The #smugcouple attends #VegTO

9 Sep

I am an omnivore. I eat meat and animal products. I eat lots of fruits and veggies. I wasn’t the natural candidate to attend the 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival hosted by the Toronto Vegetarian Association for YYZGourmand. But, this seemed like a #smugcouple outing because a) HoM and I love to hold hands while we visit Farmer’s Markets on the weekends b) we are obsessed with local, organic, and farm fresh produce (HoM partakes in a CSA in Waterloo) c) we’ve decided to integrate more veggies ( esp. leafy greens), seeds and grains into our daily diet. And, while all of these things are not directly related to vegetarian/vegan foods they all belong to an ethos that focuses on healthier living and a sustainable approach to food. And, I am determined to learn more about this food movement in my quest to lead a Goop-approved life!

Lessons:

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Chickpea stacks with Pickliz (Urban Acorn)

1) Local Food Movement – While the uniting theme of this event was vegetarian/ vegan food most vendors we visited and spoke to preached local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. The Executive Chef, Daniel Holloway at Urban Acorn, for example, creates his menus (they cater events and host monthly supper clubs) with this approach.Rather than vegan/ vegetarian food, they offer “flexitarian” options, which focus on “sustainable healthy eating” but allow for “moderate” consumption of animal products. On Saturday, they created chickpea stacks with “Pickliz” ($4) which we could smell cooking on the grill as we talked to Marie (Events Manager). The chickpea patties were aromatic and hearty with just a bit of kick of hotness and complemented by the tangy sweetness of the Pickliz (slaw). I often complain that a vegetarian/ vegan diet would leave me cold and unsatisfied but this warmed my belly and filled me with strength to search for more deliciousness in the rain. Urban Acorn was the first and best food we tried all day. We can’t wait to attend a supper club or Soupalicious 2013 at Wychwood Barns.

HoM: To me, Urban Acorn displayed everything that is good about vegetarian cooking.  Rather than trying to fool people’s taste buds into thinking they were eating meat, they highlighted and celebrated the flavours of vegetables and legumes.  The chef at Urban Acorn showed that it is possible to create a dish that is downright delicious without “throwing some bacon on it”.  To me, throwing bacon on everything (donuts?!?) is a sign of laziness, rather than creativity.  True creativity is coaxing big flavours out of humble chickpeas and cabbage.

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Tori’s Bakeshop

2) Vegan/ gluten free baking does not have to be gross – HoM and I were once at the Distillery and had the worst gluten-free cupcake ever. It was flavourless and left a strange aftertaste. Yuck. In search of Tori’s Bakeshop (a natural and organic bakery that I read about on a Toronto Holistic Nutritionist’s blog), we found delicious cookies by New Moon Kitchen. Their products are found in health food stores all across Southern Ontario and offer cookies made with only a handful of real ingredients (no preservatives, trans-fats, or artificial flavours). The Ginger Snappers were so chewy and flavourful. I can’t believe that there were no animal products (butter or milk) with which to bind the cookies and that they only use sugar cane to sweeten their treats. Processed sugar is the devil! We tried their “Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies,” which were being sampled at this event, and were blown away by again the texture and flavour. Tori’s Bakeshop had a plethora of tasty treats from which to choose but we were charmed by their Blueberry Tart ($2). The pastry wasn’t flaky in the traditional sense but served as the vehicle for explosive blueberry flavour. It’s odd to say but with all the mass produced pie/ tart fillings out there, I have forgotten how real fruit tastes in baked treats. If you’re going to indulge your sweetness, you should do it the right way and choose healthier options made with real ingredients!!

HoM: One thing that annoys me with vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free cooking is that I have been told I need to “adjust my expectations.” I, however, believe that healthy food should taste good and I refuse to sacrifice quality.  I am happy to say that the baked goods we tried, especially New Moon Kitchen’s chocolate chip cookies, were not good vegan cookies, they were just good cookies full stop. We also bought some dog treats from The Brothers Boston.  My dog, Percy (yyzSirPercival) enjoyed them and attempted to get up on the counter for seconds, though he also likes to eat dirt from my planters so perhaps he does not have to most refined palate.

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Apple-sage & Chipotle “Sausage” Rolls (APieCalypse Now!)

3) Faux-meat? – It puzzles me that a so many vegetarian/ vegan food producers try to recreate the experience of meat for their adherents. The results vary. We tasted really yummy apple-sage sausage rolls from APieCalypse Now Vegan Bakery. I didn’t really mind the texture of the sausage because their filling was flavourful and the pastry was flaky. But, we also sampled tough chewy “artisan vegan grain meats” from Field Roast, which just reminded me of how much it didn’t taste or have the mouthfeel of a real hot dog.

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Jackfruit Taco (Hot Beans)

We also tried a Jackfruit Taco ($3.50) from Hot Beans, which sounds more awesome that it actually was in execution. The concept: unripe jackfruit simmered in a BBQ sauce served with salsa and a corn tortilla. The idea of jackfruit in place of meat was novel. It looked like pulled pork! Except, the flavour fruit itself was overwhelmed by the tangy BBQ sauce and salsa and it lacked a distinguishable texture.

4) Mainstream! – Vegetarian/ vegan/ organic/ local foods are no longer on the fringes of culture and TO eating. Judging by the number of people who came out to brave the wet weather, it was clear that there is a growing group of informed/ interested gourmands in the city who are demanding delicious and healthy food options. Hippies from our parents generation had kids and have gone mainstream with their message. So many of the vendors we met were already offering their products at a retailer near you, about to distribute their products more widely OR launching their own storefronts within the next year. Many vendors were happy to discuss/ educate us on their product and how it fits into healthier living. We tried Kombucha, a natural energy tonic, for the first time! The festival even offered free yoga classes (cancelled on Saturday due to rain) / talks by notable healthy-living gurus and even vegan/ vegetarian classes.

#smugcouple rating: This was the perfect event at which to share bites of food from a variety of vendors (portion control!). The Harbourfront Center is such an amazing event space in TO. If it wasn’t for the rain, there would have been live-music and yoga classes overlooking the lake! We *were*, however, disappointed at the lack of couples yoga classes offered to us … or matching hemp pants.

 

 

 

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