I went to Phoenix, Arizona for a few days in October for a conference. First of all, the short flight from Denver to Phoenix was beautiful. As we flew over the mountains in Colorado, I could see Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Shortly after arriving at my hotel, I went for a walk to Nami, a vegan ice cream and pastry shop. The menu was full of enticing options, but I settled on a decadent “fluffernutterin tSoynami.” This amazing vegan and gluten-free treat was made of swirled chocolate and vanilla soy/coconut soft serve ice cream with peanut butter, banana, rice mallow fluff, and toasted marshmallow syrup stirred in.
Throughout most of my conference, I ate at or got take-out from Kaleidoscope Juice. Despite the juice-centric name, this restaurant has all sorts of great food. The protein bowl with tofu, brown rice, and ginger miso dressing was fantastic, and so was the gluten free protein waffle with fruit and coconut whipped cream.
I also enjoyed several kinds of Kaleidoscope’s gluten-free muffins (almond, blueberry, and pumpkin) and one of their smoothies. It was a relief to find a restaurant in downtown Phoenix that worked so well with my dietary restrictions.
We went to Nyala for dinner last week. This was my first time going to an Ethiopian restaurant since I discovered my gluten intolerance, so I was expecting to have to pass up the delicious injera for a substitute of rice. But Nyala actually offers gluten-free injera!
I didn’t think to ask what type of flour they use to make it, but if I had to guess based on the appearance, I’d say buckwheat. Anyway, it was super yummy and I really loved the “Vegetable Combination 2.” I’m looking forward to going back there again soon!
For me, the highlights of our cross-country drive were Pittsburgh and St. Louis. I’ve blogged a few times before about my love for Pittsburgh, but I’d never been to St. Louis before. I was really excited to see the Gateway Arch, which is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and is an awesome example of architecture and engineering in the 1960s.
Obviously the arch is huge, but I never fully appreciated its scale before seeing it in person. The top of the arch looks so sleek that I never expected there to be enough room inside for a tram to carry passengers to the top, where they can get out and enjoy views of St. Louis and the Mississippi River.
After visiting the arch, we had a fantastic lunch at PW Pizza. You can get gluten-free crust and vegan cheese on any pizza, so we had a “Popeye and Olive Oil” pizza (cleverly named: roasted garlic olive oil, spinach, roasted red pepper) with those substitutions and vegan sausage on half of the pizza. Best lunch of our road trip!
As we prepare to leave Nova Scotia next week, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things that I will miss. It’s been a great three and a half years here!
- deer, foxes, and random cats in the yard
- fuzzy baby ducks in and around the pond during the spring
- the smell and sound of the ocean
- sunrises over the ocean
- sunsets over the lake
- twinkling lights across the harbour
- all the wildflowers in our yard
- cozy weekends with the woodstove
- the tennis court down the street
- foghorns (although I won’t miss them keeping me awake at night)
- Bulk Barn (more about my love for Bulk Barn here)
- walking to the Public Gardens from work
- the Halifax Farmers Market, especially my favorite vendor, The Kind Cookie
- loonies and toonies, and colored bills covered with cool artwork
- Mary’s Place Cafe
- Indochine’s bubble tea smoothies
- the prominence of Lebanese food
- my gastroenterologist
- considerate drivers
- the lovely painted utility boxes all over the area
Charlottetown is the small but lively capital of Prince Edward Island. Even in Charlottetown, you can’t go far without being reminded of Anne Shirley – note the Anne of Green Gables Store and Anne of Green Gables Chocolates shop in the busy scene below. Of course we visited both of these establishments!
After a nice morning of wandering around downtown Charlottetown, we had the best sushi lunch at Ta-Ke Sushi on Queen Street. We enjoyed miso soup, edamame, avocado and cucumber maki, and most exciting of all, the Hawaiian roll. The Hawaiian roll was stuffed with papaya, avocado, mango, and asparagus, and tasted like decadent dessert sushi. It was even topped with an umbrella – how fun!
Although we were beyond full after eating all of that, we had to make a little more room when the waiter brought us a plate of watermelon and orange slices to cap off the meal. Besides the fantastic food, I also liked that each table had a call button to conveniently summon your waiter just by pressing it – very clever and useful!
Burlington, Vermont is a cute little city on the shore of Lake Champlain. At the shore, you can see the Adirondack mountains in the distance across the lake.
We started off our visit to Burlington by getting lunch at Zabby and Elf’s Stone Soup. This restaurant is known for having creative vegetarian dishes, as well as some omnivorous options. On the day of our visit, almost everything in their buffet was vegan and gluten-free! I took some falafel pie, barbecue tempeh, saffron rice, tomato salad, and a few strawberries and grapes for my sweet tooth. There were some good-looking bakery items there too, but I was holding out for gluten-free cupcakes – I’ll get to that soon. We took our lunch to go and headed to City Hall Park, where we found a bench in the shade and enjoyed some live music and people-watching while we ate. My lunch from Stone Soup was probably the most flavorful buffet food I’ve ever had, so I definitely recommend eating there if you’re in Burlington.
After strolling around by the lake and checking out some shops on this very warm afternoon, the various ice cream shops were starting to beckon to me. Since Ben and Jerry’s was founded in Burlington, we figured it would be appropriate to stop in their scoop shop on Church Street. Jeff had a dish of Greek frozen yogurt and I had a dish of lemonade sorbet, which was very refreshing.
We also had to check out New Moon cafe because my pre-trip research turned up that this cafe has vegan, gluten-free, and one flavor of vegan AND gluten-free cupcakes. In fact, they call their petite cupcakes “cupcake kisses.” I think these smaller cupcakes with a smaller price are a great idea since I find most bakery cupcakes to be larger than I want to eat in one sitting. And with smaller cupcakes, it’s easier (and less calorie-intensive!) to sample more flavors! So I bought two cupcake kisses for the road instead of the one cupcake I had planned on. I didn’t see the vegan and gluten-free flavor, so I settled for two gluten-free cupcake kisses: hazelnut heaven and cranstachio. The flavors are very creative, but to be honest, I found these little cupcakes to be rather dense and oily. Still, they were definitely far better than no cupcakes!
We were very hungry when we arrived in Montreal. Since we enjoyed eating at Commensal in Quebec City, we went there in Montreal as well, this time for a quick lunch. The buffet was almost exactly the same in both locations!
With our stomachs full, we walked to our first destination: Notre Dame. Though considerably newer than the Notre Dame we saw in Paris a few months ago (construction starting in the 1800s rather than the 1100s), the facades of the two churches are actually rather similar.
The inside of this Notre Dame is far more colorful though. Check out that altar! This is a pretty opulent church. I don’t know how anyone thought this floor was a good idea though – it looks cheap and tacky to me.
Notre Dame is in Old Montreal, an area containing many well-preserved old buildings (some dating back to the 17th century).
From there, we wandered to the Old Port, a nice park-filled area along the Saint Lawrence River. Looking across the river, we could see Habitat 67, a housing complex that has always fascinated me.
Next, we headed through Chinatown (stopping for a refreshing shaved ice) and up Boulevard Saint-Laurent. This street and Rue Saint-Denis stretch seemingly forever, peppered with cool shops and restaurants.
We met up with a friend for dinner at Aux Vivres, a popular vegan restaurant with a trendy diner vibe. I had the macro bol and Jeff had a gyro. Both meals were tasty, but huge. Montreal itself is also pretty huge. We walked around a lot, but definitely could have spent a few more days exploring this city.
We really enjoyed our brief stay in Quebec City. We spent most of our time in charming Old Quebec. Between the narrow cobblestone streets, quaint old buildings, fortified city walls, and French signage and speakers, we felt like we had somehow crossed the Atlantic without the long and expensive flight. I highly recommend that folks in the US and Canada visit this North American treasure for a more accessible taste of the history and different culture that a trip to Europe provides.
We walked a few blocks from Old Quebec to get some Ellen-friendly food. We had dinner at Commensal, a vegetarian buffet restaurant that has several locations across Canada. Buffets are often difficult for people who can’t eat certain ingredients, but this restaurant does a great job of providing clear signage of what the foods are, and if they contain any common allergens.
And we couldn’t resist looking around in Le Crac Aliment Sains, a natural foods grocery store near Commensal. Check out my exciting purchases:
Oh my… Those cocoa creme filled hazelnut pillows did not last long! That box was ridiculously overpriced (around $8), but it was absolutely worth it! The cappuccino soy milk was fantastic too. Yay Quebec City!
New Brunswick is probably best known for its coast along the Bay of Fundy (the bay between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, famous for having the highest tidal range in the world). The Hopewell Rocks is one of the most popular spots to take in the wonders of the Bay of Fundy. And you can enjoy lots of pretty views like the one below as you drive along the Fundy coast.
But as we planned a road trip from Halifax to Quebec, we wondered if there was anything interesting to see inland in western New Brunswick. It turns out that there are a lot of neat old covered bridges in New Brunswick, and the longest covered bridge in the world (391 meters long!) is in Hartland. The Hartland Bridge was built in 1901 and although it is only one lane wide, traffic still flows pretty steadily across it. The 111th anniversary of the bridge is also featured as the Google Doodle today!
After stopping in Hartland, we continued on to Grand Falls, a town known for its impressive waterfall and gorge, as well as potato farming and processing. The waterfall at Grand Falls is apparently the largest waterfall east of Niagara Falls, with a drop of 23 meters. There are several nice hiking trails around the gorge, and opportunities for zip lining across the gorge! We were feeling mellow and just strolled along the hiking trails a bit.
Finding a decent dinner in small towns like Grand Falls can sometimes be challenging for folks like me with several dietary restrictions. Luckily, Pizza Delight, a common Canadian franchise, offers pizza with gluten-free crust! Top that with tomato sauce and lots of veggies (and no cheese), and I’ve got a great meal!
Sadly, since gluten and I don’t get along, I wasn’t able to enjoy any crepes or macarons in Paris. But I was able to buy a pretty decent gluten-free baguette at my favorite Parisian natural foods grocery store, Naturalia. Other memorable finds at Naturalia included organic cherry soy yogurt, chocolate soy milk, hazelnut milk, and unbelievably yummy gluten-free madeleines and little chocolate chip cakes!
In addition to our usual travel staples of Indian and sushi restaurants, we ate at a couple of great vegetarian restaurants in Paris as well. Le Potager du Marais, located at 22 Rue Rambuteau, is a fantastic little vegetarian restaurant. The menu was loaded with tantalizing options, but in the end I had an amazing quinoa patty with a creamy – yet vegan – mushroom sauce and Jeff had veggie chili. I really appreciated that when the waitress brought bread for everyone before the meal, she brought me my own plate of gluten-free bread (which was surprisingly tasty!). We also enjoyed a quick lunch at Maoz, a vegetarian falafel and salad-based fast food franchise restaurant.
As an aside, I also wanted to mention that we never experienced the stereotype of French people being rude, even though we were those supposedly maligned tourists who don’t speak French beyond bonjour and merci. I found our waiters/waitresses to be pleasant and attentive. Our hotel staff were downright friendly. And the Metro ticket saleslady, who didn’t speak much English, went out of her way trying to explain the ins and outs of how to use our Metro passes, even though we assured her we would be fine. People tend to avoid eye contact on the Metro or when passing on the sidewalk, but that’s typical in most big cities. When we were in Vernon, the men at the bike rental and the waiter at the restaurant were more brusque, and less proficient in English, but I still wouldn’t call them rude. So my conclusion from our experience is that if you, the tourist, are not rude, then the French will generally not be rude to you. Just like anywhere else.