The Final Sweet Morsels of Frosting and Cake Crumbs – Vegan Cupcakes at the Vegetarian Food Fair! Part III

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Have you ever dreamed of walking through a magical cupcake land with tubs of frosting floating around and cupcakes dancing around like heavenly visions of sugar plums?  No?  Okay, well I guess it’s just me then.  If you can believe it, those make-believe cupcake land dreams of mine came true on Saturday at the Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront – sans the fairy wings and all though!  Welcome to the 3rd part of the Vegetarian Food Fair series of 2011, vegan cupcake-style!  Toronto may not be the vegetarian and vegan capital of the world, but I’m really fortunate to live around a city with options and with so many talented, enthusiastic business-owners and entrepreneurs who are constantly keeping things fresh, exciting, and innovative with their vegan creations.

I remember the first time I ate a vegan cupcake: October 2010 at the cafe that used to be in the Blue Banana gift shop in Kensington Market.  What can I say?  My memory is good when it comes to things with frosting!  The cupcakes from Blue Banana were actually ones from Dundas St. West’s very own OMG Baked Goodness and I remember how chocolatey and fudgy they were and how much I loved them.  The frosting was one of the most amazing things that had ever danced on my tastebuds and from that day on, I knew vegan sweets were in a league of their own.   

After going through all my photos from the fair Saturday night, I knew right off the bat that two posts were not going to be enough to showcase all the yumminess, and I knew that there was no chance of me squishing all my cupcake photos into my vegan desserts and sweets Part II post.  So here we are with an entire post dedicated to the vegan cupcakes at the food fest.  I cannot believe how many delicious, beautiful vegan cupcakes were here; I was going bat-apeing crazy!  The first thought that popped into my head as soon as I walked through the first aisle of booths was, “Are you kidding me?!  I can’t eat all this, my tummy’s not big enough!  This is so unfair!”  Cue foot stomping.  And the realization that I was only going to be able to eat one, at best.  Hence the ridiculous amount of photos; I needed some way of ingesting the awesomeness that lay before me.

We’re talking about rows and rows of s’mores cupcakes, mint chocolate, lavender chocolate (Sweets From the Earth), butterscotch pecan (Bloomers Bakery), pumpkin spice, red velvet, cookies and cream, chocolate coffee buttercream with mini donut (I KNOW.  Oh my god to the max), French toast (double oh my god) from Bunner’s Bake Shop, and many others, all from local businesses and bakeries.  I was wading through a cupcake dreamworld, a beautiful world I really didn’t want to leave!  Even though I knew there were great vegan bakeries in the city, I was introduced to businesses I didn’t even know existed.  I had no idea so many of them did cupcakes in that capacity, and it makes me so excited to know there are new flavours waiting for me to try out and new businesses for me to get to know.  The Vegetarian Food Fair was just phenomenal and I’m super happy I have these photos and great memories to look back on.  Because I’m going to need these to tide me over until next year 😉

*****

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is located at 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor (near the corner of Baldwin St. and McCaul St., south of Cecil St.).  To learn more about TVA’s mandate, events, news, and more, click here.  The Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West.  For more info on their festivals, events, workshops, gallery shows, and more, click here.

Feel the Sugar Rush – Amazing Vegan Desserts and Sweets at Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Fair! Part II

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I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by so many delicious desserts and sweets in my life!  Cookies, squares, cakes, brownies, pies, donuts, tarts, sticky buns, muffins, and gorgeous frosted cupcakes all made their sweet appearances at the Vegetarian Food Fair at the Harbourfront Centre over the weekend.  So many different vegan bakeries, cupcakeries, catering businesses, and retailers in and around Toronto and Ontario took part in one of the most anticipated food events of the year and none of them missed a beat in providing all of us with fresh, amazing, and scrumptious goodies to satisfy that sweet tooth.  Many of the businesses are committed to providing fresh baked goods and desserts that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly in their creation process and in their consumption (bring on the tupperware!), with an emphasis on accomodating different diets, intolerances, and allergies.  Think kosher, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free products made with love 😀

One of the things that I really appreciate about vegan businesses is how they make their ingredient lists publicly available, whether it’s through their websites, their packaging labels, or on their display cases, and if they don’t have these lists written down or typed out, they’re happy in answering any questions you have about the product and what goes into it.  I didn’t grow up eating vegan sweets, so I’ve been learning about vegan alternatives and substitutes over the past few years and have learned so much about what bakers and chefs use to make their products dairy-free, gluten-free, and all the rest.  These ingredients include everything from coconut oil and cream to sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, cocoa butter, flax seed, cane juice and raw cane sugar, arrowroot flour, agave nectar, and so many others.

I had so much fun going from booth to booth, purusing (and drooling over) all the sweet confections at the fair yesterday and it pained me to only choose one or two things to enjoy because I wanted everything!  There was frosted carrot, chocolate, and gingerbread cake, a mountain of cupcakes, butterscotch donuts, nanaimo bars, cookie cream sandwiches, fruit crisps, peppermint patties, pies, marshmallows, marshmallow pie, fruit, oat, and chocolate cookies, and sticky buns! 

I met some wonderful new people and reunited with some of my favourite bakeries and businesses in the city including Ashley and Kevin’s Bunner’s Bake Shop, Sweets From the Earth, Jen’s Apiecalypse Now vegan bakery, Kind Food in Burlington, Bloomers Bakery, and LPK’s Culinary Groove.  I found out about Bunner’s Bake Shop and Kind Food just before this year’s Veggielicious, the first time I drooled over LPK’s desserts was at the Bay-Adelaide farmers’ market (I know, I haven’t blogged about this market yet, foreshame!), and I met Apiecalype Now’s Jen via Twitter and visited her for the first time at the UofT farmers’ market at the St. George campus this past summer.  I feel really lucky to have been introduced to a lot of these businesses and to the wonderful people who run them; there is so much love, sincerity, and homegrown talent here.

I noshed on cookie samples from Kind Food, took a bite of my boyfriend’s chocolate chip creamie sandwich from Bunner’s, stuffed my face with a cupcake from Bunner’s, and grabbed an orange peppermint patty from Jen’s Apiecalypse Now (or as Jen’s label said, “orange-y pattie thing”) to enjoy for later.  I KNOW.  You’d think I would have drowned myself in all these desserts, but don’t forget, I was planning on going to Short & Sweet Cupcakes‘ cupcake party afterward so I needed to pace myself!  It was a foodie dream come true though and I couldn’t have asked for more!  Tomorrow’s final Part III post is dedicated to all the amazing vegan cupcakes at the fair (yes, there were that many!).  The sugar rush ain’t over just yet 😉

*****

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is located at 17 Baldwin St., 2nd floor (near the corner of Baldwin St. and McCaul St., south of Cecil St.).  To learn more about TVA’s mandate, events, news, and more, click here.  The Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay West.  For more info on their festivals, events, workshops, gallery shows, and more, click here.

Everything Tastes Amazing Off the Grill: Grilled Vegetables & Pesto, and an Irish Cream Vegan Cupcake at Fresh!

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It’s true, I have a hankering for Fresh.  All I can think about are soba noodle bowls and fruit drinks and quinoa battered onion rings with vegan mayo.  Sigh.  So to tide myself over until my next yummy in the tummy Fresh fest, I scrapbooked my last Fresh outing.  I know, I know, scrapbooking photos of their delicious food can only exacerbate my craving that much more.  But it’s not such a bad thing because it lets me chew on (mentally) what I want to try next and reminisce about past meals.  Not to mention I get to show you all photos of yet another great meal here as well as some dessert! 

So far I’ve only blogged about their mains and their fruit juices, so this will be the first blog post showcasing a few dessert items.  And yes, you guessed it, the dessert items are cupcakes!  Even though this wasn’t my first time having a dessert here, I wanted to blog about two different cupcakes to show somewhat of a comparison between them as one was much better than the other.  Even though I didn’t enjoy the first cupcake I had here as much as I did the second time around, it was important to me to blog about something good alongside something not-so-good because I think it’s important not to swear things off after having only tried one thing.  But I’m getting ahead of myself! 

I enjoyed my last meal at Fresh with my lovely friend Wini, my vegetarian foodie partner in crime!  We went into Fresh with one goal in mind: get that Irish Cream vegan cupcake!  The Irish Cream vegan cupcake at Fresh was a limited time flavour (a flavour they may bring back again in the future) and we didn’t want to miss our chance at noshing on it.  Great minds and tummies think alike because we both ordered the same thing: an Irish Cream vegan cupcake and the grilled vegetable and pesto burrito, menu items neither one of us had tried before.  We enjoyed our yummy food and weren’t disappointed!

Fresh is just one of those places that manages to pair so many of my favourite foods into great combinations in their meals.  I adore grilled vegetables, especially things like peppers, asparagus, zucchini, green beans, and corn.  And pesto?  Hello, it’s pesto!  I could eat this stuff by the spoonful because it’s so delicious.  I love it on pasta, with bread, pitas, crackers, you name it.  The same way I enjoyed my black bean burrito on a bed of greens as opposed to in a tortilla, I enjoyed my grilled vegetables and pesto the same way.  For whatever reason, I just love having the burritos on greens.  I think everything tastes amazing when you can take a huge forkful or chopstickful of burrito filling and stuff it in your mouth with a generous helping of spring mix.  There’s this great balance of textures with the soft fillings (the black burrito filling and this time with the grilled veggies and pesto) and crunchy greens that makes me tastebuds go “ahhhh”. 

The grilled vegetable and pesto burrito is comprised of mountain of grilled red peppers, zucchini, and sweet potato, lots of pesto, some vegan mayo, a layer of alfalfa sprouts, and diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion.  Being the cheese lover that I am, I added a side of goat cheese to it and I love it because the warmth of the dish makes the cheese a bit melty and even softer than it already is.  Creamy, rich, grilled, crunchy.  Awesome.  The grilled vegetables were so soft yet full of body and substance, as opposed to mushy, cooked down and gross.  The pesto had a great grainy texture to it and everything on the plate just worked.  Burrito mains are $9.50 and there is no difference in price between the tortilla and bed of greens.

To end off a great meal, the fabulous Irish Cream vegan cupcake!  This cupcake was MUCH better than the first cupcake I had here.  To clarify, Fresh gets all their desserts and sweets from Sweets From the Earth, a popular Toronto vegan bakery that not only operates and bakes in a shop of their own, but also provides vegan desserts to a number of retailers around the city.  The cupcakes at Fresh are priced at $3.25, which does place them in the higher end of cupcake prices around the city.  They do, however, have a take-out special going on right now where you can get any dessert and drink from the menu for $5.75 between 2:30pm-5:30pm on weekdays, hurray!

The very first cupcake I tried here, the chocolate vanilla cream filled cupcake, just didn’t live up.  It was adorable because it looked like a Hostess cupcake, but it was on the drier side and it ended up falling flat for me.  However, the Irish Cream cupcake was a world of difference.  The chocolate cupcake was very moist and a little fudgy, and the frosting was very light and creamy with hints of vanilla, mocha, chocolate, and cream.  It’s not your typical thick, sweet frosting, it’s much lighter and creamier and airier.  This was a YUMMY cupcake though and it proved that the first dessert wasn’t for me and that there are plenty of others I can enjoy here.

That Fresh hankering of mine will soon be soothed, but in the meantime, it’s nice to refresh my memory and taste buds with these photos and scrapbook pages 😀

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)

Scrapbooking materials used: cobalt blue and violet cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper (Choco Mod Patterns by DCWV, Green Pinstripe by Recollections Basics, Purple Daze by Recollections); glitter floral embellishment (Wild Saffron Grand Adhesions by K&Company); pastel spring glitter alphabet stickers (Lion Sleeps Alphabet, Suzi Ultman for K&Company); purple and pink heart stickers (Sticko); coffee cup sticker (Pierre Belvédère); black fine point Sharpie marker; circle paper punch (Marvy Uchida).