Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Toronto Evening

I find I am easily seduced by each new city in which I find myself. I believe any city worth its salt can seduce even the most hardened traveler. And yes, all worth visiting cities are femme to the core, regardless of what phallic shaped towers and art man attempts to conquer them with.

Toronto was the same for me. Walking down the glistening evening streets in search of a meal as pleasant as the city, I realized that wherever I ended up would have to outweigh taking photographs of the city’s movement, her curves and shadowed corners. I am intoxicated by the people passing, the pipe steam filling the graffiti filled alleys, the colors, the sounds and lights.

Queens Street. She is a beauty with so much to offer- down each side of the street with tributaries flowing off of her leading the meanderer to hidden gems. High on sensory overload, I walk; pupils dilated trying to absorb each sight knowing I may miss something if I do not pay close attention (like the friendly exchange in the tattoo piercing parlor). Oh, the colors, the emotions exchanged and shared. Even in the downpour I am pleased to be walking these streets barely aware of my soaked jeans and hat.

My original mission was to walk to a restaurant called Full Moon. I arrived at the stated address, but found not the restaurant. This was not the first time something such as this has happened, but I did begin to question myself as to why I didn’t stop at one of the many other places along the way. Quick bite to eat- get in/get out. But no, I want to experience more than just the eating. I can get sustenance anywhere. The pizza vendor, the “to go” creperie- these were all available to me, but no- none of these would fulfill my desire to dine well.

As I began to retrace my steps I noticed a little restaurant, Fressen. The name sounded familiar. Was this one of the vegan restaurants on my list? Why yes, and the serve late!! Lucky since I lose time when walking. Time only stands still in my head, everywhere else it marches on in ordinary course. Stepping inside, with an hour to go before closing, I am relieved when Sarah beckons me in with a warm smile and menu. I am alone; because of this, there is no reason not to eat seated at the bar. The vantage point is better and I like any opportunity to chat with locals.

I started out with lovely crisp croquettes on a salsa with greens, moved on to a seared encrusted tempeh with wilted greens and root vegetables, to finally end with an amazing dark chocolate ganache stuffed with a date and nut puree surrounded by fresh fruits. If all vegan faire was this delightful there would definitely be a larger vegan following. I hinted that they should consider Chicago for their next location. In between courses, Sarah, the beautiful petite server who welcomed me in with her smile shared gossip and travel stories with me.

This is what it means to experience a place. Why go on the “fish tank” tours where you touch nothing and nothing touches you? Get in, get dirty, but experience! I like to travel this way. I want to know that when I get home I was somewhere else.

After my extended dinner, I said my goodbyes and shared my gratitude for a meal well prepared and headed back to the hotel in the continued downpour. Contented that, yet again, with the disappearing of the destination that I had originally set my sights on, another opportunity, originally overlooked, had a chance to be noticed and, with that, a pleasant surprise changing the course for the better.