I am leaving Toronto today, bringing my nine day vegan food binge to a close. While I am sad to leave, I do miss my bed, boyfriend and kitchen. But first, brace yourselves for a whirlwind tour of Vegan Toronto, part two.
I am going to dive right in and commence gushing about Fresh. Vancouver needs a Fresh. Heck, every city needs a Fresh! There are three locations here in Toronto, but I visited the one on Bloor. Three times. Three of us went for dinner and it was super busy for a Wednesday night, so we waited maybe half an hour before getting in. Once we got past the black curtain, we were greeted by a bustling and brightly coloured room, super tightly packed. There were even chandeliers. It was like nothing I have seen in Vancouver where the Naam is consistently hailed as the best vegetarian restaurant in the city. I like the Naam from time to time, but it’s more hippyish and kind of leaves me feeling sick every time. This blew the Naam out of the water, in my opinion. We started with quinoa-crusted onion rings with a vegan garlic mayo dip. They weren’t gluten-free, but the quinoa was a nice touch and had a good onion to batter ratio, and the dip was unbelievable.
At that point I was almost full, so I ordered the baby (rather than regular sized) dragon bowl on soba noodles. It was covered in a super tasty miso gravy that had nutritional yeast in it, and you know how I feel about that! It was really creamy and kind of reminded me of peanut sauce in its consistency.
I was wishing I had a full-size bowl, but was keeping my eye on the prize: a slice of vegan carrot cake. After dinner, we were all stuffed so we ended up sharing one slice. It was fantastic! Super moist and rich with “cream cheese” icing. This cake was so good, I actually made a special trip to Fresh to get a slice to go. Then yesterday, Kiera and I discovered that you can buy it at the natural foods store by her house in either square or entire cake form. So, of course, we bought one of each. It’s made by Toronto vegan bakery Sweets from the Earth and I couldn’t recommend it more. The carrot cake isn’t gluten-free, but they do carry a number of gluten-free and nut-free products.
Kiera and I also treated ourselves to brunch at Fresh. We each had the pancake platter: mine with banana pancakes and veggie sausage, Kiera’s with blueberry pancakes and tempeh bacon. Both also came with an oniony dilly tofu scramble. I would love to know what gluten-free flour combo they use for those fluffy, fluffy pancakes. I liked how they gave us a jug of real maple syrup, of which we consumed about half. Only complaint: I saved some banana pancake for last and it tasted like onion due to the encroaching tofu scramble. Oh well, I guess there are consequences when you want to have you (pan)cake and eat it too!
Kiera, her partner Gaelan and I had a super fun night out at Snakes and Lattes. Vancouver needs one of those too. It’s like a coffee shop that has oodles of boardgames, vegan and omni snacks and serves alcohol. What more could one ask for? They have a tofurkey sandwich with vegenaise on the menu, but Kiera and I were more concerned about the vegan desserts. The chocolate peanut butter ball was the best, but the nanaimo bar was pretty tasty too. They don’t charge extra for soy milk. Awesome.
Hibiscus is another great vegan Kensington Market destination. Mostly vegan, I should say, because they do have some crepes with cheese in them. I wish I had tried a sweet crepe, but I had started the day with a sweet breakfast, so couldn’t really justify that. The service was kind of slow, but it was a nice, cozy, mellow tucked away little place and my friend Jasmine and I were busy catching up anyhow. The crepes are hearty rather than fluffy, as they are made of buckwheat, which I happen to love. Mine had spinach, fresh basil, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes with pesto and daiya cheddar. It was yummy and colourful. I wanted to try some ice cream, but the server didn’t come back again. Oh well. I have had carrot cake five times this week, so I’m pretty covered in the dessert department.
In the interest of keeping this short, I’ll end with that and also give my final impressions of Toronto (a city that I came to with totally unreasonable preconceptions):
It is vegan and vegetarian-friendly for sure. It is big. It sometimes smells. It has a lot of culture. It has pretty older buildings. There were some jerks on the subway. There were some nice people on the subway. It is windy. The mayor is ridiculous. The subway is efficient and easy to navigate. I miss my sister. There are lots of cool little stores. Loved the zombie walk.
Will I go back? Maybe, but only if I have to. I love Vancouver.