September Has Never Looked So “Veggielicious”! The Return of the Vegetarian Price Fixe Event of the Year!

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This just in, folks: In just two and a half weeks, vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, and foodies alike with be descending on some of the city’s most popular, beloved vegetarian and vegan eateries for one of the yummiest price fixe food events ever!  From September 24 to October 7, Veggielicious will be making its highly anticipated return to the city and GTA for its 2nd year in a row!  I’m so happy and excited I could pirouette around my living room! 

After wondering for months if Veggielicious was ever going to take place again, I finally got my answer today from my monthly Fresh e-newsletter and my heart squealed with glee.  I have been waiting for this!  Taking part in Veggielicious is one of the best ways to find out about vegetarian and vegan places that you aren’t familiar with and it’s the best reason to try out something new!  And there will be plenty of new things to try this time around because a handful of last year’s favourites are returning with new specials and event menus while others will strut their stuff on the Veggielicious stage for the very first time.

The fabulous lineup of eateries, cafes, and bakeries taking part this year include The Beet, Fresh, Live Organic Food Bar, Fressen, Cruda Cafe, E.L. Ruddy, Hotel Gelato, Feel Good Guru, Hogtown Vegan, and Tori’s Bakeshop among a host of others.  I can’t wait until they post all the special promotions and menus on the Veggielicious website, especially for Hogtown Vegan, Tori’s Bakeshop, E.L. Ruddy, Hotel Gelato, and of course, Fresh!  I’m excited about all of them, but these spots particularly strike my fancy because I’ve been wanting to go to several of them for months now and the timing for Veggielicious couldn’t have been better!  And just think, this will be on top of the Vegetarian Food Festival happening this weekend!

Last year’s Veggielicious delights! Triple threat promo from Bunner’s Bake Shop (gypsy cookie, creamie, and cupcake) and veggie tofu scramble breakfast at Sadie’s Diner!

I had such a great time last year and I have a feeling this year will be even more terrific.  If it wasn’t for Veggielicious last year, I never would have found out about Burlington’s vegan powerhouse, Kind Food, and I never would have made those memorable first visits to Bunner’s Bake Shop and Sadie’s Diner when I did and I made some great memories and friends because of it.  Veggielicious took me out of my comfort zone (literally and physically as it gave me the nudge I needed to venture out to The Junction for the first time!), it gave me my first delicious experience with scrambled tofu and vegan breakfast, and it made me feel even more excited about finding vegetarian and vegan places I had never known about or been to before.  It’s an ingenious way of bringing people together through their love for vegetarian and vegan food and creating publicity for all the participants involved.   Once the website is updated, I’ll keep everyone posted on what my picks are!*****

Vist the Veggielicious website HERE to keep up to date on all the promotions, price fixe menus, and participating restaurants, cafes, and bakeries!

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Drool, Munch, Eat and Repeat – Food Network Canada’s Delicious Food Show 2011 at the Better Living Centre!

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Us foodies in and around Toronto are out full force this weekend: the long-awaited, highly anticipated Food Network Canada Delicious Food Show is finally here!  As a sister show to the One of a Kind Show and other trade shows in the city, the Delicious Food Show is the first of its kind to hit Toronto, and I’m positive it’ll become an annual event after everyone has eaten and sampled their way through the weekend!  If my memory serves me right, I found out about the foodie exhibition during the summer and I specifically remember posting a link on my Facebook page out of sheer joy saying, “I will be here!”.  And I was. 

I know it seems like a no-brainer that I would attend the show, but in all honesty I was still hemming and hawing if I was going to go up until last week!  It’s a food show.  Aptly named, “The Delicious Food Show”.  In Toronto.  OF COURSE I WANTED TO GO.  But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to shell out the money for a ticket plus transportation so I almost let the opportunity of going to food heaven slip away from me until a little birdie informed me that Groupon had a 2-for-1 deal to the show.  It took me all of 3 seconds to grab my credit card.  My mum and I were all set to eat ourselves silly!

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The Fall Harvest Series: Fresh & Farm-to-Table – The Foodie Emporium That is Evergreen Brick Works, Part II

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When a few friends told me Evergreen Brick Works was big and all sorts of awesome, I had no idea it would be THIS big and awesome.  Are there other farmers’ markets in the city that I love to pieces just as much?  Of course.  But Evergreen Brickworks is a different kind of foodie playground.   There’s a certain rustic quality to it, and a very communal, down-to-earth atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and homey.  At the heart of Evergreen is sustainability: sustaining our environment and our communities while at the same time building new relationships through beautiful community green spaces, classes, workshops, and charitable events.  

The connections made between the environment, the people, and the food is just one of Evergreen’s pride and joys.  As the menu at Cafe Belong reads, “Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is love”.  The food culture connects the global with the local – and vice versa – with its farm-to-table philosophy, bringing some of the best of what other countries have to offer and integrating these transnational and transglobal relationships into our local ones in the marketplace.  You learn so much just by being here.

I was literally standing by the olive oil table talking to the sweet lady for 10-15 minutes, as I sampled some bread, olive oil, and balsamic and took notes in my notebook while she explained all these wonderful things about olive oil and balsamics.  Things like what to look for on a bottle’s label to determine authenticity (“made in” versus “product of”, import information, etc.), what colour of bottle to look for (dark!), the names of the oils depending on how many varieties of olives are used (one olive variety = monocultivar), and how the age of the olives affects the notes and taste of the oil (the older the more grassier). 

I have never been so informed about olive oil in my life and it was amazing because I came away with so much more knowledge than I came in with.  And I think that’s the beauty of being here.  You take a little something with you every time you come and go and you open yourself up to a world of foodie exploration.

There are so many different components that make it a wonderland to explore and play in and its sheer size, alone, makes it unique and special.  The Saturday farmers’ market (which, in my humble opinion, should be renamed to “giant food mansion barn paradise thing”) emphasizes homegrown Ontario farming and food, and local food businesses with farmers and producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese, local bakers and bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and restaurant business owners coming together under one barn roof.  This market was open and spacious and just plain HUGE.  It was like a fresh food flea market in a barn!  Not only were there tables upon tables of farmers selling their produce, but there were samples to try, grills being fired up for hot lunch food, and live music.  You could literally outfit your entire refrigerator and kitchen after a day here.

The menu of fresh, local food and produce draws hungry foodies to Cafe Belong, a beautiful, airy cafe and rustic dining hall.  Sit down with a coffee, baked good, or meal where the food is fresh and seasonal.  Menu items include dishes such as tomato salad with barley ($12), cured fish with grilled fennel ($14), summer squash with smoked duckand seasonal berries ($15), steamed lake fish ($18), braised lamb ($19), sweet and sticky pork with apples ($17), vegetarian pot barley with mushrooms and rainbow chard ($16), and vegan moroccan chick pea stew ($15).  End (or begin!) your meal with something sweet from the cafe, like a spiced heirloom pumpkin tart, a fresh baked apple pie, a blueberry scone, or one of Cafe Belongs many cookies, muffins, and oat bars. 

The gardening and planting area encourages and provides us with the tools to be our own farmers and producers of food and finally, the marketplace, with its local and global gourmet eats, reads, and gadgets, is a mecca of food and shopping goodness.  There are shelves and tables with cookbooks (local, sustainable food, vegetarian and vegan food, raw food, preserves and canning, baking cookbooks, and so much more), olive oils and balsalmic vinaigrettes, jams and preserves, mustards, curries, pickled vegetables, coffees, teas, local artwork, handmade craft items, and kitchen accessories.

The cookbook junkie in me was going craaazy and everything was so festive with all the seasonal decorations sitting on the tables and hanging on the walls.  I can’t even imagine what the marketplace is going to look like when the holidays roll around in December!  And that’s another thing I love about Evergreen, that it’s cyclical, relevant, and timely.  When you’re here, you feel like you’re in the thick of everything important that’s happening in local food culture and you grow with them as you see and learn more.

This first visit was a fabulous one and I am so excited about making another one closer to the holidays in the winter.  I’m happily enjoying fall while it lasts (it feels like the shortest season out of the four sometimes!), but a big part of me cannot wait to see what’s in store later on this year.  Enjoy the photos and I’ll have Part III for you guys tomorrow.  Baked goods ahoy!

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.

Springtime at Mela Café – Bright Watercress Spring Salad & Vegan Banana Cream Pies

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It figures that I would create and post some of my cheeriest scrapbook pages on one of the most atrocious spring weekends.  As I was cutting out scraps of cardstock and snipping ribbon at my kitchen table early afternoon, I turned around to look out the window and saw the sky raining rice krispies.  Or as a meteorologist would say, tiny bits of hail.  I even did a double take when I woke up this morning and saw a light layer of snow on my neighbour’s rooftop, which melted within an hour into a wet mess.  If it’s any consolation, I have pretty things like ribbon and metal brads to show off and pictures of yummy food! 

Even though this meal wasn’t part of Veggielicious (since this was from March), what I’m showing you all today could very well be something you could eat when you go to Mela Café this week, depending on the selection they have for the day.  This is the last week of Veggielicious which runs until Sunday, April 24th.  Mela’s price fixe of $15 gets you a delicious vegan dessert and two of the following, your choice: panini sandwich, soup, and salad.  If you haven’t seen my post about their amazing vegan eggplant paninis, check it out here!  And to help fill in the blanks and give you all an idea of what their salads and desserts are like, I have pictures of their bright watercress spring salad and vegan banana cream pie dessert!  This meal was so much fun.  I brought my best friend here during her spring break and it was the first time I had a salad and dessert here (the other times I had the eggplant panini and their famous ravioli!), so I was super excited! 

I mean, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me anymore, but every time I come here I am blown away at how light and delicious everything is.  I KNOW everything here is awesome, but there’s always something that throws me for a loop, keeps me on my toes, whether it’s the fusion of different flavours or textures.  With the eggplant panini, it was the contrast between the crispy breaded eggplant and the sharp, fresh flavour of basil leaves.  With the ravioli, it was lightness of the tomato sauce and the airiness of the ricotta.  And with the salad?  The bright, refreshing flavour of the olive oil.  It just blew me away.  I swear, a bright green spring salad is not a salad unless it tastes like this.  Oh my goodness.  For one thing, I was chomping on the bit with my green beans.  I love green beans so much.  The spring salad was a fresh mixture of green beans, chopped celery, Shanghai bok choy, cauliflower, watercress, and chick peas. 

Let’s put it this way: I don’t like cauliflower.  Besides regular bean sprouts, it is quite possibly the only other vegetable that I do not like.  If it’s mixed in with a steamed vegetable medley, I’ll eat it, whatever, but it’s not my cup of tea.  This salad, with the olive oil, made me like it and inhale it.  This salad was THAT good.  There are varying types of olive oil dependent on how ripe the olives are when pressed, where it’s been harvested, the level of acidity, that kind of thing.*  Based on the grade of olive oil, you can judge whether or not it’s appropriate to used cooked or uncooked.  The (extra virgin) olive oil had this bright, fruity flavour to it that just took the taste buds on a tailspin.  SO YUM 😀

And of course, a meal is not complete without dessert.  At least no meal in my book!  My best friend and I were noshing on our food (me with my spring salad and her with a plate of ravioli which I recommended.  She loved it so much and said she could eat 3 plates of it, ha!) and were contemplating going back to Pusateri’s gourmet market down the road in Yorkville for a dessert.  We saw the vegan banana cream pies and chucked that idea straight out the window (sorry, Pusateri’s, but you got ousted!).  There was no way in hell we were going to pass on fresh, homemade desserts at Mela.  And I’m so glad we didn’t. 

This dessert was divine.  My best friend and I could have eaten 4 of them.  It had the bold banana flavour that you’re used to getting from fresh baked banana bread, the texture and consistency of thick custard pudding, and piped vegan cream and toasted coconut on top.  We were so busy mmming over it that I completely forgot to ask Roberto what was in it.  Oops.  I’ll get on that for next time, promise!

This was such a memorable, happy foodie outing.  I was out with my best friend for some amazing eats, I was eating at a place that I felt so comfortable and at home at, and I was among some of the nicest, most genuine and generous people I’ve met since I started this blog.  This blog has opened up a whole new world to me, allowing me to meet people I’d otherwise never cross paths with and to do what I love to do so much: take pictures, scrap, and eat!  I’m so lucky for everything I’ve been able to see, eat, and experience and I’m really grateful.  And to show his gratitude, Roberto (owner of Mela) was a real trooper with all the pictures and even posed for one himself! 😀

Enjoy the last week of Veggielicious, everyone!

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.  Their regular hours are from 10am-5pm, but they are open on Thursday and Friday during Veggielicious until 8pm.

*= source from TLC Cooking

Scrapbooking materials used: emerald green, grass green, neon green, cobalt blue, and beige cardstock (Recollections); powder blue scalloped patterned paper (Colorbok); journalling tags (Darcy collection by Anna Griffin); brown and white polka dot alphabet stickers, spring time alphabet stickers (K&Company); spring themed metal brads (Amy Butler for K&Company); chipboard patterned embellishments (Winners Homesense); spring time flower and snail ribbon (Sweet Little Fairies by Michael’s); sewing buttons; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); aluminum foil.