Toronto’s 2009 Hot and Spicy Food Festival Review

After missing last year’s Spicy Food Festival, I decided to make sure that I went to this year’s festival. We didn’t stay for long, but we got a taste…

First, the bad.
Well, I’ve got to say that as a spicy food enthusiast, I was honestly disappointed this year. I did miss last year’s festival, but the year prior was pretty good if my memory serves me correctly. (It’s not that this year was “bad”, but I just had really high expectations.) 😉

I won’t go into my issues with a coconut costing $7. I promised myself I wouldn’t go there… (Really?? $7 for a coconut with a straw in it??…Go onto Spadina near Kensignton Market, they’re much cheaper there…Plus, I wanted spicy food, not coconut with a straw. Anyways…)

Upon our arrival to the festival, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I had anticipated. (Though, that’s not always a bad thing…)
We went to the tented area to scope out the different booths, only to see that there were maybe 6 or 7 booths in total.
As I remember it the last time I went, there were more than that. There were a couple of booths set up along the side of the harbour front building, and even there we only saw a few.
A handful of these places seemed to be heavily promoting sauces that have a lemon-ginger taste to them, or different fruit flavours mixed with a bit of “Canadian spice”. I wasn’t quite sure why this term “Canadian spice”
was so popular this year. I go to the spicy food festival to try international sauces and marinades. If I want “Canadian spice” I’ll just take a walk over to Sobey’s and grab some Frank’s Red Hot sauce, or better yet I’ll make my own sauce.
That being said, mid-search for some hot sauces, I changed my mind on what I was going to look for. (The Canadian spice was starting to appeal to me after a few samples of different things…)
I decided that instead of looking for the next super spicy yet somewhat tolerable sauce, I would look for something fruity with a bit of bite to it. Something I could either put on my chicken, or on my salads.
I had high hopes for the Hot Mama booth, but was a little
let down. I even tried some chilli heat chocolate sauce,
but couldn’t imagine putting it on anything even though I
liked the taste of it. (Doesn’t Lindtt have a chilli heat
dark chocolate? I would just buy that for $3 a bar
instead of paying $12 for a small jar of it from this
festival…)

There is some good!
I DID however, find a hidden gem. Chef Jono.
Not only did he have a booth here, but he also did a
demonstration (that I unfortunately did not get to see).
His booth seemed simple enough. There were a few pictures
of the product he was selling, and a display of some of
his artsy foods. (I saw a picture of a fancy salad
wrapped in a shaving of a cucumber. Very impressive!)
He was selling a pomegranate balsamic, and a hot mango pepper
sauce. Both were very tasty and appealing, so I purchased
one of each. He also gave a pointer on how you can cook
the balsamic on its own to thicken it, and then drizzle it
over cooked chicken and salad. I’m looking forward to
trying this, and even to just using the balsamic on my
salad as is!

***Edit: upon having this balsamic on my salad, I loved it. It was the perfect flavour to go as a side to some spicy chicken. ***

He really seemed to know a lot about food,
and was able to give information and pointers about his
product. This is so much more than I can say for some
of the other booths at this year’s festival. One booth
that had a hot sauce called “Obama Sauce” (haha), didn’t
really seem to interact with the customers. Even though
the sauce was pretty tasty, I probably would have been
more inclined to make a purchase if they had shown that
they even cared that customers were checking out what
they had to offer.

I strongly encourage anyone who happens to stumble upon
this, to check out Chef Jono’s website:
http://www.chefjono.ca

He has many recipes posted on his website, and you can
contact him. He also does catering as a personal chef
for groups ranging from 2-20 people. Even more interesting,
he will cook WITH you if you like, so that there’s a
sense of involvement and so that you get to learn.
All of the stores that sell his sauces are also listed.

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2 comments on “Toronto’s 2009 Hot and Spicy Food Festival Review

  1. Hi ya, great blog that Jono forwarded to me. I am the other fellow that was helping staff the booth. You were sure right about some of the other booths, there seemed to be very little interaction. All I know is I lost my voice for a day after talking to 10,00 people about his mangoe hot sauce and tamarind sauce which I guess you did not get a chance to taste.

    Thanks again for buying,

    P.S We sold out of everything!

    Mike Bolwell

    • I can only imagine the amount if talking that would have happened over the course of that weekend!
      That booth was definitely one of the busier ones for sure. We had walked past it once and weren’t able to stop by, but the second time around we got in there. 🙂
      I did not get to try the tamarind sauce, no… But the two that I got were definitely worth waiting in line for! I’m just glad that I got to the balsamic before you guys sold out. 😉

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