Greek cuisine shines on Danforth

It’s been an absolutely fabulous summer with lots of sunshine and heat. There have been endless things to do in this fair city of ours to enjoy the season. One of the highlights has to be the largest street festival in Canada that takes place early in August every year. I’m talking, of course, about Krinos “Taste of the Danforth” (August 5 to 7 this year).

Organized by the Greek Town BIA on Danforth, it started back in 1994 as a spin-off of Taste of Chicago in the US. Originally, it was meant as a celebration of Hellenic culture and around 5,000 people, including myself, attended that first year. Since then, it has grown to be one of the stellar events of the summer, evolving into a spectacular showcase of the multiculturalism that Toronto is so famous for. Attendance has skyrocketed to about 1.65 million people over the course of the three-day event. Celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, the event was even bigger and better than ever.

Although there are lots of free activities for both adults and children including contests, amusements, live entertainment, displays, samples and more, let’s face it: this festival is all about the food and drink. Although, many different types of cuisine are offered as numerous types of restaurants call the Danforth home, it’s Greek cuisine that shines. After all, this is Greek Town. The smell of grilling souvlaki and gyros, moussaka, calamari, spinach pie and other Hellenic delights fill the air, tantalizing the taste buds. You don’t even have to be hungry, but the intoxicating aromas will get you there in no time. The Danforth, closed off to vehicular traffic from Broadview to Jones, is literally one long “groaning board” of gastronomic delights with grilling/cooking stations set up out front of restaurants all along the way. One could stroll the length of the festival sampling different dishes en route, like an endless buffet that stretches two kilometres!

Let’s not forget about drink. The number of bars along the Danforth is incredible, all offering a place to lay back from the throng, observe the endless parade of passerby and wet one’s whistle. With pretty much every possible form of potable available, either at stations out in front of restaurants and bars for non-alcoholic versions or within for spirited styles, of particular note are all the Greek libations offered. Greek wine has come a long way since the days of Retsina and Mavrodaphne. Now exciting varietals like the white Assyrtiko, Athiri, Malagousia, Roditis and Moscofilero and the red Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro are being crafted by young, talented winemakers into world class wines. 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. Many of these wines and beers are available in the eateries and bars along the strip. Also in abundance is delicious Greek coffee.

The festival is so well organized that it seems almost effortless in appearance and the Greek sun god himself, Helios, who drives the sun chariot across the sky each day, must watch over this event with fond eyes. The weather always seems great for it. It’s not too early to mark your calendars now for next year’s festival. Dates are Aug. 11 to 13, 2017. Don’t miss it.

Edward Finstein is a wine writer, author, TV and radio host, educator, judge.

Connect with him on Twitter at @DrWineKnow, or on Facebook

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