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In today’s world of finicky eaters, allergy sufferers, health fanatics, tofu lovers, animal activists and the socially conscious, Angelica Kitchen appeases all. Located in Manhattan’s East Village at 300 East 12th Street, this vegan restaurant has been creating community oriented and nutritionally sound food for ages, since 1976 to be exact.

Angelica Kitchen has a strong philosophy behind their food; they only use sustainable agriculture and responsible business practices as their main ingredients. This means they support small local farms, 95% of the menu uses ingredients that are grown ecologically and fair traded, they use renewable sources of energy, filter their own water, compost and donate food to ensure little waste and refrain from using bottled beverages of any kind.

Now onto the food, Angelica Kitchen practices intuitive cooking. Since they primarily use ingredients which are in season, the menu is constantly changing and evolving. Everything is made fresh at this restaurant, even the desserts! In addition, they never use refined sugars, preservatives, dairy, eggs or animal products whatsoever.

As a vegetarian, this leaves the menu wide open to endless edible possibilities. We decided to share an assortment of dishes and started off with the Norimaki Special ($10.50): marinated tempeh, cauliflower, red cabbage, carrots with seasoned brown rice and mustard.

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Next, we moved onto to the Si Se Puede ($9.50): Balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and basil-olive marinated chickpeas, tossed over greens with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt accompanied by a garlic crostini topped with tofu ricotta & chives.

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And lastly, a series of sides which included Ruby Kraut: a homemade red cabbage sauerkraut ($2.50); Southern Style Corn Bread ($2); and Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes served with brown rice gravy ($4.50).

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The overall meal was light and fresh, and it felt fantastic to be eating organic, thought-provocative dishes which were seasoned well and cooked to the right texture and consistency. There’s a reason Angelica Kitchen has been around for the past three decades.

Finally, a few important things to remember: they have a democratic policy which means first come first serve, they only accept cash and it’s BYOB. With Angelica Kitchen’s ethical approach to food, eating well never felt so good!

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A culinary movement is happening in New York. The third annual UnFancy Food Show was recently held this past Sunday, June 28 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The show is a celebration of authentic, handmade and unpretentious food by local artisans using organic and sustainable ingredients. There were over 20 participants and it was a packed event with vendors selling out of products before the show was even over. A mere $5 entrance fee allowed you to taste, mingle and discuss the art and passion of food.

Before entering the show, we made a pit stop at the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck and ordered a couple of small scoops: Hazelnut and Strawberry ($3.95). Possibly one of the best aspects of local entrepreneurs is their commitment to practicing a more ecological, sustainable business. Van Leeuwen is an example of that, all of their disposable goods are made from 100% renewable resources and we love the biodegradable cups and spoons.

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Once inside we lingered around booths, sampled delectables and purchased goodies for very reasonable prices. Queens Country Farm Museum, the only historical working farm in the city, had a small collection of freshly picked produce. I just had to buy a cup of the incredibly mesmerizing wild mulberries for only $2. Next to Queens was Sweet Deliverance, a small Brooklyn business which transforms farm-fresh, organic ingredients into wholesome meals for home deliveries. They were selling a variety of their handmade products, but the one item that sold out quickly was the Organic Beef Pies ($6) made with peas, carrots and a grafton cheddar crust. Crispy goodness.

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The most adorable participant by far was mama from Mama O’s Kimchee. This cutie pie was diligently dishing out fresh, homemade kimchee salsa into tupperware, $5 for a large, $3.50 for a small. Kheedim Oh (right of mama) is the mastermind chef/entrepreneur behind this Korean kimchee company. When he’s not busy pickling napa cabbage, you can find Kheedim spinning records as DJO in the band The Beatards.

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Possibly one of my favourite items was the Beer & Pretzel Caramels from Liddabit Sweets, a small business committed to using as many local and seasonal ingredients to create responsibly made sweets. The caramel flavours were delicious and bounced around from crunchy and salty to sweet and chewy. Be sure to check out their site for a list of inventive goodies. Food was definitely the theme of the day. We spotted this person wearing a beautiful antique silver pea pod necklace.

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I only touched upon a few participants and didn’t even get a chance to delve into the cheeses, chocolates, meats or pickles! Be sure to visit the UnFancy Food Show 2010, I’ll be there and I’ll be sure to arrive on an empty stomach.

DO NOT GO TO THIS FUNNEL CAKE TRUCK!
Making racial generalizations against your customers is not acceptable.

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Just two days ago, we posted about Toronto Ribfest, an event we’ve attended loyally and loved for over five years. The good news is, the people who run the rib stands are fun and friendly and the ribs are still delicious.

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However, this year we were sorely disappointed for three reasons:

1) New this year, there are members of the Rotary Club of Etobicoke that block your way at the entrance, making everyone feel like it’s a requirement to make a donation to the club to enter. Considering Ribfest is touted at having no entrance fee, this solicitation feels rather hypocritical. If the donation is voluntary, it shouldn’t feel mandatory. Simply pointing people to the plastic pig that accepts donations would be much less confrontational. Even the family behind us complained, calling it false advertisement. The rotary member started back-pedaling and claiming the donation was voluntary. If people are making the assumption it’s not, your tactics are too aggressive. Please reconsider.

2) While economic times are tough, the lemonade stands don’t seem understand this. We LOVE the lemonade at Ribfest, and it was already steep with a Small costing $3 and a Large going for $5. However, this year, they’ve significantly raised the prices with a small now going for $4, and a large for $7!! We find this outrageous.

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3)  Lastly, we were taking some photos of the sights and planned on blogging about the ribs of course, and the delicious funnel cake. But it seems the one of the employees (man on the left below) thought taking photos at Ribfest was a serious offense. He became belligerent to a member of our party, pretty much refused to serve us, and then to add insult to insult, he spat out: “And one more thing, it’s always the Orientals who are taking photos.”

We feel this was uncalled for, and treating your customers in this manner is completely unacceptable. Spread the word.

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Finding a lunch spot in midtown Manhattan is a task within itself. There are so many places to pick from and finding the right restaurant can be daunting, especially when they’re packed together like sardines. It’s impossible to decipher the good from the bad, so that’s why I took the recommendation of my co-worker Mimi who suggested we dine at Katsu-Hama, located at 11 E 47th Street. Katsu-Hama claims to be the only tonkatsu restaurant in New York, which means they specialize in fried Japanese pork cutlets. Now, if you’re looking for a healthy meal, walk away. Fast. This place is fried with a capital F!

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For lunch, I ordered the Snow Crab Meat Croquettes ($11). My meal started off with a few pickled carrots and a pickled cabbage roll along with a generous-sized bowl of miso soup swimming with onion strips and seaweed. This was followed by my katsu entreé: three large pieces of freshly fried crab croquettes, served with a side of shredded cabbage and a bowl of rice. I was a little puzzled as what to do with the plain cabbage but quickly learned the bottle on each table contained a delicate sesame ginger dressing. The croquettes were divine, not too greasy, crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. This was complimented with a tarter-like sauce. Absolutely delicious!

Portion sizes are massive. I highly recommend sharing an entreé and pocketing a few recession dollars. You’ll not only be pleasantly satsified but you’ll be saving yourself from a mid-afternoon, fried-food-induced coma. We’ve all been there.

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Strap on those bibs and pack your wet-naps! It’s that time of year again – the one and only event that should matter to rib-lovers from all walks of life. Toronto Ribfest runs from June 26 – July 1 at Centennial Park in Etobicoke (open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.). If you’ve never been and you’re a pork-eater, I highly recommend it. I’ve been about four times, and you never forget the first time you walk in and see so many rib & barbeque stands — it literally fills a football field. Here’s an example of two stands from last year (there will be 14 ribber stands in total this year).

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And of course, we must talk about the succulent ribs. The best way to go is in a big group, because the social aspect of this event almost outweighs the meat itself. Each person purchases a rack of ribs ($20) from a different stand, then you lay them all out on the table, try each one, and debate your favourites. It’s surprising how much they can vary in taste — some are smokey, others extra saucy or sweet, and last year my favourite had a hint of blue cheese. Some ribbers to try are: Carolina Rib King, Gators, Uncle Sam’s and Camp 31, Bad Wolf and Bibb’s.

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But it’s not only about the ribs, there’s also delicious lemonade or cool beer to wash it all down, grilled corn, and also pulled-pork sandwiches, brisket or chicken. If you can manage, there’s plenty of funnel cake, mini donuts and other sweet delights. There are also live bands, rides, and on Canada Day I hear they have fireworks. It can get very busy (it attracts over 100,000 visitors) and the later you go, the longer the lines. But it’s completely worth it and you’ll want to return year after year. Plus, where else can your friends pose like a champ with a pig trophy?

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UPDATE: We visited Ribfest this year on Saturday, June 27, and unfortunately were disappointed with the experience compared to previous years. Read our post about Regretting Ribfest in Toronto here.