Care of Katie Keir, Editorial Director of Lifelines

The 33rd Veg Food Fest included more vendors, a ton of new faces and new treats, and more hours of programming to enjoy – plus, the sun was shining all weekend for the 40,000 attendees. Here’s what exhibitors and attendees had to say during the Veg Food Fest.

Bringing Friends and Family Together
Ingrid, a vegetarian since 2000 and vegan since 2012, was no stranger to the Veg Food Fest. “This is vegan Christmas,” she exclaimed, adding what she loves most is meeting up with fellow vegans. For Ingrid, a close second is the food: “I love not having to ask questions about what’s in the food.” Ingrid wants to see more non-vegans attending the festival and asking questions, and the best way to attract non-veg foodies is to invite your family and friends.

Just ask Stephanie, a vegan for two months, who attended with her parents – it was the first time for all three. Said Stephanie: “I wanted show [my parents] that the things I eat aren’t just salad.” Smoothie in hand, mom Sue said her favourite treats were the cashew cheeses from Mama Vegan and the Indian food. You can also attend for inspiration. Young couple Zara and Duncan made the most of their day by enjoying ice cream from Cosmic Treats – and braving the long lineup to get it – and attending the Sunday cooking demo by Awai restaurant’s Matan Volach. Zara, a vegetarian for a couple of years, said they’d met “so many nice people and good volunteers,” and they’d also enjoyed all of the samples.

Martina, a first-time festival goer, is moving toward vegetarianism after a scare with breast cancer. She said, “I’m watching my diet and trying to be healthy.” She liked how businesses ran their Veg Food Fest booths: “They tell you stuff but don’t force you to buy.”

Each year, the festival also attracts travellers from across the country. One group of three from Vancouver didn’t come to Toronto just for the 33rd Veg Food Fest, but said they all loved the kale and beet products, and the bean burgers. Nadine, one of the three, said she’s eaten mostly vegetarian for four or five years, and suggested samples are a great way to entice people to try new treats.

Supporting the Veg Community
Bunner’s has attended the Veg Food Fest for seven years – and will for years to come. Kevin McAllister, co-owner, said he’s honoured to be part of an event that helps vegetarians and vegans connect. McAllistar believes that if someone who attended the festival 33 years ago hasn’t been since, they’d be shocked at how much it has grown; “It would blow their minds,” he said.

For Francois Lanthier, communications and media manager at Green Beaver Company, the festival’s main draw is its uniqueness. He’s been part of veg events in multiple cities, and finds Toronto’s Veg Food Fest is “exciting and well-organized.” Plus, there’s the distinctive indoor-outdoor setup. Some of the new vendors on the scene included Dolled Up Desserts, Mama Vegan, Bald Baker and Julia’s Joyful Kitchen; treats they featured included yummy desserts, nut butters and vegan cheeses.

For Ally Lazare, founder of Mama Vegan, appearing at the Veg Food Fest for the first time was a dream come true. She said the event was “fantastic and crazy busy,” and the perfect place to spread the word about her no-bee honey. Bald Baker CCO Michelle Rosenstock also loved her first year. Whether people were long-time vegetarians and vegans, or more skeptical, she found everyone had “a good energy” and they were really interested in sugar-free, grain-free and vegan options. Dolled Up Desserts, which has taken part in the Vegan Food and Drink Festival in Toronto, also took the opportunity to help educate festival attendees. Karen Poletto, mother of founder
Katarina Poletto, said the Veg Food Fest event is always “well-attended and in a great location,” making it the ideal spot to introduce vegan and gluten-free goodies. They also got the chance to answer questions about veganism, why it’s important to offer “inclusive desserts” and why people look for nut-free, soy-free, wheat-free and sugar-free alternatives. Poletto, a proud mom, says the festival was the perfect place to showcase Katarina’s vegan
macarons – which use chickpea water as an egg replacement. The flavours were rosewater cardamom and chamomile chardonnay, and I can attest they were delicious!

I also sampled the treats offered by Julia’s Joyful Kitchen. While snacking, I learned that Julia, who’s based in Oakville, Ont., has known she’s allergic to dairy since she was three years old, and she’s also sensitive to gluten. So from a young age, she’s looked for ways to substitute dairy in any and every recipe, and has developed a love of cooking. According to her website, she’s now graduated with Honours with her Basic Cook Diploma and
she’s currently studying holistic nutrition. At the same time, she’s catering and selling delicious desserts, and some of the treats she brought to the Veg Food Fest included her giant brownie cookie, chocolate caramel bar and sugar-free nut butters; one of her most popular items was her chocolate cashew nut butter, which she calls “healthy Nutella.” Julia’s first year at the Veg Food Fest was “awesome,” she said, and full of great people.

Bloomer’s Bakery, another long-time attendee, said the main reason to attend is the people who come are “so great and friendly.” Even better, the bakery added, there were more people this year “and a better vibe. Everyone is super chill and super excited.” And, of course, everyone loves donuts! Bloomer’s loves to introduce new and exciting flavours at every festival. So, while its birthday cake donut is a tried-and- true favourite, both its peach crisp and french toast + bacon donuts were brand new – and if we’re lucky, will appear at other special events!

Here’s to next year and the 34th Veg Food Fest!

Dogs of Veg Food Fest
For the last four years, Emre and his faithful dog duo have been a Veg Food Fest fixture (Emre notes he’s attended and volunteered with the TVA for the last six years). And what’s great is his two pups are far from the only dogs who attend! Here are some of the festival’s furry supporters.