Toronto Trip – December 27-28, 2010

Okay, so a bit of backtracking here, but we took a blog-worthy trip to Toronto as our way to unwind from the holiday season stresses.  Though it doesn’t have the notoriety as being a vegan mecca as places like Portland and New York City do, Toronto can hold it’s own in the vegan world.  We only spent a little over 24 hours there and we tried to stuff in (literally) as much vegan food as we could.

We first arrived at our beloved HoJo in the Yorkville neighbourhood (we stay there each time we are in Toronto), dropped off our stuff and then headed over to the Whole Foods next door.  I so wish we had a Whole Foods in London!  It’s a really nice experience shopping there, they have lots of vegan things.  I couldn’t imagine doing all my shopping there, though – pricey!  We hung out in the cafe there for a bit and snacked on a chocolate chip scone stuffed with bananas and peanut butter while we people-watched out the windows overlooking Avenue Road.

We also hit up Panacea Vegan Store before dinner.  This place is literally right around the corner from where we used to live in Toronto, too bad it wasn’t there when we lived there.  This place is great!  Everything in the store is vegan – no label reading required!  I loaded up on Sweet and Sara marshmallows, Sheese smoked cheddar vegan cheese, Tartex (a lovely vegan paté from Germany that I usually mail-order for…or get German friends to send me!), a Truth non-leather belt, various vegan jerkies, candies, chocolates, etc.  Junk food, basically.  Ha.   See the photo at the bottom for the full haul.

The plan was for a romantic date to the ROM to see the Terracotta warrior display, with dinner at Fressen beforehand.  We had been to Fressen many years ago, then we kind of forgot it existed for a few years…so we thought it would be fair to give it another shot.

I don’t drink alcohol, but they were more than happy to whip me up a mocktail with fresh juices.  I ended up having a pineapple/cranberry drink which was lovely.  Trevor got the Tankhouse ale.

We decided to go with the tapas menu (3 items for $15) for our appetizers – A jicama/mango slaw, Arugula/walnut/pesto salad and assorted olives.  Look at the olive plate!  Haha.  There were so many olives, we ended up taking probably 25 back to the hotel room to snack on later.  The jicama/mango slaw was probably my favourite of the 3 – the crunchy, mild jicama paired nicely with the sweet, tart mango.  Can’t go wrong with arugula and walnut together, so that was good too.

My entrée – sorry for the horrendous photo quality!  The dim, dreamy ambiance in Fressen is nice to be in, but it sucks for photos.  This was their Black Bean Seitan on a bed of vegetables – roasted asparagus is tucked under their somewhere, as is zucchini, baby potatoes, broccoli, corn.  Seen in front is a sort of corn relish which was quite good, a little tangy.  The seitan itself wasn’t mind blowing, but I can’t deny that it was nice to be able to order seitan off a menu and not have to prepare it myself.

Trevor had the Charbroiled Chimicurri Portabello.  We’re not sure if the chef accidentally dumped too much spice on his serving, but this was nearly too spicy to eat (and we love spice!)  It actually overpowered anything pleasant about the dish.  The saving grace was the vegetables, they were nice, but you can get vegetables anywhere…

The ROM was great as usual, I always feel like a wide-eyed kid when I go there.  We woke up bright and early to head down to Kensington Market for some breakfast.  Kensington is a sleepy neighbourhood!  When we got there at 11:00am, all the places we wanted to eat weren’t open yet!  So we headed to one of our favourite places ever, Urban Herbivore (64 Oxford St., Kensington Market, Toronto) for some sandwiches and fresh juice.  Boy oh boy, this place NEVER disappoints!

So we were dumb and way too busy nomming down our sandwiches to pay attention to taking photos.  I only got this one.  We ordered one each of the BBQ tofu and the smoky tempeh and shared each.  Holy WOW.  To the right is the smoky tempeh sandwich.  The BBQ tofu was great, too, but the smoky tempeh really takes the cake.  Go here now, run, don’t walk. Just go.

I had wanted to order one of their fresh lemonades (they have a few different varieties, but I like the kind with mint in it best), turns out they only do that in the summer.  The girl at the counter whipped me up a fresh orange juice though, and that hit the spot.

We also got 6 of their big-as-your-head muffins to bring home.  We got 3 kinds – apple-oatmeal-cinnamon, some sort of berry kind, and sweet potato-date.  Best of the bunch was sweet potato-date, as seen for breakfast the next day back in London.

We went to this really divey little coffee place in Kensington – if you’ve been to Kensington, you know the one…right at the corner of Baldwin and Augusta.  I don’t even think it has a proper sign.  Anyway, they make a great Americano, so we stopped and got Trevor one.

Before heading home from our little adventure, we stopped off in Chinatown to hit up a grocery and see what goodies we could find.  The place we wandered into was so busy, people were frantically picking things off shelves and yelling, the whole place smelled like the live fish they were selling in the back….ahh, Chinatown!  I managed to score a bag of puffy fried tofu as well as a jar of spicy fermented tofu, which I can only describe as smelling like foul rotting death and tasting like strong stinky cheese.  I’ve mixed it in with stirfried broccoli and a few faux-cheese sauces with great success, though only when I’m the only one eating because it makes Trevor retch.

The haul!
There is so much more to explore as far as vegan food in Toronto.  We didn’t even make it to Loving Hut, a chain that has spread like wildfire all over North America and now has a couple locations in Toronto.  Obviously this calls for another trip back sometime, though we probably won’t be back until the Vegetarian Fair festivities in September.
– Crystal
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