2010 was a year of travel. We are lucky people around here, we really are. We got to explore new parts of the world, and I even had a glorious ten-day trip home. Along the way, there were wonderful meals, amazing ingredients and lots of fun cooking.
March - J and I went to Vancouver together for a few days to see Nixon in China at Vancouver Opera. There was lots of good food, including doughnuts at the Granville Island Market, hummus and shawarma at Nuba, Tacos at Bandidas Taquiera, and deep-fried mars bars at The Templeton Diner. The trip also included a fantastic visit with an old friend. To top it all off, Nixon in China was the most exciting and engrossing opera we've seen. They're doing it at the Canadian Opera Company this season so if you're in Toronto I definitely recommend it.
May - we went to Toronto for a culture festival with our Buddhist group for an absolutely amazing weekend. I stayed in Toronto for about a week to visit friends. Food highlights included Bi-bim-baap in Koreatown and another visit to my favourite chocolate shop.
July - My sister got married in Halifax. Not only was I the maid of honour, I also made 8 vegan wedding cakes. I was so happy to visit my hometown for the first time in two years. Bud the Spud fries, breakfast at Mary's Place, a trip to the best market ever, walking on the waterfront, lots of family time and wedding planning = some of the best fun I had all year and an absolute honour. The cakes were a hit, the wedding was fantastic, and the whole trip was amazing. I also had a wonderful meal at a favourite Halifax restaurant, Jane's On the Common, with a great friend.
August - I was off to Europe to join J for almost a month of vacation. In a year full of amazing travel, this trip was epic. A chance for J and I to explore on our own and completely relax. We also got to spend time with family who we connect with all too rarely. Many, many memorable meals and food experiences, from sausages in Vienna to macarons in Paris and smoky cheese in Denmark. I still haven't shared any stories from Denmark here but believe me, it's an amazing country.
December - It turned out our European adventures were far from over. To cap off the year, my grandmother offered us a completely unexpected Christmas trip to Rome with my family. What an incredible way to end an amazing year of travel. Being back in Europe so soon was such a treat, not to mention visiting Italy for the first time and spending the holiday with my sister, mom, grandmother, and my sister's in-laws. I want to write about Rome in more detail soon, but eating there made me love Europe and its food traditions even more.
Here in Edmonton there were some new restaurant discoveries. In my too-short career as a restaurant reviewer, we found a few favourites in 2010, especially The Bothy, Wildflower, Famoso Pizza, Sushi Wasabi and the Red Star Pub. If you love food and you live in Edmonton, you should visit these places. Some modest, some high-class, they all know what they are doing and they do it very, very well. (I'm not sure what's happening food-wise at the Red Star these days, since chef Daniel Costa has moved on to open his own downtown restaurant, Corso 32. Though I haven't visited yet, it looks like his humble, homespun Italian food with bold flavours has found a gorgeous new home.)
Despite all the life-changing travel and wonderful meals, the biggest thing that happened to me in 2010 was not a trip, but a different kind of food discovery. In July I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and the way I eat will never be the same.
Sometimes I still have to stop and remind myself that deliciously stretchy, gluten-filled breads are no longer an option for me. As much as I've accepted my new reality, when I stop to think about it, it still feels strange. I guess when you love food so much, you just don't expect to ever have such restraint in your diet. But when I think a little bit more, I realize it's not such a bad situation. I'm grateful I'm now so much more aware of my health, and I feel a lot better overall. Over the past five months, I've had so much fun experimenting with gluten-free baking at home, and discovering some gems in Edmonton's gluten-free dining scene. Most of all, I think of all the amazing foods I CAN eat. I am so grateful for cheese, one of my favourite foods (if only it wasn't so damn expensive!). As a vegetable lover, I'm so happy I can still eat them all the time. I could go on all day, but the point is, it's important to be grateful for what you have.
Over the coming months, I'm hoping to chronicle the gluten-free dining scene in Edmonton a bit more. Diet restrictions combined with lack of funds have meant we are dining out far less than we did before, but I have discovered some great gluten-free foods around town and I'd love to share them with you.
Here's to 2011! I plan to keep eating well and most of all, sharing food with the people I love.