I went to check out the Conscious Food Festival this weekend. I didn’t go last year, but the reviews generally complained of a lack of non alcoholic options and minimal vegan options. This year, it seemed to have something for everyone (alcohovore, herbivore, omnivore, or whatever.) There were options from restaurants and local breweries, presentations by local chefs at the Conscious Food School, as well as a Conscious Food Battleground where chefs went head to head with different challenges.
Chefs Darren Stoute & Shawn Lane of Stoute Catering offered a local stuffed field tomato dish. I was waiting for some kind of obscure non vegan item in the tomato, but was happy to hear there wasn’t anything weird in it. The tomato dish was complex and flavourful option, stuffed with roasted root vegetables, corn, black beans and drizzled with a four herb and lime infused olive oil.
Pizzeria Libretto / Enoteca Sociale showcased a crisp cucumber radish salad. I have never been to Pizzeria Libretto or Enoteca Sociale, but after that salad, I’m sincerely tempted to do so.
Marben (488 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON) was showing off their versatility and partnership with The New Farm with a rich mustard based potato salad and a spicy red gazpacho. This was an exciting revelation for my non-vegan partner, because he’s loved that place but since it’s generally known as a meat heavy restaurant, we’ve never gone there. I spoke to one of the chefs a little further, and he mentioned it would still be a good idea to reserve in advance and mention being vegan.
We also sampled some of Nzyme‘s delicious raw food options. There was a zucchini pesto and a mock tuna. My favourite was the zucchini dish, but the mock tuna was a hit with my friend, it was especially great when wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Nzyme is located in Oakville, ON (341 Lakeshore Rd E) and are planning on offering lessons in raw food preparation in the near future.
One of the owners taught a crowd how to make coconut haystack desserts at the “Conscious Food School” and made it look easy, which really, when you can count all the ingredients on one hand, and the most complicated thing is to food process/blend/crush almonds… you’re in pretty good shape.
It was impossible to go thirsty at the festival, with options ranging from fair trade organic coffee, fresh stevia sweetened lemonade, root beer, and beer from Mill Street Brewery, Creemore Springs, Nickel Brook, Beau’s, the newcomer Spearhead Brewing and Steamwhistle, in addition to a locally produced corn based vodka from TAG. I’ve blitzed all the breweries that were involved with the festival about how vegan friendly their production methods are, or at least the ones that haven’t already been cleared by Barnivore volunteers. But as of yet, I haven’t gotten any responses back… yet.
We spent a lot of time at Nickel Brook Brewing, Mill Street and Beau’s though. Nickel Brook had a very very very rooty root beer, pumped straight out of a keg, and I still can’t decide if I liked it. The favourite’s of the afternoon were probably Mill Street’s Lemon Tea Ale or Nickel Brook’s Apple Pilsner.
Oxfam was there promoting a cause with a goal near and dear to my heart, the Grow campaign, and we ended up signing up for the City of Toronto’s Live Green project, though I’m still not entirely sure how it actually works, but apparently we’ll get discounts at various places with the card.
The other thing that really piqued my interest was a pamphlet for The Stop (1884 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON), which is an Toronto based community food center, acting as a food bank, drop-in, a community kitchen, and farmers market as well as offering hands on learning opportunities for people that might otherwise not have access to them. I think it would be a great organization to volunteer with.
The price of admission was $15 in advance or $20 at the door, I picked up two tickets on EthicalDeal for $20 which also included 10 food tickets. But the best part was that when we got there on Sunday morning, we were told that The Grid had sponsored admission for the day, but everyone that had paid for admission in advance, would get the equivalent in food and drink tickets.