Saturday, November 9, 2013

The 29th Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival...

This year my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend the 29th annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Toronto. The festival was held September 5th-7th which was serendipitous for us, because we were planning to be in Montreal then. Originally for our somewhat belated anniversary getaway we were going to go to Niagara Falls and then head straight for Montreal, totally bypassing Toronto, then I found out about the festival. The Toronto Veg Fest is the largest Vegetarian Festival in all of North America, it’s a 3 day extravaganza and always amazing. How could we pass that up? So as much as it pained us we decided to knock a couple of days off of the Montreal trip to attend the festival.

CN Tower
Amazing View!

We arrived in Toronto on Saturday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel we headed straight for the festival. I had never been to Toronto before and so the whole experience was new and exciting. There was some massive construction going on but lucky for us we had a GPS that helpfully guided us to the Harbourfront Centre where the festival was being held. Once we found a parking garage - pretty easy - we headed off to explore the ground. First I have to say it’s a beautiful location, right on the water with glorious views of the CN Tower and other absurdly tall skyscrapers. The grounds themselves were massive too, and jam-packed full of fun loving vegetarians, vegans and the veg-curious. There was live music, and a ton of awesome vendors - something like 150 different vendors in total.

The Awesome World Cafe 

There were local bakeries, food trucks, local restaurants, there were local advocacy groups, and product manufacturers. There were well-known vegan companies such as Daiya, Gardein, Earth Balance, Field Roast and Vega sampling out their newest products. I got to try the new Daiya cream cheeses which I thought were alright but not my favorite of their products. I got to try some samples of vegan coconut bacon, vegan chicken, new and interesting Kombucha’s, fair-trade chocolate and so much more. It was a total blast, although I found that first afternoon a little overwhelming. The grounds were just so big, and there were just so many people - thousands upon thousands - and I was in an unfamiliar place being bombarded with too much information all at once. It was a little bit of vegan overload for me you know? Hard to compute it all. So after giving everything a good look over and enjoying a few snacks we decided to go explore the city, and enjoy a proper dinner.

Steam Buns - White Potato Curry Bun Left
Whole What Cabbage Bun Right 

Of course we returned to the festival Sunday afternoon and stayed nearly till the end. We enjoyed a ton more vegan goodies like the Mac & Cheese Burrito from Hot Beans. We also grabbed one of their jackfruit tacos. We grabbed some delicious steam buns from King’s CafĂ© - 1 cabbage steam bun and 1 potato curry steam bun.  We ate some delicious vegan Jerky - probably the best I’ve ever had, even better then Primal Strips - some organic salad and then it was time to move onto dessert.

Mac & Cheese Burrito 
Jackfruit Taco 

From Bunner’s we got a delicious cinnamon bun and an Orange Spice cupcake., with I think a rose water frosting. - It’s been a couple of months so cut me some slack on the memory. - From Tori’s Bakeshop we got a delicious gluten-free Coconut Cupcake that actually tasted a lot like a corn muffin with a sweet frosting, good thing I like corn muffins! But the best thing we had dessert wise was probably their espresso cupcake with biscotti, so mind-blowing! We finished the decadence with a cone of wild blueberry doughnuts and a Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwich. So good!

Cinnamon Bun 

Orange Spice Cupcake 

Honestly I feel like we actually ate a lot more then this, but the festival is all kind of a blur for me now and these are the only pictures I have. I think the festival was just so much fun, and just so cool that we neglected to take pictures of what we were doing and what we were eating. The awe-factor you know?

Oh well, Hot Beans, Tori’s Bakeshop, and Bunner’s were all on my list of ‘must-visit spots’ for when I was in Toronto and so I was glad that we could knock ‘em all out of the way in one fell swoop at the festival.

Espresso Cupcake Left, Coconut Cupcake Right 

Of course if vegan festival food isn’t quite your thing there was plenty else going on. There were so many amazing speakers, a bunch of awesome cooking demo’s and even a world record breaking 550kg yolk walk by German strongman Patrik Baboumian. Pretty neat stuff. Among some of the guest speakers and demoer’s were Taymer Mason, Del Sroufe, Allyson Kramer, Doug McNish, Melissa Morgan, Jo-Anne McArthur, Liz Marshall, Gene Bauer, Jenny Brown, David Simon, Erin Red, Breeze Harper, Michael Gregor, John Pierre, Kristen Lajeunesse, and Jennifer Cornbleet. Pretty cool lineup no? Because of timing, and scheduling I didn’t get to see all the speakers that I wanted to, there was just too many cool things to see and do, too many great things to eat, it was hard to fit it all in even in two days, but I did make the time and the effort to go and see Taymer Mason.

Wild Blueberry Doughnuts
Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwich 

Taymer’s cooking demo was wonderful, and I’m really glad I got to see it. If you’re unframiliar with Mason, she wrote the amazing book “Caribbean Vegan” which you may recall I made quite a few recipes from over the course of this year’s vegan mofo. For her demo she made the Lentil Patties, and the Eggplant Seaweed Accras from her book, and both were delicious. Rather then all of us getting a minuscule sample we each got a nice plate with a hearty half pattie and a large accra. Mason was a pleasure to watch during her demo, you can really see the passion she has for cooking, and her easy, down to earth, friendly vibes made the whole experience great. Afterwards she was kind enough to stay and sign cook books, and I was lucky enough to have had the forethought to bring my copy of “Caribbean Vegan” along. It was a real treat to speak with her, and it’s pretty cool having a signed book you know?

Taymer Mason Cooking up some great stuff!

And I guess that about rounds it up for the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival. We stayed till the end, took a nap under a tree near where they were cracking open coconuts, listening to music and people talking, and then what did we do? Well, we went to a restaurant and had dinner! I know we’re total gluttons, but that’s what you do on vacation is it not?

I’m really hoping we’ll be able to make the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival next year.

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