As OCTA’s resident lapsed vegetarian, I was thrilled when offered the chance to go on a vegetarian-themed tour with Savour Toronto. It’s been almost a year since I fell off the veggie wagon, and — having been served my share of lousy salads in the past — I wondered what we would be eating on this Vegecursion.
I needn’t have worried. “In case you were wondering, we will not be having salad tonight,” said Suzanne Urpecz with a laugh. She and her Savour Toronto co-founder, Neil Egan, assured us: “There will be plenty of great food. We want to make sure you get your money’s worth!” Launched roughly a year ago, Savour Toronto already offers three unique culinary-centric tours to Toronto locals and visitors alike.
Our first stop was at Thomas Lavers Cannery & Delicatessen in Kensington Market, where the owners Bryan Lavers and Tye Thomas served us a variety of vibrant pickled veggies, a vegan Reuben sandwich, and a mini vegan Bánh mì. We were already off to a great start!
With our bellies already beginning to feel full, we headed down Baldwin Street to our second stop, the Samadhi Tea house. We slipped off our shoes, got cozy on the benches, and sipped on some surprisingly fantastic Chaga mushroom tea! Before we left, we indulged in vegan, raw ‘truffles,’ made with dates and goji berries, served in a salt bowl for an added tasty kick!
From there, it was a brisk walk to the Toronto Vegetarian Association in Baldwin Village. We learned that the TVA’s been around since 1945 (!) and that it serves as a resource not only for vegetarians, but for vegans, and even omnivores looking to reduce their meat consumption.
It was a short walk next door our second-last stop at Vegetarian Haven restaurant.
There, we learned about the restaurant’s Zen Buddhist philosophy of eating no living creature, and avoiding garlic, onions, and other root vegetables to lighten the body’s chi. While listening to all this, we devoured our pan-seared dumplings and sizzling seitan ‘steaks’ in black pepper sauce. Yum!
The last stop on our trip was to Grasslands, a Queen Street bistro run by the same owner as the Urban Herbivore vegetarian cafes. Grasslands serves vegan food in an upscale, contemporary dining experience. The ambiance there is so cozy and beautiful! Despite the group’s claims that we had become full at our previous stop, we managed quite happily to scarf down their crusted seitan ‘chicken’ (easily could have fooled the most dedicated carnivore) and — my personal favourite of the night — their chocolate bundt cake with warm fudge sauce.
Throughout the entire evening, Suzanne and Neil really enhanced the experience by giving us a history of vegetarianism and veganism in Toronto and the world at large. They explained the major sources of veggie-friendly protein to us, as well as vegan alternatives to products like cheese and honey. From the goodie bags we received at the beginning of the tour to the iPad-enhanced lesson that finished it off, it was clear that Suzanne and Neil knew how to keep their customers entertained, happy, and satisfied!