Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Sausage Threatens Vegan Pizza Party

I’d like to thank everyone on behalf of the NCVA for coming out to last Tuesday’s “pizza party” meetup at La Dolce Vita

I think we were just shy of twenty people – about evenly divided between old friends and newcomers.

Neil and I had the pleasure of sitting beside Katie Gibbs and her partner, Dave Bagler. Dave is probably the funniest person I have ever met and, with Neil’s permission, I have declared him my new best friend.

He’s also the Ontario Green Party’s Candidate for Ottawa-Vanier…I’d almost consider moving there just so I could vote for him if the area weren’t so riddled with crime and heavy metal contamination (Now don’t go freaking out over that comment Vanierians…resorting to violence will only entrench the stereotype, haw haw).

But where was I?  Oh yes, pizza party…

The ravenous crowd went through four bags of Daiya and untold packages of Yves veggie pepperoni, which were brought in specially for our event. The general consensus was that the pizza was exceptional. Mine certainly was – I got the “Toscana” with olives and artichokes.

My Toscana
Random Za

Homemade cupcakes were provided for dessert. The tiramisu ones were chosen to reflect the Italian theme of the evening. The black forest ones were mainly backup to appease that small but vociferous portion of the population that objects to food soaked in booze (??).

There was one drawback to the evening. It involved Neil and his calzone, from which greyish chunks of sausage tumbled mid-meal. Neil handled the situation calmly, and the wait staff were very apologetic. And the mishap actually had the benefit of reaffirming Katie and Dave’s previously bitterly lamented decision to order pizza instead of calzones.

Fake pepperoni on top, but real sausage lurking inside...ew

So, gross as it was, the sausage by no means spoiled the evening. I wouldn’t even have mentioned it but for the valuable lesson the tale holds for all vegans: always be very specific when placing an order in a non-vegan restaurant and don’t be afraid to write the chef a note. Our sausage mishap was apparently the result of the chef thinking Neil wanted veggie pepperoni “in addition to” rather than “instead of” sausage in his calzone.

So thanks again to everyone for coming out ad for being so forgiving of the fact that I forgot all of the dates of our future events. And a big bravo to all the subsequent friend-making that occurred on facebook! After all, meeting like-minded people is what these events are about 🙂

Last-minute silent auction addition: A Vitamix!

For many health food lovers, especially raw foodists, a good blender is an absolute kitchen necessity.  One of the best types out there is the Vitamix. It also doesn’t come cheap. The retail value for one of these puppies is somewhere between $500-700.

So the NCVA was absolutely thrilled when we learned that Vitamix is going to contribute a black Vitamix 5200 to the Veg Fest silent auction. It is the single highest value item we’ve ever had contributed!   The silent auction was already pretty awesome, and it just got better.

Unfortunately the blender won’t be at Veg Fest, however Vitamix has offered to ship the blender to the lucky highest bidder once the NCVA has received payment.

Don’t miss this opportunity- there may be a deal waiting, and at the very least, you know that the funds are going to a good cause!

For more information on Vitamix blenders, visit the company Web site.

These take the (Thimble)Cake

By Erin

Today is my birthday, but since Neil went to such incredible lengths on my belated Valentine’s Day breakfast, I thought I’d spare him having to make me a birthday cake.

My fruity V-day breakfast - dig the bee!

I suggested that we instead get a few cupcakes from the new cupcake place on Bank Street – rumored to have several clearly marked vegan varieties daily.

So we suited up the dogs and off we went.

I’d already checked Thimble Cakes out online, so I wasn’t surprised by the loveliness of the shop itself. It really is a fantastic space, whose high ceilings and French decor give it the air of a Parisian loft owned by someone far more stylish than me.

The staff were vey friendly, so much so that I can even forgive one fellow’s tittering assertion that my dogs are “weird looking.”

Whadaya mean "weird looking"?

I was a bit disappointed that the vegan flavours of the day were not more exotic. Chocolate, Vanilla, Banana Vanilla and Chocolate Coconut. I cast a sad eye on the rather more interesting non-vegan offerings like Strawberry Cheesecake. There were a couple of other vegan ones, but they were gluten and sugar free, respectively, which caused me to scowl so hard that I think I unnerved my server a bit. She did come to their defense – but cautiously, possibly fearing I’d make a scene.

So I guess there’s not much else to do now but tell you how the cupcakes were.

They were good. They were really good. In fact, apart from the crunchy sprinkles, which detract from the texture of a cupcake more than they add to its appearance, they were pretty much perfect.

And that’s saying a lot given how fully prepared I was to utterly trash them out of loyalty to Auntie Loo.

But alas, I cannot. The new kid on the block is a true contender for the prize of best vegan cupcake in town.

Not that I’d advise Auntie Loo to start shaking in her saddle shoes, of course…but I smell a cupcake war in the air, and it does smell fine.

Soak up the Sun at Vitae-Mine

By Erin

Neil picks his sammich toppings

When Neil and I walked into Vitae-Mine,
a build-your-own sandwich and salad bar in the heart of downtown Ottawa, I felt almost like I was walking onto a beach boardwalk in Miami. The palette is pure citrus, and the high ceilings and bright lights give the impression of a clear, sunny sky.

The feeling was entrenched as we perused the colourful display of fresh sandwich and salad fixings and were greeted by one of the near gleeful “sandwich fabricators.”

 
My lunch was prepared by owner Marc, whose previous gig at a coffee shop had him weighing in at 240 pounds, but whose year and a half at Vitae-Mine have whittled him into a svelte stunner whose teeth are apparently polished daily by angels.

I had a spinach salad with miso ginger dressing and marinated tofu, as well as a “booty shaker” smoothie. Neil had a veganized sumo tofu sandwich, a “bossa nova” smoothie and a B-goods cookie.

Now, you know how I feel about salads that are not wrapped in rice paper or bread or pizza, but I thought that I really should try the salad since it was sort of Vitae-mine “in the raw.” If the dressing was bland, if the greens were limp, if the tofu was mushy, there’d be no hiding it.

I’m pleased to report that none of these deficiencies were evident. The dressing was interesting – spicy, which was unusual and neat. The tofu was tasty and had that neither too-soft-nor-too-leathery texture that is surprisingly hard to achieve. The spinach was also unusually good – noticeably less bitter then most of the stuff I’ve bought of late.

Neil’s meal was even better – it was basically the same thing I had, only piled upon a crusty (in the good way) and seedy (also in the good way) roll.

My smoothie beat out Neil’s, though. The booty shaker was far more flavourful than the bossa nova, and earned Marc a lecture by me on the merits of stevia extract.

On the whole then, Vitae-Mine is a great place for the sort of veg*n lunch which is hearty enough to be satisfying, while healthy enough to entitle you to something smothered in Daiya for dinner.

I should note that Vitae-Mine’s menu is a bit deceiving, actually containing no vegan options. I can state with certainty, however, that the staff are well-aware of what “vegan” means, and that they’ll happily accommodate us by swapping in tofu and nuts for meat and cheese. Also, all of their salad dressings are vegan!

What’s more, owner Marc is keen to respond to the needs of his customers. He’s expanded the restaurant to include both a smoothie and a coffee bar, as well as a number of gluten-free options. He’s eager to understand us veggies better and is slated for a consultation with our restaurant outreach program.

Smoothie and coffee bars

So if you work downtown, take advantage of your NCVA member discount and head to Vitae-Mine for a sammich and a smoothie; and maybe take a second to tell the staff how they might attract more vegan customers. In fact, tell Marc himself, if only for a glimpse of those pearly whites :).

A hella good meal at Trellla

In the time since this post was written, Trella restaurant has closed.

I was trying to figure out where to have my sweetheart take me for an early Valentine’s celebration, when Erin gave the core NCVA volunteers some exciting news: trendy Italian restaurant, Trella was going to join the NCVA’s newly launched Restaurant Outreach Program, and in a big way.  As I read over their new vegan menu, developed with Erin’s coaching and encouragement, my mouth watered.  It was true Italian favorites veganized… and I didn’t even have to cook!

Trella’s dining room. It’s actually a lot brighter than this photo would suggest.

Yves and I agreed we’d give them a try, partly because it sounded so delicious, but also partly to give them a test run before encouraging other people to dine there.  Trella is not someplace I’d ever been, or even heard of before they joined the outreach program. Quite frankly, I’d rather just go to places where a) I know they have lots of vegan options for me, because I have little interest in dining on limp salad, and b) I don’t have to ask a zillion questions.  In the case of Trella, Erin had already paved the way and given them the best vegan education she could.

But I have to admit. I still felt some pre-dinner anxiety.  What if they ran out of Daiya?  What if they used real sausage instead of faux? What if they had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for the vegan menu?

The Trella vegan menu, complete with NCVA leaping carrot.

It turned out my fears were unjustified. I was pleased to note that Trella is spacious, bright, and modern-looking, although, it wasn’t as busy as I’d expect it to be on a Friday night. I had made a reservation, and our table was already waiting with the vegan menu laid out for us.  I have been involved with the NCVA for more than four years now, and it was a thrill to see our logo, and little stickers with the leaping carrot, all over the menu.  I may have even squealed.  Restaurant outreach is something I’ve wanted to do for some time, but without enough volunteers it simply wasn’t feasible, at least not until Erin came along and made the project her own.  It was amazing and almost moving to see the fruits of her labour.

We forgot to take a photo until we’d eaten all but one piece. It came with four pieces.

It was equally amazing to taste the fruits of her labour.  Yves and I started by ordering their bruschetta as an appetizer.  But Trella wasn’t about to let us go hungry. Before we could even order the server brought us some buns (white and brown) with oil and vinegar to dip them in, garnished by olives which the server assured us they were vegan.  (Are some olives not vegan? I wouldn’t know, I don’t like them.) The bruschetta arrived, piled high with ripe and garlicky tomatoes.  We were off to a good start.

For our mains, we ordered two entrees to share: Tagliatelle Salsiccia (vegan pasta, vegan tomato sauce, roasted faux Italian sausage, garlic, roasted red peppers and shallots), and the Diablo pizza, topped with Daiya, hot peppers, artichoke hearts, grilled faux chicken, and onions.

The Diablo pizza at Trella, made vegan.

Oh. My. God.  It was absolutely fabulous. And I’m really glad too, because the server and the owner/manager presented the dishes to us with such hope in their eyes that it would have been devastating if the dishes were awful.  But they didn’t. They were amazing, and we savoured every single bite.  By the time we were finished we were almost explosively full, but I bet if there’d been more on our plates we would have just kept eating anyway.

Pasta garnished with a basil leaf.

Maybe it was just the novelty of eating a vegan pizza with vegan cheese, I don’t know. I’m afraid of over-stating how delicious my meal was, because I know that when expectations are raised it can often lead to disappointment. But we were very satisfied and satieted by our meal, and even tried to emulate the pasta dish for tonight’s dinner. It was good, but Trella’s was better.  Theirs had satisfyingly fat linguine ribbons and a perfectly tangy tomato sauce, and tofurky sausage medallions.  And I dread the next “pita pizza” I make because it definitely won’t have the same soft doughy crust that Trella’s pizza offered.

We didn’t eat dessert at Trella, as they don’t have vegan dessert (yet!)  We were actually too full for dessert, but that didn’t stop me from chowing on an Auntie Loo’s peanut butter and chocolate cupcake anyway.

Please, give Trella a try and show them that there is a need for omnivorous restaurants to have vegan-specific menu items.  I do recommend making a reservation, and giving them a heads up that you’ll be taking advantage of the vegan menu.  They’re totally new to this, and while they’re doing their best we can help them along as well.  They may not have people ordering off the vegan menu every day. Entrees are in the $12-15 range, and there is a $2 surcharge per entree, but I can hardly take issue with it as it fairly reasonably reflects the cost differential.  (That meat, with all its environmental, health, and other costs is cheaper than vegan alternatives is another topic altogether.)

Trella will also be serving brunch on the weekends. Stay tuned for a review from Erin in the coming days.

Trella Bar and Grill

345-A Preston Ave

Ottawa, ON

(613) 237-6767

Faux Mozzarella, now at Trella! Another Ottawa restaurant joins the Outreach Program

In the time since this post was written, Trella restaurant has closed.

I’m pleased to announce that yet another Ottawa restaurant has joined the NCVA’s Restaurant Outreach Program.

Upscale but unpretentious, Little Italy’s Trella Bar and Grill is a most welcome addition, offering diverse lunch and dinner menus, plus breakfast on the weekends.

The following is a list of all the vegan or “veganizeable” items that Trella will be offering as of Friday, February 11th, 2011. They are identified by the NCVA logo on the “vegan menu” – just ask your host or hostess for it when you arrive!

Keep in mind that small additional costs may apply on some items. Alas, our favourite fauxs can be pricey…

Appetizers:

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta (with vegan bread)

Grilled Veggie Stack (with Daiya cheese or tomato sauce)

Salads:

Mixed greens with vegan balsamic vinaigrette

Trella Salad (mixed greens, grilled faux chicken, red peppers, avocado, walnuts and artichoke hearts with vegan dressing)

Asian Salad (mixed greens, grilled faux chicken, orange slices, toasted sesame seeds, vegan citrus soy dressing and vegan Thai peanut sauce)

Pasta:

Tagliatelle Salsiccia (vegan pasta, vegan tomato sauce, roasted faux Italian sausage, garlic, roasted red peppers and shallots)

Tortiglioni alla Bolognaise (vegan pasta tossed in vegan tomato sauce with faux ground beef)

Pizza (with vegan dough, vegan tomato sauce, and Daiya mozzarella):

Giardino (zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, diced tomatoes, onions)

Diablo (hot peppers, artichoke hearts, grilled faux chicken, onions)

Carne Amore (faux Italian sausage, faux pepperoni, faux ham)

Americana (faux pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers)

Salsiccia (faux Italian Sausage sweet red onion)

Burgers and Sandwiches:

Classic Vegan Burger (vegan bun and faux beef patty)

Portobello Burger (vegan bun and Daiya mozzarella)

House Club (vegan bread, faux chicken, faux ham, lettuce and tomato)

Breakfast:

Vegan bagel with faux cream cheese

Vegan bagel with faux ham and Daiya cheese, served with vegan home fries

We’ll be announcing a meetup at Trella very shortly, so keep your eyes and calendars open. But don’t wait for us to check it out! And if you do, be sure to post a review in the “comments” section.

Also, do visit Trella’s facebook page. “Like” them and even post a thanks on their wall for giving Ottawa’s veg*n community such a warm welcome!

New NCVA discount at VITAE-MINE

By Amanda

Attention to everyone living or working downtown…VITAE-MINE is offering NCVA members a 10 per cent discount.

They are located at 136 O’Connor Street at Laurier, and are open Monday to Friday only serving breakfast and lunch throughout the work day.

In the mood for a huge salad with all the fancy fixins? How about a sandwich with tons of toppings that it puts other sandwich shops to shame? VITAE- MINE has it all. All the salads and sandwiches can be made vegan…add tofu here or skip the cheese here and substitute with nuts. It’s completely up to you. Mix and match your toppings as you like it! You’re in control. There are also soy free, nut free and gluten free options. (Their gluten free bread is not vegan). If you are not sure what is vegan, just ask the knowledgeable staff.

VITAE-MINE also has fantastic drinks to grab and go. The juice bar can make you a juice cocktail, green smoothie, raw fruit smoothie or a hemp milk smoothie. All of these are available dairy free. If you need your morning coffee or latte, get it here with soy milk, rice milk or hemp milk!! The coffee is fair trade and locally roasted.

So, think VITAE-MINE for your next lunch run.

Check out the website for the full menu and more information. www.vitaemine.com

Livin’ La Dolce Vita

By Erin

La Dolce Vita means “the good life, full of pleasure and indulgence.” And now, we vegans can enjoy it too!

I’m pleased to announce that La Dolce Vita in Little Italy has agreed to participate in our Restaurant Outreach Program.

If you forget what that is, check out this earlier post.

Basically, we’re asking omni restaurants to include one or two vegan items on their menu and to identify them as such. We in turn promote them on our blog, and post their vegan offerings on our website.

The goal: lots of omni restaurants with clearly identified vegan entrée options. In other words, places where vegans and their omni friends, family, colleagues and clients can dine in harmony. In other words, no more picking at limp salads while our discomfiting but well-intentioned omni dining partners go through the entire menu trying to find us something more substantial.

As it turns out, accommodating vegans was no problem for La Dolce Vita. Their pasta is vegan, as is their pizza dough and sauce. They also do a vegan leek and potato soup, and a vegan Greek dressing for their salads.

Also, since all of their dishes are assembled on-site, many of the meat dishes can easily be veganized. A vegan dessert may also be in the works!

Readers might also like to know that La Dolce Vita also offers many gluten free options.

La Dolce Vita does not offer faux meat or cheese, but customers are invited to bring their own to add to their chosen dish. I know some of y’all might think that’s a bit weird, but keep in mind that we are dealing with small independent restaurants here that have limited space and money for untried inventory.

We’re hoping that once they see the demand, they’ll want to stock our favourite fauxs.

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for a meetup announcement for La Dolce Vita, and check out their website.

Since it’s right down the street from me (no coincidence that the Restaurant Outreach Program started in my neighbourhood ;)), I’ll visit soon and post a review. Of course, I’d be thrilled if someone beat me to it!

Stay tuned!

La Dolce Vita is located at 180 Preston Street (613-233-6239)

Ottawa’s oldest vegetarian restaurant: The Green Door

By Louise Rachlis

Let me say how much I love the Green Door – so much so that my informal women’s run group is called the Rice Pudding Runners, after the Green Door’s Rice Pudding.

Green Door rice pudding
One cold winter day a few years ago, my friend Lynn and I ended a two hour run at the Green Door, where we devoured the rice pudding, and also some cookies. We thought the rice pudding tasted so good that other women should join us, hence the name and destination of runs to follow.

The recipe is in my well-used copy of the Green Door Cookbook, but it’s easier to just eat theirs. And that I do, with great frequency! So without further ado, here is the recipe:

Green Door Rice Pudding

1 cup sweet brown rice
3 cups water
3 cups apple juice
pinch of salt
1 litre soy milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried fruit, diced (apricots, peaches, apples)

Cook rice in water until very soft. Add apple juice and continue to cook for one hour. Place on a heat dispenser to avoid sticking. Keep at very low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add soy milk, raisins and dried fruit, and cook on low heat until the mixture boils. Take off heat and stir. Let sit for 1-2 hours.

Serves 12.

The other recipe I love from the Green Door Cookbook is the seed cookies:


Green Door Seed Cookies

Dry Ingredients

2 cups large-flake rolled oats
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rice syrup
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup tahini
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup apple juice

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Drop by tablespoon onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes until light brown (25 min. worked for me).

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

———————-

I’ve made them many times at home, keeping some in the freezer for visitors, and taking them to other people’s potlucks.

The Green Door's tofu vegetable stir fry. Photo by Ron Farmer.

The latest edition of the Green Door Cookbook is now available for $21 plus GST + shipping. You can pick up a copy at the restaurant or it can be ordered by phone, fax or email. It can also be purchased using a credit card or by PayPal. Shipping and handling is by regular mail for $5.

I live in Ottawa East not far from the Green Door, and whenever I tell new people where I am, they nod with understanding and say, “Oh yes, you’re near the Green Door.”

The Green Door is Ottawa's oldest vegetarian restaurant.
I love all the food on the Green Door menu, and since it’s a self-serve pay-by-weight restaurant, I always want to overload my plate, not to mention my second plate for their wonderful desserts. There are many vegan options, and those that aren’t are appropriately labeled. On their website you’ll see the wide range of a typical daily menu with such delights as Red Lentil and Potato Soup, Tofu Vegetable Stirfry, Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Garlic Zucchini, and lots more.

The Green Door is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., so don’t show up Monday. It’s at 198 Main Street, across from St. Paul University, tel. 613-234-9597. See the menu on their Web site at www.thegreendoor.ca where you can download a 20 page information pamphlet.

On community and good corporate citizenship

I moved to Ottawa more than 11 years ago from a small town. While Ottawans like to think of Ottawa as being similar to a small town, to me it was a big and impersonal city where I was just another face in the crowd. It was a difficult adjustment, and it took many years for me to feel like Ottawa was my home. The girl who worked at the little bagel shop I used to frequent back home (this was in my pre-gan days) would see my car coming down the street, and start my order. It was always ready by the time I walked into the cafe. Now that’s customer service!

Back to Ottawa, I think it has helped to be part of a subculture. There are a limited number of businesses catering specifically to vegetarians and vegans, but it also presents the opportunity to develop relationships with many of the business owners and staff of the places which I patronize. Partly as a result of my work with the NCVA I am on a first name basis with many of the owners of veg-oriented business in Ottawa, which is a great feeling. It helps me to feel good about many of my consumer choices, because I know where my money is going; it’s often supporting the very community of businesses and people who support me as a vegan.

While it’s very difficult to follow the money trail for every purchase we make, I do try to support companies and organizations that are good to their workers, make an effort to operate and source ethically, and which give back to the community. I want to give a shout out to one in particular which is supportive of the veg community, and without their support, we may not have been able to put on two Veg Fests.

Veg Fest 2010, sponsored by The Table
Veg Fest 2010, sponsored by The Table

For many Ottawa residents—vegetarian or otherwise—their first encounter with plant-based cuisine occurs at The Table Vegetarian Restaurant. In fact, The Table serves some 400 people each and every day! But what diners and the public may not know is that not only is The Table a great place to eat, but its owner, Simon Saab, is an outstanding corporate citizen.

“From day one, my philosophy has been to give back to the community that we operate within. Sponsoring is a way of letting the people who come in, who enjoy the restaurant and the food we serve, know that I really appreciate their support of my business,” Simon says. “I do believe that if you give, you receive so much back.”

The Table is the NCVA’s biggest corporate supporter, including as the title sponsor for both Ottawa Veg Fests. When the NCVA first considered holding a festival, Simon was the first business owner to sign on. It’s largely thanks to The Table’s sponsorship that Veg Fest has succeeded, and remains a free event.

The Table has also sponsored other local events and publications, including the SimplyRaw festival. Simon says from a business point of view, sponsoring events like Veg Fest is a good way of keeping the restaurant’s name recognition up. “And from a personal standpoint, I really enjoy what I do.”

Simon’s family has a long history in the restaurant business, and he’s been a part of the industry for some 35 years. Ten years ago he decided to combine his interest in restaurants with his interest in a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.

“Vegetarian and organic have always been personal interests of mine, for more than 30 years. Since I opened the restaurant my commitment to the veg lifestyle has been very strong,” he says. Indeed, everything served at the restaurant’s buffet-style set up is vegetarian, and most selections are vegan. Some choices are raw, and/or gluten free. In the past few years the restaurant has focused even more on purchasing produce from local farmers.

“People are so much more aware of illnesses and what to do and eat to help themselves, a lot more than they were 15 or 20 years ago,” Simon says.

He says the recent addition of several new vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Ottawa area has been complementary to his own business, and shows the high level of demand for plant-based alternatives in Ottawa.

The Table is one of the veterans: on July 24, it celebrated 10 years in business.

The NCVA is grateful to all of the businesses that have supported us, from sponsoring Veg Fest, to offering our members discounts, to buying advertising in Capital Veg News, to making product donations, and more. Without their support it would be an uphill battle!


The Table Vegetarian Restaurant
230 Wellington Street West, Ottawa
(613) 729-5973
thetablerestaurant.com