Not only was I extended the very best of hospitality by my vegan hosts in Toronto last month, I was also offered complimentary VIP tickets to the Conscious Food Festival being held in Fort York. A friend of a friend just happened to have two tickets he would not be able to take advantage of – which were passed on to myself and my co-visitor on the trip.
The festival focuses on companies, restaurants, chefs, wineries, breweries and the like, that have prioritized being a green and sustainable operation. Naturally this results in a focus on using locally-grown (Ontario) produce, and other products. Here are a few of the descriptions of the booths, food samples and other happenings at the festival (of which there are photos attached)…
- A booth run by Toronto chef Rodney Bowers. A member of his culinary team whipped up an absolutely fresh and delicious crostini topped with tomato, basil and garlic tossed in olive oil and topped with ground black pepper and sea salt. SO simple, and yet… probably my favourite food sample at the event.
- Gazpacho, and “Brent’s Potato Salad” which was incredible. The grainy mustard and the consistency of the dressing, which was lighter, really made this a memorable potato salad.
- Locally grown and sun-dried tomatoes, bocconcini, tossed in fresh basil pesto. This looks like maybe too many sun-dried tomatoes, however, since they were home made, the flavour was incredibly subtle and enjoyable. A great textural partner for the soft fresh-style cheese.
- A cold polenta cake with caramelized shallots and blue cheese.
- Leslieville Cheese Market: five tickets for five kinds of cheese (or meat) and bread. We opted for cheese! Did you even have to ask? Great booth.
- Organic wines. I tried this rose and although it was a bit sweeter than I usually prefer, it was chilled and refreshing on a muggy Toronto summer day.
- Shortbread bite-sized cookies from Sprucewood Handmade Cookies, both savoury and sweet! We opted for two savoury (spicy thai and rosemary) along with three sweet (maple, lemon, and chocolate). You may know by now that I am not huge into sweets, however, a personal favourite of mine would have to be shortbreads because of the texture and general melt-in-your-mouthness. The rosemary were very enjoyable and for sweet I favoured the lemon.
- An AWESOME draft cider, Waupoos, which I excitedly enjoyed.
What exactly merited the designation of “VIP” on my tickets, you ask? Well, let me just tell you. We had access to a VIP-only, air conditioned, area where there was catering provided and also two complimentary drinks.
Catering was provided by a company called Hearty Catering and although I was getting a bit full from our sampling tour, there is some sort of gene I have where I cannot pass up free food, especially when its laid out buffet style. Not only that – I must fill up my plate and try everything put before me. I passed on the chicken wraps and went for the good stuff.
A beautiful kale salad, lightly dressed in vinaigrette, fresh local sliced tomatoes and cucumber, and also a beet and carrot salad. Both of these salads were so perfectly dressed in the most perfect light and wondrous vinaigrette that it was all just too perfect. I gladly accepted my complimentary glasses of wine, as well, and we finished off the day relaxed and cool in complete VIP fashion!