To Live For - Vegan Bakery

The opening of To Live For Bakery and Cafe has been highly anticipated. Their vegan bakery goods have been available, for I am not sure how long, at many places around Vancouver and as far away as Calgary, Whistler and Victoria or through various delivery services or online for pick up from their commissary kitchen. Now you can enjoy their goodies or amazing bread with a coffee or soft serve ice cream in a beautiful and comfortable space at 1508 Nanaimo Street from 7 to 5 daily!
Admittedly, arriving at 11 am on Sunday morning to a new and exciting opening was not the most brilliant move, but we cheerfully joined the quickly moving line and endured the chill. Not surprisingly, things were a bit chaotic inside but we were impressed by how the staff were handling things. We liked the idea of sitting down to enjoy the space but there will be time for that when things settle down a bit (assuming they will settle down). Instead, we opted to enjoy our coffees on the road (btw, if you have not tried oat milk in your latte, you are missing out!) and our baked goods at home.
In the meantime, we recommend the same approach as we suggested during the height of the pandemic when seating was limited. That is to enjoy your meal but go somewhere else to do your lingering. Taking up space that is limited and people are waiting in the cold? Well, we call that slightly shitty behaviour (although we defend your right to be shitty!). Admittedly, we did not really see any of that and don't want to be too judgemental. We're just sayin'.
I could not wait to get my hands on their Whole Wheat Sourdough (shown here with vegan butter, of course). It did not disappoint. A just slightly chewy crust and a mild sourdough flavour, we had to put it away before we ate the whole thing in one sitting!
Mharie spotted the croissants on TLF's Instagram feed and that was it! The Almond Croissants were as good as they looked and the Pain Au Chocolat also hit the spot. Puff pastry is apparently in no way compromised by using plant-based ingredients which leads me to ask, why would you use anything else?
Of all the cinnamon bun styles, I am able to pass up many but not the ones that are upside-down and covered with sugar icing (I know that's not what it is called) and pecans. This is big enough to share and will keep us satisfied until our next visit to TLF.
We had to order at least one cookie. This is more of a chocolate chip meal. It was rich and sweet and built for 2 for sure. Vegans don't take chocolate for granted!
Back to savoury and we loved this Cheddar Biscuit! Where did they get this cheese? It was amazing and melty when gently warmed up. The biscuit was just crumbly enough and perfect as far as this biscuit expert is concerned!
It is so nice to walk into a place and not have to ask if there are eggs or dairy products in items. We can order anything we see! I look forward to trying their soft-serve ice cream when summer returns. It will be nice to sit down and enjoy a coffee and pastry when things calm down too. They are not the only vegan bakery around, but they have the best selection and the nicest room. Well done, folks!
Food                         5 out of 5
Vegan options          5 out of 5
Comfort                    4 out of 5
Service                     4 1/2 out of 5
Value                        5 out of 5

Arike - Vegan Tasting Menu

Described as Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest, Arike is another one of those places that have been on my must try list for a long time and survived my transition to vegan. You have 2 dining options right now, the Fall Tasting Menu and the Vegan Fall Tasting Menu! Both have a wine pairing available, but we are water people. How boring we are!

Located at 1725 Davie, near Denman, don't blink. This somewhat dark, romantic room is located down a set of stairs and not signed very brightly. Of course, walk in service is not a thing at the moment. Open Friday and Saturday evenings, reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance!
Not surprisingly, we chose the Vegan Tasting Menu. I have no problem with the fact that both the vegan and omnivore menus are $65 per person although I couldn't comment on how the cost of ingredients or chef's time compares. For some reason, vegan menus seem to usually cost more.
They started us off with Carrot! Carrot noodles, carrot puree just a nice little peanut crunch with a hint of orange. Not having an audio recording device (or at least not wanting to drag out my phone and record), a lot of the details got by me, and believe me there are a lot of details to these complex plates. We trusted our capable server Joel (sorry...not sure if I'm spelling that right) that it was going to be delicious. We delighted in the micro herbs that just beautifully crowned most of the dishes.
Next up was squash, nicely crusted with herbs, seeds and sumac. The challenge of the evening would be to scoop up every drop of the sublime sauces. The curry was mild although some of the dishes surprised us with just a bit of heat which is probably the Nigerian influence. The lemon verbena stood out as the unique flavour of this particular presentation.
Always nice to include a taco or two in any meal but this one was quite amazing. The Plantain in the shell made it rich and substantial. Miso glazed (and I want to say maple syrup?) plantain was the main body of the thing with assorted roasted pumpkin seeds etc. that gave it a crispy top.
It's been a long time since anyone served us a palette cleanser but this date and something tea could easily be my morning drink. Very nice!
I really felt like I needed chopsticks for the dumplings, but I don't think that's a Nigerian thing. The peanut sauce here needed to be licked from the bowl (and we've eaten a lot of peanut sauce). Sunchoke and ginger made up the filling along with whatever other magical ingredients as the plates get better and better!
When gnocchi is made with African Yam then we can certainly consider it Nigerian. These little pillows were served with an impressive mushroom mix and Ate Din Din Sauce. There was some mild heat to the sauce, but I think that the original version might be a scorcher judging by recipes I visited. A very nice fusion of wonderful flavours!
And finally, there was dessert! Olive oil cake with a lime jelly (?) cashew crumble and a lovely quenelle of more cashew maybe? You can tell I won't be trying to steal any recipes.
It is amazing what can be accomplished with fusion (Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest for example) and chefs who clearly consider details and how elements that fit together. We feel like we were eating dishes that were greater than the sum of their parts. Some of these were playful and some homages to the head chef's father's Nigerian heritage. This is another win for the plant-based eating movement to my mind, as you can give up so little and eat brilliantly and cruelty free. Thanks so much, Arike. BTW, service was amazing and personable, and we loved the dining room music which was all Nigerian with a couple of Marvin Gaye tunes thrown in!
Food                        5 out of 5
Vegan options          4 1/2 out of 5 (still the matter of that pesky omnivorous menu)
Comfort                    5 out of 5
Service                     5 out of 5
Value                        5 out of 5

Straight Outta Brooklyn (Gastown) - Vegan Options

Quite by accident, we are participating in Vanfoodster's Pizza Crawl! While checking out the pizza lineup for the crawl, I noticed that one, and one only, participant was featuring a vegetarian (with vegan option) pie.

Straight Outta Brooklyn - Gastown
So, we ordered 2 pizzas to be picked up at 5:15 p.m. (timing was everything as we were between one Saturday activity and another) which were ready to the minute! I have to mention, that their website, email address, storefront and pizza boxes all say, "Straight Brooklyn Pizza" while the Kingsway location (and maybe others), Yelp, and Vanfoodster, all call it "Straight Outta Brooklyn." Whatever...I'm not gonna get all pedantic about it.
They have a good selection of pizza by the slice (a quarter of a pie for $5 or $6) but the vegan pies need to be ordered whole (ours were $22 each).
We ordered the featured pizza for Vanfoodster's Pizza Crawl, the Catalana, which is described as vegetarian with a vegan option (i.e., Mozzarella vs. cashew Mozzarella). The Romesco was brilliant, followed by artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onions and parsley. This was a great pizza. The thin New York (Brooklyn, I guess) style crust was amazing. Light leoparding (I borrowed that term from Sherman's Food Adventures! So cool!) and a wonderful chew, is the essence of a New York style crust.
The other pizza that we ordered is just called, The Vegan. I learned tonight that it is not just my wife, but all Filipinos that don't care for olives.... oh well, all the more for me! The cashew Mozzarella on these things is quite good. It was smooth and cheesy unlike my poor attempts at home (I still like the stuff I make). Another fine cruelty-free pie. You can build your own or probably substitute on any of their vegetarian pizzas. 
Our first brush with SOB (that's unfortunate) was great. Friendly staff and they had a couple of tables if you chose to eat in. Maybe someday they will make it out to Aldergrove. They currently have 7 outlets, all in Van. So make the move further out the valley, folks!
Food                              4 out of 5
Vegan options               3 out of 5 (there could be a couple more)
Comfort                         3 1/2 out of 5
Service                          4 1/2 out of 5
Value                             4 out of 5

Donuteria - Vegan Donuts!

The healthiest thing about going plant-based is perhaps the fact that it is so hard to get donuts! Damn you, Donuteria as you have cut our travel from Aldergrove to donuts in half. The temptation has increased exponentially and they are really great donuts as well!

Donuteria currently has vegan donuts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They suggested that you call and check and see if they have any left, but we took a chance arriving at 10 am on Sunday morning. They are located at 656 Columbia Street in New Westminster.
6 vegan donuts
They had 6 types of plant-based donuts available this particular morning, so we ordered 1 of each and a couple of coffees.
It was not our intention to eat all 6 in one sitting and in fact, they did manage to last a couple of days but it required some self-control! I'm not sure what they call these but this one was chocolate-covered and custard filled and in no way a compromise when compared to the regular dairy and egg product. Delicious!
And then there was the jelly filled with powdered sugar. Also delicious and cruelty-free! If that is an option why eat the regular stuff? All the others were very good, as well.
This is a comfy place for a donut (even a non-vegan donut) and coffee on a cool day. Apparently, they have savoury baked goods as well although I admit that I was only paying attention to the vegan donuts. Staff are friendly and enthusiastic about their product. Thanks, Donuteria and I don't really hold you responsible for my own overindulgence.
Food                     4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options      3 1/2 out of 5 (this will go up when they are available more often)
Comfort                4 out of 5  
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5              

Jinya Ramen Bar - Vegan Options

As grumpy as I was when we went to Jinya a couple of weeks ago, only to learn that they had no vegan ramen, the vegan options on their menu are too tempting to be grumpy for long. Not only that, you know, supply chain stuff and all. I'm pretty sure that they didn't do that just to piss me off!

Located at the corner of Robson and Richards, you all know where JRB is. There was a 20 minute wait for 2 people already at 5 o'clock on Saturday. This is certainly one of the most popular ramen joints in Metro Vancouver. We got seated at the window bar (wait was more like 10 minutes) and placed an order with our very personable server.
Impossible Bun
We ordered an Impossible Bun which was quite excellent and no, it did not come with Kewpie Mayo but vegan mayonnaise. There was a little bit of guac there and some crunchy cucumber and we did not miss the pork belly at all!
Brussels Sprouts Tempura
The Brussels Sprouts Tempura was pretty solid as well. It wasn't well salted coming out of the fryer, so we added our own, but was very tasty just the same. Something about the texture put me in mind of a deep-fried oyster (I mean that in a good way). It would have been good for them to come with a dipping sauce.
Flying Vegan Harvest Ramen
The Flying Vegan Harvest is one of 3 vegan ramen on the menu. This one has Impossible meat which was nicely flavoured with Hoisin maybe? There was a rich miso broth, plenty of vegetables as well as tofu and very good noodles. Not a bad bowl at all.
Spicy Creamy Vegan Rame
The Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen was not terribly spicy. This was a vegetable broth and I'm not sure what made it creamy, but it was. Garlic oil, chili oil, garlic chips and assorted other alliums gave this a nice rich flavor and we enjoyed it very much.
Jinya Ramen interior
We love the interior of Jinya and its noisy enthusiastic vibe. All the staff are friendly, and service was very quick. Jinya is expensive. Both of our bowls were $22ish but apparently, we don't mind and are even willing to line up. There are a few more vegan choices including a rice bowl and another appetizer that we would like to try on another visit! 
Food                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options          4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5

Anar Persian Cuisine - Vegan Options

Anar Persian Cuisine has been on my list of places to try since it opened a long time ago (well, it's always been a long list). Since my focus became plant-based, I was happy to see that I could still include them on my now shorter list! 

We arrived early on Friday morning to Third Avenue in Steveston, and we were actually glad that we had made a reservation. By the time we had finished our lunch, this place was completely full! They let us come in and served us coffee even though it was a few minutes before opening time. We were happy as it was a seriously chilly morning.
I'm not sure if this is actually called Persian Coffee but it was wonderful. Close to an espresso, it was strong and warming.
Dolemeh Barg
We decided to start with the Dolemeh Barg. These grape leaves were stuffed with I'm not sure what, but rice for sure. The stuffing was maybe a little too soft and homogenized for my tastes. That doesn't mean that it's not supposed to be that way as I'm no expert. They were very tasty with a few pomegranate seeds for accent.
The first highlight of the meal for us (other than wonderful coffee) was amazing Fesenjoon Vegan. This was a dish of meaty mushrooms including King Oyster in a sauce of ground walnut and pomegranate. Delicious! Both of our mains came with wonderful fluffy basmati rice with saffron and side salads. 
Next was Kashak o Bademjoon Vegan which is basically a Persian eggplant dip but served as a main dish. Topped with some crispy onion, this was smokey and rich but not overly flavorful. If you're a big fan of eggplant, order this. 
We were thinking at first that Mharie had never had Baklava! Then we remembered that at the Greek Festival in Surrey, pre-pandemic, we had tried some.... nevertheless. This was amazing Baklava, so sweet and rich. Honey isn't vegan, strictly speaking but at least we are only stealing it and not killing animals. Honey is used in typically in the dessert. Our hostess assured me that they did not use honey in their Baklava, so I am going with that.
She was also good enough to show me a picture of the vegetarian ghee (which is actually vegan) that they use in most of their dishes which is pretty impressive. I had never heard of vegetarian ghee.
This is a beautiful little restaurant in a heritage building. The staff are lovely people and quite accommodating. The kitchen seems to be on top of things despite the fact that the place was very busy by the time we were finished. There are a few more vegan options on the menu for us to try in the future.
Food                     4 out of 5
Vegan options      4 out of 5
Comfort                4 1/2 out of 5
Service                 4 1/2 oout of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

Panago - Vegan Options

Only a few short months ago I wouldn't have considered reviewing pizza unless it came out of a woodburning oven...or featured Buffalo Mozzarella and San Marzano Tomatoes. Now, a vegan option has become a great thing to me, especially if it is close to home! Although Dominos used to be my lazy Friday go-to, it is Panago that has stepped up to the plant-based plate.

It's not hard to find anything in Aldergrove and the Panago is located on Fraser Highway just west of the Aldergrove Recreation Centre. You have a Panago close to you as well.
In addition to the plant-based pizza options, they have Impossible Nuggets. These were the Jerk Seasoned Nuggets and they were frankly not too bad. Not spicy, of course, and we're not huge nugget fans (especially the chicken ones as who knows what you're eating) but we added some hot sauce at home and they were salty and crispy. What more can you ask for?
We ordered 2 small pizzas. The first was a Plant-based Beyond Spicy Calabrese. The Daiya Cheese that they use is pretty good. It is melty enough and Panago was not cheap with it despite the fact that vegan cheese tends to be expensive. They used beyond sausage crumbles which were not a significant part of this but contributed a bit of savoury flavour. The peppers were the highlight although the pizza was not overly spicy.
Our favourite was the Plant-based Spicy Hawaiian. My wife is the Hawaiian pizza person but this was a pretty good pie, all things considered. I was not aware of the meat-free pepperoni but it apparently was there. 
We ordered this one with a thin crust which is the right choice. Between the cheese, pineapple and jalapenos (and decent tomato sauce), this was an acceptable cruelty-free pizza, that I would gladly make my local lazy Friday go-to. Panago has 2 or 3 more plant-based pizzas on their menu and a couple more flavours of nuggets (not to mention salads). 
Thanks, Panago!

Food                     3 out of 5
Vegan choices      3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                 NA
Service                 Right on time for pick up
Value                    3 1/2 out of 5

Basil Box - Vegan Options

I was told that Jinya Ramen Bar now has vegan options and sure enough, the menu highlights (rather than just an afterthought) 3 separate and delicious-looking bowls! With great excitement, we chose to try these before the Canucks game on Saturday. Upon arriving, we learned that no vegan ramen was available that day! Imagine if they had run out of pork broth and only had vegan ramen that day! Would there be a riot? Fortunately, most vegans support a more peaceful lifestyle, so we decided to look elsewhere for our dinner rather than make a fuss. I'm just saying that it might be worthwhile to phone ahead if you want plant-based ramen from Jinya.

Fortunately, Basil Box was not far away just south of Robson on Burrard. Admittedly, BB was not even on my radar but when I google "vegan near me" it came up as very vegan-friendly. 
The menu at Basil Box is short and sweet but with lots of options to customize. They offer a vegan soup but were out of it that day (some sort of carnivorous conspiracy?). So we ordered 3 of their Signature Boxes. The first was Thai Sweet and Sour Rice and we chose tofu as our protein. This was a very tasty bowl and there was pineapple, corn, cilantro and a few other toppings that made us happy.
Next up was the Pad Thai, again with tofu but oddly served with rice instead of noodles. I wasn't paying enough attention and it was delicious but it kind of contributed to our rice-tofu overdose on the day. Of course, pad Thai noodles are rice noodles anyway so really no harm/no foul. Lots of corn and peanuts on top so we're not complaining.
Finally, we had Garlic Rice Silog again with tofu. At this point, I began to suspect that our Basil Box has gone rogue. I don't see this offered on the website or even any of the take-out services. Also, I am stupid and should have known that a silog comes with egg (being a Filipino breakfast). Fortunately, my wife is not fanatically vegan and enjoyed her Filipino breakfast. The garlic rice was very good, btw.
In retrospect, I should have ordered a "build your own box" thing where I could have had noodles and maybe edamame to switch things up a bit. Of course, the Pad Thai was supposed to have noodles so, wtf? Despite our mixed result, BB provided us with tasty vegan eats whereas Jinya let us down. This is a comfy enough place with tables outside when the weather is decent. There are a few plant based choices and the folks working here were friendly. It would have been sadder than usual to watch our beloved Canucks lose again on empty stomachs....btw, when we were up 3-0 and started singing, "Bruce, there it is", I, pessimist that I am, remembered being up 3-0 in the recent past.
Food                      3 out of 5
Vegan choices       3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                 3 1/2 out of 5
Service                  3 1/2 out of 5
Value                     3 out of 5

About Us

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...