From locally-made salt-water taffy to hand-pulled pork shoulder, visitors are getting more than a taste of the lives of Canadian breeders, growers, and agricultural exhibitors.
“Five years ago, one would have never imagined ‘Cowboy Fries’ offered for sale at The Royal,” said Frank Caputo, vendor and owner of Toronto food truck, “Hank Daddy.”
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, taking place at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place until Nov. 11, is quickly becoming a destination for lovers of all things food.
Vendors on hand are highlighting out-of-the-ordinary food items – often available only in specialty shops – and you can sample your way through a plethora of vendors serving up everything from succulent barbequed meat, to gourmet confectionary, to fresh-to-order hot apple dumplings.
Caputo’s number-one offering, the “Pulled Pork Parfait,” is made with crispy sweet potato fries, soft-pulled pork, and a crunchy cabbage slaw – a dish he and his daughter created four years ago.
For Caputo, this is only the first step in bringing more gourmet food trucks to the streets of Toronto.
“Demonstrating the passion we put into our food to the thousands who come through The Royal – even if it’s served from a food truck – is crucial in changing the way Torontonians consume street food.”
Jordan McLelland and his seven-year-old daughter have visited The Royal for the past three years.
“I’ve never seen so much focus on the show for ‘foodies,’” McLelland said. “I knew there was a ‘food truck revolution’ happening all over the U.S. and Canada, but seeing so much food highlighted at The Royal this year is surprising.”
New this year to celebrate the show’s 90th anniversary, Food Network celebrity chef Curtis Stone will be hosting the Chefs Competition taking place Saturday at the Royal Culinary Theatre.
Food Network personalities Bob Blumer (World’s Weirdest Restaurants) and Kevin Brauch (The Thirsty Traveler) hosted the Royal Mixology Competition Monday, pitting local mixologists against one another in a competition for top cocktail made with Ontario ingredients.
“Food is a large part of The Royal’s history, and business is booming,” said Carl Marquardt, a confectioner who has been at The Royal for 30 years. “The new competitions and wild culinary offerings this year only solidify what is already an exploding ‘foodie’ culture.”
I was there, and it was great!