First things first, if you’re wondering if you can get inebriated for free at The Food Show, then let me reassure you that, yes, you can. Although the ‘for free’ part of that statement is technically debatable because you will pay $20 (at the door, or online) to get inside its sprawling metropolis of free samples.

It will also get you access to the Electro-Lux Cooking Theatre and the Kenwood Kitchen, however if you want to attend any of its Masterclass workshops, be prepared to pay extra. I contented myself with wandering from stall to stall, chatting to developers, finding new products… and, of course, getting my fill of free samples.   For some, these are probably the main draw card, and are alone well worth spending an afternoon at the show.

My favourite stalls were the Consulate of the Republic of Korea, Miss Melicious Cupcakes and Tokyo Food, but there are hundreds of stalls from which you can sample. Whether you want to try the Korean Campbell Early grapes (the sweetest, juiciest ever) or perhaps some of Alchemy Beverage’s Honey Liquor, The Food Show has you covered. In the space of three hours, I sampled food from more than ten countries, and tried everything from Fry’s (surprisingly good) meat-free meat pops to a Japanese sake that was so smooth I could have been drinking water.

It was, in fact, about the time I was trying my third brand of sake that I realised that after three shots of sake, two kinds of whiskey, several flavoured vodkas and a particularly enjoyable plum wine (I now bitterly regret not buying) that I was experiencing a good, solid, afternoon drunk for the first time in years. Fortunately, alongside all those free samples, you can also buy a few more substantial bites if, like me, you accidentally find yourself drunk at 1.30 in the afternoon.

A block of intensely savory marinated tofu with a surprisingly spicy dipping sauce from Vege Tofu for $2 soon set me back on the right path and I was ready to continue on my merry way. 
If I had another chance, I think I’d commit the extra $50 to attend some of the Masterclass workshops. While it seemed a little exorbitant to me and my diminishing bank account, to most others that would be fairly reasonable, especially considering that tickets came with gift bags valued at $40.

Although The Food Show has now closed in Auckland, you can still catch it in Wellington or Christchurch. There are definitely worse ways to spend a free afternoon than eating delicious food, chatting to vendors, and watching chefs try to outdo each other with increasingly complicated demonstrations.