I know you're probably looking forward to a new recipe this week, but I had such a great weekend that I wanted to share my experience with you today instead!
This weekend was the 28th annual Vegetarian Food Festival held in Toronto, Ontario - a place for over 100 exhibitors to showcase their products, plus lots of speakers and demonstrations. It's such a great way to try out new products from the likes of Earth Balance, Coconut Bliss, Daiya, Field Roast and tons more, and to learn all about them by speaking to the vendors!
Despite living close enough to Toronto, I've never been to the festival (in fact, I had never even heard of it until last year). This time, my sisters and I decided it would be worth the trip, so we headed up there on Saturday excited to fill up on lots of vegan and vegetarian goodies!
The weather wasn't great, but the rain managed to hold off for most of the day, and we were too excited for all the samples to care about the weather!
What I loved most about the festival was the fact that every single product, sample, and menu item was vegetarian, and the majority were actually vegan. Plus there were tons of gluten-free and raw products, so no matter what your diet was, there was lots for everyone to eat!
As I'm sure other vegans and vegetarians would understand, it's just such a thrilling (and almost overwhelming) feeling to know that I could eat everything in sight if I wanted to, and I didn't have to limit my choices to only one or two items off any menu!
Here are some of the samples I tried - thanks to my sister Natalie for taking the photos! At the top is a piece of Field Roast veggie sausage, which I've written about on my blog here. They were sampling three different flavours (the one pictured was the Mexican Chipotle), and the smell of them cooking was so good, especially on a chilly day!
There were lots of bakeries selling vegan goodies like cookies, loaves and cupcakes, and some of them were offering samples of their products. I tried a ginger snapper from New Moon Kitchen (pictured top right) and I loved the taste and texture. My sister sampled the chocolate-coconut "Mackies" and raved about them too!
In the bottom right corner is a sample of tofu shirataki noodles mixed with veggies, tofu and a sweet-and-spicy sauce that was really tasty. This wasn't my first time trying shirataki noodles, but my sister was surprised by how much they tasted like pasta noodles.
There were also at least a few booths sampling non-dairy milk beverages, like the Hemp Bliss station pictured above. One booth even had milk made from kasha - I had no idea such a product existed!
One of the best samples that I got was from the Vegenaise booth. They were offering tastes of two of their products on veggie straws - the original and the reduced fat vegenaise, and they gave out a mini jar of each kind to take home! I was really excited because I've been wanting to buy myself a jar of Vegenaise for awhile now, but I was waiting for them to go on sale!
Out of all the samples that I tried, there were two that I was convinced to buy so that I could take them home. The first was this buckwheat snack from ShaSha Organic Artisan Bakery. Their buckwheat snack is raw, vegan, and gluten-free, plus low in sugar and fat. I bought the ginger and cinnamon flavour, which is sweetened with agave and has three different kinds of dried fruit. I absolutely love this snack with its crispy bites of buckwheat groats and the chewy dried fruit, and of course the warm spices!
I also sampled lots of different brands of energy bars at the festival, but one that I really liked was the lemon-coconut flavour of the Simply Bar, which had a light crisp texture and a nice refreshing flavour. So when I saw it on sale at the grocery store the next day, I had to buy it!
Even though I had already filled up on samples, I still wanted to try some of the actual food that was available to buy. There were a few different Indian places offering Indian chaats (street food), which I can't get at any of the Indian restaurants in my area, so I was excited to try some!
I went with this chaat papdi, which is a mixture of chickpeas, potatoes, and crispy fried "papdi" topped with yogurt and two types of chutney, plus raw onions and sev noodles. I love Indian chaat because of the explosion of different flavours, and this dish was no exception! My favourite part was the all of the extra sauce - yum!
And finally, I couldn't leave without tasting some of the vegan desserts that were available!
On the left was a coconut granola that I sampled and really liked, so I bought a small bag to take home. I also got a vegan pumpkin molasses tart from Apiecalypse Now Bakery. The tart was the most interesting pumpkin dessert I've had in a while - it was like equal parts pumpkin pie and sticky sweet molasses, all in a delicious soft flaky pie crust.
My sister bought a flourless cashew cookie from Sweets from the Earth as her dessert (pictured top right), which was nice and thick and chewy. I also got miniature sweet potato doughnuts from LPK's Culinary Groove, which I never would have guessed were vegan and gluten-free!
After all that snacking in the afternoon, we took a break for some shopping and drove to Burlington, where we managed to fit in an amazing dinner at a raw, vegan restaurant that I've been wanting to try for a while - the Naked Sprout.
Once again, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the choices on their menu, which includes both raw and cooked options. I finally settled on the zucchini and kelp noodle bowl, which came with fresh veggies and a delicious almond tamarind sauce. It looks small in the picture, but the portion was actually quite large and filling, and I was definitely happy with my choice!
Other menu items that we tried included the raw rolls appetizer, which were filled with kelp noodles and veggies and came with a pear chili sauce for dipping. I sampled the sauce and it was really interesting - like a spicy pear twist on applesauce!
Finally, my sister ordered the Warrior Bowl, which was brown rice with broccoli, tempeh, and a thai almond sauce. It was her first time trying tempeh, and she loved it!
What I loved most about the restaurant was all the different types of sauces on the menu, and I was happy to see that they were very generous with the sauces in each dish, because that's always my favourite part!
Overall, I feel so lucky that I was able to enjoy so much delicious vegetarian food, all in one day! And if you missed this year's Vegetarian Food Festival, I would definitely recommend checking it out next year if you're in the area!