Veganuary Wrap Up - Vegruary next?

Every time that I do a vegan month (this is the third one and you can add one Vegetarian Awareness Month), I ask myself if I could continue the plant-based diet as a lifestyle. Each time, I end up finishing the month feeling healthy so that lands in the plus column. We always find some great restaurant food (Mharie and I have reviewed over 30 restaurants that are either vegan or vegetarian or at least have offerings) so that is good. Also positive is the effect on my bank account as meat products especially are the most expensive things that we buy, grocery-wise. And finally, I have to say that the effect on my conscience thanks to my month being both cruelty-free and my carbon footprint being considerably reduced is positive. So what could possibly prevent me from giving up meat, dairy and eggs for good?

I would certainly be able to carry on blogging both about the vegan lifestyle and what I was learning as well as the restaurants out there that accommodate a plant-based diet. I don't kid myself that anyone reads this thing and would be adversely affected by my not reviewing the other cool new places that open around Metro Vancouver as there is a full carnivorous food blogging community out there. I have to admit that I would feel a little self-righteous being one of the few promoting something better. 

So what's the problem? What's the hold-up? Go ahead and commit already! There is no reason not to! The problem is me. I am weak and my kryptonite is fried chicken from the Frying Pan or J and G or a Birria Taco from Top Rope or Don Oso's or Spam Fries from Shameless Buns....and the list is long My moral compass is weak when it comes to some things. Even though I know that killing animals is wrong and bad for the environment, for me to declare myself vegan would be hypocritical and would not last. I would end up being no different than the "Junk Food Junkie" (you may have to Google that if you are under 50 or even 60).
What about vegetarian instead of full vegan? That is certainly an attractive-sounding option. I have to be honest that the move from vegetarian to vegan is not less difficult than the one where you give up meat. I happen to love cheeses of all shapes and colours and sizes. The point however is that just not killing and eating animals does not alleviate the cruelty. I'm not an expert but factory farming even if it is for dairy and eggs rather than beef and chicken can be pretty horrible. Organic, free-range? These as often as not are just labels that allows for high prices with out anything be very different. 
So I'm proposing a compromise. No, I refuse to call myself a flexitarian. Everyone is a flexitarian! It's just a label that allows people to enjoy labels (and feel important) without actually doing anything. On the other hand, while this does not need to be a religion, I feel like there needs to be some commitment for it to mean anything. So I propose to go month by month and hereby declare February 2022 to be my personal Vegruary (doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it?) and see if I can keep this good thing going.  Then after that, we'll see! Stay tuned!

Aleph - Veganuary 2022

It's about time. I have had try Aleph on my vegan list forever. This is a Palestinian plant based restaurant, another version (you may have read about Ofra's Israeli style vegan food here) of the vegan eats available to us from the middle-east!

I made a reservation online and that's when I found out about the option of the Jerusalem Experience, a chef's choice selection of four cold mezze, three hot mezze and dessert for $40 per person. It sounded a little expensive to me initially (I would change my mind about that later) but I kind of liked the idea. So we arrived at the restaurant near Powell and Victoria and were seated by our very pleasant server on Saturday evening. Parking on the street was easy and, oh my God, free!
The cold mezze included House Pickles. Olives, cauliflower, carrots and beets that really tasted like beets, earthy and delicious. 
The Muhammara is a red pepper and walnut dip. It had some texture and was very rich. It was served with saj bread for dipping. Very nice!
Not surprisingly, hummus was next. Also not surprisingly, this was some great hummus. Rich and tasty with the taste of sesame. We also really like the little metal dishes that most courses came in. I wouldn't mind having some for home.
The last of the 4 was a nice little Fattoush Salad. With a pomegranate vinaigrette, lots of herbs and crackers maybe from saj bread (?). Very refreshing.
The mainstay of middle eastern vegan cuisine is falafel. It was served with tahini and pickled carrots and was some of the best that we have had. Just a little crunchy on the outside but strong with the flavours of cumin and corriander.
Tumeric Cauliflower was one of our favourites. With almonds and tahini, and again lots of herbs, this was another dish proving that tasty, healthy and plant-based can all be mentioned in the same sentence.
We didn't even manage to get through all the courses in the restaurant and opted to pack a couple to go. We have never had Mosakhan Rolls. Saj bread wrapped around soy curls, pine nuts and sumac, this was our favourite new treat. When a restaurant can serve me something that I have never had before, I am always impressed! 
And dessert was Olive Oil Lemon Cake. To be honest, I have never had olive oil cake before either (we have had cake, however). This was moist (no surprise) and lemony with pistachios and coconut whip. A perfect ending.
We had leftovers for at least a couple of days convincing me that this was a very good deal at $40 per head.
Aleph is located in a cool old building and is homey and comfortable. As mentioned earlier, our server was friendly and a wealth of knowledge also. One of Vancouver's best vegan joints in our opinion.
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        4 out of 5
Service         4 1/2 out of 5
Value            4 1/2 out of 5


Vegan Pizza House - Veganuary 2022

Again we seem to be landing often at the pizza/fast food vegan joints this Veganuary but really, Vegan Pizza House has a lot of choices and not just pizza! We ordered and picked up from their location close to Scott Road Station but there is a location on Kingsway in Vancouver as well. I'm guessing that they don't get a lot of walk-in business at this location being located in Bridgeview behind the old Turf Hotel in an area you wouldn't want to walk alone at night. I apologize to the residents of Bridgeview if that is an unfair representation of the area. There are a few tables (I was not expecting that) both inside and out.

We ordered way too much as usual and the leftovers lasted a couple of days. Portions are not small!
The VPH website is lousy with specials for early orders and Sunday orders and combo orders, so a bit of careful calculation is necessary. We ordered the Sunday special large Hawaiian Pizza (as always, I blame my wife for this she being the one who likes pineapple on pizza!) and it was not bad. The cheese is cashew cheese and if you are expecting Mozza, you can forget it. Still, it is not bad! The ham is some soy-based thing and also, was kind of good!
I ordered a small, Spicy Vegan PIzza which is full of banana and jalapeno peppers as well as a lot of other tasty ingredients. Again, this was a very good pizza. They are not kidding about the spicy part so keep that in mind. The crust on both of these were actually very decent. They are not thin crust of wood-fired but still tasty and a bit crispy.
They have baked lasagna and spaghetti at VPH with your choice of meat sauce, meatballs or mushrooms. It turned out to be quite good and the photo is only half of the order. I think I would maybe skip the meatballs next time. Not that they didn't taste OK but when you expect a meatball, (which we didn't) this alternate didn't quite live up to our hopes. Still, it was rich and comforting and came with garlic bread.
We tried their Spicy Donair as well with vegan chicken. Again, lovely and messy and spicy, this was a comforting and tasty side sandwich.
A nice little inherently vegan side salad!
This was a bonus for ordering over $20. Pita with their version of pretty good hummus.
Finally Strawberry Vegan Cheesecake! This was not as good as the cheesecake from Tera V burger. It was a little more gelatiny and less creamy but it did have good strawberry flavour and was a tasty not too sweet dessert. So, this place kind of reminded me of my younger days when we would pick lasagna and pizza from the local Italian joint. It's nice to know that the vegan version is available when we feel like a little treat. I actually feel like this place could become a bit of a go-to.
Food                     4 out of 5
Comfort                3 out of 5
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 1/2 out of 5 

Tera V Burger - Veganuary 2022

Google "vegan restaurants in Vancouver" and you will find "Vegan Fried Chickun" at 2961 West Broadway. On Google Maps, 2961 West Broadway lands you on "Tera V Burger". So I wasn't entirely sure what we were going to find there but we threw caution to the winds and headed there on Saturday morning.

What we found was Tera V Burger which sells vegan fried chickun! In addition to vegan burgers and chickun in several different forms, they also have "fush" as plates or sandwiches. So we had quite a few choices but somehow ended up at the sandwich end of things whereas we could have branched out a bit. Nevertheless, we got a pretty good cross-section. It's an order at the counter and pick up when it's ready kind of place so that's what we did.
We ended up with 3 sandwiches which are kind of hard to tell apart in the pics but this was the Chipotle Swiss Mushroom Burger. The Swiss and mushrooms were pretty good but we did not detect a lot of chipotle. It was a nice messy burger with a good bun and a regular soy-based patty. Not a bad sandwich!
This was the Sweet n Chilli Crispy Chickun Burger and again, we were pretty impressed. The chickun was as good as any vegan version that we have had of bird and it was crispy as advertised. The sweet n chilli carried just a bit of heat. This was probably a form of the Thai sweet and hot sauce that we all have in our pantries and it was a good fit.
Finally, there was this Fush Sandwich with Wasabi Mayo. The fush options were not yet up on the menu at TVB but you can also get Fush and Chips and I don't know what else. The fush was a really good product. It surprisingly tasted just a bit fishy (should I say fushy?) in a good way and I can't imagine how they do that! This was full-on better than the McD's version and something new to us in our vegan adventures. It was definitely worth the drive! 
We ordered 2 of the sandwiches as combos which came with fries and a Boylan Soda. These were the good skin on thin fries that were very crispy and you can choose one of several toppings of which we chose lemon pepper.
Finally, a piece of Lemon Cheesecake. This was really a treat. Mharie and I don't do a lot of desserts but we wanted to see how a non-dairy cheesecake tasted and it was great! Very good texture and nice lemony flavour. A little pricey at $7 for just a few bites but still pretty good!
There is not a lot of seating but you can eat in if you arrive at the right time obviously. Being not so fast food (made to order), I'm sure most people do take out anyway. The staff were friendly and ready to explain our options and knew the product. It feels like a lot of our Veganuary 2022 has been in the fast food/pizza area and we hope to get away from that a bit but sometimes you just feel like a burger!
Food             4 out of 5
Comfort         3 1/2 out of 5
Service          4 1/2 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5

Ofra's Kitchen - Veganuary 2022

We felt right at home as soon as we walked into Ofra's Kitchen. It is not chic and fancy but nicely mismatched with a bit of the feeling that you have walked into a vegetarian restaurant from the 1970s.

Considering that  Ofra has only been running her restaurant for two years (both of which have featured a pandemic) she has picked up enough accolades that we feel like she should be better known. On the other hand, we are sad to give away the secret.
We ordered the Falafel Platter which seems like the consummate vegan dish. Ofra's falafel are on the crunchy side (intentionally) which surprised and delighted us! Served on a bed of hummus, rich with a dollop of olive oil and accompanied by a very good pita and slaw, it left us feeling full and yet not weighed down as some meat dishes can do. Very nice!
The Stuffed Eggplant platter came with 3 salads including a very tasty Baba Ghanoush. It was just slightly smokey from the roasted eggplant and delicious. Baba Ghanoush is underrated generally in comparison with its more well-known cousin hummus and that is a shame. The Beet salad was tart and a little crunchy. The third salad was a refreshing slaw.
The Stuffed Eggplant itself was somewhat moussaka-like. The bottom layer was a vegan ground meat and rice layer with some mild spices. On top was roasted eggplant and a creamy sauce. It was the definition of comfort food.
Ofra herself was there running the kitchen and serving customers. She is personable and deserves credit for what has surely been some hard work through these last two restaurant unfriendly years!
Food                  4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort             4 1/2 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5
Value                 4 1/2 out of 5

Pizza Castle and Indian Curry Vegan Restaurant - Veganuary 2022

In India, 400 million people identify as vegetarian and the country has the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world.  That being said, the step from vegetarian to vegan can be a little trickier than you would think. Those vegetarians use a lot of butter and dairy products in their meals and to eliminate them requires some ingenuity. Fortunately, Pizza Castle and Indian Curry Vegan Restaurant on Commercial drive seem to do a pretty good job!

We arrived right at lunchtime on Sunday and had no trouble getting a table. The menu is a little all over the place with a lot of items to make a vegan happy but we generally stuck to the Indian side of the menu.
We love pakora and often order them when we eat Indian food. These were obviously Vegetable Pakora and came in generous order with some spicy sauce which we loved. The pakora themselves arrived hot but here and there we hit a dry patch where there was more dough than vegetable. Overall pretty good though!
We also tried the Pakora Manchurian. These were more of a meatball (not meatballs obviously but garbanzo flour, I would guess). They came in a great spicy sauce with lots of bell pepper. Again, the pakora themselves required a bit of a chew.
Butter Chicken is Mharie's favourite and our oft complaint is that there is all sauce and no chicken. We did not find that to be the case here. The "chick'n" was a generous portion and pretty decent for flavour and texture. The sauce too was quite good. It was on the more savoury and not too sweet as it can be.
We also tried Eggplant Bharthen which is a dish that starts off being closer to vegan than the butter chicken does! This was a wonderfully rich dish that may have been a bit spicy! I am not sure where it was coming from but I had some warm mouth going on (I will not be using the term spice face). Baked with onions and tomatoes, this is tasty eggplant.
It turns out that Naan is not naturally vegan as every recipe we looked at had yogurt or milk. Anyway, they did an excellent job of the transformation. We loved it.
PC also serves vegan pizza not surprisingly. We tried a slice from their ready-to-go selection. It held promise with onion rings being one of the toppings which seemed imaginative enough. We were maybe less thrilled with this than with the other things we tried. The crust was almost cracker-like and somehow just needed cheese! The sauce was ok but it was just a little meh overall.
So we would stick with the Indian food. Of course, we didn't try their burgers and maybe they would be ok also. It's a nice little place with some uncomfortable seats (avoid the cushioned ones) but some friendly staff. By the way, portions are generous and we ended up taking half of this home!
Food                   3 out of 5
Comfort              3 out of 5
Service               4 out of 5
Value                  4 out of 5  

Alimentaria Mexicana - Veganuary 2022

As I often say, don't trust Google for restaurant info and opening times. Call and confirm! This is what I did not do when we planned to try Chamcham, a relatively new vegan joint near Granville Island. It turned out they were closed for the holidays. They also do not do dine-in but take-out only. Sigh. So we wandered back to Granville Island and found out that there is a Beet Box and a Chau Veggie Express in the market! The only thing is that I am trying to find vegan food at places we have not been before. We have been wanting to try Alimentaria Mexicana so we perused the menu and found out that there are several vegan choices! So off we went!

We arrived a little after noon on a stormy Sunday and they were busy at AM but had room for us. We ordered a few vegan items and enjoyed the boisterous atmosphere!
We started with their House Salad with Beets. The roasted yellow beets were hidden at the bottom of this thing so that my photo doesn't give a true sense of how tasty it was. With some Mexicanish bits like pumpkin, sesame and avocado, we were off to a decent start.
I had the Crispy Cauliflower Tacos which were very good. They start with tortillas from Chancho across town on Davie Street. Same group of people and you probably already know that they do excellent tortillas  From there it is jsut a matter of deep fried cauliflower, pumpkin seeds etc.
Mharie had the Shrimp Tacos (not doing the vegan thing) and from what I could tell, enjoyed the a great deal.
They have a section on the menu called "Cazuelas" which is a reference to the earthenware pot in which the dish is cooked. You can buy the same actual bowl at AM but it will cost you $60. The Mushrooms in Pasilla Mixe Salsa will cost you a great deal less and you can just borrow the cazuela. This was a rich braise of mushrooms in pasilla chiles with onion and cilantro. It comes with some warm tortillas and you can make yourself tacos or dip them or whatever you want. This was the first time we have had anything quite like this!
Mharie is a huge fan of churros. It turns out the only thing non-vegan about this is the dulce de leche that accompanies the churros. Also, they happen to be delicious all by themselves, so I enjoyed a churro vegan style while my wife enjoyed one with dulce de leche.
So there are a few places around that have vegan options. I like that Alimentaria Mexicana marks them on the menu. It saves a lot of questions. Our server was enthusiastic and friendly. The kitchen seems pretty on top of things especially considering how busy they were. There are a lot of other things that we would like to try here and the non-vegan will do just fine.
Food                  4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort             4 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5
Value                 4 out of 5

Heirloom - Veganuary 2022

One of the last notable vegetarian / vegan restaurants, that we have not visited during my previous vegan forays is Heirloom. Almost 10 years old now, Heirloom is located just off Granville on 12th Ave. Their website says that they do not take reservations but I did not read that until after I had made one. No worries as there was plenty of room when we arrived on a stormy Sunday evening when all the sensible people were staying at home.

We were seated right away and our very pleasant and friendly server got us started with an appetizer salad that we shared. Not all items on the menu are vegan (all are at least vegetarian) but more than enough are so that you have good choices if you are vegan.
The Santa Fe "Chick'n" Salad features the best vegan chicken that we have had. Not that we look for meat substitutes but the texture was quite pleasant compared to some faux meats and it suited the salad as an accent. The bean and corn salsa dressing had just enough spiciness to make things interesting. Excellent greens, a taste of avocado, a dollop of almond feta, some tortilla chips and some wonderful sweet date pieces rounded things out. This could pretty much serve as a meal by itself.
I chose the Ratatouille Burger which is kind of surprising as I have never been too impressed with ratatouille itself. A few grilled vegetables and a falafel patty, all on a pretty good bun, this was a satisfying if not startling burger. I will always choose the falafel patty over the Impossible patty which I can have at home if I wanted to.
Mharie chose the Grilled Cheese (not vegan but there is a vegan option) as she is not doing the vegan thing (expect by extension when she's with me at a fully vegan place). This was a four-cheese blend on some excellent sourdough. I messed it up by asking for the soup of the day (a tasty black bean concoction) instead of tomato soup which, as everyone knows, is the best accompaniment for grilled cheese.
And we love  Root Vegetable Fries!
This is a sharp place in a classic old heritage building. We were comfortable and enjoyed the interesting decor and gentle lighting. The menu is maybe more casual than one might expect but we have no problem with it and are certainly content with the comfort food leanings. There are quite a few other items that we would love to try. As mentioned, our server was great as were the other staff. We have to recommend this as one of Vancouver's best choices for vegan or vegetarian eats.
Food               4 out of 5
Comfort          4 out of 5
Service           4 out of 5
Value              4 out of 5

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...