Monday, September 15, 2014

Pancakes in the Jungle

Another breakfast in the Ecaudorian jungle, but not pancakes
When I went to Ecuador last year, the tour company warned me that the jungle homestay may be challenging for a vegan. They make the food, and there are no restaurants for miles around, so I was a little worried. I brought extra food with me, as I always do, in case I was stuck in the middle of nowhere watching everyone else eat hot food while I finished my plate of fruit and stared forlornly at the kitchen.
Instead, the homestay family fed me like royalty. I even had pancakes. Vegan pancakes in a shack in rural Ecuador, can you believe it?? Sadly I did not get a picture of the most surprising pancakes I ever had--I was still in shock after our tour guide brought down another plate of pancakes and put them down in front of me saying, "No an-ee-mal." And I may also have eaten them too quickly to take a picture.
I still have a lot of travelling to do, and I hope I am never held back because of what I can or can't eat--and I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Breakfast is 'Snice

In my experience, the trickiest meal for a vegan is breakfast, while travelling or not. I have spent many a morning thankful I packed peanut butter to go along with my toast and orange juice and hope it would keep me full until lunch. While I whole-heartedly recommend packing a little jar of peanut butter for your travels (or another nut butter of your choice), I also make every effort to seek out vegan breakfasts wherever I am.
Both times I was in New York, I was fortunate enough to be staying within walking distance of 'Snice, a cafe that catered to the latte-and-laptop crowd that happened to have delicious vegan options for all three meals. I hear it has closed, but it made all the difference for my stays in NYC. There is something about starting your day with actual options in your breakfast menu, and setting off with warm food in your belly.
If there isn't such a lovely vegan-friendly cafe near wherever you are staying, it helps if you have use of a fridge. Find a market or grocery store and pick up a few small things that make your morning easier and your stomach happy, like bread with hummus and olives, and some fruit. It is not only cheaper than whatever you could get in a restaurant, it will make your entire day just a little bit more fulfilled. And if you do find a place with an amazing vegan breakfast, be sure to go at least once, even it costs a little bit more than your market finds, and profusely thank them for helping out a travelling vegan.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Airplanes and airports

As vegans, we know there are some times in our life and in our travels when it will be more difficult to find food that is vegan and also satisfying. For example: wedding are never good (please leave me a comment if you've been to a wedding and have been served something other than plain vegetables with or without rice).
It was on my vacation last year that I got the delicious airplane treats pictured here. I was never so happy to see plain chips and Oreo cookies! Some airplane treats can be vegan, but with labels often in a foreign language I admint I have spent more than few minutes staring at a list of ingredients trying to remember how to translate both "egg" and "milk".
I always bring snacks with me, but it can be disheartening to see everyone around you eating hot food (even if it is airplane food, it's still hot!). Flight attendants have sometimes taken pity on me and brought two breakfast trays so I could at least get two buns and two tiny bowls of fruit. There's nothing like being hungry  while dashing across a terminal to your flight or, worse, stuck a few thousand feet above ground. Sympathetic flight attendants, I salute you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Post-Prandial Parisian Conversion

Veganized chèvre chaud I made after my Paris vacation
It might come as a surprise that visiting Paris made me vegan, but it did: I went to Paris a vegetarian and left as a vegan.
I don't know if things have changed, but in 2008, restaurants in Paris were not entirely happy to serve a vegetarian. A couple of the things I ordered that listed vegetarian ingredients on the menu came with ham as well. Probably half of any menu included both cheese and ham. If you stood still too long in Paris, you would turn around to find you had ham and cheese sprinkled on you. Which meant as vegetarian, most of meals were pretty cheese-heavy.
After almost two weeks in Paris, I was getting pretty sick of cheese. At the same time, I was reading Skinny Bitch--because, well, it was 2008 and that book was still everywhere, despite its own problematic moments. But I also had it because I was ready to go vegan. So when at the end of my Paris vacation I was literally sick of cheese, it was timely. When I arrived back home, I was still sick of cheese, and I never ate dairy or eggs again.
However, I really missed chèvre chaud, which one of the few vegetarian French dishes I could eat while in Paris.I really enjoyed it while I was there, and it was a simple dish--greens and simple dressing topped with goat cheese melted on a toasted slice of baguette. But since my transition ti vegan food was rocky--I didn't buy a vegan cookbook for probably six month after I started eated vegan--it took me a while to discover vegan cheese. When I finally did, I was delighted! Cashew cheese, are you kidding me?? IT went on everything, and I could find eat the chèvre chaud I missed, this time deliciously topped with cashew cheese.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Questing in Munich: Happy Cow and panacotta

A sculpture, or me after a long day of questing?
This post is partially The Trew and Faithfull Storie of a Maiden on a Queste to Find Awesome Vegan Foode and partly an homage to Happy Cow, that website/app that helpeth the lonelie travelling vegan to findeth a vegan restaurant. (Yes, I do like the Olde-Tyme spelling too much. I'll try to stop.)
Since my first trip abroad as a vegan when I went to Italy, I've always looked up veg restos on Happy Cow. It's a very helpful resource because it has its own review system, so you can look up restaurant without even leaving the site and 2: it's in English, so I don't have to Google Translate a website to read a menu in garbled Babelfish-speak.
So on the one day I was exploring Munich by myself while my Mom was day-tripping outside the city, I decided to voyage forthe and finde a vegane restaurant. So I looked up the vegan restos on the Happy Cow app and decided I would go to the art gallery and then get a late lunch at Max Pett, only a 15-minute walk or so from my hotel.
Interior, Pinakotek der Moderne, Munich
Excellent plan! I walked to the art gallery, taking gorgeous photos on the way, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the gallery itself. When I was done, I plotted my course to the resto via a major thoroughfare and coincidentally passed a vegan clothing and accessories shop-which I would have if I bothered to look up stores on Happy Cow and not just food establishment, and which I would have gladly stopped in if it had been open. It turns out quite a few places close on Sunday in Munich!
 Vegan panacotta: worth questing for
Eventually I got to the university street that Max Pett was located on, despite my lingering frustration with overly long German street names (which pale in comparison to overly long and really similar Dutch street names) and then I couldn't the restaurant.
Okay, I thought, sometimes universities are quirky and roundabout and they hide entrances in the back of a building, or through a quad, or in the basement of a building that you have to walk through a music hall to find. So I looked--peering through fences, looking for signs, even walking into the foyer of what I think was a dorm, unharassed by dorm security probably because I was carrying a tourism guide and it would be too much trouble to ask me what I wanted if I don't speak German. I looked and looked and just when I thought I would faint from hunger pangs--since we know vegan breakfasts are often too light to sustain a traveller's miles of walking--I looked some more, adn realized I had to give up. I backtracked on this cute university street and as I approached the street I entered on, I saw the restaurant. It was cute and charming and not a quirky university resto at all. Problem was, it wasn't on the bock the map said it was. I would have found it if I had even glanced before turning right to follow the map. Ah, the challenges of exploring on your own! If I had been with my mother, she would undoubtedly turned left instead of right despite my clear navigation and I wouldn't have wandered loste and hungrie amongst the universitie's faire bildings.
But it was worth the quest: Max Pett serves up delicious vegan fare. The restaurant is a little hipster-precious, but when you serve the only vegan panacotta I've ever seen on a menu and it happens to be amazing, you can get away with a little 'tude. Even after a very long queste.

Friday, September 5, 2014

World-changing avocado

My first trip to New York was awesome. Firstly, it's like vegan mecca. I hear a lot of places are like this;
Portland, for example, is supposed to be filled with delicious vegan food. And I suspect my hoemtown, Toronto, would impress many a vegan who came to visit, with our many delicious vegan restos. But way back in 2010, I was delighted to find a city with so many delicious vegan and vegetarian places to eat, including the breakfast joint of my dreams, 'Snice.
This delicious breakfast was in the restaurant in the main floor of the hotel I stayed at. The hotel is The Jane, and the restaurant is called Cafe Gitane. It is vaguely retro-Moroccan-themed, and I read a review recently that called it overpriced. But I was really impressed--it had all the breakfast staples an mnivore expected, so my friend could enjoy herself as well, and I had a solid 4 or 5 breakfast options, way up from usual choice of, um, dry toast.
The dish that really blew me away was the, um, toast. Avocado on toast, actually, which I was so impressed with that I actually took a photo. It was beautifully presented, of course--much better than the green smudge I normally make myself--and served on whole-grain bread with fresh lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil and chili pepper flakes.
I now make this dish ALL THE TIME. If I can find ripe avocados I snatch them up and and devour them, guilt-free, for as many meals as I can before losing my ripe avocados to the Brown Spots of Doom. I recommend you do, before the Brown Spots set in and wreck your delicious travel-nostalgia breakfast. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The best meal I ever ate

The best meal I ever ate wasn't a meal. It may not have been technically "the best" either, but it was by far the most surprising.
It was also recent, on my trip to Europe with my mother in June of this year. Mom and I were wandering around Munich's downtown core our first morning there, already tired and looking to sit after having wandered around the Viktualienmarkt in circles. Mom saw a little cafe just off the main market street, where they were making delicious-looking pastry right inside the large front window. We went in, mom probably delighted for a chance to rest with a coffee and a sweet; me with the knowledge I likely wouldn't be able to have anything, since coffee without soy milk is too harsh for my stomach. As expected, they did not have soy milk but the waitress was fluent in English and told me the pastry were vegan. Whaaat?? Yes, no milk or butter and eggs. She didn't even need me to prompt her--she knew what vegan meant, and what the ingredients were. Well hot damn, I'll take three! No, I had one, but it was amazing.
Even more amazing: while we watched the cook behind us pull the dough into rounds, my mother said, I think my mother made these when we were young. My mom's parents were German, and she remembered sitting around, watching her mom cook the dough in a pot full of fat, waiting with her siblings for the dough to cool down before they could eat it. So it may not have been the most nutritionally complete meal, but it was pretty sweet.