Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 12 Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival

I attended the 27th Annual Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival last weekend on the Friday evening and much of Saturday. (See my promo for the event by clicking here.) I felt like I was in my element. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I have a wealth of vegan resources "right in my backyard". So I don't need to go too far. The Food Festival took place from Friday, September 9th to Sunday, September 11th, 2011 at the Harbourfront Centre one of my favourite hangout spots in the city. The Harbourfront is really an exciting place to be in the summertime due to its free, vibrant, and diverse summer festivals. I have seen such amazing acts as Queen Ifrika, Femi Kuti, Tony Rebel, The Scientist Lee "Scratch" Perry, Roy Ayers Band, Ernest Ranglin, the Abyssinians, Los Lobos, and Frankie Paul at the Harbourfront... for free. (Plus, my fiance has performed there a few times.) I even won a singing contest at the Harbourfront in 2004 called Miss Hot and Spicy. The contest was based on the announcer giving you a word and you had to think of a song with that word.

Not short of excitement or buzz, the festival had an amazing turnout especially considering that there are so many things were going on in Toronto that weekend including the Canada's Bridal Show, The National Bridal Show, Ethiopian New Year (attended it last year and loved it), Toronto Independent Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which I also had the pleasure of working for in years past. There I got to meet a lot of Canadian actors as well as actor Mario Van Peebles and Taye Diggs, film critic and Thy'Ca survivor Roger Ebert, late father of African cinema Ousmane Sembene,and blockbuster actor and activist Danny Glover. (If you read about this blog, you know I'm all about the name dropping and networking.) It's an amazing event to be a part of both as an audience and a co-ordinator but it's H-U-G-E and a little overwhelming. Huge line-ups! Lots of buzz! So I really appreciated the low-key vibe of the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival.

The Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival is known for the following:
- lots of food samples
- vegetarian and vegan food vendors
- expert panels
- cooking demonstrations
- speakers and book talks
- lots of baked goods
- book sales
- music
and more.

My Vegetarian food festival highlights: carrot cake (my favourite type of cake), sticky buns, hemp butter, soy cream cheese, and Pastel de Choclo, FREE food samples, nice Hare Krishna chanting, I enjoyed this weekend immensely and enjoyed being around a lot of like-minded folks who love plant-based foods. I loved the diversity of food vendors-- Jamaican/Ital (One Love), Mexican (El Cilantro), Indian (Govindas and Udupi's), Chinese (King's Cafe), and lots and lots of vegan baked goods. I was not able to attend the meditation on Sunday but I loved the chanting on Saturday. Although, I watched and participated for a little bit, when the chanting was finished, I felt very tranquil. The amount of vendors was dizzying in number as I tried to go back to my favourite vendors but could not remember. I also got to meet Terry Hope Romero, see her speak about vegan blogging (same talk she did at the Vida Vegan Blog Conference I tried to win a ticket for through my Burrito Bonanza contest) and do a cooking demonstration, and got an autograph. I also loved the speakers and panels. They were informed, well-researched, and published. Also there were a lot of friendly and enthusiastic volunteers to help.

The festival downfalls: lack of cultural diversity in speakers, cooking demonstrations and musical acts (Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world but you wouldn't know it by this, the Hare Krishna group did chanting in an Indian tradition but this was not a performance); the music kind of sucked and needed some more "liveliness" (I say, at least one reggae band in next years' festival. Chances will be pretty good that the members are vegetarian especially if they are observant Rastafarians); accurate and up-to-date program books were not available until the second day because they were still at the printer; I was sick with a cold :-( and had to leave earlier than planned.

It was wonderful and I would have stayed the entire weekend, mind you, but I felt a cold coming on and it symptoms became a bit too much to handle. (By Saturday afternoon, both of my sinuses were blocked and persistently running. I was sneezing a lot and starting to feel woozy. My bed was calling me. I stayed home and slept for the rest of the weekend.)

So here is my re-cap of the weekend... in photos. Please note that although this post may seem like an advertisement for several businesses, I have not received any royalties. Not one penny.

Now enjoy!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011
Cute slide from Terry Hope Romero's vegan blog talk. She's really funny and gave me some great advice when I asked her how to reach out to you guys, my readers.

The Secrets of Nutrition Revealed! panel

Did not get to try out these vegan churros because the line was too long.

By the end of the evening Govindas, in true Hare Krishna-style, started giving away their food for FREE. I got there by this time but it was so funny to see two guys yelling, "Free Indian food!" across the field at the Harbourfront Centre. These are three extremely potent words in Toronto. If you yell them out, you might get a stampede which is exactly what happened. Luckily, I got this amazing meal on a bamboo plate in time.

Toronto city skyline... you can see part of the CN Tower in the back.

Saturday, September 10, 2011
King's Cafe serve up some great Chinese-vegan food. They also have a grocery store and tea shop.

I got a soy drumstick, spring roll, veggie dumplings, and TVP satay skewer.

So this is the soy drumstick... gonna' make me some curried un-chicken one of these days.

Hare Krishna chanting

Yummy vegan jujubes and gumdrops. Science at its best.

This entrepreneur was so happy to show off her wares and was very friendly unlike one other vendor who will remain nameless.

This vegan sticky bun was a highlight of my TVFF experience.

I love pretty desserts.

This is Shannon... and she seems to be everywhere. The night before she was giving me a hand massage and telling me about Arbonne, a vegan cosmetic company for which she sells (kind of like Avon). Here she is promoting a vegan bake sale which will raise funds to get these ads on to the TTC (Toronto's public transit system). Last year they were successful and raised enough money.

There is an actual sanctuary for primates in Ontario called Story Book Farm. I asked them where the primates come from and they said the exotic pet trade and research facilities in laboratories and universities.

Terry Hope Romero's cooking demonstration where she is making a famous Chilean dish called Pastel de Choclo. I had this dish years ago when I used to date this Chilean fellow. The relationship didn't work out since it was long distance (he didn't live in Chile, but Montreal instead. I know it's a lot closer than South America but still an 8 hour drive and I didn't have a car). So although I ditched the boyfriend, I didn't ditch my appreciation of great Latin food. (Can someone say empanadas?) Thankfully, Terry Hope has made a cookbook to satisfy that... Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers. I bought a copy and got it autographed.

Pastel de choclo... mmmm.

Terry Hope, you so crazy!

The Rooster's Inn is a rooster sanctuary. I wonder how all these roosters establish a pecking order. Did you know that there are like hundreds of species of chickens? But the chickens we tend to see in North America are bred from very few select species and outnumber the others. I read it in a book about chickens.

Free Larabar samples

I love a good carrot cake and this one is vegan.

Yellow or green kiwi... they taste quite different.

Another happy entrepreneur who runs an online store. Her husband is the artist who comes up with these catchy images.

Love this one. It's so cute. I wonder if they have my size in a baby t?

I bought these three buttons. The one on the left is for me and the one on the right is for my fiance. The one in the middle says "eat like you give a @#%!" I'll take that one too.

This is hummus... HUMMUS. (A Middle-Eastern spread/dip made from chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and tahini. It's great with pita bread and/or vegetables. There are other variations to this recipe as well but that is the basic formula.) I wonder if the guy in the Manhattan healthy sandwich shop who didn't know what hummus was or the owners who did not stock the shop with this food staple are reading this blog right now?

The people at Gardein preparing some barbeque.

This was amazing BBQ glazed un-chicken. The guy at this table is a total fan of Crazy Sexy Diet.

Camino makes cheap, great-tasting, fair trade juice.

You can make so many things from Hemp like rope, clothes, oil (they had free samples of oil, I drank this green oil and it can also power engines too), milk (as pictured here for free sampling), and...

butter (so good). Very nutty.

A vegetarian foodbank is amazing especially because fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive. It is hard for poor people to access affordable fruits and veggies and at foodbanks, there are no fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything is canned. (I should know. I volunteered at a foodbank and worked at a soup kitchen.) The soup kitchen was a little better. They got fruit that nearly went bad that was donated by supermarkets. One of my jobs was to sort through the fruit and separate the moldy fruit from the ones that were still good. I also like that this foodbank is located not downtown but in the diverse, poorer "outer city" of Toronto: one is at Jane-and-Finch (I used to live there) and the other is in Scarborough (I used to work there). Poorer people do not need to go so far to access high quality, affordable food.

Kindfood is expanding its reach to Toronto and beyond

A new coconut flavoured cupcake

Can't find organic produce? What out Front Door Organics, there's a new organic delivery service in town. Mama Earth.

Forks Over Knives... first came the movie and now the book. Check out this movie if you can. It is based on research of Dr. Carl Esselstyn and Dr. Colin Campbell (The China Study).

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