Taste of Toronto

Vegetarian and vegan eats in the heart of Toronto

I go to Toronto a couple of times a year for work. I usually spend two days working and three days hanging out (read: eating) so I’ve spent a fair amount of time seeking out great places to eat. I eat a mostly vegan diet (I’m a lactose-intolerant vegetarian 🙄) so eating while traveling isn’t always straightforward or simple. Toronto makes it so easy!

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I went for a quick visit last week and if someone looked at my Instagram over those few days, you’d figure all I did was eat. They wouldn’t be far off.

I didn’t get to all of my regular haunts this time around (there’s never enough time!) but I’ll include them in this list of favourites:

Karine’s

When I’m in Toronto, I eat breakfast at Karine’s almost every single day; it’s hands down the BEST breakfast in all of Toronto, and Karine is all about spoiling her customers with positivity in addition to the food.

Karine’s is in the food court of the Ontario College of Art and Design, so it’s not someplace you’d see from the street. You need to go inside the “Village on the Grange” building (53 McCaul Street, right next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where you’re gonna go anyway, right?) Then just look for the big green sign.

Sometimes I get things that AREN’T pancakes or waffles. Not this time.

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Vegan banana chocolate chip pancakes with potatoes, fruit, salad, roast veggies and this savoury cold tofu thing. (I don’t know what it is, but I like it.)

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Pineapple-mango-watermelon juice is basically sunrise in a glass.

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Karine’s idea of a light snack.

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The woman, the myth, the legend.

Fresh Restaurants

There are four Fresh restaurants in Toronto (and one in Mexico City!) and they’re equally spectacular. The menu is vegan, large and diverse. The Fresh bowls are hugely popular, wholesome and filling, and that’s what I go for when I’m being a good, plant-power healthy-eater. But when I want comfort food (almost always, it’s a problem) I go for the Squash Tacos. Damn, now I’m thinking about squash tacos and I’m sad I don’t have any. I digress, as is my custom.

More standout dishes are the BBQ Burger and the Black Bean Burrito. And there’s no getting around the fact that you’re gonna order the quinoa-battered onion rings. Everyone does. Eventually you see 10 orders of it being served to the people sitting around you and you order your own. (The peanut sauce tastes great with theses, and the garlic mayo is silky and fantastic, too.) The fresh pressed juices and desserts are everything you could hope for, and the weekend brunch is worth standing in line.

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Squash tacos, I miss you.

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Quinoa-battered onion rings, and one of the daily soup specials.

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Black Bean Burrito, with kale slaw side.

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Did I mention that Fresh is on UberEats, so you can get it delivered right to your AirBnB?

El Catrin

This place is far from vegetarian, but they do have veggie options. I love it here cuz I’m a Day of The Dead kind of girl. The menu is a little too “foodie” for my personal tastes (I like simple and casual…I don’t need plantain mash and asparagus in my burritos) but that may be right up your alley! The drinks here are fantastic and El Catrin has one of the largest selections of tequila and mezcal in the country. I try to come in the mid-afternoon for the ambience and a snack (guacamole made at the table and the best churros I’ve had in Toronto, which has a surprising amount of churro places.) And if I see a Mexican Coca-Cola on a menu anywhere, I get it. I’m not a pop-drinker and I almost never have caffeine, so when I do, I’m like a toddler who’s been given a bag of pixie stix and an espresso. EVEN MORE FUN TO BE AROUND!

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Table-side guacamole, and a Mexican coke. Someone better strap me down, cuz I’m about to get giddy.

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Soft and delicious churros, with chocolate, strawberry and caramel sauces.

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The whole restaurant is decked out in Day of the Dead art!

Kensington Market has a hot ton of vegan and vegetarian options, including a natural grocery store and some smaller Latino markets/veggie stands. A new discovery for me was Moo Frites, a tiny place selling nothing but Belgian fries. Damn, dudes. Soft on the inside, super crispy on the outside with lots of dipping sauces to choose from (vegan dips, too.)

Moo Frites

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Frites with garlic mayo.

If you’re in the (Kensington) market for a gluten-free, vegan dessert, you’ll probably want to hit up Bunners, the 💯 % vegan  and gluten free bakery on Augusta Avenue. Get your sugar-high on before you pop in to The Blue Banana Market next door. It’s one of my go-to shops in Toronto.

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I don’t remember what this was, but it was tasty.

Some other Kensington Market faves are:

Hibiscus – Sweet and savoury crepes, dairy-free ice cream

Cosmic Treats – Comfort-food, taco Tuesdays, deep-fried mac and cheeze balls, vegan desserts

Urban Herbivore Sandwiches, bowls, soups and juices to stay or to go.

I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention Hogtown Vegan. This is one of those places that vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters all like. It’s NOT health food. It’s Unchicken and Waffles, Mac and Cheeze, “Beef” and Dumplings, Pulled “Pork” sandwiches and the like.

I didn’t get there this time, and I’m still kicking myself.

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Do you have any favourites that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, cuz I really, REALLY like veggie restaurant recommendations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collections: Cathrineholm Lotus

I promised myself I wouldn’t start collecting Cathrineholm dishes. Even though I love them, I’m not a girl who needs to search out more stuff to spend money on. That happens to me often enough in my everyday life. And who needs gorgeous, colourful, mid-century Scandinavian design classics anyway?

Well, obviously I folded. OBVIOUSLY. I bought my first piece from an Ebay seller two months ago, and there’s been a steady, expensive snowballing effect since then. I’ve NEVER come across one of these in the wild, but I have dreams about finding a stack at some granny’s yard sale one day. (I mean this literally. I DREAMT ABOUT DISHES LAST NIGHT.) To be fair, yesterday was my birthday and I received a lot of dishes. My friends know me too well. I got two more pieces of Cathrineholm, a mint condition red Pyrex hostess dish AND a turquoise Fiestaware canister. (I have a problem and am surrounded by enablers.)

These are all of the CH pieces I’ve got so far (plus one that’s on the way!) If you’re a crazy dish weirdo, too, keep reading after the photos for a brief history of Cathrineholm.

 

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This was my first piece. I’m pretty sure I had heart palpitations when the UPS guy drove up.

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The second piece I bought, I wound up selling to a friend. The colour is way more her style than mine, and her eyes bugged out when she saw it. It was meant for her.

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This is an image from the internet, to be replaced when I take a picture of mine at home. I wound up with two of these in the exact same size. The colours looked different online, but…no.

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How great does old Cathrineholm look with new Wild & Wolf enamelware? SO great.

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This is my only non-lotus pattern, but it mixes it up a bit and I love yellow.

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Jenn gave me this platter last night, and it is gloriously avocado.

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This one was a birthday present from my fella. He’s a keeper.

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This one is on the way here!

Cathrineholm Lotus: A Brief History. Closer to a blurb, really.

CathrineHolm. Not a person, but a Norwegian enamelware manufacturer popular in the mid 50s to late 60s. The lead designer, Grete Prytz Kittelsen was an icon of Scandinavian design, and likely created the shapes of the dishes, but the lotus pattern was the creation of Arne Clausen. He came up with the pattern in 1962, though Kittelsen was decidedly NOT a fan, believing dishes looked better with no adornment. I’MA HAFTA DISAGREE.

The colourful enamelware was used to create bowls, plates and platters, kettles and coffee pots, pans, cooking pots, casseroles and dutch ovens. These were all made at the Cathrineholm factory in Norway. There were also canisters, spice jars and salt and pepper shakers, which were designed by the company, but made in Japan.

The colours run the gamut, from the bold primary and secondary colours (my faves) to the earthier tones that were becoming more popular as they headed into the seventies.

Now collectors items, you can find them in antique shops, on ebay and etsy, and if you’re really lucky, maybe some hip granny’s yard sale.

But don’t tell me if you do, cuz I get really jealous. I mean, do you ever see someone on Instagram showing off their amazing find with a 99 cent price tag on it and think “who the fuck is THIS bitch?” No? Oh, uh, me either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling, not-traveling and my favourite place in the world.

Around this time of year, I’m normally knee-deep in travel planning. I’m a pretty savvy budget-traveler, but this year I have some majorly expensive projects on the go, and can’t swing my usual August trip. I typically spend the last few weeks of the summer in Chiapas (southern Mexico) which is dear to my heart. I spend half the time in Palenque, staying in a hippie jungle compound and waking up with howler monkeys, and the other half in my favourite place in the world, San Cristobal, a colonial mountain town. I was just reminded of this story I posted to facebook on my last trip there, and thought I’d share.

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Palenque ruins and a spider monkey (cuter than a howler monkey, but not nearly as terrifying.)

“If we survive this, it’ll make a pretty good story.”

We left San Cristobal on a bus at 8:30 a.m. for the one hour ride to the Tuxtla airport. About 20 minutes in, there was a group of Federales. We couldn’t take the normal route, they said, as there’s an indigenous uprising, and they’ve created a blockade. “What if we tried anyways?” asked the driver. “They might let you walk through, and meet another vehicle on the other side” agreed the head Federale. “Why not?” said the dozen of us on the bus. “We’ve got flights to catch.” A beautiful drive up the mountain led us to a backlog of maybe 20 vehicles. “No pase” said the other drivers. “I’ll check” said our intrepid conductor. He walks away. Comes back in 20 minutes, “We can walk across, but I can’t get a hold of a bus from Tuxtla to come get you yet.” We all get off the bus, unload our bags and trek through a mountain. It’s a Zapatista uprising, and we’re right in the middle of it. I see a hand-lettered sign…the Chamulan villagers are demanding drinkable water. There is whispered concern that the large group of indigenous protesters will insist we go back, but no, one of them removes one of the small boulders they’ve used to block the way, so we can roll our suitcases through. Now we walk a few kilometres down the mountain road, but there are no buses available to get us to Tuxtla. After about 40 minutes, we fight our way into an eight-passenger van with 20 others, and sit on our suitcases for the ride to town. Once we’re past another group of police, we’re able to get out of the van and flag down a taxi to the airport. The airport is so far out of town, that I briefly consider that we may be being kidnapped, but no, that’d be too much for one day. We make it to baggage check 7 minutes before the gates close. And now we wait another hour for our plane.

So here we sit in this tiny airport, thankful for our drivers, a group of peaceful protesters, the fact that I thought “I should pee before I leave this bus,” a beautiful mountain to walk through, no rain and drinkable water. And a good story.

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Little pieces of my favourite place.

 

*The Indigenous Maya, like most of the indigenous peoples throughout the world are marginalized, often without clean drinking water, and have less opportunities to receive an education. A grassroots organization that I support is Schools for Chiapas, who work to educate indigenous children, empower women, plant food forests and create employment opportunities in Chiapas.

 

 

 

 

Vegan Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

I swear I only made dinner so I could use my Acapulco bowl.

This pasta salad is delicious warm or cold. It’d be great to take to a BBQ or a potluck, but double the recipe if you do!

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Vegan Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

Your choice of pasta (enough to feed 6)

1 diced bell pepper

2 diced and seeded tomatoes

1 can of black beans

2 cups spinach

1 avocado

s&p to taste

For dressing:

1/3 cup olive oil

juice from 1 lime

1 tsp. cumin (or just wing it.)

½ tsp minced garlic, or a tsp garlic powder

hot sauce of your choice, or 1/3 of one diced and seeded jalapeño.

a pinch of raw sugar, if desired

s&p to taste

Optional: A cotija  or any other Mexican style cheese would be nice in this if you don’t need to keep it vegan. Cilantro would be good, too, if cilantro were good. 😉

Action Plan:

While you’re boiling the water for the pasta, fill a good sized mixing bowl with frozen corn kernels, an entire can of rinsed black beans, the tomatoes and a bell pepper.

For the dressing combine about 1/3 cup of olive oil with the juice of one small lime, a bit of finely minced garlic, pepper, sea salt, a couple of dashes of sriracha and around a teaspoon of cumin and a pinch of raw sugar.

When the pasta is cooked, leave it to drain and toss the bean and veg mixture into the cooking pot on low. Then add the pasta, dressing, and some fresh spinach to the pot and let cook for a couple of minutes. (I like a slightly wilted spinach in pasta, but if you don’t, throw that in at the very end.)

It was GOOD, y’all. And it took longer for me to write the instructions than it did to make the meal.

Zombie-Apocalypse Team and What’s In My Purse

I did one of those “What’s in your bag?” posts! What a dork.

My Gillian Welch purse (I picked it up at a show during the Harrow & The Harvest tour) isn’t overly big, but it’s READY. Trust me, you’re gonna want me on your zombie-apocalypse-team, cuz in addition to the stuff you see, there’s a pretty decent first aid kit in that pouch. I’m a walking pharmacy.

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Embroidered change purse, GLOW IN THE DARK TOONIE, Day of the Dead wallet, keys, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, hotel pen, Saje Immune Booster and Peppermint Halo for headaches, movie ticket, hand sanitizer, gum, reusable shopping bags and a granola bar for when I get hangry.

PS: My zombie apocalypse team has the following people, for the logical reasons listed. (*I’m kidding, I’m not really this way. But JUST IN CASE.

Dad: Good in a crisis, and a good shot. You’ve seen the Walking Dead. You know this a thing!

Uncles Kurt & Mark: Practical, could build a shelter out of scrap wood and old car parts. Uncle Kurt probably has a basement full of canned goods left over from Y2K, too.

Francine: My gardener friend, grows things, knows the uses of medicinal plants and knows how to attract and care for bees.

Kristen: My friend who’s a good cook and knows how to can things so we can SURVIVE.

My friends Tracy, Jenn and Karen who are at LEAST as organized as I am. WE CAN REBUILD. There’d be charts and graphs and an inventory system and whatever blankets we could scavenge would be perfectly folded.

Mark: The best chef of all of us. And knows his way around an outdoor grill.

Scott: We might need a judge in this new utopia.

Campbell: My fella. He’s not exactly handy, but he’s really strong. Whew! He can stay!

My friend Dave, cuz we love him so much and he’d otherwise never survive. He can take care of the cat colony. There’s obviously a cat colony.

Emily: She works on a farm and knows how to care for livestock!

Bestie Annette, cuz we’re gonna need a doctor.

(We’re accepting applications if you feel like you’ve got something to contribute!)

Remember when this was a post about my purse?