No Meat May 2022

" No Meat May's mission is to inspire and support more people to shift to plant-rich diets, so we can build a healthier, kinder, more sustainable world." This was the first time I had heard of the Australia-based NMM although they have been around since 2013, and the first time I participated. I did so by following a vegan diet as well as blogging about Metro-Vancouver vegan restaurants and posting pics on Instagram of the vegan products and recipes that we had tried. This is actually the third month this year that I have gone entirely animal product free and each time it is easier, I feel better, and I feel more determined to do what I can to contribute to the well-being of the planet.            

Someone suggested (actually more than one someone) that I should take a more moderate and reasonable approach (and I am by no means religious about it; nor do I proselytize). I wonder how the animals on factory farms or by-catch sea creatures killed for no reason would feel about being reasonable? (Enough of that! No proselytizing!)

This month, I saw the documentary, Seaspiracy. I watched it and was very moved and suggest that you see it also. The director of that movie will be at The Vancouver Planted Expo which we are very excited to go to on June 4 and 5. I knew there would be plenty of criticism of the documentary just as there was for the documentary Cowspiracy. If you choose to read that criticism (and why would you not?) ask yourself if it is even true, does it negate the essential points of the film? Plus I wonder where the money would lead? It seems that everyone's opinions are motivated by self-interest and greed rather than evidence. Just a thought. Let's move on!

This month, we tried some amazing new vegan products (or at least new to us)!

The Butler Soy Curls are something that we had to travel a bit out of our way to get but they were pretty special and provided another meat substitute option. 
This Sweet Potato and Kale Pot Pie featured the soy curls. The closest thing that I can compare them to is tofu skin but they are a little more substantial and are dried and so easy to store!
TMRW products are locally produced meat substitutes made strictly of ingredients that are pronounceable! 
We used the shreds to make some pretty decent tacos. We cheated and used Old El Paso seasoning which was way too salty but hey, at least we did make our own tortillas and our mango salsa was passable. The TMRW shreds were really good as far as texture and flavour are concerned and were perfect for these tacos. We find that TMRW products are a bit on the pricey side but there is a good variety of decent products. 
Another locally made vegan product is Blue Heron Cheese. We were able to use our 2022 Plant Curious Coupon Book to make this purchase at Save-On Foods. These were interesting cheeses with a tart earthy flavour and nice texture. Again, they seemed a little pricy but good cheese always is. 
We tried some other cheeses that we found. Of all the non-vegan foods that I do miss, cheese is the one that I miss the most so that is why we try quite a few. The blue on the left did not have the texture or blue veins but it had a very good blue taste. The cream cheese on the right was not good at all.
So it seems like there are always new vegan products available and some of them are quite good. We are big fans of the Real Canadian Superstore as they have all kinds of affordable decent vegan options. I regularly buy their coconut sour cream and oatmeal yogurt. Their vegan products carry a green label so just look around.
As usual, all these products are more novelty than necessity. For dinner, I am always happy with my curried lentils or black bean chilli with some quinoa or brown rice, lots of stir-fried or roasted vegetables and a little bit of tofu. Perfectly healthy and tasty, planet friendly and cheap!
At the risk of repeating myself and everyone else, there are 4 top reasons to go vegan or at least lean into the plant based eating thing:
1) Your grandchildren are going to bear the brunt of climate change if we continue on our current path. I do not want to be a part of the problem and animal agriculture and ocean fishing are a big part of the problem.
2) Nothing makes the mistreatment of other living things ok even if factory farming makes meat cheaper!
3) It is so much better for your health!
4) It's pretty cheap if you take it easy on buying vegan cheese.
I am not saying that I will never eat meat again but clearly, I shouldn't. None of us should but it's a huge change to make even if it is getting easier.

Nightshade - No Meat May

Another higher-end restaurant with a plant-based menu entered the scene in Vancouver early this year. We have meant to come by for some time and finally made it for weekend brunch. Located along the restaurant row that is Hamilton Street in Yaletown, we arrived during off hours as is our usual modus operandi and we were able to get seated on their patio right away. I had made a reservation by phone as the online reservation system led me to believe that we could only get a table at 9:30 in the evening or at 2:00 in the afternoon. If you can't get a table when you want online, do not hesitate to call and get the real story.

There were quite a number of people who were there for brunch at 11 but this turns out to be a fairly large restaurant so I don't think we were in any danger, reservation or not. It seemed like a breakfast sandwich would be a good idea and it surely was.
There were a couple of highlights to the Arepa Breakfast Sandwich, the first of which was the arepa itself. So much better than an English muffin, this corn masa muffin was nicely toasted and complete with that tortilla taste that we love. The patty was an inspired lentil and walnut affair which was meaty and satisfying. I'm not sure what kind of cheese they used but it was melty and very good! It was nice to have a salad on the side instead of the usual potatoes. And as usual at a plant-centric eatery, the salad was more of a thought-out thing with heirloom tomatoes and beets rather than just a pile of iceberg lettuce. 
The big star of the show for us was the Chicken and Waffles...sorry I mean Blue Corn Waffle which came with oyster mushroom and tofu kara-age, which admirably held down the usual chicken spot. The waffles were very crispy on the outside, more so than we have ever had (not sure how they accomplished that) and still fluffy. The deep-fried mushrooms were wonderful and light. And the Maple Rayu sauce which was presumably a mix of sesame chilli oil (rayu) and sweet maple syrup was the perfect accompaniment. A little creamy corn butter on the side was provided some variety. This dish is not to be missed!
Finally, we shared a Creamy Gem Salad. It was the mention of smoked onions that first got my attention but the salad was greater than the sum of its parts. Chickpeas, tomatoes, greens and an almond dulse dressing were topped by vegan parmesan and focaccia gremolata to create a beautiful and tasty salad and round out our meal.
This is a beautiful restaurant and very comfortable. Our server was friendly and accommodating and the kitchen seems pretty efficient.
We look forward to coming back and trying the dinner menu. Sure, it seems like there are quite a good number of vegan restaurants in Metro Vancouver these days but the most creative and fine dining types are a little more in limited supply so we need to take advantage of them
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

Cofu - No Meat May

This is not the first time that we have had vegan sushi. Mila is a little bit famous for their aburi oshi vegan sushi and their ability to make the salmon out of carrot! Cofu has a couple of salmon from carrot and tuna from some potato and tapioca concoction. Still, most of their oshi-style sushi is just beautiful combinations of vegetables and sauces. Anyway, we showed up just before noon on Saturday and had our choice of tables, although things got busier.

Just shy of Granville Island, consider using transit to get here. It's one bus from Skytrain and said bus stops immediately in front of this shop and frankly, Granville Island is a traffic zoo.

We started with their Deep Fried Fish and this was so perfect that they didn't even need to call it fysh! Simply garnished with vegan mayo, lemon and salt, there was a moment when we questioned whether we were eating plant-based. Do not miss this!
The Onsai Platter (like all the others) is $15 for 16 pieces which we consider ridiculously affordable. Of course, the material cost is lower than a platter with million-dollar tuna but the suffering cost is pretty low also. The labour is no different as sushi is sushi. The salmon on this platter is some recipe including carrot and something else and the texture and flavour are startling! It even includes the little fat line that is present in salmon. The black rice base is chewy and wonderful. Aside from the 'salmon', there are squash, eggplant, and bell peppers, each with a tasty sauce. There is some spice here and there as well as bright flavours in the sauces.
The Cofu Platter is the one that includes 'tuna' (a potato and tapioca based recipe), as well as avocado, mushroom and red chard. This was another beautiful platter but delicious as well. We couldn't get over the tuna which was again, almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
This is a bright little room and there are tables outside as well, weather permitting. Surprisingly, management is not vegan but clearly has respect for the planet. This is also known as a sober bar and you can get a gin and tonic (non- alcoholic) or other beverage. Very nice people. We heartily recommend this place to vegan and carnivore alike.
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         4 1/2 out of 5
Service          4 1/2 out of 5
Value             4 12 out of 5

Tractor Foods - No Meat May

Vegan restaurants are to a plant-based diet exactly what omnivorous restaurants are to an omnivore's diet. That is, they are sometimes something fancy and a huge treat and sometimes they provide nutrition and sustenance without all the frills! Tractor Foods is not a vegan restaurant but offers vegans a place to get sustenance without cloth napkins during their lunch hour or during their busy day and without spending a fortune.

I had wrangled a ticket to see John Cleese at the Q.E. on Tuesday evening. The show turned out to be funny, nostalgic and a little bit sad (he is 82 now). On my way, I felt peckish and stopped at Tractor Foods. Mharie and I would pay another visit to try some more of their menu. Located near the corner of Richards on Robson, it is conveniently open until 8 and not far from the Q.E.
I started with a taste of their Tomato Fennel Soup which was tasty enough (the fennel was a nice touch) while feeling healthy and warming. This was the cup size and only $5. Not bad!
The menu offers all sorts of combinations and has the advantage of indicating which items are vegan (or gluten-free or whatever else your thing is) and I wish everyone did that. The salad bowls come with 2 sides. I chose the Tofu Bowl on greens and brown rice (you can have either or a combination) with Kale Ceasar and Snap Pea, Potato and Mint as my 2 sides. I think this was $15.50. Grilled tofu and a little bit of optional hot sauce were a substantial centre and everything else was the excellent supporting cast. I walked out feeling so much better than if I had blown my guts on a steak or big bowl of pasta. I was able to pay attention to Mr. Cleese without falling asleep!
Mharie and I went back on the weekend because clearly more information was needed! This time we tried the Red Lentil and Greens Soup. This was what you'd expect except for the greens. The soup was not too exotic but the idea of salad greens was somewhat original and worked pretty well!
We shared an Avocado Bowl and I can tell you that I will be grilling a lot of avocado from this point forward! Truly, this was a simple but tasty idea! Again we started with a base of greens and brown rice and one of our sides was the potato, pea and mint thing but the other was a Southwestern Style Quinoa which was substantial and well,...southwestern.
Cafeteria style, you order at the counter and take your food with you or they may deliver to your table if something takes a little longer to assemble. Seating is cafeteria-style as well but functional and not uncomfortable. There is plenty on the menu that is healthy and will satisfy your carnivorous companions (tuna, chicken, etc.) as well as allowing them to at least avoid the fast food burger and fries that might have provided their lunchtime sustenance. A convenient stop for vegans (there are several branches around town) but I would not have been offended if they had maybe a couple more vegan items as we kind of expended most of the options in our 2 visits. 
Food             3 1/2 out of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5

Good Dogs Plant Foods - No Meat May

I have trouble getting my wife to be enthusiastic about going for hot dogs. Vegan hot dogs are even more challenging as I think back to the terrible Yves weiners that I ate 30 or 40 years ago (well at least there was something). Fortunately, things have come a long way and today we have Good Dogs Plant Foods. Located right next to Ramen Danbo (if anyone has not lined up for at least 30 minutes at R.D. it is just west of Jervis on Robson). I feel like have been here before!

GDPF serves a few brunch items on Saturday and Sunday and the first thing that we noticed is that plating is a little more serious than the usual hot dog places!
The Hummus Where The Heart Is Hash Bowl, starts with wonderful herby potatoes, crisp (raw?) beet spears and greens. A clever (the chef explained the process to me but I won't be trying it) and tasty moong bean scramble added a warm and scrambled egg-like feel. There was tofu hollandaise and crispy garbanzos to round things out. It was the many layers of tasty things that so impressed us! Don't miss this!
We are suckers for deep-fried mushrooms and Good Dogs' Sticky Mushrooms were definitely winners. In addition to the deep Korean style sweet and spicy sauce, there was some serious heat here (stay clear of the little red guys if you don't want to sweat) ! Nicely crispy and again beautifully presented!
I had to order the Heil Seitan A.K.A. Hawt Dog, if only for the name! The sausages that they are using at GDPF are something that you can not buy locally. They are apparently available south of the border but I don't remember the name. I do remember that they are very good. They have the texture of coarsely ground sausage and a very meaty flavour. The appeal of this dog was the sum of a lot of very good condiments including shishito salsa, habanero cream cheez, charred green onions and again those dangerous little chillis! A bun that was nicely toasted with chilli oil provided the base. This one dog provides enough by itself to be a meal!
Finally, we ordered a Thot Dog! This one came with house-made tots (sounds like thot...see that?)! Again, there were a bunch of tasty and unique condiments including excellent house queso, salsa, tortilla chips and avocado in some form. It's rare that a dog can be picked apart into impressive component parts to create a remarkable whole. These are some of the best hot dogs that we have had, vegan or otherwise. 
The reason that we felt like we had been here before was that used to be Umai Hot Dogs  (I remember the same people in line at R.D.). Things have been moved around a bit and the menu is now cruelty-free and frankly a lot tastier! The folks here seem enthusiastic about what they do and plant-free eating in general. Sevice is friendly and quick. We were comfortable enough and felt we got good value for our coinage. 
Food              4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Service           4 1/2 out of 5
Value              4 out of 5

VanKoshary - No Meat May

Koshary is Egypt's national dish. It is a simple and healthy mix of rice, lentils, macaroni with toppings and tomato sauce. I wasn't even aware of it until I searched for vegan eats in Metro Vancouver. VanKoshary is located in the B3 Collective Commissary Kitchen (Vernon Drive just north of E. Hastings) and has take-out and delivery only.

We met a very nice gentleman at the back door of the kitchen where we picked up our food. He is from Egypt but he and his family now reside in Canada. We are fortunate to have them as to my knowledge,  there is not a lot of Egyptian food available in Metro Vancouver.
In an effort to try as many things as possible (of course, many are familiar being foods common to other countries in the middle east), we tried their Appies Mix. This included Hummus, Babaghanoug (not sure if that's a menu typo or a spelling unique to Egypt), Muhammara (our favourite red bell pepper dip with pomegranate molasses), pickles, and stuffed vine leaves all served with pita chips. Delicious and surprisingly rich and still vegan!
One of our favourites was a wonderful Eggplant Salad. In addition to baked eggplant, there were chickpeas, dried cranberries, greens and balsamic vinegar dressing and a side of hummus that all contributed to something we would gladly eat regularly. 
Next was a very nice Spinach Pie (called a fatayer). This was not the phyllo pie that we were expecting but was no less light. The onion, sumac and other spices made it a nice snack.
Finally, there was the koshary. This variation is called an Alexandria Bowl and features falafel. It is a tasty meal all by itself and comes with a side of rich tomato sauce. Also on the side was a dakka dressing of vinegar lemon and garlic as well as a pretty significant hot sauce. This is a simple meal which hits all the right notes of carbs and proteins. It's something that we need to discover here in Vancouver (or did everyone already know about this other than me?).
Finally, another popular resident of the Mediterranean, Baklava. A little less sweet than its Greek cousin, it is still a rich and wonderful dessert. We also had a piece of Basbousa, a very delicate coconut semolina cake that basically felt apart when I tried to move it to a plate. It was delicious but I rendered it a pile of crumbs with my less than delicate hands.
All this and vegan too! Discover VanKoshary. They are only open at 3 every day so for us, it required some planning (coming from Aldergrove) but it was worth it.
Food             4 out of 5
Comfort        NA
Service          It was ready when they said it would be.
Value             4 out of 5


Good Taco - No Meat May and a Very Good Cause

The last time that we ate at 2455 West Railway in Abbotsford, it was at the Meat and Bread Test Kitchen. It was a great place for a sandwich so it is too bad that they are gone (they still have locations in downtown Vancouver). It turns out that though, that Good Taco is a pretty decent place to have lunch also.Good Taco is not a vegan place but I was able to order a vegan meal. The real reason that we came here and wanted to write a post is that there is a connection to a very good cause. In Primo Tapia, Baja Mexico is Casa de Luz, a daycare and employer of local women with difficult circumstances run by a local charitable organization. Restoring families is their mission. Some time ago, several folks that I work with knew those involved, travelled to Primo Tapia and worked for a couple of weeks on a construction project with them while Berts Electric contributed materials. The same ownership group of people runs the restaurants here. My grasp of who's who and the connections to Casa de Luz is tenuous but I know that when you support GT, you are supporting that charity!

I ordered Tacos Rajas Con Aji and didn't miss the meat or cheese! A combination of poblanos, cactus, and guajillo chillis along with corn and garlic made for a surprising depth of flavour. Cilantro, salsa, guac and chopped onions topped them off but the house-made corn tortillas were definitely the stars!
My non-vegan (but almost when she's with me) wife had the Chicken Birria Quesadillas. The birria part was the fact that the chicken is slow broth cooked and according to her, very tasty. Along with Oaxaca cheese, cilantro and onion, these were a decent and even filling meal. To me, quesadilla is something you can make at home but they go the extra mile at GT by making all their tortillas (flour and corn)  in-house. Not bad!
We always love the rice and beans on the side. The beans were tasty but the rice was on the dry side and not very flavourful. We added a lot of salsa to make it edible. One fairly significant miss but hey, it's just rice.
It's a kind of cool space. I like the picnic tables and string lighting. The staff were friendly and service was good.
Once again, what drew us, to begin with, was knowing that they are focused on improving the lives of some people living not too far away. We like a nice side of goodness with our tacos!
Food              3 out of 5
Comfort         3 1/2 ut of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5

Pizzeria Grano Napoletana - No Meat May

Our No Meat May adventures continued with a visit to a place that we have intended to try for as long as I can remember (or at least since they opened) Pizzeria Grano Napoletano. Located on Main Street near 16th, street parking is obviously hit and miss but it's a nice place to walk if you have to park at a distance and it's only one bus from Main Street Station by transit.

PGN follows the strict Napolitan guidelines that would qualify them for the international association based in Italy if it weren't for that Mozzarella cheese thing. It seems that the association doesn't have vegan sensibilities but the pizza served here still has the recognizable quality of the best Neapolitan pizza otherwise. We arrived just after noon on Saturday and were seated right away. 
We decided to order a Ceasar Salad, as we were curious about how one would make a salad that typically has raw egg, cheese and a creamy dressing. Well, plus, we like Ceasar Salad! And it was everything that we had hoped for being crisp and refreshing! This led to a discussion about cashew cheese with our server who happens to be the manager of this place as well. I have been making cashew cheese at home and brewers yeast is a common ingredient but apparently, PGN uses garbanzo miso (which I had never heard of ) as one of their cheezy ingredients! Very creative with great results! 
By now, you know my wife and her love of Hawaiin Pizza. While the Napoletana purists might roll over in their graves (or future graves) PGN does a very good job here with bacon crumbles (did not ask how they made them) which were salty and bacony, and some excellent melty Mozzarella style cashew cheese. The rest of the ingredients, tomato sauce, pineapple, onions and banana peppers are inherently vegan and don't need to be made from cashews but contributed to a delicious pie.
The second pizza we ordered (we took fully half of these 2 pizzas home with us as I always order too much food) was the Tartufo. This pie had a garlic puree base rather than tomato sauce which along with mushrooms and truffle pate, made for a meaty, earthy and rich affair, We also loved this and the car had that mellow mushroom pizza smell for the trip home. 
PGN presented us with an opportunity to use our 2022 Plant Curious Deals Book with a coupon for a 3rd pizza free. We ordered a Boscaiola Pizza and took this one to go. The instructions to warm it up at home were perfect. Also, they packed the arugula separately to be placed after warming. The base of this pizza was vegan bechamel and came with plant-based sausage as well as Mozza and mushrooms. Another home run as again this was earthy, rich and cheesy.
We haven't even talked about the most important ingredient so far! The crust of these pizzas was spectacular. Just a bit of chew and those wonderful touches of char. The brick oven is the hallmark of great pizza as it provides extremely high heat and brief cooking time. The next time we get here, we will have to pester the boss with questions about this amazing cooker!
I could be content with one dessert for the rest of my life if it was Affogato. Hot expresso over Double Chocolate Gelato combines bitter and sweet and chocolate in a wonderful way!
This is a bright and cheery little place while being comfortable and chic. Our server/ manager cheerfully put up with my endless questions and even provided me with a little sample of the mysterious miso to take home. Pizzeria Grano Napoletano is part of the Via Tevere group (restaurant and food truck) where they use real Mozzarella if you have to have it. For us, for the time being, we are content with cashew, cruelty-free cheese.
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Service          4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Value             4 1/2 out of 5

Dirty Vegan Food Truck - No Meat May

I've been looking forward to No Meat May (Google it)! I always feel great eating vegan and the fact that a bunch of other people are doing the plant-based thing and Instagramming about it seems to make it a little easier and lends a sense of community (like the Canucks in their crazy run for the playoffs)! We knew about the Dirty Vegan Foodtruck as they are based in Langley near our friends at Mr. Siopao. It turned out that they were going to be set up at the White Rock Farmers Market on Sunday the first of May so off we went.

The distinctive pink truck was set up this nice sunny morning and there was a decent crooner nearby who was also taking part in the market. So we listened to him sing some old John Cougar Mellancamp tunes while we enjoyed our lunch. The menu is short and sweet at DV so we ordered a couple of burgers and poutine.
Full marks on the Dirty Poutine! The fries were crispy and decent as you would expect but the gravy and cheese (usually non-vegan items) were very good. The gravy was rich and savoury (or umami as we feel we have to say these days) and maybe mushroom-based? I am just guessing on that but it was very good. The cheese melted well and that is the star quality of good plant-based cheese.
Mharie spotted the Dirty Hawaiian Burger and ordered that. She is big on pineapple but this one came with banana peppers and more of that excellent melty cheese. The star of this burger has to be the Impossible Patty. I have been a cheerleader of Impossible Foods (of course, I picked Beta over VHS also) vs Beyond Meat since their product came on the market. The patties get a much better char and are much closer to actual meat, in my humble opinion. This may not be an attractive trait to many vegans but they wouldn't be ordering burgers then, would they?
We also tried the Dirty Portabello. This time, in case it's not obvious, the patty was a grilled portabello. Once again and as always, it's the condiments and extras that really make the burger although a portabello brings some meaty, savouriness to the party. Nice melty cheese, pickled and caramelized onions, tomato and lettuce as well as their secret dirty sauce all contribute to a decent burger. By the way, the buns were pretty good as well. 
The name Dirty is a reminder that plant-based eating doesn't have to be clean (clean eating is another silly food trend). I always say that every plant-based restaurant should have a deep fryer. Just because you're eating cruelty-free doesn't mean you need to be a skinny hippy from the 60s. Enjoy some fries with your meal!
Food             4 out of 5
Comfort        well, it was a nice sunny day
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...