Meatless Monday – Veggie Pride Loud & Proud

When I first heard of this event I thought it was a parade for LGBT* vegetarians in Toronto. I then found out that it’s for all vegetarians/vegans who wish to loudly proclaim their chosen diet. This week’s Meatless Monday is a look at Toronto for the vegetarian/vegan.

Toronto is Canada’s most populous city. Its culinary beginnings were quite bland: unimaginative and relatively tasteless cuisine that borrowed from the British tradition of boiled vegetables and salted meat. Nowadays, with the many influxes of immigrants over the years, the food scene in Toronto has “lively up itself“. (Credit to Bob for this expression.)

Toronto has a number of celebrity chefs and the bulk of episodes of Top Chef Canada have been filmed here.  But what is there for the vegetarian/vegan? Plenty.

CN Tower by Kimberley (c) 2011.
CN Tower by Kimberley (c) 2011.

*Toronto is currently the only place in Canada where one can pursue a Vegetarian Culinary Arts Certificate. (I am a third of the way from achieving mine.)

*The Vegetarian Food Festival held annually in September is considered “…the largest event of its kind in North America...” according to the Toronto Vegetarian website. (Quote retrieved June 9th 2013 from the following page: http://veg.ca/events/festival/)

*There are a number of good vegetarian/vegan restaurants in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) from which to choose. Click here for current list.

*If you are in Toronto for any length of time it’s worth investing in a ‘Veg card’ from the Toronto Vegetarian Association.
Cost of basic membership: $25. Rewards: priceless. This card entitles you to discounts from a variety of participating businesses. Click here for current list.

Here's my card!
Here’s my card!

In a calendar year I managed to attend the Annual Veggie Pride Parade followed up by the Toronto Raw/Vegan Food Festival the following weekend. I stuffed myself silly at the Vegan Bake-Off and sampled almost every restaurant during Veggielicious and there is still so much more to try!

Here are my recommendations so far:
Dining:

  • Fresh for a chic twist on healthy ingredients du jour
  • Cruda Cafe  and Live-Organic Food Bar! for sumptuous raw food
  • Hot Beans for vegan tacos. You must try the  barbecued jackfruit taco!
  • Urban Herbivore for fast urban food veggie style
  • Kensington Natural Bakery on Bloor Street West in the Annex neighbourhood. Cash only establishment. 
  • The Hogtown Vegan for good ol’ bad-for-you greasy food.

Shopping:

Classes:
George Brown College Continuing Education – Culinary Arts (Vegetarian Culinary Arts Certificate)
Cruda Cafe for ‘uncooking’ classes

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered

Scenes from The 4th Annual Veggie Pride Parade:

Photo credit: Kimberley (c) 2013
Photo credit: Kimberley (c) 2013
Photo credit: Kimberley (c) 2013
Photo credit: Kimberley (c) 2013

 

Meatless Monday – Bean There Done That

For this week’s Meatless Monday I was full of ‘Hot Beans’. Hot Beans is an eatery in the heart of Kensington Market in downtown Toronto that serves vegan tacos and burritos.

‘Mexican’-style food lends itself well to vegetarian/vegan tastes with its use of spices, vegetables and rice while the meat is easily substituted with non-animal protein.

‘Mexican’ Food that is Naturally Vegan
salsa; tortillas; guacamole; mole sauce; churros; beans & rice

Hot Beans had the usual options of TVP (textured vegetable protein), seitan and beans (obviously!) along with an imaginative use of an uncommon fruit I just had to try: jackfruit. It was slow cooked in a tangy barbecue sauce then served in a soft shell taco. This deliciously hot mess of a meal was tasty and filling. I believe the texture was meant to resemble that of pulled pork. The sweet and spicy bbq sauce was heavy on tomato but complemented the jackfruit perfectly.

As the tacos don’t travel well I had to plant myself somewhere in this small, limited seating eatery to have my 2 bbq jackfruit tacos. It came with my choice of a side. I opted for the beans and rice but could have had salsa and chips (next time I guess). The jazz music playing subtly in the background made for an enjoyable and easily digestible meal.

The day before I had the ‘winter storm special‘, a mac n’ cheese burrito with fried potatoes. When I heard the crackling of the oil in the deep fat fryer I was worried: is this the vegan version of a “Big Mac” heart attack? The taste made up for this however. The crunchy saltiness of the fried potatoes balanced out the meek taste of vegan cheese and mellow texture of the macaroni. It was just the right amount of food and macronutrients to divert attention away from the winter blues.

The self-proclaimed ‘hippie’ behind the counter served me both times but didn’t acknowledge that I had been in the day before. Service was good, not great and fairly efficient. I had my meal within minutes as did the other patrons (ranging from toddlers to baby boomers).

Meals are assembled fresh to order. For around $9 you can have a deliciously memorable vegan meal served in eco-friendly containers.

If you can find it, here are some other Meatless Meal ideas for jackfruit:

  • ‘Jerkfruit’ – a Jamaican-inspired dish using jerk seasoning and jackfruit
  • ‘Jack a l’orange’ – a savoury sauce made with orange juice and jackfruit
  • Butter Jackfruit – butter ‘chicken’ sauce (basically tomato sauce, curry spices and dairy/non-dairy cream) and jackfruit

No Meat March – I like the sound of this!

My Apologies to Fellow Vegetarians

February marks Black History Month in Canada and the U.S.
If you’re in Vancouver dine out to kick off this 28 day event that commemorates, celebrates and recognizes African Canadians and Americans.

Canada Post has issued a stamp of him and there’s a restaurant named after him: Joe Fortes.
Joe Fortes – the man
Joe Fortes – the restaurant

Although this restaurant is a “seafood and chophouse” it is not indicative of all that Vancouver has to offer. There are numerous vegetarian/vegan dining options in Canada’s ‘LotusLand’. Check out The Naam for a start.