Vegan Afternoon Tea in The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel Chicago

As a special surprise for JC’s birthday I wanted to take him out for something he’s never done before, and after the camping and the driving, it seemed a nice fancy experience would be just the right thing as a treat. I emailed The Peninsula Hotel and The Lobby a few weeks ago about their vegan afternoon tea offering, and what would be on the menu if we went. They kindly sent over a PDF and asked if I wanted to make a reservation. I did! After a lovely day admiring the works at the Art Institute of Chicago, we made our way over through the Magnificent Mile, and on to The Lobby inside The Peninsula Hotel. It’s beautiful inside and service is semi-formal and friendly. It was nice that when I mentioned only being interested in the vegan menu when I made the reservation, because we got to skip the menu shuffle that has occasionally happened when we’ve gone to a restaurant that has a vegan menu, but who’s staff aren’t particularly enthusiastic about it. That didn’t happen here, and I can’t say that it would, because everyone was great. Save for five tables or so, we had The Lobby to ourselves, so I could actually take a picture of what the place looked like without taking pictures of strangers. Most people were in booths or by the window like us. We started with celebratory glasses of champagne, and enjoyed the view out the window as the staff prepared for dinner. Happy…

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Things I Love Thursday – Google Location History.

Full Disclosure: I’m writing this on Wednesday. Today we’re heading to Waterton Lakes National Park today to go camping, followed by Glacier National Park in the USA, followed by Grand Teton & Yellowstone. So on the things I love Thursday – all of those are definitely at the top of my list. When I booked our Yellowstone campsite about a month ago I was beyond excited. Now that we’ve done the camping thing together a bit more, I’m even more excited. It’s been a lot of fun so far. Visiting with friends in Winnipeg, showing JC some of my old stomping grounds in Saskatoon, and visiting family and friends in Edmonton over the last week has been incredible, and it’s hard to believe we drove here. (Or I should say – JC drove here, I still don’t have my license.) The last two weeks we’ve been in so many different places. I’ve been really enjoying the ability to look at my Google Location History to see the whole trip so far. You might find it creepy though, especially if you have an android device, but check it out (and change your settings if you don’t want your location tracked!!) This country is incredible, and if you ever get the change to explore the prairies, I promise it’s worth it. Especially if you’re from Toronto. The skies are amazing. Till next time… please feel free to connect on instagram, twitter, or facebook.

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Coffee Monday – Roadtrip Coffee Round Up

And now for something completely different. We’ve been travelling for a little over two weeks. I miss my kitties, but have full faith in the wonderful people taking care of them.On the road from Toronto to where we are now we’ve stopped in to a few different coffee shops all over the US & Canada, mostly Canada really, but it’s been kind of cool to see the different styles and takes on coffee culture in various cities, states, and provinces. It’s often a great source of relaxation, a place to go for a few hours, a refuge from mosquitoes (I’m looking at you Manitoba), and as a spot for wifi and/or power outlets. So Far Coffee Culture, Sarnia, ON – free wifi, a few outlets, decent coffee, lots of seating. Gaslight Coffee Roasters, Chicago, IL – outlets, wifi, fantastic coffee, roasted on site, charge for dairy alternatives. Ipsento Coffee, Chicago, IL – fantastic coffee. Thom Bargan, Winnipeg, MB – fantastic coffee, lots of outlets, wifi, charge for dairy alternatives. Make Coffee & Stuff, Winnipeg, MB – cheapest chemex coffee in Winnipeg. outlets, wifi. Siesta Cafe, Riding Mountain National Park, MB – lots of outlets, free wifi. Broadway Roastery, Saskatoon, SK – in house roasting, nice coffee, free wifi, lots of outlets. Noir Espresso, Saskatoon, SK – no outlets, charge for dairy alternatives, okay coffee. Honeybun Cafe, Saskatoon, SK – no outlets, charge for dairy alternatives, okay coffee, occasionally have vegan stuffed buns (that happen to be delicious) Museo Coffee, Saskatoon, SK –…

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Chicago – the Art Institute & Native Foods

Oh where to begin. This was the day I planned out a little JC birthday celebration. I emailed with the staff at The Lobby in the Peninsula hotel before we left Toronto about their Afternoon Tea, and we planned to go to the Art Institute of Chicago for a very long wander and to visit the famous Chicago Bean (uh, I mean the Cloud Gate…) in Millennium Park. It’s also a perfect time to see a few other things in the area like the Magnificent Mile, DuSable Bridge, the Water Tower (one of the only remaining structures from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871), House of Blues, other things, and you can grab a bite to eat at Native Foods if you’re so inclined (we were.) I love learning more about the history of places we visit, and some of the architecture, so I considered taking a walking tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, but there wasn’t enough time, but if you’re planning a visit you might want to check them out. There is a list of the various walking tours here. They also have tours by boat and other methods of transportation. We whipped out our fancy 3-day pass loaded Ventra (transit) cards and took the pink line train to The Loop, which many other lines are conveniently connect to as well. To go to the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) we got out at Adams/Wabash and walked up to the Beaux-Arts style building (a design familiar to some of us Canadian Prairie…

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Chicago wandering and Soul Vegan grab-and-go

After enjoying a very lovely lunch at The Chicago Diner & enjoying a few cups of fancy coffee at Gaslight Coffee Roasters, we wandered around the Pilsen neighbourhood enjoying some of the street art Chicago is known for while we waited for our AirBnB apartment to be ready.   As we travelled through the city I couldn’t help but feel like the city had a lot in common with Toronto in ways that other places I’ve travelled to do not. Little pockets of different cultures and neighbourhoods, a couple of major roads as main thoroughfares, street art, the general mid-sized-large city ambiance, etc. Home away from home. I collect pictures of street art wherever I can find it, because it’s so transient, and always changing and evolving. If you want to see anymore, please check out my Graffiti album on flickr. After getting into our AirBNB, we zipped over to a nearby Whole Foods in search of Earth Balance macaroni and cheese, and stumbled on Soul Vegan grab and go fare. We had considered going to Soul Vegetarian that night, but after a reasonably busy morning, we’d end up getting there just a bit too late for a relaxed meal. Until now, I didn’t actually realize that Soul Vegetarian and Soul Vegan are not the same folks though. So far JC and I have eaten at Souley Vegan (in Oakland), Soul Vegetarian (Jacksonville), Detroit Vegan Soul (Detroit), and now this one. I wonder what it’s like fresh, because most of…

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Chicago Diner – Roadtrip 2014

After our fun but brief camping time at Fort Custer Recreation Area we drove on to Chicago in a couple of hours. I plotted the course to the Chicago Diner in the Logan Square area because we had a few hours to go before our AirBnB in the Pilsen neighbourhood would be available, and we both skipped breakfast. The Logan square area offers some wandering potential too, so I figured we could poke around the area after lunch. It’s a beautiful restaurant with solid oak tables and benches, and reclaimed wood from the neighbourhood. It was interesting reading about the beginnings on the Chicago Diner blog post from a few years ago, because it gave me a greater appreciation for what they were trying to do with the space. Apparently the building is LEED certified (which is no small feat) and generally tries to be more environmentally friendly. The host/bartender was super friendly when we walked in, but our server seemed stressed out and exhausted. That said, this didn’t actually impact service much, and we were mostly left alone to eat in peace, which was good. When we’re travelling, it’s always worth remembering that while we’re excited and keen on a place, it’s ultimately just a restaurant. Where people eat. Local or otherwise. Not everyone needs to appreciate or mirror our excitement. It’s just food right? (seriously) We started with one of the much recommended shakes, and ordered one regular sized chocolate chip cookie dough shakes, intending to share it. The…

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Roadtrip 2014 Begins – Fort Custer Recreation Area

J and I have been planning a bit of a road trip for a couple of weeks, and now we’re actually doing it. The exciting and daunting thing about embarking on this sort of thing is that we’re not planning on being back home for quite a while. Thankfully we have some incredible friends and family that will make sure our furkids are okay while we’re away. We’ve already turned on the kitty cat spy cam a few times – because leaving them behind is easily one of the hardest parts of travelling. Before we left Toronto we picked up a box of our traditional Through Being Cool roadtrip treats, turned on an Animals Voices podcast, and were on our way – first stop the Blue Water Bridge border crossing in Sarnia into Michigan. Border Crossings can be such a mixed bag, but while this one had a very long line, it was one of the more pleasant crossings I’ve had in the last couple of years. The most incredible thing about the crossing, is that they’re not kidding about the blue water. It’s so blue and looks so lovely from the bridge, so while you’re waiting you get to see a beautiful vista. Our first planned stop was at Fort Custer Recreation Area, which is a Michigan State Park in Augusta, Michigan. We built a fired and roasted Tofurky dogs on sticks, slightly kicking ourselves for not bringing along Dandies marshmallows to roast – of course we’ll fix that after Chicago (since that’s…

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New Vegan Cheese in Town: Maniocheese – Lazy(ish) Vegan Friday

There is a new vegan cheese in Toronto called Maniocheese, a plant based cheese made from made from cassava (also known as tapioca, manioc or yucca), peruvian parsnip and beans, and it’s here all the way from Brazil! (There it’s known as Mandiokejo) It’s imported by Vegantage Point, and at the moment is available directly from them online, or from The Health Shoppe (41-A Charles W, Toronto). But check out their “Where to Buy” for more info. It’s not a prepared product, so there are a few steps to making it usable (as you’ll see in the picture of the directions below), so it’s not entirely lazy, but it’s a few steps easier than opening the Artisian Vegan Cheese book and picking one of those. What’s in the box? I woke up thinking of making a pizza, and decided to walk over to The Health Shoppe and pick up a box of Maniocheese. It was $7.99 before tax, and there are two packets of maniocheese powder per box. Which is approximately enough for two medium sized pizzas. What did we think? I think this product has a lot of potential uses, especially if you don’t want a cheese flavour to be central to whatever it is your making. Like putting a bunch of daiya on a pizza is great, if you want a pizza that is cheesy and melty. This one is great if you’re looking to use cheese for it’s other main pizza purpose – holding things together. The taste is subtle, but reasonably pleasant. It needs to…

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Things I Love Thursday – On the Road

JC and I have embarked on a grand road trip. So far we’ve been through Michigan, Indiana, & Illinois. Eventually today we’ll be hitting Wisconsin and Minnesota. Travelling is always exciting, but travelling by land has always offered more of an experience for me. With flying there are huge sections that you never ever see, when you drive or take the bus you get to see things whether you care to see them or not. I’m hoping to share stories about camping in Michigan and exploring Chicago very soon, but for now, please keep in touch on facebook or instagram. We’re having a great time!

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Lazy Vegan Friday – Vegan Toona from Sophie’s Kitchen

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried the Vegan Toona from Sophie’s Kitchen, but it was the first time I was able to buy it in a store. We sampled two of the varieties of Vegan Toona at this years’ ExpoWest, and I wasn’t that keen on it. But I was curious if the shelf variety would be any different from the Toona we sampled at the event, or if our experience of eating would be different/better this time around (what can I say, I’m an optimist.) As of right now, you still cannot buy VeganToona in Canada (unless you order online) – these cans were purchased from the canned seafood area from a Whole Foods in Michigan. They were $4.69/can at the time, but while the amount initially gave us pause, it actually looked competitive by volume with some of the fancy dead fish products that Whole Foods sells. Opening the can, it’s like shredded mystery packed in oil. if you’re expecting anything like light pink tuna flakes, you’ll be disappointed, but since I don’t mind if compassionate analogues don’t look like what they’re attempting to imitate, I wont hold that against them. I think I voluntarily made a tuna fish sandwich once in my pre-vegan days, but I really like the option of a small tinned vegan meat product, that could potentially be taken on a trip, or used to make a quick sandwich. So I made a quick sandwich with some just mayo we had also picked up from Michigan. MeShell’s VeganToona Sandwich Oddly similar…

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