Summer in Toronto is not complete without the largest street festival in Canada that takes place early in August every year. I’m talking, of course, about Greektown’s “Taste of the Danforth” (August 11-13 this year).
Organized by the Greek Town on Danforth, it started back in 1994 when a group of restaurateurs on the Danforth tried to come up with a way to entice folks to their neighbourhood to enjoy their great Greek food. Rather than individually advertising, they banded together, pooling their resources advertising as one entity. Setting up “tasting tables” so people could experience food from different restaurants at a low cost, was decided on and Taste of the Danforth was born.
Originally a celebration of Hellenic culture, it has morphed into a spectacular showcase of multi-culturalism that this fair city is so famous for. Attendance now is well over 1.5 million people over the course of the 3-day event. This year was its 24th anniversary and it was a blast.
It is sponsored by numerous entities (corporate, government and media). Although there are tons of free activities for both adults and children including contests, amusements (midway), live entertainment (contemporary and traditional music and dance), displays, samples, etc., this festival is all about the food and drink, and let me tell you, there’s lots of it. Although many different types of cuisine are offered as numerous types of restaurants call the Danforth home, it’s Greek cuisine that dominates. No surprise here. This is Greek Town and the ethnic food is fabulous. Just stroll along the approximately 2-kilometer stretch of Danforth running from Broadview to Jones and your mouth waters with every step. The smell of grilling souvlaki and gyros, moussaka, calamari, spinach pie and other Hellenic delights fill the air. It’s intoxicating. No need to worry about car traffic either as the whole stretch is closed and open strictly to strollers. Grilling/cooking stations are set up out front of restaurants all along the way and tasting samples cost no more than $6.
Aside from food, the drink flows freely. All restaurants and bars offer potables in every form. Alcoholic beverages such as Greek wine with exciting varietals like the white Assyrtiko, Athiri, Malagousia, Roditis and Moscofilero and the red Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are abundant. Greek beer like Fix Hellas Lager, Volken Grey, Mary Rose Red Ale, Red Donkey, Mythos Lager and Sunday’s Honey Golden Ale are in high demand too at many of the Greek establishments. There are also coffee shops to grab a specialty beverage or fruity concoction. It’s wonderful to obtain a seat at an outdoor patio, order an alcoholic drink or specialty coffee, listen to the live music and just chill watching the endless parade of people pass by.
I’m always astonished at well organized this humongous event is. It goes off without a hitch and seems almost effortless. I’m also pleased to know that in keeping with the festival’s spirit of giving back, all proceeds go to supporting numerous charities. An admirable concept for sure! Although the weather this year wasn’t as cooperative as last year, it didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees one bit. Smiling faces with satiated bellies were everywhere.
If you’ve not attended this fantastic event yet, what are you waiting for? You’re missing out on a spectacular celebration of “good taste”. Be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s festival (August 10 -12, 2018). You won’t want to miss it.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, author, TV and radio host, educator, judge.