I have missed Fresh so much. Sometimes you don’t even realize just how much you’ve missed something until you come back to it. After several months of withdrawal, I finally snagged my Fresh fix over the holidays and introduced yet another category of menu items to my happy belly: soups! After a year of delicious meals here it’s hard to believe my lips never touched even one of Fresh’s vast, amazing menu of vegetarian and vegan soups, but all of that changed when I strolled in for lunch on a chilly winter’s day (which is saying a lot considering our winter has been incredibly mild thus far!) just before the new year.
I was a girl on a mission: to slurp and spoon my way through a bowl of Fresh soup heaven. Luck was on my side that day because I had a hankering for pesto (who am I kidding – I always want pesto) and the vegetarian gods answered my prayers with a Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup option! It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.
All three Fresh locations in Toronto serve two soups daily. The selection changes every day and depending on the location, the choices may also slightly vary. For example, one soup might be present at all three locations on a given day, while the 2nd choice might be different at one or two of the other locations. All of Fresh’s soups are vegan and they incorporate everything from beans to vegetables to herbs to spices, resulting in a very large breadth of flavour, texture, and colour.
There are 32 different soups currently presenting on their rotating soup menu (I counted them on their online menu!), and some of these soups include curried red lentil stew with zucchini, baby lima beans, and sage; leek and potato with rosemary; mushroom and eggplant stroganoff with toasted caraway seeds; and puree of curried yam and apple. Needless to say, it is going to take me a very long time to try even five of their soups, much less all 32!
On their own, soups can either be ordered in a cup size like the one I chose ($3.50) or in an entree bowl size ($6), and can either be accessorized with a toasted organic whole wheat pita on the side ($2.50) or with grilled cornbread for $3. If you’re looking to jazz things up with a salad, Fresh offers a soup, cornbread, and salad combo (small $9, large $11.50) where you can order a cup or bowl of soup alongside two slices of grilled cornbread and an Eat Your Greens! salad, which is chock full of cabbage, sunflower sprouts, edamame, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, Protein Boost crunchy munchines and nuts, and salad greens.
Straight from Fresh’s menu of soups and ingredient list, my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup consisted of “onions, leeks, garlic, mixed green vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy & swiss chard), zucchini, green peas, parsley, basil, black pepper, cayenne, pesto (contains pine nuts & sunflower seeds), sea salt, canola oil & vegetable stock”*, and out of all of those ingredients, the pesto, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, bok choy, and green peas came through the strongest for me. It was deliciously thick without being goopy and I absolutely loved the crunchy topping of pine nuts and sunflower seeds on top! The contrast in texture was perfect because the puree was smooth enough that you couldn’t tell which vegetables were floating where but thick enough that you could distinctly taste a mixture, a fusion.
It was a pesto-perfect lunch with my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup and my next installment of build-a-bowl fun. I put together a bowl of brown rice with kale slaw, goat cheese, grilled tofu steaks, pesto white beans, and house dressing. There ought to be a disclaimer or a little warning sign that comes with these ingredients that says, “WARNING: these delicious foods may cause addiction and physical signs and/or symtoms of hunger cravings and extreme enjoyment of food such as drooling and constant exclamations of the word “YUM!”
This is by far the most delicious combination I’ve put together through build-a-bowl (my phrase, not theirs just to be clear!) and I would eat it 100 times more. The kale slaw provides the crunchiness, the goat cheese for the creamy richness, the pesto white beans for that bit of starchy protein and body, and the grilled tofu steaks for that “meaty” savouriness that is just out of this world. Fresh does grilled tofu so amazing and it drives the tofu lover in me batty because it’s so good. And like I mentioned in my last Fresh post, the house dressing is to die for. I order a side of this dressing and splash the entire little bowl of it into my rice bowl and mix it into the brown rice and other ingredients and it just heightens all the other flavours and textures. It is one of my all-time favourite things at Fresh.
Now that I have a Fresh soup under my belt, I’m almost at the point where I’ve tried every food category on the menu, so we’ll see what the next several amazing meals will bring in 2012!
Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:
326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)