The first time I went to Algonquin Park was back in 2007, when I went for a long day trip. I hugged a big tree, saw a moose and a chipmunk and was generally delighted with how lovely it was there. It’s astonishing I haven’t made it back until this year, so I got pretty excited at the prospect of a 4 day weekend of camping there!
Friends Dan & Kirsty had been camping in Algonquin Park before & are all set up with great gear & know-how so they were our bastions of excellence for the trip! We decided on a pet-friendly campground (Canisbay Lake) so we could bring our dogs, and got all set with plans. Pals Fiona & Dan were coming too, so we bundled into their car with Jake for the trip! Luckily Dan & Kirsty had a lot of what we needed, and we were able to borrow a tent from friends here in Toronto who camp often.
It was so nice to get away for a slightly extended long weekend (thanks, civic holiday!). While the weather wasn’t perfect (rain showers each day, and big rain overnight our last night there), we made the most of the non-rainy parts of the weekend. For starters, we went canoeing! I had never done this before and was slightly nervous about being out on a big lake in a small boat – but it was so fun. Once we got ourselves sorted out and paddling nicely, we had a couple of trips. One was to toodle around a small island in the lake not far from the main beach, and then the other was to follow a bit of the shoreline around in a loop. It’s a calming thing, having a nice paddle on a gorgeous lake.
We also went on a nice big hike on the Track and Tower trail – it was lovely to be properly out in the woods and see a couple more lakes, and go up to the lookout there. We weren’t exactly right in the wilderness with our campsite, so the hike was great to have a taste of that and get some exercise. The dogs loved it too! Jake really took to wandering up and down the trail with us, and investigating everything. We didn’t see any wildlife, but heard a bunch of birds and saw gorgeous flora and geology!
Apart from the great outdoor adventures, it was just super to hang out with two of my fave couples! We did some fun camp cooking (and Dan and Kirsty were the BEST about bringing delicious stuff for Adam and I to add to our tofu etc), and I had my first smore and made a fire cone! And when we weren’t eating (which, let’s face it, we were eating a lot), we played some games! We also had some fun with weird fire and sparklers on our last night before the rain hit.
It was a great weekend, and I felt so rejuvenated being out there in Algonquin, which is a stunning provincial park. Having a dip in the lake, sitting by the fire, cuddling Jake and Adam in the tent and waking up to the sounds of birds was just what I needed! Sure it was nice to come home to creature comforts, but I’m already thinking about the next time I can get away camping!
If you enjoyed the photos here, my full set is on Flickr.
One of my favourite travel things is seeking out and eating new and delicious vegan foods in cities I go to. My friend Susan had been to Seattle last year and raved about the eats there, so I was pretty excited, and armed with a great list of recommendations. I didn’t get everywhere I wanted to (it’s time consuming bussing around Seattle), but what I tried I was overall very pleased with!
I’d like to get my couple of sad experiences out of the way… Flying Apron gluten free bakery. I had my suspicions, considering everything Adam & I had tried making from their cookbook was not great. But yeah. Sad gluten free goodies. When you know how light, moist & amazing GF can be, rock hard scones & sad crumbly donuts/cookies are such a disappointment. I didn’t try any of their savoury stuff, so can’t speak to that. The brew was a nice one, from a local roast. Sorry, Flying Apron 😦
My other less than enthusiastic experience was Cyber Dogs – a veggie hot dog place/internet cafe. It may have been that I was in a rush, or that I really just picked the wrong dog for me, but I wasn’t impressed with the quality or the taste. This is the Chicago-style dog. Maybe I’d try them again next time if someone can recommend something not so overwhelming.
I missed out on Violet Sweet Shoppe, which I hear is a great Seattle bakery – it was just a bit too out of my way for the time I had to get there! I did make my way to Cinnamon Works in Pike Place market the afternoon I was wandering around there. I marvelled at the GIANT vegan cookies they had, and then scoffed this wonderful cinnamon bun (which they slightly warmed for me!). They also have GF goodies.
I also grabbed a bag of these when I spotted them in Pike Place market. Tasty and spicy, but not salty enough!
By far and away the most amazing sweet treats I had while in town were Mighty-O donuts. I made a mad dash my last morning in town to make sure I didn’t miss out on trying them, and I’m so glad I did!! I had these beauties for breakfast (i’m still thinking about the incredible apple fritter…), and took a box to go for a little Seattle taste on the plane & work the next day. Such a delicious place with classic, amazing donuts.
I went to Cafe Flora for a nice team dinner with my gaming team & supporters (we took part in the Gauntlet board game fundraiser at Mox Boarding House!), and it was a great evening! A wonderful little restaurant with friendly service, and flavourful food plus a nice wine list – but also lovely local cider for folks like me! Everything from the starters to dessert was a hit, and I would go back there in a heartbeat because there’s so much more I wanted to try – it’s a vegetarian restaurant, but they have lots of vegan options and GF is well marked too.
Starters – and coconut tofu
My main – a delicious portabello mushroom french dip with side salad.
And a couple of the many desserts we tried!
Once upon a time way back in the day, I visited a Veggie Grill in Los Angeles, and was in love. The chain’s expansion into Seattle is a little less fast food-y, more a mix of burgers and proper meals and sides than I recall. I ate at two seperate locations in one day because it was so great – but I forgot to snap a pic of my 2nd meal which was an incredible Crispy Chikin’ plate – with mash and greens and gravy nom. Below is my lunch burger, a grillin’ chikin’ and also my face.
In a quite hungover state one day, and in need of some really filling comfort food, I made my way to the Wayward Vegan cafe. I wish I’d been staying closer to Wayward so I could’ve tried their breakfast and lunches too! It was amazing. Their massive ‘chicken fried’ seitan smothered in gravy, with greens and hash. Plus a bottle of nooch & a sprayer of Bragg’s on every table! Yaassss.
I really liked the decor there! Nifty painted plates, plus my table which was made of part of a bowling alley lane!
On my last full day in Seattle I was in dire need of refuelling between museum-hopping. Not far from the EMP Museum (plus the Space Needle, etc) is Bamboo Garden vegetarian restaurant. They have a huge selection on their menu, but I decided to go for a lunch combo so I could have a little of a few things. It was great value for money, tasty and filling. I had the hot & sour soup, and the plate with spring rolls, ‘chicken’ fried rice, sauteed green beans and broccoli, and sweet and sour ‘chicken’. I don’t get out much for Chinese food here in Toronto, and I think this would be the kind of place I’d want to have anyhow.
As a refreshing way to end my last full day in town, I had some bar time with friends! I met them at Capitol Cider where I had this really delicious cider flight. I would drink this again and again.
Then we walked up to the Highline, a vegan bar in Capitol Hill. They had a really nice canned cider I hadn’t tried so far in my trip, plus bingo! Plus AMAZING tacos. Seriously, incredible. We got the ‘fish’ tacos. Oh my god. A crumbed and fried soy protein with some nori for flavour, plus a cool slaw and fresh cilantro. They have a great range on their vegan menu (almost everything had a drink pairing suggestion, too!), and I’d go back for the not-so-divey dive bar food any day.
I’m bummed to have missed out on Violet Sweet Shoppe, like I said. I also didn’t make it to Plum Bistro which I’d heard both good & bad things about. Next time. There’s also the pie truck (High 5) and the vegan food truck (No Bones About It) that I missed. Plus loads of coffee shops, and a couple of other bars that I wanted to visit.. so yeah, Seattle will be seeing me and my appetite again sometime!!
See as I’ve been traveling/living abroad since 2007, there’s a few things I miss not just about home, but also my first ‘home away from home’, London. Getting a bit nostalgic today for things & places that I can’t have with me here in Toronto.
Beaches. Not that there’s no beaches in the UK or here in Canada. But I miss those beautiful sandy Pacific beaches! This is Avalon Beach in North Sydney, where I spent many summers as a kid. Things only get better as you go north up the coast into Northern NSW and Queensland, too!
I miss the stuff I packed up & left in boxes with my mum. Books, records and comics. And awesome art like this gorgeous museum sketch by artist Phil Jimenez.
There’s tasty things I miss. I seriously was so in love with these tofu bites, it’s like they were laced with something addictive. Last time I was in London I ate a whole package riding transit back to my friend’s place.
And wonderful Australian vegan treats like these cruelty-free versions of Tim Tams and Mint Slices! omg.
And never mind all of the sweet, tart, amazing ciders that I used to have access to living in England. And drinking my fair share at the Green Man pub in Central London!
But I don’t have to be far away from some things I love to miss them. While I still bake for fun and treats, I do sometimes miss the fun of making delicious vegan (and some gluten free) treats like I used to at a certain board game cafe. I was proud of my work, even when I was undervalued for my contributions. Like, c’mon. Check out these donuts, man!!
Tofurky pockets! Dude, they’re vegan hot pockets. Oh man, so good. I have these ones and they’re handy for a quick work lunch snack.
I got myself a new water bottle recently, and I’m finding it is actually helping me drink more throughout the day! It comes with me to work, and the gym, and if i’m out for the day too. Solid!
I’m very fond of Isa Does It, and we’ve still got so many things to try. Right now our constant go to is her “lentil-a-roni” dish, which I LOVE and is so freakin’ quick to put together and you can tinker it if you really like. We use GF pasta, and usually throw in some kale or spinach at the end. It’s a treat with some almond parm on top! I don’t want to link to the recipe where I’m not sure it’s reproduced with permission, so get your hands on the book! It’s worth it.
I’ve started rewatching Twin Peaks (my shiny blu-ray set!) in advance of a trivia night at the start of Feb. I love this show so damn much. And I about flew out of my seat when I heard the news Kyle McLachlan will be back for the new episodes. COOP.
Book club! My friend MeShell started up the Toronto Veg Book Club, and I love it because it (a) gives me a chance to read books I might not normally think to and (b) I get to get together and hang out with lovely vegan folks and eat delicious food while we chat about the books! This weekend we’ll be chatting about the Lucky Ones, which I just wrote about. And eating all the things at Bloomer’s. CANNOT WAIT.
How’s your Thursday, folks?
Oh, hello there! It’s Thursday. I used to do this much more often, so it’s time to crack on and get back into it! Let’s start with..
Excellent socks. There’s now a sock-only shop here in Toronto which has awesome stuff. I gave and received many cool socks this holiday season, among them were these:
Next of all, I love museums! Now, shush. I know this is an obvious one, but my firey love has been stoked by my new job at the ROM and getting to visit the collections. I love museum collections so much! There’s a special feeling about them. Plus I get to see cool things:
All the delicious food I get to eat daily, weekly, yearly! Looking back over my Instagram feed is like a delicious feast. I’ve never been happier to be vegan and enthusiastic about cooking, and living in an amazingly vegan-friendly city. It’s why we get to enjoy delicious treats each Saturday when we visit Bunners in Kensington (who I LOVE LOVE LOVE) for a start:
Speaking of food, this soup! OMG. I love it. Southern style black eyed bean and collards, just for new years. Plus it’s hella cold here right now.
I love this new giant scarf I got at American Apparel cheap on Boxing Day. Keeps me so warm.
And then.. this smushface pup. N’aw.
So, we had a really amazing time in Halifax – it was awesome to be away for a whole week, and see/try/do new stuff. Rather than put it all in one giant post, I’m going to break it down into a couple (a few?) to spread it out and to not have it be tl;dr.
When you think about the Canadian Maritimes food-wise, it’s unfortunately mostly seafood. (Side note: having live and dead lobsters that you can buy and take on the plane home is grosssss.) I’m not into that, so I hunted out some vegan eats and was not disappointed! Go Halifax! Now please bring EnVie to Toronto kthx.
Our first stop was the Board Room Game Cafe (OF COURSE), and because my friends who own/manage it know me so well, they immediately made sure I had delicious cider in my hands. Bulwark is a Nova Scotian cider, and I think I had the blush one almost every day I was there. SO GOOD. I also tried the regular which was pretty good.
As a pleasant surprise, the Board Room’s also pretty vegan friendly when it comes to snacking, not just drinking. Fruit bowl, tortilla chips & salsa, delicious popcorn (popped in coconut oil with vegan seasonings!) and the ‘Guac’ sandwich (which I paired with hummus & crudite as my side) means vegans won’t go hungry while gaming. Good for you, Board Room!
Our first full day we went with our friend Kris to enVie, a fully vegan restaurant cafe. It’s light and airy in there, and they have a small patio outside (but we chose inside as it was a wee bit cool). There’s a real emphasis on them creating stuff from whole foods in house (all their cheeses, for instance!) and sourcing ingredients from the local region. It’s all incredibly delicious – so flavourful! The menu’s a great mix of salads/healthy and comfort food. We went back when Liz & James were in town and I stuffed my face again, and wasn’t disappointed. Plus, I tried another local cider which was really great, and had a very crisp flavour – Stutz.
The Wooden Monkey is the most convenient spot for downtown vegan eats specifically marked as such on a menu. It’s a little pricey, as they source a lot of stuff very locally, but it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t eat there regularly but it’s nice to know that option exists in the downtown area.
Around the area we were staying was the Wild Leek, a small 100% vegan cafe. Charming, with a great menu, terrific smoothies and baked goods! (I had the best lemon poppyseed loaf i’ve ever tasted! Plus they have nanaimo!) We saw they had a brunch menu daily, so went in before heading out on a day trip with friends. Highly recommend this spot – tasty, cosy, with friendly staff.
While out in the Annapolis Valley area of Nova Scotia, we stopped by the small town of Wolfville for a wander and a bite to eat. The Rolled Oat came up as somewhere that had listed vegan options, as well as a part of the menu for vegetarians and omnivores, so we all sat down for lunch. They have sandwiches and bowls and salads, plus some baked goods (a couple of vegan things there too!) I had a wrap – it was fresh, and filling but not super tasty (mostly bland, definitely needing hot sauce) – but a welcome change from just having to eat Vega bars while out for a day. Plus, it was a cute and quaint little place.
On Saturdays, it’s the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s market – bustling with all sorts of vendors. There’s not loads of vegan options beyond the fruit & veg stands, some raw food stalls & a nut stand – but there’s a storefront that’s open other days as well as the Farmer’s Market days, called Fruition. Raw foods and snacks. Good stuff! I had a light lunch consisting of a raw burger wrap and a spicy thai salad. I also got a really tasty sundried tomato walnut pate to go, it was intensely flavourful!
One afternoon for a late lunch we wandered to Heartwood, a cozy little spot on Quinpool. It’s a vegetarian cafe with a very vegan and gf-friendly menu. I also noticed after paying they had lots of little jars of cookies etc that were almost all vegan & gf – I wish I’d not been so full so I could have tried them, they looked great. (HUGE COOKIES!). I’d been craving pizza, and gravitated toward something green with olives – I could’ve had it with Daiya, but chose to go with their house topping of a creamy dressing paired with generous nutritional yeast flakes. It was a GREAT and delicious topping. Mmmm.
We also found a couple of really nice local coffee spots – Two if By Sea (I had a great Anchored Americano) and the Smiling Goat (where I had a delicious Trifecta but the pic isn’t that wonderful).
Overall I was really impressed by the food Halifax had to offer – two fully vegan cafe restaurants, a vegan raw takeout place at the Seaport, and a couple of other places with really solid vegan options. We also ate in a bunch with friends while in town, so we didn’t really explore the vegan options outside of the above. (The day we discovered $7 Daiya pizzas at Sobey’s was pretty sweet, and we had two BBQ nights of delicious Sol burgers and wonderful grilled veggies and corn, which was all fantastic!). I am still thinking about those sandwiches..
Next time.. places? Or maybe board games! It’s a mystery. (And a marvel i’m even blogging again, heyyyyo.)
A while ago my friend Marissa & I decided “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we tried out a few of the fried mushrooms on offer in vegan cafes/restaurants around Toronto? Or, just generally deep fried foods in general. Yes, yes it would be awsome.” And the ‘Fried Crawl’ idea was born. We narrowed it down to a handful of places in the West End (to make traversing the route easier) and set a date!
First stop was Green’s Vegetarian at the edge of Kensington Market. One of the more decent places in Toronto for vegetarian Chinese food, we knew already they had top-notch fried goods. To pace ourselves, we decided sharing all the dishes would be ideal – so we got an order of the Deep Fried King Mushrooms with Pepper Salt, plus some of their fried soy fritters (closer to nuggets, really). The mushrooms have a great, fluffy/crunchy batter that’s dusted with chili flakes & salt and are incredible. The soy nuggets were breaded and crispy, but nice and soft and proteiny on the inside. Win!
After that it was a short walk on Dundas over to Cafe 668, a place I’d been to a couple of times already and mostly enjoyed. We went for the Mini Taro Wrap, the deep fried dumplings and the deep fried mushrooms. I love the taro wraps (it’s not a flavour/texture I get to enjoy often), and the dumplings were pretty good. The batter on the mushrooms was nice, but they were whole cap cremini (or something similar) and I felt like they were too large/moist once you got through the crunchy batter.
And our little side plates at Cafe 668 were so perfect to lay out a modern art fried piece that I couldn’t resist:
As a nice halfway break, we’d decided to walk to our next location – Hogtown Vegan up on Bloor. They’d just opened up at their new location a little further west (near Dufferin) and it was great to see the new, larger space. We crammed into a booth (at this point there were 7 of us!) and decided on sharing some tofu ‘wings’, fries supremacy and their deep fried shiitake mushroom ‘clams’. I don’t know what the hell a clam tastes like but I could care less, because the shiitake are awesome. – I think the thinner type of mushroom is just nicer deep-fried, and their batter is a good ratio of covering and crunch. I loved the fries, as always, but was disappointed in the ‘wings’ that night – we’d asked for Buffalo and there was nary a spicy taste to it in my opinion (but the crunchy breading was terrific, which was a positive).
We lost a good few people after that, as many had reached peak fried levels or had other stuff to get to. We soldiered on to the nearby dive bar, Disgraceland. They have a surprisingly vegan-friendly menu – I’ve been mostly for brunch, so it was great to try some of the apps late in the evening. Fried mushrooms were naturally on the list, and we also got the deep-fried pickles and popcorn tofu. Again, these were whole cap cremini-ish mushrooms which meant I enjoyed them a little less even though the batter was pretty good and a nice spicy soy sauce to dip in. The deep fried pickles were terrific! They had a crunchy breading and some vegan mayo for dipping – I was not sure I’d like hot pickles, but it was terrific. The popcorn tofu was ‘KFC’-style, so in a herby breading which was delicious and crunchy. It came with some gravy (a little watery) for dipping and coleslaw (sad and disappointingly unflavourful) too.
I made it to the last bite without feeling too overwhelmed with gross greasiness, and I think getting the limited number of apps to share amongst us all really helped with that. It meant we all got nice variety out of it! After it all I felt pretty fine, maybe just a little food hungover in the morning but honestly no worse than any other rich meal I’ve had before. But I’m not sure I’d do it all again in one go – maybe pick a couple of places in the East End to try next time but keep it simpler and smaller. Thanks for the fun vegan junk/comfort food outing though, Toronto! You’re good to us.
Ah yes, that time when Nicole remembers all these photos snapped on her phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) that she’d forgotten about/hasn’t shared on social media. Enjoy today’s random selection!
This first one would likely break my layout because it’s a panorama, so i’ll just link to it: the view from my old apartment on the 12th floor, up in the Annex on Spadina Avenue. I like being down near ground floor in our new place because of the nice proximity to trees etc, but I do miss that old view!
And that’s my most recent photo memories, forgotten until I realise how many are adding up on my phone. When I get myself a nice decent camera, I’m hoping to take better quality stuff to upload to 500px instead of the everyday kind of dumping on Flickr (I should upload to social media more for that sharing!)
The last couple of weeks have been a bit here and there as far as a routine for me. There hasn’t been much time for regular posts except maybe for the TILT ones. I think I will hold off on the Digital Dozens for the next little while to give myself some space to post about some other stuff in the meantime as inspiration strikes.
For instance, about.. Hot Docs!! One of my favourite film festivals. We didn’t get a pass this year because we couldn’t justify the time/money cost, but I’ll be seeing 4 films which I’m excited about. Tonight I’ll be going to see The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. I may do wrap-ups as the festival goes, or one reivew post at the end. We shall see.
I love to drink hard cider. Especially as it’s warming up. And especially Angry Orchard, which we can’t find here in Ontario – so we drank a bunch while we were in Niagara Falls NY, and brought some home to Toronto! Mmmm. Apple ginger is my fave.
As much as I loved being away for the Gathering of Friends, it’s nice to be back at home in my own bed, my own space, with my wee family. Although I don’t think things will be any less busy for the next little while, I still have home as my oasis. The upcoming search for a new place to live come June stresses me a little in this respect, because there is imminent upheaval.. I just have to hope our new place will be as homey!
I love Apiecalypse Now bakery! It’s easy to on a Thursday, when they open for the weekend and are posting pictures of all the treats.. mmm. But also, I love that I can buy ready-meals from them that are made with care, that are delicious, have fun labels, and that also benefit some charities! Like the delicious BBQ soy ‘pulled pork’ I grabbed out of the freezer for sammies earlier this week – a portion of the proceeds went to sponsoring Joachim the pig at Cedar Row Sanctuary! If only I hadn’t missed all the Easter goodies last weekend. Read an awesome review over here.
What are you loving today, internet friends?
Although I am pretty consistently posting stuff to Instagram, there are still always bunches of photos that collect themselves on my phone and never make it off until I think about doing something like a photo roundup. So here we go!
And now to finish with a few games that have hit the table (out of many) this year so far.