Events

The Top Moments of SIAL Canada 2019

Just like that another SIAL Canada has come and gone. It was only last year in 2018 that I took part in my very first SIAL Canada trade show. I came back home last year feeling even more proud and patriotic than ever. There was no doubt that Canadian companies are now at the forefront of innovation in the food industry, and that was clearly evident by the quality of Canadian products being showcased at North America’s largest food-innovation trade show last year in Montreal.

Read a recap of my Montreal SIAL Canada 2018 experience here.

So when asked to become an official media partner at SIAL 2019 in Toronto, I jumped at the chance! For three days in May, Toronto was transformed into an agri-food industry hub not just for Canada but for the entire world! With a one-stop-shop concept, the Enercare Centre opened its doors to more than 1,100 food and beverage exhibitors from 60 different countries. Bring an empty stomach and comfortable shoes because when you’re walking through a 270,000 sq ft building with an endless supply of food and beverage samples, you’ll be exhausted and full….in the best way possible.

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If you recall my previous blog post, one of the main events and my personal favourite part of SIAL Canada is the SIAL Innovation Awards. Cash prizes with a value of $20,000 is handed out to the top three products that best embody innovation with criteria such as recipe, packaging, manufacturing, and positioning that gets judged by a panel of highly-esteemed industry professionals.

Read a recap of SIAL Canada’s unveiling of the Top 10 Finalists this year here.

During the first day of the trade show, the official SIAL Innovation Awards ceremony was held live at 10AM where Dana McCauley, SIAL Canada 2019 Innovation Ambassador, announced the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Hopeful prize winners. As all the finalists held their collective breath, the winners one by one were announced. Below are your 2019 SIAL Canada Innovation Winners!!

Gold - Unbun Keto Foods - Vegan Keto Buns (Ontario, Canada)
Silver - Yummy Doh - Raw Cookie Dough (Quebec, Canada)
Bronze - Lofbergs Canada Inc - ICE (Ontario, Canada).
Hopeful - Partake Brewing - Partake Pale Alt Craft Non-Alcoholic Beer (Alberta, Canada)

For the first time ever this year in SIAL Canada’s 16th year history, all levels of Canadian government (federal, provincial, municipal) were in attendance. This is a huge milestone for the Canadian food industry as its further affirmation that investment in our local companies is important to further develop food innovation and sustainability within the Great White North. During the official opening ceremonies, Canadian government officials made their opening remarks to ring in the start of all the various festivities. Among them were Mr. Jean-Claude Poissant (Parliamentary Secretary), Ernie Hardeman (OMAFRA’s Minister), and Michael Thompson (Deputy Mayor of the City of Toronto). A special presentation was also made by Italian dignitaries to celebrate Italy as the chosen country of Honour at this year’s trade show.

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Speaking of the various festivities, one of the crowd’s favourite at this year’s SIAL Canada was the inaugural Canadian Plate Competition. Four competing Canadian chefs pushed themselves to new culinary heights when they were tasked to create a dish that they felt truly represented Canada, using thirteen ingredients from each province and territory. The four competing chefs were Andrea Carlson (Burdock and Co - Vancouver, BC), Laura Maxwell (Le Select Bistro - Toronto, Ontario), Josh Crowe (Monkland Taverne - Montreal, Quebec), and Pierre Richard (Little Louis’s Oyster Bar - Moncton, New Brunswick). Throughout the challenge, the four competing chefs pushed themselves further than they ever have and each presented dishes representative of their immense talents and Canada’s diverse ingredients. Ultimately it was Pierre Richard who came out on top taking inspiration from his east coast roots creating a twist on the traditional chowder. From dried morel mushrooms hailing from the Yukon, to snow crab from Newfoundland and Labrador, Pierre kept an open mind and applied regionally-specific techniques to perfect his dish. The final presentation included a bannock-inspired tuile and a pour over ‘Ocean Nage’ intended to represent the coming tide of The Bay of Fundy. A truly Canadian plate. Oh Canada!

Another big milestone event at this year’s SIAL was the very first International Cheese Competition. This was not only the first time it was held at SIAL, but in all of Canada as well. A jury of industry cheese professionals evaluated 230 cheeses from 9 countries across 23 different categories. Held in an open area at the Enercare Centre, visitors and exhibitors were able to watch the competition unfold right in front of their eyes along with the entire deliberation process. This competition aimed to highlight the innovation, know-how, and passion of cheese-makers on an international level, where awards like Best English Cheese prize, Best Italian Cheese prize, Dairy Farmers of Canada prize, Best New Cheese prize and Grand Champion Cheese were announced. As if the suspense wasn’t enough in waiting for the Grand Champion to be crowned, there was a deadlock between two cheeses by the jury on which cheese would be crowned victorious. After a tie-breaking vote, Quebec`s Fromagerie La Station’s Alfred le Fermier Grand Crucheese ultimately was selected as the big winner for its leading technical and aesthetic properties.

A personal favourite exhibitor booth I found at this year’s SIAL belonged to Davide Bazzali of Cuisine Opera who sang and cooked his heart out on the Italian Pavilion. Italy was in the spotlight at this year’s SIAL Canada as the country of honour with the very best of Italian cuisine being showcased along the many aisles of the building. Not only did Davide cook everyone a delectable plate of pasta, he also serenaded the crowd by singing Italian opera transporting everyone there to what felt like an authentic cultural experience in Italy. You just have to watch it to believe it!

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Overall SIAL Canada set a record attendance this year in Toronto compared to two years ago with a growth of 10%. Over 25,000 professional visitors from over 60 countries were present over these three days with 1,130 exhibitors and brands on hand.

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During my time at this year’s SIAL Canada I also had the pleasure of doing a sit down interview with Xavier Poncin, SIAL Canada’s Executive Director, as he talked about all the great things SIAL Canada 2019 was able to accomplish in Ontario and the milestone of having all levels of government involved in this year’s trade show.

“It’s just proof that our show is now anchored within the food industry in Canada. We first launched SIAL Canada in Montreal, so many people have always seen our show as more Quebecois than Ontarian, and even in the different contests we do like SIAL innovation for example, Quebec was number one. But the biggest growth that we have now been seeing with our exhibitors is now coming from Ontario. So having those three levels of government being involved in our show this year shows that SIAL CANADA is the top event for the agri-food sector not only in Ontario, but for all of Canada to be and participate in.”

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I want to extend my deepest thanks to the entire SIAL Canada team for inviting me to become a media partner at this year’s event. If you’ve missed it this year in Toronto, don’t you worry because SIAL Canada will be having its 17th edition in just under a year from now in Montreal at the Palais des Congres from April 15th to 17th, 2020. See you all there!

SIAL Canada Back With A Bang In Its 16th Edition

North America’s largest food innovation show is back bigger and better than ever, and for its 16th edition SIAL Canada will be held again in Toronto from April 30th to May 2nd at the Enercare Centre. Like the Rogers Cup, SIAL Canada is hosted in Montreal one year and then Toronto the year after that. I had so much fun last year in Montreal at my first SIAL Canada experience and was blown away at the enormous scale that it was. This is the trade show to be at if you are involved in any way within the food and beverage industry. A resounding 2018 success in Montreal, SIAL Canada last year welcomed 1,068 exhibitors and brands from 51 countries, where an astonishing 20,771 professional visitors made their way out to the 240,000 sq ft facility inside the Palais des Congres. It’s a must-attend event for anyone who wants to stay on top with the upcoming food trends.

For a full recap of my 2018 experience of SIAL Canada in Montreal, I’ve documented my experience in the blog post HERE.

This year I’ve been brought on as an official media sponsor for SIAL Canada and I cannot wait to show you all the new and innovative food products that will be coming out of it. One of my favourite aspects of this international food and beverage trade show is that it’s a “one-shop-stop.” It’s the only national trade show that offers a complete range of food products under one roof, whether it’s retail, catering, or food processing, you can find it all at SIAL Canada all under one roof. Even regional specialties from half way around the world you can find it here! SIAL Canada is not only key to the Canadian agrifood industry, but it’s also a priviledged entryway to the U.S. and international markets.

In fact, every year SIAL Canada honours one specific country during the trade show that has had and still has a large impact towards the Canadian food industry. This country will be featured heavily throughout the three days. Last year the country of honour was Spain. This year SIAL Canada names Italy as 2019’s Country of Honour. If you love Italian food like I do, this is the one year you do not want to miss!

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There will also be two brand new sectors making its inauguration in Toronto: Beverages and Food Start Ups. As SIAL Canada understands the current market trends, it created a new space dedicated to beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and food start-ups where fifteen young dynamic companies will illustrate this new branch of the industry: Food Tech. Last but not least there will also be a brand new international cheese competition that aims to highlight the innovation, know-how, and passion of cheese-makers at an international level. You literally can get full at SIAL Canada just by going booth to booth trying all the cheese samples. Trust me, I’ve been there!

With all these new and exciting additions to this year’s show, my favourite part of SIAL Canada has to still be the SIAL Innovation Awards! It’s a unique international contest that rewards the best innovations in food and non-food related products such as packaging and containers. The contest is open to all SIAL Canada exhibitors where the contestants are judged on the four following criteria: packaging, manufacturing process, merchandising, and recipe.

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The unveiling of the SIAL Innovation 2019 finalists happened just this past week in Toronto at Second Floor Events. Dana McCauley, SIAL Canada 2019 Innovation Ambassador was on hand to kick things off to a room full of industry professionals. She re-iterates that one of the most important things the jury must do each year is to take time to think beyond their personal feelings about the products submitted for evaluation, and must assess whether the products have a clear and solid value proposition for their intended target market. Once all that is considered, the top 10 most innovative products are chosen and the official awards for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners will be handed out during the very first day of the show! Lots and lots of money will be at stake! $20,000 to be exact!

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Take a look below at the top 10 SIAL Innovation 2019 Finalists!

Vegan Tofu Dips - A&M Gourmet Foods Inc.

Booth #1221

Booth #1221

Seaweed Fed Lamb - Les Bergeries Du Margot

Booth #937

Booth #937

Instant Miso Soup - Abokichi Inc.

Booth #133

Booth #133

Partake Pale Ale - Craft Non-Alcoholic Beer - Partake Brewing

Booth #133

Booth #133

Todd’s Protein Crisps - Evova Foods Inc.

Booth #149

Booth #149

Vegan Keto Buns - Unbun Keto Foods.

Booth #1311

Booth #1311

Ice - Lofbergs Canada Inc.

Booth #905

Booth #905

Yellofruit

Booth #2145

Booth #2145

Naturalbliss Infusions

Booth #133

Booth #133

Raw Cookie Dough - Yummy Doh

Booth #949

Booth #949

Personally I cannot wait to check out all of these innovative products at this year’s show! If you’re unable to make it down in person to this year’s SIAL Canada, make sure you stay tuned right here as I will be writing a follow up blog post in the next few weeks to document everything that happened inside the Enercare Centre including which product will get crowned the winner at this year’s SIAL Innovation Awards! However if you’re able to come down in person (which I highly, highly recommend!), make sure you attend the most anticipated event of the show on April 30th at 10:30AM happening at Booth #625!

If you still have not registered for your visitor’s badge at this year’s SIAL Canada, make sure you do so HERE. What are you waiting for? I’ll see you all there!

Plant-Based Dinner and Converstations with Aeroplan

The past few months have been a whirlwind. I’ve been traveling a lot lately and from this constant travel naturally for me comes a lot of food. I travel to eat and eat to travel. No doubt about it! Do I eat healthy when I’m traveling abroad though? Not always. When I’m on the move it’s just so easy to pick up a quick snack and go. Junk food? Admittedly so. Lately it’s also been a lot of seafood and meat in my diet, so I’ve actually been craving some hearty and healthy vegetables after coming home from my trips in Prince Edward Island, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Florida. Those cravings luckily were satisfied ten fold.

Aeroplan hosted a plant-based dinner and conversation for some of their Aeroplan Diamond members at Evergreen Brick Works with two world-renowned plant-based chefs David Lee and Chad Sarno. Chef David Lee is the Executive Chef and co-owner of Toronto’s incredibly successful vegan restaurant Planta. He also holds fine-dining experience from all around the globe with an immense respect for sourcing quality ingredients, and is seen as a leader in plant-based cuisine space. On the other hand, Chef Chad Sarno from Texas is not only a creative genius in the kitchen with plant-based cuisine, but he’s also an educator, cookbook authour, and entrepreneur as co-founder of “Good Catch Foods,” a 100% plant-based seafood line launching December 2018. You know if you had these two culinary giants at the helm of one’s dinner you were in for a real treat. You could sense both of their passions for plant-based dining every time they told their stories and described their meatless dishes.

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Aeroplan has been partnering with some of Canada’s top culinary events, and if you would like to explore some other culinary events Aeroplan has been a part of this year, make sure you check out my previous blog posts.

It was truly a magical evening where the night’s dinner explored the idea of sustainable agriculture and the hottest trend in the food world right now: plant-based dining. Aeroplan created an evening aimed to inspire a new appreciation for the importance of local agriculture, healthy eating, and an understanding of just how well anyone can eat without any meat. The night started off with an open bar and plant-based horderves being served to guests mingling outside the dining area. After everyone got their bubbly and a sampling of what was to come, the main event would begin and guests started entering the main dining hall to get settled for the four-course plant-based meal. And oh yes, there was even wine pairings with each course!

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The four dishes were split between the two chefs to prepare where Chef David Lee prepared the first and fourth course, and Chef Chad Sarno prepared the second and third course. The second course for me personally from Chef Chad Sarno was my favourite of the night. I honestly have never ever tasted a dumpling as good as the one he made. It wasn’t the filling that caught my taste buds by surprise, but the dough. When asked how me made it, he simply said it was just flour and water. The good thing is his dumpling recipe is included in his cookbook, so it’s safe to say which recipe I will be hunting down next!

Take a look below and see some of the moments we savoured from that night’s meal. A meatless dinner that for sure was inspiring as it was delicious.

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FIRST

Cookstown Greens Hubbard Squash, White Kimchi, Pears, Pumpkin Pesto & Chicharron

Cookstown Greens Hubbard Squash, White Kimchi, Pears, Pumpkin Pesto & Chicharron

SECOND

Corn Dumplings, Coconut Corn Broth, Chiles & Herbs

Corn Dumplings, Coconut Corn Broth, Chiles & Herbs

THIRD

Charred Hoisin Maitake, Sesame Rice Cake, Pickled Cauliflower, Brussel Leaves & Mint

Charred Hoisin Maitake, Sesame Rice Cake, Pickled Cauliflower, Brussel Leaves & Mint

FOURTH

Niagara Peninsula Apple Pie, Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Corn Nuts & Quebec Maple Syrup

Niagara Peninsula Apple Pie, Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream, Candied Corn Nuts & Quebec Maple Syrup

I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming winter months in Toronto when Aeroplan becomes the premier sponsor for Winterlicious. Bring on the snow!

Moments To Savour With Aeroplan

Toronto is a city full of food festivals and with summer in full swing some of the city's top culinary events is happening right now! Most notably one of my favourite summer foodie events, Summerlicious! Seventeen glorious days of three-course prix fixe menus at 200 of Toronto's top restaurants is being offered to guests looking to have a great meal with friends and family for lunch or dinner all across the GTA. 

If you're an Aeroplan member it gets even better for you. You may not even realize that you not only get the many perks of travel rewards with Aeroplan, but those perks also extend out to some great food options that provides benefits to Aeroplan members only. 

For the second year in a row, Aeroplan is the Premier sponsor of the "Licious" properties in Toronto. Aeroplan recognizes that great food plays an integral part of any travel experience, so partnering up with Summerlicious again in Toronto was a no-brainer. 

Running from July 6th to July 22nd, Summerlicous will showcase Toronto's diverse cuisine with delicious three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus ranging as low as $23 for lunch and as high as $53 for dinner depending on which restaurant you go to.

For anyone who's dined at a Summerlicious restaurant before you probably know how hard sometimes it is to get a reservation especially at some of Toronto's favourite restaurants. Well if you're an Aeroplan member already you're in luck. That's because Aeroplan members get the opportunity to make advance reservations at participating restaurants before the general public can to ensure you get the date and time you want! This year Aeroplan members were able to make advance Summerlicious reservations on June 20th, a full day before the general public was able to. And speaking from experience a full 24 hour advantage can make all the difference in getting that coveted 6:30PM table on a Saturday. 

It gets better. 

Aeroplan members will also enjoy special privileges at select Summerlicious restaurants just by showing the waiter your Aeroplan card or an Aeroplan-affilliated credit card upon arrival. Below are the bonus perks that Aeroplan members will get if you choose to dine at any of these restaurants: 

My first Summerlicious restaurant this year was Bymark from celebrity chef Mark McEwan situated in Toronto's busy financial district. A fine dining restaurant inside the underground passageways of the Path, it's $53 dinner menu serves up Canadian, contemporary food with elegance and style in a dark and intimate setting. Not to mention their famous burger is also on the dinner menu (one of the very best in the city!)

Appetizers

Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi  - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

Seared Ahi Tuna Sashimi - wasabi aioli, cilantro, yuzu soy vinaigrette

Venison Carpaccio  - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Venison Carpaccio - spiced blueberries, arugula, grainy dressing, gaufrette potato

Main

Bymark 7oz Burger  - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

Bymark 7oz Burger - brie, sauteed mushrooms, truffle aioili, crisp frites

Seared Scallops  - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Seared Scallops - crab potato croquettes, cauliflower puree, beech mushrooms, leeks, shellfish bisque

Dessert 

Lemon Meringue Cake  - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

Lemon Meringue Cake - lemon curd, lemon sponge cake, toasted meringue

Bymark Chocolate Bar  - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

Bymark Chocolate Bar - white and dark chocolate mousse, caramel crunch

It is through these type of culinary partnerships that Aeroplan will help bring more people together with food and drink. Personally when I travel the fondest memories I have is the food I eat with the people that mean the most in my life. Those are the moments I will savour. 

If you're not an Aeroplan member yet, enrol now HERE and start enjoying all the benefits that Aeroplan has to offer! 

Schneiders Craft Meatery

There are a handful of Canadian brands that are recognized instantly. Roots, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire are just some part of this elite group. Another notable brand that has been part of the lives of Canadians since 1890, in the fridge and on the dinner tables of Canadian families is Schneiders. For over a century the Schneiders brand has been grounded in quality products crafted without compromise for its premium cuts of meat using the original J.M. Schneider family recipes. 

If you live in Canada and ate a hot dog, a sandwich, or even indulged in a charcuterie board (which is pretty much everyone!), you've definitely had Schneiders before. Now in 2018, the iconic Schneiders brand is undergoing some important changes to reinforce its market leading position for craftsmanship. Using its signature methods like traditional hardwood smoking and original recipe formulations, Schneiders will go through some extensive packaging changes across its product portfolio. 

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To showcase this new era and resetting the entire product lineup of wieners, sausage, bacon, deli, sliced meats, ham, meat snacks, and bologna, Schneiders put on the Craft Meatery in Toronto. They invited local media and food influencers to taste the quality meats inside Toronto's backyard BBQ joint Big Crow with acclaimed Chef Anthony Rose at the helm. 

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Throughout the night Schneiders and Chef Anthony Rose put out a stellar menu drawing upon 128-year old recipes using only premium cuts of meat with extraordinary taste and elevated artisanal flavours. Some of my favourite Schneiders dishes of the night included:

  • Carved Ham with Cheese Grits and Heirloom Tomato Relish
  • Pigs in a Blanket with Honey Mustard and Everything Bagel Spices
  • Spicy Italian Sausage Taquitos with Charred Tomatillo Salsa 
  • Pealmeal Bacon and Zucchini Kehab with Buttermilk Dressing 
  • Grilled Bologna with Roasted Chilli and Fried Garlic 
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All of these Schneiders products you see here recently went through a culinary panel of experts signalling its commitment to making their food better than ever. Fourteen respected Canadian restauranteurs, chefs, and food critics conducted blind taste tastes for over 100 Schneiders products for nearly a year-long period to ensure their full line of meats lived up to the high quality and taste standards that the brand is committed to. None of these products went to the market that was not signed off by this panel, so you can bet that all of the dishes served here in the Craft Meatery was at the highest standards. 

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All of Schneiders' renovated products are already being rolled out and can be found in grocery stores all across Canada. Find Schneiders at various community events throughout this summer and autumn where you may even be able to see their Craft Meatery Food Truck cruising down the streets.