Soupalicious 2011

This past weekend my volunteer adventures with the Toronto Vegetarian Association took me to Soupalicious 2011 at Heritage Court, Exhibition Place. I had been planning on attending for a few reasons: a) I love soup, b) the awesome lady from One Love Vegetarian gave me a coupon worth THREE extra soup samples, c) did I mention I love soup? I jumped at the chance to take a shift at the TVA table, to support the veg*n cause of course but, also to get free admission into the festival. (Don’t judge, you’d do it, too.)


This was only the second year Soupalicious has taken place. I hadn’teven heard of it until a month ago. The space was really very nice and reallywell decorated with rows of corn stalks and so, so many squashes and pumpkinsand the like. Here is a little bit about the event from the Soupaliciouswebsite:
“Soupalicious is presented by the Plant a Row • Grow a Row program. Building upon the long standing traditionsof gardeners loving to share their harvest with those in need, Plant a Row •Grow a Row is a national initiative that encourages folks to grow an extra rowof food and share extras from their harvest with those in need. The program isspearheaded by The Compost Council of Canada and Garden Writers Association, with the support from local food banks.

I wasn’t expecting a huge number of the soups to be vegan, because, Ihave learned to keep my expectations low so that I might be more likely to bepleasantly surprised. And surprised I was! I tasted 16 soups, all vegan, and Idefinitely missed 3 or 4. 16 soups! By the end I was asking for half samples becauseno matter how delicious I just couldn’t fit any more liquid into my belly. You’dhave thought the general theme would be harvest-type ingredients, and themajority certainly were fall type vegetable based, however, I was a bit shockedby the number of spicy soups. Nothing was burn-your-mouth-off hot but, theamount of cayenne present was intense.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the soups I managed to try beforemy stomach exploded. Almost all were excellent and those that weren’t were onlymildly disappointing.


Fully Nourished by Marni Wasserman - Carrot Ginger Apple Soup...
...was so good! It was light and refreshing. Zingly but slightly sweet. I found it to be extremely well balanced and seasoned.
***


Christine Renaud of Chrstine's Vegan Kitchen - Curried Roasted Pear and also Tomato Barley with Smoked Paprika...
...were both very good. The pear soup had an interesting texture, given the grittiness of pears. I really enjoyed how well the savory curry flavours blended with the sugary-sweet pear. However, I did prefer the tomato barley. I thought it rich and smooth and perfectly smoky, which is a flavour I don't often enjoy.
Also, Christine is the nicest lady ever. Please, please, please if you live in or near Prince Edward County, start a vegan meet-up with this lady! You won't regret it! (christinesvegankitchen.com)
***


The Annex Hodge Podge - Red Velvet...
...oh.my.goodness gracious great balls of fire. For an Eastern European lady like myself, a soup made of beets, potatoes and onions is pretty much the pinnacle of soup engineering. The colour, need I say, was fantastic and the chive garnish was the perfect accent. It was super smooth and had a surprising heat factor that lingered on the back of the throat. Cayenne, perhaps?
***


Magic Oven - Chickpea Power Soup...
... was lovely and hearty with loads of warming spice. I particularly enjoyed the onion flavour that came through, as well as how packed with goodies it was. I'm told you can get it anytime at the Danforth restaurant, I'm not sure about the other locations.
***


Meghan Telpner Culinary Academy - Curried Cauliflower Soup...
...okay. So, I wish I didn't have to say that this was one of my least favourite soups. But, I think with a minor tweak it would have been fantastic. It really had a lot going for it - so smooth I feel it must have gone through a sieve and a great initial earthy flavour, for example. But, I think there was too much turmeric? It had a very bitter finished that was accompanied my a powdery, almost chalky mouth feel. It's exactly what happens to my curries when I accidentally add too much of the orange stuff.
***


Bloom - Roasted Garlic and Pumpkin Soup...
...my favourite. Hands down. So much rich, creamy, buttery smoothness going on in my mouth. There were underlying sweet notes highlighted by warm, full flavours. It was like getting a hug from Grandma. And the garnish. Roasted pumpkin seeds? Above and beyond.
***


One Love Vegetarian - One Love Corn Soup...
...I have a soft spot for this one.I already go to the restaurant to buy it by the bowl. It is hearty and crisp,  and a little zippy to boot. I LOVE the pieces of corn on the cob. Saving it for last and sucking out the last bits of goodness from between the kernels is vegan culinary indulgence to the max.
***


Vert Catering - Sweet Potato (with Nickle Brook organic beer)...
...well, I love beer, so they scored a few points right off the bat. What the name doesn't tell you is that star anise is also used. It definitely stood out from the bunch. The sweet, floral, slightly licorice flavours from the anise worked so well with the sweet potatoes. The beer came through without being overpowering, and I loved how it added a malty/earthy character to the brew.
***


Pepper Brew Gourmet - Red Bean Soup...
...had a ton of great, hot pepper flavour, which was exactly what they were going for. (They sell pepper sauces.) It also had a smokiness I enjoyed, as well as good chunks of veg.
***


Cruda Cafe - Smokey Canadian Cashew and Tomato Soup...
...sigh. This was the other offering I didn't happen to care for. And I really wanted to... really. Simply put, it tasted like a liquefied pizza. I think if it were used as a sauce on zucchini noodles or the like, it would be great. Just not as a soup.
***


The L-Eat Express - Chef Eric's Pumpkin and Sage Minestrone...
...didn't disappoint but, didn't blow my socks off. the pumpkin really stole the show and left me wishing for more sage. I'm the biggest bean lover there is, however, I'm not sure their texture worked well in this soup.
***


Grapefruit Moon - Carrot Ginger Soup...
...first of all, these guys were so cute, their soup had to be good. It just had to be. And it was! Excellently light and super fresh, it was exactly what I needed given the amount of rich and spicy liquid I had been pouring into my stomach. Really simple and excellent.
***


Leslieville Cheese Market and Fine Foods - Squash and Apple Harvest Soup, as well as Smokey Vegan Chili...
...ignoring the fact that I would probably not place the actual shop on my top list of places to fetch my groceries, both offerings were really very nice. The Squash Apple was crisp and sweet with strong apple flavours coming through. The chili was crazy hot but, I was warned this would be the case considering it was the end of the day and of the pot. Tons of veg and beans really made it feel hearty.

...

and...

I'm spent.

(If you're in Toronto next fall, go to Soupalicious, it's worth it. Trust me.)



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