Fresh Food But Not Food From Fresh
My last post was about the meals we ate at the restaurant Fresh while I was on vacation in Toronto. This post is about all the other meals from that vacation, both in Toronto and back in my brother’s city of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.
I flew into Toronto on a Tuesday morning and hit the ground running. My first stop was to see a dear old friend, Allie. She lives in Kensington Market and talked up a vegan poutine made by a fish & chips joint called Fresco’s. I didn’t need convincing. I was all in.
To all Non-Canadians or Non-Canadian-Sympathisers, poutine is a dish that originates from Quebec, Canada. There are many variations but always three constants: French fries, gravy, and cheese. Poutine is a dish almost always enjoyed late at night, whilst out and extremely drunk. You don’t often hear of people making poutine at home on a Tuesday night, but you do hear of people being hammered and waking up with a Styrofoam container smeared with the remnants of poutine on their bedroom floor. Where I come from there are no fast food joints making vegan poutine. Needless to say, it has been years since I’ve had poutine and I had never had it veganised.
Fresco’s was your typical big city restaurant: tucked away, easily missed, no space inside. What was not so typical was that the owner, Mr. Michael Fresco himself, was behind the counter working the till. He was friendly and enthusiastic about his business. When I told him I’d be blogging about our lunch he pointed out that he was the head honcho and posed for a picture. Delightful!
It was a cheery little spot! They play nothing but Beatles, which I enjoyed immensely. The few tables inside were pretty full up, so we ordered our food to go and went across the street to Allie’s apartment. When we opened our take-out containers I was delighted to see this:
Hot, rich, vegan mushroom gravy smothering Daiya cheese and French fries. Canadian fat kid heaven! The heat of the gravy melts the cheese and gets the fries borderline mushy—GAH! So good!
My mouth is watering. I have to stop writing about this (worst food blogger ever).
The purpose of the visit was to catch up with Allie after years of separation. Vegan poutine was just a delightful bonus.
Our evenings in the city were spent watching baseball, and there are certain things that must be consumed whilst within the walls of a major league park. You guessed it! “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…” WELL. It’s not quite that simple, vegan friends!
I travelled to Toronto in April of 2010 for my first major league ball game and excitedly had treat money clutched in my sweaty, chubby hands, eagerly awaiting the concession boys to come around with Cracker Jack, which is beautifully (and, I’m sure, accidentally) vegan. My childhood dreams were dashed when I saw them selling not the brand name treat, but a no-name house brand of caramel popcorn. I didn’t know what the hell kind of nastiness, if any, was hidden inside, so my treat money went back in my pocket and my heart went down to my shoes.
And to add insult to injury and salt to the wound they didn’t even have peanuts! What kind of place are they running there?!?!
Well, this girl would never be that unprepared again! I would bring my OWN vegan treats! Before I left Halifax I bought brand name Cracker Jack, Planters Peanuts, and (because deep down I still have the mentality of a 6-year-old girl) Big League Chew Bubble Gum! Eeeeee! I packed my goodies straight into my carry-on bag and had them at the ready for our first ballgame that night.
I hadn’t eaten Cracker Jack in years and years and years and had forgotten how ridiculously delicious it is. I don’t know why I was surprised, really. It IS coated in pure sugar. We’ll just say that if I went to ballgames all the time the value of Cracker Jack stock would sky rocket. Iloveitsomuch.
Peanuts are peanuts, but a ballgame isn’t the same without ‘em. They were a solid choice.
Big League Chew is the shit. It allows you to blow big bubbles with minimal stickiness when they pop all over your face. I have discovered the colour of pure joy and it’s pink. (That paragraph can be taken so many wrong ways. Get your minds out of the gutter and share in the joy of this experience with me.)
Kitchener-Waterloo, where my brother and his wife live, is surprisingly veg-friendly. We swung by Chapters, a national chain of bookstores, and find a table promoting veganism. I was quite excited and even more pumped when I returned back to Halifax to find that the book tables were ordered for all stores nationwide. GO VEGAN!
One of Kitchener-Waterloo’s newest veg offerings is a vegan-friendly café called Café Pyrus. Guuuuuuuuurl, this place! If I ever owned a restaurant, it would be very similar to this one. I loved everything about it, except for the buddy behind the counter (who I believe may have been the owner), who was a bit standoffish. Other than that, everything about this place made my heart soar.
The menu boards were awesome! Who doesn’t love a vegetable with a moustache?
They are set up in a big space full of squashy armchairs and mismatched furniture. There was a shelf with board games, a box of books, and lots of stuff to look at on the walls.
To drink I ordered some organic fruit juice. Pomegranate cherry, maybe? It was a boxed number from Kiju and was delicious, as per usual.
Brother Brent ordered his ol’ stand-by, the black bean burrito. I think I tried to get a bite of it and I don’t think he let me. Boo, you whore. It looked delicious, anyway.
I ordered the Club and it. Was. AWESOME. I enjoyed every bite of it, except for when I was feeling the evil eye from Mr. Owner Man (kidding).
The city also has a vegetarian teahouse that dishes up a wide array of vegan Chinese food. There’s nothing that comes close to it in Halifax, so I was eager to return during this visit to K-W. We arrived just as they were closing up and the disappointment was a bitter pill to swallow. With NO lovely iced Chinese tea to wash it down.
We hit the road in search of a veg place that my sister-in-law knew was around soooomewherrre and stumbled upon a Thai joint along the way. I was jonesin’ for Pad Thai, so we gave it a shot.
I am very wary of eating at non-English-as-a-first-language-speaking restaurants that aren’t exclusively vegetarian or vegan. It’s hard enough to explain to people in my own language what veganism is, and all of my past experiences involving language barriers have not turned out well. But I gritted my teeth, put a big smile on, and explained what I couldn’t eat in my food. The woman behind the counter smiled just as widely and nodded enthusiastically. Brent ordered vegetables with pineapple from the “From the Wok” menu, and Janet ordered veggie Pad Thai too.
Our food came out about 15 minutes later and my smiling waitress provided me with Pad Thai…that was positively coated with scrambled eggs.
I had never seen Pad Thai served up this way. It was very strange. Anyway, they apologised profusely and remade it for me, but I couldn’t really enjoy my meal because I was constantly wondering what else might be hiding in my dish.
I learned a valuable lesson on this trip away from home, friends. Trust my gut and don’t trust non-vegans. AHAHAHA. I’m kidding. But seriously, I know now that my intuitions are good and I should listen to them. And to save Pad Thai for home.