Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Toronto Vegetarian Resturant Tour- Vegetarian Haven

I had made it through my first full day in Toronto and my meeting had gone well. I was working with a wonderful group of people. I left my meeting with a sense of accomplishment and exhaustion. It was time for dinner at Vegetarian Haven. The restaurant was over a mile from my hotel, so I put on my sneakers and headed out. I walked by the University of Toronto before making it to the street where the restaurant was located. After viewing the sign, I realized that I had yet again, stumbled upon a vegan restaurant. Two days in a row-score!

I asked for a seat indoor as it was a bit too humid to sit outside (I should be used to humidity living in NC, but I'm not!). The heat and humidity from my walk had impacted my appetite. Why now?! I am in a vegan haven and my appetite was small. Instead of beating myself up, I decided to order two small appetizers and a dessert to take back to the hotel.

As I opened the menu, I found myself for the second day in a row overwhelmed. Luckily, I had a plan. I was going to order from the beginning of the menu. I settled on the miso won ton soup and mango fresh rolls. I had only had won ton soup once or twice before as it is not usually vegetarian. This particular soup sounded interesting with a twist of miso. I also had to order a fresh juice. Sadly, I don't remember what ingredients were contained in the juice. I do remember that it had ginger in it and I loved it!

As I was sipping my juice and reading a book, the soup and fresh rolls came out together. I had a warm, aromatic goodness in front of me coupled with cool refreshing rolls. Yummo! I wanted the soup to cool a bit, so I dug into the fresh rolls. Instead of the usual tofu, mango was the main ingredient of these rolls. The other ingredients within the rice paper wrapper were vermicelli noodles, mint, cilantro, basil, and bean sprouts. The dipping sauce for the rolls was bright red. I have no clue what the sauce was made of but it was the perfect blend of spice, savory, and sweet.

It was time for soup. As I quietly slurped, I realized that it was the perfect accompaniment to the rolls. The flavors were different, but worked well together. The miso in the broth gave the clear liquid depth. The broth also contained a mix of veggies and tofu. I am not quite sure what was in the won ton wrappers, but it seemed like veggies and tofu. I ate all of the delicious won tons and sipped much of the broth. I was stuffed!

It was on to pick a dessert to take back to the hotel with me. I opted for the vanilla creme cheesecake. The waitress told me that the cheesecake had won an award for the best cheesecake in Toronto. It didn't even contain dairy cheese! It beat out cheesecakes that contain dairy cream cheese! I knew this one was a winner! When I got back to the hotel, I sunk into the vegan cheesecake heaven and knew I made the right decision. It was creamy, smooth, and had the perfect amount of tart and sweetness.

My verdict. Vegetarian Havan is a must stop for any vegetarian, vegan, or person who wants great food. The wait staff was so friendly and the food was great. The dessert was the highlight of my meal. I challenge any skeptic or naysayer to go to Vegetarian Haven and try the vegan cheesecake. If you aren't a believer in tofu cream cheese after that experience, then it is obvious that you have lost your ability to taste and recognize delicious food. :-P

Monday, August 16, 2010

Toronto Enviro-Friendly Hotel Effort

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was sent to Toronto for the first week of August. I booked an early afternoon flight to try and avoid the mess that happened last year -> my flight was delayed and I did not get in until 1:30 am with no baggage. I must ave been lucky because this year I arrived on time. After gathering my baggage, I headed to the Cambridge Suites Hotel in downtown Toronto off of Richmond Street East. The hotel was right in the heart of downtown.

I checked in and headed to my room to settle in before I ventured out. The room was a suite that included modern furniture and a great view. I looked around, as I always do, to see what the room had to offer. I found a small bar area with a mini refrigerator in a cabinet, sink, microwave, and mini bar.

I looked in the information book to see if they had anything useful, such as internet connection, and I came across a green section. The usual was included about in-room recycling and linen replacement. To my surprise something extra was included. The bath products were vegan and parabin/sulfate free. The products that they stocked are from Pharmacopia I was so excited that carried vegan bath products and that they decided to highlight this in their information book.

After reading this, I hurried to bath products and confirmed that they did carry the lovely products from Pharmacopia. I opened all of the bottles and smelled each one.They smelled of lavender, lemon grass, and other pleasing scents.

This is a win for the environment and animals. While this seems like a small step, it has the promise of leading to other things. Hotels/businesses could follow suite and provide vegan products or hotel patrons could read about the products and investigate why vegan products are important to the environment and to animal welfare.

Maybe I am making too much of a small thing, but it gave me hope. What if vegan products were someday mainstream and even more readily available? What if people had the chance to make better decisions without going to great lengths? My mind was and is still flowing with hope and possibilities. It is small gestures like these that keep my dreams alive that the world will change for the better.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toronto Work Meeting: Awesome City, Delicious Food!

I travel for work. The frequency and range of trips vary. Sometimes I am in a large city and others a suburb. It all depends on the group that I am working with and where they want to meet. Many think that traveling for work is glamorous. I would beg to differ. If I had it my way, I wouldn't travel at all. I knew what I was getting into when I took my job over four years ago, so I do it without much complaint. Well, maybe. :-)

Every once and a while a good meeting place arises and I was lucky last week
. I worked with a organization that decided to meet in Toronto, Ontario. I was not familiar with the city, but I had been there enough to know that I liked it and wouldn't mind visiting again.

Most of the time, meetings are held in hotel meeting rooms or conference centers. The rooms are boring and the decor is stuffy and uninviting. This location was different. We met in a Ladies Club in downtown Toronto and the decor was fabulous! Everything from the floor to the ceilings had been planned and decorated with care. The whole club had a sleek style that was both fun and elegant.

Chandelier in one of the halls.

Wall at the end of a hall on the second floor.

Chandelier in out meeting room. I think I am in love!

To match the grand decor were my lunches. I requested special vegan meals, and they were just that- special! My dishes were all just as stylish as the room. My plates looked and tasted gourmet. I had fruits and vegetables that I had never seen or tasted before and I loved every bite! Below are the pictures and the descriptions of my dish for each day of the meeting.

Day one: This was a plate of cooked soy beans and other lovely fruits and vegetables, topped with a thin piece of bread that looked like lace. The plate was decorated with pea shoots and had a subtle dressing. I could not identify all of the produce on my plate or the dressing, but it was all delicious. I did note that there were several varieties of beets. Verdict- very tasty and and a beautiful presentation.

Day two: My plate included a dab of guacamole and I have to say it is probably the best tasting guacamole I have ever had. I don't know what made is different though. In addition to this lovely garnish, I had fresh tomatoes an other vegetables on top of white beans. On top was a small mixed salad. Verdict- delicious and creamy!

Day three: The base of my plate was cooked quinoa, surrounded by picked mushrooms, miso sauce, and raspberries. Marinated vegetables were placed on top of the quinoa. Lastly, the plate was finished with a small mixed salad. The mushrooms were heavenly! I do not know what type of mushroom they were, but I would like to have them again. Verdict- heavenly mushrooms, but this meal did not fill me up.
Day four: My last lunch was just as wonderful as the rest. My plate had a dressed bean salad topped with cherry tomatoes and a mixed green salad. Next to it was a watermelon and mint salsa accompanied by two flowers. The flavors all worked well together. I had never had watermelon salsa before, but I can say that I want it again! Verdict- I really enjoy watermelon salsa! This meeting ended with a bang!

The dishes were so beautifully executed and combination of foods were inventive. It was better than any other food that I have encountered at a meeting in the past.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Less Impact Progress, Cloth Napkins

I have not been as vocal about it lately, but our less impact journey is progressing nicely. I have been reading blogs, speaking with others, and critically thinking about how we can make permanent changes that will better the environment. This is all thanks to the No Impact Man book and documentary. I have blogged about reducing the time our TV is on and buying in bulk instead of packaged goods. It is now time for something more.

As I continued to think about our impact, I started to notice our reliance on paper goods. We gave up cleaning with paper towels years ago and switched to old cloth towels and shirts for cleaning rags. We have paper towels in our home, but we use them very sparingly and only buy the kinds that are made from recycled paper and without the use of bleach. We do the same with our toilet paper and napkins.

Somehow my focus shifted to napkins. I thought about our napkin use. We buy the Seventh Generation or the other recycled kinds, but we used them on a daily basis. I thought that it probably does not make that big of a difference, and I started to do the math, again (note my blog posting about oatmeal packets)!! Here goes.......

John and I each took a paper napkin in our lunches- 2 napkins per day, 5 days a week. That is a total of 10 napkins in a week. In addition, for about half of the dinners in our week, we each used a paper napkin. Let's say that is 4 nights times 2 napkins, for a total of 8 napkins. We take the 10 napkins for lunches and then 8 napkins are used for dinner. That is 18 napkins in a week. Now, multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and we have a whopping 936 napkins a year.

936 NAPKINS A YEAR?!?!? For a household of two? I think I am going to be sick.

I had no clue what a huge negative impact we were making. So, we decided to use only cloth napkins in our home from then on and we HAD to start immediately. We looked through our drawers and pulled out napkins that we had gotten for our wedding. I called my Mom and asked if she had any she no longer wanted. Lucky for us, she had some vintage ones that she was going to sell. My grandma also had a several sets that she wanted to donate to our cause. We were now up to about 12 napkins and the good news was that we did not have to purchase any new products.

It has been several months since we have given up paper napkins and switched to cloth ones and it has been great. In all honesty it is not that different. We really don't have to make that much of an effort. Every day we throw a cloth napkin into our lunch. When it gets dirty, we wash it with our other towels. The napkins are not that big, so we are not doing any more loads of laundry than we normally would. The only difference is that I get to wipe my hands and mouth with something smooth instead of scratchy and rough.

I have also started to look at my napkin use in other places. Now, I will rarely will take a paper napkin when out, unless I really need it. Most times I don't, so I pass.

Think you are up for the cloth napkin challenge? If so, tell me about it!

Au revior paper napkins!