Friday, December 21, 2007

Hmmm...what am I doing? Sitting in the Brussels International Airport. Am I getting ready to board a flight to Philadelphia that will seamlessly connect with my flight to Toronto? Nope. I am delayed, I am grounded, I am stuck. And worst of all....I am drinking Diet Coke. Lord Help Me Please.

Nice and early I arrived. Ready and excited. After having said a rushed goodbye to a beard free donkey, I lounged in bed for a couple of hours, making my way through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, and occasionally stopping to close my lids and imagine all the good food and fun that is awaiting me in my home and native land. I took my car to the Chateau at work, called up a taxi and raced it over to the see the garish and hideous yellow letters scrawled across the departures board: DELAYED. Well, what the fuck?

I just wasn't ready for this. However, I kept emotional meltdown at bay by chatting with a civil engineer from Georgia and a yoga sweater wearing girl from London, Ontario. I was informed that the kind folks at US Airways have bumped me to a later connections...that should get me into Toronto at....oh....3 am Brussels time.

So here I sit. I am of course, paying through the nose for my internet connection that is allowing me to type away to fellow vegans and curious readers. And what to eat? Well, luckily, thanks to Tsampa, I have a couple OSKRI organic bars in my bag.....but I am not feeling too much like munching today - a reciprocal feeling, I am sure, to the massive meal that I tucked away last night as we celebrated the end of a school term and the start of a holiday. Great chick pea dish done with a hedonistic slathering of tahini. Oh my.

Just as an aside - has anyone EVER seen a deicing machine for airplanes in action? It is pretty awesome. Imagine if a cherry picker, a crane and a ferris wheel had a baby?

In more exciting news - I got a great load of holiday gifts from my kidlets - everything from a free trade oxfam tea pot and Pierre Marcolini christmas balls, to Body Shop Cranberry Body Cream (MY FAVOURITE SMELL - memories of 2003 all the way) and really amazing olive oil. Had a great time yesterday and wednesday - ice skating, cookie decorating, card making, movie watching. Being a professor was an amazing job...but really, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats holding the hands of two ten year old children, one from Japan and one from England, who are learning to skate for the first time. Wow.

I also got my first non-kid-given present last night. I was wickedly wonderful, in a humorous and culinary sort of way. I was already in bed and got to unwrap it all from the comparative warmth of my bed (for a temperature gauge of the rest of my flat - I was in bed, under my duvet wearing a long sleeve shirt, a pair of tights and a bath robe), and it was not anything I could have guessed. I was forewarned about the relative obscurity of this gift - so of course I saw this as a challenge and wanted to take a guess was a hypodermic needle and S&M rubber hosing. I was close. It is actually a kit, complete with rubber tubbing, agar agar packets and one uses the syringe-like tool to pump the tubbing full of the agar (plus other sweet or sour flavours and colours). The force of the 'pump' pushes out spaghetti style 'noodles'. Totally wins the prize for the most original and interesting gift! I am looking forward to some good times with it...and some pretty cool posts for sure.

Well, I suppose I should sign off and get back to waiting!!! Yes. Waiting. Hours of uninterrupted waiting!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I needed to make a pit stop at the Ixelles police station last night after work, and rather than racing home (my thick Canadian skin is proving useful in this -2 degree weather that finds other folks scurrying home as fast as can be), I decided to stroll around the neighbourhood and FINALLY pop into La Tsampa. I was under the silly impression that this was only a veg restaurant - when really, the truth being now revealed (and the massive iron doors upon creaking open, did very much make it feel that I was 'revealling' something), La Tsampa is a great little magasin AND a restaurant. Whopppee.

They had a great selection of bio/organic foodstuff. They even had - get ready - Vegan Ravioli. I almost started crying right there in the middle of the mega-packed shop. The tears were provoked by memories of sharing a tin of Chef Boyardee with my nana at almost every lunch time...eaten whilst watching Days of Our Lives. It appears that for a mere 4.35 euros I can enjoy the memory once again (I think I might skip on the Days of Our Lives though).

They were also well stocked with yummy looking pastas (loads were wheat free), dried fruit, nuts, egg replacer, vegan makeup, vegan body spray, Bach Herbal remedies, and a hearty selection of fresh produce. Way to go La Tsampa - you made my day!!! Upon doing some research today it appears that they do a pretty good menu in the restaurant as well - I think Thursday night might have to include a little visit. They also have veg cooking classes and the shop seemed to be a spot for posting veg related information and products.

Totally impressed. Looking forward to enjoying my vegan energy bars, which I picked up last night, during my Friday plane ride.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I think, even in my vegan state, that I know chocolate; I have had some pretty amazing chocolate in my life, and have even lived across the road from the Gladstone Cadbury Chocolate factory. This expertise leaves me with a certain amount of qualification to make some strong statements about the darling morsels that have made their melting ways into my sweaty palms. Before I share the new chocolateir, whose treats past between my lips last night, I have to acknowledge the fact that their can never be a chocolate treat as tasty as my mom's christmas truffles.

**Note - Mom, if you don't manage to veganize your truffles during my trip home I might have to reconsider my Chemay offer.

I wasn't feeling so hot last night. The damp days of Brussels aren't always best suited for us with tin-man joints. Despite the cool weather my knight in shinning armor (disguised as a super geek) made an evening journey to the posh market to fetch himself some bread and other pizza toppings. Upon his return, he withdrew, from under his Arthurian nerd-bag, a funkfully designed little red box. Held within the box was a good sized portion of Gingembre de Guilin. The dark chocolate covered ginger sticks, which came in a bit too much packaging, were delicious. What was even better was the localness of the product - all made and packaged in Brussels, from the well traveled LAURENT GERBAUD, whose company: Chocolats Gerbaud sells the best Belgian chocolate I have tasted so far.

The chocolatier has tramped across the world and swapped Belgian beer insider tips for gourmand secrets that he has incorporated into this chocolate. In addition to some run of the mill product titles, such as: Figs in Dark Chocolate, and Truffes Noires, the goodness also takes us into other countries with his, Amandes de Sicile, Oranges de Shanghai, Abricots de Barrydale, and Noisettes du Piémont. The whole product line seems to be marketed very consciously around this attempt at globalizing ones day through the chocolate indulgence. A well planned out business plan for Brussels in particular - a city within a country with the largest European GDP, with citizens who make a regular habit to work until 10 pm most nights, leaving the busy business drones with little time for trips to Guilin, Sicile or Shanghai. Conversely, as I noted on my trip to Ikea (yes, I realize the irony thanks), that it is also a city with some extensively dense pockets of poverty...sorry...where did my taxes go?

The main shop can be found at A.M Sweet, Rue Des Charteux 4, 1000 Brussels. But, don't be discouraged, you can pick up these delectables from a variety of retailers across the continent, in the UK and on your weekend trips to Japan. Check out this page for a list of the retailers.

Anyway, the chocolate I had last night was fantastic. And, everyone back home can bank on some Chocolats Gerbaud.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Does the world need another outdoor clothing company?

That's a question asked by the ninjas that run NAU - a rather newish outdoor clothing company, who is obviously using the funds from their expensive gear to fund a really great website.

They are much sleeker and sexier than the good old MEC, and they have managed to appeal to more than just the snow boarders, mountain climbers and extreme weather lovers that they exhibit on their website - they have a well rounded product line, including yoga pants, base layers, gloves, great jackets and super stylish sweaters. I am impressed.

Interestingly enough, they say almost the same things as LuLuLemon (you know the mantra..."we are different because we don't want to pollute the environment despite the obvious reality that we are a company that is putting more stuff out there to be consumed....blah blah") but I actually find myself believing these folks at NAU. Perhaps it is the way that, in an antithetical to LuLu marketing technique, one has to actually hunt for the NAU logo.

I would shell out the big bucks for a little bit of NAU - not that you need much outdoor gear in Brussels .... except for some killer rain boots and full water gear.

Hmmmm....with Toronto Airport as my next destination (scheduled to land in t-minus 9 days) I am trying to decide what vegan eatery to hit when I pick up the rental car that will (hopefully) be waiting for me. Do I pick something ahead of time? Do I let clandestine dining take its course? I have secret dreams stored away of walking through the arrival gates to find the entire staff of Fresh waiting for me, arms full of fresh squeezed juices and my favourite salad. Do I drive from the airport into Toronto for a meal after a full day/night traveling? Or do I do the sensible thing and book it to the Hammer? To La Luna? Oh, choices. Choices. Decisions. I have a feeling that after the in flight vegan options I will be happy with just about anything.....

Monday, December 10, 2007

I had a fantastic Christmasy weekend! Maybe fantastic is a bit of a jump - I admit to not feeling 100% - a little tired, a little tummy twinging, a little grumpy, but I had some amazing food and started some face to face Christmas shopping (This year I must admit to jumping on the online bandwagon - but where else are you going to buy vegan eggnog for your friends in Nepal?).

Dinner on Friday night was amazing. For some reason, while walking my many walks around Chatelaine Square I have failed to realize that I live ridiculously close to a great VEGAN (not all vegan, but the word vegan is actually on the menu) restaurant.

Located right next to the not so great CHINE, is TAN. They have a crappy website, whether you are reading in English or French, but the restaurant, the food and the atmosphere more than make up for the shitty web hosting. We went all out - we were celebrating - and our Friday night couldn't have landed us in a better place for a celebration.

You walk into what looks like a space that has the potential to turn into a little snack shop (but the menu posted suggests a different story) and you find yourself standing in the middle of a great little bio shop - with a high end flavour, and a specialty for raw/japanese and wine accoutrement's. I was already impressed, and the cute little hippie guy who took our coats only increased my delight with our find. The upper floor is an open concept, fairly high end, feng shui designed restaurant. The chef is located off to the right of the dining room and is protected by a thin layer of glass - so he didn't dare let the pork knife slip into the quinoa.

We started with an avocado puree and a marinated fennel dish. Our mains consisted of a tofu rolande pour moi and some fish for my dinner companion - but we won't touch on that option so much. It was all really great, and the demi of wine we shared was great for a house red. Great night. I raided the shop on my way out. Who doesn't love organic banana purchases at 10 pm?

Earlier that day I had also finally gotten around to visiting Shanti - another bio shop on my tram ride home. They have BULK food - so there was so mad cookie making on Saturday. I made a rendition of my dad's favourite vegan cookie - I had to crush up some really good vegan belgian chocolate (in lieu of finding any chocolate chips).

After a slow start, a quick trip through the Lakes market, Sunday afternoon resulted in another great new find - we had the best of intentions to make it to the art gallery to see the alchenski exhibit - but instead we found Sucre Sale. This little eatery is in the middle of Place F. Cocq and has some amazing looking sandwiches, quiches and ice cream. I opted for a vegan salad that was some not-that-exciting salad leaves topped with some wonderfully grilled veg and an olive tapenade. Really well done. I quite enjoyed the green tea with cactus leaves. After such a great meal I was left with no other option than to head home and spend the whole afternoon cleaning the house.

The weekend ended with a phone call from my mom, and me killing off some veg that needed to go (I made turnip and parsnip chips and tofu steaks). Oh....and we ate the rest of the cookies and drank a whole bottle of wine. I was surprisingly wide awake this morning???

11 days left until I find myself in vegan heaven. I have been here long enough to know that I will miss my new home for the fortnight I find myself sleeping under Canadian skies, and there will be something missing in not having to hunt and gather for my vegan treats; the bevy of Toronto delights and my life long love affair with La Luna await me. yikes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A wonderful article.

We can all love a Yunnan monkey - can't we?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I just have to take a minute to pay homage to one of the most amazing pairs to ever sweep the earth. Nothing accomplished by Fred and Ginger, Bill and Hillary, or Best and Banting could ever begin to approach the beauty that emanates forth from the vegan design team of Matt and Nat. I just love their designs and would sell off my entire book collection for one of their precious treasures. I am currently weeping over the subtle genius found in their Depeche Mode. It is a perfect specimen.