Monday, April 26, 2010


I have no idea why I haven't posted last October's New York trip until now - just lazy, I guess. And of course most of the photos are so vague in my mind . . . . Nevertheless, it helps me to keep track of what's what just a little bit - especially the pics of meals, which it is amusing to find are repeated year after year in the same restaurant.

The photos of my dh and myself (above) were snapped in Le Pain Quotidien near Lincoln Centre - a quick snack prior to an opera. Le Pain Quotidien is a chain, but nonetheless excellent for that, doing so well what it does in an informal and warm atmosphere. We like the fact that vegan offerings are clearly marked. Not wanting a huge meal that will put us to sleep during the music, we opted for a Mediterranean platter to share - which meant, in effect, tabouleh or something like it, hummus and eggplant puree served with lashings of different kinds of bread. Nice pick!

We also made our usual trip to Candle 79 on the upper east side. That restaurant is hard to beat - vegan, organic, warm and friendly and patronized by all discerning people. Their seitan steaks are incredible - but so is everything I've tried there.

The Highlight Of Our Trip, however, as far as eating experiences were concerned, was - dah dah dah DAH! -


This remarkable restaurant is well named. Pure Food and Wine uses no processed food, is totally vegan (of course!) and is completely raw, not heating the food above 118 F, thus preserving the enzymes, minerals and vitamins plus, I should add, the flavour. This is not a boring salad place, but a house of gourmet food which is meticulously prepared and inventively presented. Although the restaurant opened five years earlier, our first experience of it was indeed in October 2009. Warm panelling and deep luxurious reds set the scene for an evening not to be forgotten.

We had, as a light first course, a shared order of olives plus a cheese plate - all raw and vegan. The cheeses were from Dr Cow. These are made from tree nuts and are flavoured in various ways. I was skeptical, but we had to try them, and was amazed to find that these raw cheeses were not only far better than any vegan cheese I had ever tried but competed convincingly with my memory of excellent non-vegetarian cheeses I had sought out and made such a fetish of in the bad old days before I gave up all that. The platter was delightfully presented, with raw crackers (for those I assume they use a dehydrator at below 118 F, as I do to make my own at home). Sadly they platter was half gone before I remembered that a photo might be appropriate to preserve the memory of the evening.

For our main courses, we stepped into unknown territory. My dh had raw lasagna (and allowed me the tiniest bite) with layered vegetables, using paper-thin zucchini as the 'noodle' part of it.

At room temperature it was an absolute winner and I was ready to mourn the fact that I hadn't ordered it also - until I tasted my own choice.

This was a slightly curry-flavoured dish with a base of raw coconut noodles with vegetables in a creamy sauce - and I was pretty stingy in passing out tastes of that one.

We couldn't believe our luck - or the fact that all this could be produced out of a kitchen that doesn't have a stove in it. Our ideas of raw food (with which we had been experimenting) took a sudden turn, and we have been seeking good raw recipes ever since.

For dessert?

There are lovely desserts on the menu, but after two courses we kept it light and simple (although nothing is 'simple' at this incredible restaurant). We shared an icecream (not made from dairy) dessert with berries. I wish I could remember all the flavours in the dish, but all I'm left with is a memory of something magical.

We made a solemn vow to return here on every trip, even if it meant that one of our old haunts would have to be deleted from our list. Such a great evening!


Moving along . . .

One thing we rather miss where we live, however, is really good Asian food that is tasty, truly spicy when it's supposed to be, and not to heavy in fats and oils as well as being reasonably authentic to the original cuisine. In New York we can do all that and have it vegan! Like, WOW!!


One place we absolutely have to visit when in New York is the vegan Korean HanGawi Restaurant The photo above shows how quickly a platter of the Spicy Baby Dumplings appetizer can disappear. I had meant to take a pic of the whole presentation, but sadly hunger got in the way once we caught the spicy scent of the dish and had a taste - and another - and another. There was another appetizer, but that one didn't last long enough to rescue for the camera either!

HanGawi also has a sister restaurant, Franchia Teahouse and Restaurant, which we love for lunch. It is less formal than HanGawi, also Korean and vegan, and after all this time I would be hard pressed to say which dishes were eaten at one restaurant or the other. We tend to visit each one, only a day apart.

I should mention that the food is mostly organic and totally vegan. The Korean mountain roots and mountain greens (mostly but not exclusively at HanGawi) are superlative, but I am sure I wouldn't know what they are in English so can't try them elsewhere. A pity. They are incorporated into many of the dishes. We like the spicier choices.

Stone pot dishes are excellent - and if you like them spicy you can get that too. Both restaurants offer these - including one version (in several variations) which has a base of rice (brown or white). That's one of my special favourites.

Anyone who likes mushrooms would be delighted with the large variety served.

Our last meal in NYC is, ironically, always at a chain - the Thai restaurant Pong Sri near our B&B in Chelsea. They are quick and courteous and are happy to produce vegan food from their Vegetarian Menu section. We stumble onto the plane a couple of hours later happily full of good and spicy food to sustain our hearts and minds until our next trip.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


[POST EDITED - because clearly the date was prior to August of last year! Indeed, three of us went to Toronto in July 2009. In October we were, well, elsewhere.]


Three of us visited Fressen in Toronto last month - and once again I have to say what a great vegan restaurant this is. When we first visited Fressen some years ago, it had a different style of menu - the usual first, second and third courses we know at most restaurants - but since then it has adopted a wonderful 'tapas' or small-dish way of presenting its remarkable creations, served 'family style' for sharing. This means that one can sample more dishes and at the same time tailor one's order to the appetite.

We started with a wonderful sweet potato soup (their daily special) and then pressed on to three more savoury dishes and a dessert. The photos may be a little blurred because honestly it was an effort to keep the other two out of the food while I snapped one or two photos of each with my cell phone - well, you can imagine.

At the top of this item is the Moroccan Stew, described on the menu as "Stewed sweet potato, onion, carrots and chickpeas in a cumin infused tomato broth," which I think was my favourite, except perhaps for . . . .


This excellent dish was "Rice flour wrapped squash ravioli (w) with basil and creamed sesame butter, sautéed with leeks and basil in a tomato and olive oil sauce." Wonderful. Another winner, but how about . . .


This dish was from the 'crispy' section of the menu (they love to designate their dishes according to texture) and is described this way: "Sliced shiitake and crimini mushrooms mixed with shredded spinach in cashew cream wrapped in a filo pastry puff." Talk about a taste sensation!

After those dishes we didn't feel we could manage anything more - but our server announced a wonderful chocolate dessert (see below) with fresh fruit - and it defies description except to say that the chocolate came in two textures - mousse and not-the-mousse, was exquisitely flavoured and had the freshest of fruit to accompany it. It was a struggle but we made the sacrifice and finished the lot. Indeed I very nearly didn't get to photograph it.

And, oh yes, we accompanied the meal with a nice bottle of organic red wine.

With a meal like that under our belts early in the trip, everything else would have to seem like an anti-climax. My dh and did, however, have a delightful if hurried lunch at Commensal. This restaurant is vegetarian, but dishes are clearly marked as to whether they are vegan or have dairy or eggs. We chose to sample curried dishes, with me being more greedy than my spouse. As a result, the plates look a little strangely arranged (by us - Commensal is a self-serve restaurant, priced according to weight), mine somewhat light on vegetables.

Here you go, for what it's worth:

A final note on eating (I'll skip the meals we didn't particularly enjoy!) - for my first time ever I breakfasted on vegan sushi from a stall downstairs in the Eaton Centre, where we'd gone to accommodate the carb cravings of the third member of our party. It's a good thing the sushi places aren't open around home early enough for breakfast or this could get to be a serious addiction. I've enjoyed sushi many times of course, but there's something about starting the day that way that seems to defy all sorts of rules I was raised with - which I suppose was part of its delight. Must remember this trick for next time!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Toronto isn't that far from us, but we don't get up there as often as we like or, probably, as we should. In April, however, we travelled up to meet with a dear old friend from college days who had come from Alberta to see her new grandchild. We started with lunch in Yorkville at the Cafe Nervosa, where our friend took this photo of the two of us:

Cafe (or as it sometimes calls itself Trattoria) Nervosa doesn't really have a vegetarian or vegan menu, but the waiters and chef are very obliging and are happy to provide something acceptable by making substitutions and omissions re dishes on the menu. And it's a buzzy place :)

After having a very very long lunch, our friend had to get back to her family and we moved on to the Royal Ontario Museum for our usual fix of things old and interesting.

The museum, as you'll see, has recently had a wing added with a rather startling entrance and frontage on one side. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, but the space works just fine and it's good to have the extra space inside.

That evening we went to

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts for a performance of Verdi's 'Simon Boccanegra' - not one of my favourite operas nor, it seems the fave of the critics I read afterwards, but it was a lovely evening.

The next day we walked from our hotel in Yorkville to the Art Gallery of Ontario -

which has recently been reopened after some considerable additions - including an added storey plus a new frontage - by the very talented Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry. I love the spiral staircases, ramps, and (good for the quadriceps for those who want the exercise and refuse the elevators!) . . .

. . . the climb to the top for a view of the rooftops of this older part of the city!

That evening we headed out to see a play (Glengarry Glen Ross, 1982, by David Mamet) at the Soulpepper Theatre in the old reclaimed Distillery District. This is a wonderful area, all pedestrianized, where old buildings have been renovated within while still keeping their original architecture.

This area is now home to live theatre, artist's studios, upscale boutiques, and restaurants of all kinds. For some reason I seem to have concentrated mostly (but not entirely) on the restaurants while I was snapping photos.

But finally, having little time left before an early curtain, we dived into a brew pub for a quick glass and a sandwich.

This was a pretty busy place, but more popular, I suspect, for its omnivore menu than for anything vegan or vegetarian.

The drink was fine :) and so was the play - excellent company! Next morning, back home to reunite ourselves with our furkids and to get back to real life.

Note to self: get to Toronto more often!!!

Friday, February 27, 2009

London ON Jan-Feb 2009

OK - sometimes good things happen for vegeterians and vegans and sometimes not-so-good things happen, right? This is a bit of both.

Our favourite omnivore veg-friendly restaurant

has closed temporarily because of moving to different quarters - and we're suffering serious withdrawal. I'm talking about JAMBALAYA which is a haven for all peeps, veg or otherwise. Being vegan, my husband and I have been thrilled at Master Chef Kevin Greaves's attitude towards cuisine. He has a vegetarian and vegan friendly section of his menu, and he takes veg/vegan needs and tastes very seriously indeed.

Is the food serious though? Hah! This is a cuisine that is in the process of changing, moving, evolving, while at the same time keeping in touch with its roots. It is an exciting cuisine which includes (and sometimes melds, for special guests) Thai, Cajun and Caribbean cuisine. The ingredients are fresh and delightful, and if you are lucky (like most of the time!) you will get a chance to talk about the offerings with Kevin's lovely wife Denise too - she is so involved with this space! Kevin religiously, so to speak, walks out from the kitchen to see how his dishes are being received and to chat with customers, and the at-home atmosphere guarantees we all return again and again.

The thing is, however, that Jambalaya is now in the process of moving from its old location on Richmond Street, London, to a new and better space at 119 Dundas Street, London, Ontario, to reopen this next month (March 2009). We can't wait!!!

Good luck to Kevin and Denyse and to their staff - we look forward to seeing you AS SOON AS you have your doors open on your new space!

NOTE: Photos above were taken the last night of Jambalaya at its original London location - we had, understandably, a bit of a party and not a few weepy moments. Great place. Gotta GO there!!!!

Now, you see in a couple of photos my husband's smiling face in with the proprietors - and no, he's not a part of this restaurant (and neither am I) but is a happy customer!!!!

And now for the other side of the news? Well, Kevin moves from Jambalaya on Richmond Row and moves to Jambalaya, probably this next month, at 119 Dundas, with better space and an interesting new menus (including, of course, the old favourites). And what happens to the Richmond Row premises????

Veg Out Restaurant, from Stratford ON, is moving into Jambalaya's old quarters on Richmond with an upmarket version of their Stratford restaurant and more! This is great news for vegans too!

So London Ontario is looking up, guys! We are suddenly so blessed!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New York - January 2009

Now this isn't NYC - indeedy no. As a matter of fact we were waiting for hours and hours to take off and my dh suggested a glass of wine to make things a little, er, well, less stressed. And so it did, as you see from this silly photo. Now that's the trouble about travelling in the winter - weather happens!

Nevertheless, we did finally get off and a little over 12 hours after we started out we arrived at our little hotel in Manhattan. Since this was by now well after nine in the evening, we headed for the nearest place likely to be able to supply us with a vegan meal and - and we struck it lucky. The PongSri in Chelsea (but they've got a couple of other locations, I understand) produced a delicious meal to two starving travellers in short order. Love Thai food!!!

Above is my hungry dh perusing the extensive menu (and finding the vegan options) and below are the dishes quickly photographed before we demolished them.

This was a lovely eggplant with basil dish - excellent choice.

And this one was tofu etc. in a coconut sauce - spiced just right. (Sorry, I'm terrible at remembering the names of Thai dishes!)

This late at night (by the time we actually were eating) we skipped dessert and coffee, so I can't say what that part of the menu was like for vegans.

The next morning was a bit of a slow start - we had a nice breakfast (having to scavenge a bit for what was actually vegan) in the Library at our hotel, then headed off slowly for Lincoln Center to collect our pre-booked tickets from the box office - for Orfeo Ed Euridice which we were to see that night.

Then we headed off for lunch - which happened to be right at the time of the Inauguration, so we had the place almost completely to ourselves. The place? Beyoglu where we had been on a previous visit. Sublime food - and very friendly towards vegans. Sadly, I forgot I had the camera at first so didn't take pics of the food, but we ordered various mezze as we usually do in such circumstances. This restaurant might produce the best mezze I have ever tasted outside of Instanbul.

Here we are looking rather contented after a looooong lunch.

Since it was rather a special day for us (quite apart from the Inauguration of President Obama), we prevailed upon our server to take the above photo. Then it was off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We were here mainly to see the Renaissance and Love exhibition, but of course we wandered a bit first, as you see below.

Excellent - but not enough time before we had to go back to change for the evening and meet our friend pre-opera. The opera? Superb - of course. We went on to Cafe des Artistes afterwards. Superb venue - and if you're interested in the wall murals, see HERE. Well, it was a special event, as I say!

Another day, another place to eat (honestly, it's not ALL we did in NYC, but it certainly looks like it here):

This is Franchia - a Korean Tea House which is vegan and an excellent spot for a meal. Not just tea either. We had the prix-fixe menu, as we usually do there, and remembered to photograph the appetizer course (though not the first course - I had miso soup and it was very well made).

Lovely food and great presentation! Unfortunately, again we forgot to take pics of the main course - or at least until we had demolished half of it. It was so good!

We shared a wonderful vegan curry hotpot and also vegan 'meatballs' in a brown sauce. After the first taste, the rest was a blur! We finished with a simple sorbet - which disappeared pretty quickly.

That evening we were to meet up with friends at their apartment - but not before stopping by Bemelman's for a few minutes, as is our wont). We like to listen to Chris Gillespie sing at his piano - great retro music.

It's the decor that makes this place especially interesting (a bit different from that the previous evening, though!). Note the lampshade at dh's elbow . . .

. . . and the scrap of mural behind and above me. Such fun - and the walls are covered in them. Great illustrator, that Bemelman!

Then, having paid homage to painting, music and the god of wine, we rushed on to meet our friends!

The restaurant that evening was Candle 79 - which is a sister establishment of Candle Cafe but not to be confused with it. (The website has a link to the newer Candle 79 further down the window.) And the food and ambiance were superb as always. Now why can't we get the chef to move down the street from us here!!!! And of course, the food and ambiance paled against the company, as should always be the case when dining. Oh and did I mention that the food is absolutely vegan? How's that for the perfect place!

Lunchtime our last day was at Dawat, which is the famed actress-turned-cookbook-author Madhur Jaffrey's restaurant. It is of course Indian, and although not vegetarian it has a good veggie menu including several vegan selections. We enjoyed it enough the first time we were there - a couple of years ago - to want to return and we weren't sorry. This was another case of failing to remember the camera until we had made inroads into the main dishes. (The appetizer had been some lightly fried okra/bindi which had been sliced finely lengthways. It was more delicious than I imagined it could be.)

The above photo shows Bunhi Gobhi (stirfried cauliflower with cummin seeds, ginger and coriander leaves) and Channa Masala (chickpeas).

Apart from returning to the Met Museum and going on to a couple of others, we also found our way into the the J.P. Morgan Library and then the New York Public Library, which I hadn't visited in ages, for an exhibition or two.

I had forgotten what a marvellous interior it has.

The final evening? To HanGawi, a Korean restaurant which is totally vegan and which specializes in ancient grains, mountain greens and mountain roots. This is an experience not to be missed. It had been five years since we had first been there, and I did rather fear that my memory of it might have been enhanced over time. Not so.

This was the appetizer course - one serving requested since we had eaten so well at lunchtime.

A wonderful light selection of mountain greens and roots, delicately flavoured. We made short work of it.

The following photo shows tofu and mushrooms in a lemon ginger sauce (little bowls thoughtfully provided). As you see, we had all but finished it before I remembered I'd taken no photo (got to do something about that!)

And the second dish we ordered was this lovely Mongolian Hot Pot - also nearly depleted by the time the photo was taken.

My dh declared this to be one of the best restaurants ever!

Next morning, home to Canada - an uneventful trip, thank goodness. And we're already planning our next Great Escape.