Once upon a Valentine’s Day – with help from Bunners and Cafe Belong.

So, I’m just going to brag. I had a really fantastic Valentine’s Day this year, and JC made it happen. I’ve always been a fan of the pink and red holiday. Even while most of my social group was decrying the horrors of commercialism, and the absurd expectations that are put on people on Valentine’s day,  I love the idea of a day devoted to celebrating love. Because sure, you can celebrate love everyday – but (most) people don’t! I think The Oatmeal really sums up my feeling on the worst thing about Valentines Day with this Comic.

I sent people ridiculous little handmade cards this year. And picked up tickets to Avenue Q at the Lower Ossington Theatre for Mr.JC, despite my hatred of musicals (and to some extent – puppets.) But that doesn’t really compare to the nice series of surprises that were in store for me.

Apparently JC had ordered some flowers, and they were supposed to be hand delivered to my office that day. Unfortunately, the building I work in had received a bomb threat for Valentines Day, so they weren’t accepting any packages from anyone. So a very enraged (so I hear) Purolator courier driver was turned away, with a big box of flowers and a teddy bear. Teaching me it really is the thought that counts, because despite this security kerfuffle, it was an absolutely sweet start to the day. (we did pick them up the day after and they were still lovely.)


After an otherwise boring, but security enhanced workday, JC met me downtown with a box of cupcakes pre ordered from Bunner’s Bake Shop. Yes I’m bragging, but how can I not? We sat with a box of delicious cupcakes, before it was off to the next, and possibly the best surprise of the evening.

JC had sent an email to Cafe Belong asking them about having a Vegan Valentine’s Day menu. They had a special menu for Valentine’s Day, but nothing vegan on it. After a few email exchanges, they said they’d set us up with a vegan menu. So we took an adventurous, half walk/half cab route to Evergreen Brickworks, home to Cafe Belong (550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, ON).

Valentine's Day Dinner at Cafe Belong

From the moment we wandered in, it was a romantic and exceptional atmosphere. Service was friendly, blending casual with a formal dining experience. We started with drinks, they had special Valentine’s Day Cocktails, so we ordered The Sure Thing (JC) and Spooning (Me). The “Spooning” had some weird ball of “Yogalicious,” which one of the servers described as a vegan frozen yogurt.

Cafe Belong
Francis, came over and introduced himself to JC since, they’d been emailing, which I thought was a nice touch.  Another thing that tickled me was when it was time to “test” the wine we had ordered (a vegan friendly, Norman Hardie, 2009, Country Cabernet Franc) was that the server offered to have me test the wine when she brought the bottle over. Now, the tendency in fine dining establishments seems to be (at least in my experience) relatively sexist outdated conventions of having the “gentleman” try the wine. It was a nice touch, and I appreciated it.


Since our menu was predetermined, all we had to do was sit and wait for dishes to start appearing. I like slow languid dinners, and this place fit the bill. First came a kind of amuse-bouche of a small salad. Finely shaved greens, with a simple dressing. My bouche was totally amused, and I think you could win friends with this salad because it was actually tasty. The texture was unique (as in, not the same old same old salad.)


Next was a foraged mushroom soup. Oh this mushroom soup. Umami levels were at absolute delicious maximum. Savory. And flavourful, especially for a clear broth. We decided that it was time to seriously check out the Mycology Society of Toronto, and go on one of their mushroom tours.

Valentine's Day Dinner at Cafe Belong

Next came our main, vegan meatballs, topped with smoked sesame seeds. Word on the street is that they came about from the mind of Chef Charlotte Langley (but that’s just what I’m gleaning from the Foodshare – Recipe for Change Event Menu – happening March 1st, 2012.) They were creative. No boring fake meat, no TVP, just a soft fall-apart-in-your-mouth meatballs.

Valentine's Day Dinner at Cafe Belong

Then of course, it was time for dessert. We had an apple tart like thing. With a thinly sliced, dehydrated apple, and sugar syrup.

Valentine's Day Dinner at Cafe Belong

So what I’m saying is, I had a great time. It was a delightful, unique, and exceptional. It’s hard to find a fine vegan dining experience, so when I do, I cherish it. Especially when it’s done well. (See Candle 79, Millennium, even Fressen)

Over dinner, we decided that we should start seeking non vegan places out, asking if they have vegan options (or if they are willing to make them,) and having regular food adventures. I also found this great list from v:gourmet – v:eating out in TO – so we’ve got lots to work with.

All in all, an amazing Valentine’s Day, that I will not soon forget. I love you JC. Thank you for a spectacular day.