Monday, July 30, 2012

Baked Sunchoke Sandwiches with Five Spice Slaw...

I’ve been rather neglectful of the blog of late I know, and for that I’m sorry. It’s just that a multitude of other things have accumulated and I’m finding it very difficult at the moment to divide my time. I know I last left off with updating about my vacation to Germany but I thought since it’s been such an awful long time since I posted a recipe I should take a few moments to do that instead.

In truth I haven’t been cooking much, or rather I have been but I’ve been making very simple food, nothing worthy of blogging about. This dish however I made just before going on vacation and it was simply superb! Really it’s perfect for a hearty lunch or a light dinner, because really, who doesn’t love a big ‘ole sloppy sandwich every once and a while? And, how often do you get to use sunchokes? Not often enough in my opinion, so I hope you enjoy, and I promise to get back to posting regularly again.

What I like best about this sandwich is the subtle hint of anise from the five spice powder. You get this great punch of Asian flavor combined with the unique taste of sunchokes, fantastic combination, trust me!

Baked Sunchoke Sandwiches with Five Spice Slaw 

1 lb Sunchokes,
Sea salt and Black Pepper to taste
1 French Baguette
Sliced Tomato to serve
Thai chili sauce to serve (optional)

Five Spice Slaw 

2 Carrots Grated
2 Celery Ribs diced
1 Red Bell Pepper diced
4 Garlic Cloves minced
Green Onions to taste
1 ½ C Red Cabbage finely shredded
½ C Non-dairy Mayo (I like Earth Balance)
1 ½ tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Coconut Amino’s or Soy Sauce
1 ½ tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder or to taste
Sea salt Black pepper
1 Packet Stevia or to taste (Optional)
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Bunch Cilantro Minced

- Pre-heat oven to 400'F

- To make the Sunchokes make sure you rinse and clean them very well. They tend to be quite gritty. What I like to do is soak them in a big bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Then I scrub them good and give them a rinse.

- After they’ve been washed you want to slice them relatively thin. You can do it with a mandolin or a knife, whichever you prefer. No need to peel the chokes as long as you wash them well.

- Next spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Then spread the sunchoke slices out in a single layer. Depending on the size of your pan you might need to do this on two pans. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste then place in the oven.

- Bake at 400'F for 10 minutes a side, or until the sunchokes have turned a nice golden color. Be careful not to burn or crisp them. You still want them a bit soft.

- Once done remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

- To make the Five Spice Slaw mix together carrots, red pepper, red cabbage, celery, cilantro, garlic and green onions in a big mixing bowl.

- In a small bowl whisk together the Mayo, sesame oil, coconut amino’s or soy sauce, Chinese 5 spice powder, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and stevia to taste. Taste for flavor and adjust seasonings as needed.

- Pour the dressing over the Slaw and mix to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

- To assemble your sandwich slice the Baguette in half crosswise, then make a slit lengthwise down each half.  Layer in the baked sunchokes, top with a few slices of tomato, and a heaping amount of slaw. Then drizzle a little Thai Chili Sauce over top if desired, and enjoy!

PS: Gluten-Free if using Coconut Amino's or GF Tamari. Soy-Free if using Soy-Free non-dairy Mayo

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vegan on Vacation: Germany Part 1 - Munich...

From London we flew to Munich. The flight was super mellow, it was only about an hour and a half and I slept most of it, which was nice. We landed, got through customs, found the car rental place and unfortunately that was the end of things running smoothly. At least for most of the night. You see, we got the car and it was very nice and new and perfect but nobody could figure out how to operate it. The engine kept stalling, and the car would keep turning off - or so we thought, more on this in a minute. - Then the GPS my in-laws brought with us wouldn’t work, and the GPS that came with the car was in German (Of course!) And nobody could figure out how to switch it to English. The car manual was also in German (Of course!) Which seemed to surprise everyone except me. I stayed entirely out of this whole situation because I don’t drive at all, and I am not good with electronics so I’m of no use whatsoever. If it had been me, I would have left the car, walked back into the car rental place and used my rudimentary German to acquire some assistance. Logical plan, no? But instead what we did was drive away, and exit the parking garage. So now we’re driving aimlessly with the GPS talking in German, and no one knowing why the car keeps turning off. My brother-in-law said it was probably an energy saving device, but nobody listened. Eventually we found our way back into the airport parking garage, and eventually after some very frustrating driving around several of the levels we made it back to the car rental place. My father in-law found car rental worker to come help us. He programmed the GPS into English for us and was so nice, and friendly. When he left I asked my father-in-law if he’d asked the guy why the car kept shutting off, but he hadn’t. *Palm/forehead.* To make a long story short on that front my brother-in-law had indeed been correct, it’s an energy saving device, the car engine shuts off whenever the car comes to a stop such as in traffic, or when you’re waiting to make a turn. I quite liked it actually, but everyone else was just frustrated by it. So we left the airport, got to our hotel without incident, and while our hotel was really nice and super eco-friendly which I loved, it was not actually in Munich but outside of it. To get to Munich we either had to drive or take the train. Everyone opted for the train even though noone was really sure how to use the train. We got to the station, noone knew where to park, and by the time we were there the station was closed and so we had to get our tickets through the machine. The machine however didn’t appear to have an English option, which made things difficult, as noone can read German. My husband and I have a better handle on German then my parent-in-laws do, but my vocabulary doesn’t include any words having to do with trains and distances and so on, so I was pretty useless at the ticket machine. In the end we opted to drive into Munich. The first order of business was to get food because by this point it was already after 7pm and we were all starving. We decided to pick a place to all eat together and my husband came up with the idea of eating in the revolving restaurant in the Olympic Park in Munich. At the very least he thought we could eat a salad while getting a great panoramic view of Munich. Great! Getting there however was problematic because the guide book didn’t give a specific address for the restaurant. My husband suggested my father-in-law just type in the restaurant name, which he gave him, but for whatever reason my father-in-law didn’t listen to what my husband had said and typed in something completely different. What he’d typed in got us in the vicinity of the place we were trying to go, but not to it. So then we had to recalculate. Finally we got there and everyone was confused about parking so my husband and I had to go talk to a very nice lady who happened to be walking by. With a series of hand gestures, along with a few German words mixed with English ones we figured out the parking. Then it was off to eat, by now it was close to 8:30pm and getting dark - there goes the panoramic view! - Finally we get into the tower, and we discover the the restaurant is by reservation only, something our guide book neglected to mention. Ugh! By this point everyone was frustrated and starving. The plan became to drop my husband and I at a vegetarian restaurant while the rest of them would eat someplace else.

My husband and I chose Prinz Myshkin. However by the time we found it, it was so late that everyone decided to stay and eat there too. Prinz Myshkin is a really lovely place, with great atmosphere. I loved the decor, chic but comfortable, and it was very peaceful though that probably had a lot to do with the fact that, at that hour we were the only patrons. Several members of the staff spoke English, though a limited amount. Which was absolutely fine, and honestly more than I was expecting. My husband and I ordered quickly and without difficulty. The menu is mostly in English and everything that is vegan is clearly marked as such. We were so hungry we ordered two appetizers. One was a wasabi humus with veggies, and the other was a tropical sort of kebab that had pieces of seitan, pineapple, tomatoes and other veggies over a bed of arugula, in a dressing. Both were very good. For my main I had a curry. I was desperate for a plate of rice and vegetables and this curry had a coconut lemongrass sauce and had bananas in it. It was delicious. My husband had a stir-fry if I remember correctly. We gobbled up everything with relish. My family-in-law on the other hand seemed pretty unimpressed with their meal, which was unfortunate because my husband and I loved the restaurant. Thought the staff was super nice, and thought they put a great deal of effort into our food considering the late hour. I should also mention that I also ordered a drink, basically it was mulled wine, and after the day we’d had I needed a drink. Our waiter made fun of me and said it was a Christmas drink. With a smile I said if it was only for Christmas why was it on the menu then? And then I told him it was okay, I’d just pretend it was Christmas anyway. He was a really nice guy, and seemed very interested in the fact that my husband and I were vegan. When he sat down at our table to settle the bill we talked about veganism for several minutes. He told us he’d been vegetarian for 15 years and vegan for 2. I told him I’d been vegan for 2 years as well, and we talked a bit about why we’d decided to make the switch. He was so nice and he looked a lot like the Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. In the end I was just so thankful for the food, and so thankful that they’d been open and allowed us to sit down and eat despite it being so late, that I just wanted to hug everyone in the place! If you’re in Munich I highly suggest you check the place out, it’s really, really good, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Price wise it was on the moderate-high side, but it was worth it.

Prinz Myshkin - Hackenstrasse 2, Munich.

Our second day in Munich went much smoother. We figured out the train and it was perfect. It was very cool to see a field of solar panels on the way into the city. You don’t see things like that here. I love how Germany is so about Green energy, it makes me very happy, I wish more countries would get behind it so vigorously. Anyway, we took the train the Marienplatz which is in the heart of the Altstadt, and did a lot of fun stuff. We checked out the Neues Rathaus, and the Glockenspiel which was very cool. Saw the Altes Rathaus, St. Peters which is the oldest church in Munich. We climbed to the top of the tower and were rewarded with some beautiful panoramic views of the city. We wandered around market squares and shopping districts - Odeonsplatz, Ludwigstrasse and Konigsplatz (Apologies my computer keyboard doesn’t have an umlaut symbol) Saw the Residenz (Royal Palace in English) which was absolutely stunningly beautiful inside. The outside was under construction unfortunately. In the Treasury they have an amazing assortment of the most fantastical pieces of jewelry, busts, crowns, swords you name it. In fact the collection is so impressive that I thought it was worlds better even then the Crown Jewels in London. They didn’t quite compare, especially to some of the more impressive pieces that date from 1000 years ago. Really great stuff. We also saw the Theatinerkirche, the Nationaltheater, Isartor (Isar Gate in English) which is the only tower left form the fortified wall that once encircled Munich. Very cool. We also checked out the Englisher Garten where we saw some very daring young Germans who were practicing their surfing on the river. I like a good surf but these guys were a bit crazy, the water gushing out from under the bridge was more akin to white water rapids then ocean waves, and there were a lot of jagged rocks around. Fun to watch though.

I know we saw and did more stuff though I can’t for the life of me remember it all. I do remember we ate in a great little tea house called Tushita. Though Munich - according to HappyCow - appears to have quite a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants we chose this one because it was the closest walk to where we were at the time. I am so glad we picked it though because it was absolutely perfect. It’s a very small little place, but so comfortable and cozy, and very welcoming. The stuff is super friendly and very helpful. Since it’s listed as being a tea house we weren’t sure what to expect food wise. When we first walked in and started looking over the menu board the woman behind the counter started to speak to us in German, I only caught maybe two words of what she said and was trying to figure out the rest when she asked “Sprechen Sie deutsch?” “Nicht gut” I replied and she asked “Englisch?” “Ja.” I said and she smiled and then switched into English. Her English was very good, though it was obvious that she felt about as confident speaking it as I do speaking German. She was super helpful though and so friendly and when she couldn’t quite remember the English translation for a German word we were usually able to help fill it in. They were only making one meal that day and it came in a small or large size. We each ordered the small size. I’m not clear exactly on what the dish was, it was some sort of rice bowl though. It had cooked rice, wilted arugula, raw carrot and cucumber, some cooked carrot and asparagus, some seeds, some Lettice a sweet sauce, and some sort of pureed beat mixture on top. It was So delicious, and we devoured it. My husband also got a green smoothie that had barley grass in it, and I got a fresh ginger lemonade, which was quite good. We also got dessert. I got a blueberry tart, that was made with tofu, and my husband got some sort of chocolate cherry cake. Both were delicious! Had it not been so hot out I would have really liked to get some tea, as it was a tea house and they had an amazing selection of tea on offer. But with the temperature being 30'C I just couldn’t bring myself to get tea. Though if you go, and you really, really should visit this place when next you are in Munich, get some tea and let me know how it is! Price wise I thought the food was a very good deal.

Tushita - Klenzestr 53, (Near Gartenerplatz) Munich 

Munich is a really fantastic city, and I absolutely fell in love with it for so many reasons. The city itself is beautiful, and though it’s a big city, to me it had kind of a quaint, and almost peaceful small-town sort of feel - despite the hoards of roving tourists. - I felt very comfortable and at home there, and I found it almost painful to leave. On my next trip to Germany I will definitely go back to Munich, and for a much longer stay I hope.

Now it seems as though this post has taken up quite a few more pages then I expected and so I’ll have to continue to tell you about our trip through Germany in parts. Stay tuned for part 2 which I hope will be up by Monday. Next we’re headed to the Alps!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vegan On Vacation: London, England...

London is overflowing with great vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Take one look at HappyCow and you’ll see, the list is so long it’s almost overwhelming. Unfortunately my husband and I were only in London for four days, so we only got to eat at four restaurants. Four might seem like a low number to you, but my husband and I are savvy travelers. We tend to only eat two meals a day while traveling and we prefer to only have to pay for one of them. Lucky for us most hotels have a decent complimentary breakfast and so we load up with 2-3 platefuls until we’re literally bursting. Which gives us enough fuel, energy and food to last us until we grab dinner sometime between 6-9pm.  If we do need a little mid-day nosh in-between we’ll often pick up fruit from a fruit seller, or a bag of nuts or some other kind of snack at a local shop.  This has always been our way, and it’s a great tactic. Not only does it help spare your wallet a little but since toilets can sometimes be hard to find while traveling it saves you from being on constant lookout for a bathroom. It’s also in my opinion much better to spend most of the day walking around on a satisfied or empty stomach then on a terribly full one. You tend to feel lighter and move faster, and the faster you move the more you see. So I didn’t get to enjoy all the spoils of London that I would have liked, but, I got to enjoy enough.

First I’ll start with our hotel, because the complimentary breakfast was good enough to warrant a mention. We stayed at The Rubens at the Palace, which is at 39 Buckingham Palace Road. It’s a great location directly across the street from Buckingham Palace and only a couple minutes walk from Victoria Station (from where you can take the tube virtually anywhere.) This was the first time my husband and I have stayed in a hotel in a very long time. I always prefer to stay in Hostels because they’re cheap and have great atmosphere and they’re almost always very central to a city. I also prefer hostels because I travel light and I travel hard. What I mean by travel hard is I tend to be out all day and most of the night so I feel that paying an ungodly sum of money for a room I’ll hardly use except to sleep in is ridiculous. I may be having second thoughts on the whole hostel thing after this vacation though. The Rubens was fantastic. I can’t take credit for picking it, that was the doing of my mother-in-law. You see the first portion of our trip was another family vacation the second in 8 months but with my husbands family this time instead of mine. Anyway, I’m glad about the hotel, it was clean, comfortable, luxurious, quiet. The staff was friendly, and helpful. The bed was especially amazing after an 11 mile day, and the breakfast was more then I had hoped for.

There was much more food then I had been expecting, and mush more vegan food then I’d even dared to dream. Lots of lots of breads. The fancier ones of course were not vegan but there were plenty of grain, wheat, rye or white breads/rolls that could be enjoyed with jam or marmalade. There was toast. A large assortment of fruits. Whole apples, grapes, and bananas, then cut up fruits and fruit salads, berries, caned pears, and delicious, delicious figs. There was also a large assortment of cereals, corn flakes, bran flakes rice flakes, two different kinds of granola and something else I’m now forgetting. Also on the cereal table there was an assortment of nuts, seeds and dried fruits that could be sprinkled over top, and they even had soy milk!  So of course I took advantage, I had wheat toast with delicious black current jam, a huge bowl of fruit loaded with figs, and 2 large bowls of granola with soy milk and all the toppings. My husband had roughly the same and with that we were set for the day. There was of course another counter that had vegetarian items like waffles, hash browns, beans - for beans and toast presumably - cut up tomatoes, and then of course the typical omnivore fare. Definitely tasty stuff, and I very much appreciated starting my day with a good cup of English tea.

Our first night we didn’t eat dinner until quite late, and I am entirely to blame for that. I had unfortunately not been feeling all that well since getting off the plane, and in an attempt to prevent myself from feeling worse I decided to abstain from eating all day. Not only was I suffering the misery of cramps but my stomach also just didn’t feel quite right, but I soldiered on. We had a busy day of exploring Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, St. James Park, The London Eye - which we didn’t go up in because the line was ridiculous, and it’s a little too touristy for my liking anyway, - Trafalgar’s Square, and various other streets of London.

We eventually found ourselves in Leicester Square, starving at around eight. I was feeling much better by then and I’m glad because we went to a Vegetarian South Indian restaurant called Woodlands. It’s a small place, but very stylish and comfortable inside, and the menu offers a wide range of dishes. It’s a vegetarian place not vegan, but they do have vegan options so be sure to ask if you’re not familiar with Indian food, they’re more then happy to help. I can’t for the life of me remember everything we ordered but I know we got Samosa. I have never actually eaten in a South Indian restaurant before because most of the Indian places around here are North Indian, some have a bit of a mix of both cuisines but it’s typically only a couple of popular dishes, so this was an experience. One that I loved. Virtually everything on the menu was new to me and I loved it. I think we had a sambar, and I think I ordered a spinach Dosa but I can’t exactly remember. There have been too many weeks and too many restaurants in-between but I do remember that the food was amazing. I loved everything we ordered and ate it with relish. I also ordered a delicious cup of peppermint tea that was made with actual fresh mint leaves, rather then a tea bag or even dried loose tea. That was interesting, and so much more delicious then I was expecting it to be. I highly recommend this place, so if you’re in the neighborhood and you’re in the mood for some good South Indian cuisine stop on by. On the price scale I’d say it was pretty average. It did happen to be our most expensive dinner in London though.

Woodlands - Leicester Square Location - 37 Panton Street (at Leicester Square Underground Station)

Our second day was just as jam-packed and I’m happy to say I was feeling 100% better. Again we loaded up on breakfast and then headed for St John’s Wood to pay Abbey Road a visit. I was born a Beatles fan thanks to my dad, and so any trip to London simply wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit. Abbey Road was easy enough to get to, but if you go you may be surprised at how small it is. It’s much smaller then I imagined it would be anyhow, and it’s in this really peaceful neighborhood. Unfortunately it was full of a bus-load of silly tourists who couldn’t get their shit together fast enough to take a picture crossing the road before an onslaught of cars came wooshing by. So unfortunately it took us sometime standing around before we were able to get our photos and pay our respects, and paint our names on the wall outside. I of course wrote not only my name, but my dad’s as well since he’s never been, and he’s the ultimate Beatles fan. By then all the tourists had gone except us and we were able to take out picture crossing the street. We tried to set it up exactly like the album cover, I was in the lead - Playing John because he has always been my favorite - My mother in law was next in line, then my husband playing Paul, he even took his shoes off for the picture in imitation, then my brother-in-law behind. The pic was snapped by my father-in-law and I must say it looks pretty good. After that we returned to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard which I thought was interesting but really over-rated and though it was interesting to see I couldn’t for the life of me fathom why so many people were going ape-shit over the whole thing. There was a lot of pushing, and bumping into one another and a lot of rudeness, that I could have very well done without. Next it was back on the tube to 221B Baker Street to visit the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes. - My husband is very much a fan, of both the books and the films. - We checked that out, I bought a cool Sherlock style hat, and then it was off to Regent’s park for a nice walk round, then to Hyde Park for another walk round and a trip to Speaker’s Corner which was an experience to say the least. After that it was back to Trafalgar’s Square where some sort of Sikh Protest was taking place, then Leicester Square, where we stumbled into the London Film Premiere of the film “Rock of Ages.” Never a dull moment in London it seems. At first we didn’t know what was going on but the square was bursting with people, and there was live music. Then we saw the stage and an actress I don’t know was being interviewed. Eventually we saw Mary J. Blige, Russell Brand, and Tom Cruise. Then it was off to Piccadilly Circus where it unfortunately began to rain. It was then that we decided to take refuge in a restaruant and get some dinner.

We headed to Tibits which was very close by. Arriving a little bit wet and very cold. Tibits is apparently part of a chain in Zurich that is the Oldest vegetarian Restaurant in Europe so I was curious to check it out. It’s on a very quiet side street, that may be a little hard to find if you’re not a native Londoner or all too savvy with a map, but it is worth looking for. It’s buffet style and you pay by weight. They have a vast assortment of hot and cold dishes, everything from salads to ethnic foods, and they even have several desserts. You can order coffees - with soy milk - or teas, - I had peppermint again and again it was made with whole fresh leaves, yum! - or other drinks of your choosing. The dishes are also clearly marked to tell you whether they are vegan or vegetarian and if they contain various allergens. This is very helpful. Each of us piled a plate high with a little bit of everything that was vegan and then made a bit of room to try each of the two vegan desserts on offer. Everything was delicious. Everything tasted fresh, not like it had been sitting around which is the feeling you get with most buffets. Everything was wonderful and the atmosphere was very peaceful. Great ambiance, lovely place to take shelter from the rain. If you’re in the neighborhood and you’re hungry I highly recommend it. Price wise, again I’d say it was pretty average, and the second most expensive meal in London.

Tibits - 12-14 Heddon Street (Off Regent Street) 

After dinner we returned to Big Ben, The London Eye, and Westminster Abbey to see them lit up at night, then went on a mission in search of Tower Bridge to see that lit up at night. I am a bit obsessed with Tower Bridge, and I couldn’t really tell you why. I just think it’s one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen and I’m totally in love with it’s design. Unfortunately we got a bit turned around and lost and although we found the themes easy enough Tower Bridge was nowhere to be found. We did get to see St Paul’s Cathedral all lit up in the distance and it looked beautiful. As it was still very wet, and cold, and getting rather late by this point we decided to give up on Tower Bridge for the time being and return to our hotel.

The next day it poured rain, which at first I didn’t mind so much because I figured a trip to London wouldn’t be a trip to London without a bit of rain. By the end of the day however I could no longer feel many parts of my body and I was beyond cold. I was drenched right down to my bones through every layer of clothes. That aside, the day was quite alright. We explored St. Paul’s Cathedral, walked across Millennium Bridge and checked out Shakespear’s Globe Theater, went to The Tower of London with we thoroughly explored. I felt a real sense of sadness being there, particularly when standing over the spot in which Anne Boleyn was beheaded.  You get this eerie sort of feeling walking through the halls and this sort of gloominess sets over you, which I’m sure was only encouraged by the grey skies and the rain.  We also got to see Tower Bridge by day which was as lovely and magnificent in person ad it is on t.v. or in pictures. I took many pictures of it and we were even lucky enough to see it open, which I’ve been told is good luck, so I made a wish. It’s the exact same wish I make every time a situation calls for one, but no I’m not going to tell you what it is. Though I will specify that it has nothing at all to do with money. Afterwards we headed to Covent Garden for an earlier dinner then usual.

We enjoyed an absolutely fantastic meal at Sagar another Vegetarian South Indian restaurant. They have a vegan menu too so be sure to ask! The place is very small, and on a somewhat hard to find side street if you’re not a native Londoner. The way the map was set up was a bit confusing and we did at least one full circle before we actually found the place, but once there it was heaven. That atmosphere was warm and welcoming and the staff was very friendly and helpful. We ordered an appetizer the name of which I’ve now forgotten, got some sambar, and I ordered another dosa. My waiter informed me that the dosa I picked was very, very spicy and I said that was okay. We were in a rush, I wanted a dosa and I didn’t want to have to look over the menu again. I thought “How spicy could it be?” I’ve eaten plenty of spicy food before, hell I’ve made plenty of spicy food before - most of it on accident in my early days of cooking. - The food came and my Dosa was amazing, so delicious! I took several bites and didn’t feel any heat, it wasn’t till my fourth or fifth bite that it hit me, and boy he wasn’t lying about how spicy it was. It was probably one of the spiciest things I’ve ever eaten in my life. But it was so good, and I was so hungry and I gobbled it up like a champion. My husband couldn’t believe it, my expression never indicated that what I’d just eaten had been red hot, and I didn’t even break a sweat, not until the very last bite anyway. If you don’t like spicy, or are not sure if you like spicy then you should pick something else if your waiter tells you that something is spicy. If on the other hand you’re more adventurous like me, go with the spicy! It was fantastic, and probably the best food we ate in all of London, and definitely some of the best Indian food I’ve eaten in my life. The service here was also very quick which we appreciated since we were on a schedule. Had to get back to the tower by 9 for the Turning of the Keys ceremony. (Where we got to see Tower Bridge again this time by night!) Price wise this was a pretty inexpensive meal, especially for the amount of food we ate. Definitely a bargain.

Sagar - 31 Catherine Street, Covent Garden  

On our last full day we filled up on breakfast and then headed out to Hyde Park again, but the opposite end from where we were at two days before. Then we headed to Kensington Gardens and then Kensington Palace. After that we just so happened to be passing by a massive Whole Foods Market on our way to the Tube and so we popped in to take a look round, and ended up buying a couple of tasty - although quite sugary - vegan cupcakes. From there we headed to Bloomsbury to see the former homes of Virginia Woolf, - Of whom I am a fan. - and Charles Dickens, - Of whom my husband is a fan. - By then we were quite hungry and so we stopped at another Indian place called The Vegetarian’s Paradise.

This is a relatively small place and it looks a bit shabby from the outside. However we were very hungry and we very much liked the sign declaring that the all you can eat dinner buffet was only 6 pounds. We decided to through caution to the wind and step inside. Despite the look of the place the food was quite good, and the staff was very friendly. They had a nice assortment of items, breads, curries, pickles, relishes, sauces, fried vegetable fritters, rice and desserts. Plenty to keep you full. The fried foods were a bit greasy which is to be expected I suppose but the curries were quite good, if under spiced. I like my Indian food to have a bit more kick, but it was perfect for my husband who likes his more mild. My only complaint other then the lack of heat is that there weren’t enough veggies. I mainly ate fried foods, rice, bread and then some curries of course but even those weren’t overflowing with veg and one of them was a dahl. However all the carbs and fat certainly didn’t hurt as I’d walked an 12 mile day that day but be warned if that’s something you’re concerned about. Price wise this was our cheapest meal in London, and for the amount of food we ate you can’t beat it that’s for sure. However I’m not sure I’d venture all the way here just to eat if I wasn’t in the neighborhood already. Though if you are walking around Bloomsbury, perhaps visiting the home of Virginia Woolf yourself, and you find yourself in need of some eats then by all means stop on by. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

The Vegetarian’s Paradise - 59 Marchmont Street, (A short walk from the Russell Square Underground Station.)

Our last morning we filled up again on breakfast again and then headed out early. We were on a mission you see. It was a very specific mission. We needed to haunt all the tourist shops within a 2 mile radius to hunt down a stuffed Wenlock before leaving London. Wenlock for those of you who don’t know is London’s Mascot for the 2012 Olympics. When I first saw it on our second day in London I thought it was the silliest looking thing I’d ever seen. Somehow it grew on me and by the end of our visit I decided I needed a stuffed Wenlock colored to look like a Union Jack. My poor, wonderful husband took me to every shop near our hotel, and finally he found me a stuffed Wenlock in a tiny little shop right next to Victoria Station. It was the last Union Jack Wenlock and I was very happy to have him. Then we rushed back to the hotel, quicky packed, checked out and headed to the airport to catch our plane to Munich.

And now the rest of the trip will have to wait until tomorrow or possibly the next day. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first portion, and I hope if you’re in London you try one or more of the restaurants I mentioned.

PS: For those of you very curious about what a Union Jack Wenlock might look like I found the following Image using Google Images. Cute right?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Back In The Saddle Again...

And so I have returned! I had planned to post a few days ago but I’ve been a bit tired since getting back. Not jet-lag mind you - I have not yet suffered this phenomenon in my life - just sheer physical exhaustion. Our trip - as our trips almost always are - was a whirlwind tour, we visited 18 cities in just under a month, and walked an average of 11 miles per day. Our shortest day was a merciful 9 miles, and our longest an epic 13 miles. Virtually every minute of our day was packed with some adventure or another. We woke on average between 6-6:45 depending on what the day had in store, and went to bed on average between 11:30 and 1am, depending on what the night had in store. There wasn’t a lot of time for sleep, because I am of the opinion that if you are going to visit a place you best see all of it because there’s no telling whether or not you’ll ever be back, and of course when it comes to myself, I am not - unfortunately - in the habit of doing things twice. Of course a vacation like that does eventually take it’s toll, and by the last few days we had begun slowing down considerably, though it was not near slow enough to set me back to rights by the time I was back in Chicago.

Our first day back my legs simply refused to carry me beyond a few steps at a time, and practically revolted if I had it in mind to travel a greater distance then that from my bedroom to the kitchen. My mind has similarly revolted against even glancing at a textbook, the very thought of which it could barely comprehend and so I’ve been enjoying the past few days curled up on the couch reading fiction. I have given up exercise this week - and even the pretense of it really - I have given up school for the week, and though I have been cooking - of course - I haven’t been cooking anything too elaborate, nor have I been cooking anything of my own. Though this all makes me feel a bit lazy on the one hand, on the other I can appreciate just how welcome this relaxation is.

In addition to battling exhaustion, I’ve also been faced with battling - in a manner of speaking - the massive cultural differences between Europe and America. Strangely enough I didn’t experience any cultural shock going from America to Europe because Europe reminded me so much of home, (Canada.)  Coming back however was like a cruel hard slap in the face. Everything is different from the smallest details to just the general way of life and the general attitudes of people, and it seems I am much more suited to the European way of life then I am to the American way. Strange as it may sound in Germany I got so used to the German Language - even if I didn’t always understand it - that my first coupe of days back in the states I found English to be almost bizarre. Our first night in fact we went out for burritos because I wasn’t about to cook dinner, and though our server was speaking perfect English in a completely clear voice it took me several seconds before I could actually comprehend what he was saying. Still my first instinct is to greet people, thank people, and say goodbye to people here in German, and before I open my mouth I have to remind myself to speak in English, haha...

But enough about my difficulties upon being back, the trip was fantastic - epic really! We did so much, saw so much, experienced so much and every moment was beautiful and memorable, even the ones that weren’t. If I could have I would have stayed in Germany much, much longer. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the privilege to travel to, and I fell in love with it from the moment I stepped off the plane in Munich. I felt very much at home in Germany, - particularly in the Alps - like I belonged there. I didn’t feel awkward or out of place, and for the very first time since my last trip back to Vancouver in 09 I didn’t feel even the tiniest bit homesick.

We also ate amazingly well on our trip. I’ll admit I was a bit concerned. I knew eating Vegan in London would be a snap, London after all is supposedly the most vegetarian friendly city in the world, Germany however I wasn’t so sure about. As it turns out my worries were for naught because we found it to actually be easier to eat Vegan in Germany than it is in Chicago - most of the time anyway. - Veganism may not exactly be ‘popular’ in Germany but there are enough vegan restaurants around to get you through, and vegetarianism seems common enough there. All of the non-vegan restaurants we went to typically had anywhere from several to an entire page of vegetarian options a handful of which were either vegan or could be made that way if you were familiar enough with the language to ask. We ate great, both in London and Germany and tomorrow when I’ve got a bit more time I’ll give you more details about all the wonderful restaurants and cafes we tried. At one of these restaurants I even made a new friend, and of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while we was abroad I had the opportunity to meet up with my very good friend N from M√ľnster and his lovely lady B. Both of whom were kind enough to play tour guide for us, we had a wonderful time.

Unfortunately I will have to leave it there for now, because I must be off to work, but I’ll be sure to post tomorrow about all those great vegan eats, so stay tuned!