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!

Soaking Up the Sun and Good Food – Preparing My Taste Buds for Toronto’s Summerlicious!

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In a matter of two weeks, Toronto will be kicking off another summer of price fixe menus and good food with the annual Summerlicious event taking place from July 8th-24th!  The concept and execution is exactly the same as Winterlicious and the only difference is that it takes place in July every year.  I’m always excited to see which restaurants are participating and what their menus have to offer, especially now that they’ve made it a point to specify exactly which meals are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.  It makes it much easier to figure out if a particular restaurant can offer you enough options to make it worth your while and this is particularly important if you’re going with a group of friends with varying tastes, diets, and lifestyles. 

Even though I love both Winterlicious and Summerlicious (and this year’s newest addition, Veggielicious!), I’ve actually only taken part for the past two years, going out for two Winterlicious outings and one Summerlicious.  I don’t go for the big ticket menus though and will always, always stick to the $15 lunch menus and $25 dinner ones.  In all honesty, even if I could afford the fancy pants places, creating parameters for myself with this budget helps in narrowing down my choices which means less hair-pulling when it comes to actually making a decision.  I have a hard enough time as it is because I’m so indecisive!

I’m really lucky to have had good experiences during the times I’ve taken part.  Never have I felt that a meal wasn’t worth it or that I made a bad choice.  I had a great Winterlicious lunch this past February at Amaya’s Bread Bar near Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave., a really fun time with my friend Sally the previous Winterlicious at Big Daddy’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar on King St. West (no photos because my camera was unfortunately stolen not long after, ugh), and an AMAZING, memorable meal at Southern Accent (which is where the delicious photo up top was taken!), located in Mirvish Village.  My boyfriend and I have already made a decision that we absolutely MUST go back for another Summerlicious meal because it’s one of our favourite places to eat in the city.

I’m no expert on fine dining, but if I could offer any tips and opinions, these would be it:

  • Decide what your budget is.  If you’re new to the price fixe fest, it is overwhelming trying to decide what you might want to try and what you want skip.  The list of restaurants on the Summerlicious website specify what price points each of the participating restaurants are operating at during the duration of the festival, so at a quick glance you can either make a note or move on.  My budget has ALWAYS been the $15 lunch and the $25 dinner and I’ve never once strayed from it. 
  • Compare lunch and dinner menus at the same restaurant.  If you find a place you think you might like but you’re not sure whether to go for the lunch or the dinner or ditch the place entirely, read both menus and see what the similarities and differences are between them.  Chances are there may only be a difference in one main or a dessert and if that’s the case, the $10 or even $20 difference between lunch and dinner just isn’t worth it.  Look for variety between menus if you need to make a make-or-break decision.
  • Stay away from places that offer ho-hum, every day eats.  A place might make a mean Caesar salad, but you don’t need a price fixe menu to enjoy such a classic staple which you can enjoy any day of the week.
  • Piece together all 3 compenents of the meal (appetizer, main, dessert) and do some quick mental math to see if you’re actually getting a sweet deal.  If the main iself is normally something that runs close to $20 (or if appetizers and desserts go for $10 normally) and it’s being offered on a $25 price fixe menu, you know you’ve hit pay dirt.  This is one of the reasons why I LOVE Southern Accent during Winterlicious and Summerlicious because their mains sit around $18 on their every day, permanent menu, not to mention their food is just amazing.

If you plan on hitting up a place (or two…or even three, ha!), let me know what you’re contemplating!  As well, if you have past experiences you’d like share, feel free to leave a comment here as I love hearing about what others have to say about their meals!

*****

Southern Accent is a cajun and creole restaurant with beautiful New Orleans and southern inspired decor and amazing food.  They are located at 595 Markham St. in Mirvish Village near Bloor St. West and Bathurst.  The Summerlicious list of restaurants and price fixe menus can be viewed here.

The First Veggielicious Pitstop! Sweet Vegan & Gluten-Free Treats at Bunner’s Bake Shop, Part II

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Oh yes, this picture of mouthwatering chocolate cookie and cream sandwiches is real and no, you are not dreaming.  And if you’re wondering, oh yes, they taste as heavenly as they look.  I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and teaser post from yesterday!  There was no way I could fit all my photos in one post so I split it up into two…it’s not like you all mind though.  Two guaranteed days of sweet treats?  Sold 😀  Bunner’s Bake Shop on Dundas St. West in the Junction neighbourhood was my first Veggielicious pitstop and I am SO happy that I went.  I’m really happy that they’re participating in the food fest and getting more business and exposure because of it because they really deserve it.  Had it not been for this fest, I never would have known about it.  I know I explore the city a lot, but Toronto is BIG and I suppose I would have stumbled upon it at a later time, but sooner is always better than later 😉

What I love about Bunner’s is their commitment to quality and the execution of their craft.  Bunner’s is a bakery that is committed to creating and serving desserts that are fair trade, vegan and cruelty-free, and dairy-free and gluten-free with an emphasis on also catering to those who also have soy allergies.  I really appreciate this, not because I’m allergic to soy per se (I’m allergic to soy milk but no other soy products, go figure), but because I have friends who are allergic to soy and nuts and this allergy makes it very difficult for them to enjoy a lot of vegetarian and vegan food that is made with soy or nuts.  It’s a bake shop with a conscious. 

They have a clear vision of what their craft means to them and what they want to achieve through their offering of delicious desserts, namely, accessibility.  It’s not easy catering to different diets, intolerances, beliefs, and lifestyles without alienating your clientele or ending up with subpar product.  But they do this beautifully and you can tell when you look at their treats and when you eat them.  You can taste the quality, the passion, and the innovativeness through their baked goods.

The Veggielicious deal, as a mentioned yesterday, is comprised of one cupcake of your choice, a creamie (the cookie sandwich), and a supersonic gypsy cookie for $7.50.  Well worth it in my opinion because holy mother of pearl these babies are big!  The creamie is so thick and mondo huge, the cookie is like a rocky mountain, and the cupcakes are the perfect size (not small but not steroid-like) with a delightful heaping of frosting on top. 

Now, when I talk about their commitment quality, there’s a reason why.  Take the gypsy cookie, for example.  This is what they refer to as a “power” cookie, the kind of cookie that is healthy and good for you, and will get you up and raring to go in the morning or give you that kick in the ass you need to get through the middle of the day.  I think they have several different kinds with oats and dried fruits and chocolate.  Mine was generously stuffed with chocolate chips (the good cocoa chocolate, not the sickly sweet milk chocolate), raisins (Correction: I have been informed that they were in fact not raisins but apple-sweetened dried cranberries, d’oh!  My bad!), oats, and pumpkin seeds. 

Now, as I was discussing with my friend Sally yesterday, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea based on what’s in it.  Her vegetarian friend loved it, but she wasn’t too fussy about it.  My verdict?  I actually really enjoyed it.  I like raisins in my cookies (think oatmeal raisin), (Correction: I love dried cranberries!), so it works for me, and I loooove the crunch the pumpkin seeds gave to this cookie and the chocolate sweetened the whole cookie up so that it balanced out the nutty flavour of the oats and seeds and the tartness of the raisins.  For those who enjoy texture and a mixture of savoury and sweet, this is for you and it’s one of Bunner’s best sellers.

And the creamie and the cupcake?  Oh heaven.  Pure heaven.  As my friend Sally said, “I could eat a whole tub of the lemon frosting”.  I agree, so could I.  The cupcake I chose was a vanilla cake with lemon frosting.  I can honestly say that this is a cupcake unlike anything I have ever tasted.  And in a good way!  To put things in perspective, let me just remind everyone what makes a bad cupcake: too dry, too sweet, too crumbly.  As well, cupcakes that don’t support the weight of the frosting and fall apart half way through eating, and those are saturated with extract (vanilla, almond, you get the picture). 

Now, the most common complaints I hear about cupcake frosting, specifically, are that some frostings are too greasy and “butter” like in consistency to the point where they leave a film on your mouth, ones that are too sweet and grainy (the kind of sugary that makes you grimace), and ones that are artificial in taste (think mint frosting that ends up tasting like Listerine). 

Bunner’s cupcakes are NONE of these things.  Their cake, although not the moistest I’ve ever had (that award goes to the Black Velvet at Sweet Escape), was soft and subtle in flavour.  The lemony frosting?  Oh man.  So different from anything I’ve tasted.  It was thick and full-bodied in its volume, texture, and flavour.  It’s the kind of frosting that doesn’t dissipate as soon as it hits your tongue.  It envelopes your taste buds and does a little waltz around your mouth.  It has the volume of marshmallow fluff and the thickness of reeeeally good frosting.  The cupcake is so satisfying.

But you wanna know what’s even MORE satisfying?  The creamie cookie sandwich.  No, scratch that.  Satisfying is not the right word.  Gratifying is the right word.  Although I chose the double chocolate chip creamie for my boyfriend because he’s a chocolate fanatic (and because I love him, aww), I demanded a bite when he was eating it.  The phrase “oh my god” doesn’t even cut it.  Hands down, pure awesomeness.  Anyone who goes to Bunner’s (and you know you will) MUST get a creamie.  If I’m going to recommend anything to you, it’s that.  And trust that when I eat a whole one myself, I will give you the lowdown in all its glory.  But I’ll let you salivate and let your imagination run wild in the meantime.

An amazing fun Veggielicious and hopefully, more wonderful experiences and good eats to come in the next little while!  I’m going to work on getting more detailed descriptions of vegan ingredients used in the desserts as time goes on when I profile items on their own, so I’ll make sure to make those available to you all.  Veggielicious runs until April 24th, so enjoy!

*****

Bunner’s is located in The Junction at 3054 Dundas Street West, 3 blocks from the intersection of Keele and Dundas West.  Bunner’s is just west of High Park Ave.  They are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-7pm, and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.

Sinking Your Teeth Into Luscious Vegan and Gluten-Free Desserts! Veggielicious at Bunner’s Bake Shop – Part I

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I am SO giddy and excited to share these photos with you guys!  It was such a beautiful day today.  A bit chilly in the morning, but sunkissed and glorious by the afternoon.  Veggielicious is up and running in and around the city and today I ate through the first one on my list: Bunner’s Bake Shop on Dundas St. West!  When I went over my foodie options for Veggielicious, I knew I wanted to balance out my savoury with some sweet, and sweet I got!  Bunner’s Bake Shop, located in the heart of The Junction neighbourhood in Toronto, is a vegan and gluten-free bakery that churns out delicious desserts and pastries that are egg-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, and cruelty-free.  Their Veggielicious special for the 2 weeks is comprised of a gypsy cookie, a creamie cookie sandwich, and a cupcake for $7.50.  This is my teaser picture post for you all today, so enjoy and drool while I work on my thorough Bunner’s Bake Shop post tomorrow! 😀  A BIG thank you to Ashley and Kevin who run Bunner’s for allowing me to go snap happy with my camera so I could share this experience with you guys, I really appreciate it.

*****

Bunner’s is located in The Junction at 3054 Dundas Street West, 3 blocks from the intersection of Keele and Dundas West.  Bunner’s is just west of High Park Ave.  They are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am-7pm, and 12pm-5pm on Sundays.

A Beautiful Day to Kick Off Veggielicious!

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The weather is so amazingly gorgeous today!  I went out this morning for a grocery and bakery run with my mum and I was so ecstatic to soak up that little bit of sunshine and warmth.  I even hugged my window (or rather, smushed my cheek against it) when I came home because the warmth felt so nice.  It’s days like today that make it much easier for the stress to seep out and after several days of absolute physical, mental, and emotional tiredness and exhaustion, I finally feel like I’m human again as opposed to a mish mash of mush.  It’s so beautiful outside I could honestly just roll around in the grass and be content for the rest of the day.  And to top it off, Veggielicious starts today! 😀  Click here to visit the Veggielicious website where you’ll find a list of participating restaurants and eateries in and outside of Toronto complete with Veggielicious specials and important notes and dates.  Oh!  And print out a poster too while you’re at it.  It’s adorable, hee!

I’m really looking forward to trying out a few places over the next two weeks and at the top of my list are Bunner’s Bake Shop, Live Organic Food Bar, and of course, my beloved Mela Café!  If you’re interested in drooling over Mela’s vegan eggplant panini, click here for my bootiful post of yummies!  I wish I could try so much more, but I have a really limited budget to work with right now and I needed to narrow my choices down.  I was contemplating Sadie’s Diner too but I’m still hemming and hawing on that one. 

To celebrate the beautiful weather and the kick off of Veggielicious, I’m sharing a bunch of photos of some delicious grilled veggies my family and I threw on the bah-bie last summer!  Plenty of mushrooms, bell peppers, corn, and eggplant!  Yup, it’s that time again!  Everything tastes better off the grill 😉  I’m super excited to get some Easter baking done, to eat some awesome vegetarian, vegan, and raw meals, and to park myself at as many farmer’s markets imaginable.  Life may not be perfect, but there’s so much to look forward to and it’s pretty sweet for the time being ❤

Tummies, Start Your Engines! Veggielicious Is Just Around the Corner

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I love food fests!  In less than 2 weeks, the first ever Veggielicious will be upon us in Toronto!  Brought to us by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, Veggielicious is a price fixe food event with the same concept as Winterlicious and Summerlicious.  A number of vegetarain, vegan, and organic and raw eateries are participating this first time around and I’m excited!  After checking out some of the menus on the Veggielicious website, I’m definitely interested in trying The Beet and Live Organic Food Bar.  My favourite, Mela Café will be participating (yay!) and I can’t wait to see what specials they’re going to have on their menu for the 2 weeks Veggielicious is running.  I brought my best friend there about 2 weeks ago (blog post and pictures to come soon!) and she loved it.  All she wanted to do was eat plate after plate of their fresh ravioli and after sharing one of the adorable, delicious vegan banana cream pie desserts, we could have noshed on 4 more because they were so good.   

Granted, even if I decide not to take advantage of the specific price fixe menus these places are offering, I’m still really looking forward to trying out new places and seeing what my favourites are planning on whipping up for the event.  It’s been so rewarding learning about vegetarian and vegan food and cooking, and incorportating it more and more into my diet.  Seeing what these places offer gives you inspiration to take home with you so that you can create your own homemade veggie meals.  I spend a lot of my free time reading up on food-related things and scoping out places for friends to try because sometimes it does take that extra bit of effort to find those holy grails you never knew existed.  The event will be great for exposure and of course, I’ll blog and post pictures of anything and everything I stuff my face with 😀  I’ll do a rundown of places closer to the date so in the meantime, mark your calendars from April 9th to the 24th becuase it’s going to be gooood.

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There are also places outside of Toronto participating in the event including Burlington, Oakville, and St. Catherines.  For more information and to print out your own Veggielicious posters to hand out and advertise, visit their website here.  I’m definitely printing out a bunch!