Monday, September 14, 2009

Veging out at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair

Monday, September 14, 2009
We're omnivores at Tasting Toronto and enjoy meat quite a bit. So what were we doing at North America's largest vegetarian food fair? Well it's still food in Toronto, worthy of investigation, and we're here to share our findings.

The sight of Buddhist monks is auspicious, and says that we've stumbled upon something of import.

Our first stop turned out to be the best food we'd have that day. We picked up a sample platter from Hearty Catering. There was a vegan filo cup with a spicy cauliflower curry, a raw apple fennel salad, and a vegan filo cup with Moroccan chickpeas. The filo cups were yummy with a good textural contrast between the layered pastry and the soft hearty fillings. The apple fennel salad was also a treat from the crunch of raw fennel, to the softer juicy apple, then to the squishy tart punch or cranberries.

The platter also had a grilled tomato with a tofu basil pesto, garnished with a carrot beet salad. This was my favourite item. The tofu was reminiscent of ground beef and was heavily seasoned. It was so laden with flavour as it was, and to be sitting atop the juicy acidity of a grilled tomato was scrumptious. There was also a vegan red and white quinoa salad with broccolli. Again, well seasoned and garnished... delish. Ah and not to forget the dessert, a perfectly moist vegan carrot cake. I'm feeling healthy all over here, and we've just started.

We moved over to the Magic Oven booth where we sampled an all gluten-free selection. We had the chickpea power soup to start. A little hot and hearty soup is always good to get the tummy ready. Our main course was a serving of infused tofu bites and an organic spelt spinach pizza. The tofu bites were a little different from what was commonly served elsewhere. They were firmer and were a little bit like cheese bites.

The pizza was decent. I usually like my spinach a little more cooked, but it was good. We found the gluten-free spelt crust fascinating. It was ultra thin, and had a cracker-like bite. Oddly, we found that topping the pizza with the tofu bites was actually pretty good. For dessert we had a gluten-free chocolate cake... major kudos for making a GF cake that doesn't suck. That was impressive, maybe they cheated? Just kidding, the cake was good.

There was a lot of food on hand from the Indian subcontinent. We tried a combo of masala dosa, a couple of tiny onion pakoras, and a veggie samosa.

Our last full-meal stop was at Zara's Gourmet Kitchen. Vegan chicken? We've gotta check this out.

We ended up ordering a multi-curry combo of vegan lamb curry, vegan chicken curry, spinach and tofu, basmati rice, naan, and veggie pakoras. The lamb was actually a tough soy product. The texture was close to meat, but the sauce was so-so. The spinach and tofu wasn't bad, but since it looked so richly green and healthy, I persuaded my Popeye self to eat it all for nourishment. The basmati rice was fragrant, and a perfect side to the curries. The pakoras were good and a cheap add-on to our combo. The last place had really tiny ones. But most impressive of all was the vegan chicken. The sauce was yummy and all, but the texture... It pretty much looked and felt like chicken. Well about 90%, but for a soy product that's pretty darn good.

We scoped out the Brigantine tent for the rest of the vegetarian exhibit and found a mini trade show with purveyors of drinks and snacks, as well as displays for vegetarian and vegan information, massages, and other related products. One thing stood out that we didn't quite like. There was some hemp milk that just tasted horrible. I can't imagine anyone drinking that casually just for fun. My thoughts immediately wander to a greasy nappy-haired man, reclined on a furry couch in a smoke-filled basement, but I digress.

Our last stop was ice cream, or sorbet, or whatever you call this gluten-free, low glycemic index, soy based dessert from Soy-N-Joy. It's a good alternative to regular ice cream if you're on a health kick. We had a chocolate-mint and a lychee flavoured sample each. The chocolate mint wasn't the normal bright green, but tasted nice and minty nonetheless. I liked the strong lychee flavour in the lychee ice cream, but it left a noticeable soy aftertaste. Soy-N-Joy makes a good, light and healthy dessert.

That's it, the final food extravaganza at Harbourfront for the summer. We leave you now with some parting Harbourfront pics.