Friday, July 28, 2006

A foodie tour of Scotland

Who says it's tougher to be veg in Britain?
I think it'd be fair to say that a number of the highlights of this overseas vacation were culinarily-influenced. When we'd get to a new city, the sights I'd be most interested in seeing were those inside vegetarian restaurants. I found this site to be a really helpful research tool even before I'd left Canada.

All this was excluded from my earlier account of our trip because I'd rather have two mini-marathon posts than one that'd take an hour to read. Hope you find my research useful on your next trip to Scotland.

We arrived in Glasgow on a Saturday morning, but slept a good part of the day. In the evening, one of James's programme mentors took us to a health food shop, Grassroots. I spent some time checking out all the products unavailable in Canada and the astounding prices of everything in there (- lost of things were the same numbers on the price tags, but in pounds instead of dollars). Among my purchases for the following few breakfasts were quinoa milk (never heard of it before!) and soy yogurt in wee glass jars (I was impressed to find something other than plastic!).
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We then walked just around the corner to the Grassroots Cafe.
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I was really pleased that my 15 year-old omnivorous brother was willing to stay instead of leaving me on my own and going off for 'take-away' somewhere else. The atmosphere was lovely and the food was gorgeous (and especially welcome after the wilted lettuce leaves and gluten-free rock... sorry, roll I'd been offered on the plane). The extensive menu was great because it listed which dished were vegan, and which were wheat/gluten-free. Impressive.

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North African Salad: orange pieces, dates, pistachios, almonds, cinnamon, caraway and corriander seeds on a bed of baby greens. Amazing flavour combo.

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Curried Spinach Soup

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pizza with spinach (or was it rocket?) and red onion

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mushroom and parsley soup with rye bread

In fact, I returned to Grassroots 2 1/2 weeks later with my pal Gavin (who I'd met up at Findhorn) and ordered the same salad, along with the Risotto Cakes with feta (and that dollop on top is pesto).
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Fried, yes, but very tasty.

Mono is also in Glasgow. I really liked the space:
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There's a store section, and also a little record shop off to the side called Monorail.

We had to go up to the bar for menus and to order. The menu was smallish (and sticky, I might add) - but I was able to find things I could eat. I picked a daily special, but the cost of 7 pounds felt like more than I could afford, so I asked if I could get a 5-pound portion. The guy behind the bar turned out to be from Edmonton! He said he'd give me a half portion, which when it arrived clearly wasn't just half:
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sweet potato curry - tasty and filling

...and when he only charged me half price I was very grateful. So needless to say: friendly staff.

While we were still downtown, we stopped into one of the three big grocery chains in the UK. I was really impressed to see signs like these up in the produce section
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and would have liked to have captured the signs about folic acid and such, but some managerial-seeming employee came up to me when I had my camera out and started yelling at me about How Would I Like It If He Came Into My Home And Took Pictures?, telling me I should contact the Head Office, to which I responded that I'd like to because I was really impressed with their signs, but he didn't believe me and called me childish. James was mortified and went to wait outside, so I had to stand in line on my own, waiting to pay for some hummous.

Henderson's is an Edinburgh restaurant I'd heard lots about, but in the end I wasn't all that impressed.
We arrived and walked down some stairs to a cafeteria-like set-up, and were informed that the sit-down service was down the street. So off we went.
The service was okay, the food was... okay.

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James' lasagne (He picked out the zucchini.)

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sweet potato and fennel soup with salad (from James' lasagne - I traded for the bread that came with my soup)

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icky slimy leaves in with my salad - the salad was small enough that it should have been noticed (am I being to picky? I just don't like funky greens on my plate.)

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James' blended juice was too small in my humble opinion for 2.50

The redeeming ending was that they brought bite-sized organic mint chocolates with the bill.

I'd read in my guidebook about The Elephant House where it is said that JK Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book.
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James and I made a point of going in, but it was early on in the day and we realized that neither one of us was hungry or thirsty, so we left.

David Bann Restaurant was also mentioned in my guidebook. Rather swanky and not too pricey (relatively speaking), though I could see how one could easily ring up a large bill. This was a great chance to meet up with new friends, and for them to meet my brother.

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Christian, who's from Germany, came down from Findhorn for the day. (He's just started a six-month programme up at Findhorn.)

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Lindsey, who's from Colorado and was in my Experience Week group up at Findhorn, was also in Edinburgh that weekend.

My salad and Lindsey's soup arrived first.
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Roasted sweet potato and goats cheese salad: "Chunks of roasted sweet potato and goats cheese, with home sweet dried tomatoes and green beans on a bed of rocket mixed salad, finished with a red pesto."

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James waited hungrily for his meal to arrive

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Two sides: vegetable stir-fry (I scored his zucchini again) and chips

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Lindsey got Thai fritters: "Aromatic, spicy fritters of smoked tofu, peas, ginger, green chilli, lime, sesame and potato. Served with fresh mango chutney and a roast garlic tomato sauce."

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Christian got Kofta, coconut daal and sweet potato: "Aromatic and spicy chickpea and cauliflower koftas with caramelised sweet potato. Served with a coconut, coriander, ginger and mustard seed daal, a crunchy yoghurt raita and plum chutney."

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My shiitake and coconut milk soup arrived, but it was unbelievably salty, so I exchanged it for this:

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Mushroom medley with tarragon: "A variety of mushrooms including shiitake and oyster lightly cooked with white wine, butter, garlic and tarragon. Served on a creamy mash and braised leek with a raspberry vinaigrette."

Before we left town, I stopped at a near-by health food store and picked up this, which I've brought back to Toronto to try.
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I'll let you know how it turned out!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The British Vacation

First off, thanks for all for your UK travel suggestions from a few weeks back. I'd planned to blog while overseas, but time just got away from me.
Here's the first of two UK posts (I won't blame you if this one doesn't grab you, even with the knitting content; come back Friday though for the food installment):

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Domestic Affair goes Canadian Affair! Hokey name for an airline carrier, eh?

The flight was thankfully on time (unlike the hours and hours delay we had to Italy last Fall with the two little ones both being until three years of age at the time). James (my 15 year-old brother) got the window seat and this older gentleman, who was somewhat posessive of his space, sat next to me. Needless to say I didn't get a wink of sleep all night.

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Here's James with his Giant Peach juice still at the airport (hope you're catching the literary reference there).

It's worth mentioning that what initially got the idea of this trip into our parents' head was because there is a camp programme at the University of Strathclyde, offered to the children of alumni, and James was just the right age to go. It was suggested that I accompany him. Once I'd dropped him off in Glasgow I'd have two weeks to run around with a British Rail Pass in hand, before meeting back up with my brother and spending another week visiting relatives and friends before flying home.

We were met at the airport by Phill, one of the lovely "mentors" of James's camp programme. In the parking lot, I tried to get in on the right side of the car, forgetting it's the drivers seat in that part of the world (a bit of an embarassing first impression to give). Driving back to the residence James remarked that he wouldn't mind Phill driving on the wrong side of the road so much, if only it weren't so fast.

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We arrived at the residence mid-morning and immediately had to go to bed.
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jet-lagged James post-nap

A full day in Glasgow, then down to England for me. First stop beautiful Bath, where I was welcomed by long-time friends of my mum and dad's.
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The temperature got up to 32oC and everyone was exclaiming about the heat. I explained that that's no great shakes by Toronto standards. I don't know if you know, but Jane Austen is claimed to be Bath's most famous resident. Seemed fitting, as I'd brought Pride and Prejudice for my holiday reading, to visit the Jane Austen Centre but I was informed Jane didn't actually like Bath all that much and the centre isn't all that great.

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outside the Roman Baths - this says something about water in Latin and for the life of me I can't remember what

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The Bath Abbey - side view

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Then down further to Devon (in the south-west of England) to visit my fairy godfather, Don Jesse.
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This used to be Don's house in Salcombe. I'm told my dad built the roof (decades ago).

The train from Don's back up to Glasgow was 8.5 hours (thank goodness for my iPod and my knitting!). I just stayed overnight before hopping another train at 7am for Findhorn.

The Findhorn Foundation is a spiritual intentional community that was established in the 1960s and well known around that time for growing 40-pound cabbages on sandy northern Scottish land thanks to Divine guidance. Sadly for this blog post, I didn't take any pictures during my week there - I was too busy just experiencing. (It's really worth checking out their website throught the various links here for more info.) I got to work in the kitchen for four mornings during my stay - where I helped make soups and salads for 140 at a go. It was a really great week. Though I've visited many intentional communities in the past five years or so, I've never seen the concept of acceptance so beautifully in practice as I did here.

This week was follow by another long train ride down to Lockerbie to meet up with James and stay with relatives and go beach-hopping. Then to Aberdeen (so many 48-hour visits!), with an outing to Crathes Castle and the seashore. Then to Edinburgh for more fun with old family friends (not to say that they're old, but their relationship with my parents is relatively old... oh heck, you know what I mean!). Upon our arrival I was presented with some beautiful Scottish wool, the skein on the right having been dyed with nettles.
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And, I found a knitshop within 10 minutes of where we stayed.
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it's the grey one in the middle

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Jeanette is the lovely lady who owns the shop. And I'm proud to announce that Take Back the Knit is now available in the UK! Just nip over to HK Edinburgh.

There was Rowan on sale, and Kidsilk Haze for just 6.75 (we're talking pounds here, but still) and I couldn't resist. (Rowan's from that part of the world and it's important to support local business, wherever you are.)
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Now James said no art galleries on this trip, which was disappointing for me because I tend to love them (and their usually-free admission) so. In Aberdeen I managed to go to one without him. In Edinburgh I got to two galleries before he'd even woken up one morning (one of which had a nice Van Gogh exhibit), and by the time we'd got to the third, he caved and was willing to come in with me.
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Our last morning, we hopped on a train back to Glasgow and made our way to the airport with plenty of time to spare at the terminal. The flight home was better as I got the window seat this time, and the movie was Ice Age 2 - a great improvement on Big Momma's House 2, the outbound movie.
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I'm stratching Greenland off the list of places to live in my lifetime.

Still no sleep for me on the flight though, and I've been waking at 5am since our return home, which is driving me a bit nuts.

"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
To join the Facebook group for the book, go here.


about the blog:

about the cookbooks:

While I love hearing from you, and read each and every one of your e-mails, please understand that I just cannot respond to all of them due to the rate at which they're coming in these days!

If you have a question, I might have already answered it here.

in the press

live in person!

come see me:
* Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR, August 26-28, 2011.

...but better yet, check the calendar for details!



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