Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vegan crêpes @ Hibiscus

Smack in the middle of Kensington Market, the salad is even better than the crêpes, vegan options aplenty, vegan ginger, black sesame, chai ice-cream... I'm coming back! More than once!

Monday, March 19, 2012

from beer to espresso

This used to be Smokeless Joe's, my favourite beer place. It's closed and it's an espresso bar, Dark Horse. Now I know where I'll be having my espresso fix! At John and Adelaide.

A big plus: they have VEGAN panini!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vegan Ethiopian food @ MB Yummy

Teku dumplings; vegetarian combo with more dishes than I can name, (vegan) beef tebs and dulet; vegan chocolate cake; coffee. Filling beyond measure, and delicious. Well worth dealing with the somewhat unreliable opening hours and slow service, lol.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Mastery through hard work, dedication, experience, obsession, passion. Expectations. Ecological depletion. Definitely watch this.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Até, Lisboa! (From Lisbon to Carmona, with love - part VII and last)

Our last night and last day in Lisbon were brilliant.   Too many good things!

We went partying (yet again) to Chiado.  And this time it was busy.  REAL busy.  I don't understand how those small streets could fit so many booze-carrying people!  Funny fact:  there is one corner that marks where the "gay area" starts.  Our friend explained that closeted guys (of which there are apparently plenty) hang near the corner, but on the "straight" side.  That way, they get to mingle with and see the gay crowd, but friends and family that see them won't think they're gay because they're on the "safe" side.  Frankly, I'm not sure that system works.  But what I can say is that the streets are one big, fun outdoor party!

We saw all you need to see about tiles  at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.   What a beautiful museum, honest!  And no, tiles aren't boring.  Tiles are full of life and history.  They came with the Arabs, and acquired a character (and use!) all of their own, culminating with the Church of Madre Deus, with walls covered in blue-white tiles telling stories (pardon the weird photo I'm posting, but I had to try and take it all with a special iPhone app that lets you stitch numerous views of a 3D space together)

And if you end up hungry, go to the tile-covered café and have a delicious oven-baked apple (maçá assada) with coffee.  Yum.

We fell in love with the stone treasures of Igreja do Carmo ruins.  There was lots to see at this quake-shattered church.  Lots.  You can even see the remains of Roman Lisbon underneath!  But you can't miss a gorgeous Saint Sebastian or very unusual sarcophagi sculpted with people who are not simply resting, but READING (the Bible, one assumes).

We relaxed with a beer under the trees at the Miradouro de Graça.  Another belvedere, with perhaps not as beautiful views as the others (although the views of the castle are the best from here), but with very cool tree cover and the perfect place to sit down, grab a beer, and do nothing together with all the other Lisboans.   And on your way down (remember, it's on a hill!) you might be lucky to find an interesting graffiti or two! 

And uma bica no café a Brasileira! (and an espresso at the Café The Brazilian)  Well, after a stop at our favourite belvedere, o Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and a quick visit to the Roman Theatre... Anyhow, how could we not end our visit sipping coffee, having a glass of Porto, and having some pastries at the same place as writer Fernando Pessoa!

So, need I say this again?  This was an abso-bloody-lutely fantastic trip.   I enjoyed far more than I could have imagined.  I can't believe how I had been avoiding Portugal and Spain because they were "too similar" to what I had seen before.  But when you take your time to look at things, to taste them, smell them, experience them, the "too similar" label may vanish and reveal a completely new (and surprising) reality behind.

Até, Portugal!  ¡Hasta la próxima, España!  

Monday, March 12, 2012

"And Europe will be stunned"

A hard trilogy on nationalism, fascism, Jewish/Yiddish Renaissance, clear criticism of Poland and a tougher and veiled one of Israel; past crimes, future multicultural hopes, present hate... Well worth a visit. By Yael Bartana, at Toronto's AGO.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sintra (From Lisbon to Carmona, with love - part VI)

I wasn't too crazy about going to Sintra, a town in the mountains some 30 minutes from Lisbon.  But my husband wanted to try a day-trip out of Lisbon, and this UNESCO World Heritage Site was a short train ride away.   As usual, I ended up thanking himo for dragging me there!

First point in its favour:  the mountains (I love this kind of setting for old towns!).  Second:  the lush, green vegetation, which included some nice and random splashes of beautiful red autumn colours.  The hills make for a multi-level town, with tiny winding streets leading to countless different views.  Add a few palaces worth exploring, and you can forget about a relaxed, short visit:  we walked as much as our legs allowed and saw and explored until we could no more.  And we loved it.  Since you can find plenty of info about Sintra on equally plentiful sites, I'll limit myself to a few favourites of mine:

Palácio Municipal de Sintra

First of all, look at the chimney's of the Municipal Palace.  To me, they seemed taken straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  Built around 1415, they are quite a notable feature from wherever you're standing.  I think I took photos of them from every angle.  And you can't blame me, they are quite unusual.

Once inside, there's plenty of remarkable things to see, but some of my favourite were the tiles.  I really liked all the different styles you see in Portugal, and how widespread their use is.  I know, these may not look like much, but there the tones, the curves... they really caught my eye.  

Finally, this painting of John the Baptist speaks by itself on so many levels I need not comment on it, do I?   

Casa Piriquita

You can't visit Sintra and leave without having tried their queijadas, their local pastry.  It's kind of like going to Paris and not having wine.  Sintra's queijadas are famous, especially the ones from Casa Piriquita, a charming, small café in a charming, small street.   Personally, I wasn't crazy about queijadas (especially being vegan), but the place was cosy in a noisy, simple, homey and very local way, and quite frankly I always get a kick out of traditional places like this.   Call me a "quaintness snob".  

A velha Sintra

And, no matter what, simple random strolls around town let us take in views that really transported me to the past, at small squares, or sitting by an old fountain and picturing people 3-4 centuries ago stopping by to relax and have what may have constituted idle chats back then, or at an alley that, being high up, ends not at a wall, but at a veranda overlooking the city.

Adorámo-la, we loved it.  

Sunday, March 04, 2012


If hundreds of bare-chested testosterone-charged men is your thing, Pitbull @ Fly was the place to go tonight.

Penny Plain

A fantastic puppet play about the end of our world. Two hours that pass by surprisingly fast. And a Ronnie Burkett that masterfully handles 10+ puppets in an elaborate story. Well worth it.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Manitoban bits of deliciousness

@ Fusion Grill, 550 Academy Road, wintery Winnipeg.

Strong, delicious Copper Moon Pinot Grigio. Fantastic and too tasty to be true Soup of Tomorrow. Vegan Ravioli. Brownie. French roast coffee with Kahlua, a dark cherry, sugar rim...

Good place, good food, but the soup was the best, by far; unbelievably good. I leave very full, and very happy.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

vodka shots, Armenian collections, Tagus sunsets and a sunfish (From Lisbon to Carmona, with love - part V)

We left Carmona to travel back to Portugal, via a winding, interesting road dotted with twisted olive trees and old fortresses looming from hilltops.  Had we known (and had the time) I think we could have turned that Carmona-Lisbon trek into a whole adventure unto itself!

as noites 
 / the nights

Our next (and last) 5 days in Lisbon were extraordinary (like the rest of our trip).  First, our dearest friend MM made sure we knew where to party:  Chiado!   I think I had talked about O Chiado before... anyhow, an old part of Lisbon, with narrow streets packed with bars, cafés, restaurants, and every single soul who is out to have fun.  The best part for us, coming from Toronto, was that you could get a drink in one of the (minuscule) bars, take it to the street, enjoy the public revelry, reach your next drinking stop, get something else, go party outside again... and this was a Tuesday, ok?  

a arte
 / art

Do you know what else we enjoyed immensely?  The museums.   First, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.  This is one helluva special museum:  personal collections sometimes reveal very specific and interesting art that was of interest to the owner, and which bigger museums might not have or might keep buried amongst unexplorable quantities of pieces.   I fell in love with the exquisite Persian and Ottoman tiles and vases, transport myself to the 15th century when delicate Books of Hours helped you know what to read/pray at different times of the day, and amazed myself  at the fantastic, creative and beautiful Art Nouveau Lalique jewelry collection.   And to rest from that intense art feast?  A walk around the landscaped park in which the museum sits, enjoying the orchids, the water, the peaceful glens the trees and paths created...

Second, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, with three sets of  beautiful things you don't want to miss, like the Hieronymus Bosch paintings.  OK, I don't know if you'll consider them beautiful, but you will consider them fascinating, oscillating between disturbing, funny and frankly intriguing.  Once you're done, you can make a radical aesthetic change and enjoy whatever the museum may have as temporary modern art exhibit which, in our case, included a denim and feather-like material by Jean Paul Gaultier set in the reproduction of an 18th century royal bedroom.  How about that!  And afterwards, and no matter what else you see or decide not to see, you must categorically see the Japanese Namban screens because, you know, these are no ordinary Japanese screens, these portray the Japanese interacting with the "barbarians" from Portugal and Spain in the 16th century.  Talk about (mutual) culture shock, and captured in a traditional Japanese art from, from the Japanese viewpoint, nonetheless. 

Third, and if you have any interest in puppets (hell, even if you don't), try and head to the Museu da Marioneta.   Puppets, puppets, puppets, from Asia, Europe, Africa, ancient ones, old ones, modern ones.  Traditional ones, funny ones, serious ones, scary ones, and even NSFW ones.  And not too far from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga.

a beleza
/ beauty

Of course, life is not only about museum art.  Especially in Portugal.  One of our favourite activities was enjoying the sunsets at the various miradouros (belvederes).  And Alfama is a particularly beautiful neighbourhood to go, unwind after a long day, get a drink, sit, see the sun set and cast soft colours on the river and old houses, tell your SO (husband, lover, friend, relative, whatever) you love them, and be happy in a placid, quiet, even zen-like way.  Followed by maybe some tram spotting?  Because they do look so beautiful coming down the hill against a lilac sky!

os sabores
/ taste

And if I can remember art, and sunsets, I'm not going to forget about food, right?  In particular, Goan food.  In particular, the Cantinho da Paz restaurant.  Finding it is tricky, to say the least.  I'd recommend going between visits to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and the Museu da Marioneta: it's in the area, you'll work up an appetite, and the whole area is beautiful and very traditional.   I'm not going to give you directions because, first, I don't want to be the one responsible for getting you lost and, second, by the time you read this and get to go there, there will probably be much better ways to find it.   But you have to go.  The appetizers and the curries are out of this world, the place is cosy and welcoming, as are the owners.   We loved this place.  I don't need to convince you about how fortunate an Indian-Portuguese food marriage is, right?

as águas
/ water

Finally (and be warned, this "finally" refers to this one post, not to the trip!), if you have any interest in animal life or, especially, in aquariums, you have to visit the Parque das Nações and the Oceanário de Lisboa.   First of all, the aquarium is the second biggest in the world, after the Osaka one.  Second, the architecture of the whole park is quite interesting, starting with the Gare de Oriente (the station at which you arrive), by Calatrava.   Then again, if you're not into marine life, it might be a bit too far.  But I could (and did) spend so much time looking at some of the sea animals I consider most beautiful and intriguing:  rays.   How they fly, how immensely different they are from us, and how diverse they are too... I was completely mesmerised.  Not to forget the main attraction:  a sunfish, which is an enormous, very odd, flat fish that weighs around a ton.  You have to see the pics, because my fish-describing vocabulary is rather inadequate.  And I can bet most of you have never, ever seen a sunfish.  The amphibians they have are also beautiful, with bright green, yellow and red frogs.  And if you've never seen sea dragons, you won't believe your eyes when you see how evolved their camouflage is and how they gracefully "dance" with each other (I'd even feel like saying they do butoh, but butohkas might get offended, lol).  Really, even if you're the kind that thinks that the only place they like sea-life is on their plate, you may be surprised at the feelings these earthlings inspire in you.

Phew!  Almost done here! We're near the end of our trip (well, near the end of WRITING about the trip, remember the trip itself took place in September).  Next time I'll tell you about Sintra, and our last day in Lisbon.