Am I finally ready to commit to a vegan lifestyle for good?

I have nibbled around the edges of a vegetarian and more recently a vegan diet for over 40 years. For much of that time, I referred to myself as a weekday vegetarian or vegan as I pretty well lived on my curried lentils or black bean chilli and brown rice or quinoa as well as fruits and vegetables from Monday to Friday. My early motivation was the book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. It provided my first inkling that a carnivorous diet was putting a strain on our home. At the time (pre-internet), my primary source of vegetarian recipes was the cookbook Laurel's Kitchen but many of the recipes were not great. They might have been tasty to the hard-core hippy vegetarians of the time but I had a hard time finding joy.

For literally decades, while always making an effort to keep my consumption of animal products to a minimum, I gave in to the excuse that it was inconvenient and impractical to go vegan. If I am honest, I just really loved Taiwanese fried chicken, crispy pata, kare kare, birria tacos, sushi, dim sum and...well you get the picture (and don't forget cheese). Plus maybe a little bit of FOMO?

Yes, over the last few days as I have worked on this posting, I realize that the fear of missing out is a significant part of my problem. It's not because I am concerned about missing out on the animal foods as I am all in on the plant-based eating and know it can be amazing. In reality, I am afraid that I will feel left out of the foodie community! Not like I am hard-core buds with anyone in particular but it is unlikely that I'll be able to participate in Vanfoodster's Food Challenges or Tasting Plates events! I could never ingest animal products again with no problem but I will morn not being able to try each new place that is blowing up on Instagram or on the Food Blog Rolls! But really? What kind of lame, whiney excuse is that, especially in the face of a global climate crisis and in the face of animal suffering on factory farms which are the greatest contributor to our diet and fancy restaurant reviews? I'm feeling some shame now...

Additionally, at least at the beginning (decades ago) my motivation to pursue an animal product free diet was more selfish. It was more about my own health and finances but as the evidence mounted up, it was hard to ignore how badly we are fucking up this planet and how god awful we treat other sentient beings in the name of eating fish, meat, eggs and cheese. The more that I read, listened to podcasts and fell down the rabbit hole of plant-based eating videos and documentaries, the less I was able to put my desire for grilled cheese, ahead of the future of your children and grandchildren on this planet, not to mention animal well-being. One of the clinchers, having previously watched Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy was the documentary Game Changers that we watched more recently. I believe that with all that information, I have no choice but to conquer my FOMO and cravings for Xia Long Bao (unless I can find the vegan version).

So on into what I already know is not a void having played Veganuary, No-Meat May and World Vegan months in the past. In the future, I will not be posting about Fogo de Chao or the Abbatoire but I do look forward to getting to Folke! In fact, I have 25 restaurants on my list currently that are vegan or vegan-friendly. When I am done, I will start over at the beginning with the at least 50 vegan places that we have already visited, starting with Virtuous Pie where we first had plant-based pizza in November of 2018 (actually, The Naam has been around so much longer and we went there years ago). So, there is still lots to do for a guy who likes, just for fun, to post restaurant reviews and post on Instagram. 

Let me say in conclusion, that I cannot guarantee 100% purity but I am not claiming to be a "flexitarian" either (I hate that lazy assed term). I will use this space for confession if necessary. LOL.

So I hope that there comes to this a bit of a purpose beyond telling and showing you what we ate. I hope that readers including other bloggers will think about the world that their children and grandchildren will have to live in if mankind does not have the political will to change greatly. Is it already too late? If we all think that it is someone else's problem, then maybe it is. I think I'd rather be part of the solution.

In conclusion, again, I'd like to say thank you to Earthling Ed who calmly presents rock-solid evidence and logic in the face of ludicrous arguments (this means you, Joe Rogan)  against pursuing a plant-based diet. You should definitely seek him out on YouTube.

And in conclusion, again again, I notice that even though I started this post at the beginning of August, it has taken me a month to finish and have the nerve to commit fully!

Vegan Night Market

We did not come here expecting the Richmond Night Market. If you do, you will be disappointed. There are no dinosaurs and no midway. There was also no huge lineup to get in...which is a bonus. The market happens every second Thursday at the Waldorf Hotel parking lot. We took transit but parking would probably be easy even if traffic sucked.

What we found was a pretty chill group of people, eating, drinking, and listening to music. People who are concerned about practicing kindness to animals and our planet (well, I assume so anyway)! There were 3 food trucks and some additional food vendors as well as maybe a total of a couple of dozen vendors of one thing or another, mostly vegan related. 
If you wanted a t-shirt or even socks that reflect your thoughts on the plant-based matter, they were certainly available as well as surprisingly, someone who would tell your fortune (pretty sure that's not a strictly vegan thing).
One of the folks working at the Planted Love Food Truck leaned out and offered us a sample of their falafel which turned out to be some of the best we've ever had! Surprisingly, we did not order falafel but a couple of other things that had already caught my eye on their menu.
And this is what we call a bowl! This was the Sabich Bowl with pita which, among numerous other things, featured fried cauliflower and eggplant. It was accompanied by housemade fluffy amazing pita and was a bargain at $14.
The messiness of this picture was unavoidable but the Fried Oyster Mushroom Sandwich on Challah was delicious! We would order this again in a second! It was slightly spicy with harissa aioli, slaw and pickles. The fried mushrooms were crispy and rich. The bread was made in-house again, using aqua faba instead of eggs. Brilliant!
We enjoyed our food and the music at one of several picnic tables here on the beach. You could enjoy an adult beverage thanks to the Waldorf if you so chose.
After finishing our eats, we went a wondering again and came across these guys who had 'mozza' bite samples that we great! We came across Wholly Vegetable products in our Aldergrove Freshco later in the week (I like saying 'wooly' vegetable which is fun but it is actually 'holy' vegetable...I guess you knew that) and I will be posting that on our Insta at some point.
Terracotta Tummy is another impressive vegan food truck (btw, the third truck was Veg Out which sported long lineups for their amazing 'Chicken' etc. We have tried their delicious food before). We will try more off of TT's menu in the future but this evening we tried The Lox Box.
Their boxes feature a base of really good wedges (they call them hashbrowns which is perfectly fine) with lots of carrot lox and hollandaise, dill capers, shallots and pea shoots. Such a delicious mess when the hollandaise and get this...vegan yolk... are all mixed together.
I have no idea how they made this (I didn't ask as I'm sure it's pretty much a secret). The big wins are both in texture and appearance. As far as taste, I got more egg white than yolk but it still contributed to the luxuriousness of the whole deal! Nice!
We enjoyed a couple agua frescas from Antojos y Sabores (hey! they have vegan tamales!) and enjoyed some more tunes!
The great thing about this night market was walking around knowing that I could eat anything without having to narrow down my choices. I wouldn't have to ask if there were anchovies in the kimchi or egg in the Challah! This is a great little market and we will visit again in the summers to come!
You have one more opportunity this year on September 8!


PNE Vegan Options

All right so the real reason we went to the PNE was to see Kim Mitchell and the Barenaked Ladies. Checking out the vegan eats just gives me a legitimate excuse to post about it in this space. We all know that the PNE will be hot, crowded and more expensive than it should be, but somehow, we always go at least once a year, even if it is not for a specific event. I guess nostalgia has a lot to do with it.

We arrived at about 6 pm (after work obviously) and paid the $25 full day parking fee and the $18 each fair entrance fee (not included in your concert ticket!) and...well didn't I say it's always more expensive than we expect? Anyhow, feeding ourselves then became our first priority.
So it turns out there are some vegan options at the fair but I did a very poor job of sussing them out and when I did, I took terrible, not postable pictures! While I was assured at Aloha Poke that the kimchi was vegan (often has shrimp bits or fish sauce in it), I did not note that the base bowl, even before you order your protein (Kimchi Tofu) has crab meat! Aargh! I imagine they will leave it out if you ask them but I wasn't paying attention.  As it was, my wife (not vegan) was sharing the bowl with me and carefully ate a crab meat-shaped hole on one side! Aloha Poke does have a vegan option as the Daily Hive declared but make your vegan intentions clear. These people are just trying to make a living and it is busy here!
We noted that Plant Butcher, which has a completely vegan menu, was on site (Hah! That would have been too easy!) and that Curry in a Hurry also offered gheeless Indian food options. Even Los Tacos Hermanos had Vegan Tacos on their menu!
And I completely missed Acai Dude, but they were there somewhere as well.
On DH's list was the Saltspring Noodle Bar, where I learned that all their sauces are plant-based so all you had to do was pick the Vegetarian Box with any sauce!
I chose Pad Thai Sauce and added some peanuts for good measure but took a hard pass on the cotton candy (no, seriously). It seemed a little expensive at $14.50 for the small box but it was hearty and very much worth the price. Unfortunately, my photo makes it look like the noodles were flung from across the room to the box but trust me! This was good!

After we ate and before the music began we had about 30 seconds to run around and see the fair. My wife allowed me to go see the baby animals as long as I promised not to start an argument with the 4H kids or their parents. It made me a little sadder than usual this year...for some reason.
And then Kim Mitchell hit the stage and we were stoked! Unfortunately, 4 songs later he was done. I keep missing opportunities to see him so I wasn't missing this and fortunately, I did not blink. Only so much time for opening acts I guess but was all the setup and tear-down worth it? Still, we got to see one of the greatest Canadian guitarists of our time!
One thing for sure is, that it was all worth it to see the Bare Naked Ladies again. I saw them a few years ago at GM Place and they were amazing then and now. Not only are they talented musicians and songwriters, but they are great entertainers, funny and very interactive with their audience (including pranking us into believing that Sarah McLauchlan was waiting to join them on stage. I almost embarrassed myself at that point!).
Near the end of the show, we learned that they could make a good living as a Led Zepplin cover band if they so chose. Drummer Tyler Stewart took the mic and did a great Robert Plant impression on Whole Lotta Love while Ed Robertson did an impressive job as Jon Bonham. I did not see that coming!
Great concert. Thanks, PNE.
Worst food blog posting ever!

Vadapav Mirchi by Geeta - Vegan Freindly

These folks are located in the same shared commercial kitchen in Langley as Mr. Siopao (on 198th north of 56th). I'm not sure if they came up in my Insta feed or how I discovered them initially. What I do know is that I had never heard of many of the dishes on their menu and that was the clincher for me!  A quick Instagram message later and I learned that most of their dishes can easily be prepared vegan and so we were on our way! We ordered for pick up but I think they also do some delivery in different areas on different days.
Because "It's that time of the year," according to their Instagram, we ordered Modak. I'm assuming that this is because Ganesh Chaturthi is approaching and these dumplings were Lord Ganesh's favourites. I can understand why! These are a coconutty sweet treat! The wrapping is a little on the thick side but not difficult. I assume that they are meant to be that way. These are not on the regular menu so I suggest that you order some now!
OK so, we have not ordered this by the name Kanda Bhaji but we have had pakora before. These were very good and crispy (even after the trip home) and we would order them again. It would be good if they came with some sort of dip but we provided our own.
With the Poha, we were definitely off of our beaten track. This is a breakfast dish in Maharashtra (home to most of this cuisine) but we liked it for dinner. It is flattened rice with spices and peanuts. Seriously, flattened rice.Deliscious!
The Pithla Bhakri consists of bread and a dish that could maybe be compared to polenta. It is based on chickpea flour but with Indian Spices and it did have some nice heat. The texture resembled polenta to some degree as well. 
I'm not sure what flour is used to make the bhakri. It could be any of several according to the internet collection of recipes that I found. The bread is a little chewier (in a good way) and hearty than the naan or chapati that we are used to. Presumably, you use the bread to scoop up the pithla. All of this food was unique and delicious compared to the Indian food that we have had in the past and we are certainly not limited to butter chicken in that experience.
There is more on the menu that we intend to order and try in the future and we suggest that you do the same.
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        NA
Service         Right on time
Value            4 1/2 out of 5


BC Dumpling Festival

For the 4th time in a month, we got ourselves out to a festival. Also, for the 2nd time in that month, we found ourselves at Town Centre Park (Lafarge Lake) in Coquitlam for one of those festivals, this time the first BC Dumpling Festival.

We have found that all of these festivals have been wildly popular and the crowds impressive. Presumably, this is because we were all going crazy after so many activities were curtailed during 2 years or so of pandemic. Whatever the reason, we were smart enough to show up as the festival started instead of mid-afternoon when the crowds (and lines) were at their peak. One more thing I might add to our festival strategy next time is to not only arrive early but to buy up as much food as we intend to eat as early as possible and then spend our time happily munching away as the masses lined up. 
So we arrived at 11am, hungry as always and decided to visit our friends at Shameless Buns. 
These days I am all in on the plant-based thing and so we ordered Jacked Up Coconut Fries which were both delicious and can be ordered vegan! The fries served at SB have just a bit of a crispy coating which gives them a wonderful texture. The topping was also tasty and meaty thanks to jackfruit. By not topping the plate with the garlic-calamansi aioli this vegetarian dish becomes vegan. I would just like to remind SB that vegan mayo is now pretty available and I kind of missed the aioli!
After getting our blood sugar up to an acceptable level, we looked around to see what else was available for the vegan. Sure enough, Momo Joy was serving plant-based dumplings. Those of us in line wryly commented that this was at least the shortest line at the festival, that being one of the greatest advantages of being vegan!
We ordered 2 plates of momos. One was plant-based meat, cabbage and onions, while the other was spinach and "cheese". As both plates looked the same, I will spare you the unnecessary 2nd photo. The dumplings were tasty enough and the sauce was good and even featured a bit of spice. These were obviously hand made but we found the wrapper to be either a little too thick or undercooked and overly chewy. It might just be that I don't know enough about momos and they are supposed to be on the chewy side. One thing for sure is that it was almost impossible for these folks (or any other vendors) to keep up with the hungry crowds so it is hard to judge their product in today's chaos. Momo Joy will be available from retailers, presumably soon.
Today, the main stage was not occupied by steel drums (as at the Caribbean Festival) but guqin and guzheng among other things. I am no expert in Chinese music but considered this pleasant and quite beautiful!
There were quite a few activities for the kids as well, in this case, thanks to TD bank.
We took one last dive into the food vendor row before leaving. We did expect this to be a hefty time investment. That's OK though as we were here knowing that we could not be in a big rush. This time, my carnivore wife (no judgement and she can eat and do what she wants) wanted chicken and rice so we tried the Mashik Korean Fusion Food Truck.
She seemed pretty content with the results. This was Fried Chicken Bibimpap and the chicken, egg and vegetables all rested on a bed of rice.
So the food was great, the entertainment was nice and even the weather cooperated. Well done to the organizers! We look forward to next year's festival!

Sprouted Oven

I guess that I need to pay more attention. I get coffee sometimes from a Starbucks in McCallum Junction (Cabela's) across from The Sprouted Oven and as it is "By Silver Hills Bakery", I had always just dismissed it as an overpriced bread store. It turns out that while the bread can be a little pricey, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye from the outside and it is all plant-based!.

We arrived Sunday just before noon and the lineup to order was significant but moved pretty quickly. Mharie sat at one of the few tables while I joined the lineup (more people seemed to order to go rather than sit down with their food so a table was not a problem). They have a few outside tables if you prefer.
Curiously, we started with dessert first. Baked goods await your choosing at the display counter which ends at the cash register where you can order from the kitchen Sounds a little confusing but it works. At any rate, we ordered a date bar and it was amazing! Mharie immediately went up and ordered another one to take home! It was sweet and loaded with dates. Delicious!
Now Sprouted Oven seems to love flax seeds inordinately and as my life is very much allergic to them, there was quite a limit to what we could order from the bakery. Fortunately, they have a binder with the ingredients for each item listed. They allowed us to borrow the binder and we figured out that the Cardamom Cinamon Buns were flax free. Not quite as impressive looking as their weekend cinnamon buns but very good just the same.
They offer 3 or 4 vegan pizzas at SO and we decided to try the Rosemary, Feta and Potato Pizza which was white sauce based and an oil and balsamic vinaigrette to finish. The crust was nicely chewy and just a little charred and crispy. I'm pretty sure that they don't have a wood-burning oven back there so I'm not sure how they got that done so well!
The soup of the day was Cream of Celery which was also very good if not startlingly Instagram-able!
Only a vegan could get this excited about a Grilled Cheese Sandwich! I'm not sure what their mix of PB cheeses is but no one would suspect that it was anything but dairy cheese. So rich and just nicely salty and perfect!
This is a lovely and bright room for casual dining. As mentioned, I notice that most folks seem to be getting their food to go. They have some hard-to-find items in their grocery area. I was a little excited to see Butler's Soy Curls which previously required a trip to White Rock to find. That being said, some of these grocery items are a touch on the pricey side. This is a great place for a plant-based lunch!
Food                  4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort             4 out of 5
Service              4 12 out of 5
Value                 4 out of 5

Lotus Seed Vegan

As our Plant Curious coupon book runs out at the end of August, and as I grow ever nearer to committing to a vegan diet for the long term, we decided to start visiting a few more places listed in the book. It has already paid for itself and frankly, it was never about the savings but more about discovering new plant-based eateries.

Located on Broadway between Heather and Willow, LSV is a warm and welcoming place leaning towards Vietnamese cuisine and the health food end of the plant-based spectrum (i.e. nothing is deep fried but that's OK). 
I was a little disappointed to learn that they no longer had their Om-melette available. This mung bean batter creation has become impractical due to the cost of importing some of the ingredients. That's where we live now. No use worrying about it. Anyway, we ordered a Mango Salad to share to start and we weren't sorry about that. The mango itself was bright and refreshing served on a bed of greens with cashews and a tamarind-based salad dressing that was served on the side.
They offer a vegan pho at LSV but we decided to try their Hanoi Noodle Soup instead. Based on a vegan stock with plenty of flavour and some pretty decent noodles, the greens on top were surprising but worked well as we folded them into the soup. As my wife is allergic to flax seeds, they served us a couple of little soft biscuits on the side that might have normally melted into the stock and added some richness.
The Pineapple Express Bowl was surprising and great! I expected a typical brown rice bowl with toppings but this came hot with Daiya shredded cheese richly melted over top! Additionally, the bowl features house-made Sunny Pate, a sunflower seed, soybean etc. pate that has a wonderful texture and savoury flavour. We loved this menu item.
LSV has a widely varied menu with a number of other things that we would love to try. Service was friendly and fairly quick but not so quick that we suspected that the food was not fresh! When I told our host about my wife's allergy, she was on it! This is a good go-to place for someone who is trying to eat plant-based full time.
Food              4 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5


Car Free Day New West

Just as a plant-based diet helps mitigate the effects of climate change in a huge way, so reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on our roads can be a huge step forward in solving what has become a dire situation. This will affect our children and grandchildren in a devastating manner if we don't continue making changes. It's sad that science denial has become a political thing to a large extent but if you still believe that climate change is not a real thing then you need to get your head out of your ass and start reading some peer-reviewed scientific studies. Sorry! Let's get back to Car Free Day New West!

We were welcomed by the balloon arch as we got off Skytrain at Columbia station (how ironic would it have been to have driven here?) Just so you know, Mharie and I always drive to Scott Road Station and take transit from there. Mind you, we drive an electric car so we could in good conscience drive to most places but we would still be contributing to congestion.
One of the points of Car Free Day is to promote transit as an alternative to single-occupant vehicles and to that aim, there were transit buses past and present on display. If you have never been on a bus, these walk-through displays may have been quite interesting....mind you, if you have never been on a bus, then shame on you!
The exciting bus display was not the only thing available to attendees. There was a whole section for kids which included displays of prestidigitation and a bouncy house!
There were adult beverages available, presumably for those who had taken transit. It was not a blistering hot day (in fact there was a nice breeze) but a refreshing beverage is never a bad idea.
And there was entertainment from 4 stages! These young fellows are called Later Days. I immediately went to Apple Music and downloaded their EP! Very impressive!
Additionally, there were vendors of all kinds of clothing, crafts and so on. But you know that we really came for the food because the Columbia StrEat Food Truck Fest was also a part of this thing!
Choices at a food truck fest are always a little sparse if you are intending to eat animal product free unless an actual vegan food truck is present. Some research had revealed a couple of things and you can never go wrong with a banh mi.
Camion Cafe offered an All Vegan Bahn Mi which featured portabello mushrooms along with all the usual good stuff. My wife was very impressed with the bun which was nicely crunchy on the outside. This was probably the bargain of the festival at just over $10!
We also shared an all fruit popsicle from Rico n Lalo.
The watermelon bar was completely refreshing and even had little chuncks of fruit!
So, good food, good music, nice weather and a timely message. All of this added up to a decent way to spend some time on a Saturday afternoon. Nicely done Translink and The Downtown New West BIA!

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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...