Produced by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, the Toronto Veg Food Fest is regarded as the largest of its kind in North America. It offers an exceptional opportunity to sample vegetarian cuisine and learn about vegetarian cooking and a vegetarian lifestyle in general through the various scheduled workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. And entrance is free!

Two weeks ago, we headed down to the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto for the 31st annual festival despite the gloomy weather. We were a varied group.

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  • Myself – Part-time vegetarian LOL. I usually eat meatless breakfasts, snacks, and either lunch or dinner. I estimate at least 60% of my cooking and eating is vegetarian, don’t eat pork, and eat beef only once a week. I honestly wouldn’t mind becoming vegetarian for health reasons if I didn’t need so much protein for my bones to heal right now. When I was in high school I tried to become vegetarian but I lasted a mere four days… what a fail. I didn’t know much about protein sources for vegetarians and didn’t cook for myself, so I basically ate just grilled cheese, yogurt, and potato chips.
  • My friend Ivee – My baking and cooking buddy. Vegetarian since March of this year. She is practically vegan because she is lactose-intolerant.
  • My brother – Anti-vegetables nearly all his life, he went on a strict Paleo diet last year for 30 days where he really had to eat his vegetables. He now eats vegetables regularly.
  • My 13-year old sister – My parents claimed that she had a vegetarian phase this spring. I don’t believe it. She is quite averse to trying new food and dislikes particular vegetables. She loves animals though and dreams to be a vet someday, so maybe that’s why she wants to be vegetarian.

We went on the Sunday, the last day of the festival. Since I can’t take public transit with my injury, we had to find parking around here. We parked at the Roger’s Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play. It sucked and it was expensive. That’s Toronto for you.

Anyway, the festival was in full swing when we arrived around 1:30pm.

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First order on the agenda: Sample some food! We were pretty ravenous.

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Gardein booth
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Their meatless ground “beef” which is apparently 84% less fat than regular ground beef. It was pretty tasty, but the texture wasn’t really there though. I don’t know what it’s made of but you could surely check their website.
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Fauxmagerie – get it?
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Vegan cheese made from raw cashew nuts – it was quite good. Similar enough to regular cheese but more spreadable, I thought.

They had a variety of food for sale too.

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Lentil soups in jars – just add water. $10 each and serves 4 to 6. They had some samples for tasting and they were delicious, so I gave in and bought one.
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Get your fill of goji berries here
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Okay, this is something I would never eat on a normal day.
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I tried it anyway. I shouldn’t have. I don’t like it when the vegan/vegetarian industry imitates meat products when so many great things could be made from the same ingredients 😦
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Avocado and chocolate pops

With all our food sampling, we hadn’t even had a proper lunch yet. LOL.

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I had a taco wrap from Toronto restaurant Rawlicious – cashew cream, nuts, avocado, and other yummy stuff in a lettuce wrap. My sister got a spring roll.
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Ivee and my brother got their food at Mississauga restaurant Zen Garden.
I have read about this restaurant before and have wanted to try it for a long time! The food was about $2 per piece.
I have read about this restaurant before and have wanted to try it for a long time! The food was about $2 per piece.
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“Chicken” drumstick
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Made from soy. The appearance was spot on 🙂
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It had some serious bite in it!

We had to walk around after all that eating!!!

More roaming around…

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Hummus and dips
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I got a great deal on my quinoa! #titalife LOL. $4 for the regular price of $8-9. Click the picture to see where I used it!
The line-up was ridiculously long for these hotdogs. Maybe they were THAT great.
The line-up was ridiculously long for these hotdogs. Maybe they were THAT great.
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Ivee has been here and said good things about it!
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Their individual pizzas
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They had vegan baked goods too
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Walking around Harbourfront Centre

It started to pour so we had no choice but to stay under a tent. Luckily there was a scheduled talk there. Now I am more aware about the existence of animal law and justice!

After the rain subsided, we went to see a cooking demonstration by holistic coach Lesia Kohut. She made chocolate chip meringue cookies with a date-sweetened chocolate ganache frosting. Both were organic, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly… you’re basically safe to bring these to a potluck of health freaks. 😛

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DO I HEAR “SAMPLES”?!?
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Noms
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To be perfectly honest, I didn’t like the meringue cookie itself. It was too oily and too chewy. I did like the chocolate ganache though. I would actually make that.

More sweet treats were to be had back in the fair. There were at least four different vegan bakeries!

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I got one of these bad boys and ate it for breakfast the next day. It was quite good. It didn’t have a cake texture but it was certainly moist and well-spiced. It had way too much frosting on it so I had to take some off. The frosting was sub-par, they were aiming for something like cream cheese but the vegan version wasn’t anything like it.
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This was too much.
“Sinfully delicious”
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Cupcakes and donuts

Other interesting booths:

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My brother wanted to try the vegan bacon grease on these tacos but he was way too full
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He still had room for dessert though – cheesecake pops from raw cashew nuts
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There was a food truck area as well. We completely missed out on it. It was 5pm by this time and only one truck remained.
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I would have loved to try the portobello burger but I was also too full. WE ATE ALL AFTERNOON!
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There was a handmade craft market hosted by Etsy on the other side of the Harbourfront Centre
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Fashion accessories and trinkets galore

We were ready to call it a day but I wanted to go to another cooking demonstration at 6:30pm. We walked down the harbour in the meantime.

The cooking demonstration was led by Miyoko Schinner who is apparently the “Queen of Vegan Cheese.” She recently came out with a cookbook called The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. The whole cooking demo was based on the idea behind the book. I was actually tempted to buy it as they had some for sale there.

Kitchen crafters know the pleasure of making their own staples and specialty foods, whether it’s cultured sour cream or a stellar soup stock. It’s a fresher, healthier, more natural approach to eating and living. Now vegans who are sick of buying over-processed, over-packaged products can finally join the homemade revolution.

First, she made a vegan macaroni and cheese mix. It’s an homage to every kid’s favourite processed boxed treat.

I, for one, never loved Kraft mac and cheese. I thought it was disgusting, but my teenage siblings like it. This healthy vegan alternative is based on cashews, nutritional yeast, and seasonings such as powdered mustard, onion powder, and paprika (for colour).

While we were waiting for the mac and cheese to cook, we sampled four kinds of Miyoko’s vegan cheese available from Vegan Supply (Canada) and Miyoko’s Kitchen (USA):

  • Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash
  • Double Cream Garlic Herb
  • Aged English Smoked Farmhouse
  • Aged English Sharp Farmhouse

Vegan cheese contains no dairy, but is generally made of consolidated protein mass from nuts (like cashews), coconut, beans etc. More about vegan cheese vs. regular cheese here. I’m no expert, but I’m sure there are endless variations to making vegan cheese. I truly respect vegans and their choices, but as I wrote earlier in this post, I’m not one to support vegan products that aim to fill the void of meat or dairy. This product is good enough that it can stand on its own without being marketed as “cheese.” My opinions are echoed by this Huffington Post article:

The cardinal rule with any dietary or allergy restriction, we think, is not viewing foods as substitutes and comparing them to the “real” or “original” thing. A veggie burger is nothing like a beef burger, but they’re both awesome in their own right. It’s when you start comparing the two — or comparing fake “chicken” fingers to real chicken fingers, or cauliflower to steak — that you run into trouble. Vegetarian and vegan food doesn’t have to stack up against meat; it can exist as independent and delicious food on its own, and we enjoy it very much that way!

Given that I was at a vegan/vegetarian food festival, I was still very much intrigued and amused by this phenomenon. Unfortunately labelling products as vegan hotdogs or vegan turkey makes it so much more marketable to vegans or transitioning vegetarians or omnivores.

The second demonstration was on a quick, vegan gruyère fondue. Like the vegan mac and cheese, it uses raw cashews and nutritional yeast. This one uses Rejuvelac as well, a natural lactic type of bacteria that aids in the fermentation process. You can make your own Rejuvelac at home or buy it commercially.

I enjoyed the cooking demonstration as Miyoko was a thoroughly entertaining chef and I learned a thing or two about vegan cheese and all the different ingredients needed to make it. If I were to make this at home, I probably wouldn’t call it “cheese”, but cashew cream or cashew sauce. I enjoyed eating the mac and cheese more than the fondue and so did my sister.

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Vegan gruyère fondue on bread with vegan mac and cheese

Until next year!


The 2015 Toronto Veg Food Fest took place from September 11 to 13, 2015 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto Canada. It is held annually in September by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. You can donate or volunteer for them here.

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