Veg Fest and The NCVA Vegan Cupcake Challenge is less than two weeks away! Ottawa’s best amateur vegan bakers are no doubt immersed in a frenzy of last-minute baking and testing as they vie for the title of the NCVA Vegan Cupcake Champion and the fabulous prize package that accompanies the prestigious title.
As of now, there are 18 entrants to the competition, so it’s going to be fierce! And delicious.
Today in the last part of the “Meet Our Judges” series we introduce Ian Capstick.
Ian Capstick, principal of MediaStyle, an Ottawa-based communications firm, has been saying ‘thanks’ with cupcakes since he opened up shop.
His enthusiasm for baking has manifested in the sponsorship of an unconference about cupcakes known as Capital Cupcake Camp. With hundreds of entries, t’s definitely the largest cupcake event in Ottawa. Which means Ian Capstick knows cupcakes.
While MediaStyle is not a cupcakery, Ian believes that cupcakes are meant for sharing, much like the communications work MediaStyle does online.
For Part 3 of our 5 part Meet the Judges series we get to know the Ottawa Citizen’s own Ron Eade.
Ron Eade has been the food editor at the Ottawa Citizen, the capital region’s largest newspaper, since 1998. He is also the authour of Omnivore’s Ottawa, a blog encompassing all things food in the Ottawa region.
While Ron is far from vegetarian, he does have an appreciation for good food in whatever form, and has attended Veg Fest as a patron in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011 he joins the NCVA as a guest judge for the NCVA Cupcake Challenge.
At home he regularly experiments in the kitchen and tests new dishes on his wife, Nancy, and young son, Graeme. Most of those dishes are not vegetarian.
On May 1, Ron will be found eating far too many cupcakes for one person, along with the other NCVA Cupcake Challenge judges. Already announced: CBC’s Stu Mills, and the incomparable Auntie Loo. More to come!
In part 2 of our Meet Our Judges series we introduce CBC Radio’s own Stu Mills.
Stu Mills grew up in Haliburton Ontario. At Simon Fraser University he studied Communication and Philosophy.
He continued with his studies in those areas at Queen’s University. During this time he fell in love with radio’s ability to focus the mind on spoken ideas while working at CFRC 101.9 FM, the Queen’s University radio station.
He’s been reading the news at CBC Ottawa since 2005, was the Friday host for Ottawa Morning for much of last year, regularly fills in for Rita Celli on Ontario Today, and for Alan Neal on All in a Day on CBC Radio One (91.5 FM).
Stu has a passion for the outdoors, especially mountain biking, and in all mechanical things. He lives in Wakefield, Quebec.
We’ve had such an AMAZING response to the Cupcake Challenge and we’re really looking forward to seeing and of course TASTING all your creations!
For those of you that haven’t signed up for a chance to have your cupcake named Ottawa’s best vegan cupcake, please click here
We kick off the Meet Our Judges series with none other than Ottawa’s own queen of vegan cupcakes….Auntie Loo!
Auntie Loo’s is a small vegan bakery here in Ottawa. Ms. Loo learned to cook at the knees of her family members, and the majority of what she produces are these very recipes- veganized! Auntie Loo firmly believes that if you want a dessert, it had better taste like one. Auntie Loo’s uses organic products whenever possible, and works with and purchases from small local businesses.
Most people want to know the story, so here it is: Put up to having a vegan treat table at the 2004 Ladyfest Ottawa Craft Sale by her sweet-toothed roommates, Ms. Loo had never even considered baking as a career. Overwhelmed by the response, Auntie Loo’s was born.
Nowadays, Auntie Loo’s Treats can be found in several locations around Ottawa, including her storefront at 507 Bronson Avenue.
Riding on the success of the inaugural pub night, we have planned to have another one in less than two weeks. A.k.a. you now have plans for Thurs. Feb. 24, 2011 after work/school. So come and be a part of this new movement of vegetarian pub-goers who are not only trend-setters, but pretty fabulous at any rate.
In support of the NCVA Restaurant Outreach program, we are duly holding the upcoming pub social at Burrito Borracho in Byward Market. This new Mexican restaurant has just been newly renovated and is bound to impress with a brand new liquor license and everything on their menu prepared to be veganised. Who wants delicious Mexican grub and beer? Todos nosotros!
So, mis amigos, below are the details to note in your social agenda:
This latest in my series of stupid blog titles is a nod to the fact that I have to drag my sorry arse up the painfully steep Booth Street hill to get from my house on Primrose to Chinatown on Somerset.
But it is very much worth the climb. You see, in addition to the fantastic mock meats about which Neil has recently blogged, China town is home to many other vegan delights.
Today I’d like to highlight the wonton. A wise man (Neil) once said that all things are better when they are wrapped in dough. Unfortunately, when we vegans try to live this truth we are thwarted by the numerous stupider men who decided put eggs in all the wonton wrappers stocked by mainstream supermarkets.
Happily, pretty much every one of the 80,000 or so grocery stores in Chinatown stocks vegan versions (an ironic exception is Phuoc Loi, faux meat destination).
They are in the refrigerator section, and look like this:
To ensure that you don’t get eggy ones, just harken back to your days of eating snow. Remember what your mother told you: White, “Ok,” Yellow, “No Way!” Or just read the ingredients.
There are lots of great wonton recipes on vegweb.com, but you hardly need one. Just finely mince (slapchop!) about a cup each of onion, carrot, celery, plus whatever other veggies you fancy; add some salt, pepper and spices (Chinese 5-spice powder is good) and cook over medium heat until soft. I strongly advise also adding some minced faux meat – preferably mushroom chicken, beef, or mutton. I used Nelakee’s “pork steaks” tonight and they were great, too.
Once the filling is done, put about a tablespoon into each wonton and seal the edges (just squish ‘em together – no water or anything needed).
Next, fry them in a bit of oil until each side is golden brown.
Finally, stir up a sauce made of equal parts water, soy sauce and fruit juice and toss in a few slices of garlic and ginger. You should have enough sauce that it will fill your frying pan about one inch from the bottom.
Pour the sauce into your pan, put the lid on, steam for 5 minutes, and serve. They finished wontons are best dipped in soy sauce or in a 1:1 mixture of soy sauce and vegetarian oyster or stir fry sauce. These items also available in most Chinatown shops.
I’m still pretty new to Ottawa. It’s times like these when I attempt to get my feet wet in a variety of social scenes. Originating from Toronto, I was spoilt with the non-stop bombardment of social possibilities. Being vegetarian in Toronto was like being an official member of a popular club. Now in Ottawa, I’ve learned that to get my feet wet, I have to go to the water myself.
I was somewhat apprehensive at first, but mostly excited, to explore the world of the NCVA. Once I did, I realised that becoming a member was not only going to benefit me, but it was going to benefit many, and thus it was the right thing to do. Once I trained myself to stop calling the NCVA the “OVA” (which clearly doesn’t make sense from a vegan perspective), I was ready to fit in. That’s pretty much all it takes, because the organization is not-for-profit, volunteer-based, and vegetarian, whose mandate is to educate the public about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and more generally, to improve public health. This is one group that could easily mesh well with my own set of ethics and beliefs and, for that matter, anyone else’s. Whether or not you are vegetarian, promoting health of the greater public and of yourself is a worthy cause.
And then there’s the whole social aspect. I often feel alone as a vegan in a meat-eating world (shameless plug). Generally, going to work, socialising with acquaintances, friends, and family, doing the groceries, or whatever, I started to feel like I was the only vegan out there and no one would ever understand me anyway. It still baffles me that people still think it is ok to mock or slam vegetarianism right to your face, as if they can’t see how the derision is prejudiced and discriminatory. But then I attended a NCVA event and immediately let out a sigh of relief–Finally! a place where I knew that I wouldn’t be made fun of for being culinarily different or more ethically sound. It was like my own personal vegetarian haven, where like-minded people admire and support me and my vegetarian lifestyle.
There was also the fact that with the NCVA, part of my social life could align with my morality, which is a great coupling. Being veg was always a great way for me to show the rest of the world that I care about animals (and the environment, and my personal health), but I was presented with the opportunity to take it a step further. By joining the NCVA, I realised I was supporting the greater cause of promoting a plant-based diet to the rest of the world. I was chipping in, wearing the badge, taking a stand! Coming out of the proverbial vegetarian closet was great for my social life, but I hope it also made it that much easier for anyone else who wants to do the same. Supporting the NCVA arguably equates to an increased vegetarian presence in Ottawa and thus a happier, healthier city.
Finally, this was my way of giving back to the community. Although nothing beats the warm and fuzzy feeling got from my childhood teddy bear (Mr. Fuzzy Wuzzy, if you don’t mind), a close second for me is always donating to a worthy cause. The best thing about donating to the NCVA is that I not only got the incredibly highly-sought after warm and fuzzies from the act of giving, but I also get a membership in return. I figured my $20 membership was a donation to something I cared about deeply, as well as an opportunity to connect to fun social events and new, like-minded people (and get great NCVA member discounts at great veg and veg-friendly restaurants in Ottawa!).
So, although I’m far from the poster child for the animal rights movement, nor am I saving the planet on a daily basis, I at least knew that, yes, I could make a small, but significant, difference just by being a part of the NCVA. I already felt like I was becoming more of an effective voice for those animals among us who don’t have one. The good news for you folks is that you can do it, too! You don’t even have to wait till the next NCVA event to land yourself a hot new membership. You can do it now right here from the convenience of your own home and at your leisure: ncva.ca/membership
Sorry for the dorky post title but I an in bit of a food coma. A food slash beer slash Cocoa Camino almond butter chocolate bar that I ill-advisedly bought when I popped into Herb and Spice afterwards for eye makeup remover coma.
You see, I have just come from my office Christmas party.
It was actually a bit of a nail-biter for me at first, since I suggested the restaurant. I picked the Imperial because I knew that, while it caters to a mostly omni crowd, it has at least one vegan entrée. I admit that I was mildly concerned that the food and/or service would stink and that the two dozen public servants with whom I work would react by blaming the vegan.
My fears were assuaged pretty quickly, however, as polite and efficient servers fed us alcohol. Those fears evaporated completely when our food arrived.
Neil and I had the Southwest Vegan Black Bean Burger. It was simply presented – Neil’s with fries and mine with salad. I know you’re already thinking that I probably ate his fries and yes I did and so what? I do apologise, however, for also sharing his fries with an adjacent female colleague who also ordered the salad in a moment of self-delusion. That was a bit much even for me.
And as it happens, the fries were the best part of the meal. Seriously – they were awesome. I will pause for a moment to remember their crispy fabulousness…
Now what…um, the salad dressing was really nice – some sort of Asian inspired concoction. Unfortunately, the salad itself was profoundly bitter – I only wound up eating a quarter of it.
The burger itself was only pretty good. It was a little on the mushy side. The bun was a tad crunchy (over-toasted, I think, rather than stale). Still, good enough to attract me back for a second go. Especially given just how totally charming the Imperial is, with its vintage posters advertising ultraviolent 70’s B-movies and the weird Ms. Pac Man sign above the bar.
Of course, I can’t speak to the omni options. I didn’t taste them and didn’t make inquiries of those who did – being somewhat disinclined to hear about how tender or nicely spiced the cows and pigs and fish were. Still, the general air of satisfaction that emanated from my colleagues suggests that The Imperial is a safe place to bring your omni pals.
So thumbs up to the Imperial. I should also note that they have a 3-option Sunday brunch and that one of said options is vegan. I’ve had it several times now and, as clichéd as it sounds, each time was better than the last. The vegan meal includes pancakes, beans baked in a tomato, toast and pan fried potatoes. Not cheap but, well, god hates a tightwad, doesn’t he?
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.
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.
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.
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!