Canada, polar bears and bakeries

We just got back from our 2 week honeymoon in Canada, which was far better than I expected. I think I had the expectation of Canada being a bit like a cold America, which it wasn’t at all – Toronto especially had some amazing architecture and had quite a lot of similarities with London (apart from the gridded street layout!). We spent one week in Winnipeg and Churchill polar bear watching and one week in Toronto doing some city exploring.

We had about 2 and a half days in Winnipeg and the best thing was definitely Stella’s (yes it’s food, but it was really good food!) – Stella’s has several restaurants throughout Winnipeg and I’m so glad they do! We went to two different branches and I had  a Dragon Bowl both times. It consists of tamarind & sriracha sauce, aubergine, mushrooms, cabbage over quinoa and brown basmati rice, topped with cucumber, julienne carrot, red pepper & peas, which was so nice I didn’t manage to take a photo either of the times before I ate it all. On our second visit we also had cocktails – my margarita tasted basically like a glass of lime juice but the waitress was really lovely so I didn’t really care!

We spent about 4 days in Churchill and luckily enough did manage to see some bears (22 in all), as well as quite a few beluga whales, a couple of seals, a couple of moose, a cross fox, an arctic hare and some bald eagles. We had soup I could eat on both days on the tundra buggy and the Lazy Bear Lodge who we toured and stayed with were pretty good about my dietary. Though one downside was that soya milk really doesn’t seem to be a thing in the quieter places in Canada, both Winnipeg and Churchill only seemed to serve almond milk, but luckily (or unluckily) I had a cold so I could chug my tea down and taste nothing.

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We went to Toronto because we love big cities, but also because I had planned us a foodie tour of all the vegan gluten-free places I had researched online. I’ve done a quick run-down of our 4 favourite places below.

Bunner’s was our first stop – this was the very first place I had found when I had started researching food places and I deliberately found us an Airbnb really close by. Over the course of a week we tried pretty much every type of baked good they sold and we had their pumpkin spice soft serve ice cream a couple of times. The very best thing we had was their pumpkin scone with maple glaze. It looked pretty boring, but it tasted so good! I was so disappointed when I asked after them a couple of days before we left and the lady told me they only sell them at weekends. They should have a sign that tells you that so you can stock up! Their muffins were also really nice, with a crunchy crusty top and soft inside, probably some of the best muffins I’ve ever had. Their apricot squares were also awesome, chewy fruit layer and crumble top is hard to beat in a dessert. I miss Bunner’s already!

Hibiscus is a cafe just down the road from Bunner’s and they specialise in crepes. They do veggie and vegan food and everything is gluten-free. We had a crepe each – I had vegan mozzarella, tomato, spinach and mushrooms which was really nice and the mozzarella was very melted and gooey which is pretty unusual for a vegan cheese. We also shared a salad bowl as the menu described it as having 42 ingredients, so it seemed a bit too exciting to turn down – it also contained an ingredient I’ve never come across before – they look like weird beige mini blackberries, let me know if you know what they are! (Google just shows me pictures of coats when I search it).

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Kelly’s Bake Shoppe was another place I had found, but was unfortunately in Burlington rather than Toronto. Fortunately my husband has a cousin once removed who lives in Mississauga to the west of the city, who was quite happy to take us to Niagara Falls via Burlington. Kelly’s is basically a giant cupcake heaven; they had about 15 different flavours or more, as well as cookies, brownies, cookie sandwiches and various other things. My husband’s cousin (once removed) and his wife bought the 4 of us a box of a dozen cupcakes and we also bought a mile high brownie, which is the bakery’s speciality – a brownie with chocolate icing, some sort of fluffy marshmallowy icing on top of that, with a mini brownie on top of that, covered in caramely chocolatey sauce. Sounds a bit sickly but it wasn’t at all! The best bit was that the cousin particularly seemed very sceptical that anything that was gluten-free and vegan could possibly make an edible baked good, but they seemed thoroughly converted after the visit.

One of our favourite places in Toronto turned out to be one that I’d heard of but sort of dismissed from my itinerary (can’t remember why!) – Karine’s. We were walking down McCaul Street one day and I saw a sign for vegan gluten-free all day breakfast at a place called Karine’s which rang a bell. Karine’s is located in a ground floor food hall that we’d never even have noticed if we hadn’t seen the sign. Karine’s seems to be a family-run place that does vegan, veggie and non-veggie options, as well as plenty of gluten-free options – all the baked goods are vegan gluten-free. The food was great – the waffles are freshly cooked, with fresh fruit on the side and they’re light and fluffy and they do milkshakes (I even got to choose soya milk), but the thing that really makes Karine’s is the lady who runs it; she’s so welcoming and lovely and really puts effort in to remember you and what you like. We’ll definitely be back here next time we’re in Toronto.

Other nice places included Cosmic Treats who do savoury and sweet vegan food, but don’t do that many gluten-free options unfortunately; though they do a boozy milkshake which is worth the trip alone. They also sell vegan chocolate – I bought a Twilight bar which is basically a Mars bar and a Buccaneer bar which is basically a brown Milky Way. Unfortunately I didn’t try them until I’d left Toronto otherwise I would have filled my hand luggage with them!

Fresh, a veggie chain store that does vegan and a lot of gluten-free options, including ‘green poutine’ which I tried and somewhat over-priced juices.

Kupfert and Kim was on our to-visit list, but we were so stuffed by the end of the trip we’d lost the will to eat before we made it there unfortunately.

We also loved the 4Life Natural Food store near Bunner’s and Hibiscus – I stock piled 50% less-salt tamari, some lovely jalapeno cracker things and they did tonnes of different flours which would be amazing for baking if I lived there!

 

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