Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Eating at La Belle Verte

By Pamela

It’s my birthday, which means it was up to my sweetie to figure out dining plans. He decided on La Belle Verte (166 rue Eddy in Hull).  It opened around this time last year, which is super awesome for anyone who is interested in healthy eating. We don’t get there very often because it has relatively short hours, and we rarely brave crossing the river during rush hour.  But for my birthday, we made an exception.

This is the appetizer we ordered, and devoured.

For those of you who don’t know, La Belle Verte is a mostly-vegan (some dishes contain honey), mostly raw-food restaurant in downtown Hull about five minutes over the Chaudière Bridge.  It’s mostly a lunchtime destination. The place is cheery and open concept, with mismatched tables and chairs and an old piano (which someone played beautifully through much of our meal.)  A display case shows off the desserts, and you can watch while your meal is prepared if you choose.

Kale chips = Nom.

We ordered a raw appetizer, that consisted of various raw pates and cheezes along with raw vegetables and dehydrated seed crackers. It was nice.  The proportion of stuff to dip into was pretty well matched with the number of things that were dippable.  I also ordered a side of kale chips, because LBV makes delicious kale chips. I have a dehydrator (which I purchased as a result of being inspired by LBV’s kale chips) but my chips are not as good, no matter how hard I try. Having them is a treat for me, because they aren’t really a budget-minded option.  I’ve had many omnivores try them, only to be very surprised by their deliciousness.

For my main course I had the peanut thai tofu sandwich, which comes on chapati bread with carmelized onions, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, and shredded carrots. It also comes with some mushrooms, but as I loathe and detest them I requested they not be on my sandwich. My partner had a tofu mushroom burger, which was similar to mine only inverted (lots of mushrooms, less tofu) and came with a generous salad. I actually forgot to take photos until I’d already finished eating it. The sandwiches were delicious.

I actually skipped dessert as most of them combined chocolate with fruit, which isn’t a favorite of mine. The chocolate tarte, which I have enjoyed in the past, seemed to have raisins in it this time. Raisins are another thing I intensely dislike.  However, if you’re looking for extremely decadent, yet surprisingly healthy vegan desserts, LBV is a great place to find them.

If you’re looking for a light, healthy, but delicious meal, this is a good place to come. If you’re looking for super-rapid and attentive service, that is not the forte here. But that’s ok. They’re plenty nice, you just might have to remind the server that your meal came with a salad.

Septembre. ~ 12 weeks.

To close, I’m going to share a photo of my adorable kitten, who I love very much. She sat beside me while I wrote this. Her name is Septembre. Her mom was a stray my cousin took in. Please say no to breeders, and always adopt!

All-you-can-eat Ethiopian for $8.99

By Pamela

All you can eat vegetarian Ethiopian food for only $8.99? We are very lucky in Ottawa.
On Sunday my partner and I visited the East African Restaurant to try out their all-you-can-eat vegetarian (actually, vegan) Ethiopian buffet. We were going for a long hike after, and wanted something that would give us a lasting source of energy.

For $8.99 per person, you really can’t go wrong. The buffet features a half dozen hot dishes, mostly lentils and vegetables in sauce ranging from mild to very spicy, as well as a few cold options. There was no shortage of injera. I filled my plate twice.

Only one of the options at the buffet is on the restaurant’s usual vegetarian platter, and I’ll admit that I missed the other two. But there were new options I’d never tried, including spiced zucchini, which was delicious.

The buffet runs seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. While NCVA members have a 10 per cent discount here, it does not apply to the buffet. But if you’re looking to fill up on the cheap, this is a good way to do it. We followed our meal with a two hour hike on some of Gatineau Park’s toughest trails, and were still satiated five hours later.

East African Restaurant
376 Rideau Street
Ottawa
http://www.ethiopianrestaurantottawa.com/

The Goods on Green Earth

By Erin

I suspect that a lot of Ottawa vegans have already tried Green Earth. I’ve decided to review it anyway, however, each time I try a new item. I figure this might be helpful since their menu is so large that it’s certain there are things on it that even frequent visitors haven’t tried.

A few general comments. First, I’ve just got to say that the food is damn good. I haven’t had a bad or even mediocre meal there yet. Second, all-you-can-eat-buffet Green Earth and order-off-the-menu Green Earth are almost like two different restaurants. The latter is dominated by an almost obscene profusion of fake meat that will have you floating home like a buoyant ball of wheat protein on a sea of sodium. Deserving of a shouted “Nom!” followed by a week of only raw kale.

The regular menu is quite a different story. Once I, a veteran of the glutton’s utopia that is the buffet, got over the shock and disappointment of the sensible portion sizes, I was very impressed by its diversity. It not only combines east Asian and Indian, but offers a number of Italian and several Mexican dishes as well.

Last Thursday, my partner and I got the “Harmonic Veggie Delite,” which is your standard combo of fake meat and veggies in an east Asian-type sauce. It was very good though the portion was, as I mentioned, of an annoyingly sensible size. We also got “Conchiglie Ripiene,” which is large pasta shells stuffed with a ricotta-type mixture and served with marinara sauce. Green Earth often serves a very delicious lasagna at their buffet, so I had pretty high hopes for the stuffed shells. Upon reflection, I suppose it might strike me as disappointing that I didn’t actually try anything new, since the shells really turned out to be the lasagna, differently shaped. But then the bloody things were just so good, how can one really complain? The faux ricotta had no tofu-y aftertaste and their marinara is rich and flavourful (and plentiful! God loves those who are not cheap with sauce).

We also had an order of “Paradise Sushi” to start. I’m incensed by the obscene markup on sushi and since the stuff we make at home has it all over most restaurants, I rarely have it when I go out. On the rare occasions when I do have restaurant sushi, I tend to critique it pretty harshly. I will grudgingly admit that Green Earth’s sushi is good…and since it’s a small, inexpensive appetizer, my anti-markup madness doesn’t get too out of hand. If I want to be picky, I’ll note that the pieces are a bit too large for a single mouthful…that’s a problem for sushi since it’s pretty much impossible to bite a piece in half without spilling the innards all over yourself.

We ended our meal with the chocolate cheesecake. Now I must say, I have had many a gross vegan chocolate cheesecake in my time. Grainy, beany, soupy, I have tried them all. But I honestly defy even the most seasoned cheesecake connoisseur to distinguish Green Earth’s chocolate cheesecake from a regular dairy cheesecake. It is dense and chocolately, with that amazing tang for which cheesecake is known. As good as it was, though, I’ll try the almond chocolate cake next time. Two our our supper-mates got it and it looked amazing. All chocolate layers and fluffy mocha frosting – mocha looking anyway, as I gazed longingly at it from afar.

So another marvelous meal at Green Earth – and all for $28, I should add. Needless to say, if you haven’t been, go. Until next time (when I think I’ll try one of the Mexican dishes), happy vegan eating.

NCVA’s Shaun dishes on Ethiopian cuisine


Is Ethiopian food the best vegetarian food you’ve never had? Quite possibly!

By Shaun Desjardins
NCVA

Shaun's homemade ethiopian fare

We Ottawans are a fortunate bunch. No, not because we’re the shawarma capital of North America. We’re fortunate because we have not one, not two but FOUR Ethiopian restaurants in town. And guess what? They’re all GREAT!

Most large Canadian and American cities have one or two restaurants from the horn of Africa if they’re lucky.

Like many of you I had driven up and down Rideau Street countless times without seriously considering a meal at one of the three East African restaurants lining the street. (Ottawa’s fourth Ethiopian restaurant is Blue Nile on Gladstone)

Also like many of you I usually ended up spending my hard earned Canuck bucks at one of the seemingly dozens of Lebanese Restaurants in the area.

My infatuation with Ethiopian cuisine started about a year ago when I was bored with my usual rotation of restaurants and wanted to try something different.

My wife Amanda and I were meeting another couple for a sit-down meal in the market area and our friends being the good sports they are agreed to try out Ethiopian food with us at the East African Restaurant on Rideau Street. The rest, as they say, is history.

So you may ask, “Shaun–aka Ottawa’s self proclaimed Ethiopian cuisine expert–what’s so great about Ethiopian food and what’s the best Ethiopian restaurant in town?”

And I’d probably respond, “Well, fictitious person asking questions, the answers aren’t as complex as the flavour of perfectly balanced berbere, a staple spice blend in Ethiopian cooking. The reasons why I think Ethiopian cuisine is great are:

1. LOTS OF VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN OPTIONS

Ethiopians traditionally eat vegetarian more than 200 days a year which means that Ethiopian restaurants will have an abundance of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

2. A VARIETY OF FLAVOURS

East African cuisine also caters to the palates of spicy food lovers as well as those who don’t fancy needing a fire extinguisher table side. For example mesir wat (my favourite) is a red lentil stew made up of red lentils, onion, garlic, ginger and berbere spice is a delicious and SPICY stew while kik alicha (Amanda’s favourite) is a mild yellow split pea stew with some garlic, ginger and turmeric in there.

3. GREAT FOR SHARING

The wats are served on a large slightly sour crêpe type bread called injera which is placed in the centre of the table.

4. INEXPENSIVE AND EASY TO MAKE AT HOME

Ethiopian stews or wats as they are known are generally pretty easy to make at home and are SUPER easy on the wallet to boot! I buy my injera from either East African Restaurant or Habesha as it’s quite difficult and time consuming to make at home.

5. HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS

This is some seriously healthful food! Since these dishes are usually comprised of beans, lentils or legumes and spices you’re getting a bunch of fibre and complex carbs and that ever so important macro nutrient for vegetarians, protein.

6. FEWER DISHES TO CLEAN

When eating Ethiopian cuisine you break off a piece of injera and “scoop” up the stews or wats as they are known. Also, everyone eats from the same dish. No utensils and one plate mean fewer dishes to clean!

As for the best Ethiopian restaurant in Ottawa, there is no clear winner.

Seriously, I’ve had delicious food at all four of Ottawa’s restaurants. However, a special mention goes to East African Restaurant as they offer a 10 per cent discount to all NCVA members and they have an $8.99 Vegetarian lunch buffet from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. (seven days a week)

Great Shaun,” you might say, “I’m sold on trying this supposedly scrumptious cuisine from eastern horn of the great continent of Africa but….WHAT DO I DO NEXT???”

Well luckily for you I’ve prepared a list with the answer to that very question!

Here’s what you do:

1. Pick one of Ottawa’s four Ethiopian restaurants

East African Restaurant (NCVA Members receive a 10% discount) 376 Rideau Street (613) 789-7397

The Horn of Africa 364 Rideau Street (613) 789-0025

Habesha 574 Rideau (613) 761-6120

Blue Nile Restaurant 577 Gladstone Avenue (613) 321-0774

2. Get some friends to come along with you. Remember, Ethiopian food is great for sharing!

3. Order the vegetarian combination plate (which is vegan) and enjoy!

4. Send the NCVA an email to thank us for introducing you to some of the most flavourful, healthful and just plain tasty food you’ve ever had.

I’ll be posting a few of my favourite tried and tested Ethiopian recipes in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

 



Have you been to Cafe My House?

Back in May, the NCVA was excited and intrigued to find the word “vegan” appear on the sign of a cafe in Ottawa’s South end. It was for Cafe My House, and thanks in part to the NCVA’s promotion, word has spread like wildfire about this little cafe, where the menu is about 75 per cent vegan and where even raw foodists and gluten-intolerant people can find a good meal.  And did we mention it’s mostly vegan?

NCVA volunteer Tanya Hanham wrote the following review for Capital Veg News:

Cafe My House's "Healthy Me" vegan brunch platter. Side of potatoes is optional.

I had heard rumblings about a new vegan-friendly restaurant on Bank Street and I had to try it myself. Check it out, even the sign prominently declares its animal friendly nature. Needless to say, I was excited.

Cafe My House is reincarnated from its previous (more) east end location and is a family owned business that appears to focus on healthy food. While there are a couple of meat options, there are approximately twenty choices on the menu that are vegan and that does not include sides, drinks or extensive smoothie list. Impressive, to say the least.

Breakfast boasts vegan versions of the usual options like pancakes, french toast and (tofu) scramble while also including the intriguing Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf. Vegan breakfast sans oatmeal is hard to come by in Ottawa restaurants so Cafe My House is a welcome sight for hungry brunching vegans. I didn’t eat breakfast during my visit but that just means I have an excuse to go back.

Lunch looks promising too. They have a few different soups, salads and sandwiches as well as tasty sounding starters they call “House Bites.” I’ll probably try the quesadilla or the mango-zucchini roll next time I stop by for lunch.

Finally the main courses. I had a lot of trouble deciding what I wanted and who wouldn’t with choices like Creamy Sesame Soba Noodles, Earthy Vegetable Curry and Tofu Mushroom Steak. In the end, after a recommendation from the friendly server, I chose Vegetarian BiBim-Bop. What now? This was a tasty Korean rice dish topped with a variety of delicious sautéed vegetables and nori all covered with a spicy chili sauce. I ended up asking for extra chili sauce because I like things with a lot of heat and flavour and the extra kick made for an excellent dish.

What about dessert? Of course I couldn’t pass up the vegan dessert of the day, a black bean hazelnut brownie. The brownie was fudgy and dense and not too sweet, pairing nicely with the light warm fudge sauce poured liberally over top for a lovely presentation. Decadent.

But don’t take my word for it. Make your way down to 1729 Bank Street, just south of Heron, and try out Ottawa’s newest vegan friendly restaurant for yourself. I dare say you won’t be disappointed.

For contact info and restaurant hours, click here:

Cafe my house

NEW: 10% discount for NCVA members at Auntie Loos

NCVA membership just got sweeter, when Ottawa’s beloved Auntie Loo announced that she wanted to show NCVA members some love with a 10 per cent discount. The discount applies to anything purchased at her store front (507 Bronson Avenue) or ordered, except for wedding cakes.

Auntie Loo is a great example of a home-grown, vegan business. She even recently won “Best Bakery” recognition in Capital XPress, as voted by readers.  Here’s a story we published about her in our most recent newsletter, Capital Veg News:

Ottawa's own Auntie Loo!

Made locally, with love, at Auntie Loos

By Pamela Eadie

There’s nothing quite like fresh, made with love baked goods. And nobody knows that better than Amanda Lunan, more commonly known as Ottawa’s “Auntie Loo.”

While her baked goods have been available at Ottawa area natural food stores for several years now, Auntie Loo opened her storefront one year ago, much to the delight of vegans and cupcake enthusiasts. It was the culmination of many years of hard work and perseverance.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was in a band and working at a coffee shop. I would make these cakes for my friends, and someone told me I could make a lot of money selling them,” Auntie Loo explains.

“But I figured nobody would want my crappy cake.”

Was she ever wrong. The same friend talked her into selling her creations at a Ladyfest Craft sale in 2004. She was a hit. Inspired, she completed a small business diploma program at Algonquin College, and joined the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which gives young people a salary while they get their business started.

She baked her heart out while renting space at a bakery that was closed overnight. Fellow vegan baking aficionado, Brad Campeau of B.Goods cookies, mentored her. She built a loyal following through LadyFest and other events, and by having her goods in health food stores.

But then the Youth Entrepreneurship Program ran out, and she was at a crossroads. “It was do or die,” she says. With help from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, she was able to find and rent her own retail location, on Bronson Avenue.

She’s also expanded her wedding cake business, with help from her “right hand man” Kate Veinot. Auntie Loos currently has two part time employees, and two volunteer pastry students from Algonquin College.

Her repertoire of treats is constantly changing with the seasons, but the one constant is that they’re always vegan. There are also soy-free and gluten-free options. Treats include a wide variety of cupcakes, squares, pastries, brownies, and cakes. She caters special events and welcomes special orders.

“I never expected a response from the community like this. It’s been awesome,” Auntie Loo says. “People like to come in and see where the food is coming from. It’s important to me to be really transparent.” Auntie Loos uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.

Most of her clients are not vegan, but, “when they’re buying a cupcake from me, they’re not buying one that has animal products. Most people who come in don’t care. They just like that it tastes good.”

Her love of animals has inspired her along the way. “I really love animals. The reason I went vegetarian was because a cow truck passed me on the highway when I was five years old. That’s when I realized how meat was made,” she says. She’s been vegan for more than 10 years.

These days, she’s at the forefront of Ottawa’s burgeoning vegan community. “It’s my contribution,” she says. “I just think it’s important that people make informed choices.”

http://www.auntieloostreats.ca
507 Bronson Avenue
613-238-ALOO