The Road Less Eaten
Sharing my experiences traveling and integrating my surroundings through local vegan cuisine.
13th STREET COFFEE HOUSE
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Food style: coffee house cafe
Veg Scale: mostly vegetarian, tons of vegan and gluten free items labeled
Part of town: Cathedral area
Found among the quiet and quirky row of shops and cafes along 13th street, this aptly named coffee shop and café is a must visit while in town! Situated in a converted old house, the setting is just as cozy and inviting for the busy office worker on a quick lunch break as it is for a café dweller planning to spend the day typing away on a laptop – read: free wifi! The outdoor patio invites passersby up the front stairs bordered by blooming potted flowers and into the front foyer lined to the right with a community bulletin bursting with flyers advertising yoga classes, urban garden assistance and local music concerts among other eclectic offerings. Along the same wall is a narrow staircase leading up to the restrooms. To the left, indoor seating begins, wrapping around to the counter where you place your order with one of the friendly young staff. The menu is colorfully written across the blackboard-painted far wall and is mainly vegetarian. The vegan and gluten-free options are numerous and clearly labeled. They are the only fully licensed coffeehouse in Regina and offer a varied selection of seasonal and worldly drink specials along with a menu brimming with locally sourced produce.
Unfortunately we were in a rush to get to the airport so didn’t get to enjoy as much of the local ambiance as we would have liked, but we were able to order a few delicious options to go. I went for the Power Salad (GF), a delightfully filling mountain of marinated tofu, savory seasoned chickpeas, fresh red bell peppers, red ripened tomatoes, and juicy cubes of cucumber atop a thin bed of “power greens” and capped off by crisp bean sprouts, sweet shredded carrots and tangy purple cabbage sprinkled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I’ve noticed the consistency of tofu in Canada is far denser and more textural than the standard American fare; a palatable detail I very much appreciate. I would compare it to the “high protein” style I’ve found at some health food stores in the States and at Trader Joe’s. I had my pick from 6 house-made dressings, all vegan and gluten free, so I chose the creamy and satisfying Caesar (GF). A savory blend of exotic spices that I couldn’t quite put my finger on turned the chickpeas into the stand out star of this salad. Let it be known, this is no ordinary salad. I’ve never had my hankering for crisp, fresh veggies so satisfied and my hunger so fully satiated by a salad as I did by this gorgeous green gargantuan. I was not over-stuffed nor was I left craving anything. This salad was, dare I say it, perfect. Hats, were I wearing one, off to these guys J
Chris opted for the Marrakesh Stew (GF), a creamy coconut curry originating from the city of the same name in Morocco. Comprised of melt-in-your-mouth potatoes, carrots, zucchini, raisins, green bell peppers, chickpeas and sweet potatoes all swimming atop a base of fluffy quinoa (or brown rice, your choice) this dish was a comforting option more fit for a rainy day. The curry was not overly “coconutty” nor overly creamy and could have done with some more spice and stronger flavor, but the vegetables were perfectly simmered just to the point before being overcooked and it was very filling. I don’t know that I’d order it again especially as they have a number of other curry offerings on the menu that piqued my interest.
We finished off our meal with one of their Superfood Bars; a decadent mixture of seeds and dried fruits held together by an abundance of chunky peanut butter with a thin floor of rich dark chocolate underneath. The best way I can think of to describe this sweet treat would be to invite you to imagine the lovechild of a Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup and a homemade trail mix bar. Every mouthful an explosion of new flavor combinations, half a bar would have been more than enough for us to split after our meal! It should, however, have been kept in the fridge as it immediately began melting the moment it was handed over – the better to lick your fingers with, my dear!
Overall I found this spot to be my favorite in Regina thus far. In fact, I want to come back to town just so I can experience an afternoon of writing and reading at this café and explore the surrounding area! Join me for a salad, tea and “thrifting” excursion, wont you?
SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Food style: organic, biodynamic winery with farm-to-table bistro
Veg Scale: 100% vegan wines!!!
Part of town: East Kelowna
What a lot of people don’t know is that a lot of wine, and many types of alcohol in general, are not actually vegan. In winemaking specifically, animal byproducts such as fish bladders, gelatin, egg whites, milk and milk byproducts are used in the process. To find out whether or not your favorite adult beverages are vegan-friendly check out the awesome website BARNIVORE. An extensive online database searchable by brand, this fantastic resource clearly labels each varietal along with providing backup resources that explain the reasoning behind whether or not each libation is considered herbivore friendly. They also have an app, Vegaholic, that doesn’t even need wifi!
Known as “The Nappa of the North,” The Okanagan Valley is responsible for 90% of the wine produced in British Columbia and is fast becoming one of the most awarded and recognized wine-growing regions in the world. Due to its highly diverse terrain boasting countless microclimates and vineyard soil types along with the winds blowing down the hills into the 85-mile long Okanagan Lake, it is the perfect setting for organic farming and winemaking.
Knowing the history of this area, I knew I wanted to try some wines while Chris and I were visiting, but it was important to me to make a conscious choice on where exactly to sample the local offerings in a mindful manner. With a page on their website directed exclusively towards vegans, I knew Summerhill was the place for me! Aside from all of their wine being vegan-friendly, they run an organic, biodynamic vineyard complete with food forests and edible landscaping that schedules its planting and harvesting seasons with the lunar cycle! This methodology is right in alignment with my belief that all things - including us, what we eat, and where and how we grow it - are all energy interacting with and impacting one another. It is vitally important that we are in harmony with our surroundings, honoring our environment by balancing what we take with what we give back. This is the only way to sustain any system and as the stewards of the earth, it is our responsibility to seek and honor that balance in all ways. By placing our focus and energy simply on taking from the earth, we diminish its resources and potency, slowly dwindling down to dust what has supported us for countless generations. Biodynamic farming is the future of food production, focusing on rebalancing what has been greatly depleted by outdated systems like factory farming and monocultures.
Known for growing and bottling countless gold-medal-winning varietals of sparkling wine (different only from Champagne in that the grapes do not come from the Champagne region in France), Summerhill is one of the “most visited wineries in the region.” With their sweeping vistas overlooking the lake, it’s no wonder a wedding party was gearing up as we arrived. A more scenic setting for your wine-loving nuptials you could not ask for. Unfortunately their bistro menu does not support the vegan diet, though their gelato offerings in the front foyer do. On our visit this included two sorbet flavors that Chris and I happily enjoyed in order to rebalance our core temperatures from the steaming outdoor heat. The cherries from this part of BC are famous and so fittingly one of the flavors was just that while the other was a refreshing mango. Both were sweet and bursting with flavor while the cherry had a much smoother, creamier mouth feel. I don’t recommend indulging in these treats too close to a tasting however, as this will effect your palate.
As you first enter the grounds you will notice their trademark building: The Pyramid, an integral part of their winemaking process. Oriented to True North, it is their “marriage room” where the cuvée and dosage combine over 30 days. As explained by our friendly tour guide Andrew, this process is enhanced by the negative ions directed through the structure, which naturally accentuate properties of any kind, in this case those of the grapes. All Southeastern European wineries specializing in sparkling wines have a sacred geometric structure as their marriage room for just that reason. Summerhill’s Pyramid is unique in that it is the only one of these buildings able to be above ground due to the climate. The hot summers are balanced out by the cold winters preventing severe fluctuation within the Pyramid’s interior temperature. The acknowledgement of the effects of sacred alignment in this so seemingly modern yet timelessly ancient process is very exciting to me. A more in depth exploration of the science and spirituality behind this structure and its purpose is best expounded upon by proprietor Stephen Cipes but I highly recommend a visit as the best explanation you could have is your own personal experience. And you will taste the difference I assure you J
Chris and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the bright, shining soul that is Mr. Cipes on our visit as our paths crossed by chance at the end of our tour in the private tasting room. A warm, open man he greeted us with a true hug and a bottle of sparkling rosé in hand. I could have shared space with him for hours. It is clear he has a passion for and understanding of the true nature of life and how to best enjoy it and building this winery is a testament to that.
Four tastes are included in the $10 tour fee, $5 of which is refunded when you purchase a bottle. By no means a connoisseur, I’m usually more of a red wine drinker, but I found much to enjoy in their white and sparkling varietals. Producers of 14-17% of Canada’s ice wine, they had three bottles available to try and sample them we did. One of these is only made in two wineries in the world, Summerhill being one of them! I ended up taking home a Brut and a Merlot. As I normally don’t like Merlot, I was surprised but agreed with Andrew as its flavor profile more closely resembled that of a Pinot Noir and I found their Pinot to be too light for my taste. We grabbed a number of other bottles as presents, as well. Their Jazz Rosé even comes in a refillable glass bottle shaped like a trumpet, the perfect gift! We were having such a great time chatting with Andrew, learning more about the wines and organic winemaking in general and getting his unique perspective from a culinary background that when it came time for us to head out, I had honestly lost track of how many tastes we enjoyed!
Our brief but impactful meeting with Mr. Cipes along with the expert knowledge provided by Andrew and the countless tastings we did afterward allowed us to feel not only confident in our purchases but excited to share these special creations with the friends and family for whom we chose them. I have the distinct feeling that this will not be the last time Chris and I share a varietal at this special place in the OK Valley.
THE GREEN SPOT
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Food style: fast counter service
Veg Scale: 100% vegetarian, many things can be made vegan or gluten free
Part of town: Downtown
***NOTE: The address on the website is outdated as this is their third location. The correct address is 1821 Hamilton Street as of the posting of this blog. They will eventually be moving across the street when construction is finished.***
After landing in Regina, Chris and I were starving and so headed downtown to try out The Green Spot. Known first as a coffee-roasting house, the café is set up in standard counter style service. Photos, paintings and other works from local artists line the walls and in the back is a small offset partition filled to the ceiling with countless varieties of international coffee beans ready to be ground in the nearby grinder. The only 100% vegetarian restaurant in Regina, there was still a sizeable line of dressed and pressed young professionals for a late lunch around 3pm. Though we ordered at the counter from a chalkboard menu above, our food was brought to us at the table by Sunshine, the sweet and friendly wife of the owner who started this establishment over 10 years ago. Though many of the items on the menu can be made either vegan OR gluten free, finding items that could satisfy both dietary requirements was more of a challenge, one that Sunshine was very helpful and generous in assisting with.
The baked goods are all made in-house and the Date Bar (GF) caught my eye so we started our meal off with dessert first! This streusel-like delight was the perfect balance of sweet and moist; the date paste a wonderful balance for the crumbly oat topping. A but too crumbly to eat on the go, however, as we learned later in the car during round 2 J If you’re craving a pastry or some other Dessert For Breakfast, this is definitely the way to go! It would pair perfectly with a morning coffee or tea latte.
We started the adult portion of the meal with a fresh green salad (GF). Comprised of red leaf lettuce, purple heirloom spinach, bitter arugula and other mixed greens, it was topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, warm toasted pecans, hemp seeds and tart dried cranberries needing nothing more to finish it off than the balsamic vinegar with which it came. Light and refreshing, it was a simple and perfect way to open up our palates to prepare for the meal to come.
Next up were our soup and rice combos. Chris opted for the Yellow Curry Soup (GF), which we unfortunately found to be rather watery. The veggies comprising the dish lacked much flavor and the peas were a bit mushy, but the potatoes and carrots were perfectly simmered. The broth, though I felt it could have used a bit more coconut cream for consistency, was very well seasoned and not overly spicy. From Sunshine’s recommendation we chose to partner the soup with the House-made Sticky Rice (GF), and what a wonderful recommendation it was! This restaurant special had that elusive umami flavor that would keep me ordering again and again. A compact cake of culinary artistry made of sticky white rice, bright green edamame, chopped up bits of savory shiitake mushrooms, cubes of steamed carrot and vegan ham, this was a simple but very satisfying addition.
I went for the Hot and Sour Soup (GF), a peppery, veggie-heavy mixture of crisp bamboo shoots, thinly sliced carrot sticks, soft tofu cubes, cylinders of some kind of faux mystery meat, strings of enoki and slices of shiitake mushrooms. This rich blend of exotic veggies was highly satisfying despite the similarly watery, but well spiced broth. I paired my soup with the Wild Rice Salad (GF), which was a cold, savory mixture of steamed long grain wild rice, toasted pecans, tiny bits of celery and chopped up figs lightly tossed with a uniquely seasoned olive oil blend.
For the sticky rice and the date bar alone, I would recommend a visit. Be sure to bring your laptop as they do have convenient wifi to use while you enjoy your dish alongside a warm brew of one of their exotic coffee offerings. Say hi to Sunshine for me!
I am an actor/writer/content creator based in Los Angeles. I travel extensively both as the host of the new vegan food travel show The Road Less Eaten and on my own. This blog will chronicle my journey around the globe as I hunt down all the vegan options in every part of the world, no matter how big the city nor small the town.
Copyright © Ally Iseman 2016. I own my awkward. Thanks for enabling me.