Farewell Victoria

I’m probably the only person in the world who hopes to get very few blog hits, because I honestly can’t find my legs with blogging and I don’t understand how I could ever be legitimately okay with the self-promotion required of ambitious bloggers. Nevertheless, I like the idea of blogging in practice, so about every eight months or so, I feel compelled to write something, and I remember this blog isn’t deleted, so, that happens.

With a great deal of excitement and a healthy dose of mind-boggling stress, my husband and I are packing up our belongings and family (my two cats Puddy and Leonard Cohen), and we are moving to the Annapolis valley in Nova Scotia. Soon I’ll have a couple weeks of frantic moving but a break in between jobs, and I anticipate that I’ll be writing a fair amount.

One thing I hope to go on about is my final thoughts on this island, Vancouver Island. Other than the beaches, my favourite thing is The Blue Nile African restaurant. So we’ll talk about that soon, because the Bursen Tumtumo there warms my soul and fills me to the brim with grounding, energizing, and just totally delicious levels of ecstasy. Also, it’s the best restaurant in Victoria.


No Frills Vancouver Island Reviews (from a vegan)

Hi! So Yelp is kind of boring and hard to find the reviews you are really looking for (more, that veggie burger had woodsy melt-in-your-mouth white wine sauteed chanterelles, and less, OMG the napkins are cute and the waitstaff are attractive), urbanspoon is kind of the same, but I always have heaps of advice for people looking for vegan food in Victoria and its vicinity. Eating out is one of my favourite things, but since I can only afford it as a luxury, I take my restaurant choice very, very seriously.

So I’m going to finally use this space to slug through my best, worst, and mediocre finds and everything in between. Keep in mind this is written by a vegan, however I do have an enthusiasm for non-veg restaurants that happily provide vegan options because I don’t always want to force my friends and family to eat tempeh and raw salads if that’s not their jam. However! You shall see that the vegan options at these omnivorous places are very appealing even to the most carnivorous and I implore you to try say, the tofu wings at Tartan Toque, or the tomato, avocado, and crispy dulse sandwich at Mo:Le.

And vegans, I got your back:  I have no problem politely asking a reputable omni restaurant to create something vegan off the menu. I’ve had some of my best meals that way!

So listen up and I’ll take you on a food review tour through Victoria, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, and maybe the Gulf Islands as well.

Woke up at 4—decided to make a blog.

I love reading blogs. I spoke at a vegan blogging conference. I should probably be blogging. Vegans on the Move is currently dormant (but we hope to get it running once again when it crawls out of hibernation/Panda and I get our lives in order), and I was laying awake in bed this morning with a cat on my chest purring when I realized “hey! Why don’t I just blog about the stuff I spend all the time on the internet talking/reading about?”. Which amounts to 1) eating vegan food out, 2) eating vegan food in, and 3) cats.

The things that scare me about blogging. 1) It occasionally seems like a vanity thing, 2) I have high standards for my not-always-there ability to write without grammatical error, and that realization shames me, 3) people have really high standards for photography and I just have an iPhone.

Anyway, those are all pretty trivial concerns, and it’s not like this is my job, unlike some crazy-crazy or crazy-fortunate bloggers, so let’s see how it goes.

In the past few years I’ve lived on Salt Spring Island, Vancouver, and Sooke in BC, as well as San Francisco, Calif. In just over a month I am moving back to a city I love dearly—Victoria. There are not a lot of vegan bloggers in Victoria (obviously there is Sarah Kramer, but she’s a pretty big deal and I am not), so I think I’ll end up writing mostly about Victoria’s splendid offerings for vegans. I’ll include Vancouver too, since all I do there is eat. I ate through two years in grad school. Stress-buster!

First post, but certainly not the first time I’ve Dined and Vined!

I really love everything Tamasin (her site and book, American Vegan Kitchen, are both fantastic!), including her blog challenges such as the longstanding Food Network Friday and newer Vine and Dine. I’ve always wanted to participate but I’ve never had a personal blog for any length of time. However, since I co-author Vegans on the Move and have a WordPress account, I figured I might as well just write it up in a blog no one will ever read. Who knows? Perhaps I will go back to this blog in the future. I hope I will.

To be honest, when I read the recipes from the first Horizons cookbook, after committing to Tami that I would participate, (I have the second book but not the one where the recipes came from), my heart sunk a bit. Horseradish-crusted tofu sounded awesome, sign me up, but my partner and I are not huge cooked bell pepper fans so the roasted red pepper accompanying sauce scared us a wee bit. For the optional accompanying dish, spinach with pine nuts from the same dish was recommended. After spending nearly $6 on 1/4 cup of pine nuts (NEVER AGAIN! Pine nuts are delicious, but that is highway robbery), I decided to swap out the spinach for the Swiss chard we’d received in our CSA.

I made a number of tweaks:

For the tofu and red pepper sauce:

1) I used one block of smoked tofu and one of local fresh dill-garlic tofu (un-marinated, but it is tasty as is and very fresh). Both were from our fabulous local tofu supplier Soya Nova Tofu.

2) I forgot to buy an onion so I left that out completely

3) I added extra (raw) garlic and three leaves of basil to the red pepper sauce to make it into something more palatable for bell pepper haters such as ourselves.

We both liked the tofu, but the sauce left something to be desired. The recipe doesn’t call for any heating of the red pepper sauce, but I would definitely recommend warming it (we did). I guess I should point out that it is not hot here, at all, so for those of you in the 99% of North America dealing with the heat, maybe you should keep it cold. We are horseradish fanatics and liked the crust on the tofu, but honestly, I’m not a huge fan of commercially prepared smoked tofu, and I think I would have preferred it if we’d used two blocks of the garlic-dill tofu, even un-marinated. The horseradish crust is quite pronounced in flavour, but there are not directions to crust both sides, which I found a little weird but stuck with. The red pepper sauce was probably delicious if you like roasted bell peppers. Unfortunately, we were not over the moon. But, we did both lick our plates (credit to the extra garlic, and the fact that I haven’t cooked much in weeks because I’ve been getting over an injury).

For the “spinach” and pine nuts

1) I subbed chard for the spinach

2) I didn’t use any stock. Swiss chard (and spinach) have a high water content and I didn’t really understand why the recipe would call for extra stock.

3) Again, extra garlic. And I added red pepper flakes.

I loved the chard-subbed spinach dish, but I will likely not make it any time soon as is, until I win the lottery or purchase a pine nut farm (in the cards!). We added the optional lemon juice. I love lemon juice with my greens. I was thoroughly pleased with this side. It is simple as hell, but classic nonetheless. Our farmer’s market chard was particularly fresh/beautiful, so that was nice.

When I first talked to my boyfriend about the wine pairing we both agreed that a white would probably be best, but since (at night) we are red wine fanatics, I went with a local red wine blend, called Fetish by Garry Oaks. We live on a small island on the west coast of Canada with a whooping three vineyards, but Garry Oaks and Mistaken Identity (the latter certified organic, the former word-of-mouth organic) are our favourites. The pairing was delectable.

We both felt that roasting the peppers and lugging out the food processor were worthy of our nice, slightly expensive local wine. The Fetish is a is a “blend of Merlot (60%) and Cabernet Franc (40%)”. It is the vineyard’s only non-estate wine, as the grapes are grown in a hotter region called the South Okanagan of British Columbia’s interior. It is reputedly a Bordeaux-style wine, but we find it a little bit more intense than French bordeaux. It’s still, by our estimates, a lighter red, and it complemented the horseradish beautifully. I do think if I made this dish in the future I might use a very dry white instead of a red, simply because the red pepper sauce was so sweet and fresh, but I think the “Bordeaux” cut the  spice of the horseradish nicely.

All in all, participating in my first Vine and Dine was a blast!

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