Montréal 2016 – Sushi Momo

We were in Montreal a few months ago before Simon was born, and visited the old location of Sushi Momo, since our visit they’ve moved to a much bigger location on Rue Saint-Denis, and so this post is just an excuse to share delicious food porn and talk about what we ate.

Sushi MoMo on St. Laurent

Their original location was a cozy hole-in-the wall spot just off of St. Laurent. There was room for 15-20 people at most, and it was not the space for a large pregnant woman (me), but we went in there anyway, and I squished myself behind a small table with a comfy cushion and looked at their fabulous menu. For once I was happy I was so hungry, because everything looked awesome.

Sushi Momo wall

The first night we tried to walk in was disappointing, because they were very busy (and we knew they were popular), and we couldn’t even wait around in hopes of a table, so we came back the next night after calling for a table (like we should have done the first time around.) (make reservations for maximum happiness)

Sushi Momo - Miso

We started with bowls of flavourful miso soup and edamame.

Sushi Momo - Poutine

Next came the “poutine,” which was phenomenal. It had fried sweet potato hosomaki, cheddar cheese gratin, and a shiitake teriyaki sauce. I can’t recommend this dish enough – and I can’t recommend you get your own. Sharing with JC was nice and all, but oh I have some regrets about not getting my own bowl of this one.

We ordered a variety of different futomaki, tempura, and nigari, and all of it was beautifully arranged on one board. But after it arrived, we knew we had made a terrible mistake. More. We should have ordered more. Then again, I was eating for 1.5 so my hunger level might be a bit more than an average human at that point. You’ll know what to do (they do take out too.)

Sushi Momo

What’s on here?

  • There was Okui Age (“shrimp”, sweet potato, green onion , 4 sauces)
  • Okra tempura. OKRA TEMPURA. (I really like okra. also it’s not actually in this picture.)
  • Futomaki
    • Vege tempura
    • kamikaze inari (inari tofu, tempura, avocado, apple, cucumber, shallot, and spicy sauce)
    • Quebec roll (tofu sheet, shrimp tempura, shallot tempura, cucumber, with a sweet sauce)

Sushi Momo Platter

And of course presentation was beautiful with flowers and everything. I’m looking forward to checking out their newer, larger location later this month.

Sushi Momo
4669 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC (map)

websiteinstagram | facebook

Montreal – Cafe Venosa

Update: June 14, 2017: Sadly, Cafe Venosa has announced they are closed and declaring bankruptcy

So far, I’ve written about our most recent visit to Aux Vivres and Sophie Sucrée, but Café Venosa has been on my list since they first appeared. A few months ago JC and I were in Montreal, wandering around. I was still pregnant and we were taking our final vacation as just the two of us. It was nice to visit and knock off a few places on my “To Visit” list. It was March, and there was still a bit of snow on the ground.

Cafe Venosa

One of those stops was Cafe Venosa (of course) since it combines a few of my favourite things – vegan food, coffee, and cats. (and also wifi.)

Adoptable Cats

We walked in, and to the right there was a board with some of the adoptable cats. We saw a few cats wandering around, a case of sweet treats from a couple of vegan bakeries, and friendly staff waiting to take our order. They told us to take a seat and they’d be right by to grab our order.

We started out with some hot drinks – I ordered a hot chocolate, JC got a soy latte. Then I got a soy latte, and JC got a hot chocolate. Then we alternated for the rest of our visit and confused everyone including ourselves.

Hot Chocolate

They brought me this beauty of a hot chocolate. It was as good as it looked! Though I’m not going to lie – I wish it looked like a cat (they do that there with the lattes sometimes.)

Cafe Venosa - Cats

It was fun to just hang out with cats and hot drinks, and soak in the space. It was wide and open, and had a bunch of kitties running around, snoozing on chairs, climbing on tables (including ours), and sitting on tall scratching posts.

The fellow above (Kiyoshi) just hung out on the chair beside us right after a pair of humans left. He reminded me of a cat (Webster) I once knew at Street Cat Rescue in Saskatoon, both in appearance and the general wise vibe I got from him.

Kitty on a table - Cafe Venosa

This fellow (Tarquin) ran around stealing straws from as many people as possible. He made sure to take over a table beside us where a couple was trying to play the Cthulhu edition of Munchkin.

We did eat while at Cafe Venosa – and shared a Pizza Venosa along with a couple of bowls of soup. The Pizza Venosa, has sauce, vegan cheese, onions, basil, tomatoes, and some pumpkin seeds. It came out on flat bread which wasn’t what I expected when I ordered pizza, but this was quite delicious either way.
Cafe Venosa - Pizza

Conveniently, Cafe Venosa also has vegan donuts available for those of us with a sweet tooth. They also have a variety of baked goods from Sophie Sucree available. We’d been to Sophie Sucree earlier that day, so it seemed to make sense to try the donuts.

Cafe Venosa - Donut

Over all, great hang out spot, if you like cats and vegan food you will likely be happy here. They do workshops and events as well.

Just follow the rules of the space to help keep the kitties happy too. xo.

Cafe Venosa
4433 Rue Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC  (map)
website | facebook | instagram | twitter

Accessibility: Washrooms are not accessible (there are a couple of steps up to get to them, and the doors are quite narrow). There is one small step to get inside from the front door, but the outside entrance is level.

Montreal – Sophie Sucrée

A few months ago we were in Montreal, gallivanting around. I was still pregnant, and we were taking our final vacation as just the two of us. It was nice to be there, and I had amassed a decent list of “To Visit” spots over the year or so since we’d last visited the city. It was March, and there was still a bit of snow on the ground. One of the newer spots on my list was Sophie Sucrée – an all vegan bakery.

Sophie Sucree - Cake and Photos

We decided to go there for breakfast our second morning, and it was our first experiment with using Car2Go in Montreal (which turned out great, since I was walking around with a heavy 37 week pregnant belly.) JC dropped me off in front of Sophie Sucrée, while he found parking, and I got to soak up the baked goods and the atmosphere of the space. If you’re feeling a bit more mobile than I was when we were visiting, you can catch the Metro to Station Sherbrooke. It’s only a 7-8 minute walk to the bakery.

Blurry Video from Sophie Sucree Montreal

There are a few tables inside, but it’s more of a small cozy space with most of the focus on baked goods. The case had several delicious looking cupcakes, pastries, pies, and cakes, to choose from, so we tried a little bit of everything.

Sophie Sucree - Essayez notre feuilleté aux epinards et au fromage feta

We decided to follow the advice of the sandwich board outside inviting us to try the spinach and feta puff pastry (feuilleté aux epinards et au fromage feta) which was great advice. It was flaky and delicious with a rich savoury spinach and feta filling.

Sophie Sucree - Feuilleté aux epinards et au fromage feta

We also tried a cinnamon bun, which as you might expect, was excellent as well.

Sophie Sucree

Overall, definitely a great spot to visit. Luckily, if you can’t make it to the bakery, they also provide baked goods to a bunch of other places around the city, including Cafe Venosa, a vegan cat cafe that we’d be visiting later that same day.

Morning Tea and Sophee Sucree Pastry at the Hotel

The nice thing about taking a bunch of extra treats home with me that day was having a box of pastries to choose from the next morning when Simon’s kicks woke me up at 4am.

Sophie Sucrée
167 Ave Des Pins Est, Montreal QC (map)
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Accessibility: There is one large step to enter the bakery. The restrooms needs a key but are on the same floor, through a door, and down the hall, but do not have a wide door frame.

Montreal 2016 – Aux Vivres

As part of our pre-baby adventures we visited Montreal. I was about 37 weeks pregnant when we went, so it was a bit of a nervous trip (because going into labour in another province where people speak French, scared me a little), but it also felt like a necessary one (at least from a wanderlust perspective.) We took the Megabus down, which seemed like a good idea when I booked the tickets, but less of a good idea when I was trying to arrange myself and my belly behind the table we had reserved. It was much too crowded – live and learn.

Much like some of the other cities I keep returning to, Montreal is very familiar. There is always something new, but ultimately the city still has the same energy, the same streets, the same language. I went to the University of Montreal during a pretty formative year one summer, so our visits are usually a blend of some of my old favourites and trying to visit whatever is new in town. Aux Vivres is one of my old favourites since my first time in Montreal, and it’s been incredible to watch them grow from a relatively small restaurant & cafe to doubling in size and adding a grab and go deli/grocery area.

I still remember the first time I ordered the BLT sandwich on chapati from them. It was 2007 – and coconut bacon wasn’t a thing like it is now and it was mind blowing. During those two months, I’d end up getting the same thing well over a dozen times (with a few other meals like brunch and sharable plates with vegan-curious school acquaintances.)

Hot Chocolate

This time around, JC and I started things off with a couple of beautiful mugs of hot chocolate. Montreal was sunny but colder than we had planned on so they were perfect for the day. We also shared the Aux Vivres Mezze with Chapati: with lox, vege pate, tofu cream, hummus, and olive tapenade with pickles and capers. The Chapati was buttered with Aux Vivres own special veggie butter.

Mezze Platter

I forgot what their Mezze platters entailed – little lumps of tapenades – so it was not quite what I was expecting but still really good.

BLT Aux VIvres

And of course- keeping with tradition – I got a BLT wrap, which is coconut bacon, lettuce, tomato & mayo wrapped up in a chapati.

 

We spent three days in Montreal, and managed to visit several interesting places and I’m hoping to share a few pictures and stories from each of them over the next few weeks

Hungry Vegan Meal Delivery – Meal Delivery in Toronto

I’ve been working my way through the various meal-delivery services just to see how they work before we actually might need to take advantages of them out of necessity, so I’ll try and get some more posts up about those, but so far, Hungry Vegan has been one of my favourites.

Hungry Vegan has been around for a few years and is based out of Chatham-Kent. Luckily, they also offer vegan meal delivery to Toronto (as well as along the Windsor-Toronto corridor) in addition to having a store-front in Chatham-Kent Ontario. I’ve ordered from them three times so far, and I can see myself doing so again in the near future – especially since we might be total zombies once the baby arrives. As an added bonus, it sounds like they might be moving or adding a kitchen in the GTA in the next few months as well.

They offer organic, vegan, gluten-free meals, salads, drinks, desserts, and dips, and have been doing Toronto delivery on Wednesday (just place an order by Monday.)

smaller hungry vegan delivery

For my first order I just picked a random assortment of savoury looking meals to try them out:

  • 1 Hungry Vegan Potato Salad with crisp green beans, celery, green onion, parsley and housemade soy-free mayo.
  • 1 500mL – Moroccan Lentil Stew
  • 2 Stir Fry Box
  • 1 Falafel Box
  • 1 Spicy Pickle Hummus
  • 1 Tangy Granny Smith Apple Quinoa w Apples, Quinoa, Pepitas, Cranberries and an oil free orange citrus dressing
  • 2 Creamy Broccoli Salad.

We were planning a trip to Montreal by bus or train that same week, so I ordered with the trip in mind – we’d need to eat on the way, and what better than a prepared meal for the journey.

Ordering was straightforward – I just send them a Facebook message with what I wanted to get. Delivery came a bit later in the evening than we had expected – but it was also the day of some pretty serious blizzard activity in Ontario so I won’t fault them for the issues with the weather, I’m really impressed with their delivery area. We paid with E-Transfer, but they will also take credit card payment over the phone or cash on delivery.

Hungry Vegan - Broccoli Stir-fry box

My first taste of Hungry Vegan was the next morning when I ate the Broccoli Stir-Fry Box for breakfast in the streetcar. The boxes are convenient and compostable. The box was full of tender crisp stir fried veggies (predominantly broccoli, carrots, and zucchini.) on top of rice noodles with a subtly sweet sesame garlic sauce. I didn’t like the noodles (I rarely do – especially when they seem to jump out of the box and land on my sweater… okay, okay, that’s my fault…), but loved the seasoned vegetables so it was great to be able to grab and go with this dish when I’d otherwise have skipped a meal out of laziness or avoidance.

I had ordered two Stir-fry boxes so JC could have one too – and he enjoyed it (except for the carrots, but again, we all have our food aversions.)

hungry Vegan - broccoli salad

I couldn’t get enough of the Creamy Broccoli Salad. It had red cabbage, carrots, cranberries, raisins, walnuts and a housemade soy-free mayo. I ordered two the first time with the intention of sharing them with JC, but pretty much ate both of them myself. Once at the Bus station, and once in bed on the first night we were in Montreal.

The falafel was weird – and I knew it wouldn’t be what I was used to because it was baked and not deep fried – but it provided some quick and easy sustenance when we got to the hotel late that night. 

Falafel Box

What’s in the box: Baked Falafel Balls, Romaine, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, house pickled turnip, house pickled beet w garlic aioli and roasted red pepper hummus.

I’ve ordered three times so far, mostly sticking to my favourites and a couple of different meal boxes here and there. Two extra boxes and salads I’ve really liked have been the Blueberry Crumble Steel Cut Oats Box and the MexiQuinoa Salad.

Hungry Vegan - Blueberry Steel Cut Oats with coconut yogurt

What’s in the box? Steel cut oats, chia seeds, hemp hearts, almond milk, Hungry Vegan granola, blueberries and a side of vanilla coco yoghurt. The whole mix was great – and the blueberries were so nice and plump. I felt full and satisfied until well into mid-afternoon after eating the whole thing.

The Blueberry Crumble Steel Cut Oats box also encouraged me to order 16oz of their Coconut Yogurt with my next delivery – if you’re looking for awesome coconut yogurt – they’ve got it!

Hungry Vegan Meal Delivery - MexiQuinoa

What’s in this? Quinoa, black beans, bell pepper, tomato, corn, red onion, avocado, parsley, mexi lime dressing.

It is oil free and not heavily seasoned, which I think is an asset – you can turn this into whatever you want it to be with minimal effort. I loved the variety of chopped vegetables and the mix of quinoa and black beans. I like things pretty spicy, so I added some chili peppers and some braggs to this, but you could eat it as is and not miss out on anything.

On one of my most recent orders – they had a Mixed hummus and Veggie box which was SO GREAT.

IMG_20160323_224029

It came with a variety of chopped veggies (like red and green and orange peppers, cucumber slices, and carrots) and 4ozs of each of their hummus – roasted red pepper, roasted beet, and spicy pickle hummus. Now you might think – can’t you just make that yourself? Sure I probably could – but aside from the best of intentions, I probably wouldn’t ever quite get it together enough to do it. So having someone else wash and chop easy to munch on veggies with some fresh hummus, was perfect.

It was like my mom was visiting, and she made me an afterschool snack.

Last words

I’ve really enjoyed ordering from Hungry Vegan so far, and plan to do so in the future. It’s been super convenient and feels like good value for the money. Their menu varies week to week – so there are some repeats, and usually at least one or two new items to try every week.

If you’ve tried them, I’d love to hear what you think too!

Contact info:
Website | Instagram | Facebook Page | Wednesday Night Delivery Group
Find them in Chatham: 55 Forest St, Chatham Ontario.
Find them in Toronto: Someday
Phone: 519 – 355 – 0909

 

Recipe for Change 2016 – Food and a Fundraiser for FoodShare

This is my fourth year going to Recipe for Change (see my pictures from 2012, 2013, 2014, and now 2016) and it’s not the same as it once was, especially in terms of vegan options, but it was still a great time as always. And of course, the event admission tickets support a great organization – FoodShare Toronto, which does fantastic food literacy work in Toronto, amongst so many other things, like the Good Food Box, the Mobile Good Food Market, Food literacy resources for educators, and so much more.

I went with my mom this year, since she was visiting from out of town, and we had a great time.

The vegan options were from a few different places:

My Little Dumplings – Eggplant, fresh Harissa and Za’atar dumplings

My Little Dumplings - Eggplant, fresh Harissa and Za’atar dumplings

My Little Dumplings is a Recipe for Change favourite – I’m pretty sure he’s always had a vegan options, and it’s always been delicious. Chef Bashir Munye has been cooking dumplings up around the city at various farmers markets (including Evergreen Brickworks) – and recently opened a location in Leslieville at 1372 Queen Street East (@ Greenwood) – so check them out sometime. Open Thursday and Friday at 11am-7pm

Good Earth Food and Wine – Ancho & lime tempeh
Good Earth Food and Wine - Ancho & lime tempeh

This was great but they were definitely more enthusiastic about their meaty options. Which is too bad, because the tempeh with the sauce was exceptional. They had a giant bowl of extra spicy sauce available on the side which kicked it up an extra few notches. I went back for thirds, but I bet people would have been more excited about them if they’d been ready to go.

Bendale Business and Technical Institute – Punjabi bhurtha and black channa curry (without the rice Pilau which unfortunately had butter in it.)
Bendale Business and Technical Institute - Punjabi bhurtha and black channa curry served

King Edward Hotel Spiced ChickPea Flatbread with Roasted Squash, Eggplant Caviar & Coriander Cress (Vegan) King Edward Hotel Spiced ChickPea Flatbread with Roasted Squash, Eggplant Caviar & Coriander Cress

I had a great conversation with the chef at the King Edward Hotel – he told me that they do vegan things for special events, and do have some options on menu – and that his efforts creating interesting vegan food have been encouraged by the fact that his teenage son is vegan. The Chef also said something I’ve been saying for years – making incredible tasting plant-based food can take serious skill – and it can also be fun for people that have dedicated their lives and careers to making beautiful and delicious food.

Empower Tea

EmpowerT

EmpowerT is a crisp clean cold green tea layered with notes of botanicals with no added sugar/sweeteners. Paired with Earl Grey tea (I skipped the marshmallows)  but went back for thirds or fourths of this tea. It is entirely unsweetened, which I like and had a nice flavour profile. They’re working on making it into retail in the next few months, so maybe you’ll see if around town sometime.

Jesus Gomez – FoodShare Kitchen – Meatless pin roll burrito bites with fiesta corn salsa (vegan) Jesus Gomez - FoodShare Kitchen - Meatless pin roll burrito bites with fiesta corn salsa (vegan)

The corn salsa was delicious – and Chef Gomez was nice enough to let me take a jar of it home with me. Part of me wants to open it immediately, and part of me wants to save it indefinitely.

Cruda Cafe – Mini pumpkin tarts and mini nanaimo bars (and more)

Recipe for Change 2016

Cruda Cafe was a surprise favourite this year. There were four different desserts to enjoy, and all of them were beautiful – I also enjoyed people’s surprise at finding out they were vegan as I was wandering around.

Overall it was another great event with a lot of good energy and intention – FoodShare does a lot of great work in the city, so it’s always nice to hear a bit more about their programming from Director Debbie Fields, and celebrate their work every year.

Bonus: Priority Seating Tables

I also really appreciated the priority seating tables this time around. I know they had them a year or so ago – but I never needed them as much as I did this time. (I look a lot like the lady in the middle of the card right now.)

Priority Seating

Connect with FoodShare Toronto: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Winterlicious 2016 – Vegan Options

Winterlicious happens every year in Toronto and is a great way to get out there during the colder months and try a new restaurant with a fixed price menu for lunch or dinner. Of the 200 participating restaurants this year, four offer 3 courses of vegan items for either lunch or dinner and one offers a vegan menu for both.

Vegan Options

I do like that Winterlicious offers a vegan filter on their site, but I do not really care about seeing the other menu items, since I have no interest in eating them. And of course, comparing a fruit plate with a fancy multistage dessert is always a bummer, so why not just not even look at it.

I put together this list last year, and people seemed to find the whole endeavor helpful, so here is my attempt for Winterlicious 2016. Winterlicious has been on since January 29th, so there aren’t many days of Winterlicious left – it ends on February 11th, so get out there!

Avoid disappointment and do confirm with the restaurant that they are still offering these things –  you can find information about all of these places and their current listings on the Winterlicious site.

I’ve ordered these in order of most exciting menu to least exciting, but of course, if you like salad or sorbet, then maybe the others will be your jam.

Living Room

WindsorArms Hotel
18 St Thomas St (map)
416-971-9666
Yorkville

Accessible

Lunch – $28 – make a reservation on OpenTable

  • Benzenella Salad (vegan) – with Focaccia Croutons
  • Zucchini and Carrot Linguini (vegan)
  • Chocolate Tart (vegan) – with Sorbet of the Day

Dinner – $45 – make a reservation on OpenTable

  • Roasted Baby Beets, Peppery Citrus Salad (vegan) – with Aged Balsamic Reduction
  • Cornmeal Crusted Tempeh Steaks, Spiced Sweet Potato Coconut Mash, Steamed Greens (vegan) – with Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tomato Relish
  • Vegan Truffles

Frank

Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas St W (map)
416-979-6688
Downtown

Accessible

Lunch only – $23 – make a reservation on OpenTable

  • Winter Greens (vegan) – Chicory, confit potato, pickled cranberries
  • Open Lasagna (vegetarian/can be made vegan on request) – Smoked Sicilian eggplant, mushroom Pugliese, grana padano
  • Pear & Le Rassembleu (can be made vegan on request) – Walnut sable

La Maquette

111 King St E (map)
416-366-8191
Downtown

Accessible

Lunch Only- $23 – make a reservation on OpenTable

  • Mesclun Baby Organic Salad (vegan) – tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Vegetarian Risotto (vegan) – grilled vegetable and dried fig and black olive, olive oil, shallots, garnished with marjoram
  • Seasonal Fresh Fruit Bowl (vegan)

The Tavern by Trevor

147 Spadina Ave(map)
416-546-3447
North Toronto, Entertainment District

Lunch only – $18 – make a reservation on OpenTable

  • Rainbow Kale Salad (vegetarian/vegan) – horseradish dressing, garlic croutons, jicama, apple
  • Two choices for the second course:
    • Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (can be made vegan)
      aged Ontario cheddar, baguette
    • Heirloom Beet Salad (vegetarian/can be made vegan)
      chevre, candied walnuts, sherry vinaigrette
  • Sorbet (vegan)

Vegan Brunch at D-Beatstro

D-Beatstro is a community space, art gallery, cafe, event venue, and restaurant that opened a little over a year ago in the old Bike Pirates space. It’s has a relaxed friendly atmosphere, and a nice addition to Bloordale, and right across the street from the magical Through Being Cool Vegan Bakery. They have prioritized being both physically and financially accessible, especially for people throwing events. Which speaking as someone that likes to organize the occasional event – physically accessible event venues are something that are sorely lacking in our city.

The D-Beatstro Logo

I’ve watched D-Beatstro improve and grow their offerings and options over the last few months and it’s been great to see them grow into having a really solid menu, kitchen, and coffee set up. As with any business, the beginning can be tough, and when you hit the ground running like these folks did and make improvements on the fly in that DIY style (and if not, you will likely fail) it can be stressful and not without hiccups.

This community space, cafe, restaurant, and more, has managed to do that, and excel at it.  I mention this especially if you visited them in the absolute beginning, and didn’t go back – simply to encourage you to visit again.

The Counter

That said, from the very beginning, they started out with great coffee (it’s from Dark City if you’re curious) – they knew what they were doing with that fancy espresso machine, and it was great to be able to go in there with my laptop and take advantage of their free wifi (and drink a good cup of coffee), but it’s only gotten better from there.

DBeatstro in Toronto

D-Beatstro has a nice variety of baked goods on the daily, and also often have gluten-free options too for those of you that need/want them. In addition to the usual coffee options you might find (like lattes, cappuccinos, americanos) they also have herbalist blended teas, and sometimes even other fun drinks like white hot chocolate, matcha lattes, and other surprises (often written on the sandwich board outside.) What I really want to mention is the brunch. Because I was so pleasantly surprised, we had to go back again the next day for more. It’s good. Really good.

It ranks way up there for the best brunch in the area (other options include Disgraceland, The Steady, Hogtown Vegan, aka an area spoiled for choices) their menu has a nice variety and includes gluten free options if that’s something you’re into.

DBeatstro Brunch Menu in Toronto

So far I have not diversified my Brunch orders, but I have my eye on breakfast sammy for next time. I’ve ordered the Deluxe Brunch every time (so far). The only variation so far has been supreming my homefries by accident the last time I was there.

DBeatstro Brunch

They make their own gluten-y sausages in house, and they have a nice texture, not too dense, not too soft. The tofu scramble varies, but I liked it a lot the first time around, and appreciate that they don’t put garbage fruit like cantaloupe in their fruit bowl so I can enjoy it (since I’m allergic to cantaloupe and think it’s the worst) so far it’s always been some kind of berry, citrus, and grapes which is a nice sweet touch.

DBeatstro in Toronto

The supreme your home fries thing involves putting burrito toppings (daiya, baked beans, corn, sour cream) on the diced roasted potatoes, which sounds amazing, but I didn’t like as much as JC did.

JC has been slightly more adventurous, ordering the deluxe brunch with me the first time, but he ordered the Pizza Grilled Cheese on our most recent visit. I stole a bite and if you’re even remotely a fan of pesto – you probably want to give this a try.

DBeatstro in Toronto

But of course, on our first visit we had to try out their red velvet waffle sticks for brunch dessert, and it was a great decision.

DBeatstro in Toronto

Seating is comfortable and well spaced out, so if you’re tired of sharing elbow room with other folks during weekend brunches – this might be a great spot to check out. The restaurant and cafe is also wheelchair and/or mobility device accessible with a ramp outside, with an accessible washroom in the back.

D-Beatstro

1292 Bloor Street W, Toronto, Ontario (map)
Facebook |Instagram | Twitter

They take credit, debit, and cash. Check out some of their upcoming events on facebook

More information about accessibility: Read AccessTo’s thorough accessibility review of D-Beatstro here.

The Purple Carrot – Vegan Meal Kit Box

We ordered a box from The Purple Carrot earlier last week. I’ve been curious about it, because despite a genuine love of food – I’m a lazy cook, or just an avoidant cook. Anything that proposes an option for us to have an easier time cooking dinner at home is something I’m interested in learning more about.

One of their biggest name supporters and co-founders is Mark Bittman, and he’s also involved with recipe development, recipe testing, and also using his connections with fancy chefs all over the world to create or share interesting plant based recipes with subscribers. Currently, the box is only available in the USA.

There were some rumors of a vegan meal kit in Ontario brewing last year, and I’m happy to say details have finally been released. So if you’re local, check out the Meal Kits from Globally Local.

So what was in the box?

  • Large biodegradable insulated box liner
  • 3 large non-toxic ice packs – reusable, or drainable.
  • 3 meal kits with ingredients with detailed full colour recipe cards.
  • A sheet with a little story of why each dish was included this week, some pictures from real humans that made things from the Purple Carrot boxes, and a carrot talk discussion question which they suggest talking about at dinner or online. Our weeks question was easy “What’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2016”

What was on the dinner menu for the next few evenings?

I’m going to post a picture of each kit, the ingredients, and the final dish, and some comments. One thing you’ll notice is that each ingredient is in a separate plastic bag, and as I took everything out of the box, that’s something that I started to wonder about – is there a better way to package one meal kit without expediting spoilage or confusing people less experienced in the kitchen? I couldn’t think of one.

It includes all the ingredients needed to make the dish (except for salt, pepper, and oil) and has a detailed recipe with photos of each of the steps. Each meal is contained in one bag.

5-Layer Beet Tartare

You can find the recipe here.

Purple Carrot - 5-Layer Beet Tartare

I made this one first. Reading through the recipe shortly before preparing the dish I was sad to see I needed either a food processor or a grater for the big yellow beet. If I was at home, this dish would have taken a lot less time, but the friend’s place we were borrowing doesn’t have as many kitchen gadgets as we do. But that probably allowed for a more accurate review experience.

Purple Carrot - 5-Layer Beet Tartare

The order came with a big beautiful yellow beet, sprigs of dill, capers, beet, avocado, red wine vinegar in a tiny bottle, minced horseradish, endive, wasa crackers, farrow, and hodo soy tofu (of Chipotle sofritas fame.) There was no cooking involved in this dish, just a lot of grating, chopping, mashing, and mixing.

Purple Carrot - 5-Layer Beet Tartare

With this dish, I ate frisee (it also often goes by the name curly lettuce – you can see it on the very top with the avocado) for the first time, and it was okay, but I’m not much for greens.

Good Luck Pasta & Beans with Escarole

You can find the recipe here.

Purple Carrot - Good Luck Pasta & Beans with Escarole

I was looking forward to making this one on New Years Day. Seems it’s Southern tradition to cook up some black-eyed peas for luck and leafy greens for wealth. I don’t know about luck or wealth, but it was delicious and fun to prepare (and of course easy.) I did a lot of chopping, but besides that the recipe amounted to throwing things into a pot at the right time and leaving it all alone for a while.

Purple Carrot Meal Box

The end result was a hearty stew with a great combination of textures and flavours. The escarole’s slight bitterness balanced the sweetness of the tomatoes and carrots in the dish and played well together.

Purple Carrot - Good Luck Pasta & Beans with Escarole

As far as I can recall, I’ve never eaten Escarole before. It looks like lettuce, but has denser leaves. What I thought was very cool about this meal kit was that it came with fresh black eyed peas.

Roasted Carrots and Cilantro Basmati

You can find the recipe here

Purple Carrot - Roasted Carrots and Cilantro Basmati

Purple Carrot - Roasted Carrots and Cilantro Basmati

I guess I saved the best for last, but this was my favourite of the three dishes. The recipe flowed together well, the instructions were clear, and the resulting dish was flavourful and colourful.

Purple Carrot - Roasted Carrots and Cilantro Basmati

The carrots roasted beautifully, and the late addition of the seasoning mixture of chopped ginger, garlic, oil, and scallions was a nice touch – I have the erroneous tendency of just throwing everything in the oven, which has worked out fine. But the inevitable result of this is I end up with charred herbs on whatever I was roasting. But following this method, I had tender roasted carrots, that still had a nice seasoned flavour, without the burnt bits.

Purple Carrot - Roasted Carrots and Cilantro Basmati

The only disappointment with this pack was the Eden Foods can of beans, since I don’t want anything to do with that company, and haven’t bought anything from them in years. (for the reasons why, you can read an overview here), but otherwise, the recipe was great, I’d make it again, just with a different brand of adzuki beans. But if Purple Carrot has partnered with Eden foods over the long term, it would be a factor that would dissuade me from using their service in the future.

Packaging

People have commented and complained to me about the amount of packaging used in the Purple Carrot order – there are a lot of plastic bags involved. With each ingredient enclosed in a plastic bag, if I was at home with this, I would have been in a better position to reuse all of the bags (because the variety would have been perfect to have on hand at home or even at our store), but unfortunately we ended up recycling most of them (though one bag made an excellent

Still wondering if there is a better way to make this all come together. Especially for people that might not be familiar with every vegetable and ingredient – I think it’s likely beneficial to have each vegetable labelled in some way. I’m still vacillating on this point, but apparently they’re working on improving the packaging issue in the future.

Overall

Generally our experience with the Purple Carrot was good – I liked having produce available that I could use to make fresh food at home, without having to plan it out or go out and buy it. Most recipes used up most of the ingredients so there wasn’t much wasted and recipes were straightforward, clearly explained and illustrated, and tasty.

 

#Veganuary 2016 – Do you need help?

Veganuary and an offer of support smallery

Dear You,

Are you interested in trying to go vegan for 2016 or even just to try it out in January 2016? There are lots of resources out there and I’ve collected a few of them on this page. Also, please feel free to email me if you have any questions or need support along the way, especially if you’re in Toronto, since that’s where I live, and that’s one of the main cities I know. (but this is an open offer to anyone anywhere.)

I went vegan in the late 90’s. I was young and living in Alberta, which even to this day has a bit of a reputation of being meat-heavy (though Edmonton is amazing for vegan options). It was a bit strange to be the only vegan I knew in real life, but that’s still not a completely foreign experience for people even with our changing world. Veganism is more and more common, and it’s easier to find food and friends than ever before, but you can still encounter resistance or misunderstanding and it can be frustrating, especially in the beginning, when you discover that many people, including people you respect and love, don’t see the world the same way you do.

So feel free to reach out by email or by twitter or on facebook if you ever need a quick word of encouragement, a restaurant recommendation, an ingredient replacement, or something else in the veganism sphere.

Be nice to me and I’m usually pretty friendly 🙂

Resources in Toronto

Going out to eat:

Meet people

I think having a social support network is essential to have a good time being vegan. If all of your friends are reacting negatively to what can become a fairly major lifestyle change, it’s nice to have a friendly haven of support to turn to. Here are a few options:

Farm Animal Sanctuaries in Ontario

Why vegan? Meet the animals other people call food. Many of these sanctuaries offer regular tours, open houses, and events. Follow them all for maximum adorable farm animal pictures and information.

General Resources

  • Vegan Kit – covers the how’s & why’s and offers recipes, touches on health and environmental aspects
  • 30-day Vegan Challenge – This is one of my favourite resources to recommend – it’s not free, but it is put together by one of my favourite vegans – Colleen Patrick-Goudreau can be your vegan pal, 24/7 in this great book and online program. She offers straightforward recipes, advice, and information. Also check out her free Food For Thought podcast
  • Post Punk Kitchen Forums – Connect with vegans around the world online in a friendly welcoming environment.
  • Veganuary – sign up to their mailing list and get helpful information sent to you throughout the month of January.
  • PCRM 21-day Vegan Kickstart

Recipes

  • Plant Based on a Budget – veganism can be affordable and fun. Pricing is based on USA produce costs, but gives you an idea of how much making a meal will cost.
  • Fatfree Vegan Recipes – not always fat free, but a nice collection of recipes in varying levels of difficulty.
  • Post Punk Kitchen Recipes – Recipes from the brilliant Isa Chandra Moskowitz (creator of cookbooks like the Veganomicon, Vegan Brunch, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and so much more.)

Health

Environment

Wondering how veganism and the environment connect?

Human Rights and Food Justice

For me, there is more to veganism than just food, or even just animals right to exist. You can delve into the rights of migrant workers involved in food production and harvest.

Movies

Books

There are so many books out there, and the Toronto Public Library has SO MANY. Just search for “Vegan” and you’ll find so many great cookbooks and more. You might be surprised at the quantity of books available for free at your own public library, so check them out.

One of my favourite books is a bit of a cerebral examination of why people eat animals – it’s aptly named Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (on TPL:641.303 FOE)

Also check out the Toronto Animal Book club for past reading lists or connect with the Animal Legal Defence Fund’s Animal Book club online.

Podcasts/Radio

Please feel free to add any recommended resources or things that have helped you along the way in the comments