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First and foremost thank you to everyone out there who took the time to comment, e-mail, Facebook and message birthday wishes to me. I definitely felt very loved yesterday and lucky to have so many wonderful people around who care! Even though I’m a quarter century now, I like to think that I haven’t peaked just yet ;)

Not only did I get to celebrate with my Maritime friends here in Toronto, but with my local blogger friends too!

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Okay, so not all of my local blog friends were able to make it (I’m looking at you Angela, Miranda and Sarah) but I did get to meet some new faces!

I have to admit, that when I heard Morgan was planning a big TO meet-up, I asked her to push it to this past weekend to give us an excuse to celebrate. Morgan happened to choose Commensal, a vegetarian buffet. They also give you a free lunch or dinner on your birthday. Morgan hooked me up and I didn’t have to pay for my meal – score!!

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Commensal is actually a chain, I’ve been to their Quebec City location before. That was back when I was a vegetarian living in a small city. Going to a restaurant where I could eat everything was a big deal. Not to mention, seeing all the unique ways they assembled meat-free food.

These days, my meat-eating self is not the biggest fan of pay-by-weight places. I find they’re overpriced and your food is always cold by the time you sit down. But I still managed to scrap up some good stuff ;)

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Let’s see if I can remember it all… My favourite item was by far the apple and beet salad. Lightly dressed and refreshing. Above is also the oriental seitan. Sweet, the way I like it, and the seitan was a nice change from the usual tofu.

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I have no idea what that pastry roll is. Tasted like an herbed bread thing in the centre.

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The bottom slice with the squigly lines is smoked tofu. I was the most disappointed by this. Flavourless and wrapping it up caused a weird texture. On top of that is veggie pate. I ate this on top of a slice of pita bread. I stocked up on this because I love veggie pate and never make it at home. But, it wasn’t as good as my mom’s ;)

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To the left is some curried tofu with couscous. Again, just alright. The tofu was bland. Like they didn’t marinate it or anything. To the right is the seitan bourguignon. I honestly don’t remember what this tasted like. So I guess that says something. Finally, there was also some deeeelicious roasted sweet potato and steamed kale to round it out.

Really though, it’s not like I was paying much attention to the food. I had people to talk to!!

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Me and Callie, reunited!! We bonded over 16 hours in the car together when we drove to Chicago for the Healthy Living Summit. She’s back in the Tee Dot!! Yayyy!! Don’t we look like we could be sisters?

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Then there’s my CanFitPro study buddy, Angela. We did our Nutrition & Wellness courses at the same time. She’s a spin instructor and I’m counting on her helping me out with group instructor training ;)

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More lovely faces!! A lot of good running conversations happening here.

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My table! (that’s my clean plate in the front)

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I was pretty excited to finally meet Nancy. We’ve been following each other’s blogs since I started my triathlon training blog two years ago. She’s an East Coaster like me (Newfoundland!) and I knew we were long-lost friends. Except she’s got better style and make-up know-how than me. And a cuter East Coast accent ;)

Somehow I missed capturing close-ups of Morgan from Life After Bagels and Meghan from Making Love in the Kitchen. But they were there too! Thank you again to Morgan for organizing the meet-up between school assignments. And for being all around awesome.

I feel so lucky that I’m in a centre with so many amazing bloggers around to socialize with. You know, people I can talk WordPress with (Kristin!) and gush about cupcakes with. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of my favourite bloggers over this past year, and I naively think I’ll get to meet everyone I’ve connected with through my blog someday. Yes, even you Australians. For the longest time I thought I was painfully awkward when meeting new people. Turns out I was just meeting the wrong people. Because I stayed chatting with these lovely women for three hours in the restaurant :)

 

Question of the Day: What blogger are you dying to have lunch with? I’m still waiting for the day I can go to Scotland and eat haggis with Ellie!

“Toronto’s Best” – Fressen

Right. So before I was confined to my bed with fever relapse number two, my sister and I were on a restaurant warpath. More like, she insisted on taking me out, and I’m too weak (and way too willing) to argue otherwise.

After our morning of french toasted pastries and pie, we decided it was time for more vegetables in our life.

Enter: Fressen.

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Fressen is easily Toronto’s most popular vegetarian/vegan restaurant. So much so that VegNews Magazine named it one of the 14 hippest vegetarian eateries in North America. This is probably why I’ve ignored it for so long in lieu of smaller, less-hip eateries. But when my big sis said it was a Toronto experience I must have, I knew she was right.

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The inside decor was not the usual patched-up hippy look you get in most vegetarian restaurants. But rather big, warm, and earthy. We both loved the set up.

Most importantly, the menu was chock full of things to tempt us. Tempeh fish and taro chips, eggplant pizza tart, avocado and spinach blinis, cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms, root vegetable and beet borsht. 

Sister Sara needed a drink to clear her head.

IMG_5136 Some apple ginger thingy that made me feel like I was on a beach in Cuba :)

We finally decided on splitting two appetizers and a main in order to get a variety of tastes.

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Eggplant Manacotti: Creamed tofu, sundried tomato, and pesto rolled in a wafer thin slice of seared eggplant with a tomato herb puree.

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At the time I didn’t think this was much to write home about. I mean, delicious, but nothing mind blowing. Looking back, I realize it’s pretty darn amazing that they were able to make tofu taste just like ricotta. And the tomato sauce was incredibly fresh and flavourful.

Polenta: Seared cornmeal polenta on herbed tomato sauce with sautéed shittakes, spinach and a reduced balsamic glaze.

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Sara and I both loved this one. Polenta isn’t a very popular dish around these parts, so it’s always a special treat when we get to have it. The balsamic added a neat flavour element to an otherwise traditional taste.

And of course, there’s the bread. But not just any ole’ bread. A spicy bread. Red pepper? Jalepeno? Who knows, but it was perfect for sopping up that fresh tomato sauce with.

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Finally, the star of the show. Sara and I didn’t have much difficulty deciding over a main dish to split. Our eyes immediately shot to this one and our bellies rumbled in approval.

Moroccan Stew: Stewed sweet potato, onion, carrots and chickpeas in a cumin infused tomato broth.

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Such a simple description for such a lovely dish! First, it was thick and chunky, the best way to have a stew. The grains plumped it up to make it even more hearty and filling. But the best part were the spices. Ohmy. Just spicy enough to make my nose run a little, but still allowed me to take in the flavours of all the other ingredients.

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Apart from the hearty grains, big hunks of sweet potato and chickpeas were also sugar snap peas and olives. Two ingredients I’ve never thought of adding to a stew and surprisingly enhanced the whole experience.

I never talk about service much when I do restaurant reviews. This is because I tend to get good service wherever I go thanks to my big camera. The waitress here was super sweet and a Jill Barber fan, which gets her extra points. However we had to turn down her dessert offer. We did have dessert two times already on Sunday.

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But that still didn’t stop Sara and I from cracking open these fair trade bonbons.

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It’s at times like these you can really tell we’re related ;)

The World’s Best Veggie Burger. Ever.

Hello everyone! I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but the Maritimes are getting pushed around by a nasty storm today. Rain, strong winds, overall ickyness. Fret not, I spent most of this Tuesday in my pyjamas watching Dexter. Followed by an amaaaazing hot yoga class with the bestie (more on this new hot yoga later).

But I’m not here to talk about Tuesday because you’ll probably be reading this on Wednesday, or Thursday. Or maybe next January. So let’s just get to Monday, shall we?

Monday is a day worth blogging about. On Monday, I ate the best veggie burger in the whole wide world.

Well, in my humble opinion anyways.

Remember when I rambled on about my favourite hamburgers? Well I’ve got a top veggie burger list too. And as hard as Toronto tries, it still can’t trump the ones being served up at Moncton’s own Calactus.

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Unlike Toronto, Vegetarian/Vegan restaurants are hard to come by in these parts. For a long time, it was the only place in Moncton that offered a wide range of veggie options. Which was important to me in my vegetarian days.

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Back in high school, Calactus operated out of a little colourful home on Mountain Road. Since then, it’s classed up with a larger home on the corner of Church and St. George.

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They were also one of the first restaurants in Moncton to serve up fresh, organic, local food. Back before hummus became a mainstay at the local pub.

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I’ve tried almost everything on this menu by now. The flutes are fabulous, the pizzas delicious and the burritos hit the spot. But the one item I order again and again is the Big Marc Burger. This has been the subject of dreams for over a decade now.

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Our famous all-dressed veggie burger with cheese. Served with oven-baked potatoes and Caesar salad.”

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I arrived here after a noon-hour spin class with my dad. The old man out-spun me, again ;) First things out of his mouth after class were “Chocolate soy shake.” Mine were “Big Marc Burger.”

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Pops, ready to dig in.

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Me, with an old friend.

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Word on the street is that Marc, the burger’s inventor, used to sell these puppies while living in Europe. He then came home to Moncton to open his own restaurant and these became the star of the menu.

As far as I can tell, it’s a patty very reminiscent of veggie pate. Topped with their signature tofu cream sauce, mustard, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cheese melted into crisps.

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I opted out of the potatoes and got all salad. I love this caesar salad. Topped with that tofu cream dressing and these little vegetarian bits that taste just like bacon bits. Textured vegetable protein or nutritional yeast perhaps?

In case you are wondering here are the runners up for “Susan’s Top Veggie Burgers”:

2. Q.M. Burger from Queen Mother Cafe

A high protein vegetarian patty of grains, nuts, herbs and mushrooms, covered in melted cheese and served in a whole wheat pita with our own special sauce, romaine lettuce and tomato.

3. Deluxe Burger from Fresh

“Our high protein almond, grain, tofu & vegetable burger is grilled and served with a side of slaw.” Toppings are tomato, lettuce, red onion, alfalfa sprouts dill pickle & vegan mayo.

So you see, yes, I will never compare a veggie burger to a real hamburger again. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t appreciate a kick ass veggie patty ;)

 

Question of the Day: What’s the best veggie burger you ever had?

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