After narrowly missing veg fests and other vegan events all over North America, I finally managed to collide with one in Toronto. Mr was busy
getting beaten up training, but, not wanting to miss the opportunity to eat tonnes of vegan junk food, look at annoyingly ironic t-shirts and listen to live music I ambled down to the Harbour Front Center on my own.
All the usual suspects were there – the cat rescue people, the non-dairy milk people, the raw chocolate people, the buy-this-magic-blender people, the this-super-fruit-of-the-month-will-fix-your-whole-life-and-make-you-successful-and-beautiful people, and of course, the vegan bakers.
The first vegan baker I came across was Bloomer’s Bakery. I expected to see biscuits (that’s cookies on this continent), brownies and cupcakes, and I wasn’t let down. (As a side note, I’m actually getting pretty sick of the childish cutesiness of cupcakes – bring back the tasty but not cute actual slices of cake I say! But that’s a story for another day.) They had everything I expected but happily they also had something I didn’t (but probably should have) expect – vegan butter tarts.
Butter tarts are a Canadian icon. They are made of melty shortcrust pastry filled with sweet, baked, buttery stuff. Or at least that’s what I think they’re made of, but having never tried one before this week, I can’t be sure. In any case, they were on my list of Canadian foods to prepare during Canada week, and now I don’t have to!
As I walked around I realised that three of the eight bakery stalls had butter tarts on display. It was clear that it was my destiny to try all three and declare a winner. Thus began the Great Vegan Butter Tart-A-Palooza.
The tarts from Bunner’s were the darkest of the three. They had a dark short-crust which was crumbly and flavourful, and a very dark, gelatinous filling that made me think of Aussie golden syrup, though much less runny. They had raisins and a less sweet flavour than either of the other tarts. These were good, especially the crust, though they may have been a little over cooked, and overall didn’t leave much of an impression.
The pastry was tasty, but it was a little saturated and closer to puff than short crust. The filling seemed to be made of sugar, agave, coconut and grease of some delicious sort. They tasted exactly like honey joys, a lot lighter than the other versions. Overall these were nice, but could have used a bit more filling and a better pastry.
Being the first bakery I cam across, I bought a butter tart from Bloomer’s just as soon as I could figure out the change (damn this learning new money every time you move countries stuff is tricky) and gobbled it immediately. It was so good.
The pastry was perfect- golden, crumbly, sweet and dry. The filling tasted like heaven would taste, if it were covered in butter. I’m guessing, but it seemed like a mixture of agave, palm sugar (although it may have been brown sugar), vegan-grease, pecans, and sultanas (called raisins over here). This tart may have been the best thing I ever tasted. I can officially say that the award for Best Vegan Butter Tart of the Toronto Veg Fest (as judged by an Aussie vegan who has never before tried a butter tart) goes to Bloomer’s Bakery.
Although I did make a deal with myself – you can eat all the tarts in Toronto if you don’t also bake them yourself – I might have to reneg and try to make some when I get home to Melbourne. If any of you are inspired to break out the tart cases and give this Canadian favourite a whirl, you can find some recipes at:
- Vegan Dad’s Vegan Butter Tarts
- Diets Desserts and Dogs Vegan Butter Tarts
- Vegan Matters Butter Tarts
The Rest of the Fest
Sadly, with the exception of the vegan junk food, veg fests are sort of seen-one-seen-em-all. The music was nice, a duo doing covers of The Beatles’ songs, and it was a lovely sunny day to sit around eating the vegan junk.
The stalls were pretty lack luster, being just a retail opportunity for the mineral make-up and expensive cooking appliances people, although there was a stall for a vegetarian food bank, which was pretty interesting. The super-food-of-the-month made me laugh – it was kiwi fruit – so there was that.
Forgetting that this was not world vegan day, but Veg(etarian) Fest, I was a little surprised and disappointed by all the Nestle ice-cream stalls and had to be a little careful about what food I sampled.
When Mr turned up, slightly bruised, we had some lunch. I got excited about ticking yet another Canadian vegan food off my list when we saw Tofurky and mashed potato on the menu at the New Earth stall. We ordered some, but were sadly disappointed. The gravy was very sweet, which was strange and unwelcome for me, and the mashed potatoes were the powdered stuff and over-whipped to the point of becoming somewhat glutinous.
Luckily there was also a stall selling dim sum, so we had some truly excellent dumplings, a good spring roll and some passable drum sticks to save the day.