I attended this 12th annual event with a friend and we both enjoyed it. I have attended like events in other cities and they are always a good way to sample what the local restaurants have to offer without committing to a full meal. This show also had musical entertainment and a number of local breweries exhibiting as well as wineries and distilleries. In fact, I’d say there were more breweries than wineries.
We went on the Friday which was also Ladies’ Night. The first 200 women received a gift bag as they entered and we were in that number. The bag contained a magazine, a number of cosmetic samples and a cosmetic bag as the event was sponsored by Shoppers Drugmart (as in Boots) and Smashbox Cosmetics. The gift bag also served to hold other freebies you picked up along the way.
Along with the entrance fee of $15, we also received a wine glass to use for sampling the beverages. If you wanted, you could hand in the wine glass at the end of the evening to be washed and reused. After attending a number of these events over the years, I no longer keep the glass!
What I particularly liked about this event was the location. There is plenty of parking at the Western Fair Grounds which is free. We parked across the street at the Casino. There is also lots of space in the event hall. There was enough room between all the booths so you never felt packed in like sardines. We arrived at 3:00 pm but even later, when the after work crowd started rolling in, it still felt roomy enough. There were also lots of tables to sit it you wanted to rest while eating your samples and other tall ones if you wanted to stand but put your food down to eat without having to balance your glass.
Once inside you could purchase sample tickets at $1 each. You did not have to buy a certain number, only as many as you wanted. If you ran out and had your eye on another sample you wanted to try, you could purchase just the right number of tickets. I prefer this to other events where you had to buy books of tickets and I was often left with unused tickets which I ended up giving away before leaving the events. I noticed that many people purchased tickets online then had to queue up to redeem their voucher before entering the event hall. I did not purchase them ahead of time (although I purchased the entrance tickets online) and inside there were no queues to purchase sample tickets.
Some samples were only two tickets and others were five or six. It just depended on what you wanted to try. We tried a couple of wines and an assortment of cheeses each, and five main courses between us. Out of forty tickets we had five left between us which were enough for an enormous brownie to take home and enjoy with some coffee. In addition we attended the Fanshawe College cooking demonstration and sampled their charred tomato and mushroom bruschetta and flambéed fruit on pound cake. Both were delicious. I’ll definitely be checking out the restaurant, Saffron’s, at their school.
And yes, I’ll be back next year as there were many booths I did not try. The servings were so generous I quickly got full.
The hours and prices vary by day so pay attention when booking: Thursday 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm; Friday 3:00 pm to 10:30 pm; Saturday noon to 10:30 pm. Tickets sell out fast!