Category Archives: Guest Contributors

The New Veganminster Project

Our pal Melissa is building an excellent vegan community of businesses in Vancouver suburb New Westminster, and she’s giving away a stay there for two lucky folks. Interested? Read on…

Win a Luxurious Vegan Culinary Getaway for Two!

New Westminster, B.C. – Look out Portland there’s a new vegan culinary destination carving out it’s territory in the Pacific Northwest and hungry visitors don’t have to cross the border or check the exchange rate to get there. Nestled between the mighty Fraser River and the ultra convenient sky train New Westminster is a hot bed of vegan foodie activity and for the month of April this Royal City is showing off it’s Top Chef worthy dining experiences.

Although visitors may not need their government issue passports in order to get to New Westminster (unless of course they originate Stateside) what they will require is to pick up a New Veganminster Passport to gain entry to this exciting event. Once a New Veganminster Passport has been collected from either Shine Wellness Space, Coming Home Café, Karmavore Vegan Shop or Crepe Des Amis participants are urged to taste their way through the city enjoying some truly sensational culinary delights!

Once a New Veganminster Passport has been turned in at the end of April participants will be eligible to win this incredible, tasty prize package for two:
Our Getaway Grand Prize:
• One Night Deluxe Accommodation at The Inn at the Quay
• Welcome Basket From Karmavore Vegan Shop
• Lunch from Crepe Des Amis at the Fabulous River Market
• Guided Tour from Fraser River Bike Tours & Rentals
• A Dinner Feast at Wild Rice
• Delicious Breakfast at Coming Home Cafe
• Yoga Class Package at Shine Wellness Space
Our Stunning Second Prize:

• Wine Tasting for Two at Pacific Breeze Winery
The total winnings for this incredible vegan prize package is approximately $450! The Ultimate Vegan Getaway Contest runs from April 2nd to April 30th and participants are required to purchase an item of delicious vegan food in order to receive a stamp in their passports. For more information and for contest rules please visit http://www.thehungrytaurus.com/events/.

About Melissa Balfour
Melissa Balfour is a culinary event planner as well as a food activist blogger at The Hungry Taurus (thehungrytaurus.com). Searching for a cause and a way to make a difference in the world Melissa started the New Veganminster Project as a way to turn her city into the next Vegan Mecca of the Pacific Northwest. By highlighting existing vegan friendly establishments and meeting with potential new ones Melissa is helping to promote the plant based lifestyle one restaurant meal at a time. You can follow her on twitter @hungrytaurus.
To arrange an interview with Melissa Balfour please call 778.235.7020 or email thehungrytaurus@gmail.com

vegan abroad: review of Marmalade Restaurant in San Juan, PR

Following is a guest review by a good friend of ours who recently visited a veg-friendly restaurant in Puerto Rico. Let’s all imagine we’re drinking cocktails in the sun while we read it…

In late February I had the pleasure of visiting San Juan with my mom. Since holidays with my family are always an excuse to consume obscene amounts of delicious food, we wasted no time looking up the best places to eat. Marmalade is located in a restaurant-laden area of the beautiful district of Old San Juan, and its atmosphere is classy and open while still being funky and intimate. Backpackers be warned: this meal is not going to come cheap, but I assure you it is worth every cent — what’s a vacation if you don’t treat yourself?

glow bar

Before I talk about the food, I’ll just say that the service was incredible — attentive, accommodating, and knowledgeable without being imposing or pretentious. When I mentioned I was reviewing for a vegan food blog, our waiter was not only eager to point out appropriate items on the menu, but even asked the chef for a copy of the menu for me to take home (which he apparently doesn’t do for just anybody). The chef himself — Peter Schintler, an accomplished gentleman who studied under Gordon Ramsay — came out later on to talk with us about the food and the blog, and vegan/vegetarian food in general. Apparently his wife is vegetarian so he doesn’t find it difficult to cook without meat or dairy, and often will at home. I also appreciate his willingness to make something for everyone by leaving items out or altering dishes to meet dietary restrictions or allergies, something many chefs would consider akin to ruining the food.

Marmalade has a full page of vegetarian items on their extensive menu, and nearly all of these are or can easily be made vegan, which our wonderful server assured me would not be a problem. You can order à la carte if you’d like, but I recommend doing one of the tasting menus, which gives you four, five, or six smaller courses (including dessert, for $59, $69, and $79 respectively). I did five courses (though it was a bit much for me, admittedly), of which three were vegan.

sweet corn and lemongrass soup

The first dish I tried was the delectable sweet corn and lemongrass soup, which came poured over a salsa of haas avocado, grilled corn, red onion, and organic sprouts, and topped with sunflower shoots. The sweetness of the corn was offset by the tart pieces of avocado, and it had a pleasantly spicy finish. The texture and creaminess were reminiscent of a chowder, but the flavour palate was completely unique. I’m a big soup lover, but it’s not terribly often I have a soup in a restaurant that really blows my mind. This one did.

ratatouille

For the main course, I went with the ratatouille (I asked to have the goat cheese left off). This hearty provençal vegetable stew featured potato, spinach, zucchini, and a handmade roasted red pepper sheet pasta in a creamy tomato sauce, topped with pine nuts, sunflower shoots, and candied black olives. The sauce was so beautifully creamy that I actually double-checked with the server to make sure it was, in fact, vegan (he was jokingly offended that I would even ask). All the vegetables were cooked to perfection — no mealy potatoes or squishy zucchini to be found here — and each individual flavour was brought out. I don’t recommend ordering this as your last of four dinner courses, like I did; it’s quite filling so I could barely manage half of it, much to my own disappointment.

lemon-chamomile sorbet
Thankfully, there’s always room in the dessert stomach, and I had the lemon-chamomile sorbet*. This soft and delicately flavoured sorbet was punctuated with crisp pieces of sesame-peanut brittle. Certainly a combination I’d never encountered before, but it worked wonderfully, and its cool, light sweetness was the perfect finish for someone like me who had eaten too much but still wanted dessert.
*please note: this dish has honeycomb in it, but since most vegans I know are okay with honey, I felt I could include it here.

Overall, I think Marmalade was honestly one of the best restaurant experiences I have ever had. Not once were we kept waiting, not once was a bite of food I put in my mouth anything short of incredible, and not once did I feel rushed or uncomfortable. But the pinnacle of service that goes above and beyond? When we arrived, we had just been caught in an impressive rainstorm and had been using my mom’s scarf to shield our heads. Thus, it was completely soaked and she asked our server if he could hang it somewhere for her. When he gave it back to her at the end of the night, he hadn’t merely hung it up — it was still warm from being in the dryer!

I truly hope that anyone planning a trip to San Juan, or any Puerto Ricans who may be reading this, will devote an evening to visiting this delightful and creative restaurant.

all photos by me, from my flickr

Foreign Correspondent – Tajine in Sydney

Hi, obviously it was time that Kaylie and Mall took their mischief global so here is a little addition from Australia.  My name is Laura and I’d like to talk about tagines, decadent slow cooked Moroccan stews far more suited for a Pacific Northwest winter than the balmy Aussie summer that I am enjoying, even though it is hot in Morocco…

Moroccan food is glorious, and gloriously easy to veganify because of it is based on olive oil, fresh ingredients and loads of spicy goodness. Preserved Lemons, Harissa, Chermoula and Raj-el-Hanout (the last three are a spicy chilli paste, a green herb blend and literally the ‘Spices of the House’) make up a beautifully complex flavour base with really easily available and familiar ingredients. I’ve pared down this recipe to its most basic form but spice mixes are fun to have around and easy to make, let me know if you need links to recipes for them.

This Tagine is beautiful and I cannot wait to get back to Vancouver and cook it for Kaylie and Malloreigh. The Tajine is the name of the conical ceramic dish, as well as the dish itself but if you don’t share my brothers love for exotic ceramics a big old cast iron pot will work just as well. Marc suggests that this cheater’s version be called a ‘Fauxjine’.

Vegetable Tajine

1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Red Onions, Sliced
3lb root vegetables: we used quartered Sweet Potatoes, chunky carrot sticks, quartered Zucchini Squash, Potatoes, salted Eggplant slabs.
1lb Peas, we used frozen
2 bunches of finely chopped Cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped Italian Flatleaf Parsley
2 tbsp Sweet Paprika
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
2 Birdseye Chilis, deseeded and finely chopped, leave the seeds if you’re brave.
4 Dates, pitted and halved
1/2 cup olives, pitted and halved, we used salty green ones.
3 Cinnamon sticks, Bay leaves,
3 Lemons, preserved Lemons if you can get them, make them, beg, borrow, or steal them.

Step 1. Don’t be afraid, this is fun.

Grease your Tajine pot, using some of the olive oil, add the rest to a big bowl that will fit all your vegies. Combine everything except for the Olives, Dates and Lemons.

If you are using fresh Lemons, roughly chop two and juice the other, add these to your spicy vegetable mix and combine really well so that everything is covered in herbs and spices. Transfer all of this to your cooking pot or Tajine by arranging the vegetables so that the ones that take more time to cook, like potato, are at the bottom and carrots and eggplants are at the top.

Bring to a boil just until steam is created and then turn the heat right down, cook for about an hour, add the dates, olives and preserved lemon skin if you are using them, cook for another 30-45 minutes then you’re done!

We ate this with “Relaxed” Couscous and a Malas Salad – It fed three and a half people handsomely, including Marc’s bountifully pregnant partner, Dom.

Essaylab.org employs only already-established native English speakers. At least Ma diploma is required. All customers receive excellent results and we are not going to spoil this tradition by hiring low-grade writers.

Adventures in Veganland

The following is a guest contribution from our friend Michael. To learn more about him, visit his blog.

Just to be clear, I’m not a vegan. I am however a fan of vegan cooking, and some of my friends are really good vegan cooks. So perhaps when the script calls for it, this actor can turn himself into a vegan when then scene calls for it. Would this character however be able to turn himself into a chef? A skill that may seem simple enough to pick up, but given the variables of a vegan audience, how would this play out? What follows is my attempt to create a dish for a vegan American thanksgiving hosted by the lovely vegan American Kaylie Barfield and her equally lovely partner Malloreigh H.

Malloreigh (left) Kaylie (right)

Before I go into my adventure, I should give some background into my food lifestyle. Growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, I was not exposed to many food options that didn’t come from the Bovinae family. As I moved to the city, I began experimenting with different food lifestyles. For a while to make myself more conscious of what I was eating, I would give a name to the animal I was eating like Charlie Bovinae or Jimmy Tuna. I found the company I kept would influence me greatly though in my habits, so currently I am keeping up with a mostly vegetarian diet. However in conversations with Malloreigh she’s pondered what kind of variables it would take to convert someone to veganism. For me the only things that stand in my way are cheese and eggs. I love cheese. In fact when they do an autopsy of me they’ll find that I’m mostly made of bad jokes.

Apparently the only thing stopping me from being vegan.

I have found though that I can go stretches without those two ingredients, but it can be hard when I’m not cooking at lot to find vegan options at restaurants. So going into the thanksgiving dinner, not only have my cooking skills gone rusty, but I’ll be cooking for vegans who are all accomplished cooks. So I cranked my Tool (notable vegan band) and got to work.

My chosen dish was one that would be simple enough to create and fitting for the Thanksgiving theme.

This is how the recipe appeared on www.epicurious.com:

Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing

  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 8-ounce French-bread baguettes, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 large egg, beaten to blend

Obviously I would be using Earth Balance instead of butter, and will be just omitting the egg. I was unable to find dried porcini mushrooms so I just added more white mushrooms. Later on in the recipe it would call for using the mushroom soaking liquid to moisten up the stuffing before baking, but as you will see I just used Vegetable Broth as a substitute.

First off I wanted to get all my ingredients chopped and ready to go. There was a ton of mushrooms to be chopped, and after a while my back was starting to hurt. I wondered if my chopping technique was flawed so I went to youtube.com and found several videos showing the various methods of chopping. Thank god for youtube. Here’s some of Alex Trebeck’ s drunk Jeopardy outtakes I found while procrastinating the cooking. Good times on the inter web.

The recipe continues:

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shiitake and button mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes. Add leeks and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, thyme, and porcini mushrooms. Cook until almost all wine evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour mushroom mixture into large bowl and mix with the bread.

Now that I had gotten anal about my chopping techniques, I started to worry about the sautéing time. In these situations when my brain is consumed with tasks, keeping track of time can prove challenging. So what I did was mark the time by when a song would change. I would look at the track listing briefly, and when the song ended I would know how much time has passed. It sounds ridiculous I know, but it’s just the way my brain works.

I was getting pretty hungry at this point so it’s a good thing I bought lots of bread. Plus I had some bonus wine left over. So I had only the last step until I had time to relax.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add enough reserved mushroom soaking liquid to stuffing to moisten (3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cups). Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 40 minutes.

Again I substituted the Vegetable broth for the mushroom soaking liquid because of the lack of porcini mushrooms.

So from the moment I compiled my list to go to the grocery store to the moment I pulled out the dish from the oven, it was probably a good 5-6 hours. Again ridiculous, but I was going slow, taking my time, enjoying the process. Could I become a Vegan? Who knows? I would have finally put the stuffing into Tammy Turkey of the Melagris family but she kept running away. So for today I was a Vegan.

Special thanks to my lady friend Bronwen Marsden for the support (panicked text messages) and inspiration on the dish.