This has been an Illustrated Recipe brought to us by our resident Sous Chef in MPLS, Jordan Shiveley, who may or may not be doing a book filled with these little babies.
Last week I attended a winter menu tasting at Fuel+, a nutrition-focused café and boutique grocery store located in Toronto at Church and Wellesley. Fuel+ offers a plant-based menu that caters to a variety of vegan, gluten-free and food-loving customers, who enjoy specialty coffees, protein shakes and healthy foods.
The friendly (and adorable) staff at Fuel+ laid out a variety of gluten-free plant-based sweets for us to try. The sample platter included one Fuel+ exclusive product and two products brought in from Shockingly Healthy.
Fuel balls act as healthy alternatives to Timbits: approximately 100 calories each, made from 80% organic ingredients are loaded with protein. These delicious morsels are made in-store and come in unique flavours such as peanut butter chocolate chip and cranberry honey. Personal recommendation? The cinnamon one. $1 each or 3 for $2.50.
Fuel+ offers two products from Shockingly Healthy: double chocolate brownies and coconut chocolate chip blondies. The brownies are made from whole foods like chickpeas, flax and dates. Biting into one, you’ll have to remind yourself that it’s actually good for you. $2.99 each.
As it was extremely cold outside we decided to take advantage of the ‘hot foods’ section of the menu. Aine ordered a plant-based cranberry raisin bagel with peanut butter and jam. I ordered a hearty and delicious bowl of organic vegan chilli. If you’re feeling gutsy, I’d recommend opting for the ‘really spicy’ option. $4.99 a bowl.
Fuel+ offers organic fair-trade coffee that is roasted locally at 23 Degrees. We sampled a variety of hot drinks including an Amsterdam Blonde (Amsterdam Black with organic soy milk) and a Maca infused hot chocolate.
Located dangerously close to my school’s campus, I’ve already popped in twice since attending the menu tasting for a quick Spicy Ginger Chai pick-me-up. Get ready Fuel+, I’m becoming a regular.
By Megan Stulberg
Free samples are a foreign concept to me. I work in a patisserie and at least once a day I’ll have a customer say something like, “Wow! How do you not get fat while working here?” or “I bet you love eating all the samples!” and a few times I would answer their questions by explaining Celiac disease but gave up when eyes started to glaze over.
The third Gluten Free Garage took place last Sunday. Over 60 vendors showcased the best gluten-free foods in the GTA and there were samples available at nearly every table. So I was obviously very happy about this. I brought a friend with me who somehow suffers from even more food allergies than I do, and we both left the event full and free from belly aches.
Click here to read more information about the event in an interview I conducted with GFG founder RonniLyn Pustil.
The market was held at Artscape Wychwood Barns. It took about an hour for me to check out every table because the event space was packed with people. Curse Gluten Free Garage for being so beloved!
After navigating myself through the crowd I decided to stop at Chocosol’s table for a taco. Chocosol‘s fresh corn tortillas are organic and non-GMO. I opted for the vegan option: local and organic black turtle beans, mushrooms, greens and Mad Mexican salsa.
Second stop: Tori’s Bakeshop. Tori’s Bakeshop offers a large selection of gluten-free products and all of their products are dairy-free, egg-free, casein-free and refined sugar-free. A cake-sized doughnut was on display for a contest and I’m seriously regretting not entering it. We opted to buy a slightly smaller version for ourselves. Pink glaze and white sprinkles: too cute and too good.
Every vendor I spoke to was extremely friendly but the two sushi chefs running Akasaka‘s table blew me away. I chatted to one of the chefs about the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, as I ate there when I visited Japan earlier this year. Part of what makes an event with a specific focus like the Gluten Free Garage so enjoyable is the comfortability between vendor and customer.
Akasaka Japanese Restaurant and Teppanyaki Steak House operates in Richmond Hill and offer many gluten-free options. I sampled a freshly made avocado roll smothered in gluten-free soy sauce. Mmm…too oishii!
I’ve mentioned Bunner’s Vegan & Gluten-Free Bakeshop twice in previous Fat Girl Food Squad posts. That’s how much I love this bakery. Bunner’s had a variety of cupcakes, cookies, savoury pockets and other treats available for sale at the event. I opted for what I usually get: a delectable date square, gooey and warm like it should be.
Saigon Soul Food‘s table at the event was run by owner Tâm Nguyen and her mother. Their whole set-up was very sweet and welcoming. Saigon Soul Food offers a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes, available both fresh and frozen. My friend Alex bought two fresh rolls wrapped in rice paper and stuffed with tofu and veggies. After having a bite of hers I ended up buying an entire jar of Saigon’s plum sauce to take home because yeah, it was that good.
Other favourite vendors include Queen B Pastry, Sol Cuisine, Antipastos Kitchen and Magic Oven. A complete list of vendors can be found on Gluten Free Garage’s website. Without a doubt, I will be back next year. I can’t wait! Be sure to follow Gluten Free Garage on Facebook to keep up to date with the organization’s updates and future events.
All photos by Alexandra Courts.
Words & Photos by Aly
Thousands of people across the globe are challenging themselves to write a novel in November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) asks you to give up your excuses, get to your computer, and finally pen at least a rough draft of the novel you’re always (not) writing. The feat to write 50 000 words in a month, or 1667 words per day is daunting. I have been doing this tradition, for better or worse, for four years. November is the busiest time of the year for me and fellow University students, so I have failed more than I have succeeded. This year however I will finish a collection of short stories, and personal essays.
“How did I succeed in future years?” I thought, recalling countless cups of coffee, fast food, and baked good filled afternoons.
Thing is, I just did that in October, so there’d have to be a new strategy. I am a firm believer in doing whatever you need to do to get through a day, week, or month. Food can be a great source of energy, comfort, and celebration. If you need to eat a sad bowl of ice cream, you eat that sad bowl of ice cream.
However, for me, November marks the third month I have moved out of home, and a culinary tipping point. September was “I can cook everything!”, October was “I hate cooking! Instant soup forever!” and November? That could be up for grabs.
So, in addition to braving the most hectic time of year academically, and writing 1667 words a day, I decided to do the most terrifying thing of all — cook every meal, and only eat things I have bought from the grocery store. The exceptions will be coffee, and social snacks with friends like popcorn at the movies, or a coffeehouse hangout.
With help from this Golden Zucchini Sandwich Recipe I got to work.
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 made into paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large zucchini, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped basil, tarragon, or other fresh herb (optional)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 slices good sourdough bread, lightly toasted
1 cup freshly grated white cheddar (from about 4 ounces cheese)
Makes 2 servings (take one for lunch!)
You can follow the rest of the recipe on the Big Girls, Small Kitchen site, which is great resource for people trying to get more kitchen handy.
The mayonnaise is what makes it crispy and golden! It might seem weird to use it in place of butter, but it surprisingly works, and it something I might try on grilled cheese!
Experiment with different cheeses and breads. I just used sliced bread I had lying around, and didn’t toast it before use.
It’s a lot easier to assemble your sandwiches in the pan than on a plate especially if you want to avoid a mayonnaise plate. Coat all face up sides of bread with mayonnaise mixture. Put the mayonnaise side down in the pan, cheese, zucchini, cheese, bread with mayonnaise side up and voila!
This makes a tasty, cheesy sandwich that is like a grilled cheese, but more filling, and easy to make.
Now that you’re full, time to head back to that novel!
Editors note: Welcome to Real Talk, our new bi-weekly series coming to you on Wednesdays. As mentioned last week, Lookin’ Good Girl has returned to it’s original purpose (fashion/DIY) and Real Talk is here to bring you all those firece, feminist and personal posts our readers have come to love so much. With that here is new Toronto Squad member Siobhan Ozege’s first piece with us. Siobhan’s full bio coming soon.
[TW!] This post contains fitspo imagery.
It’s hard out here for a lady, regardless of your size. As a bigger girl, it seems like everywhere I turn I’m getting fat shamed by magazines, advertisements, television programs, and hate groups like Return of Kings (a men’s rights group who recently ran a Twitter campaign called #FatShamingWeek). On every platform, someone’s telling me that I need to be thinner, wear bigger clothing, or hide in my house never to be seen again. Quite frankly, putting up blinders against this kind of hateful vitriol is exhausting. They renewed The Biggest Loser? There’s 10 tips I must follow to curb my cravings? My BMI is too high? I need to stop eating what? Enough already. This kind of fat shaming hurts women of any and all sizes, and it’s recently reared a new, incredibly harmful head called ~*fitspiration*~
That’s right. The Internet has recently upped its fat shaming game. Fitspo, or as I like to call it, fit shaming, is the creation and perpetuation of unhealthy eating and exercise habits that encourage over-exercising, under-eating, and an obsession with counting calories and inches. This horrifying phenomenon is a guilt-laden combination of photos of fitness models overlaid with quotes like, strong is the new skinny, do not reward yourself with food – you’re not a dog or don’t stop until you’re proud, equating self-worth to your ability to workout. This kind of imagery is popping up all over Tumblr and Pinterest, and is compounded by people like fat shaming “What’s Your Excuse?” mama Maria Kang and Lululemon’s CEO (who recently asserted that it isn’t a manufacturing defect causing their pants to run sheer – it’s your thighs, ladies).
It seems like everywhere we turn, we’re being told that even when you’re trying to get into shape for your health – whether that means drinking more water, learning a new activity, trying to add more fruits and veggies to your diet, or making any changes that youdetermine are good for you (because let’s remember: health is a private thing between you and a medical professional), we’re being fit shamed and held to standards and ideals that not only seek to demoralize us, but aim to associate our self-worth with unfounded claims about what it means to be strong, sexy and healthy. Fitspo imagery and its quotes are dangerous. At best, they espouse fitness and nutritional misinformation. At worst, they encourage us to push ourselves to unhealthy limits, view our bodies as an enemy, and manipulates us into accepting new standards of beauty and self-worth under the guise of health.
We need to acknowledge is that fitspo is just thinspo’s sneaky sister, using similar tactics to achieve a similar result. Both seek to encourage and foster obsessive behaviours that shame rather than motivate and aim to create an idealized vision of “health” that specifically looks a certain way. This can be seen most clearly with the thigh gap debate that seems to be popping up all over the Internet. There are thigh gap workouts, comparison sites and, of course: fitspiration pinterest boards dedicated to the cause. It’s an unrealistic “health goal” that the fitspo/thinspo community has decided measures your worth and beauty.
Fitspo targets women (and men) of all sizes, and needs to end, simple as that. It spreads misinformation about the physical limitations of working out and ignores concerns for beginners or anyone who may have an existing health issue. Its claims about diet and nutrition are founded in nothing, and I feel confident that we’d be hard pressed to find a trained medical profession who’d endorse the lifestyle that fitspo encourages.
We need to remember that health doesn’t look any specific way, and it’s different for everyone. The strongest and most motivating thing we can do for ourselves amidst all this bullshit that we find ourselves inundated with is to adopt a body positivity outlook that seeks to support men and women of all different sizes and all levels of fitness. We need to throw out measures like the thigh gap and BMI as some kind of metric for success and set goals for ourselves that are realistic, and importantly: founded in something real.
So please, love yourself and love each other. Fitspo needs to GTFO and the best way to do that is to encourage body acceptance and positivity in your own life and in your social circles. I’ve had enough of the haters trying to keep me down.
Words & Photos by Traci Ward
Mandi Loo and the Auntie Loo’s crew finally found their dream space! Enough room for more baking and space for customers to walk in and pick up treats. Now Auntie Loo’s Treats is open and ready for business at 112 Nelson St, Unit 101C! They celebrated their new space — and 4th birthday — with a grand opening party on November 9th. Auntie Loo’s Treats provides Ottawa with 100% vegan goodies. Cupcakes, wedding cakes, and cookies are all made fresh with local and organic ingredients, and exclude eggs, dairy and any animal based products.
Auntie Loo’s Treats was packed from 11-4pm with friends, family and customers excited to check out the new shop and purchase the treats on hand. Birthday Cake and Maple “Bacon” Cupcakes were some of the new flavours that were being enjoyed by many. They had delicious vegan date squares, peppermint crunch nanaimo bars and regular ones too! Date squares and nanaimo bars have always been my favorite and these vegan versions are better than the traditional ones. While I’m a fan of Auntie Loo’s squares, I asked Mandi what her favorite was, “Our German chocolate cake. It’s a coffee infused chocolate cake topped with a salty vanilla topping that contains coconut and pecans. Yum yum! Also, I love our chocolate chip cookies.” Sounds delicious!
Tons of free samples were handed out on Saturday by Rideau Valley Roller Girls, and The Champagnes. LUSH Byward Market had a sweet smelling table set up with their cruelty free soaps. Cute cupcake tattoos were provided by MOD Tattoo’s Crystal Balser, a vegan tattoo artist. Some of our FGFS Ottawa ladies are now rocking some cupcakes on their skin permanently.
If you had your fill of sweet treats, and needed something to warm yourself up, a vegan BBQ with vegan chili provided everyone with a tasty lunch, and donations were made to the Westminster Pet Sanctuary.
Working out of a small shop on Bronson Ave. since 2009, head lady Mandi Loo knew it was time for a bigger space. Not only have their vegan wedding cakes become more popular, they are now supplying several Farm Boy locations across the city with their special treats.
“We realized around Christmas last year that we had just seriously outgrown the Bronson Location.” Mandi says, “Our wedding cake department was getting bigger and bigger… then we got picked up by Farm Boy in the spring. Eight employees, one oven, 600 square feet, 5 Farm Boys twice a week, plus our other wholesale accounts, walk in’s and birthday cakes and special orders… it was just nuts!”
“We’ll have more room to grow as a business at our new location.” Mandi said.
The move from Bronson was bittersweet, Mandi says “We loved the neighbourhood, the people (who were SO protective of the shop), and it was kinda cute being located in a heritage home. We won’t miss freight trucks getting stuck, folks having to back out on to Bronson in rush hour traffic, and no proper parking. As well as that we had to store our dry goods in the basement and sometimes bringing stuff upstairs could pose a challenge.”
Having a 100% vegan bakery is something Mandi is very passionate about, and being vegan is a way of life. “I’m vegan because I love animals. Love love love. I love being vegan because I know I am not contributing to the suffering of our furry friends!” Mandi says. “ Also I feel that you get a chance to be more creative and adventurous with your cooking- it’s awesome.”
Editors note: Ottawa Squad Co-leaders Kelly and MC got vegan tattoos to mark the occasion! Talk about die-hard fans!
By Heather Kuklin
Back in October Artisanal LA was held on the 2nd and 11th floor in the LA Mart building. I love that place! So many studios and showrooms, you could spend days wandering around. We started on the 11th floor until we realized that the food was on the 2nd floor. We quickly went back downstairs to the grub after grabbing a coffee from Verve.
Pretty much the second we got downstairs we ran into my friend Ducky, a fellow food lover, photographer, and rad chick (you’ll find out more about Ducky when she photographs and curates my “LA ice cream tour” for FGFS).
Let me start off by saying that this place was insane. It was totally fucking overwhelming. Booths upon booths upon booths upon booths. It was all stuff I was interested in, which was the super amazing part. From raw vegan cashew cheese to fierce lady butcher demos, Artisanal LA had it all. I renamed it, “The hipster county fair.”
I think the highlight of the day was the butcher demo from Lindy & Grundy. They’re an absolutely epic lesbian couple that own the best meat market in town. They’re located in West Hollywood and I wish they would open up on the east side but they’re worth the schlep. Check out their website and get to know them better. They made butchering a pig look so fucking cool I almost signed up for their apprentice program. I could follow in the footsteps of my great grandfather, who was a butcher.
As I bid adieu to the real pig I approached a booth that made coconut bacon. It was vegan, gluten free, and delicious! I was pleasantly surprised. I bought three bags.
I decided to mix it with my Nary Dairy cashew cheese. Raw, vegan, gluten free, and soy free cashew magic. Okay, Nary Dairy is MIND BLOWING!!! Seriously, I’m their biggest fan, for real. It tastes like cream cheese, like for real cream cheese, I mean it! If I could jump into a pool of Nary Dairy, I would. My two favorite flavors are the smoked and the garlic. In my world, there is no such thing as too much garlic. The family that started Nary Dairy, Allen and Lois, are like, the cutest things ever — I’m totally biased because I also work with them at the commercial kitchen we both use to manufacture our goods. I was hooked from day one and it’s only gotten better, if that’s even possible. I wish you guys could taste it. I need to stop talking about it because I’m out of it right now. I ate almost two tubs while walking around yesterday.
There were so many different booths it is hard to remember them all. Baked goods, meat, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, succulents in cute glass containers, coffee, confections, clothing, art, kombucha, beverages other than coffee, and probably a lot more stuff I didn’t get a chance to get to. After about 4 hours we were spent. I am so glad I decided to not have a booth and just be a spectator. If you’re in LA next year for Artisanal LA I highly recommend going, totally worth it.
Words by Gillian Kreft, Photos by Zach Gutierrez.
Before going vegan my food options were virtually endless. One of the things that made going vegan a little bit difficult was me losing a large portion of my dining options. Don’t get me wrong, I still have options but they are more along the line of 10s instead of 100s. So when Watercourse Foods (one of my favorite restaurants) announced their 5th Annual Harvest Dinner I was super excited. Their harvest dinner is centered on local, seasonal produce and a handcrafted wine pairing for each of the five courses (We both opted for no wine). It’s nice to have an opportunity to eat gourmet food and have a fancy night out (it’s even nicer when your mother offers to pay for you!).
Watercourse’s normal fair ranges from breakfast (the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had) to dinner (the chicken fried seitan is amazing) and everything in-between. They have their weekly specials which are usually on the more gourmet side and slightly more expensive.
They posted the menu online before the meal, which was awesome because I LOVE to read menus. Our first tasting wasn’t posted online so I was extra excited to see what they would give us. Our server set down two blood red spoons in front of us, it was a beet tartar with yuzu ponzu and roasted jalapeno. Beets are something that I only recently started to enjoy, that being said, this was the best spoon of food I think I’ve ever had. It was perfect, tart, smoky, rich, and a little spicy. It was the perfect way to start a meal.
The timing between courses was perfect, enough time to let you enjoy it without feeling rushed and not too much time to leave you feeling forgotten or itching for the next course. Our first official course was a winter green salad with endive, raspberry powder, pear gastrique & a daiya crisp. (The non-vegan version offered a blue cheese crisp). The salad was delicious; the raspberry powder gave it just enough of that acidity without overpowering the endive or pear.
My boyfriend is not a fan of mushrooms, it’s near impossible to get him to eat them (even when they are fried). So when I looked at the menu and saw there were two dishes involving mushrooms, I sort of kept that to myself. When we sat down and he looked at the menu he said “I think I can get through the Pate, but probably not the mushroom oyster dish”. Lucky for him, the pate tasted very little of mushroom (and he ate it all). The pate was made with caramelized leek & mushrooms served with pomegranate reduction and a fennel salad on top. The Pate had some quinoa in it too which helped with the texture, and the fennel on top was a welcome addition of texture.
While my boyfriend hates mushrooms, I absolutely adore them. The next course was a play on mussels in broth, using an assortment of mushrooms to replace the mussels and served with homemade bread. I loved this course so much that I ate two of them. Zach couldn’t get through it, but he did try! I wish I could remember all the different kinds of mushrooms but I can’t, there were at least five though. The broth was delicious and once you ate the mushrooms, the bread soaked that broth up so perfectly. It was amazing and I probably could have eaten an entire loaf of that bread.
There were two options for entrees which was perfect because there were two of us! The first option was a squash risotto served with shaved truffle, mushroom “oysters” and a roasted tomato jus. It was incredible, the risotto was so soft and silky and the roasted tomatoes added the perfect amount of smokiness and acidity.
The other option was a herbed bulgur wheat & potato pie, wrapped in puff pastry, over a celeriac and cauliflower mash with a golden beet Dijon sauce, served with sun chokes and baby carrots. Zachary chose this but we split everything in half so neither of us missed out. This was delicious but the risotto was definitely the better of the two.
Just when you think you can’t fit anything else in your stomach, the desert shows up and you devour it like you haven’t eaten in a week. Our server set in front of us a plate containing a poached pear, ginger angel food cake, and bruleed figs. The angel food cake has a tiny bit of lemon underneath it or something because it the perfect amount of acidity to balance the sweetness of the desert. Bruleed figs are a gift from god.
Anytime you can eat local and support a local chef, you should do it! It’s nice to see what the area around you can provide and how one chef interprets the ingredients. It was a delicious meal (with great company), and something I look forward to enjoying for as many years as I’m able to!
By Megan Stulberg
The Gluten Free Garage is something that I’ve vaguely been aware of for a long time, but never quite looked into for some reason. Perhaps it got lost in my Facebook archives, as I went on a “liking spree” of way too many gluten-related pages after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease last year.
Well, now I’m kicking myself for not attending their last two events.
The Gluten Free Garage is a farmer’s market with a twist: all food at the event is 100% gluten-free. GFG launched in fall 2012 and the first event attracted more than 1,500 visitors. Attendees of the marketplace have the opportunity to buy (and sample!) delicious gluten-free food and products, find out more about the different levels of gluten-intolerance, grab a free tote bag, listen to guest speakers and more.
Gluten Free Garage III will be taking place on from 10am-4pm on November 17th at Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street. Admission will cost $10. Not able to make it? I will be covering the event for Fat Girl Food Squad, so be sure to check back within the next few weeks for updates.
FAT GIRL FOOD SQUAD WILL BE GIVING AWAY TWO TICKETS TO THIS EVENT! Here’s how to enter our contest:
Contest runs from Wednesday November 6 until Wednesday November 13 @ 5PM.
1) Like Fat Girl Food Squad on Facebook.
2) Like Gluten Free Garage on Facebook.
2) Comment on the post on our Facebook page. Boom!
I had the opportunity to ask Gluten Free Garage’s founder RonniLyn Pustil a few questions about GFG’s history and its upcoming event. Read the interview below!
Q: First off, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! I really admire the work that the Gluten Free Garage does. What prompted your decision to start the GFG?
My daughter Lily was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago at age 3. After a brief period of panic followed by mourning the loss of bagels, I decided that we were going to turn this into something positive. We were not going to let it get in our way. We were still going to eat good food. And that’s how it’s been so far. We made our house gluten free and now we’re way more aware of the food we eat. We have family adventures to food festivals and farmers’ markets. We go on road trips to check out gluten-free bakeries and restaurants (favourite destination so far: KindFood in Burlington). We get excited about finding new healthy, delicious gluten-free food and places to eat. As we started discovering more local gluten-free places and products, I thought it would be cool to bring them all together under one roof for a day of one-stop shopping—a kid-friendly farmers’ market with a gluten-free twist where people could sample and taste the food before buying it.
Q: What kind of planning did it take to prepare for the first Gluten Free Garage?
It took nine months to give birth to GFG! It was the first event I ever did so there was a huge learning curve about everything—branding, blogging, sales, marketing, logistics, you name it. The hardest part was getting vendors and sponsors to come on board to this event that hadn’t happened before.
Q: What do you credit most for its growing success?
The growing need for gluten-free food. It’s a labour of love and I hope that shows. Also there’s a really eclectic mix of vendors who are passionate about what they do. It’s a lively marketplace in a bright, beautiful space where people get to eat delicious food and discover new gluten-free products. And there’s a real feeling of community.
Q: What sort of things can I expect to find at the Gluten Free Garage?
A few new favourite things, that’s for sure! Guest speakers, yummy samples, food trucks, a pop-up art event for kids, lots of happy gluten-free people. Oh, and the best in gluten free—everything from gluten-free sweets to savoury stuff to skin care!
Q: Have you ever run into any problems regarding cross-contamination at this event?
No. Since Gluten Free Garage is basically a big party for Lily—where she can happily eat whatever she wants, meet lots of other gluten-free people and not feel different—there is no question that it has to not be just gluten free but also celiac friendly. I wouldn’t have a vendor at the GFG whose food I wouldn’t let Lily eat.
Q: What vendor or treat are you personally looking to the most?
There’s no way I can choose just one. Many of my favourite vendors from our past events will be back along with about 25 new and exciting ones! The problem is I’m so preoccupied at the event that it’s hard to take time to shop! Luckily my daughters each handed me a gift when our last event ended. Lily bought me Sappho Cosmetics blush from eco-existence and Franny got me a jar of ba”con” (hickory smoked coconut, you’ll thank me for this) from Tori’s Bakeshop.
Q: It’ll be my first time at the GFG marketplace! Which vendor would you recommend for a beginner for myself to hit first?
Start at one end and work your way around the Covered Barn. You’ll want to hit them all! Then head out to the courtyard for some more treats. Be sure to come hungry.
Q: Do you have plans to expand your project? If so, what does this include?
I’m not sure. So far I’ve been taking it show by show. Maybe the Gluten Free Garage will pop up somewhere else. You never know.
By Megan Stulberg
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Somerville, the owner of a new vegan bakery in Toronto. Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Co. only opened its doors for the first time a little over a month ago. In the following Q&A Amanda and I discuss how TBC Vegan is doing so far, her daily routine at the bakery and her experience as a solo business owner.
P.S. Like all good budding businesses, TBC’s killing it on the social media front so be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Daily photo updates of boston cream doughnuts, people. You’re missing out otherwise.
Q – When did TBC Vegan Baking Co. open?
Amanda: We’ve been open for 4 weeks as of this Sunday (October 27th).
Q – Since its opening, would you say that the bakery has been successful?
Amanda: Yeah, I think so! It’s been slower during the week vs. the weekends but I think that has a lot to do with being in retail on a growing strip on Bloor Street. (The bakery is located at 1277 Bloor St. W, seconds from Lansdowne Station)
Q – Yeah, this definitely seems like a really up-and-coming area! Why did you decide on opening a vegan bakery? Are you a vegan yourself?
Amanda: Yeah, I’m a vegan. I thought that it was a market that needed to be filled that wasn’t already being filled in this city. I travel a lot to the States, or I did before we opened, and they have a different way of handling veganism down there. Toronto can do vegan, yeah, but in some ways Toronto is about five years behind in the “healthy” vegan stage Toronto doesn’t offer as many options.
Q – Would you say that TBC’s vegan products are more healthy then?
Amanda: No, not exactly. It’s all comfort food, based on traditional recipes that have been veganized.
Q – How long have you been a vegan?
Amanda: Not too long, but I have been a vegetarian for a long time. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 8 years and a vegan for 3 years. It took me a long time (to transition). I was like, “I’m going to be vegan, I’m going to do this!” but then I’d get drunk and eat cheese pizza so many times.
Q – Sounds about right! Okay, so how’d you get started?
Amanda: I used to work at Sadie’s diner and that was the first place I supplied. I started making cupcakes for them while I was working there, and then it kind of just grew from there! I started supplying for some similar places and it kind of got to a point where after I got back from traveling to Asia for a bit, I was like, you know what, I should get serious about this.
Q – Was it hard to start up? When did you decide to open TBC Vegan?
Amanda: Yeah, it was. I got the space in May 2013. I started looking for a place last September though, so it’s been about a year of me being serious about this.
Q – What does a typical day look like for you at work? What time do you have to be here every morning?
Amanda: I start working about 2 or 3 hours before we open. I’m in the kitchen until about 2pm, and from then until 7pm I work behind the counter.
Q – Are you by yourself all day, or do you have employees that help you?
Amanda: I have employees. I have kitchen staff in the morning, as well as counter staff, and then pretty much I’m here by myself for the rest of the day.
Q – Personally, what’s your favourite product that TBC sells?
Amanda: Pretzels, easily. I’m more of a savoury person but they’re still a little sweet. We sell each one with a little pack of mustard too.
Q – Yum! What are your plans for TBC’s future?
Amanda: Eventually I would like to put in some seating, but renovations have to happen before that because of licensing purposes so that will take a while. In the next couple of months, we’re going to start selling sandwiches at lunch as well as soups.
Q – Are you working towards something with a small restaurant feel then?
Amanda: Well, we’re listed as retail and sell grocery items, so we’ll probably stick with that. We offer hot foods, ready-to-go foods and frozen foods. I’d like to base the space off of a traditional Italian bakery or something like that. Ideally I’d love to get a few tables going…we have such good coffee and I feel like it gets overlooked.
[Brief interruption as a customer asks Amanda if she will accept debit]
Q – Do you plan on getting a debit machine soon?
Amanda: I’m not sure. I was going to, but then I switched banks yesterday, so I’m glad that I didn’t. I think in the future yes, but one thing at a time. I’m a solo business owner so it’s a lot for one person to do.
Q – Did you study business or something similar in school?
Amanda: Nope! I went to film school.
Q – Is there a secret as to how you make your vegan products taste “normal”?
Amanda: A lot of it is based on trial-and-error…and making these things a million times!
Q – Are you able to resist snacking on the job when you’re surrounding by all of this?
Amanda: When we first opened I would eat a pizza bun every day, but now I’m usually too busy to even think about it. Also when you’re running a store, it’s like it’s you’re either making money or you’re feeding yourself. Like, I could eat this tart, or I could get $3.50 for it and the business could make money.
Q – What do you do when you’re not here?
Amanda: I walk home, I walk my dog, and I go to bed.
Q – Are you here 7 days a week?
Amanda: We’re closed Mondays, so I work shorter days then. I’m still here 7 days a week though.
Q – Wow. Are you planning on taking a break anytime soon?
Amanda: I’m going to a wolf sanctuary on November 18th!
Q – What does that entail?
Amanda: It’s in Halliburton, Ontario. I’ve only ever researched it…a ton though, because I’ve wanted to go for a long time. There are wolves, in this sanctuary, and you get to go hang out with these wolves. I’m going to drive up. My dad lives in Collingwood so I’m going to sleep there. I’m really excited!
Q – Will you have to close TBC while you’re gone, or can your staff run it without you for a bit?
Amanda: I wish I had the money to leave my staff right now. I would. My staff is great. Especially the girls in the kitchen, they’re awesome! I took a half day last Tuesday and I didn’t even worry. I slept in, it was so nice. I’m really, really lucky…they’re awesome.
Photos by Alexandra Courts.