Tasting Plates Vegetarian Review
Having just spent a week in Chicago after eating 6 pounds of decadent Venchi Chocolates from Eataly, 100% fully saturated fatty Chicago hot dogs, luxurious stone crab claws, indulging in fabulous tasting menus at one star Michelin restaurants and sexy martinis on even sexier rooftop bars, well I almost gained enough weight to qualify for two seats on the flight home. So it was with much happiness and relief that I was able to skip merrily along at the Tasting Plates Vegetarian event and eat with wild abandonment without feeling one ounce of guilt (not that I ever do). With vegetarian dishes that taste this good, you won’t miss your meat, so there’s my Tasting Plates Vegetarian review. But unlike dessert pictures where gain weight by looking at them, you actually lose weight after you read my Tasting Plates Vegetarian review.
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Living Produce Aisle
1168 Hamilton Street
Cuisine: Juice bar and salads
Peanut Butter and Jam Smoothie Bowls: pea shoots, broccoli microgreens, peanut butter, banana, chocolate protein powder, almond milk and Erin Ireland’s Power Ball as a crumble topping
Registration for Tasting Plates Vegetarian was at Living Produce Aisle where I felt 100% better the moment I stepped into this shop as I swear that the live plants that are used in their smoothies or sold here in flats, were expelling oxygen all aimed it my way as they could probably sense that I had just spent a week in the world’s 22nd most polluted city – Chicago. Since I breathe through my mouth, I had made sure that my mouth was preoccupied with food instead of breathing in the Chicago smog. Now I’m wondering if this oxygenated space could be a substitute for my BLTs which is now my morning after remedy.
Microgreen Salad: pea shoot, sunflower, purple radish and broccoli microgreens, pumpkin seeds, cranberrries and dressing of balsamic, honey and olive oil
What I like about Living Produce Aisle’s menu is that it indicates what menu items are dairy-free, low carb or low-calorie. Also, not everything here tastes like “grass” as menu items such as Carrot Cake Smoothies with radish, broccoli, carrot juice, strawberries, banana, coconut and pumpkin spice and the Peanut Butter and Jam Smoothie Bowl we had were quite tasty if you like peanut butter and jam and the taste of the greens was well disguised.
Wheat grass shots
The Microgreen Salad is a vegetarian’s dream come true as it’s so chock full of great stuff like pea shoots, broccoli and pumpkin seeds and the cranberries give it a contrasting tart flavour. But if your kids don’t like the taste of salads I’m thinking you’ll need to dump a pound of cranberries to disguise the “green” taste. For me, I’ve always loved pea sprouts so no complaints. Incidentally did you know that sprouting vegetables contains more nutrients such as protein, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamins C and K than unsprouted vegetables? Our last Tasting Plate was the Wheat Grass Shot which I avoided as I’ve had this before and I don’t like the flavour of wheat grass, which is not to say that this isn’t good, but it’s not my personal preference.
Saj & Co.
813 Davie Street
Cuisine: Lebanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Squash ginger hummus, hummus, Green Balilla – chickpea, Kale, spinach and Garden Wrap
Fresh, fragrant and tasty is how I would describe the food at Saj & Co. and that incidentally, is also exactly how my last boyfriend described me. A lot of Sajo dishes utilizes zaatar which is a Middle Eastern aromatic spice blend made with toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram, and sumac. Just one taste and you’ll be addicted and coming back for more. Also all of the freshly baked Lebanese saj breads are made in-house on the saj top in the cafe which looks like a silver dome. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to like the food at Saj and Co, but there are two meat items such as Beetbeef, roast beef with egpplant dip or Green Cow with beef and kale and spinach.
Our Tasting Plate here was more of a tasting platter which we promptly packaged into our Tupperware but only after we had one big delicious bite of the in-house Squash Tumeric Hummus and in-house Saj Bread. I had the Green Balilla for lunch the next day and it was filling and had a lot of fragrant flavours. In summery, this tasting platter contained a medley of fresh vegetables cultivated straight from the Garden of Eden. Bursting with zaatar, this is the food meant to turn carnivores into vegetarians and to bring smiles to those of us looking for diet food that doesn’t visit us in our nightmares.
Firecrust Neapolitan Pizzeria
808 Davie Street, Vancouver
Cuisine: Neapolitan Pizzeria
Vegan mozza, vegan sausage, red peppers, onions, eggplant
Having a lactose intolerance means never having to say I’m sorry for ordering pizza without cheese, which many pizza fanatics tell me is sacrilegious. That is, until they hear me try to cough up a lung every five minutes for five weeks, which isn’t an exaggeration. At Firecrust Neapolitan Pizzeria, their pizza bases are made with non-GMO flour and tomato sauce is from San Marzano tomatoes. Like most pizza joints, there are traditional pizza items with meat and cheese but also some interesting pizza selections such as California Club with avocado.
But unlike other pizza restaurants, you can customize your own pizza, choosing what cheese, protein and vegetables you want. It’s like a Subway of pizza joints minus the fat guy in the commercial who tries to convince you that he loses weight by only eating Subway sandwiches. The prices for pizzas are $11.95 with sauce, cheese, one protein and veggies or select a specialty pizza on the menu starting from $10.45 to $13.49. There’s also three vegan pizza menu items for less than $12 with vegan cheese and vegan meat substitutions.
Our Tasting Plate here was a generous customized Vegan Pizza which I so ha-ha-ha-pily choose vegan mozza and vegan sausage. Verdict – tasty with enough tomato sauce with enough Italian spices and crispy Neapolitan crust and the vegan sausage did taste like sausage surprisingly but I felt it would have been 100% better if they had put a little bit more vegan mozza on the pizza. Obviously the guy serving us wasn’t Italian as any good Italian knows that you shouldn’t skimp on cheese or else you’ll be waking up with a horse head in your bed the next day. Gluten-free crusts are only $1 extra and apparently you can substitute vegan cheese for regular cheese on any pizza for free! Personally, my favorite combos is pepperoni and mushrooms (Pozzuoli), so I’ll be headed here to have it with vegan mozza. Although I do like vegan pizzas with no cheese, I do prefer the traditional pizza selections.
Incidentally, the next day when I reheated the pizza in my oven, the vegan sausage was too crispy as the time needed to make the crust crispy was far too long for the little bits of vegan sausage. Otherwise, the flavors were there (I added more vegan cheese).
Davie Dosa Company
1235 Davie Street, Vancouver
Cuisine: South Indian
Rice & Steamed Cake, Madhu Vada Lentil Donuts, Masala Dosa and Sambhar (veg lentil soup)
I’ve been at Davie Dosa before has this restaurant has featured in one of Vancouver Foodster’s tasting plates and I have only five words to describe the food – Holy Smokes I’m on fire …. Order a jug of water because you’re going to need it if you want your tongue to survive the experience as some of the spicy Indian dishes on the menu are pure fire starters.
Having prepared my mind, body and soul for a spicy encounter of the third kind, our Tasting Plates did not cause my eyelids to flutter like a hummingbird and a major depletion of Vancouver’s water reserve as our food was mildly spicy with fragrant spices overwhelming our taste buds instead of scorching heat. I’ve had numerous dosas before which are normally like crepes but in this case it was more like a light layer crispy of phyllo pastry with a delicious mound of spicy potato inside. I thought the Masala Dosa was gigantic but two customers walking by advised us that their dosas had been twice as big (now I have dosa envy). The Sambar soup was obviously homemade and was very fragrant and was obviously meant to pair with the rice cake. I didn’t eat the Medhu Vada (lentil donut) until the next day and I loved them. It tasted like a donut but with a denser texture and more flavour. If they made this into a vegan dessert with coconut cream and raspberry coulis or lemon curd I’d be back to buy a dozen to eat there and another dozen to take out – oink oink. I’d have to say this was my favorite tasting plates for Tasting Plates Vegetarian.
La Cantina Tacos
722 Nelson Street, Vancouver
Tel: (604) 620-8981
Tofu, nutritional yeast and Portobello mushroom with tamarind sauce
Having eaten at one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago, Topolobampo, it’s hard for me to appreciate Mexican cuisine that isn’t up to one star Michelin standards. And because I had in-house corn tortillas at Topolobampo, I was hard pressed not to turn my nose up at the bland tortillas at La Cantina. Also, the sauce in the tacos was bland and the fillings just didn’t hold up on their own without a tasty sauce. Maybe the meat tacos are better, but bland tortillas and bland sauce is reason enough for me to never darken these doors again, not even for their cheap $2 tacos and $4 Margaritas offered for happy hour every day from 4pm to 6pm. And I’m sure if La Cantina Tacos ever reads this review, they’ll be sending the Blue Demon after me given that they have oodles of this famous Mexican wrestler hanging on their walls.
About Tasting Plates
Each month Richard Wolak organizes one or two different Tasting Plates event focused on a specific neighbourhood or food theme. There are usually four or fives restaurants on the tour. This is a self-guided tour which you are given about four hours to visit each location. You begin at a common registration point where you receive your Tasting Plates ticket which will list the tasting plates at each establishment. The price of this ticket varies as the earlier you buy your ticket, the lower the price will be. You should subscribe to the Tasting Plates newsletter to learn about new Tasting Plates events. My ticket is complimentary as I market this event and write reviews and I tweet and instagram the events to death.