The food tour trend keeps growing and Savour Toronto is another one of Toronto’s great culinary exploration companies. Headed up by Suzanne Urpecz and Neil Egan, it takes small groups hungry for information and satiation on a series of culinary tours throughout the city. Recently, the duo launched Vegecursion, Toronto’s first walking tour dedicated to vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
The tour begins in Kensington Market on a cold, windy March evening. Six participants, all of whom ironically turned out to be omnivorous eaters, were primed for an evening of palatal discovery but unsure of what was in store. We took a jaunt through cutesy Baldwin Village and then capped things off at Grasslands on Queen West.
Using our capable feet, cavernous stomachs, and a little help from the Red Rocket, we indulged and explored a side of Toronto’s culinary culture that we were largely unaccustomed to.
Tye and Trevor at Thomas Lavers Cannery & Delicatessen explained their process of creating surprisingly savoury deli meats using seitan, a protein-packed wheat gluten that filled their vegan Reuben and banh mi sandwiches. We nibbled on impeccable house-brined pickle platters, and were treated to rich mushroom and walnut paté and heavenly house-made chili oil.
Raw veganism is a food trend that’s enjoying increased awareness according to one of the board members at the Toronto Vegetarian Association. Despite the establishment of the first Vegan Society in 1944 by Britain’s Donald Watson, celebrity endorsement and more widespread dairy-free options have taken the lifestyle to new levels of popularity as of late.
At Samadhi Tea House we sipped on alkalizing chaga mushroom tea, harvested from fungus on birch trees in northern Ontario, while sampling decadent raw vegan truffles made from dates, almonds, goji berries, and other organic ingredients.
We learned more about seitan and its use in the vegetarian diet at one of Toronto’s oldest veggie establishments, Vegetarian Haven in Baldwin Village. The Asian fusion restaurant follows Zen Buddhist philosophy and has a menu that’s devoid of onions and garlic, which apparently lighten the body’s chi (energy).
After a short stint on the subway and streetcar, our group found itself around the warm light and welcoming wood walls of Grasslands on Queen West. Formerly Fressen, Grasslands is one of the city’s newest and most notable vegan restaurants. Chef and owner Stephen Gardner wowed us with his seitan crusted ‘chicken’, which actually tasted like a well-battered bite of deep fried bird. His chocolate bundt cake with warm fudge sauce was surprisingly moist despite the absence of eggs.
As a staunch carnivore I’m not soon to suppress my meat-laden diet. Suzanne and Neil were by no means pushing for conversion, either. I appreciated their education-based approach. I enjoyed the edible offerings. I loved the conversation. We all agreed that the pacing was thoughtful and the stops were appropriate. With the switch to the spring/summer season, Savour Toronto’s Vegecursion is a great weekday activity that will fill your brain and your belly with a whole lotta goodness.
Have you checked out Savour Toronto’s food tours? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.