Whisk Matcha Café/Level V Bakery - Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival - Vegan Café

I'm not sure how I was unaware that Level V was a completely vegan cafe and bakery. I did see that Whisk Matcha Cafe was featuring a vegan hot chocolate for the festival so off we went.

Located at Kingsway and Main, this is a really terrible place for parking. Do yourself a favour and be prepared to park a ways away and walk (your legs aren't broken) or use transit.
The Kyoto Snow, their Hot Chocolate Festival offering was very much a thing of beauty! White chocolate, matcha soy latte, and black sesame paste in a white chocolate rimmed cup with a mini matcha cream puff on the side! Oh my god, this was a heroic effort and the result is a showstopper not to be missed. It is only available until Jan 31 so don't wait too long. We will be back to try their second offering for the first 2 weeks of February.
As mentioned, I did not realize that this is an all-vegan bakery and cafe and so we decided to try a couple of menu items including an Almond Croissant (my wife's favourite) and a pepperoni cheese bun! Both of these were amazing!
They have some lunch items as well. I usually avoid avocados as I want to avoid raising Piers Morgan's ire (such an idiot) and frankly, they are not the most environmentally friendly. This was kind of a rushed decision and there are other better vegan lunch choices but anyway... This was really good toast and the vegan cheese was maybe the best we've tried (smoked gouda style?).
This is a bright and airy place but without a lot of seating. The staff were friendly and everything was efficiently prepared and delivered to our table. We will be back to try their next featured hot chocolate and try some more baked items (and maybe vegan ice cream)!
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

Kasama Chocolates - Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival - Vegan Options

Chocolate can be an environmental and ethical disaster when produced by "big chocolate" (sorry to coin an expression if no one else has yet, but like other commodities, when giant companies get involved, greed often wins out over everything). On the other hand, if it is produced by small and connected groups of people, it can be part of an environmentally friendly and ethical industry. The cacao trees themselves are shade trees and in the Philippines are generally grown in companionship with other crops like bananas or coconuts and so provide an environmentally friendly crop. Unfortunately, we usually hear about the Amazon or African rainforests being cut down to produce a mono-crop, which does not need to be the case. Discussion of the treatment of the farm workers in those mono-crop situations is another equally important issue for another time.

Within a few days, I heard Richard Wolacks's interview with Vince (one of 4 partners at Kasama Chocolates and the Philippine connection that got their enterprise started) on the Vanfoodster podcast and an interview with Rowan Jacobsen about the ethics of chocolate on the podcast Climavores. Armed with all that newfound and dangerous knowledge, I was thrilled to see that Kasama would be participating in the Greater Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival and that their offerings would be vegan! I love it when a plan comes together and this wasn't even a plan!

Kasama is located at the east end of Granville Island (near the G.I. Hotel) and we went on Sunday morning, intent on learning about their product and tasting their hot chocolate offerings.
It is clear that Kasama has a base of enthusiastic fans as many opinions were offered as we browsed and tried the Continents Dark Chocolate, a mixture of chocolates from 3 continents. On the side were samples of each of the 3 chocolates. We are not any more chocolate experts than we are wine experts, but this drink was complex and rich. According to the description, we should have been sensing pears and berries but I was too busy sighing deeply to pick that up.
The Brazo de Mercedes is purple thanks to ube, (purple yam) but included other Filipino ingredients such as pandan (young coconut) and calamansi meringue. Served with an Ube Shortbread Cookie (they were good enough to let me know that the cookie was not vegan) it was again a warming experience that made us very happy.
This is where the opinions of the regulars became useful as everyone declared the Durian White Chocolate to be their favourite. They had sold out previously but Vince had been working on a batch in the back as we were arriving! He gave us a taste which we loved, and we waited 5 minutes for him to start wrapping them up! Unfortunately, I let up on the gas pedal just for a moment and forgot to check the ingredients. The Durian W.C. is not vegan even though the other dark chocolate bars that we bought are vegan. I am not afraid of burning in hell for eating dairy when tasting the sample but I will pass the rest of the bar along to someone who can appreciate it and has no objection to dairy. The other 2 bars are amazing b.t.w. I am thrilled by the taste of espresso in the Kape Espresso bar.
Vince was kind enough also, to take a few minutes to talk to us about the operation and he and my wife compared family farms in the Philippines. Could growing ube and cacao in the Philippines become our retirement project someday?
The front area of Kasama is hung with pictures of farming cacao in the Philippines, among other things and displays and descriptions of their exceptional product. There are no tables and this is not meant to be an eatery. There are a few chairs and we did drink our hot chocolate while talking and browsing. You need to look Kasama up if you are a chocoholic for sure and if you are interested in the ethical treatment of the people that bring the product to this market.
Food                          5 out of 5
Vegan Options          4 out of 5
Value                         5 out of 5

Momo Joy - Vegan Take Out

We first met Momo Joy at the Dumpling Festival in Coquitlam where they were the only plant based vendor. We were not stunned by their product at the time which, due to the limited set up, were simply steamed and served with a bit of sauce, but we appreciated their potential.

Now they are set up at Core Kitchen in Langley where we have found some other tasty food vendors in the past. It is not a luxurious location as you can see from the photo above but I think more people order delivery than takeout as we did.
Of course, momo are the main event at Momo Joy! They have several different kinds and we chose the Green Dumplings with spinach, onion and vegan cheese. Momo tend to be more hearty than the delicate Chinese style dumplings that we are used to but these slightly chewy dumplings are great when they have a nice sear on them. 
The nice thing is that MJ now have several other items on their menu beyond the dumplings including sides such as fried rice or noodles, which makes them more of a one stop shopping outlet. We decided to start with some spring rolls which were crispy and tasty.
We also ordered some Manchurian Soy Balls which were also pretty good. We were recently introduced to Soya Chaap an ingredient used in Indian Cooking and we think that's is what this is. The Manchurian sauce is never as exotic as it sounds to me. Its not spicy or anything but it is a good all round flavour and we actually made some rice to go with it. With a decent "meaty" texture, we liked this.
Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, they have a couple of burgers on their menu. This one was the Veg Burger which featured an Indian style of potato and pea patty that we have tried before. We like it as it pairs a softer than meat almost mashed potato feel with the usual burger ingredients of vegan cheese, pickle, tomato etc., with a pretty good bun. It's a good and interesting alternative to the usual cruelty laden thing that you might get at a fast food joint. The fries are the one thing that we take issue with. They were not very good.
Overall, we were pretty content with our order from Momo Joy. They provide a good delivery/take out option for vegan food in Langley. I always enjoy when I can order anything off the menu without quizzing people about the ingredients!
Food                     3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options      5 out of 5
Comfort                NA
Service                 4 out of 5 (on time)
Value                    4 out of 5

Pagliacci's, Victoria - Vegan Options

As we were walking back to our hotel from Burger Crush, we walked past Pagliacci. I did not take much notice as Italian restaurants seem to be the most carnivorous of all (or at least dairy-heavy), but then I thought, we're here...why not take a peek? To my surprise, there was a whole vegan section on the menu posted outside the restaurant! So, despite the fact that they do not take reservations and that this is a touristy downtown place, we decided to return for dinner!

This is a pretty cool and noisy, touristy area in the evening and we had to wait maybe 30 minutes to get a table (20 outside, 10 inside). It was not warm outside but we were prepared for it.
This is a pasta place and sure enough, they used what I assume is Beyond Sausage and cranked out some decent dishes but didn't try too hard on the cheese part. "Cheez" is what separates the men from the boys (or whatever expression is more politically correct) when it comes to vegan pizza and pasta etc.
We were assured that there is only one kind of focaccia and it is vegan. It was pretty tasty and not as huge as the photo seems to indicate (i was zoomed in a bit too much). It was tasty enough and we ate it all!
So I had a little trouble finding a picture of the actual menu that we ordered from but I am sure that this is The Big Easy Pasta. Not a profoundly imaginative dish but pretty tasty just the same. Sausage, spicy marinara, bell pepper and mushrooms are the main ingredients.
This dish, called The Vegan Broker, impressed us a little more. With a little bit of an Asian flavour profile, it came with a coconut curry sauce, mango chutney and cashews, all on fettuccini with mushrooms! This dish wouldn't necessarily have made Toscanini a convert (look him up. there is a clever connection there!) but we were happy to have some options and there are other dishes here to try as well.
This is a noisy, crowded fun place and we liked being here. Our server was great! If they tried a little harder on the cheese, I think that they could have a vegan following! And really, it's not that hard these days to find "cheez". If you're going to serve Asian-style pasta, you don't have to use Parmigiano Reggiano, do you? No one will really notice! Still, nice job folks!
Food                          4 out of 5
Vegan options            4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5

Burger Crush, Victoria - Vegan Options

From Nanaimo, we made the trek to Victoria on Thursday. We stopped at the Malahat Skywalk just south of Duncan (we have never been before) and enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the inclement weather.

We were quite excited to go to Burger Crush in Victoria and look forward to the company coming to Vancouver soon (actually they've already arrived).
Located on Fort Street just west of Blanshard, BC is a smallish restaurant with a basic burger menu that is roughly 50% vegan! In fact, they may even be leaning further towards the vegan side, featuring vegan nuggets without an omnivorous equivalent!
Of course, we ordered their famous (or soon to be famous?) Vegan Cheeseburger! Everything about this burger made us happy. The patty, which is housemade and not a Beyond or Impossible thing, was quite meaty (that's an ironic adjective I know, but you get it). The cheese and sauces were likewise spot on and even the bun was quite good. No reason in the world to order beef here!
The aforementioned Vegan Nuggets, were straight up tofu and were crispy and tasty. Served with Crush Sauce which makes a regular appearance on the BC menu.
The Crush Fries which were a delicious rich mess, were the only menu item on the menu which required an extra $1.50 (we can live with that) to be ordered vegan. The fried onions added a great deal to this particular experience. Another special treat!
And finally, this was a spectacular Strawberry Milkshake. This could not be confused with a smoothie. Again, the coconut based ice cream is housemade and it made a wonderful thick and tasty milkshake. Don't miss out on this.
There are a couple of tables and a few wall bar stools but clearly most of their business is take out. There are no heat lamps that I could see and our food was clearly freshly made. The staff were friendly and service as quick considering that food wasn't waiting precooked. We are already enamored of this place and look forward to visiting their Vancouver outlet!
Food                        4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options         4 1/2 out of 5
Service                    4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                   3 1/2 our of 5
Value                       4 1/2 out of 5

Gabriel's Gourmet Café, Nanaimo - Vegan Options

From Courtenay, we took the main highway to Nanaimo. Of course, the coastal road is more scenic but we have been that way quite a few times. In this case, time was the limiting factor but it was still almost dark by the time we arrived at our motel. The days may be getting longer again, but they haven't come that far!

I don't know if they call it Old Town or what but Gabriel's Cafe is on Commercial Street near Museum Way in what I would call the touristy part of town. Anyway, we chose it for dinner as there are some impressive vegan options on the menu.
We started with one of the day's specials. This was a Curry, Kale and Potato Soup served with Bread and Kale Butter! The soup was straight-up amazing. It was rich and coconutty with a touch of curry and some chunky potato. This should be on their regular menu for sure!
Our server helped me to reel in my usual over-ordering by suggesting a half order of their Tunesian Tagine. It was a flavourful bowl of Middle Eastern flavourings with chickpeas, tomatoes, potato, avocado, and tofu over brown rice. You have rice options when you order, btw. Tasty and satisfying!
Finally, we had the Kimchi Salad Bowl. There were all kinds of tasty, healthy things in this bowl but roasted beets and a sesame ginger dressing really stood out. The kimchi was nice also. Never take for granted that kimchi is vegan. There is usually some kind of fish sauce or anchovies thrown in but not this time!
Comfy and warm while it was cold outside, we enjoyed being at Gabriel's. Service was friendly and the kitchen seemed on top of things, mind you they weren't overly busy when we were there. One thing that I really appreciate is that there is a "vegan" tab on their online menu. It is so much easier when there is some indication of what is suitable for us without having to ask a lot of annoying questions. We would definitely be regulars here is this was our home base.
Food                             4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options              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

Mudsharks Coffee Bar, Courtenay - Vegan Options

Wednesday just before noon, we set sail for Comox aboard the Salish Orca. I am glad that we have ways of naming our vessels other than Queen of this or that.

This class of ferry is run by natural gas with diesel backup which is maybe a tiny step forward for the environment. I assume that we are a few years away from full electric but that would be a worthy goal!
I was very excited about a fully plant based restaurant in Courtenay called Rawthentic! There was a little bit of conflicting info on the internet (big surprise) but Google assured us that it was open until 6 or whatever, so we rushed right over! Nope...closed...and not just for the day.
Fortunately, Courtenay offered us a very good back up plan.
Mudshark Coffee, just a short walk away from the former location of Rawthentic, offered an impressive menu of plant based menu items including mains, baked goods and smoothies!
We happily lined up in this busy place, placed our order and it was soon delivered to our table. We started with the Dal Soup, a concoction of lentils with mild Indian spices and recommended by our counter person. It was an excellent recommendation as the soup was rich and warming!
Not the first time that we have had vegan Chili but this was quite good. Again, a good choice for a cool day.
The most unique item on the vegan menu was the carrot lox. We've experienced the carrot to salmon thing before and this was not bad. It was served on a bagel with vegan cream cheese and a crunchy side salad. Very nice.
There was more veggie chili with our Mexican Bowl. Served  with Basmati rice and all the stuff you'd expect for a Mexican bowl, it was also decent.
This was really a nice community kind of place and we were happy to find it. Service was cheerful and our food arrived pretty quickly. After fueling up, we pushed on to Nanaimo.
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                    

Thaidal Zone and Base Camp Coffee, Powell River - Vegan Options

Our travel from Sechelt to Powell River on Tuesday was punctuated by a stop in the lovely community of Madeira Park (and a long wait at the ferry terminal later). After a slow cruise along the winding community roads with views of the harbor from many angles we ended up at the Madeira Park Wharf.

It was not a sunny day but again compared to last week's snow and ice, we were content. We ended up waiting about 90 minutes for the Earl's Bay to Saltery Cove ferry due to a failure to check schedules but we were not in a huge rush! We arrived in Powell River in the early pm and were totally impressed with the clean little seemingly well organized town that we found with well kept houses and beautiful lawns.
Again, it was a little challenging to find a plant based meal but not because it was Boxing Day and things were closed. There just seems to be a little less available in Powell River. We did find Thaidal Zone (within a stones throw of the ferry terminal) which offered quite a few vegan friendly dishes.
We started with some Spring Rolls. They came very hot and crispy and with a spicy Thai chili sauce which shouldn't surprise anyone. They were very tasty!
We ordered Vegetarian Pad Thai after confirming that it was, in fact, vegan. A little heat (could have had more) but very tasty with rich tamarind sauce flavoring the noodles. Some nicely crisp vegetables rounded out the dish and we were happy.
I can't read or enlarge the web site menu but to the best of my recollection this was the unfortunately named Prik King Tofu. Green Beans, peppers and tofu in a coconut curry sauce. We ordered some steamed rice (you've seen that before) and were so satisfied with out meal that we took home a couple of containers of left overs.
Pleasantly bright, airy and comfortable, Thaidal Zone was quite busy at 3 in the afternoon. I overheard at least 2 people ordering to eat in and to go later as well. I think we may have stumbled on the place to eat in Powell River for omnivores and vegans! Very nice folks as well.
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 1/2 out of 5

Only 4 ferries per day leave Powell River for Comox and again, there were no reservations available. The second ferry leaves at 11:50 but unfortunately, I got it into my head that it left at 10:50. Happily, the Powell River waterfront is pleasant and we spent some time walking and enjoying it on Wednesday morning.
On Marine Avenue, just nearby, we found (OK. I knew about it), Base Camp Coffee which had quite a bit to offer the hungry vegan.
We had a couple of very good coffees and a couple of treats while enjoying the very homey atmosphere.
This was a very rich brownie type thing but they had me at garbanzo beans! Yes, main ingredient is chick peas which somehow rendered it rich and chocolatey and delicious! Don't worry. It does not taste anything like hummus.
And another wonderful coconut, chocolate macaroon kind of thing. Someone is going to get fat this week!
I don't post a lot of bathroom pictures but you have to love this!
Decorated with local art (for sale) and run by very pleasant people, I could definitely make a pest of myself hanging out at this place. They have a couple of vegan lunch options as well.
Food                     4 out of 5
Vegan Options     3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                4 1/2 out of 5
Service                 4 1/2 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

And finally, we were off to Comox.


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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...