Vancouver Vegan High Tea!!! By Request @ La Petite Cuillère

img_7563

I am always on the lookout for great tea.  I love tea it’s one of my little eccentricities I guess. I usually have at least 15-20 different tea selections around my house at any given time. 

But high tea has always been something that was not on the menu due to my food allergies. Finding a high tea service that doesn’t include dairy or eggs but is still traditional is like finding a weeping willow tree in the desert.

But some times you come across the best things by accident. As I did with La Petite Cuillère  at 55 Kingsway Street, Vancouver.

After my voice lessons one day I was headed for the bus to Main Street station and passed by a sign that announce Vegan cupcakes!  A very exciting find – I popped in and it was the loveliest place: filled with cozy armchairs, and dining tables, and patterned tablecloths and those old English china tea cups painted with roses and violets – just like it would be at your imaginary English Grandmother’s house!

Don’t be fooled – the name is French – but It’s most definitely an English tea house.

That first time I had a lovely cup of  Earl grey cream and a yummy cupcake and noted down my voice exercises for the week.

I ended up popping in quite often and getting to know the owners a little – who have always been so friendly and wonderful and knowledgeable about their teas and have always been interested in feedback about their vegan offerings.

Then when we were trying to think of something fun to do to get a group of my old room-mates together I thought – high tea!  ( I’m not the only tea nerd in the group.)  So I emailed La Petite Cuillère and asked if it was possible to put together a vegan high tea for me. And they said yes!

So the girls and I met for a high tea on a lovely early spring Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful. And the prices are soooooooo good.  High tea in the this town, and in my former haunt of Victoria, BC is scandalously expensive – $40 to 50 dollars is totally normal.  High tea at La Petite Cuillère  is two tiers of yummy treats – “A selection of two miniature sweets, two finger sandwiches, one miniature scone, fruit preserves, and Devonshire cream. Served on authentic English bone china with your choice of tea from our premium loose leaf tea selection. (Available Friday through Sunday)”  for $13.75  or for a larger afternoon tea with even more on three tiers for $24.50.  I got the Afternoon tea option last time I was there but I think in the future I would go for the high tea option – it seems like the best deal, and more than enough food and treats for me.

Of course the vegan high tea and the regular high tea have differences of course but I was very pleased with what I got in comparison with my table-mates.

As for the tea choices I suggest the Earl Gray Cream and the Darling Darjeeling and the Mango Green tea and the Coconut Rooibos Chai.

Go there. It’s a great place. Vegan friendly and everyone friendly – the staff and owners are delightful. Make sure to make reservations for high tea on the weekend as they are usually very busy!!   AND YOU MUST REQUEST A VEGAN OPTION WHEN YOU MAKE RESERVATIONS! You can find them on Facebook and at their website http://www.lapetitecuillere.ca/ and at 55 Kingsway, Vancouver.

*photos courtesy of their website – as my photos all have faces in them.

img_7569

Advertisements

My Balcony Garden Salad!

new photo may 135

The above pic is of the first day after I planted my new little balcony vegetable garden this spring – May 1 to be exact. I have never had my own garden before so I didn’t know what to expect. ( Maybe the same drudgery as weeding was when I was a kid)  But it has been such a joy! I tend and thin and water and things grew! Yummy things that are helpful in the kitchen.  Its has been so much fun to watch thing grow and grow and I have added even more new pots this past month!

These pic document my lettuce pot from dirt and seeds to my first salad from the garden a few weeks ago – since then there has been 5 or 6 more big plates of salad.  😀

new photo may 149

IMG_0048

IMG_0046

Under the influence: Pacific Breeze Winery Tour and Tasting

IMG_0126Last year I took a chance on a one of those group coupon deals for a wine tasting in New Westminster, BC so I could take my Mom out and have some fun. (We have previously had great fun at Vancouver’s amazing and wonderful HOPSCOTCH Festival!)  And several weeks ago for Mothers’s Day we finally went.

I had my doubts, and so did my Mom, about an urban winery in New Westminster:  there are no vineyards in Metro Vancouver; one must drive a few hours or take a ferry to get near the prime wine country; and both of us had spent a great deal of time in New West and didn’t think it very likely that we would have not noticed a large winery in the area.  But why not go and see what it is about and taste some wine.

Some high quality, delicious, remarkable wine.

I am not a connoisseur of wine by any means. I have a glass maybe once a month. But I do like to to read: to read about how things are made and to read about history. And wine is one of those things that comes up a lot in history. (Hungary’s famous Tokaj (Tokay) wine was used as an overture to create and keep allies: Louis the XIV was given Tokaj wine by the new Prine of a newly independent Hungary in 1686 in order to gain his alliance. He adored it and served it at the French court dubbing it “Vinum Regnum – Rex Vinorum” -the king of wines and the wine of kings; and Emperor Franz Josef sent Queen Victoria one bottle for every month she lived.  And once when I was a history major in university I had one of those 3 o’clock in the morning epiphanies that most of the major decisions by the major player in history were made under the influence of alcohol, and often lots of it.  But I digress.

The location is, well, unexpected. Kind of an old industrial mall down by the train tracks with only a couple of other occupants. But when I walked in the door it was a beautiful room with a  wooden bar. The tour at Pacific Breeze began in that first room, the main tasting room where we were poured a generous taste of their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  Yummy! Unoaked, very fresh, fruity, and dry – a great summer wine.   This is not the wine you would associate with a “garage winery.” Then we were taken into the wine making room – which has 5 huge tanks where the wine ferments, the grape “squish-er,” a “de-skinner”  and a small bottling machine. The guide was one of the winemakers and he gave us some information and really welcomed our questions.The best guides are passionate and knowledgeable and he was both. He let us know that their “garage winery” was the product of two home winemakers with 40 years of experience between them and we constantly being asked if their wine was for sale.  He also let us know the origin of the name Pacific Breeze , as all the grapes are sourced from up and down the pacific coast – California, Oregon, Washington , and this year BC. They choose the best regions, and valleys for each varietal they make and they are small so they can order  small amount of the best they can find.  A little bit of many varieties and whatever seems like it had good growing year.   We then tried the Chardonnay which was complex and earthy, but as I’m not a fan of oaked white wine I can’t rave about it. It was complex and high quality but not my thing.

Then we we invited into the cask room – it was the room that I always think of when someone says winery – with about 100  French and American casks stacked  around the edges of the room.

Pacific Breeze Winery

There was a table set in the centre with chairs for each of us and plates of a variety of high quality cheese and a little meat and crackers for each couple of tasters. Sadly have allergies to dairy, and the crackers were filled with sesame – one of my life threatening allergies. But there was wine so I couldn’t feel too bad for myself. The next wine was their signature Killer Cab, which was impressive. It’s a blend, and to me a good blend it a sign of great skill in wine making – blending just the right wines in the right quantities to get and outstanding result. It was dry and had the great mouth puckering and watering deliciousness that a cab should have.  Then we tried AssaZin. Which is a red Zinfandel. This is not the light white less than 10 dollar Zinfandel I associate with being 19 and having a gossipy night in with my girlfriends.  This is a powerful, deep purple,  mouth puckering  punch to the taste buds. The fruit is less prominent but is in a lovely harmony with the oak. This is a strong bold red but  isn’t heavy or over powering. Personally I like fruity wines and don’t usually go for heavier reds but this was definitely something I would order a glass of.  The next, and final bottle that was opened for us was a 2010 Cabernet Franc. Which was my absolute favourite of the day. It was very bold but the fruit was still in the starring role. It was an incredible wine. So delicious.  With the last three reds, each one was better than the last. But at our end of the table each one was a wow wine. I wouldn’t hesitate to order any of them at a restaurant or buy a bottle as a gift, or to share with friends.

At the tasting table we were invited to ask questions  – I asked quite a few, as is my my way – And we were guided through more intricacies of the wind making process, casking, tasting, filtering etc. And a couple of answers I think are important to share here: Pacific Breeze is not sold by BC liquor stores only private wine stores and at the winery itself, because as a small producer it would take almost 3/4 of what they produce  each year just to give them a small spot on the shelf; and the produce vegan wines- they do not use animal products  in the filtering stage which apparently is common practice and hard to to research or detect what wines use what processes for filtering. So if you are vegan Pacific Breeze is a good choice.

At the end of the tasting, when each of us was warm and our judgement a little impaired, we we invited back to the tasting room to buy any of the wines that were on offer. 🙂

All the wines are corked and will last and age well.

I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc as it is summer time and I’m sure it will delicious to share on a balcony with friends on a summer evening.   And it was one of my two favourites of the tasting.

I was hesitating though because I really did like the Cabernet Franc but in the end my thrifty-ness won out. And I bought the cheaper bottle. And because we were at a tasting got a small discount 🙂    Though all the wines we had tasted were very reasonably priced in the 19.99 to 29.99 range. But a day or two later I was kicking myself and thinking that I really should have bought a bottle of the red instead. But I was stuck with an awesome white -such a terrible first world problem.  I did though write a quick note to the people at the winery thanking them for the great tasting and tour and answering so many of my questions. And I couldn’t help but ask if they still had a few bottles of the Franc around – and they did so – and they were kind enough to put one aside for me to pick up the next weekend and they gave me the tasting discount as well! They were lovely to me – which is so important!

I have good memories of a nice Sunday afternoon tasting with my Mom and I have two bottles laying in my cupboard just waiting for the right occasion.

So if you are nearby Pacific Breeze stop by for a quick taste, and if you see the group coupon – get it and go !

IMG_0124

 

2 for 1 Soup Recipe! Butternut Squash Soup and Sweet Potato Soup (Vegan – friendly)

IMG_0002

IMG_0042

IMG_0093

I opened my cupboard on Friday to find my sweet potatoes had sprouted and were growing right through the bags! So it was definitely time to do something with them. I considered doing dumplings but really needed something more, um, put in  a pot and walk away for a while. So I wondered if sweet potato soup was something I could do – I’ve made regular potato soup so why not sweet potato? I googled and found that the recipes are almost identical to my butternut squash soup recipe (which I had made the week before). So here is the recipe for both –  the steps are the same and the spices can be interchanged easily.

Butternut squash is a favourite around this house – so whenever I see good quality squash available at the grocery store I pick it up. The best time of the year to get amazing squash is, of course, autumn. But if you know what to look for you can get decent one in the spring too. The key is to pick them up. They should be very heavy for their size. I usually go for a couple of the smallest but heaviest squashes.

iphone 009

Once you have the squashes or sweet potato for your soup then you are ready to go.  Again I’m big on use what you have or what you can find. You can size up or down this recipe to suit what you have.

What you will need: 

  • A large pot that will hold 4 litres or more like a soup/stock pot.
  • a peeler
  • a sharp knife
  • a cutting board
  • a spoon
  • something to stir with
  • a blender!
  • many jars or containers to store finished soup
  • two small/ medium squashes OR  two very large or 5 smaller yams/sweet potatoes    in general about a kilo or a little more than couple of pounds of squash or yams. (It is also possible to mix them together in one soup – I’ve done it it’s yummy.)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic – (optional for sweet potato, really good in butternut squash)
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable canola or light olive oil
  • 1 to 2 litres of stock ( vegetable or chicken)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2-3 tsp of a mix of thyme and sage and a bay leaf ( I use this most often for butternut squash)  OR  garam masala

(yummy add ins at the end of cooking – fresh herbs, roasted nuts, rice, beans)

First take every thing out. 

Then peel the squash and/or the sweet potatoes.  For the squash,  scoop out the seeds and save them. Rinse with water. Put aside for a few moments. 

Put the pot on the stove, add the oil and turn on the burner to medium heat.  (When pre heating start lower than you think you will need – heating pans on high heat can warp and damage them)

Get your onion, put in on the cutting board and cut off the top and the bottom ( hard round end and sprout-y end). Peel off the outer layer(s) until you hit the outer most shiny crisp layer.

Roughly cut onion. Big chunks are fine as we will blend the soup.  Toss them in the pot. Add a little salt.

iphone 008

Cook onions till translucent. Add garlic if you are using it and cook with onions for a few stirs. Add in spices. Stir a few more times.

IMG_0005

Add in squash or sweet potato. then add in stock. Enough to cover the vegetables and have them float a bit.

IMG_0010

Turn the burner up to medium high and bring to a boil.  Once it boils turn the burner down to medium so it is at a rapid simmer/ low boil for 30 minutes or so. You know it’s all cooked when you can easily pierce the squash or potato with a fork – or can cut a piece in half with the side of the fork.

IMG_0041

Turn the burner off and let it cool for at least 10 – 15 minutes.  ( don’t blend boiling soup – it’s a bad idea)

Ladle 3-4 cups of warmish soup into the blender and blend on low for a few seconds and then pulse a few times until the soup is smooth. Pour into a bowl or containers. Repeat until it’s all smooth a delicious.

The thickness of the soup will depend on the amount of stock you added, and how much it boiled and for how long. If you think it is too thin return it to the pot and simmer longer. if it is too thick add it back to the pot with stock or water and bring back to a boil.

Voila! Soup! Guten Apetit!

Butternut Squash Soup:

IMG_0063

Dry Spice Mixes 1: Italian Spice Blend (Vegan)

IMG_0068I love efficiency in the kitchen. I don’t like to fuss and fiddle with jars and jars and bags and bags of spices when I have 4 pots and pans going on the stove. Which I often do on weekly cooking days. So I put together mixes in jars so I can just grab a pinch or two of what I need no fuss and less mess.

This mix below I use when I make soups, sauces, salad dressings,  when I microwave or steam veggies ( a little spice, olive oil and balsamic yum!!). And it is great on tofu, chicken, fish, beef, pork, turkey,  etc.

Italian Spice Blend

What you will need for one jar:

  • measuring spoons
  • a bowl for stirring
  • a small spice jar or storage container

all spices below are dried:

  • 3-4 heaping tsp basil and parsley preferably leaves
  • 2 tsp marjoram  ( I have ground)
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage ( ground – )
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika and 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika  (not that grocery store mystery paprika – if it isn’t labelled either sweet or hot and it isn’t from Hungary it’s not worth buying)

(Buy spices in bags or bulk-  not jars – to save money. You can get glass jars for a dollar or two at the dollar store.)

So I go about this by spooning a half teaspoon at a time, layer by layer of spices,  to make sure it fits in my special labelled spice jar (paper and scotch tape.  Then I pour the spices into a bowl and stir thoroughly.  And then funnel them back into my jar.

Because I tend to use fresh garlic and onion regularly  I don’t add onion or garlic powder but  you are completely welcome to – I would suggest a teaspoon or two of each. you can also add some salt and pepper to the mix if you would rather not add them during the cooking process.

If you prefer oregano or have it at home then use it instead of marjoram or use 1 tsp of each –  I suggest if you use oregano to use less sage.  But the key is to use what you like – the mix and each spice should smell good to you – if a spice doesn’t smell goo to you you probably won’t like the taste of it.

Basic Marinara Sauce (Vegan – friendly)

IMG_0068

Store bought jar pasta sauce is often filled with preservatives and mystery spices and cost to much for what it is and I have never found one that I liked as much as the super easy one I make at home regularly.  I wish I could get perfect off the vine tomatoes from my  garden, everything fresh a al Martha Stewart but that isn’t my life. But seriously just because it doesn’t come right from the garden it doesn’t mean I am required to resort to that stuff from a jar.  This is a great compromise sauce.  And it lasts in the fridge at least a week and it is cheap, and ridiculously simple.

What you will need:

  • a pot that will hold at least 2 litres
  • something to stir with
  • a blender – to make it smooth
  • can opener
  • 2  796ml (28 ounce) cans of plain tomatoes ( diced or whole or salt free all work I prefer salt free)  – whatever brand you like best.  When you see  them on sale buy many cans – they are a staple of any pantry.   Canned tomatoes often taste much better than the fresh varieties you buy at the grocery store here most of the year.
  • 2 ish tsp Italian spice blend (recipe below and in post)  and a bay leaf. Or a combination of these spices: parsley; basil ( basil makes tomato flavour sing 🙂 ; marjoram or oregano; thyme; a bay leaf; chili powder or chili flakes or a good Hungarian hot paprika ( see note below re: paprika) for a spicy kick; and pepper.
  • 3-5 cloves of fresh garlic ( or 1tsp garlic powder)
  • 2 cups of stock (low or no salt preferred) , or water
  • fancy molasses or sugar or brown sugar
  • a half teaspoon salt ( if using no salt broth and tomatoes)
  • optional delicious add-ins I’ve tried: 1-2 cups of sliced mushrooms, one onion, or hard goat cheese (or I for those of you who eat cow cheese – Parmesan), a shake of Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Get all the tools and food items you will need.

Peel and cut off the hard spot on the bottom of each clove of garlic.

Add garlic and stock to the blender (I mostly use no salt, beef stock in this because beef and tomatoes go so beautifully together) or chicken or vegetable and blend until garlic is chopped up nicely. (this is where I add in my onions and blend them up to)

Place the pot on the stove and turn the burner on to medium heat. 

Add stock and garlic blend to pot.

Open the cans of tomatoes, and pour them into the blender. Blend on low speed to start then increase and pulse a few times. The colour of the tomatoes with lighten as you blend.  (Canned tomatoes are notorious for their high sodium levels – check carefully – if there are no salt cans available always get the no salt.)

Pour in the blended tomatoes.

Add spices and stir.  (this is where I add finely chopped/grated button mushrooms) – if you have no salt stock and tomatoes – add a few shakes of salt)

IMG_0036

When it boils, turn it down to low/medium heat or simmer. Check on the pot every 15 to 20 minutes or so. The sauce will reduce and reduce until gets a thicker.

I simmer it, on low.  Give it an hour and taste it and assess if it needs anything.

If it is acidic tasting (sharp almost sour, mouth puckering) – add a little sweetness – I use fancy molasses (not regular cooking molasses) – and add a teaspoon and stir and see what it taste like-  still too acidic? add a little more.  ( about a half teaspoon of sugar or brown sugar works this same way too.)  This can also help if both your stock and tomatoes had high sodium counts – to balance out the saltiness.

if it is bland add a bit of pepper, a bit of salt. ( if no salt ingredients then 3-4 shakes then taste again)

I usually add a bit of balsamic vinegar (balsamic vinegar makes tomatoes extra delicious) – if you have the really expensive thick aged awesome stuff – don’t cook it  use it at the last possible moment.  if you have the regular costco stuff you can cook it a while. The amount I add varies – if the tomatoes were very acidic then I have to make sure things balance – so I have to add some more sweetness.

If it needs something and I can’t quite figure out what I usually give it a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce (not vegan) – or even a touch of siracha or Louisiana hot sauce but it’s not necessary at all.

So cook it a bit more  – You don’t have to stir it regularly  just check on it every 15-20 minutes or so.  When it is done it will have reduced significantly in volume in the pot.  I usually look for the sauce to be about a half an inch below where the sauce started.

IMG_0049

Let it cool a little, take out the bay leaf if you used one and (then if you want you can add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and give it a good stir).  Spoon into in glass jars ( mason jars or leftover cleaned jars ) or containers and put in the fridge 🙂  – and make some pasta!

This sauce is also a good one for simmering chicken or fish  or other proteins in.

Italian Spice Blend

What you will need for one jar:

  • measuring spoons
  • a bowl for stirring
  • a small spice jar or storage container
  • 3-4 heaping tsp basil and parsley preferably leaves
  • 2 tsp marjoram  ( I have ground)
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika and 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika  (not that grocery store mystery paprika – if it isn’t labelled either sweet or hot and it isn’t from Hungary it’s not worth buying)

(Buy spices in bags, or bulk, not jars to save money. You can get glass jars for a dollar or two at the dollar store.)

So I go about this by spooning a half teaspoon at a time, layer by layer of spices,  to make sure it fits in my special labelled spice jar (paper and scotch tape.  Then I pour the spices into a bowl and stir thoroughly.  And then funnel them back into my jar.

Because I tend to use fresh garlic and onion regularly  I don’t add onion or garlic powder but  you are completely welcome to – I would suggest a teaspoon or two of each.

If you prefer oregano or have it at home then use it instead of marjoram or use 1 tsp of each –  I suggest if you use oregano to use less sage.  But the key is to use what you like – the mix and each spice should smell good to you – if a spice doesn’t smell goo to you you probably won’t like the taste of it.

I use this mix on chicken, fish, beef, pork, turkey,  tofu, etc.  And in soups and sauces.

 

Food Porn: Mango and Chocolate Sorbetto

mmm 004

When asked what five things I would take to a desert island two of my choices would be a lifetime supply each of cookies and ice cream.  As a gal with food allergies and sensitivities,  I would have to pay a physical price for eating regular dairy-based ice cream – but there are many alternatives.  Hands down the best thing I have found is a sorbetto heaven in Vancouver – Bella Gelateria.  They are wonderful for always having a long a list of sorbetto,  non – dairy gelato, At least four flavours per day in the winter and 7 or more in the spring and summer prepared fresh every day by an award-winning, master gelato maker – James Coleridge. (He may even be there to serve it to you with a big smile )

Today, I had a two flavour cone of chocolate sorbetto – which has a saturated, creamy, bitter-sweet dark chocolate taste, is thick and creamy in texture. The mango mango mango flavour is amazing – it is the one sorbetto that I will order every time it is on the list when I come in. It is sooooo rich and creamy and smooth and so full of ripe delicious mango! The combination of the two is incredibly lush and heavenly. mmmmmmmmm!

The lemon, and Faloudeh sorbettos are also great choices – and if you ever see the blood orange or gewurztraminer sorbetto try them!

James Coleridge  created Bella Gelateria as “first gelateria in North America to make gelato using a process and equipment found in the best gelateria’s of Italy” after training in Bologna’s Gelato University. And he has won 2 major awards at the 2012 Florence Italy Gelato Festival – Winner People’s Choice Award and  Winner Technical Jury –  an unprecedented achievement for a non-Italian entrant (as well as many other accolades).

It is one of those places that I take friends and family from out of town – if you are taking a trip to Vancouver it is a not to be missed local experience. They support BC fruit growers, local suppliers and the slow food movement  🙂   They are also open till 10 or 11pm everyday – a rarity in Vancouver.

If you have sensitivities or allergies -The website http://www.bellagelateria.com/  has a page listing the ingredients  so that you can see what is in the gelato or sorbetto: Sorbetto-  Fresh seasonal fruit, Canadian Spring water, White cane sugar, Carob flour.

If you want to check out some of their other flavours  they list many of them on their website and update twitter and facebook with new offerings.  And they will let you have a taste before buying a whole cone. 🙂 Here is picture of today’s offerings:

mmm 008

mmm 010

They are located at Burrard and Cordova in Vancouver. If you are ever in town go there!