Monday, September 01, 2008

Summer Vacation

During the summer months, I’m not very creative in the kitchen. One reason is that I’m not very hungry when I’m warm, and the other is that we are busy spending time outside running, cycling, walking and swimming before being cooped up for the long winter. Because of that, I’ve just made the old standby meals that we eat all the time and therefore have nothing interesting to blog about.

To celebrate the last few weeks of summer, we took a family vacation to Niagara Falls. After googling for vegan restaurants in the area, we concluded that the honeymoon mecca of Ontario really wasn’t a vegan paradise. We brought a lot of snack food with us.

Upon arriving, we drove down the main drag wearily looking at steakhouse after steakhouse. We checked into our hotel then walked by the falls.

Getting back to our room, a rainbow appeared in the mist created by the falling water.

Getting hungrier by the minute and after concluding that Wolfgang Puck’s wasn’t a good choice for us, we noticed a couple of Italian chain restaurants, notably East Side Mario’s and My Cousin Vinnie’s. We have East Side’s at home so tried out My Cousin Vinnie’s. That was a mistake. There weren’t many vegan items. Pete settled on a veggie wrap without feta which was okay but overpriced and I had a spinach salad with mango, red onion with poppyseed dressing. It sounded better than it tasted. There were precious few vegan items for kids, other than pasta with tomato sauce. We left feeling deflated.

Breakfast was included with our room and we didn’t do too badly – there was oatmeal with raisins and almonds, bagels with strawberry jam and fresh fruit. Just bring your own soymilk.

The next night we met my grandparents who live close by for dinner at a local restaurant named Betty’s in Chippewa (8921 Sodom Road). Apparently it started more than 50 years ago as a homemade pie stand and grew to a large restaurant catering to the aging population of the Niagara Region. The restaurant smelled strongly of beef and fish upon entering, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a vegetarian dinner on the menu. It consisted of a plate of penne with seasonal cooked veggies in a balsamic reduction and tasted fresh and homemade. They had the wherewithal to serve parmesan cheese on the side in a sealed container instead of on the meal by default. Pete had a huge slice of vegan peach pie. We were happy and returned to our room satisfied.

Avoid watching captive dolphins perform tricks and black bears being fed marshmallows by zoo patrons at Marineland and get your family fun at the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, billed as the largest indoor waterpark in North America. We all had a blast. Afterwards, we headed to the Rainforest Cafe for veggie burgers and a great family atmosphere. The giftshop is schlocky but the burgers were supreme, and our server was extremely good with kids.

We travelled along the Niagara Parkway to the botanical gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory. The flowers were stunning. We kept going to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake which was gorgeously decorated in cascading bouquets and plantings. This is a town of mainly upscale boutiques and galleries, so we only had a tea and walked around.

On the way back, we stopped at a local vineyard and picked up a couple of bottles of Merlot and a roadside fruit stand. The Niagara region is Ontario’s major fruit growing region and we scored a basket of ripe peaches. I was so excited to discover seedless Concord grapes! I love juicy Concords but find the seeds annoying. These babies are pure candy.

For dinner, we decided to check out Taki Japanese Restaurant at 5500 Victoria Ave. It seemed very authentic down to the fake food on display in the entrance. We feasted on miso soup, edamame, veggie sushi, and agedashi tofu (ask for no bonito flakes on it). This is a hidden gem among the tourist traps and the meal cost less than any we had in Niagara Falls.

We had a great time, but have vowed to make our next vacation one where we have a hard time choosing which vegan restaurant to patronize.


Anonymous said...

Your photos of the falls are gorgeous! And yum for Concord grapes--soooo good!

Sorry the vegan/veg food options were not great, but it sounds like you had a nice trip, at least :o)


Sarah said...

Hooray for a post! :)

I vote to go to NYC - Kyle and I had a blast down there and were bombarded with vegan choices!