Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vegan Eats in Vancouver, BC

I recently visited Vancouver, BC with one goal in mind:  Try as many vegan eateries and dishes as possible.  I've always heard wonderful things about Vancouver, so I finally took the short flight north from San Francisco.  I did some research on vegan food options beforehand with the help of various blogs, Yelp, and the #veganvancouver and #veganYVR hash tags on Instagram. So, as soon as I landed, I was ready to explore.  And by explore, I mean eat.  Here are a few highlights from my trip!

Granville Island Public Market. Other than dishes from a few of the ethnic food stands, produce, spices, and other cooking ingredients sold there, I wasn't expecting to find many vegan food items.  But I still wanted to check it out because I absolutely love food halls.  Who doesn't?

Laurelle's Fine Foods (in Granville Island Public Market).  After meandering through the maze of stalls, I was about to leave when I luckily walked by Laurelle's Fine Food stand.  They had several sweet and savory vegan offerings, which were clearly marked. After doing a little happy dance, I tried a puff pastry tofu roll and peanut butter square. Both were awesome.

I'm thinking the peanut butter square was actually a peanut butter version of the Nanaimo bar, but I could be wrong.  Whatever it's called, it was really, really good.

Barbara-Jo's Books To Cooks.  This quaint bookstore is just a short walk from Granville Island Public Market.  Like Omnivore Books in San Francisco, Barbara-Jo's is a bookstore devoted to cookbooks.  How awesome is that?  They had a pretty good vegan cookbook selection and many non-vegan cookbooks that I'd never seen.  It's definitely worth a trip if you're a cookbook addict like me.

Edible Flours (Kitsilano). This bakery gets extra credit for having such a creative name.  They offered a wonderful selection of donuts, cinnamon buns, and other decadent baked goods.  Since I never see vegan croissants in bakeries, I knew I had to get one.  This is their cheese croissant (made with Daiya vegan cheese).  Moist, buttery, and flaky.  Nuff said.

The ever-elusive vegan croissant

Heirloom Vegetarian (Fairview Slopes, South Granville). I loved everything about this restaurant...great vegan options, lovely decor, and extremely friendly staff.  I stopped by in the afternoon, so it wasn't busy (as you can see from the photo).  The waitress mentioned that the lunch crowds had just left.  Perfect timing.

Avocado sandwich with crispy beet 'bacon' 

Raw vegan and gluten-free chocolate cake (more like a brownie) with chocolate ganache

Pho Goodness (Davie Village, West End). This is a small, casual eatery with good prices. It's not a fully vegan restaurant, but I heard about it after searching for "vegan" on Yelp.  Vegan items were clearly marked on the menu.  Even though it was warm out, I had their vegan pho.  I thought the broth was pretty flavorful on its own, but I ended up adding chili sauce to it, which made it even better.

Tofu, veggies, and rice noodles, which are down there somewhere.

Whole Foods Market (on Robson, West End). Even though I live just a few blocks from a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco, I was on the lookout for unique Canadian grocery items to bring back home. The items at this Whole Foods were pretty similar to what I could get in San Francisco, with the exception of a few brands that I've never seen. So, I left empty-handed.  But they do have a great prepared foods section and a nice outdoor seating area with free Wi-Fi. :)

Cartem's Donuterie (Downtown). This was the first place I noted on my Vancouver 'to do' list. I was told that their vegan Earl Grey donut was fabulous and it definitely did not disappoint. In addition to being one of the prettiest donuts I've ever seen (check out those rose petals), the Earl Grey tea flavor was perfect.

Maple walnut and Earl Grey vegan donuts!

I initially thought Cartem's only offered one vegan donut option, but to my surprise, they had several. (another happy dance moment)  I noticed that the Earl Grey donut wasn't on the list below, but the woman at the counter confirmed that they offer an vegan Earl Grey donut.  I also had to try the maple walnut donut since I was in Canada after all.  But I couldn't bring myself to try all the vegan varieties for fear of a donut overdose.  But looking back, I regret not trying them all. You snooze, you lose.

The Templeton (Downtown, Granville Entertainment District). This is another restaurant that I didn't know about until I entered "vegan" on Yelp while I was in Vancouver.  It was pretty close to my hotel and was given many accolades online, so I thought I'd check it out.  It's a tiny place, which meant that the line was out the door.  It's not a fully vegan restaurant, but they offer many vegan options for brunch, such as a vegan poutine with mushroom gravy and tofu scrambles.  I opted for the vegan lentil loaf, which was great.  And check out Elvis serenading me!  Too cool.


There are also a few vegan eateries in North Vancouver (listed here).  To get there, you can take a short SeaBus ride to Lonsdale Quay.  As soon as you get off the ferry, you'll immediately see the Lonsdale Quay Market, which is another food hall.  There's also a nice farmers market that takes place there on Saturdays.

Cafe by Tao (Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver). This cafe is conveniently located right next to Lonsdale Quay.  In addition to a menu including raw entrees, desserts, and juices, the cafe also sells common raw foods such as cacao nibs, nut milks, and kale chips.  They also sell raw vegan cookbooks and kitchen items.  I loved the vibe of this place.  I felt healthier just walking through the door!  I had their collard rolls with nut pâté, a slice of lemon blueberry cheesecake, and a cold-pressed grapefruit, apple, pear, celery, and ginger juice.  Perfection.

Buddha-Full (Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver).  This eatery is just a few blocks away from Cafe by Tao.  I didn't stay to eat, but I did pick up a matcha green tea rice krispy square to go.  It was delicious and definitely something I'll try to replicate in my own kitchen. I also saw them sold at Buzz Cafe in downtown Vancouver, so I'm not sure if Buddha-Full makes them and spreads their matcha goodness around town, or if another bakery makes them. Either way, I totally loved the concept, not to mention the flavor.

Honorable Mention:

  • Choices Market (Yaletown).  This is a pretty cool natural foods market. 
  • Sejuiced (Kitsilano). I was too full from snacking at Granville Island Public Market to get anything here, but they had a lot of vegan dessert options. Next time!
  • Indigo Cafe (Kitsilano). I was looking forward to eating here, but there weren't any available tables when I dropped in (it's tiny). Boo. Indigo Cafe is connected to Greens Organic and Natural Market, so it's a two for one special. :)

This was just a short weekend trip, so unfortunately there were some stones left unturned.  Alas, these eateries are also still on my Vancouver 'to do' list:

Luckily Vancouver is only a short flight away from San Francisco, so I'll definitely be back. Stay tuned for my Vancouver Vegan Food Tour Part II!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Babka

I don't have a recipe to share today.  This is just a cool little idea that involves one of my favorite baking ingredients:  matcha green tea powder.  I love adding it to baked goods as natural food coloring.  Look at what happened when I added some to my babka:

Pretty cool, eh?

I used the Chocolate Babka recipe from Chloe's Vegan Desserts cookbook.  (If you don't have the cookbook, here's a hint:  I just did an online search for "Chloe vegan babka" and the full recipe showed up as a Google Books result. Or you can head to the library.  Or buy the cookbook-- it's great!)  I've made her babka recipe before and although it takes about 3 hours total waiting for the dough to rise and 45 minutes baking in the oven, it's well worth the time and effort once you sink your teeth into your very own homemade babka. (especially if it's green)

Based on what I had in my pantry, I made the following adjustments to the recipe:

  • Used 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour for the dough
  • Added 4 teaspoons matcha green tea powder to the flour mixture for the dough
  • Substituted refined coconut oil for vegan margarine (1 to 1) in both the dough and the filling
  • Substituted coconut palm sugar for brown sugar (1 to 1) in the filling
  • Omitted the streusel topping

I usually use Maeda-en 100% natural matcha green tea powder that sells for about $7 online or at Japanese or Asian supermarkets.  That's the price for a 1-oz. canister, which isn't exactly cheap.  But if you're just looking to experiment with it or don't plan on using it often, a 1-oz. canister at $7 is just fine in my book. That amount can be used for 2 to 3 baking projects. (not to mention delicious homemade green tea lattes or ice cream)

With all the sugar and chocolate in the mix, I didn't really taste much green tea, but that was expected.  From my previous matcha baking projects, I've found that the green tea flavor doesn't really come through.  If it does, it's very subtle.  (but who cares, it's green!)

I have to say that kneading green colored dough is a lot of fun.  It reminded me of Play-Doh.  And eating a green colored babka is even more fun.  (eating Play-Doh = not so fun)  I hope you'll give this 'Glowing Green Babka' a try. Just don't try to use it for detox purposes. :)