Sunday, April 13, 2014

Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant: 1509 W.12TH AVE., Vancouver BC

While I generally try to stay on a budget, sometimes I really enjoy going out for a nice meal, especially when on vacation or celebrating a special occasion. And while that can occasionally entail paying a higher price for food than what my budget usually allows for, when the food is delicious and the experience wonderful, then to me it is worth the price.

For the past two years and prior to my March birthday trip to Vancouver, I had been reading rave reviews of Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant , and consequently was eager to check them out. And, as anyone who reads this blog probably knows by now, I have a thing for vegan breakfast and brunch. And I REALLY have a thing for a good vegan Benny.

The interior of Heirloom is gorgeous and bright, open and airy, light and lovely. And the people working there welcomed us with genuinely friendly faces and inviting words. From the moment we set foot inside the restaurant, I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be. And then, of course, after checking out the brunch options, I was incredibly excited to see that they had a vegan benny option: The "Beet-Back Bacon Benny." Yes, that's right, maple-glazed beet "bacon."

I knew immediately this was the meal for me, but unfortunately I have learned from experience that in addition to my usual "Can this be made vegan?" questions, I now have to ask "Is there anything made from corn in this dish?" because of my corn allergy. Luckily for me, the woman helping us was both knowledgeable and nice, and they were able to sub in sourdough bread (which I prefer anyway) for the English muffins that had a light dusting of cornmeal.

Yes, my meal was $16.95 (Canadian), + coffee. Yes, it was a bit of a splurge. But yes, it was TOTALLY worth it. This was seriously one of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten in my entire life. I am dying to go back to Heirloom and have it again. The beet bacon was so lovely and delicious. The  vegan hollandaise sauce was wonderful. The wilted spinach superb. The sourdough bread absolutely delicious. The potatoes yummy and cooked to perfection. This was the kind of breakfast/brunch meal I dream about when I am dreaming about perfect meals (which I admit is something I do frequently.)

Next time you are in Vancouver, I strongly encourage you to check out Heirloom. All the rave reviews are there for a reason--this place is fantastic!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Zen Sushi: 3001 Cinema Place

First off, my apologies for the past two weeks and not having anything new posted to this blog. I have had a few things going on that prevented me from being able to make any updates, but now I am back! And coming soon, I will share with you a number of updates and restaurant reviews from places in Vancouver B.C., but first I am going to kick things off with some information about vegan sushi options at Zen Sushi!

I am always on the look out for new vegan sushi options, and recently someone suggested I check out Zen Sushi. Conveniently located next to the movie theatre, it makes for a great dinner-and-a-movie date spot. Their menu has a whole page of vegetarian options, and upon inquiry I learned that their tempura is actually vegan because there aren't any eggs in the batter and they use soybean oil. Now one thing I forgot to ask, was whether or not the soybean oil, and the tofu, soy etc. that they use are organic. I should have asked, but I didn't think about it until it was too late.

At any rate, their veggie sushi options were pretty wide in terms of selection, and everything I had was very good. I am always a fan of sushi with asparagus, so I was pleased to see that as one option. Most of the sushi options come on a conveyor belt and are color-coded to indicate price. However, you can also select options directly from the menu, which is what we did since we knew we wanted a number of veggie selections.

Everything I tried was quite tasty. Of course, they had the standard avocado and sushi veggie fare, but they also had some other more creative options, including the Zen Roll, which included asparagus, gobo root cucumber, avocado, pico de gallo, and sesame seed. I was also a huge fan of the spinach gomae, boiled spinach with sesame--it had a lot of flavor and was quite good.

I also enjoyed the crispy tofu roll. Again, I do not know whether or not their tofu was organic--I hope it was because I really liked it and would definitely get it again.

In conclusion, I loved the variety of choices at Zen Sushi and I have yet to find any place in Bellingham that has such a large selection of vegan sushi options, so two thumbs up from me! What about you? What are some of your favorite places for vegan sushi?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Fave (Vegan-ize-able) "Salad" is at Temple Bar: 306 W. Champion St.

I am the kind of vegan who doesn't necessarily get excited about the word "salad." Even though I love a big plate of leafy greens probably more than anyone I know, the prospect of going out to dinner and having a "salad" does not excite me. Despite my own experience, I still can't completely get over the negative association of the word "salad" with a plate of iceberg lettuce and some horrible dressing. A salad is too often the underwhelming meal you are forced to order as a vegan in a primarily omnivorous world. Except when it's not.

When is a salad not just a salad? When it is so amazing that you can't stop thinking about it days after you have eaten it. When it is what you would choose to order for dinner, not just what you have to order. And my dear friends, Temple Bar has just such a fabulous salad right now. I am in love with this salad. I have eaten it only twice, and it has become my latest food obsession.

Always a fan of their warmed pistachios and gin martinis, Temple Bar is my go-to place to unwind with good drinks and good people. And while I have nibbled away at their vegan version of the happy hour special that comes with a bottle of wine, it was only just recently that I tried to actually order something as substantial as an actual meal. 

Their current menu offers a root vegetable salad that can be made vegan upon requested, and consists of a bed of fresh arugula topped with what I have heard referred to as "beluga" lentils (because they look like caviar), and a dijon vinaigrette, served aside a mound of roasted root veggies.

The arugula, lentil, and vinaigrette combination is perfect--the flavors complement each other so well, and there lettuce isn't drowning in dressing, as is too often the case when I order a salad from a restaurant. The lentils are cooked perfectly and have just the right texture. As far as the root veggies go, they are also wonderful. The first time I had this dish it was a combination of sweet potatoes, yams, and I think parsnips, (although I am not positive). The second time it came with the most exquisitely beautiful and delicious baby carrots.

I do not know how much longer this salad will be on the menu since things tend to change with the seasons, but I am so glad I have had the chance to try it while it has been there, and I am hopeful that whatever takes its place can also be made vegan, since I now have the utmost faith in the Temple Bar's ability to make a salad that's not just a salad. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

HURRAW! Vegan Lip Balm

I know what you are thinking. Another vegan lip balm post? I know, my apologies. But I have a thing for a good vegan lip balm, and yesterday I was at the Co op and realized they now carry the HURRAW! line of vegan lip balms, something that makes me very happy!

In case you did not know this, HURRAW! sources all organic, fairtrade, raw, and vegan ingredients for their lip balms, which are just the right amount of glossy, smooth, moisturizing, and long-lasting. They come in a variety of "flavors," (or rather scents, I guess), and my favorite so far is the coconut. And, last but not least, one other cool thing about HURRAW! (that isn't always the case with vegan lip balms), you can feel free to leave it in your pocket without fear of it melting. I say HURRAW for that!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pepper Sisters (Re-Visited): 1055 N. State Street

Last night in the midst of the falling snow, hunger, and a desire to eat somewhere I could write about, I was looking through my blog archives and I realized my post about the Pepper Sisters was written in 2008. I figured it was time for an update, but the funny thing is, which I didn't realize at first, I ended up ordering the exact same thing I ordered when I wrote that first review in 2008: the eggplant tostada. However, in my original review I stated that the eggplant was not cooked quite to my liking, and I have to say last night's eggplant was cooked PERFECTLY.

The Pepper Sisters is one of those places that you can't help but associate with Bellingham. They are very much a part of this city. The atmosphere of the restaurant itself is simultaneously intimate yet family-friendly, and the people who work there are always helpful, nice, and gracious. They are quick to make everyone feel at ease and welcome, and I always have great service experiences at the Pepper Sisters.

Here's a close-up of some eggplant topped with pico. YUM!
Additionally, there are close to half a dozen items that are marked on the menu as being possible vegan options, which means you have a number of items to choose from, which isn't always the case in most restaurants. And there may be even more possibilities for vegan options that aren't marked as such on the menu, so if you see something you think they might be able to modify, you should feel free to ask. I am sure it goes without saying at this point that I am a definite fan of the eggplant tostada, especially after last night's delectable and sumptuous melt-in-your-mouth perfectly cooked eggplant.

Served on a crispy flour tortilla layered with black beans, slightly smoky and very tasty eggplant, fresh cabbage, greens, tomato, black olives, a light dressing and pico de gallo, this entree has a lot of flavor and left me very satisfied. I can think of nothing cozier than to be inside somewhere warm and inviting eating delicious flavorful food as the snow falls quietly outside. It was a very pleasant way to spend the evening. And it's nice to see that after all these years, I like the Pepper Sisters even more than I did before, which is saying something if you consider how much I liked them originally!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Apology for Not Blogging and Shout-Out to the Co op!

So sorry for not posting yesterday. Time got away from me and the lovely snow was also of course quite distracting! Three cheers for being lucky enough to have someone who brought me home dinner from the Co op, so I not only don't have to go anywhere in the snow, I also don't have to cook anything!

The balsamic beets and the wild rice and kale are two of my favorite dishes the co op deli makes. I always consider it to be a good omen when I am fortunate enough to have both choices on the same day.

Hope you are all surviving this cold weather with good food and safe driving! Next weekend I will resume my usual Sunday blog updates... I think it's about time for a new restaurant review. Any suggestions?