating to avoid getting stuck in traffic going home but this time it was Jamie and not crappy Maple Leafs! To be perfectly honest, had “the Art of Cooking” event stayed on schedule I don’t think this would have happened.
9:30pm: Back to the GF&WE. What can I say? I went straight back to the Ozawa booth to try two different kinds of sake. Right next to them was a liquid nitrogen ice cream booth “the cream brewery, flash frozen freshness”. I had the Tanzanian chocolate with almonds instead of brownies and it was absolutely decadent!
There were another notable mentions like the calamari salad at a wine booth, a bit too much oil but still tasty none the less. I had a flying fish sandwich that came with a Sorrel drink made with rum, which was also pretty good. The variety of cheese samplings was a great addition as well as the night was winding down to an end.
Overall the night was a bit hectic and I felt rushed and stressed. However, I managed to make the most of my two events (I think) but I learned my lesson. Don’t try to do too much at one time. You’ll only get to enjoy 50% of each, as opposed to 100% of one.
Some vendor websites that you might want to visit:
The Cream Brewery – www.thecreambrewery.ca
Choya Umeshu – www.choya.com
The Patron Spirit Company – www.patronspirits.com