More Ottawa and Montreal

We’re finally home from our little trip! It’s true that it’s nice to get away but it’s even better to come home. Fortunately for us, we ate like kings while we were away…

The brunch at Café My House was calling our names and I’m so glad we decided to give it a try.

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THOSE SMOOTHIES!  The green one was mine and it was mango-cilantro.  It tasted a bit like a fresh roll in the best way possible.  I’m growing cilantro on the balcony this year and I’ll definitely be throwing some into smoothies.  Jenn’s was a typical cocoa-banana concoction which was super tasty as well, though not as interesting or refreshing as mine.

Jenn and Trevor both had the waffle BLTs with coconut bacon.  I had the tempeh benedict, which was fresh baguette, kale, eggplant, smoky tempeh and a really amazing hollandaise sauce.

And my favourite restaurant ever, Aux Vivres in Montreal.  I don’t know what it is about that place, but the food is just incredible and fresh, and I just love Montreal, so it all comes together to create such a lovely experience for me every time.

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Jenn got the Bouddha Bol, I got the coconut bacon BLT (they were one of the first places around doing coconut bacon!), Trevor got the tempeh burger.  I also got le creamsicle smoothie, which is coconut milk, orange juice, carrot juice, dates and vanilla and tastes exactly like its namesake.  Also, the chana paratha appetizer is INCREDIBLE.  I have to master paratha at home.

Another day, Trevor and I went back and we got more of the paratha, this time with their house veggie butter.  SO GOOD.
I also got their famed Dragon Bol which has an incredible Dragon sauce, and the Coconut Cashew Pie was my birthday cake, since this meal took place on my 30th birthday.

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Soooo much amazing food to be eaten.  More to come!



BBQ Tofu, Smoky Mac and Cheese and Collard Greens

The closest I’ve been to anything remotely Southern US-like is driving through Tennessee and Georgia on our way to Florida when I was 8 years old.  So it’s a pretty far stretch to say I know anything about culture in those parts.  What I do know is that I love adapting the flavours of what I think a good old Southern meal should have and making it vegan.  This was a quick, weeknight version of a comforting Southern-style meal.  Another great thing is, while you may think of Southern food as being high on the heart-attack-as-soon-as-you-finish-your-meal scale; this one wasn’t.  Totally cholesterol free (like all vegan food), and low in fat.  
The smoky mac and cheese is whole wheat macaroni, smothered in the Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction (with an added 1/2 tsp liquid smoke stirred in when the sauce is finished cooking).  So good!  So quick!   
Since our little barbecue is covered in a foot of snow right now, the tofu was cut into triangles and then dry-fried in a pan until it was golden with some nice charred bits.  Then it was doused in a generous bath of some locally made BBQ sauce we found at the farmer’s market – smoky, sweet and hot.  Yum.  It was left to bubble and thicken on the tofu for a while before serving.

The collards were made using a recipe from Appetite for Reduction, the Ye’abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Collards) recipe. Regardless of it being called Ethiopian Collards, the recipe produces tender, soft collards that complement the heartiness of the rest of the meal.

Also, last Sunday we went to try out The Early Bird, a new diner/greasy spoon place that just opened up and is run by one of Trevor’s oldest and dearest friends.  They have a vegan soup option each day, and a couple of sandwiches on the menu which can easily be made vegan by removing the dairy element and replacing it with some nice, grainy mustard.  I had the Ginger Beer Battered Tofu Sandwich with a bowl of Ginger Carrot Soup.  Good stuff!  It’s always great having new places to go and get something to eat.

Show posters everywhere at The Early Bird 

– Crystal

Veg Out Brunch

We are so fortunate to live within walking distance of the amazing Veg Out, which is an all-vegan restaurant, so last Sunday morning we decided we wanted to treat ourselves to their scrumptious brunch.

I had the french toast, which was so delicious and cooked to perfection – with a side of tempeh bacon, of course.

And I had the cocobanana smoothie, too….coconut, banana and I think dates?
Trevor had the pancakes, which were really delicious and unlike any other pancake we’ve had (I tried a bite because he was marvelling at how good they were).  They were sort of crispy on the outside and really spongy so they soaked up the maple syrup nicely.
Mmm.  We love Veg Out.
– Crystal

Avocado Pie and Dinner Out

I love this recipe like woah.  I’ve made it a number of times – it’s creamy, rich and tangy – it leaves your tongue buzzing from the lovely lime flavour.

Since it’s our vacation week, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Veg Out, which is this great all-vegan restaurant where we live.  Their menu changes quite frequently which is nice, but they always have some great old standbys like vegan fish and chips (!) and tempeh hot wings.  We had the crispy cremini and shiitake mushrooms with a srirache aioli to start.  I decided to go for the chick-pea-nut burger, which was this massive peanutty-tasting thing topped with caramelized onions, sprouts, tomato, pickles, avocado, lettuce, and a sriracha-spiked mayo.  I had it with their daily soup, sweet potato lemongrass.  Trevor had the jerk tempeh with rice and beans and a side of sweet potato cornbread + a bottle of Grasshopper wheat beer!

– Crystal

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