Afghan Horseman - Vegan Options

Being in one location and then another in Vancouver, for over 50 years, Afghan Horseman was the first Afghani restaurant in North America! This is a family-run business, the senior members of which are actually from Afghanistan. Welcome to Vancouver and sorry that it took me so long to get to AHR. Vancouver loves Middle Eastern food of all kinds and I love that it can be adapted to a plant-based lifestyle!

Their current and long-time location is just a stone's throw from Granville Island on West 2nd. We made a reservation and were given the choice of chairs and a table (or booth) or the traditional curl-up on pillows Afghani style for dinner. Given my now 4 months ago knee surgery we decided to stick with the chairs.
At AHR, they offer various platters including a Vegan Platter for Two which is why we were so excited to finally get here! They started us off with the requisite Hummus and wonderful Pita as well as a refreshing salad of cucumber, onion and tomato.
The main platter arrived with a little bit of a lot of things. We think that this could easily feed at least 3 people as we ended up taking quite a bit home with us. The centre piece was their Qabeli Palaw, Basmati rice baked with carrots, raisins and almond. Around this  was baked eggplant, stewed spinach a very nice dahl served with a housemade tomato sauce. Unexpected was the Pakawra which are batter deep fried potatoes served with a dip. We found all of this to be comforting and filling but didn't leave us feeling weighed down (well maybe if we had finished the platter).
As they make their Baklava with a simple syrup rather than honey, dessert was not to be missed. This was some fine Baklava and rounded out the meal beautifully.
Such a cozy, homy place for dinner. An interesting variety of hanging lamps and a ceiling meant to make you feel like you might be in a tent in the desert. The staff were very friendly and I was glad that I asked about their history.
Food                                     4 out of 5
Vegan Options                      3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                                4 1/2 out of 5
Service                                  4 out of 5
Value                                     4 out of 5


Noodle Arts - Vegan Options

Everyone has known about Noodle Arts but me! As you walk in the front door you notice posters showing our Noodle Arts Hostess' (and clearly owner/manager) appearances on CTV and with Richard Wollach on CKNW! Their Beef Noodle Soup is apparently famous as are their Dan-Dan Noodles. Still, better late than never, here we are.

Located on Robson between Bidwell and Denman, there is seating for a little more than a couple of dozen diners but I am sure they get quite busy at times. I'm trying to say it might be worth making a reservation. Obviously, they are all about the noodles here and specifically hand-pulled Lanzhou-style noodles.
We started with Green Onion Pankake which we always love but these were a little bit better than usual! I thought maybe it was a regional recipe that made it different but I was told that it has to do with the quality of the oil and the fact that they keep it quite fresh in the kitchen. The result is a lighter colour and taste. It was served with a tasty plum sauce. Very nice!
The Tangy Shredded Potato is marked as spicy but it was not (they may have adjusted for the white guy who told them about his bad Dan Dan noodle experience). We always enjoy this dish which proves that potatoes do not have to be cooked to death. As shreds or noodles, they are allowed to retain some firm texture and are very tasty. A little sesame oil and usually a little heat bring this dish alive.
Of course, the Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles were the main event and the heat was again reigned in for the white guy (to be honest, I like a little heat but I also need to be able to take a shower after!). We ordered this with blade-cut noodles which admittedly, you can't see in the photo. These are quite substantial noodles but so tender and absorbant of the flavours around them. They are worth the price of admittance all by themselves. Along with lots of greens were peanuts, Szechuan peppercorns and sesame oil. Wonderful!
Next up were the Noodles with Chilli Oil as we wanted to try a different type of noodles. Our hostess recommended the wider noodles to go with this and as far as we could tell it was good advice. More greens, peanuts, mild chilli oil and more delicious housemade noodles made this another wonderful dish.
There are 4 desserts on the menu at Noodle Arts and all of them are vegan! Unfortunately, they didn't have the Pear Soup so our hostess recommended the Red Bean Pancake. I tried to pose it to show the filling as best as I could. It was tasty, crispy and very sweet as red bean paste usually is. It is a little rare to see even one vegan dessert so having some choice is very nice!
This is a nice little restaurant with some lanterns and art that makes it feel a little exotic. Our hostess was very nice and regularly topped up our Chrysanthemum tea. It is not cheap nor would I expect it to be. Hand-made noodles are pretty special. There are a few more vegan dishes to try and I am just a fan of any place that indicates vegan on the menu and understands the concept. 
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

Veg Out Plant-Based Burgers and Shakes - Vegan Food Truck

We first visited Veg Out a couple of years ago during Veganuary and loved the place (OK. Truck). In the time since, we have seen them around a couple of times but they always had a one-hour lineup attached to them. This time we knew they were setting up at Vegan Supply in White Rock. Being the middle of nowhere and on a dreary day, we thought if we got there early, there would be a limited number of hungry vegans lined up ahead of us!

We showed little imagination in ordering almost the same thing as we ordered last time (although, if it ain't broke!). We placed our order, picked up our food (I was first in line!) and made our way to a lovely park in White Rock to consume said order!
We started with Veg Out's perfect wings with sweet and spicy sauce. The 'skin' on these things is uncanny and I had to ask if it was real chicken skin (I did not ask that as I didn't need to, but you might need to) while the meat was also tasty. It's all about the sauce in reality, isn't it? I am glad that faux meat never really tastes completely like dead animal. 
I used to complain that people called poutine Canada's national dish but as a vegan side, it carries some weight. The Buffalo Chicken Poutine provides a little bit of so many delectable things!. Buffalo sauce, fried chicken, ranch, crispy fires and uncountable calories. Not for every day but certainly delicious.
Last time, we ordered the Vegonator which was insane but this time, they had a Korean Burger special. It was a chicken burger but with assorted Koreanish condiments and toppings. All on an excellent bun but still messy enough that it was necessary to assume a stance that would not allow you to drip sauce all over yourself. Excellent!
Finally another Veg Out amazing milkshake. You will definitely have to try one for yourself and I challenge you to tell the difference between this and any dairy milkshake.
I usually like to post a picture of the dining room when I blog about a place. Crescent Park is very nice and they have these covered picnic areas. I only wonder how all of the picnic table seats could be soaked when there is a roof over them? I guess that I won't hold that over Veg Out.
Food                         4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options          5 out of 5
Comfort                     NA
Service                      5 out of 5
Value                         4 1/2 out of 5

Testing Plant-Based Cheddar - One Of These Doesn't Belong!

Doing our small part to minimize the amount of animal exploitation and downright animal torture in the world, we have given up animal products including cheese. It's not because I don't like cheese and admittedly giving it up was the greatest challenge to my becoming vegan. I had to ask whether a few minutes of my own pleasure justified the unnatural life and torment forced upon a dairy cow. I'm not posting any animal abuse videos on this blog so don't worry but you can find them easily enough, if you dare. 

Instead, I'm going to review a few plant-based cheeses (cheezes?) which are improving all the time. A few months ago I posted on Instagram about Violife, Vitalite and Daiyo cheese shreds which I had tried side by side, testing for their meltiness as well as flavour. This time I am expanding the test and posting here with a little more detail.

Unfortunately, during my testing and checking the ingredients and learned that one of these cheeses contains dairy by-products and is therefore not vegan! Stay tuned. Now for 3 pretty boring and nearly identical phots with a lot of statistics beneath them! Are you still with me?
The one thing about plant-based cheese is that it is a little challenging to get it nicely melted. We have been served a vegan burger and cheese where the cook clearly assumed that the heat of the burger would melt the slice but it arrived as nothing but a slightly floppy piece of plastic...not impressive. We even tried making nachos under the broiler last night and the result was disappointing. The best way to melt vegan cheese is with a cover and we did this in the microwave oven. It took 20 to 25 seconds depending on the brand. I started with the 2 cheeses I was most impressed with last time around. While both of these cheses were nicely melty and tasted pretty good if not overly cheddary, the Vitalite at IGA grocery store was only $2.50 per 100g making it the least expensive of all 6. There was no indication that it was a sale price. The Violife was a little pricier at regular price at $3.39 per 100 grams but these all go on sale regularly. 
I was deeply disappointed to learn that my stand-by vegan cheese, Okanagon's Soy Co.Cheddar Flavoured Loaf is not vegan at all! The blame is on me for never reading the actual ingredients but I was deeply suckered by the lactose-free, soya and loaf (who calls cheese a loaf?) details...Fuck! This "loaf" contains casein, a dairy by-product which provides the dairy industry with profits making me a supporter of this terrible thing. If you are a vegan, DON'T BUY THIS! I hate being stupid. Do I seem a little pissy about this?  It may now seem anticlimactic but the Chao Creamery Cheese is pretty damn good. It is also quite expensive at $4.50 per 100g (at least at Save-on).
Daiya has recently updated its formula and now uses "Oat Cream" which seems to work pretty well. While previously, it was my least favourite of my big 3 (it seemed a little too waxy) it is now my favourite and is very melty and probably the most cheddary. A loud shout-out goes to BabyBel which is a smooth melting very rich cheese. The dairy version is already expensive, while the vegan version is roughly  20% more expensive. Still, as a treat (and wasn't BabyBel always a treat), you could do worse!

The Hestia Veggie - Vegan / Vegetarian Restaurant

This is another one of those places I discovered just by zeroing in on an area on Google Maps and searching "vegan". It was good timing as Hestia has just opened recently. I was quite excited when I looked at their menu as they have a lot of creative ingredients and dishes, some of which I had never seen before. My goal was to get there and review this place before the Vegan Twosome (search for their YouTube channel) but that was not to be....damn! While Hestia is described as a Vietnamese restaurant, there are dishes from all over East and Southeast Asia and a couple of Italian dishes thrown in! Do note that the Carbonara and Bolognese are vegetarian and not vegan.

Located on Davie Street between Thurlow and Bute. They are open from 11 every day at the moment until 8 or 9 in the evening.
We started with a Papaya Seagrapes Salad. We had never tried the tiny sour seagrapes before but they fit into this refreshing salad beautifully. The dressing and papaya were crisp and a little tart while there was what appeared to be jerky (vegan chicken) adding some texture and sweetness. It was all highlighted by mint and peanuts. A beautiful salad.
Carnivores (and former carnivores) are probably familiar with pork floss (I remember it from Hon's menu) but I had never heard of soy floss. The tofu was nicely crispy and the topping was very garlicky. The soy floss added an interesting texture. A nice creative variation on a pretty ubiquitous dish.
The Wok Fried Green Beans were also impressive. We loved the vegan ground meat which added a nice salty note.
There are 3 clay pot dishes on the menu. The cordyceps dish kind of freaked me out as I had Googled the cordyceps and then kind of psyched myself out of trying them. Are these mushrooms fucking carnivores?  The second dish is more tofu which we already had but the third is the Eggplant Claypot. This was a spectacular dish! It was rich and saucy with deeply braised eggplant, onions, basil, peanuts...and a secret sauce! There was vegan chicken which had me asking myself if I was actually eating meat. (I wasn't). Each claypot is served with rice which you kind of need with this rich dish.
We gave it to ordering something not so off the beaten track in the Curry Laksa (we love laksa).  It was coconutty (could have been a little more so), a little spicy and full of kale noodles, veggies and one impressive vegan shrimp! The shrimp had pretty good texture and a mildly shrimpy taste. Lots of tofu and mushrooms, we were impressed!
This is a comfortable enough place with a fair bit of seating. Management and servers were friendly and efficient. They wanted our opinions which I would expect from a new restaurant. They are probably still solidifying their long-term menu. There are more interesting items on the menu that we would like to try so we will be back!
Food                          5 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

Simon Fraser University Dining Commons - Vegan Options

I'm not 100% sure how I became aware of SFU Dining Commons. Probably from noodling around on Google Maps. Anyway, it became apparent that there were many vegan options available for the students (reinspires my hope for the future of the planet) and others...24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

We narrowly escaped getting a parking ticket but be aware that some parking company is prowling. I did not see any signage or even a way to pay for parking so either I am stupid (distinctly possible) or this is a way that they provide some extra financing for the university. The entrance to the Dining Commons is down the stars to the right. It took a minute or two to figure that out.
This place is more than a little beautiful lots of with natural light and some lovely lighting fixtures (for the other side of the 24 hours a day). There are all kinds of places where you can consume your consumables from community tables to booths, upstairs and down.  There are 10 stations each with
cooks either topping up or preparing dishes for the buffet-style stations. We did a quick scout around and decided to give some of the vegan dishes a try.
There is a lot of variety. We tried a barley salad (which was actually a little over-salty), a pulled jackfruit bowl and some Szchezuan stir-fried vegetables.
We also tried a Korean-style tofu thing, some roasted beets and parsnips and a couple of sushi rolls.
And a vegan standby (make sure there's no fish sauce), seaweed salad. I think I was able to cover all my food groups in one meal!. Everything was tasty but we found that the spicy things were not overly spicy, probably to suit all kinds of palates. There are desserts and beverages included in your meal price but the vegan dessert options were not exciting.
Much of the food is prepared and set up for serving yourself while other items are prepared to order like our jackfruit bowl. And there is no hardship inflicted on the carnivores. In fact, while all this vegan food at a university cafeteria gave me a feeling of optimism, I noticed, anytime I was in line, that the people in front of me were ordering pulled pork or hamburger or whatever. Too bad. I had hoped to see more of the 'Greta effect'.At least the university makes cruelty-free dining possible. 
We paid $22.79 each for our lunch (dinner is the same) but there are meal plans available for the students. Anyone living on campus can be well nourished and not have to exist on Mr. Noodles. Well done SFU. This is an excellent concept and all the plant-based options may nudge the next generation in the right direction diet-wise.
Food                              3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options               4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                           4 out of 5
Value                              4 out of 5


Sweet Revenge Bakery & Cafe, Langley - Vegan Options

When I first visited SRB almost a year ago, I mentioned that parking is a problem. That was an understatement. If you learn nothing else from this post, pay attention to how to park here. Willowbrook area traffic is a nightmare on Saturday (I can't comment on the rest of the week) so one wrong turn enters you into a maelstrom. If you get yourself to the west side of the bakery, you will find no parking in the building parking lot (I hope they got a good lease deal as all the other first-floor businesses have designated parking spots and they don't). There will be no street parking on 195a and you will end up with a challenge similar to a spawning salmon trying to get back. Instead, from the start, go north from 64 Avenue on 196 Street, and park in the gravel parking lot on the west side of the road, which is within walking distance. Do not veer from these instructions and you will prosper!

If you didn't catch that, Sweet Revenge Bakery is located at the corner of 64 Avenue and 196th Street in Langley. If you are a real expert on our blog, you will notice that I am using the same photo (forgot to take an outside photo this time) as the last time that I posted about this place.
We started with a pour over which was rich and amazing. They noted when I ordered that we had decided to share a coffee and were kind enough to bring us 2 cups. That is what I consider top notch service and just human kindness!
You may have seen this before. They make an outstanding breakfast sandwich and I wanted Mharie to try it hot out of the kitchen. Excellent croissant, tofu egg which was nicely eggy (a little black salt might be the secret), mushroom bacon and some nice melty cheese. A cruelty-free way to start your day!
A soy curls Bulgogi Philly Cheesesteak is a lot to fit into a name but this was another homerun. The bread was great of course (this being a bakery) but the marinated soy curls were very savoury and 'meaty'. With vegan Mozza and a few grilled veggies, you've got a pretty impressive sandwich.
My wife is a croissant fan and she already knew that an Almond Croissant was waiting for her. This one did not disappoint. They have a way with vegan croissants here. The almonds and powdered sugar are just bonuses.
I forget what kind of cupcake this is (I've got to start writing stuff down) but vegan with pumpkin seeds and icing and it was great. They have all kinds of vegan baked goods here and the items are clearly marked as such. There are vegan donuts also so I had to avert my eyes or end up with a thousand more calories to go.
This is a cozy little place with seating for 14 or so and a couple of tables outside as well. Very friendly and on-top-of -it staff as well. Yup! We like this place!
Food                                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options                          4 out of 5
Comfort                                     4 out of 5
Service                                      5 out of 5
Value                                         4 out of 5


The Templeton - Vegan Options

Considering that I have been a resident of the Lower Mainland for the better part of 60 years , it is shocking to note that I have only finally eaten at The Templeton last weekend!

The Templeton has been a diner (albeit under different names and ownership) since 1934. It is very popular with the locals and getting a seat is always challenging but worth the wait. It is one of those places you might expect to see on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives complete with great food and service. They also have quite a few vegan items on their menu!
Being as it was in the a.m. on Saturday, breakfast still seemed in order so we decided to try the Vegan Tofu Scramble with Tex Mex seasoning. It came with a side of vegan bacon and rosemary-fried potatoes. The scramble was nicely eggy while the bacon was better than anything that I have tried to make at home (an ongoing quest). There was a side of sourdough toast and vegan butter as well. Nice!
Diners scream Grilled Cheese and the vegan cheese on this one was melty and rich. We ordered it with the vegan Poutine on the side. The gravy was meaty and amazing and Mharie rates it as the best that we have had!
Finally, we got the Vegan Burger with Provolone. We ordered a salad on the side rather than fries, just to give ourselves the impression that we were trying to eat healthy. Actually, the raspberry something dressing on the salad was quite good! I am under the impression that the patty on the burger was house-made but all I know for sure is that it was not Beyond or Impossible. The whole burger was quite impressive including the brioche bun.
There are even a few more vegan items on the menu which is great. Service was also pretty impressive. We loved the old table top jukeboxes but we were kind of glad they didn't work. If they did, I would have been tempted to play, " What's  New Pussycat" over and over.
Food                             4 out of 5
Vegan Options              3 1/2 pit of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                          5 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...