There was no way that an event planner could, or would have, predicted that it would be under 10-degrees on a night in late May. A biting wind and an open-air venue unfortunately don’t create the most inviting of atmospheres. That said, we’re Canadians – we’re resilient, we understand the cold, and where there is beer there is happiness. Pair that with local food trucks and some kickin’ tunes and there’s hardly a harrumph to be heard.
At CraveTO – a first-strike at hosting a food festival for three guys from Toronto – it was all about getting down with locality. With 10 craft breweries from around town, six freakin’ delicious food trucks and seven other edible vendors, CraveTO hit us right where it counts: our stomachs.
While some were donning gloves (those were the well prepared ones) and others were trying to drink enough beer so that they could no longer feel feelings (that was me), there was still a warm buzz about the place. A last minute location change within Brick Works left the organizers with a few small logistical challenges, however despite some very long lines for food and the fact that the thumping tunes didn’t reach around the corner where the food trucks were stationed, everyone was realized and rearing for a good time.
With distributors of fine edibles such as The Food Dudes and Fidel Gastro garnering wait times of over an hour and a half at their peak, when CraveTO Round Two takes place in August it’s advisable to be there on the early end of things.
What I still find hard to believe (yet am happy to accept) is how the quality of some of the eats can remain so high despite the massive volume of ravenous food fiends. The halibut fish n’ chips from the Feisty Jack, for example, was so perfectly coated, so soft and sweet on the inside and came with the fries you’d find at the best of British pubs. I know, it’s just deep fried deliciousness, but still, you’ve gotta hand it to them.
The tacos at Seven Lives – a standout best in show – were individually fried, stuffed with succulent shrimp and texturally terrific seasoned potatoes, then hit with fresh guacamole and hot sauce. Their Ceviche Mixto Tostada with cured, tender octopus, tuna and shrimp was sensational.
The crazy culinary cranium of Chef Daniel of This is How I Roll brought out some sushi rolls that shatter all barriers. Incorporating ingredients like pork n’ beans with cucumber and carrot slaw, diced jalapeno cornbread, Kewpie mayo and whiskey tonkatsu sauce, to a duck confit roll with peanut butter, celery, bacon jam, sultana raisins and Kewpie mayo, he and his buddy Chef Thomas Heitz of Port Restaurant in Pickering managed to steal all of our senses.
A few beverage standouts had to be the Rye Cask IPA by Cameron’s Brewing Company, a summery Watermelon Wheat Beer by Kensington Brewing Company, and my personal favourite of the evening, a refreshingly unique Lemon Basil Cask Conditioned IPA by Black Oak Brewing Co. Word to Black Oak… make this one again!
There were three kinds of dumplings from FeasTO, cupcakes of wild flavours by For the Love of Cake, and crispy-sweet churros fried fresh by Pancho’s Bakery.
Nearly overlooked (only because I’ve had their delicious sandwiches so many times) was Come and Get It. After ditching one of the horribly long food truck lineups, we just missed the last of their Mango Jerk Chicken Sandwich but managed to satisfyingly snack on a Chipotle Short Rib Sammie with tangy cabbage and carrot slaw.
I could easily go on and on, describing every detail, every ingredient and how my body temperature began to neutralize with each downed beverage, but then we’d be here forever. What I will say is that despite a few unexpected snags in their plans, the peeps behind CraveTO put on a quality party. With knowledge and wisdom in hand, I’ll be looking forward to their next shindig.