Monday, July 18, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 7 Festival of India

Over the past weekend, I am getting vex' at the fact that it is feeling more and more difficult to find vegan fare. I've been to some establishments which do not have vegan fare clearly outlined on their menus (nor vegetarian items for that matter). After a long search for breakfast establishments in my area on the web, I called Boom Breakfast to ask if they had vegan food. I was passed from one person to the next on the phone and then told "no". Then I asked if they had soy milk, fruit, and oatmeal. He replied, "Yes". "That is vegan food," I replied. But when I got there for breakfast and placed my order, our waitress went to check and found out that there was no oatmeal. (*&^! Very vex' indeed. This was frustrating and I felt like pulling out my inner Colleen Patrick-Gaudreau and become an activist advocating for plant-based diet and for animal rights.

I must say that there were a few other establishments that I went to that I could actually eat the food. These are not vegetarian restaurants, mind you, but they do cater to both omnivores and herbivores alike. (Now that's what I'm talking about.) Unfortunately, I ate the food so quickly that I forgot to take photos of meals. (It was that good!)

Spring Rolls is advertised as a "Pan-Asian zensation" (Ha! Get the pun? Zen is part of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism is an Asian belief system) but I know it best for Thai food. Spring Rolls is a successful restaurant chain in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and even has a location in Waterloo (I know it's probably popular with a lot of UW students. My alma mater, holla!). But don't let the "chain concept" fool you. Spring Rolls does not skimp on style. Full of red and white decor, natural woods, sophisticated black floors or walls (depending on the location), flowers and Buddha statues, this restaurant sets the perfect ambience for your dining experience. It was also the first restaurant I thought to call after I completed my Low Iodine Diet (and ended my radioactive isolation) for scrumptious goodies. (Click here to read my post about my failed taste buds in End of my Isolation. Spring Rolls does home delivery too.) I was so pleased that the entire last page of their menu was not only vegetarian (but VEGAN at the same time). I know this because the waitress directed me to this page and she did not look at me like an alien when I asked her if there were vegan dishes. I could select anything on the menu so I ordered vegetable spring roll, a vegetarian pad thai (skip the fish sauce which I am allergic to anyway), and a delicious dessert of sticky rice with mango. Yum! My appetite definitely peaks when I get to Spring Rolls and I had no trouble finishing the whole meal. I also had amazing company with a Meetup group I joined.

Another veggie gem is Little India located on Queen West. I have been to this restaurant for years and loved the fact that the waiter was not intimidated (or ignorant) but veganism. Plus, the waiters know me and my fiance since we have been going for so long. In fact, when I ordered the Vegetable Thali (a smorgasbord sampler of Indian vegetable dishes) and I told him I was vegan, the waiter did not look at me like I was growing a horn out of my head. Instead, he suggested making switches for the naan (a flat Indian bread which contains dairy cooked in a tandoor oven) to the paratha (another flat bread). I loved my meal which included such samples as chana masala, mango salad, and pureed spinach (minus the paneer, a type of Indian cheese). Delicious!

I love Toronto for such affordable and diverse cuisine. You can really travel the world on your palette.

Did you know that Toronto has an island too? A few in fact. I had not gone in a few years. As a youngster, I would go for the amusement park rides mostly and then when I was older, I took my youngest sister for the rides. (Although, I got on a few myself.) So on Saturday, I was on my way to another Meetup (bicycle riding on Centre Island, my fave) and totally missed the folks I was meeting. I was late and panicked and got on the ferry to Centre Island. I figured I'd see the members of this group by the bike rentals but I didn't so I decided to turn the afternoon into a "date with myself". I rented a bicycle and had a lovely hour-ish long ride around the island. I rode further than I ever walked (even to the easternmost tip where there was no railing and a sudden drop into the lake that is 300 feet deep in some parts!) and discovered a Strawberry Festival at one end (but I was so broke. What can you get for $ 1.75 and a bus token? I asked the elderly ticket holder. "Punch," she replied.) On my return back, I discovered that there were two other main events going on at Centre Island. Parks Canada was celebrating was celebrating its 100th birthday with a full fledged concert (that I did not discover until I was boarding the ferry to leave). The second main event (which totally stole the show, I think) was the Hare Krishna organized Festival of India.

I haven't seen to many Hare Krishnas on my trod. Not knowing much about the Hare Krishnas, other than the Beatles' references and the orange robes and the chants, I did get to visit Toronto's local Hare Krishna temple with my fiance as part of the Doors Open Toronto festival last year.

Some things that the Hare Krishnas are known for which I love: yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, spirituality, and making sure that no one goes hungry. They are also pretty happy people which I love. Another thing I love is the equity and diversity of their group. Everyone got a free vegetarian feast that day and I saw multi-ethnic Hare Krishnas-- Indian, South Asian, Black, white... no matter your walk of life. It was beautiful.

This was my tenth attempt of getting a photo on my rented bicycle. Some kind unsuspecting folks snapped this shot. Poor Meaty (my thyroidectomy scar) was drenched in sunscreen.

By the way, I did eventually see some of the ladies from the Meet-Up but it turned out that they were trying to message me back and I didn't get it. They got on a later ferry (after me) and were approaching the bike rentals after I finished. Since I needed to leave early, we decided to part and have our own days. I'm cool with that and can't wait for the next Meetup.

I'm going to have some free vegetarian food!

Free free free! One of my favourite words.

Really long line-up!

Volunteers hard at work!

My beautiful meal presented on the grass ("the cheap showiness of nature" from the Simpsons). This meal was vegetarian and unfortunately the folks dishing it out could not tell me if it had dairy (milk) or not. I was not sure all of what I was eating, to be honest. Some of what I could identify was some sort of curry/sauce with green peas and paneer (Indian cheese, I know, I know, I ate the cheese), basmati rice, yellow stuff (I was told it had beans in it and I'm thinking turmeric too, it was very creamy), and suji (my brand new favourite Indian dessert which tasted like a really sweetened flavourful cream of wheat) all washed down with some mango juice (from a huge vat). All of the food was tasty except the "yellow stuff" which was bland. We even got free watermelon!

These vegan samosas were actually advertised as vegan samosas and prepared by Govindas restaurant. I actually had to pay for these ones though. 2 for $ 3. The sauce is sweet chili and so good that I ended up wearing some of it home.

I visited the vegetarianism tent for a bit to read reasons for becoming vegetarian. Hare Krishnas have religious reasons for practicing this "act of mercy on animals". Many religions also share this philosophy besides Hindus, there are Brahmins, Rastafarians, and others. To learn more about this topic, check out my review of Veganist.

The multicultural, multi-ethnic Hare Krishnas.

Bye bye island in the sun!


Vivian said...

It's too bad that you're not finding a lot of places with vegan items on the menu!

The festival of India looks like fun - I've gone the last two years - but couldn't make it out this year. Makes me want to go visit the island though!

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