Monday, May 24, 2010

Vegan Breakfast on Via Rail

on the train

I always get up bright and early, but today I got up bright and early for a good reason. My train for Toronto left at 8:30 and I needed the Man of Science to drive me to the station so I'd have time for a cup of tea in the Via One lounge before boarding. (Hey, if I have fancy lounge privileges I want to at least get a bit of use out of them!) The MoS dropped me off in front of the station and went back home to enjoy three days of canned soup, sole responsibility for the pets, and attempting to decipher the plant watering schedule I left for him. Lucky guy.

I got my tea and read a magazine until it was time to board. I haven't taken Via One in years and I forgot how nice it is. The seats are comfy, the refreshments are included, and it isn't as crowded as the regular cars. That last item is a huge bonus today, the last day of a long weekend when everyone on earth needs to travel from one place to another.

Breakfast was served almost immediately, and I must admit I was nervous. I'd ordered a "strict vegetarian" meal which in Via Rail lingo means "vegan". But I had no idea what would actually be given to me. I packed some Larabars just in case.

The "appetizer" was a plate of fresh fruit:

vegan train breakfast

It really did taste fresh, none of that cafeteria-food-slime that fruit plates sometimes have when they're pre-prepared. And I liked that it was just fruit, no sugary syrup or anything.

Another plus is that all the dishes are non-plastic which is pleasant. The cutlery is stainless steel, the dishes are ceramic, and the cup is actual glass. Oh, and there's a cloth napkin too. I noticed that Via seems to be making efforts to be more environmental on their trains and in the stations which is a nice touch.

A negative point was the extras that came with my meal, like the Becel margarine and Coffee Mate "whitener". I know Becel makes vegan margarine now, but this was not the vegan kind. And who knows if Coffee Mate is vegan? I doubt it is, but either way, gross. Having a little bit of soy milk available, even if it's just a tiny tetrapack kept on a shelf, would make a world of difference. Then I could have had a non-herbal cup of tea, which would have been lovely.

And next? The main course was vegan french toast with apple and cranberry compote:

vegan train breakfast

When the attendant put it down in front of me and said, "Here's your french toast," I had a moment of panic.

"French toast made with eggs?" I asked her.

"No," she said, "They make it with something else."

What that something else was she didn't know. But she showed me the vegan labeling on my meal and even showed me the meal for the passenger in front of me who'd ordered a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal just to show that hers was different from mine. So I was satisfied. Mostly. I still would have liked to know exactly what was in my meal. I don't think it would be a big deal for Via to keep the ingredient lists handy, especially for the special meals.

The french toast was quite tasty and the compote was sticky but not painfully sweet. No protein though, so it ended up not being very filling. I ate it about an hour ago and now I'm hungry again (that's right! I'm blogging from the train! It's the future!) The whole meal would have been perfect if they'd just added a vegan sausage patty or something to bulk it up a bit.

On my way home I'll be eating dinner on the train, and I'm a bit more excited to see what they give me then! For now I'm just looking forward to The Big Carrot, Panacea, and Fresh. Hooray Toronto!

Some Notes:

-The article that I was interviewed for in Macleans Magazine came out this week. They wrote my last name wrong and didn't mention my blog. Bummer!

-One of my favourite things about being on the train is spying on people's backyard vegetable gardens when we pull into towns. You can see a lot from the train!

-While I wrote this, the attendant came around and gave me some pretzels and a glass of club soda with lemon. I could have had something boozey, but it seems too early for that yet and I couldn't really think of anything I wanted. Megan suggested a mimosa, but I don't think they're equipped for it. Too bad.


This Time Last Year: Got the garden planted!


Mud Mama said...

OH MY GAWD how I miss the Big Carrot (and I left Toronto in 1993!) I'm sure there are better health food stores in places like California where they have amazing growing seasons and everything can be local but the Big Carrot introduced me to so much back in the early 90's! Raw cuisine, yummy macrobiotic foods, the classes there rocked...oh how I miss it!

The Voracious Vegan said...

WOW! I want to travel by train, it seems like vegan heaven! Seriously, what a fantastic meal. I would be blown away to find vegan french toast in a restaurant, let alone on a train!

Hahaha, we haven't left the Middle-East in over 3 years, and while the rest of the world is making leaps and bounds toward vegan friendliness we are still happy if the waiters don't just flat out lie to us and serve us milk and cheese products. You are SOOOO lucky!

Hilary said...

I love first class on VIA. All things considering, that looks like a pretty good meal. We're taking a sleeper overnight from Van to Jasper this summer and I am pumped for the restaurant car!

XUP said...

I bet they could have made you a mimosa. They've got a pretty well-equipped bar -- except they served my red wine really cold last time. Still, it's a nice surprise to find such a nice little meal on a train, isn't it? Sure beats airline food.

pickygirlfoodfilmfiction said...

I love train travel, and that breakfast looks really yummy. I do wonder how they made the French toast, though. That's one of my favorite breakfast foods.

'col said...

I want your train-booking secrets. Every time I think about taking the train the price of it makes me hyperventilate.

Pearl said...

wow, that looks fabulous. I just went by regular class train and packed food.

too bad about the article.

>I'm blogging from the train! It's the future!)
lol, love the glee of that.

XUP said...

Col - you have to subscribe to VIA's newsletter first of all and they'll let you know when they have half price specials and other deals on. There's almost always some kind of special -- except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Booking well in advance helps. Collect VIA preference points for discounted or even free trips. And you can buy VIA vouchers with Airmiles. And going VIA1 (business class) is totally worth it

Vivian, VIA Rail's virtual tour guide said...

I checked the VIA site thinking they might post an ingredients list, but no such luck - just the menu was avail. for your train for that week:

I'm sure if you asked customer service they could provide it. But you make a great point, and I'm going to ask that they make ingredients info available onboard and on the site.

Glad you seem to have enjoyed your ride! And I bet some mimosa magic could've happened...

Mary said...

Wow, that looks really good! =) Interesting post and nice blog!

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Wow! Thanks, Vivian. That would be great! I'm sure future vegan travelers would appreciate it. And yes, I did enjoy my trip very much!