Monday, March 10, 2008

CFRA + Hostex Show – March 4, 2008

For those of you who saw these call letters (CFRA) and thought a new radio station was about to hit town, think again. The CFRA show is the Canadian Restaurant and Food Association and they teamed up with Hostex (the Hospitality and Catering Exhibition they show all the equipment you see in restaurants etc.) to bring one heck of a big show to Toronto. This year they took over the Direct Energy Center on the Exhibition grounds, moving from the International Center by the airport, which meant you had to pay for parking … but the 11 dollars I shelled out was only a fraction of the cost of the food I consumed, or the samples I walked away with – and of course there’s the knowledge one gathers.

How about this one pop-fans. The Pop Shoppe still exists. Remember that red and white logo, the cool flavours (grape, cherry, lime rickey, cream soda, pineapple, root beer) they’re all here – paint me shocked, I thought these guys were long gone; but as their brochure proudly proclaimed “The Pop Shoppe is Back” and I found out I could get my favourites at Giant Tiger, Costco, 7-11 and Zellers … awesome, brings me back to my childhood (like I ever really left) –

Speaking of drinks, check out the new flavoured carbonated water from Clic, presented in a see through “can” – 8 great flavours of which pineapple, grape and cherry were my favourites, while mango, peach and lychee were close seconds … and not too much carbonation making them perfect refreshers without that bloated, gassy feeling – fuzzy water minus the disgusting wet-belch. These cool little beverages are available at Highland Farms –

Drinks seemed to be all consuming for me today – probably to wash down all the food that was being thrust in my direction. There was this odd little drink from Tea Shop 168 – Green Tea and Aloe Vera, with real chunks of aloe vera … odd to chew my iced tea, but very refreshing (had it been hotter out) and my inside’s have never felt so smooth –

I mentioned food and there was lost to choose from, but these two really stuck out to me: 1) Bagel O’s (available at Wal-Mart) – stuffed bagel bites already loaded with your favourite cream cheese (think puffed pastry sized, but made with bagel). Cream cheese choices included Classic, Herb and Garlic, Salmon, and Blueberry – in traditional or whole wheat … a quick way to start the day. And as good bagels should be they are certified Kosher – 2) Black & Tan beer fans unite with McCain’s Brew City Black and Tan Onion Rings – these rings have zing and stripes, they are drizzled with stout beer … this was the first food stuff I popped in my mouth at 10 in the morning and it stayed with me all day (in a good way). These you’ll have to find in pubs and restaurants.

Of course being a wine writer I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that New York Wines was there, promoting the fact that 5 New York wines will be on Vintages shelves come the fall … a first for N.Y. wines. I found the prices to be a little hefty, but that, I am sure, has more to do with the healthy LCBO mark-up than what the wineries are actually charging back home. The Hermann J. Wiemer 2006 Riesling ($23.50), of Finger Lakes origin, was very nice with great crispness and a biting finish; the Sheldrake Point Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay ($15.85) from Long Island has a dry pineapple core. Brotherhood, from Hudson River, has a Pinot Noir ($18.75) that tasted of dried cranberry and then there was the over-priced wine of the day, a Raphael 2001 Merlot from Long Island, sure it had a nice dry cedary taste and long finish, but $42.95 might be a hard sell in Ontario … those in the booth were saying the price should be more like $38 or $39 – but even that seems a bit high.

Churchill Cellars was there with a limited supply of wine, two of which were really good value. The French Pere Patriarche Pinot Noir ($9.80 - #522649) under screw cap of all things – light, fruity and earthy; and the Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva ($15.80 - #479014) a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with great black-fruit intensity and subtle oak nuances.

Finally, my product of the day had to be the Enomatic Wine Serving System, I could sit here and try to describe it, but instead I took pictures (see above and below), to save myself the thousand words. I urge both restaurants and especially the LCBO to look into this ingenious, revolutionary way to serve alcohol by the glass (for restaurants) or by the ounce (for the LCBO) – heck I’m sure a forward thinking winery or two would have use for this … it keeps wine fresh in the bottle for up to 60 days – depending on the wine – and amounts served can be programmed and carefully controlled by the machine. You can see it in action at the Mercatto Restaurant on Toronto Street or visit

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