The Sweetery Toronto Festival is in full swing right now, in the blazing afternoon. I was there for the entire day yesterday, and here’s the inside scoop on what’s sweetest at the event.
It begins at 12PM, and the first 500 people get a loot bag! We ran out at around 1:30 PM. These loot bags have candy, chocolate and possibly a golden ticket to a meal at Chef’s House, a restaurant run by culinary students at George Brown.
The peak is between 2-5PM, where there are over 100 people streaming in and out every 10 minutes. I was the clicker for part of this time, so I know that for a fact.
People begin to disperse at around 6PM, where the stream begins to look more like a steady trickle instead of a waterfall. The festival ends around 10PM, but most food stalls begin selling out of certain popular or signature items at 5PM.
There are two booths for activities, in which all proceeds go to Sick Kids.
- Challenge your Tastes, Bud ($2)
A popcorn tasting challenge. You try 5 different popcorns and guess the flavour, possibly winning a prize if you can guess all 5 correctly.
- Piñata (price varies)
There were piñatas spelling out “SWEETERY” released with each hour. You could participate by paying certain fees to have a go at it. You pay more for a bigger bat, and thus a bigger chance of breaking the piñata for loads of sweet confections.
Also, don’t forget to pick up your “Scavenger Hunt” card at the Welcome (loot bag) Booth! If you purchase any speciality item at the vendors (not including the food trucks), you can get a stamp on your card. If you gather 5 stamps, go back to the Welcome Booth to get entered into a raffle for gift cards, restaurant vouchers and a grande prize of $100 at the Chef’s House.
There are all kinds of foods vendors at the Sweetery, including booths set up by indie businesses, culinary students at Geroge Brown and food trucks. They are mostly sweet, but there were 3 that I noted were salty: La Novela (tacos, burritos, yuko and plantain chips), Fu Fu (Thai meatballs and jerk chicken), and poutine from the Beaver Tail truck (though I saw no one buying poutine throughout the day).
We tried out a variety of different foods. There was a food blogger tour at 1:30 PM, and another at 7:30 PM, with samples and some backstories. As I was a volunteer, I did not get any of the samples, though I did try some of Amanda’s (from BlogTO) samples during the second tour. I also purchased a variety of different snacks with my friends.
Here are the standout pieces of the day:
George Brown Pastry School:
All the proceeds from this concession go to funding their exchange in France, where they’ll be further studying pastry arts. The program the students are in is an intensive, 1-year program, where the 3rd semester takes place in France. They were selling a variety of different treats, including Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Tower, Mont Blanche, Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart and Snickers Bar ($6, or $12 for 3).
Watermelon Drinks: I saw so many of these mini watermelons ($10) throughout the day! The students were hard at work, scooping the garnish with melon ballers on by one starting at least by 10 AM. I asked a couple people what they thought of the drinks, and they all raved over its refreshing juice. You can get bottomless refills on real, freshly made watermelon juices. It is a perfect summer drink to cool down the afternoon rays or finish the night on a sweet note.
Bloomers: These vegan bad boys ran out, fast. I was hoping to snag a Boston Cream or Rose Cream Pistachio donut (just $3!) during my break, but I went there too late. They were almost sold out by 5PM, save for a few Raspberry Red Velvet cupcakes and butter tarts.
Chris Siu, a contestant of Masterchef Canada: He sold out in 3 hours. His theme was “Hong Kong-style Drinks”, so all his desserts were flavoured as such. He had pastries like mille crepes ($8) and (massive!) macarons ($6), flavoured in…
- HK tea, a milk tea strained through a pantyhose-like sieve
- Lemon Coke
- Yuanyang, coffee mixed with milk tea
Unfortunately, he won’t be returning today, but perhaps next year.
Kakigori: Japanese-styel Shaved Ice. Prepare to be served bowls of refreshing, delicious shaved ice by girls dressed in kimonos. The kimono fabric they were wearing was quite stiff, and impressive considering the humid weather. Matcha Red Bean was the first to sell out at 6PM, and most other flavours (especially the traditional Japanese ones) were sold out by 8PM. The one we tried was Sakura Milk Shaved Ice ($8), which had azuki (red beans) on the inside and was doused with a sweet, rich milk instead of colour-intense syrups. It was topped with a mochi, and was overall enjoyable.
Fu Fu Rocks: They’ve only started for around 2 months, but were a huge hit at the festival. They offer just 2 items: jerk chicken and/or meatballs, paired with a peanut sauce salad ($6). I wasn’t going to buy it since I was trying to zone in on the sweets, but they smelled so fantastic I kept making rounds around their tent until I finally gave in. They are wonderfully spiced, though the jerk chicken was a bit undercooked for me.
Also, I don’t know why but every time I get Thai food, I get attacked by bees. This time, (literally) 5 bees were following me all over the park while I was eating this. They did not give up despite my following tactics: calm ignore-and-eat, asking nicely, running around, leaving it on the ground and waving my bag. Finally, I made a whirlwind with my shirt around my box of food, snatched it from the grass when the bees dispersed and fast walked around the park while stuffing my face.
Chimney’s: You really should’ve seen the line at this truck. It was huge, snaking around for the entire day.
The backstory is incredibly interesting, too. The owners of the food truck have only been working it for 9 weeks. Before this, they sold all that they had to travel around in Europe for a year. In Budapest, they met Christopher, a boy who introduced them to a traditional European dessert. It’s a bit reminiscent of monkey bread in how it pulls apart, except it’s thinner, shaped like a long tube (or chimney) and hollow on the inside. You pull off strands of the side, and the inside can be filled with icing, nutella, chocolate spread or savoury jams. People usually cook it by the window where people can see, as open-window patisseries.
I tried a bit of the cinnamon-sugar chimney ($7), and it reminded me of french toast: crispy, crunchy but fluffy on the inside.
Mille Crepe: Matcha, Vanilla, Vietnamese Coffee ($5). The matcha sold out, so we went with the remaining flavour: vanilla. It wasn’t bad, but the vanilla was a bit too creamy, to the point of almost becoming slimy. I know this could’ve been prevented with better refrigeration.
Pure Leaf: They gave out free samples of different real, brewed, iced teas throughout the day. I heard many great reviews of the raspberry, and I personally enjoyed the Honey Green Tea.
Other Food Trucks: Beaver Tails, Sweet Spot Ice Cream ($5 for a huge cone) and Shaved Ice.
All listed above, and how it’s located right next to a nicely sized park, perfect for a picnic.
As with every festival, there are pros and cons. It was smaller than I expected, and a tad disorganized, but that’s to be expected of a first festival. What I was actually disappointed in was the lack of actual pastry-making or cooking demonstrations on-site. It would’ve been so cool to see people piping out decorations, smoothing on garnitures or cutting pieces of marzipan. The only cooking I saw was from Chimney’s and the salty vendors, and the cooking was sometimes blocked too (downsides of food trucks).
Parking: You can park around the event, or inside (as it takes place in a parking lot), which is a flat rate of $20 for guests and $15 for vendors.
Location: Parking Lot at Front and Portland, you’ll see it when it’s red tents and blue balloons.
When: August 15 & 16, 2015. 12PM-10PM.