There were so many lovely vegan options at last Thursday’s Recipe for Change, we left happy and satisfied. My favourite part is when things end up vegan at the event, that I was unsure about. As much as I like having a prepared list with me, it’s really nice to have the opportunity to talk about food with chefs around the city. It feels like there is this kinship with people passionate about food, even if our choices aren’t the same. Maybe it’s just because they’re all being extra nice at the event, but it’s just such a pleasure to meet and talk with people that share or exceed your love of presentation, ingredients, and flavour.
It was already quite busy when I arrived at St. Lawrence Market, my attempt to be fashionably early was foiled by the usual Toronto excuse – streetcars. Everyone was mingling and chatting, the room was full of the smell of food. Nothing in particular stood out right away, it was just that delicious sign that let’s you know: there are tasty things happening here.
I made a b-line to the first station - Chef Bashir Munye’s – My Little Dumplings. Beautiful little dumplings with curried butternut squash, roasted apple ginger sauce with spiced pumpkin seed brittle. He doesn’t exclusively make vegan foods, but this one was a delight. It’s reason enough to check out his cart at the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market on some Saturday in the future just to see what other vegan treats he might have.
Most seats were taken by the time I arrived (the early bird gets the chair,) but I managed to scoop up one of the last ones, with the added benefit on being on the well lit side of the room, It was also conveniently next to Cococrepe. They had a crepe with meat, but they also made vegan mushroom crepes. They were fresh and yummy. We will have to find out what vegan options they have normally, their vegan crepe was a good example of what they can do.
Chef Jeff Dueck from Frank Restaurant from the Art Gallery of Ontario made two delicious types of dips. A fava bean hummus with lemon and basil & sweet and sour babaghanoush with pomegrante molasses, served with a variety of root vegetable & tuber chips. Last year they had a beautiful display and this year was no different. The options were delicious, but my favourite was the fava bean hummus, such a great combination of flavours. We went back for seconds (and maybe thirds…)
In one of the examples of Recipe for Change introducing us to new options from last year, Rocco Agostino, of Pizzeria Libretto/Enoteca Sociale fame had a savoury and warm ribollita salad with beans, beets, carrot, kale, fennel, and potato. There was a parmesan topping that I skipped (of course); the warm and richly savory cubes of veggies held their own.
We had never thought of Pizzaria Libretto as anything put a pizza place, but they have this amazing patate e fagioli soup that Chef Agostino showcased at last years event, that we’ve gone back and enjoyed several times (but by the way, it’s only at the Danforth location.)
We really enjoyed the Vegan Mushroom Ragout Over Peppered Polenta with a Tofu Truffle “Ricotta” from Therese DeGrace & Christopher Ennew, St. Anne’s Spa. It’s another example of this event showing us new and interesting food related things in Ontario that we might not have discovered otherwise. I liked that they had a presentation plate in addition to the smaller sample dishes, it’s nice to see what the full dish actually looks like if we do end up visiting them sometime.
We wandered over to Brad Long, Café BeLong for Faux Pho made with a delicious mushroom broth and various toppings (mini basil leaves, rice noodles, mushrooms, finely sliced carrots, purple cabbage, micro greens) Originally there were supposed to be omnivourous options, but it was delightfully scratched out when we got there. I still have really fond memories of the vegan dinner we had at Café BeLong for Valentine’s Day 2012.
One of the dishes I wasn’t sure about pre-event was Mildred’s Temple Kitchen‘s - Veggie Tagine with Couscous and Preserved Lemon, turns out that the couscous had butter in it, but everything else was vegan. It was a thick and spicy Moroccan style dish, with plump sultana raisins. One of those rich and hearty dishes I can imagine myself craving on a rainy cold day.
The culinary students at from Bendale Business & Technical Institute showcased their skills with a gazpacho filled phyllo bowl. They seemed done for the night when I picked up a couple of bowls, but the gazpacho was good – JC liked the phyllo a lot, but I just wanted to drink up all the great tomtatoey goodness.
It’s hard to pick favourites at events like this (since everyone raises the bar) – but I think my favourite was the spicy bibimbap bowls from Sang Kim, Yakitori Bar/Seoul Food. They also had a sesame bowl which was also pretty good. I tried asking about their recipe for change plans on twitter, but didn’t get an answer. It was easy enough to ask at the event. Spicy sauce over a bowl filled with rice, mushrooms, spinach and carrots. We’ll have to check out the vegan options (if any) at either of those restaurants.
Our dessert option that evening came from CrudaCafe in the form of a “Love me Forever” vegan tart which were great. Overheard was “the best raw dessert I’ve ever had” which is actually really saying something considering how amazing raw desserts have become. I’m not necessarily up there with the praise, but I did really really like it. It was such a great colour and the pomegranates gave it a really nice accent.
Once again, a lovely event, supporting a great cause that as a person, and a future (one day) parent, I care about – children’s food literacy programs in schools. JC and I even won a silent auction item. I’m looking forward to what next year brings.
For more photos, feel free to check out the set on Flickr.