A Review of the Hamilton Food & Drink Fest 2016.
This past weekend we met up with our hubbies to check out the 11th Annual Food and Drink Fest at the Hamilton Convention Centre. The great thing about this event is you get to try the latest and greatest variety of local and international foods, wines and craft beers from popular restaurants, breweries & wineries. Did we mention it is also all under one roof? The location is so central it can’t be beat!
This event ran all weekend long, but we checked it out Saturday evening and even had coupons to get in (these were available at many local coffee shops leading up to the event). Still tickets were reasonably $15 to get in and sampling tickets used for trying out food and drinks at the booths were valued at $1 each with most tastings ranging from $2 to $6. We both opted to take public transit to avoid parking and this was super easy with the downtown location.
The event was busy! It seemed like all of Hamilton came out, so we’re glad we didn’t miss it. For details on the Food & Drink Fest check out their website.
Mike and I checked out the Food & Drink Fest last year with a friend who like us loves wine and food and we were impressed by the selection. (That being said the show is not as big as the London Wine & Food Show which we went to years ago). Either way this type of event is a great thing to do as a couple or with friends. Mike and I often split our samplings so we can try more and make our sampling tickets go further. We were looking forward to seeing if some of our favourite wines and beers were back this year.
This year’s event turned out to be different. There were some pluses, like more sitting room and areas to enjoy the food and drink, lots of breweries represented, a photo booth and also great entertainment. We really enjoyed the entertainment on Saturday evening, Jesse O’Brien and Chris Caddell who did some excellent covers of songs old and current like The Band’s Ophelia and more music right up my alley!
On the flip side, where was the wine?! Seriously, I was so disappointed in the wine selection which had apparently been replaced by the hip beverage du jour, craft beer. But why my friends should one be sacrificed over the other? At a Food and Drink Fest it shouldn’t. There was a row of wineries from Erie North shore, which was interesting enough, but there were so few VQA wines, that is was laughable. At the 2015 fest, they had other excellent international wines as well, and those were missing.
I was also a little sad about the overall presence of vendors. While I said above there was more space for people, it obviously came as a result of fewer vendors. I missed the meat vendors, the European eateries, basically the food part of the show was not as well rounded as it could’ve been. Maybe they need a bigger venue? Multiple floors in the HCC? That would be amazing! I’ll wait to see if that happens…
Some of the highlights of my tastings included:
- Hotti Biscotti – Biscotti (of course) and a skor pretzel – both delicious!
- NàRoma Pizza – Not sure what kind, but does it matter cause they are all delicious
- Copetown Woods Golf Club – Mushroom and Coconut Risotto with Red Wine and Espresso Braised Beef – the only gold course there, but the food was to die for!
- The Express Italian Eatery – Penne all’ Arriabiata – spicy and huge portion!
- Reif Estate Winery – Tried the Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz Pinot (the Magician) and Meritage – The Magician was really good and I believe you can get most of their wines at the LCBO
- Wells Banana Bread Beer – so unique, malty and delicious!
- Amsterdam Brewery – Sweetwater Squeeze Radler, Blood Orange – This was so refreshing, full of flavour, not at all bitter and again unique compared to anything like it I’ve tried.
Ryan and I missed the event last year, so we were really looking forward to checking out all the great vendors after hearing about Danielle and Mike’s experience. One of the great things about events here in Hamilton is some of the local businesses run contests for free tickets and I was able to win a pass from one of our favourite restaurants, The Mule! Ryan and I headed to the Convention Centre on SoBi bikes, getting in a little exercise before indulging in all the deliciousness! So convenient and one of our favourite ways to adventure around the city!
We had perfect timing arriving at the event around 5:45pm, the crowd wasn’t too big, and we were able to do a full walk around and see what vendors were there. As Danielle mentioned above, the entertainment was fantastic and suited the atmosphere. It created a great vibe. My first sample was Black Oak Brewing Co.’s Pale Ale – I love their Nut Brown Ale, and was curious to try another one of their other beers. There was definitely a big craft beer presence at the show, and as a newer craft beer lover this was awesome because I was able to try samples of beers I normally wouldn’t purchase by some of my favourite breweries like Wellington Brewery and Granville Island Brewing. And as Danielle stated above, there was definitely a very limited selection of wineries. It was disappointing to not see some of our favourite VQA wines at the show.
Now, onto the food. Here is the list of things we tried:
- The Brew Cafe and Bar – Braised beef, tater-tot poutine
- My Thai – Lemon chicken and spring rolls
- Eat Industries Inc. – Roasted cauliflower taco – One of my favourites from the evening!
- Pokeh – Classic bowl – One of Ryan’s favourites!
- Lou Dawgs – Pulled pork sliders
- The Other Bird Restaurant Group – Korean fried chicken
- Hotti Biscotti – Skor biscotti – Enjoyed on the walk home
- Relay Coffee (not food, but one of my favourite coffees in Hamilton!) – Cortado
I was hoping there would have been more food vendors, but that being said, we really enjoyed everything we tried. The lines weren’t crazy long for food or drinks, but it did start to get very crowded around 6:30pm. People were bumping into each other and there were a few instances where people had drinks spilled on them, so keep an eye out! Plenty of tables, sitting and standing, were set up and also these neat little dark, quiet areas (which I don’t think a lot of people noticed), where you could stand or sit to enjoy your food and not struggle holding everything.
Overall, it was a great night out, enjoying good food and good drinks with friends!
Did you check out the Food and Drink Fest? We’d love to know about some of your favourite shows you attend!