Almond Butterfly Gluten Free Bake Shop & Espresso

Located in Toronto, Almond Butterfly Gluten Free Bake Shop & Espresso offers a full menu of baked goods, as well as hot breakfast and grilled lunch options for takeout, dine-in, or delivery. Their treats are delicious, and they sell fresh baked goods that are made from scratch on-site. Almond Butterfly baked treats are also gluten-free and soy free- and they use only premium, all-natural ingredients that are healthier for you. 

Almond Butterfly was born in a Crossfit gym in Montreal, Quebec around 5 years ago, where Melody Saari, AB's owner & head baker, trained. Melody being Melody, she'd bring in gluten-free and Paleo treats for everyone there to enjoy after their high-intensity workouts (athletes need their recovery!). The gym and its members became our first customers. In fact, "Almond Butterfly" is actually a play-on-words referring to a "butterfly" pull-up (a beautiful gymnastic movement, combining grace and power). 
The entire concept of Almond Butterfly originates from a place of health and fitness of balance between work and reward. You can find out more about Almond Butterfly here

We had the chance to chat with Almond Butterfly's Owner & Head Baker Melody Saari and asked her a few questions!

Sarah Velasco: What type of products do you have? 
Melody Saari: Baked goods: Cupcakes (top seller), cookies, brownies, paleo-friendly options, vegan options, vegan date squares, vegan breakfast cookies, chocolate chunk cookies (top seller), vegan chocolate chip cookies (top seller), gingersnap cookies, almond flour pecan cookies, paleo lava cakes, paleo flaxseed loaf, paleo nut and seed bites, *biscuits & *scones, muffins, cakes, and other seasonal baked goods. Everything is dairy-free, and the items with a * contain dairy. We also serve pies and other baked goods (but they are seasonal). Our dairy-free pumpkin pie (made with organic coconut milk) is a huge seller in the Fall. 

Savory: GFT sandwich (top seller), Hawaiian sandwich, apple cheddar walnut melt, eggtastic breakfast sandwich (top seller), breakfast bite breakfast sandwich, veggie cream cheese bagel, bagel & cream cheese, bagel with almond butter, peanut butter, real butter, or earth balance soy-free spread. All of our sandwiches are made on our homemade bagels. Everything is gluten-free, most sandwiches also have a dairy-free option. For more descriptions, please visit our website. 
Espresso: We serve all types of espresso beverages with coffee sourced from our local roaster "Social Coffee & Tea Co".
Other beverages: Our super refreshing housemade stevia lemona
de. Sugar-free, calorie-free, and shaken to perfection. 

Sarah Velasco: What inspired you start baking gluten-free products
Melody Saari: I developed a gluten intolerance in 2006, and have had to start baking and eating gluten-free ever since. I wasn't happy with the products I found on the market at that time, so took it upon myself to make my own!

Sarah Velasco: What is your food philosophy?
Melody Saari: It has to look good, and it has to taste good...regardless of whether it is gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, or otherwise. I would rather not eat then eat something that I don't find appealing and delicious. I am also very health conscious and do not eat (or bake with) preservatives, additives, artificial colors or sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or chemicals. I try to eat as unprocessed as possible. But still feel like we all deserve a treat once in a while.

Sarah Velasco: What are some common misconceptions about gluten -free treats?
Melody Saari: There are so many... but regardless of whether you are eating gluten-free or not...always look at what is in what you are eating. If the ingredient list doesn't look natural and is not filled with healthy ingredients, then you probably shouldn't eat it. Gluten-free products are not always healthy if they contain chemicals, preservatives and artifical food colors. Just be mindful of what you are eating in order to stay balanced and eat a variety of vegetables and healthy proteins along side your treats. 

Sarah Velasco: Did you always dream of opening your own bakery?
Melody Saari: No, I dreamt of opening a cafe one day, and supplying it with my own baked goods. My first love was cafe and the whole espresso culture which I became obsessed with while going to university in BC. The whole gluten-free thing and bakery thing came after I found out I could no longer eat gluten. But now I would have it no other way. I love my cafe-bakeshop, my products, my staff, and life is good!

Sarah Velasco: What is your favorite meal to cook?
Melody Saari: Right now my favorite meal is gluten-free and dairy-free (because I am also dairy intolerant now) chicken tacos with homemade guacamole, cilantro, beans, tomatoes, hot sauce (locally sourced of course), and lots of fresh lime.

Sarah Velasco: Where can readers find your bake shop?

Melody Saari: Located in Harbord Village in Toronto, Ontario. 100A Harbord Street. Major intersection is Harbord and Spadina...steps from the UofT campus.

We had the chance to try these treats and have to say, all of them were absolutely delicious. They're moist and tasty, and each one has a delightful, distinct flavor. We highly recommend going by Almond Butterfly if you haven't already. (They were also recently featured in blogTO's top 10 cinnamon buns in Toronto!)


Ted Baker AW16

Raymond Stuart Kelvin founded Ted Baker in London over 25 years ago with the intention of creating great clothes that were affordable. He's managed to do just that, and have 448 stores in over 35 countries. Despite Kelvin's success in the fashion industry, he isn't a fan of being in the limelight and hardly gives interviews. When photographed, his face is always covered in some way, and it was through his wish to remain anonymous that the brand was named Ted Baker. 

Each season, Ted Baker comes out with classic silhouettes and colorful aesthetic. We love how great quality and affordable the pieces are, and how the brand still is very much representative of British style. Being able to look tailored and being able to layer, while also looking casually put together is hard to come by, and Ted Baker's AW16 collection helps us get one step closer to looking 'effortlessly chic.'

Here are some of our favorite pieces from the latest collection. We love the texture- the velvet, crystal embroidered embellishments, high collared dresses... As we transition from summer to fall, he also reminds us that we can still wear floral all year round. 
YARDA Floral Embellished Skater Dress $395 CAD
NATLEAH Scallop Detail Ribbed Dress in Oxblood $315 CAD
AURORE Long Wrap Coat $645 CAD


FruitFast Pure Fruit Bars

"Developed and patented by the USDA, FruitFast Bars are great-tasting, nutritious, convenient and affordable. Each of these healthy, all-natural fruit bars contain generous amounts of the proprietary fruit pastes that we manufacture for our Cherry and Pomegranate Softgel Capsules and Liquids. FruitFast Bars are produced using a USDA patented process that provides a two year shelf life. These dried fruit bars can be stored at room temperature and will not deteriorate in hot, humid weather."

Information from the official Fruitfast website
FruitFast is a family-owned company producing all-natural products made from premium quality fruit since 1945.
The Wild Blueberry IQ 8 pack retails for $13.95. Each bar contains 106 calories and has zero grams of fat. These bars are made of Apple Puree, Apple Concentrate, Wild Blueberry Concenrate, and Wild BlueberryIQ (Wild Blueberries).  100% fruit and nothing else!

The CherryFlex FruitFast 8 pack retails for $13.95 as well. Each bar is 103 calories, and has zero grams of fat. The ingredients are: Apple Puree, Apple Concentrate, Cherry Concentrate, CherryFlex (Tart Montmorency Cherries). Like the Wild Blueberry IQ, these bars are made from 100% fruit and nothing else. 

Both of these products contain no refined sugars, no dairy or GMOs, no artificial flavors or preservatives, and are USDA developed and patented. They also do not contain any gluten or nuts, and are made in a factory that is gluten-free and nut-free. 

These fruit bars are such great snacks. They are tasty, healthy and provide great nutritional benefits (2 out of the 5 fruits a day)! We highly recommend giving them a try. 



L'Occitane celebrates 40 years of beauty

Last night, we attended the L'Occitane Event in celebration of their 40th anniversary. This event took place at a number of locations and we had the pleasure of going to the one at Fairview Mall. We made sure to be there early as it was not a press preview event, but an event open to the general public.

A mystery gift card up to $100 was given to the first 40 guests and a gift with purchase was offered for the evening. 

It was very busy so we didn't have a chance to learn about the latest products, but we are sure there are some great ones to know about.

Did you go to the L'Occitane event? We'd love to hear about your experience! letters@sarahvelasco.com


Joe Fresh X Fashion Magazine Event


On Wednesday August 24th, I attended the Joe Fresh X Fashion Magazine event at 589 Queen Street West. Joe Fresh and Fashion magazine invited media and the general public to celebrate their September cover and shop the Fall collection.

Once inside, guests were treated to cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a 25% shopping discount. I also received a gift bag which included the latest Fashion Magazine issue, TRESemm√© hair product, a Joe Fresh eyeshadow, and a pair of sunglasses.

I normally attend press only events, so this experience was a tad overwhelming because it was so busy! However, it was still nice to shop their latest Fall collection. Joe Fresh always has something for everyone. There was a nice mix of classic staples, paisley print blouses, knit sweaters...the clothes are wearable, affordable and on trend. The brand's latest lineup is perfect for the crisp fall days ahead. 

It's great to see how much Joe Fresh has expanded, featuring internationally renowned models like Karlie Kloss and Miranda Kerr in their latest campaign. 

P.S. #TBT to the interview we did in 2011 with Adrienne Shoom. Adrienne was the Style Director of Joe Fresh from 2008-2015, and prior to that The Director at Flare Magazine. You can view the interview we with did with her here

Be sure to visit joefresh.com or visit a store near you to see the latest fall collection!

With love,

Sarah Velasco

Interview with Taylor Nadraszky, Founder of Be Brave Box

Sarah: Can you tell us about yourself?
Taylor: I am the founder of Be Brave Box. I am only 16 years old and this is my first and definitely not going to be my only business. I started Be Brave Box in August 2015 after my kidney transplant from my dad but my first box didn't go out till January of this year. I've always wanted to start my own business and after my kidney transplant I couldn't go out in big crowds since I was very immunosuppressed at the time so I thought it would be a great time to start. It's taken a lot to get to this point in my business but I absolutely love working on making Be Brave Box even better!

Sarah: What is Be Brave Box?
Taylor: Be Brave Box is a subscription box for people like me who have a chronic illness. Every other month a new box is shipped to subscribers. In every box is 5 items to remind you that you are brave, strong and can do this! I work with usually other small business to find products that I think will be awesome in a box. The box is $27 Canadian including shipping to Canada or the U.S and $29 Canadian including shipping internationally. 

Sarah What is your mission?
Taylor: My mission from the very first box has been to make others just for even a second forget the daily symptoms of chronic illness and focus on having some fun and excitement from getting a Be Brave Box. I want people to smile and remember the good that can be found if we stick together and fight chronic illness together. On top of this mission I hope to create conversation and teach others about chronic and invisible illness. It isn't talked about often and I think through knowing about it we can create more understanding of each other.

Sarah: What types of items would one find in a subscription box?
Taylor: In my past boxes I've included coloring books, dream catchers, face masks. Basically things to put somewhere or do to remind you that you can do this and also self care items. 

Sarah: How are items chosen for each box? What is the process like?
Taylor: I usually go on Etsy and look at different items that if I were to subscribe to the box I would love to have! Then I work with the maker of the product to usually make something customized for my box. Then the items are shipped to me and than I make the box all lovely and include a product card and than it is shipped to the subscriber! 

Sarah: Anything else readers should know?
Taylor: I also think my box would be perfect for someone with a mental illness or even a caregiver. The box is basically just a reminder to slow down and take good care of yourself when going through tough times. I love making these boxes for people and its one of the most fun things I have ever gotten to do! If any of you would like to subscribe you can go to www.bebravebox.ca and also learn more about me, the box and see past boxes!


Essence Fall/Winter 2016 Preview

Last Thursday, August 18th, we had the pleasure of attending Essence's Fall/ Winter 2016 Preview. Toronto Beauty Bloggers, Media, and Influencers filled the beautifully decorated event. 

The space had a nail bar, make-up station, dessert table, and a number of other goodies. Of course, we had the chance to see fantastic new Essence products, and we're so excited to feature them in the upcoming months!

Essence is powered by a German cosmetics company called cosnova beauty. It was launched in 2001 and since has become one of the fastest growing beauty companies in the world. It is currently distributed in over 80 countries, one in every four cosmetics purchased in Germany is an Essence product!

The brand is now sold online at essencemakeup.com, and can be found at the following retail stores: Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, Target, ULTA Beauty, and Fred Meyer.


NYC August 2016

Last week, I had the chance to collaborate with fantastic brands and spend time with people in New York City. Though Toronto is amazing and there are so many things to do (it's apparently now the fourth largest city in North America), there is always something special about being in The Big Apple. 

As soon as I arrived in Manhattan, I went straight to The David Angelo Salon. It's located at 420 Madison in between 48th and 49th street. 
The salon takes up the entire second floor of the building and offers a variety of hair care and consultations (even in private rooms if one prefers). Their services include washing, cutting, color, manicures, waxing, and extensions. 

I had my hair cut by Celebrity Stylist Dion Moore and left the salon with shape and bounce. I highly recommend making an appointment for a haircut and manicure at The David Angelo Salon if you are in NYC! You won't be disappointed. 

Walk about 20 minutes from The David Angelo Salon and you'll hit The LUSH Spa at 783 Lexington Avenue. LUSH has so many stores all over the world, but only two spas in North America! If you're ever in NYC or Philly, I highly recommend booking an appointment to see what it's all about.
I've only tried their facial "Validation" and their reflexology treatment "The Spell" but both were wonderful experiences! The LUSH spa experience is truly unique and will leave you feeling relaxed. Plus, you get to take some products home with you at the end. 

If you love art, be sure to visit The Ameringer|McEnery|Yohe gallery located at 525 W 22nd Street. I was there for The Bo Bartlett exhibition that took place July 7th - August 12th. 

I modeled for The Sea of Galilee painting in 2014. It was such an honor to be part of this masterpiece and so exciting to see the original in person. 

AND of course, there's nothing like seeing friends & family. I had a chance to catch up with my cousin Sabrina who I hadn't seen in years.

P.S. looking for somewhere to stay? 70 Park Avenue is a modern boutique hotel in Midtown, blocks from Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, Times Square, and many other must-see sights!

With love,

Sarah Velasco

Do you have favorite spots in NYC? We'd love to hear from you! letters@sarahvelasco.com



Arena is an Italian brand internationally known for their high quality and cutting-edge swimwear that outfits both Olympians and recreational swimmers who want to embrace their water instincts!
Some of our favourite pieces from their latest collection. Ranging from $85 to $110, grab them before they're gone! These will be available until they are sold out in stores (Bikini Village) and online


Interview with Alex Leikermoser: Lifestyle Designer, Wellness Coach, Wellpreneur Speaker, Author, Blogger, Ambassador

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers about yourself? How did you get started?
Alex Leikermoser: My background is in interior design I studied at Ryerson completing a 4 year degree program. For my thesis, I was passionate about exploring healthy interiors and eco interiors, what makes a space feel good energetically, (i.e. feng shui, vastu etc.), what the meaning a home has, and the future of families: how homes will change with higher divorce rates etc and homelessness. Being socially responsible as designers.
My courses were very highly competitive and we had a high workload, so I started taking yoga in university and really found that it helped me manage my stress levels! Then at the age of 29 after just 5 years after starting my design business I fell very ill, I was completely burnt out and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. I had no energy, and the smallest tasks seemed huge. I was tired all the time and fatigued. By chance through a chair manufacturer, I was led to a naturopath. He ran a live blood cell analysis test & diagnosed me with chronic fatigue amongst other things and early warning signs of cancer. This made me realize I was not invincible & my health was the most important thing I had to take care of.  I was scared, but he assured me if I changed my diet and lifestyle, lowering my stress, that I could get my health back! This experience has made me passionate about educating others on cancer prevention strategies and how to create e healthy life form A-Z! Your home, your body, your clothing how you eat, your mind set and more!! 

Sarah Velasco: What tools do you think are essential for starting a yoga practice?
Alex Leikermoser: Based on my own experience and that of my clients, the most challenging part is having a daily or weekly practice! Tools to keep you on track are key! I created a fun, easy breathing CD that assists individuals in taking even just 1 minute a day to breathe ! I also think joining a studio that is close to home or work is key.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Yogagurl?
Alex Leikermoser: Yogagurl was my nickname when I was an Interior Designer as many people didn’t practice yoga back then. Also, when I started teaching it became my moniker then I decided to replace the “i’ in girl with a “u’ for guru to make it more playful. Over the last 14 years of my business journey, Yogagurl has embodied my values and dreams and the gurls that came to practice with me! The brand took on a life of its own and out of that was born:  a clothing line, retreats, a yoga studio and more! 
Some things have changed as my needs changed as the founder, but the philosophy remains the same: making yoga fun & demystifying it, and making it easy to breathe & do yoga on the go! 

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about your e-courses? 
Alex Leikermoser: Yes we have several courses and some new ones coming!
We have a 7 day online cleanse which is held live but soon you can also you can also download it and do it from home with a friend! The next online cleanse is the first week of October.
We also have a free download you can start with right away to kick start your journey just by signing up to our "calmunity" at yogagurl.com 
Sarah Velasco: Why are retreats important?
Alex Leikermoser: Retreats are important because they are immersions into the yoga lifestyle without your daily distractions and habits. It allows you to step away and create news habits and learn how to incorporate yoga, pranayama (breathing techniques that are scientifically being proven to enhance health) meditation and learn to be present and in the moment...
To sum it up, retreats are important because they are opportunities to step away form your day-to-day routine, not so healthy habits, technology, and reconnect to nature, yourself and your body/mind/spirit! Plus, you also get to attend with your bestie, mom,daughter or sister, so it is a great way to bond and create healthy habits together! 

Do you have favorite quotes?
Yes I have many favourite quotes...here a few that come to mind...

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” 
― Marianne Williamson

"I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul." ~ by Rumi

"Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path... exactly where you are meant to be right now... And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love." ~ by Caroline Adams

...of course our yogagurl quote which i have been using for 14 years on all our cards etc.

Fear less, hope more;
Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more;
Hate less, love more;
And all good things are yours.
"Swedish Proverb"
Sarah Velasco: What inspires you?
Alex Leikermoser: I am inspired by so much all day long. Curiosity is what allows me to be inspired, whether it is a leaf on the ground or a cloud shape, the way the sun is shining onto the water and creating a reflection or in the vibrant colors of a dragonfly! I'd say nature is my main inspiration for all my projects as well as music and art!
I am inspired by other women that lead with their heart, I am inspired by artists and musicians that follow their passion and want to innovate in their respective industries. I think now more than ever women have so many choices and freedoms and we can really have a positive impact on the planet if we each share our unique talents and gifts with the world. Every woman has a role even if you think you are insignificant you are not! You can and do affect peoples lives just by smiling at someone on the street or extending a positive word you may save a life or turn around someones day, so never ever understate your personal power. I have come to understand that when you are the shining light that others can then have permission to shine their light as well. 
Sarah Velasco: What are some common misconceptions about yoga that you've noticed over the years?
Alex Leikermoser: People think yoga is only for people who are in shape, or spiritual and many people say “Oh i can’t do that i’m not flexible” and I laugh and tell them yoga is for people who want to increase their flexibility. Others say they are not spiritual. There are approx 15 main popular styles of yoga that are readily available and more and more as time goes on, so research what is best for you at this time. I teach classical Hatha Yoga which is focused on learning the postures and breathing, and over the years I have added my own inspirations like art, music, drumming, chocolate to my classes !

Also more than anything, what I have gleaned in my 20 years of practicing is that yoga is about the breath not being in pretzel poses…mastering your breath is key so that no matter the yoga pose you are in or life situation you are in you can stay calm and breathe deeply! Now that is worth the journey!

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Yogagurl merchandise? What's the story behind it?
Alex Leikermoser: Yogagurl clothing line was a way for me to express the yoga message on a walking billboard. 15 years ago when I was in my yoga teacher training I hand stenciled some t-shirts with some cheeky sayings and wore them to class, My classmates asked me to make them some shirts to wear too, and after a while I started getting many more orders. I thought, there must be a more efficient way than to hand paint these tanks. Voila my first line of t-shirts was born which led to the seed capital to start my yoga clothing line, distributed all over the USA and Australia. I was featured on the cover of international magazines as yoga journal and I was nominated one of the top 4 yoga wear designers! 

Sarah Velasco: What are your must-have yoga items?
Alex Leikermoser: 
1) breathing cdMy yoga cd to help you take mini breathing breaks throughout the day, i designed it as a tool for busy people so its easy for anyone to start a daily breathing practice that leads to meditation
2) aroma therapy oils ( available to order through me) & diffuser for calm spaces and ease in sleeping! Great way to keep yourself de-stressed & balanced on the go! 
3) Our Whine less, breathe more T-shirt !! and the yogagurl phone case to remind you when your phone rings to breathe more!! 
Sarah Velasco: How has the yoga industry changed over the years? Has it gotten better? worse?
Alex Leikermoser: To be honest, I have always beaten to my own drum. Being part of innovating the yoga movement early on, helping the yoga show get off the ground as well as being one of the first yoga clothing lines - things have changed for sure. Yoga is much more widespread than when I started practicing 20 years ago and teaching 15 years ago. People ask me if the commercialization of yoga bothers me, to be honest I think the more people do yoga,wear the clothing and want to do yoga is a good thing! 

Sarah Velasco: Can you give readers one of your favorite smoothie recipes?
Alex Leikermoser: Yes, of course. I love sharing my recipes. My favourite is a green smoothie (I'm big on green because it is assists the body in being more alkaline)
I will let you know that I am a bit hardcore when it comes to my smoothies, my smoothies are to really re-set your health and get on track non of this super sweet bad for you stuff! I don't do dairy, gluten or refined sugar and I try to inspire others to lower or cut out these and to really get their body to its optimum place of health! So, my smoothie recipe will be a yummy green smoothie that is savoury. If you really find it too you can add a banana to cheat at the beginning when you are weaning yourself off having a lot of sweet! 
  • hand full of kale &/or spinach (2-3 cups) 
  • 1 lemon
  • filtered water
  • 1/2 small cucumber 
  • 1 (banana) optional makes it very yummy ! 
  • **try a tablespoon of chia seeds or hemp seeds as topping 
PS  you can also add coconut water and pineapple for a more tropical twist!

Sarah Vealsco: Anything else you'd like us to know?
Alex Leikermoser: I have stopped producing the full line of clothing and closed my yoga studio to focus on what I really love which is inspiring others to live a healthy life! So focusing on online yoga, online wellness courses and retreats. 

I have 2 retreats coming up in sept 24-25 overnight & Oct 1st Day retreat! Oh and I almost forgot our retreat in maui in the waiter 2017 --feb -- email us to get on the list for more info!

Also I'd like to invite them to my weekly FREE Wahine wed wellness LIVE talk on Facebook... so make a cup of tea and hop online for weekly inspiration (sign up on our website or friend me on facebook) I love getting women & girls from around the world to join in for a breathing break, aromatherapy break and then a talk about wellness and yoga with a Q&A at the end! 

I also have monthly online aromatherapy classes coming up on my new website at alexleikermoser.com !

As well, stay tuned in 2017 we are putting together mentorships with me and yoga+ lifestyle holistic living course with some in person hours for those that want to be certified. If you are doing it for your own personal growth it can be done all online! So it can be easy for a woman with kids, or that travel, or that live in another country but wants to get inspired and study with me!

I'll also be doing a talk at free "detox" talk at Nutrition Plus Community Health Store in Barrie Tue Sept 20th 1:30-2:30 pm. If you like this idea and want me to come do a talk at your office, school or home please email me! 

Sarah Velasco: Thank you so much! 
Alex Leikermoser: Alex Leikermoser: We hope to see your readers on our next wellness call if they want to friend me on Facebook alexleikermoser ( mention your blog) they will get an invite for my 'Wahine Wednesday Wellness' LIVE Facebook session & can also watch the video later if they miss the live call! How cool is that? ("wahine" means women in hawaiian) 
I love mixing technology with the ancient practice of yoga! 

Thank you Sarah for sharing the yoga message alongside your music and don't forget to "Whine less, Breathe more" 


Toronto Vegan Food & Drink Festival Recap

The annual Toronto Vegan Food and Drink Festival took place last Saturday, August 13th on the grounds of Fort York. This was our second year attending the event, and it was much bigger than last year. There were more vendors and more people.
Food, ping pong tables, live music, beer... it seemed like it would be the perfect way to spend your weekend. Then it rained... A LOT. During the few hours we were there, the rain came down heavily. It was on and off, but frequent enough to dampen the mood of the festival. People huddled under the tents trying to eat their food, and vendors hustled, preserving their merchandise. 
Last year, the weather was perfect. 

We were, however, impressed with how many more vendors there were this year (over 70!). The food was delicious, and we had the opportunity to try so many new things. We love that there even was a henna booth.

Toronto Vegan Food & Drink Festival is a fun event to go to and we'll definitely be back next year!

What was your favourite part of the event? We'd love to hear from you! letters@sarahvelasco.com



Interview with Joseph Villegas, Toronto Popcorn Company

If you are ever near Toronto's Kensington Market, be sure to make a trip to Toronto Popcorn Company. It is gourmet popcorn at its finest. With approximately 100 different flavours, there's something for everyone. 
The popcorn here is seriously decadent, and it is no surprise that they're a hot commodity at The Toronto International Film Festival. 
Once you try some of their flavours, you'll never look at popcorn the same way again. 

We recently tried some of their bestsellers, and had the opportunity to chat with Joseph Villegas, Co-owner of Toronto Popcorn Company. 
Keep reading to learn more!
Toronto Popcorn Company is a family business started by a young family who followed their dreams and came to Canada in 2011 from the Philippines.
From humble beginnings in 2013, traveling to festivals around Ontario offering homemade popcorn (from an old-fashioned popcorn maker), Toronto Popcorn Company has grown to offer close to 100 unique and gourmet popcorn flavours, and a flagship location in the heart of Toronto, Kensington Market.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Toronto Popcorn Company? How did it start? 
Joseph Villegas: It started as a one-kettle, weekender affair - pretty much just to make something on the side. However, over the course of the first two months it evolved into something else. We started with 20 flavors. Then 30. Then 50. What used to be a pop-up shop became a brick-and-mortar. We now have more or less 100 combined staple and seasonal flavors. 
We caught the attention of an engagement group doing a huge project for TIFF, and they had ordered 12,000 bags of popcorn with a tight deliverable timeline of 4 days. From total obscurity to being publicized in mainstream media in the first quarter of conceiving it. That’s when we realized that there’s no turning back and that Toronto Popcorn Company really has to happen. I had to let go of whatever it is that I was involved with and just dove head-first into this business.

Sarah Velasco: Why popcorn? 
Joseph Villegas: With the name Toronto Popcorn Company, one has to deliver with a trait that’s coherent to that of our city's. What better way to represent diversity than to offer popcorn flavors in massive colors and flavors.

Sarah Velasco: Are there common misconceptions about popcorn? Things that people usually don't know?
Joseph Villegas: That popcorn is boring. Wait ’til you’ve tasted our best-selling Halloween flavor, the Black Moomba (Black Popcorn smothered with Belgian White Chocolate and sprinkled with coconut shavings). It probably won’t make sense while you’re reading this but wait ’til you’ve tried it. :)
Sarah Velasco: What makes your popcorn different from more mainstream brands like Orville Redenbacher, or say-- a popcorn store like Kernels?
Joseph Villegas: We’ve been in business for just a little over two years so we are still at the stage of discovery. We do not have the industrial manufacturing edge of popcorn that you’d see in big-box stores (e.g. Nitrogen-injected packaging that preserves everything and makes it dry, etc.), so the best experience with our product is to consume it closest to the date of purchase. We also try our best to keep everything local as possible — our Espresso Caramel makes use of coffee beans purchased in the market, so does our vegan flavor Sweet Chili Pepper — the spices come from a local spice vendor. Our popping corn is locally grown as well. 

Sarah Velasco: How/ Where is everything made? 
Joseph Villegas: Everything is made in store — at least for retail. We are in the process of reworking the website and have started distributing to finely grade A fine foods retailers, and for that, we’ve put up a commissary facility in the east end.

Sarah Velasco: What are your top sellers? 
Joseph Villegas: Sea Salt & Maple, Salted Caramel, Confetti, Garlic Parmesan, Cheesy Caramel, Maple Bacon, Pizza, Cinnamon Toast, Sweet Chili Pepper, Buffalo Kick

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about Toronto Popcorn Company and TIFF? 
Joseph Villegas: TIFF is a huge deal for us because nothing else relates better to popcorn other than movies. Being the go-to popcorn vendor for the engagement and production groups for the film fest is one of the things we’re most proud of.
Sarah Velasco: Where can readers find your popcorn? 
Joseph Villegas: We are in the heart of downtown TO, the cultural melting spot of the city — Kensington Market. We are also in Holt Renfrew at Yorkdale, Coppa’s, McEwan Foods, PopBox, Saks Off 5th, RAWspace. We can always be reached at 1844 767 8368 and we ship Canada wide and to the States.

Sarah Velasco: Anything else you would like us to know? 
Joseph Villegas: Farmers feed cities! Your support to local brands like us keep the Canadian dollars Canadian :)
We're huge fans of Toronto Popcorn Company's popcorn. Kernels are popped in house and made daily so you're guaranteed the freshest, best-tasting popcorn. We had the opportunity to try three of their most popular flavours: Garlic Parmesan, Sea Salt & Maple, and Confetti. Each flavour is unique, and looks so pretty! There's a nice crunch to their popcorn too.

We love that there are also vegan options available, and different sizes available. The owners also encourage sampling and if you can't stop by a store you can order online.
Perfect for special occasions, gift-bags, giveaways...popcorn is not just for eating at the movies anymore!