Each year, the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) organizes an event throughout Toronto called Veggielicious. Veggielicious Toronto is a celebration of vegetarian food in the city within vegetarian and non-veggie restaurants alike. With over 40 locations participating, there was sure to be a sampling of food for every taste. It takes place each year from November 15th – 30th. Each restaurant has a fixed menu that generally includes an appetizer, a main dish, and a beverage or dessert. Visitors are able to discover new restaurants and taste delicious sampling of vegetarian dishes for a low price. I only wish that we had found out about Veggielicious sooner – it wasn’t until planning our visit to see the David Bowie Exhibit at the AGO that I discovered Veggielicious! We were able to try two restaurants during the final week of Veggielicious – Grasslands and Bello Bio.
Grasslands is an upscale vegan restaurant located in the heart of downtown Toronto at 478 Queen St. W. The atmosphere at Grasslands is classy, elegant, but also very comfortable. We were seated in a large booth by candlelight. The fixed price Veggielicious menu at Grasslands was $30 and included:
Starter: Seasonal Soup or Kale Caesar Salad with grape tomatoes, tempeh bacon, sesame parmesan, house caesar dressing
Main: Pasta (chef’s special) with seasonal produce (gluten free option available)
Wine Pairing: 2011, Buensas Ondas Organic Red Wine, Argentina
We were actually given a choice of red or white wine (I chose the white wine and Justin chose the red). We both chose the Kale Caesar Salad as our starter. It was perfectly dressed and was one of the best salads I’ve ever had! The tempeh bacon, “parmesan” made from almonds, and Caesar dressing dressed up the salad greens wonderfully. The tomatoes burst with flavour and the salad was served with some little slices of pressed garlic bread that were really yummy.
The pasta was gluten-free and came with a vegan pesto sauce. It was a large portion and was very satisfying after a long day of walking around the art gallery. There were lots of veggies mixed into the pasta as well. We both loved this meal and it left us already discussing when we would be back to visit Grasslands again.
While this isn’t the greatest photo of the dessert, trust me – it was one of the most decadent, tasty treats that we’d enjoyed in a while! Even though there wasn’t a dessert included on the Veggielicious menu, we decided to split the Sticky Toffee Pudding – a new creation by the chef that wasn’t even on the menu yet. Our server recommended that we try this and said that we’d likely be fighting over it once we tried it. While we didn’t throw any elbows at each other, we gobbled up this dessert quickly, and probably would have licked the plate if we weren’t in public. The cake was moist and topped with the most delicious toffee/caramel sauce. It also came with a thin, crunchy cookie and strawberry sauce on the side. The sticky toffee pudding is a must-try if you visit Grasslands!
A few days later, we took a trip over to Bello Bio with Justin’s parents. Bello Bio is an all vegan, all Italian restaurant with a focus on fresh and organic ingredients. Bello Bio is located in Mount Pleasant village northeast of the downtown core at 511 Mount Pleasant. The Veggielicious menu for Bello Bio:
Antipasto: Chef selection of Bruschetta, winter caprese salad, homemade giardiniera, vegan pate
Soup: Chef selection, potential offerings may be one of sweet potato, cream of broccoli, butternut squash, seitan stew, chickpea vegetable, and more
Primo: Chef selection of Pasta
Secondo: Handmade Seitan cutlet on bed of green beans with organic tomato sauce
Dessert: Homemade vegan gelato
As it turned out, I was way too excited to eat because I completely forgot to take a picture of the Antipasto! It was a delicious Mediterranean sampling plate of bread, oil, rice milk cheese, pickled veggies, and olives. For the chef selection soup course, we were served a bowl of sweet potato soup. It was very hearty and delicious, perfect for enjoying on a chilly evening, as it was that night.
The pasta was a simple, yet incredibly flavourful tomato sauce with fresh roasted tomatoes and olive oil. Our only complaint was that the portion was a little bit small for our liking – we would have liked to have eaten twice as much pasta! The food also took a little while to arrive to our table – we found we were waiting a long time between courses for the next sampling, but it was fairly busy there as Veggielicious was pretty popular at the restaurant.
I think this plate was my favourite of them all – a barbecue Seitan cutlet made from spelt on a bed of lentils, served with green beans and topped with a yellow pepper sauce. It was incredibly delicious, and we ended up purchasing a package of the same Seitan cutlets from their refrigerated section so we could make them at home!
For dessert, we were served a small scoop of apple cinnamon gelato. I’ve actually never had gelato before due to the gelatin, but this was vegan gelato – hooray! It was very interesting as the apple cinnamon flavour was reminiscent of hot apple pie….yet it was a cold dessert! It was very yummy.
The owner who served us our food took great pride in his dishes and his restaurant, as he explained every dish to us and emphasized how they used organic and fresh ingredients. Bello Bio also looked like they had some great dishes on their every day menu, so I would love to go back sometime.
We absolutely loved our meals that were a part of Veggielicious at both Grasslands and Bello Bio, and we will make sure to mark the dates on our calendar for next year so we can visit even more great restaurants in Toronto!