Brooklyn Festivals, DC Heat, and Lots of Toronto Vegan Love!

Between our time in Jamaica and our return to Oman, we wrapped up a most lovely time in Tampa and jetsetted up north to attend my cousin’s high school graduation from my alma mater (how nostalgic!).  Lil’ Z got reacquainted with the New York fam, and we all got reconnected with NYC.  Free concerts in Prospect Park, a late night at the South Street Seaport, and the often imitated, but never duplicated International African Arts Festival a.k.a. “African Street Festival”.  This is where you can buy all things “African”, even the Chinese imitation of “African”.  We weren’t interested in buying clothes, hats, or wood carvings but we were attracted to the raw kale chips and fresh coconut water.  The festival was also our opportunity to replenish our stock of West African shea butter and “Nature’s Blessings”, a natural hair pomade produced by Brooklyn’s very own Mystic Essence.  The crowd was noticeably thin which is probably why we so effortlessly bumped into Brooklyn’s veteran holistic health advocate, Queen Afua.  She is such a radiant example of holistic health and so approachable, in spite of her international acclaim.  She coronated Lil’ Z as an “Organic Baby” and had an impromptu meditation session with my Mom and I in the park.  It was interesting.

Free wheatgrass sample, courtesy of Queen Afua

After settling into quiet pseudo-suburbia by day and busy city life by night, we took a 24-hour trip to DC/Northern Virginia to visit family there.  One of my brothers hadn’t met Lil’ Z last summer, so they finally had a chance to commune and Urbndervish finally had a chance to visit the Black White House.  😉  No Obamas running across the lawn that day!  We passed through during DC’s sweltering heat wave and spent the remainder of a too-short visit indoors.

After returning to NY, we took an overdue trip to see some of our dearest friends in Maple Land.  We’ve become smitten with Toronto in the last few years, having visited a handful times and thoroughly enjoying each visit.  The vibrant, active Muslim community, the apparent eco-consciousness, and delicious vegan finds make Toronto one of our favorite North American cities.  Oh, and let’s not forget the distinct Canadian accent!  😉

No visit to Toronto is complete without visiting our beloved Salt and Pepper.  It’s a lovely halal, Hakka Chinese (read:  “Chinese” food imbued with a little Desi soul) restaurant with a generous vegan menu.  We are always satiated by the food and service.

Sweet and Sour Tofu, Hakka Noodles, Hakka Veg Fried Rice, and Mixed Veggie Tofu

However, a new favorite on our list is M&B Yummy, a completely vegan Ethiopian spot.  Physically, the location is unimpressive- dim (not in the romantic sense) lighting, no traditional seating accommodations, and a rotund, Italian male statue, draped in Ethiopian garb that frightened Lil’ Z to tears.  However, the owner gets the super green fist for being a vegetarian herself and being brave enough to maintain a meat-free eatery.

When we entered, she seemed almost apologetic to inform us that her food is all vegetarian but later lit up when she realized that that is the exact reason we fought downtown, rush-hour traffic to be there.  Between her delicious assortment of vegan desserts and the backdrop of the quaint Parkdale neighborhood, complete with an organic community garden in honor of Tibet, we are very likely to return, insha’Allah (God willing)!

Last stop on the vegan chow-chow train is actually Fresco’s Fish and Chips in Kensington Market.  It’s not exclusively plant-based but they serve a mean, vegan poutine.  This quebecoise dish would usually be off-limits for us but were grateful for the green upgrade:  mushroom gravy to replace beef and Daiya non-dairy cheese to replace mozzarella, atop fresh-cut french fries.  It was a delicious mess that we happily devoured.

Now that we’re caught up on the backlog, we hope to share more about what Lil’ Z is up to, our upcoming travels (could be big, folks!), and whatever else is brewing in the Raggamuslim laboratory.  Until then…

Peace, Vegan Love, and Brooklyn Hair Grease!  🙂

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