Archive for Travel

Vegetarian Tasting Plates

I would love to be able to say I know all the best veg place to eat in Vancouver, because I’ve eaten at all of them.

But I can’t guys. I just can’t.

You see, I’m just one girl, with one stomach, and we are quite blessed with an abundance of great vegetarian and vegan eateries in this city. On top of that, there’s new ones cropping up all the time.

Vegan Tacos La Cantina

It’s hard to keep on top of it all. I mean, sure, I can recommend the big ones; Heirloom, The Acorn, MeeT, etc. But I would like to be able to speak more intelligently about some of the smaller, lesser-known gems in the city.

So I was pretty stoked to get an invite to Richard Wolak’s (@vanfoodster) first Vegetarian Tasting Plates last week. I was equally as excited to discover I’d not been to any of the eateries on the list. Yeah. They were all new to me, although quite a few of them were ones that were on my list, but I hadn’t made it to yet.

It was a great opportunity to discover new favourites.

It’s worthwhile to note that at almost every place we went to, the options were overwhelmingly vegan. There were a few where cheese was an option, but you could keep it off, or choose a vegan cheese, and keep the dish vegan.

The Living Produce Aisle

Living Produce Aisle Microgreens

Yaletown isn’t really known for its plant-based options. The Living Produce Aisle is a really interesting business model that feels quite unique. They house many, many Urban Cultivators, some of which are growing microgreens for themselves, and some of which are producing for local restaurants. I’ve been a big fan of the Urban Cultivator since I discovered them a few years ago, and I wish I had enough kitchen space to own one. Here, you can get smoothies, juices, and grab some microgreens while you’re at it.

Firecrust Pizza

Firecrust Pizza

I used to work on Davie Street, so I was pretty familiar with the lunch offerings there, but since I no longer work in the neighbourhood, I get there shockingly little (especially seeing as I don’t actually live far from there). Firecrust was one of those places I’d driven past a million times and never gone into. They have a ton of vegan options. One of the things that’s most exciting about Firecrust is that they work with YamChops, so “meats” come from there. My Vegan BBQ Pizza was delicious, smoky, a bit spicy, a nice bite from the onions, and they make their own vegan mozza in house. I will be returning and bringing the kid.

Saj & Co

Saj and co

Right across the street from Firecrust is this weird hole-in-the-wall called Saj & Co. Malek Anouti, owner and chef, makes magic in a tiny little space that can hardly even be called a kitchen. The food here is Lebanese, and the joint is named after the saj, which is a domed oven on which Anouti cooks a flatbread to order. It’s kind of a reverse tandoor. When you order, he slaps one on the saj for you, so you get a fresh, hot flatbread with each order. Mezze plates include hummus, salad, and wraps/sandwiches, which are all super fresh, and tasty. I love how vegan-friendly Mediterranean food is. My favourite thing here was the squash hummus, which I will be attempting to recreate for my family’s thanksgiving dinner this weekend.

Davie Dosa

Davie Dosa

I was sad when Cafe Luxy closed. It was a favourite spot of mine for many years for delicious pasta. But then Sharv Ramachandran opened up Davie Dosa. If you’ve never had a dosa, it’s cool. I actually only just had dosa for the first time about a year ago, but I was immediately hooked. It’s a kind of pancake or crepe, made from fermented lentil flour, and then stuffed with vegetables. Maybe I didn’t do it justice with my description, but they are freaking delicious. Indian cuisine is another that loans itself so easily to being vegetarian and vegan, so there are tons of options for veg-heads here. One of my favourite things on the plate was medhu vada, a kind of savoury donut made with lentils. I know, it sounds weird, but just go with it. It’s delicious. The service, by the way, was really fantastic. I am looking forward to getting back again to try more on the menu.

La Cantina

La Cantina

Located just off of Granville in the heart of the Entertainment district, I imagine this Nacho Libre-themed cantina does a brisk business at 2 am. The place is frikkin’ adorable, with big murals and Mexican wrestling masks everywhere. The server spoke Spanish fluently, so that made me feel good, like I might be getting an authentic experience. There are 6 different vegetarian tacos to choose from, featuring meaty vegetables like jackfruit and portobellas, not just beans. The carrot tinga was spicy and good, and I also really enjoyed the more moderate smoky heat of the Poblano. It is such a fun location, it’s well worth a return visit.

Hooray! New veg options to love, Vancouver! Now get out there and support some local veg biz.

 

Blue Grouse Winery

My life as a food blogger can be quite delightful. This is especially true when I get invited to wine tastings.

A few months back, I attended a wine tasting at Provence/TWB in Yaletown (which, BTW, is probably my favourite happy hour in the city), and it was there that I met the crew from Blue Grouse.

Blue Grouse 1

So, of course these guys have been on my radar. I like to support local wineries. But my “local” radar, if I’m being honest, is more centred on the Okanagan than anywhere else in BC.

Blue Grouse Wines tasting

I met the winemaker, Bailey, I tried some wines, and when I realized that they were located in the Cowichan Valley and the I was going to be going through there in a few weeks, asked if I could come by the winery for a look.

Here’s a wee video I made of my visit, so you can get a sense of what it’s like there:

So, on a beautiful, hot, sunny August day, I drove up to the winery on Vancouver Island.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was completely blown away.

The facility rivals anything I’ve seen in the Okanagan, and even in Napa. It’s big, modern, open, and airy, overlooking acres of grapevines.

Blue Grouse Winery 2

Although the winery has been around for 30 years (the first planting was in 1886, officially making it “estate”), it has just been the last 5 or so years, since being purchased by the Brunner family, where they have really upped their game.

There is also a guest house here, which I was lucky enough to get a tour of, and let me tell you, if I had a someone special and a reason to get out of town for a romantic getaway, this would be the place I’d choose.

They’re working towards becoming an organic winery in the next few years, and quite a few of their wines are vegan.

So, yeah. You can colour me impressed.

Blue Grouse Estate Winery

As it turns out, the Cowichan Valley is a great place to grow grapes. The soil is volcanic in origin, and they get around 1,100 growing days here, which is roughly equivalent to New Zealand. The weather is similar to the Mediterranean, with, on average, only an 11 degree fluctuation in temps from day to night. This temperature fluctuation creates the nice balance of sugar versus acid in the grapes. Who knew???

Blue Grouse Wines

They now grow and make a wide variety of wines, but my favourites, from a (more) recent tasting include the 2017 Ortega, which is a slightly sweeter white that would be a great summer patio sipper (and excellent with oysters), and the Quill Rosé, which is made of 100% Cowichan Valley grapes, from both gamay and pinot noir.

So, if you find yourself driving up the Malahat from Victoria to Nanaimo, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes and get off the beaten path. Check out Blue Grouse, sample some wines, and discover some more of what our beautiful province has to offer.

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