- Bruno's Fine Foods at 1560 Yonge St. often put out grapes, bagette slices with olive oil occasionally with balsamic vinegar or dips, and slices of banana or even chocolate-banana loaf cake. Sometimes there are cheese squares or meat samplings from the deli section
- The Flagship LCBO at 10 Scrivener Square has regular liquor and food tastings, especially on the weekends between 1-4pm. Two main food stands at either end of the store often have small samplings of wines, scotch, beers, coolers, etc. usually with a tray of cheese, fruit or small hors d'oeuvres. Even better is when the Event Kitchen features chefs who prepare food right on the premise in order to promote their restaurants, usually paired with some sort of liquor sampling. Or for a nominal fee from 50 cents to several dollars, on any day you can purchase a sample from hundreds of different wines and spirits in the Clock Tower Tasting room.
- All The Best Fine Foods at 1101 Yonge St. always has some fine cheeses featured for sampling at their cheese counter. If you wander around the store, you'll occasionally find some cake or pastry offerings, as well as their store brand cheese sticks and featured dips including my favourites - Garlic/Dill, Edamame/Miso or Crab/Cheese
- William Sonoma at 100 Bloor St. often offer apple cider or hot chocolate in the winter. Throughout the year, if you time it right, there might be some cooking demonstrations in their kitchen which result in samplings of baked goods, soups, or whatever happens to be on the stove. The best sampling I ever got was from this store, when the chef of Splendido was passing out small portions of beef tenderloin with mash potato and aspargus. I have yet to top that one!
- EPI Breads at 1526 Bayview is my favourite bakery in Toronto and sells an excellent selection of freshly baked breads, some of which are always offered for sampling. EPI also sells great hummus and pestos, soups and pastries including a delicious chocolate almond croissant
Holidays, especially Christmas are a great time to find tasting opportunities as stores put out samplings of chocolates, pastries, Christmas fruit cakes and prepared foods to lure shoppers already in the buying mood. The usual places will put out extra offerings while even unusual places could get into the act. I tried some free chocolate at Shoppers Drug Mart just the other day.
Be careful to make sure what looks like a sample is really a sample though. Once we were merrily tasting mini sausage rolls in a basket when suddenly we saw the price sign which had tipped over. We shamefully slunk away without being noticed and arbitrarily bought something out of guilt. Since we usually spend so much money at this shop, I think in the long run they've come out ahead, but I've been extra careful ever since.