BrEAThe Kitchen - Vegan Pies

BrEAThe Kitchen works out of the Coho Commissary on Powell Street. Living out in the Valley means we have to plan carefully ahead of time (the order has to be in 3 days ahead) and then not suddenly have a change of plans. There are a couple more vegan commissary kitchen places that we would like to try but they do not offer weekend pickups so we are left out completely. BrEAThe does have Saturday and Sunday pick-up times but they also offer local delivery. You would have to consult their schedule for that.

Located behind Andina Brewery on Powell Street we arrived a bit early (not really early, just right on time) and enjoyed the fence art while we waited.
We made our order worth the trip by ordering 6 individual pies for $60 which pretty much fed us 2 full meals.
They tend to be a little on the delicate side (especially the quiches) so handle them with care. I honestly don't know what made up the egg part of the quiches (we ordered 3) even though they have an ingredient list. It might be a combination of vegan cream cheese, coconut milk and cornstarch but I'm not sure how that would work. This was the Asparagus, Peas and 'Hamm' Quiche and it was quite good. Very decent crust! 
We also tried a Chick N Taco Quiche. I might have overcooked this one a bit. Make sure your pies are still frozen when they hit the oven. I did it right when we cooked our second round.
The third was Mushroom and Onion Quiche. It was maybe our favourite so far but maybe because we followed the prep instructions closely. 
We tried a couple of 'meat' pies as well. This was the Chick N Pot Pie. The cubed carrots, corn and peas reminded me of the pot pies my mother fed us as a treat when we were kids! The ingredient list on this was a little longer but there was nothing frightening on it. The 'chicken' is basically a gluten thing but you can order it gluten-free. Why would you though as you are not gluten sensitive unless your doctor told you so? But don't get me started! The pies (the other was 'cheezeburger) were both quite tasty!
And then there was dessert! It has been years since I had a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and this one was great! Other than the crust, this would have been close to vegan from anywhere but most places like to use butter for their crusts. My wife was a little surprised but the tartness (I'm not sure if she has ever had rhubarb before!).
They make all of these things in larger sizes which I think would be more economical (we wanted to try as many as we could). If you want something in your freezer than is convenient and healthy (i.e. not vegan chick'n fingers), you could do worse than stocking up on some pies or quiches from BrEAThe Kitchen.
Food                     3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options      5 out of 5
Comfort                 NA
Service                  NA
Value                    3 1/2 out of 5

Axum Ethiopean Restaurant - Vegan Options

When I saw Axum's menu online, I was impressed that they had a vegetarian section but I wondered what made the dishes vegetarian rather than vegan. They didn't seem to be cheese-laden but maybe butter? So I messaged them and they assured me that the dishes were actually vegan!
Located on East Hastings just west of Clarke, Axum has a parking lot with a few spaces which I'm sure you'll agree is quite exciting! We arrived just after noon on Sunday and there were plenty of open tables but business was steady enough while we were there. At peak dining times, reservations may be worth making.
Basically, all of our food fit onto one platter, so this blog's picture part turned out to be easier than usual. What you see is the Vegetarian Combo (4 choices on injera) and the Inguday Tibs (right in the middle).  The tibs are a sort of a portabello mushroom stew while our 4 choices include green beans, cabbage, collard greens and split lentils. This is a terrible oversimplification as each dish is slowly cooked with other ingredients. The mildly exotic spices of Ethiopia are woven into each of these but there is nothing to be afraid of! This was all delicious and nothing was overly spicey although you can ask for it that way!
In case you run out of injera...Injera serves as bread and cutlery for an Ethiopean meal as we tore off small pieces to pick up bites of food.
It is made from Teff flour and water and ferments for several days before cooking. Because of this, it has a slightly sour and interesting flavour. Mharie was not overly keen on it but I love it and everyone needs to try it.
Ethiopian food is not so rare around Metro Vancouver but it still probably remains on the exotic side for many folks. It shouldn't be. It definitely should be experienced by vegans and omnivores alike and Axum is a good way to go. This was the least expensive lunch we've had in quite a while (less than $40 including tax and tip) and we had leftovers! Our server was friendly and efficient despite running the whole room while we were there. Don't miss out on this place!
Food                          4 out of 5
Vegan Options           3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 out of 5
Value                         4 1/2 out of 5 

Viet Family - The Vegan House

I used to feel like deciding to go vegan would mean making some sacrifices (I don't anymore) but those sacrifices would never include missing out on Vietnamese food. In fact, our list of favourite vegan places, so far, includes at least five Vietnamese restaurants and you can add Viet Family - The Vegan House as number six.

Located on The Drive near Kitchener, it is a smallish place and there was a steady flow of customers while we were there but we still managed to get seated right away. I would love to tell you that the previous Vietnamese restaurant that was located here just decided that they needed to "convert" but the fact is, new ownership is behind the vegan menu.
We started with a wonderful Papaya salad! With vegan chicken strips that we thought were closer to jerky (and it doesn't even matter as it was tasty and nothing died) with peanuts and lots of papaya and herbs and a vinegary dressing that all contributed to a complex whole! The best salad that we have had in a while.
The thing that jumped directly at us off the menu was the Caramel Spare Rib Spice. It turned out to be deep-fried tofu with the most amazing sweet sauce! It was probably our favourite of several amazing dishes. The side of purple sticky rice was also tasty and chewy!
It's not exactly Vietnamese but we love laksa, so we ordered Curry Laksa Noodles. This was a warm and comforting bowl and just a little bit spicy. The noodles had some sort of vegetable flavouring maybe and were just chewy enough. We could have tolerated a little more coconut flavour but it was very good overall.
Another dish that kind of blew us away was the Cha Ca Hanoi. We had to ask and the fish turns out to be a soy - gluten kind of mix that had a very nice texture and just slightly fish flavour when you dipped it in the 'fish' sauce. Lots of thinly sliced fresh vegetables and some rice noodles made this a great dish.
Our bill was just over $60 before tip and we had quite a lot of leftovers so we consider the food reasonably priced! This is a chic and spare place and fairly comfortable. The staff are very friendly and their recommendations are worth listening to!
Food                       4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options        5 out of 5
Comfort                  4 out of 5
Service                   4 1/2 out of 5
Value                      4 1/2 out of 5

Blaze Gourmet Burgers - Le Burger Week - Vegan Options

So this year Le Burger Week was actually deux weeks, and we were able to get out and check out a second participating place. As I mentioned (or maybe not) a lot of the alleged plant-based burgers were actually not plant-based beyond the patty. Not sure if everyone actually had a firm grasp on the whole point of  "plant-based burger". Anyway, since we had limited opportunities, we chose to give the old reliables a miss this time. We know we will always be able to get meatless food at Chickpea or Meet so instead we decided to check out Blaze Gourmet Burgers on E 5th.

We arrived just when they opened at 11:30 (as we often do) and were seated right away. As the name suggests, they do burgers here as well as the usual accompaniments. They have an impressive lineup of decent-looking burgers including 4 sandwiches that are either full-on vegan or can be so.
So I am the guy who frequently slags on calling poutine, Canada's national dish, but the idea of making it vegan is intriguing to me! The fries were quite good (or it would be a waste of time) while the vegan cheese was quite melty and the gravy was rich. In addition, a sprinkle of fried onion bits topped things off. This was pretty good!
BGB's contribution to Le Burger Week was the Falafel Blaze Burger. It is based on a housemade patty that was pretty good (God help a vegan who doesn't like falafel!). In addition to the standard accoutrements, there was a spicy tahini sauce and hummus. The bun was pretty decent but its best feature was that it didn't distract. A very good burger overall!
Finally, we tried the Chipotle Chick'n. I didn't ask but I assume this was a commercially available frozen thing rather than made in-house. No problem as there seem to be some good things available and this crispy chicken patty was pretty good. I think this burger can be one of those that is not a total plant-based package but we asked for it to be. Sometimes you just have to trust. A very good slightly spicy sauce, a few jalepenos and melty cheese came with it to make it a pretty satisfying burger overall.
So we're happy to find another place that will cater to those who want to eat plant-based. We appreciate the conscientious approach to the need to change to the diet of the whole planet. Enough about that though, Blaze Gourmet Burgers can feed vegans pretty good eats and that's what this post is about! Its a nice little place with some outdoor seating and friendly helpful staff!
Food                     4 out of 5
Vegan Options      4 out of 5
Comfort                4 out of 5
Service                  4 out of 5
Value                     4 out of 5

Recovery Day 2022 - 10th Anniversary

Recovery Day is an event that takes place at 6th and 6th in New Westminster every year to celebrate the fact that recovery is possible for addiction and mental illness. Represented among the sponsors and people that put the event together are some of the many recovery groups and treatment systems that are available for all kinds of these difficulties and diseases. I'm not familiar with the whole history of Recovery Day, but September 10th, 2022 was the 10th anniversary. We attended back in 2018 but not during the pandemic and whether it took place or not during that time, I'm not sure.

Saturday was a beautiful day and a hat and sunscreen were necessary! There was entertainment on 4 stages including a kid's stage where various acts were featured including Fred Penner (Sorry. We missed that.).
In addition to the kid's stage, there were many other activities for the kids including chalk drawing on the sidewalks, a bouncy house and so on. Addiction is often referred to as a family disease as all are affected.
There was no shortage of information available to those who needed it. 
There were activities of all kinds for the adults as well. I for one thought axe throwing might be a questionable choice for the recovery crowd. Anyone else?
The Overdose Memorial Tree was a sombre reminder of why this event takes place. The leaves represent the people we have lost. There is no one in this community who has not lost multiple friends or acquaintances to the toxic drug supply.

Of course, there were food trucks (no beer garden not surprisingly) and I had picked out some vegan possibilities. By the time I was hungry enough to be looking for food, some had run out of their plant-based ingredients because, like, oh sure, everyone in recovery is a vegan!
Happily, Old Country Pierogi (kind of the last place I expected to have vegan choices) did not fail me with their delicious plant-based cabbage rolls!
Then came the main event and even though I have 5000 pictures of Tom Cochrane, I will only post 2 here!
The band was personable and their interaction with the audience was great. They rocked and we all knew the words! It is very cool to see a Canadian icon in a small venue. It was the pinnacle of an excellent day!
Don't miss this event next year! It is not just for people in the recovery community because really, doesn't everyone know someone who struggles with mental health or substance problems?
Thank you  Recovery Day organizers!

Afuri Ramen + dumpling - Vegan Options

I think that we were made aware of the vegan options at Afuri Ramen + Dumplings by our new favourite local YouTubers, Vegan Twosome. Diana and Amir are a totally cute couple who have been vegan for at least 20 years as near as we can tell, and we may just follow around in the wake of their reviews to find our next plant-based meal. As far as Afuri is concerned, I think they went to the Richmond location while we checked out the new place on Main Street at 12th.

It was rainy in Van on Sunday so ramen was a perfect choice. We arrived a little after 1 and managed to get seated right away but this is a fairly busy place. I love it when a menu is clear. Items at Afuri are marked with a V and the V is defined as vegan (it could mean vegetarian and that's why it needs to be defined!). So we ordered all the vegan items!
Steamed rice didn't need to be marked with a V (it wasn't) but we ordered it to go with the Kaiso Seaweed Salad. It doesn't sound exciting but the salad had at least 3 varieties of seaweed (one was purple!) and a very nice sesame oil dressing. The texture was a little crisp, and the flavour was mildly oceany and very enjoyable!
The Crispy Shitake Bun almost escaped our notice as it is described as vegetarian (we were assured it was vegan). This had a very tasty kaarage-like flavour and was great overall. We are unsure how they formed these into balls as the mushrooms were in large pieces and not finely diced. Very good!
The main event was the Hazelnut Tantanmen which was some of the best ramen we have ever had and I don't just mean vegan ramen! It started with a hazelnut broth (wow!) with miso and was very creamy! The substantial part included shitake, bok choy, leek and miso-cashew crumbles! The crumbles could be a stand-alone snack. Afuri brought out their creative big guns for this and was hugely successful. Do I seem excited?
Finally, there were Miso Cashew Dumplings. These were also pretty special. There were 8 tasty dumplings anchored together with a bit of a crepe and finished with kimchi. 
We like the atmosphere at Afuri. It is casual and comfortable with communal and separate tables and even a few window seats. The staff were very friendly and efficient and service was a team effort. This is one of our favourite new vegan-friendly places.
Food                      4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options        3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                 4 out of 5
Service                  4 out of 5
Value                     4 out of 5

Kirin Seafood Restaurant - Vegan Menu!

We were more than a little excited to see that one of the top Chinese Restaurants in Metro Vancouver had come up with a menu of plant-based dishes. The printed menu says that the dishes were created by using OmniFoods Plant-based pork and seafood products. These products were developed by food scientists in Canada but to my chagrin are not available here (except at Kirin, so far!). It was a little tricky for us to get to Kirin (closed for an event at the Starlight location, very busy at Richmond ) but we persevered and made it to the Richmond location adjacent to Richmond Centre Mall.
Kirin is tucked onto the third floor at 7900 Westminster Hwy. There is no fancy entrance, just keep an eye open for the sign. The restaurant is definitely upscale with staff dressed far better than us and very efficient. On the other hand, missing were the over-the-top chandeliers and decor that we often see at high-end Chinese restaurants.  Thanks to a complicated system of what menu items are available when, we arrived at an ordering plan but only with the help of our server....and his advice was very good!
We started with Stir Fried String Bean with Chopped Garlic in Spicy Minced Plant-based Pork Sauce. This dish was $29.75... While you catch your breath, I will remind you that Kirin is a pricy high end restaurant no matter what you are eating and that the Abalone with Assorted Dried Seafood en Casserole will run you $95.00. Our green beans and "pork" was delicious, indistinguishable from real pork (does that really matter?) and a generous portion! Don't miss this!
Our second dish was Plant-based Smoked Fish Filet in 18 Year Aged Dark Balsamic Vinegar at $26.95. I mention the price again, even though I don't usually, as I don't want any cheap vegans to be taken by surprise! This was also an amazing dish! The sauce was rich, deep and sweet and we barely restrained ourselves from licking the empty dish! The"fish" itself was perfectly textured tasting only mildly fishy (clearly fresh!) but we didn't get much of the smokey part. Battered lightly and deep fried this was another generous portion. Between these two dishes and rice and tea, we were fulfilled.
Still to try are the spring rolls and dumplings (only available at lunch), a noodle soup and another fried fish dish. 
As I browsed the packed foods that Kirin markets, I noticed that there was an assorted mushroom and truffle dumpling that was completely vegan. This was not on the vegan menu, probably as it does not contain OmniFoods products. It would be nice if they could re-organize their menu a bit to really reflect all of their vegan items and also to indicate when they are actually available (we weren't able to order spring rolls or dumplings). Still, it is a nice step in the right direction to offer anything at all. I can't complain about that!
Food                          5 out of 5
Vegan options           3 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      5 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5


Cavu Kitchen Bar - Le Burger Week - Vegan Edition!

I was very excited to read that Le Burger Week was coming and that, "This year, we encouraged restaurants to create plant-based burgers." So just as I was moaning about not being able to participate in foodie events (please see my previous post), Sysco (what happened to Saputo?) came to my rescue! However, I realized almost immediately that many restaurants don't really understand what is meant by a plant-based burger. To me and probably most people who choose to follow plant-based diets, a plant-based burger means that there are no animal products on the plate and it's not just about an Impossible patty with bacon and dairy cheese. Still, it's a step in the right direction that many folks are making the effort and I just did my research!

Cavu Kitchen Bar is located in the Hilton Vancouver Airport in Richmond and even before tasting their contribution to Le Burger Week, I knew it was going to be a winner! We arrived around 6pm having made a totally unnecessary reservation and were seated immediately by our very friendly hosts. 
There is not a lot on the menu at Cavu that is vegan or even vegan friendly but we came for the burger so it wasn't a problem. We started with the Sweet Potato Fries and these were amazing! Why do I always screw them up so badly when I make them at home? These were crispy and hot with a substantial meaty centre. I guess with SPF, bigger is better for starters. We passed on the aioli and kimchi-ketchup (while intriguing, kimchi is one of those things that can have anchovy or other fish bits).
The Vegan Messy Portabello Burger comes from the mind of executive sous chef Jason and is brilliant. While I would have guessed that we were talking about a portabello patty, it was the bun that was the mushroom! Amazing!
I should have worn a rain poncho as messy is an understatement. I started off trying to adopt the usual burger stance but eventually resorted to deconstructing this work of art! The mushroom cheese sauce, tomato chutney and caramelized onion mayo were all delicious on their own but perfect when combined with the Impossible patty and portobello crispy bun! And this was all vegan in the truest sense of the definition!
The only other item on Cavu's menu labelled vegan was the Vegan Spaghettini Bolognaise and when you ask for them to hold the Grana Padano, then it actually is vegan. This was an excellent dish, indistinguishable from the meat version. Very tasty with some lovely cherry tomatoes and basil. Nicely done!
CKB is a very comfortable space. if a little sparse. but the staff were very friendly and efficient. Our host even helped me out by extending my parking when it was about to run out. We feel like, with the creative talent in the kitchen, these folks could lean a little more into the plant-based thing! Presumably, many travellers (they are located in an airport hotel) would be appreciative of that.
We're going to see if we can try another PBB or two during Le Burger Week but it's hard to imagine doing better than this one!
Food                       4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options        3 out of 5
Service                   4 1/2 out of 5    
Comfort                  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...