Oh Toronto, what a day! A Vegan Bake-Off and Nuit Blanche all in one Saturday!
Yesterday in early afternoon I went over to the Harbourfront Community Center for the 3rd Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off presented by the TVA. A group had already stated gathering outside the gymnasium doors, and you could feel the excitement in the air (I’m sure it wasn’t just me.)
There were 6 different categories:
Vegan Bars and Bites
Vegan Tarts and Treats
Vegan and Gluten-Free Desserts
Professionally Crafted Vegan Classics
I decided (barely) to get a plate of Terrific Vegan Treats, though it was a hard decision, and I changed my mind three times after I gave one of the volunteers the fee (it was three dollars per plate sampled.) I appreciate that she didn’t give me a sense of irritation though it would have been justified.
I was impressed with the selection of beautiful and delicious vegan treats. I shouldn’t be surprised but regardless of how much veganized amazingness I try on my travels I’m always amazed at the ingenuity evident from creative vegan bakers and raw foodists. That creativity was displayed to perfection with the spread at the Bake-Off.
We started off with the Vegan Tarts and Treats plate. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be one of the final judges for this competition. It was hard enough writing it out on an anonymous piece of paper. Though, that said I gave a few things a 3 and my friend said I was a jerk (which is probably valid in that case.) After the first few “5”’s I felt a little silly. Honestly I thought everything was fantastic, but in comparison, some things just tasted better to me.
I love coconut and chocolate so the Two Sides to the Moon treat was just fabulous to me, but my friend said it was her least favourite. I imagine by having a variety of judges (all of us attendees) it balances out the subjectivity of flavours. There was a rich dark chocolate ganache, and a light coconut creame covered with a sliver of raw dark chocolate. I thought it was great, and if it was up to me, it would have won.
The Cinnamon Yum Bun endeared itself to me simply by being adorable and little. It reminded me of how much I wished Cinnaholics was here in Toronto.
The Luscious Lemon Lavender Tartlets with a raspberry on top made me think of lemon meringue pie, and I started contemplating how to execute a meringue without using egg white, thus discovering a new goal in life, I might not be joking. The filling was quite yummy, but I wasn’t really conscious of lavender as I was eating it, even though I saw it in the tartlet.
The little bite of the Chocolate Ameretto Swirl cheesecake was super yummy and unsurprisingly it was raw, as nearly every delicious cheesecake I’ve eaten has been. It ended up winning in the vegan treats category. The presentation on the table was also mouthwatering, splashed with chocolate sauce.
The chocolate triple nut tart, was really chewy and as everything else… really yummy.
We sat around for a bit, and took advantage of the free Natura soymilk from a tower of soymilk and giant basket of Lara bars. After a while of watching people enjoy their snacks and treats it was necessary (seriously) to get another plate.
We decided to share a cupcake plate this time around, and I think it was a great decision.
The Double Vanilla Salted Caramel Cupcakes looked amazing and I had my eye on them ever since I saw them on the presentation table. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to sample any, because my friend ate the entire thing. I knew I should have grabbed it first! I’m really kicking myself for that because it ended up winning in both the cupcake category and won best in show as well.
Instead of the Double Vanilla Salted Caramel Cupcakes I ate the Decadent Double Double Chocolate Cupcakes, which were good. I’m not sure what it was made from, but I liked the flower. It was sweet sticky and tasted a bit like marshmallows.
I loved the presentation of the Lemon Anise Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting on the professional plated desserts table, it looked absolutely beautiful. The pairing of the anise with the off-white chocolate looked beautiful next to the lemon slices.
“This Cupcakes is Bananas”, was a gluten free offering, and I was surprised at how good they were. Generally I’m not a fan of gluten free baking, and when I eat something gluten free, I KNOW it. This time around I didn’t realize it until I looked at the information later. That’s a great sign.
Then it was time to hand in our ballots and for the counting to begin. While we were waiting the TVA organized a couple of games, Vegan Jeopardy, with an interesting variety of questions, and a cookie making contest. There was hot sauce on the table. I kind of feel sorry for the tasters in that competition though I’m sure the other contestants put in the best effort to make the cookies palatable.
After the awards ceremony my friend and I parted ways. I started my first Nuit Blanche experience downtown and walked around City Hall as they were setting up “Later That Night At The Drive-In” and then on to Yonge-Dundas Square to see the set up for “Just because you can feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.” After that it was time to meet a friend at Kensington Market so we could explore Zone C together.
Before we really went out there we had dinner at Fresh. We ordered my now favourite Quinoa Onion Rings, and I had a Delux Burger. It was okay, the bun was fantastic, but I wasn’t thrilled with the burger. At that point I was pretty much starving, so it filled the hole in my stomach, but I don’t think Fresh is ever going to quite win me over. I’ll try something different next time. My friend ordered a green bowl with tempeh and it looked quite delicious, so maybe I’ll try one of those despite my general distaste for salad.
I think it’s fair to say that my favourite installation was the one that turned the side of a building into a video game. It was very cool, complete with music and people yelling at the screen. There was also a drawing class going on in a night gallery and bar, right next door was a very lively ukranian band that got out hands clapping and our feet tapping.
I spent the rest of the night wandering around Queen Street and Younge Street, looking at the first exhibit again and just enjoying the evening. At some point I walked by The Bus House Collective’s project on Queen St at Bay and encountered an extremely unpleasant woman who said she was a city employee ranting about how defacing a bus stop wasn’t art. Her unreasonably aggressive tone left me with a pretty bad impression, but luckily she was the only killjoy that evening.
A lot of people had been telling me how awful it would be and how crowded it was, how much it sucked to stand in lines for things. I’m glad I ignored them all and did my own thing, because I had a great time and I loved being out there. It was crowded, and it was amazing. The energy last night was really positive and one of excitement. People were playful and chatty, and I had conversations with people I otherwise wouldn’t have encountered.
I’m glad everyday isn’t as amazing as Saturday was or else I’d probably stop appreciating how wonderful days like that are. Just as long as they are once a month!