Eating Your Weight in Vegetarian & Vegan Goodness – The Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront Centre! Part I

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Whether you circled, ‘x’ed, or highlighted the days on your calendar, this weekend is the weekend that vegetarians, vegans, and foodies have been looking forward to for months in advance: the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair at Harbourfront Centre presented by the Toronto Vegetarian Association!  The food fair runs the entire weekend (festivities commenced yesterday) and will continue on through tomorrow until 7pm in the evening.  After all these years of missing out and not being able to go, I finally made it this time and I am SO happy I did! 

Like I posted on my Facebook and Twitter, I wish the food fair took place EVERY WEEK (or, you know, day) and I wish I could just live at the veggie food fair because it was that fabulous and fun.  The big area of faux grass at Harbourfront Centre is quite nice to sit on, lay on, and dance around on, so parking a sleeping bag here really wouldn’t be an issue.  The cool breeze coming in from the lake would keep me comfortable and there’s plenty of scenery and entertainment around the vicinity to keep me occupied while I’m not eating.  I knew I would enjoy the fest, I just didn’t know I would enjoy it THIS much.

So much, in fact, that I took 120 photos.  I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or amused; 120!  I’m nothing if not overzealous.  After deleting some of the oopsie shots, I still have a good 110 to work with and I have no idea how I’m going to fit everything into a few posts!  On the way home, I quickly decided that I would split the posts up into two parts: one for savoury food and the other for sweets.  After going through all the photos, I’m not even sure I could do that.  You all wouldn’t mind two veggie dessert posts, right? 😉  Anyway, I’m going to start with the savoury foods and work my way to the sweet stuff in the next few posts! 

Knowing how crazy it would be later on in the afternoon, I got up at the crack of dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or so I’d like to think.  I actually stumbled to smack my alarm clock shut) and got ready for a jam-packed, foodie day.  The food fair was slated to start at 12 noon, so I made my way down to Harbourfront Centre and arrived at 11:30am with plenty of time to spare.  If I was going to get photos (and avoid massive line-ups later), I needed to snap them early before I started getting flailing arms and cut-off heads in all my shots!  It was such a gorgeous day out and the atmosphere was bubbly with excitement and enjoyment as people took their seats at picnic tables and on the faux grass area to listen to live music on the main stage, as people grabbed free samples of food before food demos, and as people scooted from booth to booth with lots of delicious food in their hands.

I was picking up flyers, business cards, and promo materials left and right, trying samples, and scoping out a ton of options before settling down with a delicious lunch.  There was SO MUCH to see and try.  There were booths and booths of vegan desserts up the wazoo by many well-known and well-loved bakeries in and around the city selling everything from cookies, cupcakes, cream sandwiches, donuts, squares, pastries, fruit crisps, brownies, and more.  There was vegetarian and vegan Indian, Chinese, and Mexican food, fresh fruit and fruit smoothes, veggie barbeque, veggie turkey and Thanksgiving-esque meals, and plenty of retailers with snacks, take-home pantry and freezer foods, and handmade goods. 

I was trying roasted soybeans from The Bean Ladies and I fell in love with the Gotta Be Garlic ones and the Cracked Pepper and Lime ones.  Kind Food gave me cookie samples, Tofu Shirataki by House Foods  handed me sesame ginger tofu stir-fry, and I licked my sample of cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter clean from Peanut Butter and Co.’s booth.  I walked away with a jar of The Bees Knee’s honey peanut butter and a tote bag so stinkin’ cute it makes me squeal.  What an amazing foodie marketplace it was today!  This fair didn’t just showcase Toronto’s vegetarian and vegan culture, but also great eats from Oakville, Burlington, Ottawa, and even New York!

And for lunch?  I stepped on up to the World Cafe.  Harbourfront Centre hosts a World Cafe every weekend during the summer (May 21st to October 10th this year), with ethnic and international cuisine catered by restaurants and eateries around the city.  The World Cafe is kind of like a food pavillion and outdoor patio lakeside deck at Harbourfront Centre, housed in a square building with vendors on all sides and tables and chairs for everyone to sit down and enjoy their food.  The name of the game was vegetarian and vegan on all fronts, and some of Toronto’s lovely veggie eateries were doing the honours in World Cafe today: King’s Cafe, Udupi Palace, Green Earth Vegetarian Cuisine, Nzyme Living Foods Bistro & Juice Bar, Govinda’s (a vegetarian and vegan buffet), and El Cilantro Catering.  And to my delight, prices for food were incredibly reasonable!  There were some great sharing plate options for $10, and lots of meals for $4-$5 and appetizers for $1-$2.

I wish my tummy was a bottomless pit that had no threat of getting sick or fat because I wanted to eat everything!  I was mega happy with what I noshed on though: tostadas from El Cilantro!  Three crispy corn tostadas with refried beans, lettuce, crumbled feta, sour cream, and lots of juicy pico de gallo salsa!  And to take home in my little tupperware container were some soy nuggets from King’s Cafe.  I inhaled these on the subway after I reluctantly left the fest.  I told myself that I would save them for dinner later on.  Then I rationalized with myself and allowed myself one bite.  I took a bite and all hell broke loose as I scarfed the whole thing down.  They were so good and you can better I’ll get these the time time I go to King’s Cafe.  I could eat these for the rest of my life and die happy.

Parts II and III to follow in the coming days!  Prepare that sweet tooth of yours because it’s going to be jaw-dropping awesome.

*****

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.